becoming a commercial pilot

Should You Still Consider Becoming A Commercial Pilot?

Dear Aviators,

Flying has always been a job with many ups and downs. But what the world and the aviation industry is facing now is unprecedented. We are not talking about a turbulence which will be over again, sadly it is a down we have not experienced since the terror attack in 2001 and the world finance crisis in 2008/2009. This down is more intense and even more unpredictable. Nevertheless the corona virus has not diminished dreams and ambitions to become a pilot. Since the pandemic started I received a lot of questions asking me if I would still recommend becoming a commercial pilot. In this blog post I will be 100% honest with you.

becoming a commercial pilot

Photography by Manu (Professional photographer & plane spotter)

It is time to remove your pink glasses

and leave the fairytale with unicorns and airlines searching desperately for pilots. Nobody, including me, wants to discourage ambitions and dreams but it is important to talk about how the industry is now and what it might be in the next few years. Even an outlook into the near future is difficult since times are so uncertain. 

When will there be a vaccine available? How will travel restrictions change in the long term? What preventive measures will airlines follow? Which airlines will exist in the future? When will tourist travel come back? Will we ever reach the before corona level?

The list of questions goes on but all answers decide on your question: “Will I get to be a pilot if I start flying training now?”

The current situation is a true nightmare. Approximately 10,000 commercial pilots are currently unemployed solely in Europe and the UK. Thousands of pilots are still fearing they may lose their job because of the pandemic and those who still have their jobs are on reduced pay or on part time hours.

becoming a commercial pilot

Photography by Florian (Professional photographer & Videographer)

becoming a commercial pilot

Photography by Manu (Professional photographer & plane spotter)

Stagnation of Pilot Recruitment for Years

According to the British Airline Pilots association (BALPA) there will be no meaningful recruitment for about two years. Finding a flying job will be extremely difficult. Especially with the high competition from experienced pilots looking for a cockpit job as well. Pilot training takes approximately two years, so you might be done after the pandemic is over and things have normalized again. However even if this means the demand rises again, an airline would prefer to choose the experienced and type rated pilot first. Nevertheless, I do not want to discourage you because my story proves that ambition and hard work pays off. When I completed flight training in 2010 the job market situation was not really the best. I applied with numerous airlines without any success. I visited an aviation fair, which led to me getting hired – with a little bit of luck, good timing and going the extra mile.

“Where there’s a will there’s a way”

I want you to avoid paying lots of money for your pilot training and then finding out that there is not a single job available. It definitely makes sense to wait at least until mid 2021 to see how the situation is then and if airlines have a more precise recruitment plan. The challenges and risks are currently too high.

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No air travel like before Corona 

At the moment it is very difficult to assess how the future in the aviation industry will look. 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 mentality to go on business trips will change or has changed already.

Companies will think twice in the future and decide if the budget for the business trip makes sense, or if the meeting can be done online instead. In general, most companies will be weakened through 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

Photography by Florian (Professional photographer & Videographer)

My honest advice and recommendation about becoming a commercial pilot

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 becoming a pilot. This way you postpone your start date to a time where there will be a  much clearer picture of the situation. 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 relocate.

becoming a commercial pilot

Photography by Manu (Professional photographer & plane spotter)

Every personal situation is different, so you need to access the risks and benefits. Be realistic, but still follow your ambitions and dreams. To have a Plan B is advisable for any one of us. I wish I had better news for you, but my intention was to be honest in answering the question if you should consider becoming a commercial pilot right now.

Leave me a comment below your thoughts about this topic and do not forget to like the blog post! Thanks to Florian for the photos of me and Manu for the amazing aircraft photos. Maker sure to check out their work. 

Safe and healthy travels and happy landings!

Your PilotPatrick


my first 100 flight hours on the airbus A300

Checks completed - my first 100 flight hours on the Airbus

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Hello my Aviator, after an extensive flight training on the ground and in the air, I finally had my initial line check on the Airbus A300. Thanks a lot for crossing your fingers for me. The check flight ran smoothly and I passed it very well. In this aviation related article, I am sharing my experience of the first 100 flight hours on the Airbus and I inform you how the training to acquire a new type rating looks like.

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First step Type Rating

With my CPL(A) license, I am basically allowed to fly all aircraft type as long as I am specially trained for the specific type. This training is called type rating and takes place in a full flight simulator and can cost about to 60,000€. The first type rating I did was on the Citation XLS in 2010. Back then I paid about 20,000€ to receive the training and to begin as a first officer on a private jet.

In the beginning of this year, I switched companies. I had to undergo an extensive training to be licensed to fly the Airbus A300. This time the employer paid for the costs of the type rating at Lufthansa Aviation training. In one of my previous articles, I explained how this training looks like in detail.

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Simulator in Berlin at Lufthansa Aviation Training

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Touch and Gos

After the completion of the type rating in the simulator, I had to do nine take offs and landings on the real aircraft. To be more economical the procedure is to touch down on the runway, then configure the aircraft again (flaps and trim) and to take off again without stopping. Usually, this base training is flown visually in a traffic pattern in the proximity of the airport. Unfortunately, the cloud base was too low on that day so we were forced to fly under IFR conditions.

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First landing during base training on the A300

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Flying the simulator feels almost like the reality but flying the real machine for the very first time was an overwhelming feeling. Up to this point, I had been flying an aircraft with a maximum take off weight of 10 tons and I was about to fly an aircraft with 170 tons. The first take off gave me goose bumps. Half of my landings on that day were nice, but about the second half, I do not want to talk about;-)

Practice makes perfect!

Those landings are a requirement of the aviation authority and have to be completed before flying commercially with passengers. During my time as flight student in Zadar, I had the chance to be aboard of a Lufthansa aircraft, which did touch and go training. I even sat in the cockpit during one approach. This was definitely one of my highlights as a flight student. I remember that one landing of a flight student was a little bit too hard, so a small panel inside the cabin came off.

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Zadar 2008 as flight student

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Observer flights

After the completion of the type rating and the touch and gos, the application for the issue of a new license was sent to the LBA. To bridge the waiting time I was scheduled as an observer on four flights. Additionally, to the regular crew, I was sitting in the cockpit on the observer seat. The intention behind is to get to know the working life and the line operation. It was fun watching my colleagues flying but I wanted to get behind the controls myself again.

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Annunciator light test during preflight preperation

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Line Training

It took about seven working days until I received the new license. I not only bridged the waiting time with the observer flights but also with a vacation in the Caribbean. This was the perfect spot to flee the winter and to have a short time out.

The first flight was scheduled on the 1st of March. The first leg was to Vitoria and the second to Sevilla in Spain. The next 80 flights were under supervision which meant I was only allowed to fly with qualified line training captains. Additionally, the first eight flights were with a safety first officer to support me in my tasks.

You fly the aircraft and not the aircraft you!

Flying the simulator is one thing but flying the real aircraft is a completely different world.  At first, I had difficulties managing the numerous task in a structured way before each flight. But from flight to flight, I got more confident and structured with the set up of the cockpit and the handling of the aircraft.

My first approach into Sevilla felt like I was flying supersonic. Everything was going so quick! Even with my experiences of 2000 flight hours, everything felt so new. Of course, I did my best to impose my knowledge and skills to the new operation.

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First layover in Sevilla

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Supervision

The type rating in the simulator was the first step to obtain the skills, procedures, and knowledge to operate the A300. In the supervision phase of 80 sectors, the training continued on the real aircraft:

  • Every flight is evaluated and during a debriefing reviewed
  • Captain shares his experiences and knowledge about the aircraft
  • Improve standard operating procedures
  • Discussions about aircraft systems, procedures, regulations
  • Use of electronic flight bag (approach charts and manuals)
  • Simulated automatic landings

The line training ended with the initial line check. I had to prove that I am operating according to the aircraft manuals and the standard company procedures. The check flight comprised of two parts. One as pilot flying and one a pilot non-flying. I am now released to "fly the line" but this does not imply that the training has ended. There is still lots to learn about the Airbus.

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Initial line check grading

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My 100 flight hours on the Airbus

The Airbus is compared to the Citation XLS a more challenging aircraft. This is not only because it is a more complex aircraft with more systems, but also because of the sensitivity of the control wheel. Minor inputs into the control wheel have a great effect on the control surfaces. The A300-600 is equipped with powerful Pratt and Whitney engines and through the wing mounted position they produce a pitch moment during power changes. This means you have to counteract this moment with your controls. Additionally, the set up of landing gear makes it difficult to do smooth landings.

In relation to my 1800 hours on the Citation, I already experienced a lot during my 100 flight hours on the Airbus:

  • Thunderstorms with lightning strike in front of my cockpit window
  • My first crosswind landing with about 25 km/h wind from the side,  it was easier to handle than on the small Citation Jet
  • Hard landing due to gusts at touch down and wind shears during final approach
  • St Elmo’s fire on the cockpit front windows due to a charged atmosphere

I am looking forward to the upcoming flights and challenges on the Airbus.

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St Elmo's fire on the cockpit window

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Have you been on a flight which did not run as smoothly as usual? Maybe you were flying in adverse weather or something extraordinary happened on board. Please share your experience with me below in the comment section.

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Your Pilot Patrick

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