How to Become a Pilot in 2024

How to Become a Pilot in 2024

Embarking on the journey to become a pilot may seem like a distant dream, but the landscape of aviation is evolving, offering new avenues for aspiring pilots. In this guide, we'll unravel the steps to achieving your pilot ambitions, leveraging the latest developments in the industry.

This year, both British Airways and TUI Airlines announced the first fully sponsored pilot programmes in the UK for years, meaning you might not need to have £100,000 to get yourself into the industry. Despite the global pandemic crushing the airline industry for a good 2 years, it has come back with a vengeance, and pilots are in demand once again. Here in the UK, the additional visa requirements have meant that UK airlines now find it more difficult to recruit pilots from Europe and are now more reliant on newly trained UK-based cadets.

We’ve split this guide up into multiple sections, depending on who you are and where you are in your journey to become a pilot. Just click the quick navigation links below to jump to the appropriate section.

1. How to pass the pilot selection process
2. How long does it take to become a pilot? And what are the training options?
3. Is being a pilot a good job?
4. How to prepare to start pilot training

How to pass the pilot selection process

How to pass the pilot selection process

How do I prepare myself to become a pilot and how do I pass pilot selection?

The first step in your journey is navigating through the rigorous pilot selection process. Airlines now prioritise a diverse set of skills beyond mere technical proficiency, including communication, situational awareness, and leadership.

We dissect the stages of assessment, offering insights on how to excel in technical assessments, group interviews, one-on-one evaluations, and simulator assessments.

Pilots are now assessed on these skills during their proficiency checks; the seven non-technical skills that most airlines are now assessing are Workload Management, Communication,Professional Standards, Situational Awareness, Problem Solving & Decision Making, Leadership & Teamwork, and nowadays, most pilot interviews are built around this.

Generally, the most demanding pilot interviews (from an airline or training organisation) would be broken down into a few sections:

  1. Technical Assessment - Pilot Aptitude Tests/Verbal Reasoning/Numerical Reasonin
  2. Group Interview - To test your Leadership and Teamwork Skills
  3. One-to-One Interview - You will be asked situational questions based on the skills listed above. You’ll also need to display your motivation.
  4. Simulator Assessment - Usually, airlines would do this for more experienced pilots, to assess their skill level.

So, how do you prepare for each of these assessment stages?

Technical assessment

Although Aptitude tests are designed to test someones raw ability to do something, there’s no denying that practice does help. David Beckham wasn’t perfect at free kicks without some practice! Depending on where you’re having your assessment, there are some great options out there. At the time of writing (April 2024), these are some good options below, but be sure to check forums for the best options when you do your test!

Group Interview

To pass a group interview, you need to show that you can communicate and work well with others. You need to consider others opinions, bring others into the conversation and guide the group to complete a task within a time frame. In the short time period, it’s natural to think you haven’t done or said enough to go through. Here are some top tips for getting through…

One-on-One Interview

Interviewers generally want to know when in your past you displayed one of the aforementioned skills, so it’s great to start trying to gather skills and experiences in your current place of work and study. If you’re still in school/college, then volunteering, having a part-time job, work experience, or any extracurricular activity is a great way to gain experience.
You’ll also be expected to show your motivation to become a pilot. If you’re being interviewed by a training organisation, then at least having been up in an aircraft is a great way to demonstrate that. If you’re trying to get your first airline job, you’ll have to display some passion for the airline.

If you’re looking to grab some affordable trial lessons try North West Aeros.

Simulator Assessment

This is more for pilots who have completed training. The best thing you can do for a simulator assessment is find out about and read up on the profiles that are usually flown. Brush up on your workload management and situational awareness skills. Simulate scenarios in your head and think about what phrases you will use to communicate effectively with your colleague.

We’ve spoken a lot here about interviews, the reason being is that this is where they first look to see if you have what it takes to become a pilot. By following the steps above, this will help put you in good stead to achieve your dream. Get involved with team activities, and be professional.

How long does it take to become a pilot? And what are the training options?

How long does it take to become a pilot

The industry has experienced a great deal of change over the last few years, and slowly, more opportunities are opening up for pilots. Put simply, we break down the options into four different categories. Read on to see the pros, cons, and options for each.

  1. Self-Sponsored “Modular” Pilot Training Course
  2. Self-Sponsored “Integrated” Pilot Training Course
  3. Airline Funded Integrated Pilot Training Course - Airline pays for training
  4. Self-Sponsored Airline Integrated Pilot Training Course - The airline gives a conditional job offer at the start of training​

Self Sponsored Modular Pilot Training Courses

Modular training is a ‘’pay as you go’ option to pilot training. Usually, for those who cannot quite reach to pay for a full-time integrated course upfront. The pilot training is split into modules: Theory Ground school, Private Pilots Licence, Commercial Pilots Licence and Instrument Rating. Finally, before you search for a job, many airlines wish for you to do a Jet Orientation Course or a Multi-Crew Conversion Course. Each segment can be paid for and completed at your own leisure; many people will do this whilst having another career as a way to pay for it.

Pros of Modular Training:


  • The most cost-effective self-sponsored way to train
  • ​Can train at your own pace to fit around with other things in your life
  • You can easily switch training locations and organisations throughout

Cons of Modular Training:

  • It can take longer to complete the course and subsequently get a job
  • As you are not immersed in a full-time course with other cadets, motivation can be more difficult
  • Some airlines will not take modular students straight from training

Below are some options of Modular training courses:

Self Sponsored Integrated Pilot Training Courses

Self Sponsored Integrated courses are full time courses that get you to your end goal much faster. The downside is that these courses are often around £100,000 and with unsecured loans a thing of the past, you often need a property to secure the loan against. However, if you can afford this and you go to a school that boasts good airline placement numbers, this can get you to reach your goal slightly more quickly. Integrated, full-time courses also generally organise your accommodation and training locations for you, leaving you to focus purely on the training.

Pros of Self-Sponsored Integrated Training

  • You’ll be surrounded by other people going on the same journey, which can be incredibly motivating
  • You’ll get through the course much quicker, and if you choose the right school, you should also get a job much quicker
  • ​Generally, the courses are packaged up, to include your accommodation as well as training

Cons of Self-Sponsored Integrated Training

  • It’s expensive; this training will cost around £100,000, quite a bit more than modular training
  • Jobs are not guaranteed on self-sponsored courses despite the cost. You should also check what protections are in place should something go wrong on your course​

Airline-Funded Integrated Courses

In our opinion, these airline-funded integrated courses are the best position you can be in; you’ll be set on an integrated pathway with a conditional job offer at the end. There haven’t been many of these (if any around) over the last decade, but with the post-pandemic thirst for pilots, airlines are now starting to come up with their own sponsored schemes. These courses are extremely competitive, and if you don’t quite make it onto the programme, you should still definitely consider some of the other options listed here.

Airline Funded Pilot Courses available:

1) British Airways Speedbird Academy (next open on 16th April 2024)
2) TUI Sponsored Pilot Cadet Programme
3) Aer Lingus Future Pilot Programme - Open now. Right to live and work in the EU required

Pros of Airline funded courses

  • Airline funded and a conditional job offer

Cons of Airline funded courses

  • None if you get a place, but they are extremely competitive!

Self-Sponsored Airline Integrated Courses

If you haven’t quite been able to get into the airline-funded courses, don’t worry. There is still another path to Airline training with an airline job offer upon completion. In the years prior to the pandemic, airline-tagged training schemes started to appear, with airlines such as British Airways, easyJet, Wizz Air, Virgin Atlantic, and Qatar Airways all offering jobs to trainee pilots before their course had been completed.

These courses are usually full time, integrated training courses and will be run at an Air Training Organisation chosen by the airline. These programmes still usually require the cadet to pay for training upfront, which, if getting a loan, means it’ll need to be secured against an asset. These training courses typically take 18 - 24 months, much like the self-sponsored courses.

Pros of self sponsored Airline integrated courses

  • The comfort of a conditional job offer should help you successfully complete training
  • Full-time training course - a quick way to reach your goal

Cons of self sponsored Airline integrated courses

  • This course still requires funding and would usually cost around £100,000

Is being a pilot a good job? ​

Is being a pilot a good job?

I think if you ask most pilots this question, the answer would generally be yes, although terms and conditions vary largely on airlines and the country you work in. So, this question can be quite complex, as not all jobs are the same.

There are many types of roles I could cover here: Cargo Pilots, Private Jet Pilots, Private Charter, Legacy Airline Pilots, and low-cost carrier Pilots. The two types of pilot jobs I will speak about using broad terms is Short Haul Flying (typically carried out on smaller jets and propellor aircraft) and Long Haul Flying (typically carried out on wide-body aircraft). Hopefully the summaries below give you some visibility into each type.

Is being a short haul commercial pilot a good job?

The largest employers of short haul pilots are generally low cost carriers, easyJet, Ryanair, South West Airlines etc. However, they can be found at cargo airlines, legacy carriers and charter companies too. You’re usually restricted to being a short haul pilot due to the range your aircraft flies. So what does the life of a short haul pilot look like? Well, for starters, you’ll be doing shift work. How early you start and how late you finish shift work is generally dependent upon the flying restrictions at your home base. At some airports, they’re open 24 hours, meaning you could be flying through the night or into the early hours of the morning. At other airfields, such as London Heathrow or many German airfields, the noise restrictions mean that your shift patterns will be slightly more normal. But you can certainly expect to be flying on weekends.

Will you travel as a short haul pilot?

This depends upon your airline. Many low cost carriers have a model that means you’ll just fly return trips to and from home base, very rarely night stopping. Whereas most legacy carriers will have the crew and aircraft stop at cities throughout the network. So your flight trips as a short haul pilot could last anywhere between 1 and 5 days. Below I’ve written some key points about the job to help you consider whether it’s for you:

  • The typical salary range of a Short-Haul Commercial Pilot £40,000 - £160,000 (depending upon airline, experience, and rank)
  • Nights away from home per month as a Short Haul Commercial Pilot: 0 - 15, depending upon your airline
  • Number of working hours for a Short Haul Commercial Pilot: Between 20 - 40 hours per week
  • How long do you get to spend at destinations as a Short Haul Commercial Pilot: If you do stay overnight, usually anywhere between 12 and 48 hours

Is being a Long Haul Commercial Pilot a good job?

If you are a Long Haul Pilot, you could once again be working in any part of the industry, cargo, low cost, legacy or private, but the largest employers here are legacy carriers (British Airways, Iberia, Lufthansa etc).

Being a long haul pilot is perhaps the end goal for most aspiring pilots. Exotic destinations, ample time down route, sunshine for you, even in the depths of winter, it most certainly has its perks. So what are the downsides? Well, it’s not for everyone; being a long haul pilot, you certainly do much less hands-on flying and have much more time out of your own bed. So it can certainly cause strains on your personal life, something not to be dismissed. Again, comparing it to Short Haul flying, i’ve put a little summary below.

  • The typical salary range of a Long Haul Commercial Pilot £60,000 - £180,000 (depending upon airline, experience and rank)
  • Nights away from home per month as a Long Haul Commercial Pilot: 10 - 15, depending upon your airline.
  • Number of working hours for a Long Haul Commercial Pilot: Between 20 - 40 hours per week
  • How long do you get to spend at destinations as a Long Haul Commercial Pilot: Some stops can be as short as 24 hours, but most are 48 +

How to prepare to start pilot training?

How to prepare to start pilot training?

So you’ve successfully applied and been accepted onto a pilot training course. Most likely, your first hurdle will be the ATPL ground school. This can be an extremely intense affair, and it’s well worth trying to read ahead if you can. Your flight school should provide you with some reading material and, even more importantly, a database of questions “question bank”. Find below some resources we recommend if not:

​Other than that, there isn’t too much else that will give you huge benefits. Once you’re at the flight school, just work hard and do your best to jump all the required hoops.

For every pilot, there are some essential items you should have: a nice flight bag, a suitable pair of sunglasses (non-polarised), a pilot logbook and/or a logging app for your hours and usually, you’ll need an iPad or other tablet.

Armed with this comprehensive guide, aspiring pilots can navigate the ever-evolving landscape of aviation with confidence. Whether embarking on self-sponsored training or vying for coveted airline-sponsored programs, the sky is the limit in 2024.

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