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How To Become A Commercial Pilot
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How To Become A Commercial Pilot

I think there are very few jobs around today that carry the same kudos as a commercial pilot does. There is a mystique which surrounds pilots and it is difficult to pinpoint it exactly. When you get on a plane, nobody really knows what is going on behind that closed cockpit door. You get the odd useless announcement over the PA system about weather systems and how high we are flying, and a few in-flight drinks later you land at your destination on the other side of the planet. If like me you are fascinated by all things aviation, you may be wondering just how to become a commercial pilot and join this elite club thousands of feet above the Earth.

To become a commercial pilot you need to train for your commercial pilots licence (CPL) which involves a lot of ground study in various subjects such as navigation, air law, aircraft performance and human factors in aviation, amongst others. You also have to clock up around 250 hours of flying time, 70 hours of which will be solo hours.

However, firstly you will have to get your PPL (private pilots licence). The PPL training you will undertake, takes you to around 45 hours of flying time (10 of which has to be solo) and gives you a good foundation for your CPL. PPL training introduces you to the world of being a pilot and you will learn how to safely operate a single engine aircraft such as a Cessna 172. Your PPL training will also give you a solid introduction to doing navigation exercises where you will be expected to plan a cross country route. In fact the PPL test is one long navigation exercise of about 90 minutes and the examiner will also test you on your aircraft handling skills.

As the holder of a PPL you now know how to fly a plane, but you’re a long way off from becoming a commercial pilot. The training for a CPL introduces more advanced aircraft with variable pitch propeller such as the Cessna 206. Navigation exercises are also tougher. In PPL training you may be expected to be able to plan a flight to a town. Towns are easy to spot from the air so the chances of getting lost are pretty slim if you know what you’re doing. During CPL training you might be expected to find a row of buildings in a small remote village, so there is little room for any navigational errors.  You are also introduced to the concept of flying with a commercial mindset ie planning the most efficient route and taking into account performance considerations so that the journey can be completed with the minimum safe amount of fuel.

Whereas PPL training can cost around £5000 in the UK, the training costs to obtain a CPL take it out of reach for most people. At around £20,000 it is a hell of a lot of money. A lot of the cost is down to the fact that commercial pilots need to fly in all weathers (IFR – instrument flight rules conditions) and need to do their training in advanced aircraft that can fly in these conditions. It is the cost of training in these aircraft that puts the price up.

However, where there is a will there is a way and if you are motivated enough to pursue your dream there are a lots of ways of learning to fly. Some aspiring pilots take the military route and many airlines provide sponsorship (part and full) schemes to potential pilots. Finally, there are many aviation academies the world over which will provide all the training you need for a CPL, and a lot of them offer financial packages to help you pay for your training. A little research online will reveal a plethora of ways to achieve your dream.

 


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