how to become a pilot

How To Become a Commercial Pilot - My 10 Tips To Suceed

“How to become a pilot?” Probably the most frequent question I’m getting asked throughout my social media channels and also in real life. I am here to inform you, so I am more than happy to answer you again and again. 

Dear Loyal Aviator, 

Welcome on board my blog. Besides my series “How I became a pilot”, I want to give you 10 personal pieces of advice if you are hoping to become a commercial pilot.

how to become a private pilot

So Many Pilot Licenses 🎟

First of all I want to clarify the different types of licenses:

PPL: Private Pilot License. As the name suggests this license is solely used for private operation. (e.g. flying in a small piston engine, non-commercial)

BLOG: “How To Become A Private Pilot Fast

CPL: Commercial Pilot License. This license grants you to fly aircraft commercially (passengers and or cargo) as a First Officer. 

ATPL: Aircraft Transport Pilot License. This license is granted to those who fulfill certain flight hours and are holding a CPL with ATPL theory. This type of license is needed to become the commander on board.

how to become a private pilot

My 10 Tips On How To Become a Commercial Pilot:  

1. Your Health Status 👨🏼‍⚕️

Make sure you are fit to fly and you meet all medical requirements to pass the class 1 examination. The visit to the doctor should be one of your first steps when thinking about becoming a pilot. After having passed the initial examination, you need to revalidate your Medical every year which requires you to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercises and a healthy diet will tremendously increase the chance to pass every medical check throughout your career. This job is not made for lazy people even though being a pilot requires sitting a lot.

 

2. Your Genius Level 🤓

Be efficient in mathematics and physics. You do not have to be a genius, but basic knowledge in these subjects is necessary when you want to become a pilot. Your sense of space should be well developed, which will help you originate quickly when flying in a 3-dimensional space. Check the requirements of airlines and flight school as to which kind of graduation level they expect. Some airlines only hire pilots with a high school/ A-level graduation.

 

Sieh dir diesen Beitrag auf Instagram an

 

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Patrick Biedenkapp | Captain (@pilotpatrick)

3. Find The Right Flight School 👨🏼‍🏫

Find the flight school which suits you the best. There are many flight schools which all promise to make a pilot out of you. Attend “Open Days” or info events at the flight schools to gather as much information as possible. Try to talk to graduates to get genuine, truthful feedback. Consider the location of the school, training devices and length of the entire education. Here you find a list of flight schools for example.

 

4. Pilot For a Day 🛩

Go for a short test flight lesson with an instructor. This way you will find out if you agree with Leonardo Da Vinci’s quote:

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return“.

I think it is a smart idea to invest this money to get a better indication as to whether your imagination of flying an airplane matches reality.

5. Who Pays For It? 💸

Flight training with an airline. This would be the best and financially, least risky way of becoming a commercial pilot. Usually airlines give you a training loan and offer you a cockpit position after graduating successfully. A certain amount of the training cost is paid back with your salary. (differs for all airlines of course). I have not heard about any scholarships for cadets and the pandemic has changed a lot in the aviation industry as well.

6. Self-funded Training 🙋🏼‍♂️

Consider the high education costs of a private flight school. I was lucky that my parents were able to support me financially. The costs were around 70.000€. Depending on the school and country, the prices range from 50.000 to 150.000€. Additionally you have to consider the costs for daily living and accommodation. It will be quite difficult to work part time since integrated training is very time consuming. Even when you get a loan to pay for the training there is absolutely no job guarantee in the end.

7. Modular Training 🛸

In case you do not have the financial background, it would be a more safe way to do the training step by step. This type is called modular training. I do not want to scare you, but there are students who took out a high loan to afford the training. This can be quite risky when you do not get a job right away and/or the salary turns out to be not as good as expected.

8. No professional education 🤯

A pilot license is not an official professional education. In the event of losing your medical for whatever reason, you can only show flight hours in your logbook. That is why I decided to attend a distant university after becoming a pilot, but then social media became a major part of my life.  Maybe think about going to college or learn a profession before becoming a pilot. Sounds strange, but it is always good to have a Plan B.

process of becoming a captain

9. Pros And Cons 👈🏼

Think about what the pros and cons of a pilot life could mean for you. Especially at the beginning of your career, you should be quite flexible in terms of your home base location. During your training you might be forced to move to different places which can be extremely difficult when you have a family. Always take all possible options into account. 

BLOG: Pros And Cons Of Being a Pilot

10. Go to exhibitions ✈️

I recommend going to exhibitions, where flight schools introduce themselves. For example: The ILA (Internationale Luft- und Raumfahrtausstellung) in Berlin. At the career center you have the chance to get to know different flight schools and chat with them. I am sure there are career fairs near you. Do not hesitate to use google search 🙂

how I became a pilot

I hope you find my updated article helpful. Please do not forget to like the blog post.

Positive mind, positive life and happy landings!

Your PilotPatrick


process of becoming a captain

12 Years Being a Pilot: Pros And Cons Of a Dream Job

Dear my Aviator,

I’m m now working for 12 years in the aviation industry and it is even over 14 years ago that I signed the contract with my former flight school to become a commercial pilot. I take this anniversary as an occasion to recap my time as a pilot. Even though my time as a pilot had a lot of ups and downs it is still a dream job for me. On my social media, everything might look perfect, but this job also has its downsides. Are you ready for the pros and cons of being a pilot?

But let’s start with a little aspect that annoys me about being a pilot. Security checks. As a private jet pilot, I had the privilege to skip security controls at many destinations. But as a commercial pilot you have to pass security like any other passenger with only a few exceptions.

Paris security staff treat pilots like a potential terrorist.

This is so ridiculous when you take into account that all crew members have a valid background check. Once they wanted to see my turmeric powder in my food bag. They tried to check it for liquid?! In the end, had to taste the spice in front of the security staff to prove that it is not an explosive. A waste of time and nerves but I decided to take it with humour from now on.

Flight school 👨🏼‍🏫

After I graduated high school I started right away preparing for the assessment to become a flight student for Lufthansa. I failed the first step of the selection process due to my extreme nervosity at that time.

Back then I was really sad about this but now I see it from a whole different perspective and I am actually happy that I failed the test.

I definitely took a more difficult way to become a pilot. The flight training was self-funded, which made me put so much effort into it so I would for sure succeed. There was no job guarantee after graduating from flight school. It was tough to start my aviation career as a first officer on a private jet. The “Lufthansa way” would have been the easy way but would not have made me the person and pilot I am today.

PRO: You have the time of your life with lots of studying and flying.

CON: No job guarantee with a self-funded training. There is a high risk of not getting a job and the waiting time can be extremely long. 

Pilot Licence 🎟

It is not an easy and inexpensive path to obtain the license to fly commercial airplanes. But in the end, it is “only” a license and not an occupational education nor a degree. Health restrictions could cause your inability to fly, thus you can not pursue your profession further. At least not in an actual cockpit. As a little back up I got a loss of license insurance which is a must for every pilot.

CON: If you lose your medical you lose your license and you cannot fly anymore. In case you did not study you are left without any education. With a contract, the airline pays for your training and keeps all ratings valid. In case of unemployment, you have to take care of it yourself which can get extremely costly. 

PRO: You fly yourself and you are in control of powerful machines. 

Salary 💸

The days of making a fortune as a pilot are over. A good availability of pilots on the market causes that working conditions and salaries to drop as it happens at moment due to the pandemic. Especially as a first pilot, the current time is not easy. My net salary was around 2800€ when I started in 2010. Luckily, I did not have to take a loan for the training, because my parents supported me. Imagine if have to pay back the costs of the license (70.000€) plus the type rating costs (20.000€) it would take ages and would not leave any money left to save.

The salary depends highly on which company you fly for, where you are based, which aircraft type you fly and how well you negotiate your salary.

There are a few pilot jobs out there in which you can make really good money. Especially in the business aviation on a private jet flying for an owner, you can easily earn 20,000€ as captain but those jobs are extremely rare and do not give you a lot of security.

PRO: A captain’s salary enables you to have a good life. But it is usually a long way to the left seat. 

CON: Pilot salaries differ greatly. Even “Pay to fly models” exist where pilots have to pay the airline to fly. You have to invest a lot and work hard to boost your income. When switching companies you lose your seniority or might even fly as first officer again. 

Job security 🦠

Aviation is a volatile business with great ups and downs. The pandemic has shown us how volatile. From one to the other day several ten thousand pilots got unemployed. You are dependent on the profitability of your airline. If an airline cannot cope with a crisis or suffers from bad management pilots are not needed anymore.

PRO: No office day is the same and you do not take any left work home. You can enjoy the good reputation of being a pilot and you get paid to look out of the window. 

CON: You are only needed as long there are flights and aircraft. This profession is highly specialized you can only fly aircraft and you are type rated on one special aircraft.

Social life and free time 🏄🏼

Do you have a social life? I have been getting asked this question many times. Of course, I do like everyone else.

But it requires good organization and planning to see friends and family.

You often have free time during the week when the majority of the people has to work and has no time. But one aspect I exceptionally like about the job is that you do not take any work home.

PRO: I have more than ten off days in a month. (German law requires a minimum of eight) Sometimes it is even half of the month that I am not working. Between duty days I can at least enjoy four off days in a row without taking leave. In which kind of job do you have this?

CON: You are not home. About half of the month you are not at home, so you will not be able to attend all family and friend events. It is not possible to attend weekly classes regularly like language or dancing classes. 

Layovers 🗺

In the past 12 years I have been to hundreds of different locations in Europe, North Africa, Middle East and Russia. As a private jet and as an airline pilot I am having layovers outside of my home base. The time I get to spend at one destination ranges from minimum rest (10 hours) up to two days. The destinations were varying all the time as a private jet pilot. I really liked the fact that I got to choose the crew hotel myself. You can imagine that I did not stay in the worst places. 😉

PRO: I have a fixed flight schedule and I know how much time I have at one destination. I can really use my rest time to do activities. (airline pilot)

CON: When the network is limited you get to stay at the same destination more often. (airline pilot)

Working hours ⏰

The pilot job has probably one of the most irregular working hours. Aviation does not know weekends or public holidays. There are some days you only have one flight and there are others you have up to five legs. Instead of four duty hours up to 16. Fortunately, I did not have to deal with jet lag, since I have been flying mostly within Europe. As a private jet pilot, I flew primarily during the day since VIPs do not like to get up early. As an airline pilot, I also got to fly at night, which is a lot of stress for your body and you have to fight against fatigue.

PRO: I like the irregular working hours. I do not have to get up at the same time every day. Some flying days are long some are short. The work remains on board and when I have off I have off.

CON: Due to the irregular working hours I have to take good care of my body. That is why I have a healthy diet and do regular body exercises to stay fit.

Crew life 🥳

Becoming a pilot means you become part of a big family. Crews all share the same passion which connects everyone easily. To guarantee a safe flight requires the crew to work in a team in a small environment. I think that is why you won’t find this energy and enthusiasm in other jobs. Crews take care of each other and support each other. The well being of each crew member ensures the safety of each flight. Nevertheless, there is a lack of diversity in aviation.

Especially in the cockpit, you will not find many members of the LGBTQ community.

I have met great, open-minded, and modern thinking pilots. Most of them belonged to the younger generation. Unfortunately, there is still a huge percentage of pilots that are not tolerant and have an old fashioned mindset when it comes to sexuality.

PRO: Colleagues can become friends. To share the flight experience and to spend the layover together is double the fun.

CON: During work, I am not staying at a nice location with my beloved once. It still remains work. Every crew member has their own daily routine so it happens that you only spend time together in the cockpit and the rest of the time everyone does their own thing. 

Upgrade 👨🏼‍✈️

One aspect I really love about my job is that you constantly need to learn to be the best pilot possible. Whether it is to improve your flying skills or to review system related knowledge. Aviation requires you to be up to date on new procedures and regulations. Even after flying an aircraft for thousands of hours, you will find out something new about it.

With the first day of your first officer career, you start your training to become a captain one day.

PRO: You never stop learning as a pilot. That is a really nice fact which makes this job so interesting.

CON: Switching companies means you lose your seniority. So you usually have to fly as first officer again even though you flew as captain before. Becoming a captain can take up to 10 years.

What would I have done differently?

I would have done everything exactly the same, except one point. Before starting with the flight training, I would have studied to get a degree or at least studied in parallel to the flight school. Keep this in mind when deciding to become a commercial pilot.

Which downside would you like the least? Please let me in a comment below and do not forget to like this blog post. 

Happy landings!

Your Pilot Patrick


my way into the cockpit

My way into the cockpit + My 10 application tips

The blog posts of how I became a pilot have become to one of your favorite ones. So far I have published four parts in this series and yet there is more to come. In this blog post, I want to move up to one step further. I received a lot of questions asking me how I managed my way into the cockpit. I am going to explain exactly that and additionally, I want to give some general tips when applying for your dream job.

In Dublin with the beautiful business jet Citation XLS+

My way into the cockpit

In the end of 2009, I graduated from flight school. The training at Intercockpit was independent of any airline so I was able to apply at any company I wanted to. Unfortunately, the market situation at this moment was not the best. There were some jobs on the market Germanwings and Lufthansa City Line were searching for first officers at this moment. Those jobs were highly embattled. But for a good reason, I did not have the big desire to work for the Lufthansa group.

Unlike to my fellow flight student, I still was pretty much open to fly either for a big carrier or a small business jet company. But I felt that I was more willing to fly a private jet and to experience this kind of operation. I did not want to be the kind of pilot who does not have any layovers and returns to his home base every night. Moreover, I desired to be away from home to discover new places and new cultures.

Application

I applied at many airlines throughout Europe. Most applications to german operators I send as hard copy in a nice application folder. But the majority I send per email or filled out online which is the standard procedure. I found out that more than 50% did not send any feedback and that most airlines required flight experience on a certain type of aircraft. That became quite frustrating after around 40 applications. After a couple of months finishing flight school, I became impatient, because I wanted to be in the air and not on the ground waiting. In November 2009 I received my CPL(A) license by the authority, but the Muli Engine Instrument rating would already expire in July 2010 again. This rating is required for job applications and would cost around 1.000,-€ to revalidate.

pilot patrick in new first officer uniform in berlin
My new uniform for the career on the A300-600

I thought about doing something else besides writing applications. Unfortunately, I did not know anyone in the aviation branch, who could support me getting a job. So my idea was to get to know somebody who could help me. That is why I visited the aviation fair "Aero" in Friedrichshafen in April 2010. This fair is specialized on general aviation with numerous business jet companies attending. It was the best decision to go since I found my job that way. On a small booth, I got to know my former employer. Then things started to happen very fast.

I was invited to an interview in Berlin and a second time to do some kind of screening on a Cessna 172. The idea behind this was to show my practical flying skills. Everything went well in order to begin my type rating on the Citation XLS in the beginning of July 2010. The only down point was that I had to fund my type rating myself. The costs were around 20.000,-€. Fortunately, the german authority for employment sponsored 50% of the costs. I was lucky to be at the right spot at the right time.

Seven years ago during my first rotation on the Citation XLS in Nice, France

It has become quite common that pilots have to compensate for their type rating in the beginning of their career in the cockpit. In the end, it took me eight months to find a job. This was quite fast considering that 1/3 of my fellow student pilots are not in a First Officer position until now.

Backup plan

It is always useful to have a backup plan. Mine was to go study to the university of applied sciences in Bremen. I was already accepted as a student to start in the winter semester of 2010. I would have done a bachelor in aviation management and system knowledge. Then everything changed with the job commitment.

Links I used in the past to find job offers:
latest pilots job
carrer. aero
pilotjobsnetwork.com

My 10 application tips 

Over the years I gained many experiences writing applications to numerous companies. I am definitely not an expert, but the following tips are useful for any dream job you are longing for.

  • Contact Person: Find out the person, who receives and reads your application. This name should be stated in the cover letter. A direct appellation is better than 'Dear Ladies and Gentlemen'.  To find out the name give them a call and ask. You might even have the chance to talk to the person in charge. In this case, you can assign to this phone call in your cover letter. This gives the application a personal touch.
  • Requirements: Always check you if you meet the requirements of the job offer. If you have any doubts drop a line via email or give them a call.
  • Paper or digital: Check which form the employer prefers. Nowadays most companies prefer the digital form via email.
  • File format: The file format is of uttermost importance. This can already decide if the human resources department prints out your application and if they are even able to read it. I recommend sending your documents as PDF in one single file. Check that the file size is appropriate. Not more than 10 MB.
  • Photo: Use a clear, friendly and professional portrait for your application. It is worth the money to go to a photographer to get a nice shot. Wear clothing which suits your further job. I recommend attaching a full body photo if you have a lot of personal contact with customers.
first officer application tips
Application of 2013. Example of my cover page with my hard facts at the bottom
  • Appearance: The design and the formatting of your application are really important. Use the same font and a common layout throughout the application. Make it special through a design that sticks out. Use the colors of the company and try work with their motto.
  • Cover letter: Keep it short, precise and interesting. You should surprise your reader and you should try to arouse his curiosity, so he is willing to continue to read your application. Remember you are not the only applicant and there is only a little time available to read yours.  Use correct grammar and spelling!
  • Hard facts: Consider writing your hard facts on a cover page with your portrait photo. Mention five to seven facts about which really speak for you. (see picture above)
  • Call: If you have not received any feedback within 7 working days, I would call and ask for it. This shows that you are really interested in that position.
  • Be patient: Sometimes it requires a lot of effort and time to find your dream job. Do not get frustrated when you receive many denials in a row. Always believe in yourself and do not give up!

A dream is like a private jet! It only waits for you!

It is the combination of a good application, perfect timing and a little bit of luck to get your dream job. For all future aviators, I have 10 tips for you when you consider attending a flight school.

Happy landings and good luck!

Your Pilot Patrick

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Pilot Patrick how I became a pilot

How I became a pilot IV

Welcome aboard Aviator! I am looking forward to continuing to share my story of how I became a pilot.

In my previous blog posts, you can read:

Part I: How I became a flight student at Intercockpit (Pilot Training Network)

Part II: First theoretical training in Frankfurt (Germany) up to my first flight

Part III: First fight training phase including first solo flight in Zadar (Croatia) and ATPL theory phase including the final theory exam

In this, you will read about my second flight training phase and memorable flight hours as a student pilot.

First the bad news than the good news

Our course E308 of Intercockpit was scheduled to depart to Zadar for our IFR (Instrument flight rules) training in May 2009. At very short notice the flight school canceled the training in Croatia, because of different factors leading to no capacity for us. This was the bad news and the good news was that we were going to have our flight training in Vero Beach (Florida) instead. I was so happy about this location change since I am a big fan of Florida.  We would stay in Vero Beach for about 8 weeks before we continue our Multi-Engine flight phase in Zadar. This outsourcing to the flight school, Flight Safety, was necessary not to delay our training.

Piper Arrow of Flight Safety in Vero Beach (2009)

Flight Safety at Vero Beach

I was one five flight students who passed the theoretical exam with the first attempt. This granted me to be one of the first one to start the next training phase in Florida. We flew with Lufthansa from Düsseldorf to Miami on an A340-300.

Vero Beach is located on the East coast about a 2,5 hours drive north from Miami. It is a hotspot for elderly people of the USA to retire. By law bars and restaurants had to be closed at 1 am the latest. That is why we also called it Lame Beach. So an ideal place to entirely focus on our flight training without any discretion. Most of the time we went to the beautiful beaches and went shopping in oversized department stores. The entire course stayed at shared apartments on the Flight Safety campus, which was located on the premises of Vero Beach airport. Simple two story buildings without any luxury amenities, except of a small swimming pool. Flight students from all over the world used these training facilities of Flight Safety. The fleet of nearly 90 aircraft granted a good availability.

Vero Beach airport with the Flight Safety campus in the middle

IFR flight training

After flying under visual flight rules in Zadar the training was taken to the next level in Florida. From this stage onwards we were trained to fly under instrument flight rules. This means that the pilots entirely rely on their instruments to fly and navigate the aircraft. This technique is used in everyday airline business to fly through bad weather and to land at low visibility. But before being in the air again I had to pass 12 IFR sessions on an FNPT II flight simulator. This was a fixed based version and not like the full flight simulator you got to know during my type rating on the A300-600.

Cockpit of a Piper Arrow for IFR flight training

Why Florida?

Florida offers ideal conditions for flight training. In close vicinity of Vero Beach are numerous airports to practice approaches, go-arounds and holding patterns. In the beginning, the air traffic was difficult to understand. Nevertheless, they did a fantastic job fulfilling our requests. The weather and the shallow terrain are additional factors which make this location ideal. Even though there are a lot of thunderstorms in spring and summer, they are usually isolated so it is easy to detect and circumfly them. The sunshine state Florida enable to fly the whole year around. My training started in the beginning in May and the weather was already so hot at that time.

Palm trees in West Palm Beach Florida

IFR flight student

Our training device was a piston-powered Piper Arrow with a retracting landing gear. The instrument rating consisted of 22 flight missions with an instructor. Every mission latest about 4 hours. 2 hours of pilot flying and 2 hours sitting in the back watching your fellow flight student flying. To simulate IFR flying conditions (e.g. in clouds) I had to wear a big glasses which restricted to view outside.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eey7LYxHlA4?rel=0&w=640&h=360]

Most of the mission we did cross country flights to airports around Vero Beach. For the first time, I experienced approaching a high-density traffic airport like Orlando. This was an amazing feeling to be between big airliner aircraft. I could choose from a wide range of airports to practice ILS (Instrument Landing System) and non-precision approaches. Every flight mission had to be planned precisely taking into account the current weather conditions, the fuel on board and other legal restrictions.

IFR flight training on a Piper Arrow

My highlight Miami

The entire flight training was exciting on the one hand and on the other quite demanding since I had to get used to a new aircraft type and to new flying procedures. I had two memorable flights I want to share with you in detail.

  • I planned a flight going to Kendall-Tamiami Airport, which is an executive airport, to do a fuel stop and crew change. Due to its close proximity to Miami, this airport is used by many private jets. In the end, we were parked next to a big Gulfstream jet and in front of the private jet terminal, called signature Flight support. At that time I never have seen a Gulfstream and such a luxury terminal before. For crew and passengers, they offered a small cinema, billiard room, a library and so much more. I was totally impressed. To top it all we received the clearance to depart in an easterly direction overflying Miami Beach at a low altitude. That view was thrilling!
Fuel stop at Tamiami Executive Airport and parking in front of the Signature private jet terminal Overflying Miami Beach during flight training in 2009

My highlight Cape Canaveral

  • Several days prior a launch of a space shuttle from Cape Canaveral I approached space coast regional airport to practice missed approaches when the air traffic controller called us for an unusual request. On his radar screen, he had an unidentified aircraft without radio contact overflying the launch pad of Cape Canaveral. He asked us if we could chase him to find out his registration since this airspace is absolutely prohibited. We acknowledged his request and so we were allowed to enter that airspace. Unfortunately, we were not able to read of his tail number, but we had the chance to see the space shuttle situated in its launch pad from the air. That was a one in a lifetime experience. I tried to take pictures, but for some reason they all became fuzzy.
Cape Canaveral from the air

Leisure activities

During the weekends we had off so we could tour around to explore Florida from the ground.

Course E308 In front of Costa d'Este Beach Resort of Gloria Estefan
  • Orlando: Famous for its Amusement parks and shopping malls. I can recommend the Premium outlet mall.
  • Tampa: Amusement Park Bush Gardens. Great roller coasters, but I disliked the fact that they kept wild animals in their park.
  • Cape Canaveral: A must for every aviation and space enthusiast. Great exhibition and museum of NASA. I was lucky to see the space shuttle start of Atlantis from a beach south of Cape Canaveral. Even miles away the launch was so noisy it gave me goosebumps.
  • Miami Beach: I am a big fan of Miami. Such a vibrant city with an amazing beach. Visit Lincoln Road Mall and rent a convertible to cruise along the famous Ocean drive.
celebrating my 21st birthday at the Cheesecake factory in West Palm Beach, 2009

The flight training in Vero Beach was a memorable time and I was really lucking to have the chance to discover Florida from the air and from the ground. Stay tuned for my last blog post of my series how I became a pilot.

Have you visited Florida before?

Your Pilot Patrick

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