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How to Become a Professional Pilot in Europe: A Comprehensive Guide

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How to become a pilot in Europe

Becoming a professional pilot is a rewarding career choice that offers many benefits, including the opportunity to travel the world, earn a good living, have a flexible schedule, challenge yourself, and make a difference. It is also a lot of fun to experience the thrill of flying and the satisfaction of knowing that you are responsible for a safe and efficient journey.

Meet the requirements. 

To begin training for a professional pilot license in Europe, you need to be at least 16 years old, have a valid EASA Class 1 medical certificate, and have a reasonably good command of the English language.

Having good academic grades and participating in aviation extracurricular activities can be beneficial. It’s important to note that the earliest age at which you can obtain your commercial pilot license is 18 years old.

Choose a flight school. 

There are many flight schools to choose from in Europe. When choosing a flight school, it is important to consider the following factors:

  • Reputation: Choose a flight school with a good reputation.
  • Location: Choose a flight school that is conveniently located for you.
  • Cost: Compare the cost of different flight schools.
  • Training programs: Choose a flight school that offers the training programs that you need.

Complete your flight training. 

The flight training required to become a pilot in Europe varies depending on the type of pilot license you want to obtain and your previous experience. Here is a breakdown of the licences you need to start your career.

  • Private Pilot License (PPL): This license lets you fly single-engine piston (SEP) aeroplanes for pleasure. There are also LAPL, with fewer requirements.
  • Commercial Pilot License (CPL): This license allows you to fly aeroplanes for hire.
  • Instrument Rating (IR): This rating allows you to fly in clouds and other low-visibility conditions.
  • Multi-Engine Rating (MEP): This rating allows you to fly multi-engine aeroplanes.
  • ATP(A) theoretical knowledge course: This includes the theory for CPL and IR. If you go straight for this after your PPL, you won’t have to do the theory for the other two

Modular and integrated pilot training

There are two main types of pilot training in Europe: modular and integrated. The combinations of hour requirements are complex and also depend on your previous experience.

Modular training is a more flexible approach, allowing you to train at your own pace and budget. You can choose to train at different flight schools for different parts of your training, and you can spread out the cost of your training over time.

Integrated training is a more structured approach with a set curriculum and schedule. You will train at the same flight school for all of your training, and you will complete your training in a shorter period of time.

These are the course variations listed in EASA FCL Appendix 3 – Training courses for the issue of a CPL and an ATPL. To get a job as a commercial pilot, you will be best off having a CPL/IR/MEP with ATP(A) theory. If you’re going for a job on single-engine aeroplanes, a CPL alone may do, especially if you add a flight instructor certificate to it.

Here is a table comparing modular and integrated pilot training:

FeatureModular trainingIntegrated training
FlexibilityMore flexibleLess flexible
PaceCan train at your own paceMust follow a set curriculum and schedule
CostCan spread out the cost of training over timeMust pay for the entire training program upfront
DurationTakes longer to completeTakes less time to complete
Flight schoolsCan train at different flight schoolsMust train at the same flight school
Comparison of modular and integrated pilot training

Which type of training is right for you depends on your individual circumstances and preferences. If you are looking for a more flexible approach, then modular training may be a good option for you. If you are looking for a more structured approach and you want to complete your training in a shorter period of time, then integrated training may be a better option for you.

Let’s have a look at the training requirements. Below is a table that organises the requirements for the different courses:

Requirement CategoriesATP(A) Integrated CourseCPL(A)/IR Integrated CourseCPL(A) Integrated CourseCPL(A) Modular Course
General RequirementsCPL(A)/IR
Continuous course
Open to ab-initio, PPL(A)
Continuous course
Open to ab-initio, PPL(A)
Continuous course
Open to ab-initio, PPL(A)
Must hold PPL(A)
Theoretical KnowledgeMin. 750 hrsMin. 500 hrsMin. 350 hrsMin. 250 hrs
ExaminationATPL(A)CPL(A) and IR CPL(A)CPL(A)
Flying Training195 hrs total
95 hrs dual
70 hrs PIC
50 hrs cross-country
5 hrs night
115 hrs instrument
180 hrs total
80 hrs dual
70 hrs PIC
50 hrs cross-country
5 hrs night
100 hrs instrument
150 hrs total
80 hrs dual
70 hrs PIC
20 hrs cross-country
5 hrs night
10 hrs instrument
Specific requirements based on IR status
200 hrs total
Skill TestCPL(A) & IR skill testsCPL(A) & IR skill testsCPL(A) skill testCPL(A) skill test
The table shows the difference between various integrated and modular routes

This table should help to summarise the key aspects of each course. An ab initio pilot training course is a program that takes students with no prior flight experience to the commercial pilot level and beyond. Please note that these are the minimum requirements. Some schools may require additional hours of training.

Most of the integrated courses will include training and skill tests on multi-engine aeroplanes (MEP) because that is what you need to get a job in most cases. If you go the modular route you add whichever training you need, like instrument rating on a single-engine aeroplane (IR/SEP) or multi-engine aeroplane (IR/MEP).

If you go for modular training, you would normally build your flight hours independently to reach the minimum requirements before your skill test.

And then you have the MPL Multi-Pilot Crew pilot course, but this is normally used for airline cadet programs where you go from the street with zero hours and straight into the first officer seat of an airline. As you can imagine, this option is quite popular, but for most of us, it’s the other way of becoming a pilot.

The benefit of taking the PPL first

Starting with the PPL comes with several benefits. Firstly, it serves as an introduction to the world of flying. It allows you to determine whether you truly want to pursue a career as a pilot or whether you would prefer to continue flying for leisure purposes only.

Secondly, if you are undecided about whether to follow the modular or integrated route, starting with the PPL is a good idea. While the modular route requires you to obtain a PPL first, the integrated route offers you credit for the PPL, as shown below:

You get credited according to Appendix 3 – Training courses for the issue of a CPL and an ATPL:

  • An applicant may be admitted to training either as an ab-initio entrant, or as a holder of a PPL(A) or PPL(H) issued in accordance with Annex 1 to the Chicago Convention. In the case of a PPL(A) or PPL(H) entrant, 50% of the hours flown prior to the course shall be credited, up to a maximum of 40 hours flying experience, or 45 hours if an aeroplane night rating has been obtained, of which up to 20 hours may count towards the requirement for dual instruction flight time.

As you may already know, I might be biased, but I strongly believe you will have an excellent start by enrolling in our distance learning course. You can conveniently study the theory without having to make any drastic changes to your personal life. Take your time and enjoy learning about flying from the comfort of your own sofa. Once you are ready to start your flying lessons, you will have a wide range of flight training schools to choose from in Europe, as well as in other countries outside Europe that are also EASA-approved. Now you have time to shop around for the best price while considering the quality of the school and favourable weather conditions that won’t cancel your training sessions.

If you want some valuable tips on starting your career as a professional pilot, you can visit the PPRUNE forum, which has been a platform for both professional and aspiring pilots for over twenty years. I will leave the link to the discussion on Modular Vs. Integrated training here for your reference.

Becoming a professional pilot is a challenging but rewarding career choice. With the right training, attitude and stamina, you will make it. Yes, you will need stamina 🙂

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Seize this opportunity to start your pilot journey. Don’t miss out on your dreams.