Myth Busting Blog: This blog post aims to answer some of the most common "myths" surrounding the aviation industry and the pilot career path...
1. Can you be a pilot if you are colour blind?
The answer to this is both yes and no. Approximately 1 in 12 men are colour blind and around 1 in 200 women. You can be colour blind and become an airline pilot, however, it does depends on the severity of your condition and also what colours you can and cannot recognise. Your colour vision will be assessed at your initial Class One Pilot Medical assessment (a compulsory health examination you must obtain in order to become a pilot). This medical assessment is carried out by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). This colour vision test and a much more extensive list of health tests will identify if you are medically fit to become a pilot.
The Civil Aviation Authority state the following surrounding colour blindness:
"Applicants shall be required to demonstrate the ability to perceive readily the colours that are necessary for the safe performance of duties.
Applicants shall pass the Ishihara test for the initial issue of a medical certificate.
Applicants who fail to pass the Ishihara test shall undergo further colour perception testing to establish whether they are colour safe."
2. Can you be a pilot if you wear glasses and/or contact lenses?
In short, the answer is yes you can – you don’t have to have perfect vision to become a pilot. However, you must be able to meet the minimum sight correction requirements as set out by the CAA. You can fly commercial aircraft wearing glasses or contact lenses, as long as your vision is correctable to 20/20 vision. The legal sight requirements do seem to vary from country to country so if in any doubt about sight corrections, you should contact the CAA directly. Pilots are required to carry a spare pair of glasses during flights. Pilots are not allowed to wear polarised glasses and bi-focal contact lenses are not approved.
3. What age do you have to be before you can start flying?
Dissimilar to driving lessons, you don’t have to be a certain age before you can start taking flying lessons with an instructor. However, you do have to be at least 16 years old to hold a licence for a glider or air balloon, and at least 17 years old to hold a licence for airplanes or helicopters. Most flying schools, such as FTA, have a minimum joining age of 18 and some educational requirements which must be met before becoming a student cadet.
Learning to fly is a serious commitment of both your time and money so it’s important to do your research and make informed decisions about your training. For more information about learning to fly, take a look at our handy “How to become a pilot guide”.
4. Do you have to have a degree to become a pilot?
A degree could prove useful way to condition you for periods of intense study but airlines do not request a university degree. The qualification required to apply for roles as a first officer is a frozen ATPL which you can attain through modular or integrated training.
The question we ask cadets who consider a degree as a safe 'back up plan' is: 'why would you need one'? Focus first on your goal to be a pilot, and second, on what that £30-40,000 saved in university tuition fees could be better used for. Here are some links to recruitment websites where you can browse the minimum requirements expected:
Airline recruitment pages:
5. It takes years and years to train as a pilot!
This isn’t true - the time it takes to become a pilot depends on what training route you decide to take and your natural abilities to pass the tests and exams. There are two routes of training available; Integrated courses and Modular courses. Integrated courses allow you to complete your training in one intensive, full-time structure. From having absolutely zero flying experience, to obtaining a commercial airline pilots licence. On average this takes about 18 months.
Alternatively, there are Modular course options – these allow you to complete learning to fly in specific, singular “sections”. Although modular courses may be more time consuming, this route is advantageous if you wanted to work in between module sections. FTA offers both Integrated and Modular course options.