Pilot - Airline

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Airline pilots fly aircraft on long-haul and short-haul flights transporting passengers and/or cargo. They direct the crew and are responsible for the safety of everyone on board.

The Work

You could be:


The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:

Starting salaries for Junior First Officers are around £24,000 to £28,000 a year, depending on the type of aircraft and the rating required. First Officers can earn up to £48,000, Senior First Officers up to £58,000 with some of the European airlines. Captains can earn £80,000 - £90,000, rising up to £150,000 flying for large international airlines.


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Getting In

To become an airline pilot you need to obtain the full Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL).

There are 4 main routes to achieve this:

You cannot achieve the full ATPL until you are at least 21 years old.

Integrated Training for the Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) and Instrument Rating (IR)

Training for the Private Pilot's Licence, followed by Modular Training for the ATPL and Instrument Rating (IR)

Company training scheme for the Multi-crew Pilot Licence (MPL)

Armed services training followed by a civil aviation conversion course

Whatever the training route you choose, you must:

Most jobs require applicants to have a specific minimum of hours of commercial flying experience. There is no shortage of qualified pilots in the world, but there is a shortage of pilots who have managed to clock up the necessary hours of flying experience to allow them to apply for most jobs. Until you have achieved this experience, your ATPL is 'frozen'.

What Does it Take?

You need to have:

You need to be able to:


Getting On

More Information

The Honourable Company of Air Pilots website has details of aptitude tests available for people with little or no flying experience. This could help you decide whether you are suited to this career, before you make a financial commitment to training.

The British Women Pilots' Association (BWPA) gives a small number of scholarships each year to new or inexperienced female pilots, providing funds towards training.

Airlines that offer sponsored or part-sponsored pilot training include British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Relevant vacancies may be advertised on websites such as Aviation Job Search.


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The following organisations may be able to provide further information.

British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA)
Tel: 020 8476 4000
Twitter: @BALPApilots

British Women Pilots' Association (BWPA)
Twitter: @BWPA_UK

Civil Aviation Authority
Twitter: @UK_CAA

L3 Airline Academy
Tel: 01293 491381
Twitter: @L3HarrisAcademy

L3 Airline Academy offers various training routes to becoming a pilot and is used by a number of airlines as their approved training operator. They have taken over from CTC Aviation.

Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS)
Tel: 020 7670 4326
Website (2):
Twitter: @AeroSociety

The Royal Aeronautical Society has a website called Careers in Aerospace which provides a wide range of information on careers in the aeronautical industry.

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