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


why should you not become a pilot

Why Should You Not Become A Pilot?

Anzeige / Cooperation

Dear Aviator,

Being a pilot is a dream job and will always be one. Unfortunately, Covid-19 not only turned our lives upside down but also many branches. The aviation and travel industry has been suffering tremendously from travel restrictions and quarantine safety measures worldwide. Consequently, there are now more pilots than jobs on the market.  Corona has not diminished the dream of becoming a pilot for so many. Should you aim to become a pilot and why should you not become a pilot? Is it a good time to pursue your dream despite the current situation? Here I give you a more extensive answer to help you in the process of finding the right decision for your future. Be prepared for the cold truth.

becoming a commercial pilot

Photography by Manu (Professional photographer & plane spotter)

The Dream Of Flying

The dream of flying is as old as mankind itself. But the possibility for everyone on earth to fly like an eagle through the skies is only a few decades old. Aviation, as we know it, is still in its initial phase when considering that the desire to fly freely has always existed. Thanks to great legends and pioneers who helped make aviation what it is today, we can feel quite fortunate that we live in a time where the job as a pilot exists.

A Fast-Paced Industry

Aviation is a moving, but also a really volatile industry, with lots of ups and downs, as Corona has proven. As fast as aviation develops and changes over the years, the job of a pilot has altered as well. We still fly aircraft, but nowadays with a high level of automation, under economic pressure, an increasing number of regulations and a sky that does not seem so free anymore. I would not say that the job lost its glamour over the years, but it is a different glamour and not all jobs have it.

how risky is flying

Would I Become A Pilot Again?

Yes! Yes and Yes!

In a recent Instagram post, I stated that you should choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life. For me, it is still the best job in the world and it does not feel like work for me (most of the time). Of course, the job also has negative aspects. It can indeed be tough, unglamorous and hard work. But in the end, the negative aspects fade behind all the positive sides of the job.

More about the pros and cons here

What Would I Have Done Differently?

I definitely chose the harder way to become a pilot. The entire flight training (about 70,000€) was self-funded and it did not have any guarantee after finishing my training, to get a position in the cockpit. This was quite risky because you never know how the demand for pilots will look when you complete your training; it can happen a lot in the aviation industry. In my case, I was lucky to start flying as a First Officer on a private jet, but I know about other graduates who did not find a job right away. My advice is to get into a cadet program of an airline, so you do not put yourself at financial risk.

 

Have A Plan B

I would advise that you go to college to further your education and possibly gain a degree. This would enable you to seek further employment, even in the airline industry. Especially in aviation, a plan B is essential since you depend on your license.

becoming a commercial pilot

Why You Should NOT Become A Pilot?

Good salary, layovers, free flights, job security – these are probably aspects of why you may like to become a pilot. But the opposite applies. As I mentioned before, the job of a pilot has changed and the conditions in the airline industry have deteriorated tremendously. In the competition with low-cost airlines, major carriers had to reduce costs in all departments including the salary of aircrews. But the requirements and the complexity of the job has not decreased.

The days where you spent one week of a layover in the Caribbean, are also over. In the case of you having a layover, it is now the minimum time required at the destination before your next flight. Low-cost airlines always return to the home base to save money. For me, the pilot job is linked to travelling and layovers. That is why I could not imagine sleeping every night at home. Even though I work in the aviation industry I do not have the privilege or benefit of discounted or free flights. As the high number of bankruptcies of airlines in the European market has shown, job security is not a given.

becoming a commercial pilot

No Air Travel Like Before Corona 

At the moment it is very difficult to assess how the aviation industry will look in the future. But I am very sure that the general demand for flights will not reach the same level as before the pandemic started. Firstly, lots of people are suffering from the crisis which means they will simply not have the means to go on a vacation. Secondly, the whole business trips scenario will change or has already changed.

Companies will think twice and decide if the budget for the business trip makes sense, or if the meeting can be done online instead. In general, most companies have been weakened throughout the crisis, which means they will have a reduced budget for travel in general. The business traveller who books expensive business class tickets will fly less, which will seriously impact the airline’s revenue.

becoming a commercial pilot

My Honest Advice

Do not enter flight training right now!

If you are leaving high school and you want to become a pilot:

I recommend those who are leaving high school at this time, to get experience in another profession or a degree. Once completed you can reconsider your plans of becoming a pilot. This way you postpone your start date to a time where there will be a  much clearer picture of the aviation industry. Additionally, some pilots will be leaving because of retirement or a new profession. This will guarantee you a full back-up plan, in case you do not manage to get employment as a pilot.

If you have started your flight training already:

I think in this situation it makes sense to finish your course with the pilot school in order to receive your license and use every possible resource to find a job and be open to relocating.

becoming a commercial pilot

Post Corona

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that air traffic will have doubled within the next few years. The long term trend for the demand for aircrews exists. We as passengers, customers, and staff of the aviation industry have the power to change and shape it for the future.

Become a pilot if you have the passion and fascination for aviation. It is important to know about the negative as well as the positives, when considering becoming a pilot. Downsides exist in all industries – but with one huge difference – you become part of a world full of energy and enthusiasm, which is hard to find in any other jobs.

becoming a commercial pilot

I hope you enjoyed my honest blog post: “Why should you not become a pilot?” Do not forget to like it and leave me a comment below.

Happy and healthy landings

Your PilotPatrick