The Complete Guide To Becoming A Pilot (2): Your First Steps
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This is the third article of a series named "The Complete Guide To Becoming A Pilot".

If you haven't read the previous article, then please click here.

If you want to find all the articles in this guide, then please click here.

You meet all the academic criteria, have a passion for flying with good skills & traits, and now you are ready to start taking your first steps into realising your dream. Join me as I will guide you through what you need to do at this stage.

1. Choosing whether to pursue an EASA ATPL or an FAA ATP?:

Both paths are good, and there is no significant benefit in choosing one over the other. I would say that your decision can be based entirely on where you want to work. If you're going to work in Europe, then go for EASA; if you're willing to work in the U.S., then go for FAA.

Nevertheless, here are some differences:

  • EASA ATPL program has more theory than FAA ATP, but that shouldn't be a problem, and I personally think that's more favourable; more knowledge is always welcome.
  • EASA Licence will let you fly E.U. registered aeroplanes while FAA Licence will let you fly U.S. registered aeroplanes (Airlines outside of Europe and the U.S. would ask you to validate your EASA or FAA licence to the airline's registered state, which is usually a tiny bit easier for EASA holders depending on the country)
  • Validating EASA Licence to an FAA one is much easier than the other way around.
  • You can work as a fresh graduate First Officer from an EASA program in an E.U. airline with around 250 hours, but you would need to get 1500 hours in the U.S.

Wondering about me? - I chose the EASA Path, but it's up to you to ask and do more research on this.

Choosing whether to pursue an EASA ATPL or an FAA ATP?

2. Integrated ATPL Path vs Modular ATPL Path?

In very simple terms: Full Time Vs Part Time OR A preset training pace Vs You decide when and where.

  • The integrated path is quite intense; you study non-stop as per a preset schedule with very little interruption, in contrast to the Modular path where you go according to your own pace.
  • The integrated path allows you to focus on the training only, and the modular path allows you to work and train simultaneously, for example.
  • The integrated path will take you from zero to hero (ATPL) in a continuous journey. The Modular path takes it one step at a time (You get your PPL licence, then theoretical ATPL exams, get your ratings, and slowly build your hours towards a CPL ..)
  • Integrated is suitable for a person who is fully determined to pursue a career as a pilot since the start. Modular is suitable for a person who has a job and wants to slowly transition into a pilot career.
  • The Modular path is usually cheaper than the Integrated one.

Wondering about me? - I was integrated, and I loved it!

Integrated ATPL Path Vs Modular ATPL Path

3. Choosing The Right Flight School:

  • Throughly check the flight school's website and read their requirements.
  • Check if they have good partner airlines (Cadet Programs).
  • Check their alumnus on LinkedIn and see how long it took them to finish flight school and if most of them got hired.
  • Examine their safety record.
  • Check their reputation and achievements as school reputation would come quite handy as a fresh graduate, especially if the competition is tight.
  • Ask if they have graduate services. FOR EXAMPLE, at CAE Oxford, we had one where they will try to find jobs for you and all of my E.U. colleagues got hired just after graduation.
  • Check their flying curriculum and which location they use for flying.
  • Ask how are students monitored, do they have a centralised system where you can check your progress and how many internal tests they have.
  • Quality/Cost report.
  • Check if they have a degree program.
  • Check how many aircraft are there in their fleet and what type.
  • The airport they operate from, controlled or not?
  • Go to the school on an open day and interact with the school in general, their students, classrooms ... and if you can't; try to collect as much info from their alumnus on LinkedIn or their student's blogs as they are more authentic.
  • If you have an airline that you want to join in mind, ask their pilots about what schools are more likely to hire from.
  • Don't just go with a flight school because it's expensive (Expensive doesn't mean quality), and don't just choose a flight school because it's cheap (Cheap doesn't mean you hit the jackpot or found the best deal).

Wondering about me? - I went to CAE Oxford Aviation Academy, and it was so much fun!

How To Choose The Right Flight School
At Oxford Airport. 2018 ©

4. Get Your Funding Sorted:

Whether it's your family's money, your own money or taking a loan from the bank, get it sorted ASAP before joining, as you don't want to get into trouble midway through your studies.

  • The cost of an integrated ATPL in the U.K. is somewhere between 58000£ up to 120000£.
  • The cost of a modular ATPL in the U.K. is somewhere between 60000£ up to 82000£.

Please note that costs do change, so check it with your flight school and beware of hidden costs that might not be included in the price tag they give you!

5. Get your Class 1 Medical:

Book your initial class 1 medical examination with an approved AME.

For UK CAA approved AME's, find them on the CAA database from here:

I already discussed what to expect during your medical in the previous article.

Wondering about me? - I did my first ever medical in London with Dr Chris King; I still remember it; was a bit stressed, but it went smoothly! Amazing Doctor!

6. Get 'Secondary (High) School Diploma Equivalency Certificate If Applicable:

If you are going to study abroad away from your country, it's highly likely that your country has a different school system than where you are going.

In this case, the flight school will ask you to get the equivalent of your diploma. Your flight school should guide you on the procedure.

Suppose you are preparing to study in the U.K. In that case, you get it from 'UK NARIC', which was my personal experience, but always ask your institution to guide you to the proper organisation where you get your equivalence.

7. Prepare For Your Flight School's Assessment:

Most reputable flight schools will assess you before finally accepting you to the school, and it ranges from a simple interview to an airline-like full assessment.

A proper assessment will test your personality, Maths & Physics knowledge, a cognitive test to examine your abstract, spatial, verbal reasoning and much more, in addition to having to do an interview, a group assessment and a simulator assessment.

I plan to write an article to talk about my assessment at CAE Oxford Aviation Academy (I will link it here whenever it's available). Just note that not all flight schools are the same.

So, how can you prepare for your flight school's assessment?

  • Generally, you should prepare for the assessment by first knowing roughly what's in it (Pretty Obvious – I know).
  • As assessment can differ from one flight school to another, the best advice on preparing would come from their students, so try to connect with them for feedback; thus, you don't end up preparing for the wrong tests!
  • Buy subscriptions on websites & software that can help you prepare, such as, pilotaptitudetest, Skytest if they have your specific school, or more or less the same testing software/method.
  • Prepare by practising mental maths and revise your high school maths and physics.
  • Get your hands on the Microsoft Flight simulator, and try to fly a bit, so you train your hand-eye coordination and familiarise yourself with the cockpit and some aviation terms (Altitude, Altimeter, Speed Indicator, Thrust, Knots ...).
  • Please read the latest aviation news, as you might get asked about it, they want to see how enthusiastic you are about Aviation!
  • Have some general knowledge about the physics of flight.
  • On the day of the assessment, be calm and composed! They know you at which stage you are in life, and they don't expect you to be a genius – Actually, no one does! Just meet their standards; even if you fail, they will let you retake it after a specified time frame; no airline is going to ask for your assessment report, so don't worry.

8. Congrats! You Passed Your Assessment:

You are now ready to start your pilot training! Don't rush to start. If you go to a busy school; then, usually, there is a new course starting every three weeks or so, take your time and prepare for the next phase of your life well. So now I can prepare well for flight school, you might ask?

  • You can get a head start by buying used ATPL books from eBay or watching some videos explaining aerodynamics, propulsion, weather on Youtube so you can get at least a rough idea of what you will encounter.
  • Play Microsoft flight simulator; it's nothing like being in a real aeroplane, of course. Still, it's very, very, very helpful to familiarise yourself with the cockpit, teach yourself how to fly circuits, you can look up the aircraft type that your flight school has and download the model on the game so you can take a glance at the instruments, where they are and what are they used for.
  • Scan all of your documents and have them available digitally (Cloud, Laptop ... whatever). Please do this for every official document you receive; get into this habit; it will help you in the future!
  • Start networking with your classmates if you know who they are.
  • Develop a study habit.

For the Non-EU non-English citizens out there:

Get your IELTS test done (The score should be at least 6 Overall with 5.5 on each band). I would advise you do it before the assessment.

One last tip: if you are an integrated student at a flight school where you have to finish all 14 ATPL exams in less than six months, I would advise you to pack some towels to wipe up your tears because it gets very intense 😛 – Kidding!

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