So earlier this year I took the skies for the my first flying lesson at a local school called Cranfield Flying School. I had applied for the British Airways future pilot programme and realised how ridiculous it would be if I had never had a flying lesson, even thought the programme says you don’t need any flight time.
When I arrived I was met by my flight instructor Daniel (who is about to go fly for Ryanair) and had a good chat about the training and what was involved. We then went out to the plane a Cessna 172 where he explained a bit about the aircraft and did all the pre flight checks.
I then was allowed to taxi down the runway before my instructor took of and before I knew it we was airborne and after a few short minutes I was given the controls and we went through some basic maneuvers.
This was honestly one of the best days of my life and even though the time in the air was only around 20 minutes I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I knew this would happen and it was why I put of taking to the skies while I saved.
Since my lesson I have been saving money to be in a position to start training and now is the time. I am 30 years old and not getting any younger, it is time to start training towards my commercial licence and the first step is the PPL.
I am going to book another lesson for next week and then look at getting my class 1 medical done before I take anymore. The reason for this is because I plan to go all the way, I want to become a commerical pilot and without a class 1 medical you have no chance of that happening. Anyone who plans to follow this route I suggest you do the same before plouging so much cash into this.
I plan to stay in my current career as long as I can so I can keep money coming in to fund this. The more I can fund without touching what I have saved so far the better.
I plan to share my journey with you on this blog as I make my progress.
One of the less “fun” parts of gaining your FATPL (Frozen Air Transport Pilots License) is pass all the ATPL theory exams. Now there are two methods that you can use to do this. You can study in-house in a classroom environment or you can do distance learning normally around your job. Everybody is different and has different needs so it’s up to you to decide which is best for you. ATPL ground school in house v distance learning.
The benefits of the ATPL in house ground school
- No interruptions – A distance learning course can of course be done full time however most people choose it as they need to fit it in around their current job. You will study full time Monday to Friday with addition revision done at home in the evening and weekends. This will be an intense period of study with the aim to have all the exams passed in a few months.
- Teachers to ask questions to – Having a teacher to ask questions is another useful learning tool. This is especially useful if you find yourself stuck or struggling on some of the information.
- Classmates to study with – Again having classmates to study with and just bounce things of makes the material easier to learn for some people.
The benefits of ATPL distance learning courses
- Can fit it in around your life – Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of work to get through. You can keep your full time job but you need to be prepared to give up your evenings and weekends to get through the material. In fact it will most likely feel like you are holding down 2 full time jobs.
- Refresher courses – Before you sit your exams you will normally have a 1 week course to make sure you have learnt the information in a classroom with teachers and other distance learning students.
- Cheaper – You are not in an office full time and do not need as much of the teacher’s time so the cost of the distance learning course is normally significantly cheaper than the full time course.
As you can see, both methods have their place and it really depends on your approach to your flight training. If you need the full time submerged training you have the full time in house course. If you need to fit it in around work then the distance learning is an option. It is up to you to decide which method is best for you.
I would prefer to do an in house ground school course but that would mean giving up my job and my income. Unfortunately I need this to complete my training and help fund the CPL/ME/IR so I will have to do a distance learning course.
With the youngest pilots being around 21 years old, it is natural to ask when you are later in life am I too old to be a pilot?
The internet is awash with stories saying that some airlines only want to hire people in their 20’s and while I can’t confirm that this is or isn’t true, I can confirm that airlines are giving jobs to people in their 30’s and even their 40’s.
At the same time we have to be realistic, for instance the British Airways retirement age for pilots is currently 55 years old. It would be illogical to plough so much money into to training at say 50, however at 40 you still would be able to fly 15 years. You would be able to fly even longer at airlines with a higher retirement age.
I am currently 30 years old, I would have loved to start my training in my younger years however it was impossible due to finance. I did however decide to save with an aim to be able to start training in my very early 30’s. The good thing about having to save up is I have a career, I can come back to this when I am qualified to keep money coming in while I am searching for my first flying role.
Everybody is different you need to analyse your situation and work out if this is right for you, nobody but you can make that decision.
We only get one life and unfortunately many people live theirs with regrets. Do you want to look back in 30 years and say to yourself, I wish I had the determination to follow my dreams and I really regret not doing so. Or would you like to say I’m glad I took a risk, a chance, a leap of faith and followed my heart and took a shot at my dream? I know which one I would prefer.
Personally I am single, young, healthy with no kids so this is the perfect time for me. Your circumstance may be different but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Modular training can be integrated around your current life with ease that’s the beauty of it.
Just have a Google for stories of older people who didn’t follow their dreams and now regret it. Speak to older family members and see what they say. In fact one article I read suggested as much as 50% of people regret not following their dreams. This shocked even me, it’s easy to get stuck in a career but you need to ask yourself. Do you want to look down on the world from 35,000 ft or do you want to look at a computer monitor from 9-5.30?
So when you ask am I too old to be a pilot? The answer is, you tell me, are you?
Sometimes in life you have to take a risk without knowing if it will all work out at the other end. That’s life, that’s the way it goes.
One thing I can tell you however, you will NEVER fly for an airline without your license.
Is integrated flight training overpriced? I think you will be hard pressed to find anyone bar the schools selling it that would answer you anything but yes. However this does not mean that integrated training isn’t any good, because the standards at the big schools is good, very good in fact. However with integrated FAPTL courses costing £100,000+ and MPL’s costing £110,000 and modular training costing £40,000-£60,000 it is impossible to say that they are not overpriced.
That being said, this is the price of such training. If you want training from the big schools it is going to cost this amount and there is nothing you can really do about it. So the question then becomes, is integrated training worth it to me?
Well that’s something that you need to answer for yourself, and you should probably consider the following points.
- Do I have £100,000+ spare? If you do then you will get high quality training from some of the best in the business that will see you through to the issue of you licence. Modular flight training can be done for as little as half the cost of an integrated cost. Is the value of the integrated cost worth double the fee to you? The big schools also offer hold pools to try and place you with airlines.
- Do you want to study full time? The big schools offer you full time training with the same class right through to completion. You will have the same teachers and the same instructors at each part of your training, this consistency has a value.
- It’s proven to work. The airlines are partnering with the schools because they are happy with what level of pilots they are providing. An MPL (Multi Crew Pilot Licence) will also get you in with an airline.]
- Surrounded by like minds. Throughout your training you will be surround by people with the same goal as you. This makes it easy to bounce ideas of them and ask for help. Modular you will be training on your own a lot of the time. Saying that you can enrol into ground school full time and have the classroom experience.
So you all aspiring pilots have a decision to make, which route is best for your personal circumstances. Can you afford integrated training and is it worth it?
We all know that with modular training that you can train at our own pace. I personally do not think training over a long period of time is the best idea so I will tell you why spreading lessons out isn’t the best idea. Don’t get me wrong if you need to take a break after a section, say your PPL then you can but you shouldn’t take a break during it, you should train at a constant pace.
- It will most likely take you longer. If you are spreading your lessons out over a long time then it is going to take you more hours to learn as opposed to constant training. This is natural as people tend to forget or become rusty at things that they are not doing on a constant basis.
- It will cost more. More lessons = More money. Obviously you want to spend as little money as possible as flight training is already expensive. It will most likely be more cost effective to save the total amount and do you lessons over a shorter period of time. Even if you are still in full time employment you can do 3-5 hours on a Saturday and 3-5 hours on a Sunday. That will give you 6-10 hours a week flight training and will get you up to the required amount in around 2 months.
- The money you saved can be used better. You can then move on faster from say you PPL to the ground school and then fly an hr or 2 a weekend while you are studying. Not only will this count as your hour building but it will also keep your skills up to date while you study. I feel this is more useful than going over something that you have learned on your PPL but gotten rusty at or forgotten.
For these reason alone I think that keeping your training concentrated is the best way to go about it. Think about most of your education in life, it has been concentrated training as this is the best way to learn and the way you have been conditioned to learn.
When we decide to commit to flight training the big sticking point is how should we fund it. The integrated training is easy to answer, you need to have all the money up front, it’s that simple. Modular flight training poses a different question of how to pay for modular flight training
Well the answer to that question really depends on what you want to do. For instance right now I am working full time, I have enough money to do my PPL, hour building and ATPL theory. However at this point I would run out of cash, this wouldn’t be so much of an issue if I was going to stay at work and learn on weekends etc, but I want to do my training continuously. I don’t think stop start training is the best way to learn and while it is possible to do so (many people do) I don’t want to go backwards at any point and need things like refresher lessons. I also want to go to ground school full time which means that I wont be working during this period. In other words when I commence training I want no distractions. This works for me because when I finish training and commence job searching I have a fall back career to go into, a career that offers permanent and contracting opportunities so I should be able to find work of some sort.
You however may look at it differently, you may want to stay at work and keep an income coming in. You may be happy to do a distance learning ground school stage and are happy to do your training in segments. That’s the beauty of modular training, everybody is different and it is flexible for their needs. If you are happy to spread your training out over a couple of years then this works perfectly for you.
I would say if you want to get your training done in the shortest possible amount of time then you should have the finances in place before commencing, otherwise you will find that your training is quite stop start and may take you years to complete. I understand having such a lump sum available is hard, believe you mean there are many days I think I might as well just do my PPL for now but then my logical side takes over and tells me to continue saving.
There is no right or wrong answer to how to pay for modular flight training as it all depends on your personal circumstances. Sit down and work it out, do a cash flow. If you are paying as you go also factor in things such as what you will do if you lost your job.
Integrated flight training costs anything from £100,000 – £120,000 a figure that most people understandably do not have. The two big major schools offer a loan through a bank called BBVA.
This is a terrible idea! Do not take a loan to fund integrated flight training (unless it’s a small affordable amount).
Let me explain to you why in detail that this is such a terrible idea. NB – Unless you get accepted on the BA Future Pilot Program then go for it as BA will repay this back to you.
- Pilot salaries are being driven down year on year. The glory days of pilots earning huge wages seem to be a distant memory, you will most likely start on £20,000 – £35,000.
- You most likely will not be assigned your home base. A lot of people just assume they will be flying from the nearest airport to them. For most of the airlines you can be based right around Europe! So out goes the option of living with parents to save money as you will need to pay rent, bills and food out of this salary. Oh yeah don’t forget that HUGE loan repayment you have signed yourself up for.
- Interest rates are at an all time low. The last time I looked at the loan it was 3% plus the Bank of England interest rate which of course is 0.5%. It will not be staying there with the head of the bank saying that he expects them to rise as soon as next year. Lets do some simple math shall we. The loans are over 10 years and including the Bank of England rate that gives you a repayment of £988 a month. This does not even include the two years that the loan will gain interest as you train. Now we will assume you will earn 30k a year, with no student loan which will give you a salary of £1,957.27 per month. Take away the £988 loan payment and you are down to £969. Out of this you need to pay for your rent, food, bills etc.
Now lets say the interest rate goes up to 5.5% this now makes your payment £1085.25 a month. You are now left with just 872.02 a month. At 7.5% you repayment rises to £1,187.02 and you get the picture. The numbers do not add up, at all, no matter which way you look at them.
- You have put a house up against this loan. Basically if you cannot afford to service this loan at any point the bank will come in and take your house or even worse, they will come in and take your parents house. How will you feel about making your mum, dad, siblings homeless? Like crap that’s how you will feel.
Please anyone even looking at this, do the math, do it again, get your parents to do the math, get your friends to do the math, ask a stranger to do the math before even considering this! Get a job and go modular for as much as half the price.
This is defiantly a case where your head has to rule your heart.
With all the options for flight training, Is MPL flight training worth it? After looking at the options available I would have to say that yes it is.
Now I am not going to get into the cost of such training, as I have covered the cost of flight training already. This is purely a look at the best way to get into the right hand seat of an aircraft. In fact I would say that MPL (Multi Crew Pilot Licence) training is only second to sponsored cadetship like the British Airways Future Pilot Programme. Sponsered cadetship is the best way into the flight deck however the issue with these schemes is they are rare and hugely over subscribed. For the lucky few they are the best way to learn to fly, however the fast majority well never be able to get on one and will need to look at another way.
MPL training differs from the ATPL Integrated route and the modular route in that it is sponsored by an airline from day one. This means that the airline will mentor your training and as long as you complete it to the required level you will go on to work for the airline. In the current climate this is just about as close as you will get to a guaranteed job. Airlines such as Virgin, Easyjet, Qatar, Flybe all offer such training here in the UK via the two big schools CTC Aviation and CAE Oxford (OAA).
As this is a good opportunity once again competition for this is very high and once again most people who apply are going to be unsuccessful. You just need to know this going in and do your best to try to impress.
MPL training is hugely expensive with the current costs being around £110,000 so for a lot of people this type of training is not possible. I also don’t think anybody should consider taking a loan for anywhere near that much money to earn a salary of £20,00-£35,000 and risk a house in the process. However should you be able to afford it, this is a good way into that right hand seat.
With the spiraling costs of integrated flight training you have to ask yourself, is Is Integrated flight training worth over £100,000?
Good question, and a very subjective one. As a business which all FTO (Flight Training Organisations) are, a product is worth whatever people are prepared to pay for it. If we look at the high-end of modular training costs then we are looking at a cost of around £65,000. This is £35,000 less than an integrated FATPL (Frozen Air Transport Pilot Licence) course which at the time of writing is around £100,000.
Does a FATPL course offer £35,000 more in value than the modular course? I think it’s hard to say it does. Please note I am comparing this to an FATPL course not the current MPL’s which come with airline sponsorship. The MPL’s are different as they come with an conditional job offer and as things stand are one of the better ways into the cockpit even though they are expensive.
Modular flight training also allows you to do things like keep a full time job and fly on the weekends or after hours. This allows you to have an income coming in, something that is vital for flight training because we all know how expensive it is. For a lot of us modular flight training is the only way due to the costs involved.
Integrated offers you a full time intense study with no distractions, that is the main benefit I see with it. The big flight schools also have hold pools in which they try to place their students with partner airlines. You need to decide for yourself if this is worth the additional premium you pay over the modular route.
So the question is integrated flight training worth over £100,000? Well it depends. If money is no object then of course go integrated. However for a lot of us money is a huge object and in that case I think it’s hard to justify the aditional cost for a non MPL course.
Anyone who has looked into flight training will have heard about the pilot shortage. In my opinion (and many others) this quite simply does not exist. How can it?
Here in the UK the big schools like CTC & OAA are churning out qualified pilots at a very steady rate, not to mention the modular guys who are also qualifying every year. There has and there will always be more than enough pilots to fly the aircraft. If there wasn’t the airlines would be doing huge cadet recruitment in massive numbers, something that they are not.
You also need to take in to account all the pilots who do not have a job, this includes newly qualified and experienced pilots. These guys and girls are all qualified to fly so if there was a shortage why would they be unemployed? Pilot jobs are oversubscribed and competition is high.
The big training schools are businesses, this is what people need to remember. They are looking to take £100,000+ from you. The idea of a pilot shortage is something that is good for them to sell their training. What cadet wants to hear “We will train you, but to be honest, you might never fly an aircraft due to their being too many pilots?” Nobody wants to hear that. It’s basic sales, tell people what they want to hear.
Flight training is a risk, you are hoping that you will be offered a job flying jets. The closest thing to a guarantee these days is the FPP (Future Pilot Programme) or a MPL (Multi-crew Pilot Licence)
The good news is that some of the airlines have huge aircraft orders not to mention that older pilots will always be retiring. This creates some opportunity but please don’t think because an airline has ordered 50 new planes that there will all of a sudden be a ton of roles. Some aircraft will be replacements and the rest will be delivered over a number of years. So out of the 50 new planes 20 may be for fleet expansion and they may be delivered over 4 or 5 years. Put simply THERE IS NO PILOT SHORTAGE. Looking at things as they stand, there is unlikely to be one any time soon either.