There are very few things that are considered to be as heroic as becoming a pilot. Being able to commandeer a vehicle through the skies, something that would be considered in the domain of the fantasy world only a few hundred years ago, is the very definition of the word ‘cool’. In fact, the stereotypical image that comes in one’s mind when thinking of the word ‘pilot’ is the image of Spitfire aircraft forming the last line of defense against Nazi Germany’s feared Luftwaffe. As in most great stories, the good guys won that one too, with aviation becoming a phenomenon frequently equated with heroism and bravery.
Today, with the advent of so many comforts introduced into the pilot cabin, the same vocation has lost some of its charm. Today, the vast majority of aircraft flying in the sky are for transporting people from one place to another. Some might say that it has become quite charmless but there definitely is still some charm to it. Today, we will be exploring a very fundamental question when it comes to becoming a pilot. How does one become a pilot? If you want a spoiler, it involves a lot of training and certification, but in the end, the reward is worth the effort.
Choose Between Your Options
There are going to be some choices that are going to be in front of you. First of all, you need to evaluate what your true goal is. Do you want a Private Pilot License (PPL) or Commercial Pilot License (CPL). If you’re interested in working as a pilot professionally for an airline, then you will need to do for the ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License).
After that, there is the choice of different pilot schools that you can attend. There are going to be a lot of factors for you, with the foremost being the location of the flight school. You can only go there if you can physically go there. It is also important to note that every school will have their own requirements and their own systems. When it comes to how much does it cost to become a pilot, the cost of each school will also differ from the other. The most notable trend that you can detect is that schools that are out in the city will have a greater tuition fee with schools that are in a less metropolitan area will have lesser tuition fee. It will also depend on the kind of services that they are willing to offer as well as the condition of the aircraft that you will be using to train on.
If you’re interested in going the long way and going for a college degree, there are actual aviation-related college degree programs as well. The biggest pro of these programs is the fact that they let you combine the traditional college experience with the ability to learn one of the most exciting vocations that you can. Obviously, your end goal has to be the CPL then, where you can pilot an aircraft for commercial reasons and get a career as a pilot.
If you’ve grown up to reruns of Top Gun, there is a good chance that some part of you still wish to become a fighter pilot. The way to do that is to join the military. You will have to join the US Air Force. There are going to be numerous physical and intellectual requirements that you will have to fulfill before you are allowed inside the Air Force. However, once those have been completed, you can start flying jet fighters at unimaginable speeds. To sweeten the deal just a little bit, the US military will also fund your training as well, so you will not have to bear the cost of that. However, that does come with a lot of loyalty as well, with pilots being mandated to serve with the US Air Force for 12 years before they can start applying for commercial airline pilot jobs.
There are some basic requirements that all pilots within the US have to fulfill. In addition to these requirements, there are many other specific requirements related to the field you want to go into that you will have to fulfill.
For one, you have to be 17 years old before you can start training as a pilot in the US.
In addition to that, you will have to secure a medical certificate that will make sure that you are medically fit to commandeer an aircraft and do not have any conditions that stop you from becoming a good pilot. You can just approach your coordinator at your flight school, and they would be more than happy with arranging a medical certificate for you.
You also need to be a high school graduate in order to become a pilot in the US. This is a very important theme that you see in other vocations of a similar nature. A lot of people might be of the opinion that it is a useless requirement and people who are becoming pilots have nothing to do with their high school diplomas. There is also the opposing view which says that these barriers to entry make sure that a lot of people attain education, something that is really good for society.
The language of the skies in English. This is the language in which you need to communicate in. It is recommended that one should have at least Level 4 English proficiency in order to become a pilot. For US residents, this probably should be the easiest requirement to fulfill.
The retirement age for pilots is the age of 65. The idea being the fact that anyone who is over that age might be susceptible to the all the age-related issues such as weakened vision or memory. Now we don’t need a pilot who cannot see in the air and cannot remember call signs, can we?
There is a concept of flight time. The time you have been in the air as a pilot. For different types of aircraft, there are different flight time requirements that you have to fulfill. For a single-engine airplane, you need to have at least 40 hours of flight time. This has to include at least 20 hours of training from a certified and authorized instructor. On top of that, there should also be at least 10 hours of solo training that you have to go through. In this training, you need to have 3 hours of cross-country flight training, 3 hours of night training and a cross-country flight where you have covered a distance greater than 100 nautical miles. There are some other requirements as well of this kind that you have to fulfill. Once you enroll in a flight school, your flight instructor will be able to inform you about these requirements.
For people who are going for a multi-engine airplane license, you have to pretty much go through the same process, just in a multi-engine aircraft. There will be requirements that are going to be slightly more advanced than the requirements for a single-engine aircraft.
For people who want to pursue being a pilot as a career, the commercial license allows you to achieve exactly that. However, the requirements for that are a lot more stringent. You need to be 18 years old, have a FAA medical certificate, a PPL and proficiency of the English language. You also need to log 250 hours of flight time. This flight time is then divided into different portions that have different requirements that you have to fulfill. Overall, it can turn out to be a very hectic process if you are going for the commercial license. However, considering the fact that when you are a commercially sanctioned pilot, you have a lot more responsibility that is dependent on your ability to fly, making it quite sensible that there are such requirements.