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How to become a pilot - My 10 personal advices

"How to become a pilot?" Probably the most frequent question I get on my Instagram account @pilotpatrick.

Additionally to my series "How I became a pilot" I want to give you 10 personal advice when you strive to become a commercial pilot.

My epaulettes. Three stripes for a First Officer / Copilot

Licences

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)
  • CPL: Commercial Pilot License. This license grants you to fly aircrafts commercially as a First Officer. The A states for airplane.
  • ATPL: Aircraft Transport Pilot License. This license is granted to those how fulfill certain flight hours and are holding a CPL with ATPL theory. This type is needed to become a Captain.
My first day of flying a commercial Jet in 2010

My 10 tips how to become a pilot:  

1. Make sure you are fit to fly and meet the medical requirements to pass the class 1 examination. After having passed the initial examination you need to revalidate your Medical class one every year.

2. Be fit in maths and physics. You do not to be genius but the basic knowledge is necessary. Your sense in space should be well developed. Check the requirements of airlines and flight school which kind graduation level they expect. Some airlines only hire pilots with a high school/ A-level graduation.

3. Find the flight school which suites you the best. There are many flights schools which all promise to make an airplane out of you. Attend “open days” or info events of the flight schools to gather as much as information as possible. Try to talk to graduates to get a genuine feedback. Consider location of the school, training devices and length of the entire education. Here you find a list of flight schools for example.

4. Go for a short “test flight” with an instructor. This way you will find out if you agree to 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“. This way you will easily find out if aviation and flying is for you

5. Flight training with an airline. This would be the best and financially the least risky way of becoming a pilot. Usually the airline gives you a training loan and offers you a cockpit position at the end. A certain amount of the training cost is paid back with your salary. (differs to all airlines of course). I have not heard about any scholarships for cadets.

Cockpit of a Piper Arrow in Vero Beach during flight training in 2008

6. Consider the high education costs of a private flight school. I was lucky that my parents paid for my entire training at pilot training network. 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 a daily living and accommodation. It will be quite difficult to work part time since an integrated training is time consuming

7. Modular Training: In case you do not have the financial back ground, 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 you took 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 might not be so good as expected.

8. A pilot license is not an official professional education. In case you lose your medical for whatever reason, you can only show flight hours in your logbook. That is why I decided to attend a far distant university to have some kind of back up. 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.

9. Think about 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.

10. I recommend to visit 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.

Overflying Miami Beach during flight training in 2008

Have a look on my aviation related Links page, where you might find additional information.

I hope this blog posts helps some of you. In case you have further questions comment below!

Positive mind, positive life and happy landings!

Your Pilot Patrick

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how I became a pilot

How I became a pilot II

In my first part of the blogpost "How I became a pilot" I told you about my way to become a flight student at Intercockpit Pilot Training Network.

How I became a pilot

Another requirement to be accepted as flight student is the initial medical class one examination. This examination is standardized for all pilots and needs to be revalidated every year. For detailed requirements please have a look here) For this examination I went to a special Aviation Doctor at Stuttgart airport. Of course I was a little nervous at this stage, because the outcome will decide about my future career. Not only did I pass it very well, but I also met Fabian, who later became a friend and a fellow flight student.  

Training facility of Lufthansa Flight Training (LFT) in Frankfurt

First day of school

My first day of school at the facilities of Lufthansa flight training was in April 2008. I remember it was a really exciting day, because it meant a new stage of life. The Intercockpit course E308 consisted of 20 guys and one girl. After the introduction of the team we were handed out all the training material, that we would need for our studies. I think it were around ten big binders. At this stage quite intimidating. Additionally we received a black pilot bag. Back then, I was really proud to have it.

Intercockpit course E308 in 2008

Theory classes

For the next two months we attended several theory classes to reach the knowledge of a PPL Pilot (Private Pilot License) to be prepared for the first flight phase in Zadar, Croatia. Additionally we had to pass the AZF (flight radiotelephone operators certificate), which grants the permission to communicate with ATC (Air Traffic Control). Why did the flight training take place in a foreign country? Mainly, because of the weather and the lower operating costs. Especially for VFR (visual flight rules) flights, that require a certain cloud ceiling and visibility, the weather in Croatia was definitely better than in Germany over the year.

First theory part in Frankfurt (8 weeks)

The entire flight training was scheduled to last about 18 months, depending on one's personal performance. Since the planning was really tight there was only a couple of off days in between. As this was an integrated training you had to learn continuously to be ready for the exams. It sure was a tough time, but it was worth the effort in the end. Time management was super important. I found it helpful to set weekly goals concerning learning to have a good feeling and to monitor my progress.

First time in Zadar

In June it was time to head down to Zadar for the first practical flight phase. Accommodation and transport had to be organized by ourself. Most of the course stayed at the same location of a croatian women, who rented prevailing to flight students from Germany. I shared an apartment with my friend Fabian. The place was not special at all, but it was only a short walk away from the waterfront.

The historic old town of Zadar is really beautiful. It is located right at the Adria, where we enjoyed amazing sunsets. The landscape of Croatia is unique with many small islands (66 inhabited) stretching along the coastline of 1800 kilometer and the high Biokovo mountains in the back. It did not take long until we got to see the beautiful landscape from above. After a couple of days of introduction in a basic fixed simulator the first flight in a DA20 aircraft with a instructor was due.

PA44 flight school aircraft of Intercockpit in Zadar

I was super excited and also a little scared. Not of the flying itself, rather if I really like it and could imagine to do it for the rest of my life. All sorrows were gone, when I lifted off the ground for the first time by myself. I remember, that everything was going so fast. It felt like I was flying a fighter jet. Today I can grin about it, since I take off with the Citation XLS+ at a speed, which is 2,5 times faster.

Structure of the training:

  • 8 weeks of PPL theory classes in Frankfurt
  • 10 weeks of flight training in Zadar, Croatia
  • 30 weeks of ATPL theory classes in Frankfurt  (ATPL = Airline Transport Pilot License)
  • 8 weeks of IFR flight training in Vero Beach, Florida  (IFR = Instrument flight rules)
  • 4 weeks ME IFR flight training in Zadar, Croatia  (ME = Multi Engine)
  • 1 week MCC course in Frankfurt  (MCC = Multi Crew Coordination)

Read in my next part about the rest of the flight training in Zadar, a drink offer after landing in Slovakia and the ATPL theory part back in Germany. I am working on more photos of my flight training.

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