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Airline Pilot


Job Description

An Airline Pilot will transport passengers or cargo this could be long or short haul flights. There are normally two pilots on the plane the Captain and his first officer. The Captain is in command of the aircraft but will have help from the first officer. They will take it in turns to fly the aircraft to avoid fatigue. The Captain has overall responsibility for the safety and operation of the aircraft and the safety of crew and passengers.

Entry Requirements

There are various ways in which you can get into this job role and the entry requirements can vary depending on what you choose to do:

A university course

You could do a university degree in air transport or aviation, which includes commercial pilot training with an approved flight training organisation.

To start a course, you'll need:

You'll need to apply for the higher level Class 1 medical certificate during your course to get your Commercial Pilot's Licence. If you wish, you can apply for the Class 1 certificate before your course starts.

University courses lead to a 'frozen' Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL). This allows you to apply to airlines to work as a co-pilot and build up the necessary flying hours to become an airline captain.

As well as standard university fees, you will need to fund the flight training part of your course. Universities can advise you about this.

You'll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree

Click here to search for a suitable course.

Direct application

You may be able to apply directly to the Civil Aviation Authority's Military Accreditation Scheme to become a commercial pilot, if you have flying experience in the armed forces.

A trainee scheme

You can apply for a place on a pilot training programme with a passenger airline.

You can also train with a private flying school to get your Commercial Pilot's Licence. Courses can take at least 18 months of full-time study. Part-time or modular courses will take longer. The Civil Aviation Authority has details of flight training schools.

Career tips

The Honourable Company of Air Pilots has a test for people with little or no flying experience. Pilot training is expensive and this could help you decide whether you're suited to this career before you spend money on training.

English is the international language of flying, so airlines will expect you to have a good GCSE pass, or equivalent, in the subject. Skills in another language can also give you an advantage, for example if you want to work for an overseas airline. It may also help you to stand out from other applicants, as competition for jobs is strong.

You can find out more about training to become a pilot through Flying Start, the British Airline Pilots' Association and the Aviation Skills Partnership.

Restrictions and requirements

You'll need to:

Career Path and Progression

You'll start by training as a co-pilot. When you’ve completed at least 1500 flying hours, you can apply for an 'unfrozen' or full Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) and qualify as an airline captain. This will usually take 3 to 5 years after you get your full ATPL.

With experience, you could become a flight training instructor or an operations manager.

Related careers you may be interested in:

  • Air traffic controller
  • Helicopter pilot
  • RAF airman or airwoman
  • RAF officer

Required Skills

  • Good technical abilities
  • A good team leader with the ability to give clear instructions and make decisions
  • Able to keep calm if difficult situations should arise
  • Self confidence and commitment
  • Well presented, reliable

Salary Range 

£35,000 to £110,000

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