Growing up in Madagascar, we all agreed that we would be lucky if we had a chance to go on a plane to a certain destination. Maybe this is just because we wanted to fly and reach the clouds above, or because we saw in cartoons and movies how wonderful the flight experience is. Almost every young person, especially boys, dreamt about becoming an airline pilot. This goal seemed to be too big and non-affordable for dreamers compared to other field of studies. Nevertheless, the number of airline pilots continues to increase. In other words, people are still pursuing this childhood dream despite its challenges!

In this article, we will talk about the job itself and the general process to get there. Perhaps it will encourage someone to move forward and go after this dream!

An airline pilot drives a plane’s engines and controls to navigate and fly the vessel. He or she also checks hydraulic and engine systems to pre-flight safety and monitors fuel consumption and aircraft systems in-flight. Pilots must fulfill a certain number of flying hours and have a good physical and mental health. They may face hazards, unfavorable weather conditions or fatigue during their flight. But the great part of being an airline pilot is the opportunity to see almost every country of the world and have a good salary. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of all airline pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers was 147,220 USD in May 2019. This career requires some general skills including strong communication, problem solving and observation skills, good depth perception and reaction time, and the ability to operate aircraft computer and navigation systems.

The number of students who are attracted towards aviation as career is significant. To become an airline pilot, the person must obtain a bachelor’s degree, acquire flight experience, obtain licensure, gain professional experience and then finally advance as an airline pilot. Mastering the English language is mandatory for the work. PPL and CPL are the licenses needed for if we wish to become a pilot. In total, around 35,000 USD is needed to fulfill those two main licenses.

In order to get the Private Pilot License (PPL), the person must be 16 years old at the beginning of studies and should have medical fitness as per the standard rules, has to acquire 40 hours of total flying time in which 10 hours must be a solo flight time, and has to succeed to the written, oral and practical exams. Those who have the PPL may fly for pleasure or personal business. Private pilots cannot be paid, compensated to fly, or hired by any operator. The Commercial Pilot License (CPL) is the qualification that allows its holder to play the role of a pilot. So as to get it, the person must be 18 years of age, hold a PPL, have received and logged appropriate trainings for the CPL and pass to several exams related to the license. In terms of flight time requirements, the person must have a total of 250 hours flight time in which 100 hours flight time as pilot in command. Commercial pilots can be paid, compensated to fly, or hired by operators and are required to have a higher training standard than private pilots.

There is also the Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) but it typically qualifies to fly the major airliners. ATPs must qualify with a high range of experience and training to be considered for this certificate. With the 1,500 flying hours requirement, ATPL is a license that tells professional pilots that they have learned the basics of how to fly an airplane. In 2018, there were a total of 315,000 active pilots working in the aviation industry worldwide. This number is expected to reach 465,000 pilots in 2028. Globally, just 5.18% of commercial pilots are women, according to the Air Line Pilots Association International trade union. Indian airlines employ the highest proportion of female pilots at 12.4%, according to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots. Captain Kate McWilliams, an EasyJet employee, became the world’s youngest female airline captain at the age of 26.

She said: “A lot of people think it’s a highly technical job, which puts them off. But a huge amount of it is being good with people. As a captain, you’re a people manager. There needs to be a change in perception around the job”.

There are many people who desire to start their aviation training later in their life. There is no written rule when one cannot enter the training anymore. However, one has to be able to maintain the class one medical certificate because mental and physical problems may prevent a pilot from performing well. Not everyone has the opportunity to start their dream training right after finishing school. Some of us need years to save up until there is enough to pay for the training.