Tuesday, 7 February 2012


This question came up on a recent course:

How qualified or experienced does someone have to be to become a pilot on a commercial aircraft?

I have had a look at the websites for several airlines to answer this.  I think, on the day the question was asked, the delegate was concerned about 'young looking' pilots.  He was worried about their experience level as he had to put his life in their hands so to speak.

Below is a summary of what some of the airline sites said:

The typical progression of training is to obtain your private pilot certificate first. This is basically your drivers license for an airplane. This takes a minimum of 40 hours and could take up to as many as 100 flight hours, not including time on the ground spent with a flight instructor.  

Next in the progression of certificates is your instrument rating, which allows you to fly in bad weather. After that you get your commercial pilot license and then your multi engine rating. At about this time you have about 300 flight hours and have spent about 2 years training. You are still not really marketable to an airline.

Most regional airlines hire at about 1500 flight hours and 100 multi engine hours. You can either buy this time and fly it yourself, but that would cost tens of thousands of pounds. Or, you could obtain your flight instructor's certificate and teach flying for a couple of years.

Expect to fly with a regional airline for 2 - 5 years before you become captain, and then expect to fly 1000 more hours before you are marketable to a major airline. By this time you're ready to fly the big jets!

So, if you see someone climb onboard your aircraft to fly you anywhere, be assured.  They have spent many thousands of pounds and many many hours to get to that point. To be a Captain in the big airlines takes forever.  I know commercial pilots that have been First Officers for 10 years and are still waiting for their chance to apply to become a Captain. They have thousands of flying hours already.

Hope that reassures you that these people are very dedicated.  By the way, as I have said before, if you were tested or driving or your ability to do your job every few months - would you pass?  Do you have to have a full medical (pass or fail) every year for your job....

Anyway, hope that answers that one?

Take care

Paul & Richard

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