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University - is it really for you?

Alexandra O'Loughlin16 Aug 2018 Posted in: Insider, university, INTEGRATED COURSE, Pilot jobs, be a pilot, CLEARING

Why not swap a class room and 3-4 year course, for flying lessons and just 18 months of study?

Is flight training the alternative to university you've not yet considered?

University is something you've most likely aimed for since childhood, and following your friends to university is a fun adventure. However commercial pilot training could be the exciting alternative you didn't realise was available.

Degrees have long been regarded as a prerequisite for a long and successful career, but this simply isn't true anymore. 

A career as a pilot is desirable, accessible and a worthwhile investment. The pilot role is one that is highly skilled, well-paid and rewarding; and many pilots working today don’t have a degree.

Entry requirements for pilot training

The entry requirements for pilot training at FTA are as follows:

The nature of pilot  training means that the most important qualifications are English and Maths at GCSE. A'Levels are not required but will prove very beneficial when you embark on the theoretical side of your training, as will a high level of physics.

What you do need, regardless of your qualifications, is the right approach to the career: focus, determination, and the ability to study and retain key information. 

What are the opportunities for Commercial Pilots?

When you finish your pilot training you will obtain your frozen Airline Transport Pilot Licence (fATPL) which is the qualification required to apply for roles as a First Officer. However that is not the only path for you.

If you want something more local, with reliable shifts and the opportunity to inspire others then perhaps a career in Flight Instruction is for you? The starting salary is very competitive and the opportunity to progress is always available. 

Or maybe you would like to fly private aircraft to smaller, lesser known locations?  The flying is challenging, varied and suits those who don’t want to work for an airline immediately.


But isn’t pilot training really expensive?

If you compare the cost of pilot training with a degree, finances don’t seem quite so steep. The NUS advise that you budget £9,000 per year for your course fees, plus and an additional £1,860 for travel and books. They also suggest that if you live/study outside London, the average cost of living is £12,056 per year. This reflects the cost items such as rent, food, insurance, travel and leisure. That’s a combined average price of £68,748 to £91,664 or £22,916 per year!

FTA fees are paid over 12 months. We aim to be as accessible as possible and in 2016 launched a new training option with offers pilot training at a substantial saving to the frequently publicised £150,000. This is an integrated flight training course known as Option A of our Integrated Flight Deck Programme. Option A includes an initial (3-5 month) flight training phase in Teruel, Spain. There, students complete the elementary stages of their flight training before returning to the UK to complete the ATPL theory and advanced stages of flight instruction (including the Night Rating, MEP, ME CPL, ME IR and MCC. The course costs £66,950 and includes everything you need to apply for a role with an airline, or embark on your Flight Instructor Certificate.

Quick to learn, quick to earn

If you opt for pilot training instead, you can complete your studies in as little as 14 months (although the average is around 18). By taking a commercial pilot training course, many students have the ability to start earning as soon as they qualify.

The salaries are impressive too, according to ‘Save the Student’, aircraft pilots and flight engineers are the second highest paid earners in the UK. The average salary is £78,356 with a salary range of £56,017 - £82,944. Experienced captains flying long-haul aircraft can earn up to £140,000 a year. Extra benefits, like bonuses or health insurance, may also be paid.

Ryanair, Europe's leading airline are like many other major airlines, offering excellent training and development packages for First Officers. To get an appreciation for the career prospects and salaries for newly qualified pilots search 'pilot jobs' or 'flight instructor roles' or visit: flightglobal.com

Is flying for me?

You will be taught everything you need to know about becoming a pilot during your training. However, if you want to see if you already possess some of the skills and knowledge you'll need, then try out our little quiz: Can I become an airline pilot?

The Honourable Company of Air Pilots also offer an aptitude test. Although not essential, the test could help you decide whether you are suited to this career before you spend money on training. You can find out more on their website airpilots.org

Have a trial flight

FTA also offer introductory flying lessons. These prove the perfect opportunity to test your flying skills and see whether you could get used to taking a much higher perspective. The views across the Sussex Coast are second to none and our Diamond DA40 aircraft help in ensuring that our first flying experience is second to none.

‘My advice to anyone thinking about pilot training is to follow your dreams and go for it! There are lots of things to think about obviously; the main one being the financial implications. But if you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way of making your dream happen. There’s no better feeling than the rush you get during the takeoff roll and initial climb up to altitude. You can’t beat the views that you get out of your ‘office window’ that’s for sure! I’ve spent the past four years of my life pursuing careers that my heart wasn’t truly in and it was no way to live your life. I am 100% sure that I made the right decision for me.’ William, Pilot and FTA Graduate

Read about other cadets experiences at FTA on our cadet and pilot story pages here.

What next?

To finally help you understand all the elements of flight training we have created a little guide: ‘how to become a commercial pilot’ and what to expect. You may also want to read about flight instruction and what it entails, read Pablo's story here.

If when you've completed your research you think pilot training is for you, then drop us a call, or book your place one of our weekly tours.  

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