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The usual qualifications needed to begin training as a pilot are a minimum of five GCSEs and two A-levels. The training requires a good level of understanding of maths and physics and so any qualifications that demonstrate this may be of an advantage.
A degree or postgraduate qualification is not required, although some people may choose to take one to make them stand out in the tough competition.
Related degrees are available, for example Buckinghamshire New University offers a BA in Air Transport with Commercial Pilot Training, but this degree is not essential to become an airline pilot and costs for the flight training are on top of the normal degree costs.
There are other degrees such as aviation management, aviation technology and aircraft engineering that are combined with 'pilot studies'.
These courses can help start you off in flying as they typically cover the theoretical work needed for a private pilot's licence. Flying lessons may be available but they will be at an additional cost.
In order to work as an airline (commercial) pilot you must hold an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL). This qualification is known as a 'frozen ATPL' and becomes 'unfrozen' when a certain number of hours and experience have been achieved.
It is important when considering routes into the career, that you chose the right one for you. The two main ways to achieve an ATPL are via the following paths:
A full list of approved training providers can be found at CAA Approved Courses of Flight and Ground Training .
Full or part sponsorship from an airline, which pays for the student's training is sometimes available, but usually only when the aviation industry is doing well and there is a high demand for pilots. It may be difficult to find such opportunities while the industry is still trying to recover its growth since the recession. When sponsorship opportunities are available, competition is extremely fierce.
Required skills for an airline pilot include:
It is highly recommended that before you commit to any training you take the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Class One Medical. It is a requirement that all airline pilots pass this medical, and if you do not, you will not be able to complete the training to achieve the ATPL.
The Honourable Company of Air Pilots runs aptitude tests, which are useful for those with little or no flying experience to see if they may be suited to a career as a pilot. Information on how to register for one of these is available at Air Pilots: Aptitude Tests .
It is also possible for those who have trained as pilots in the RAF, Navy and Army to become commercial airline pilots. To do so, a civil aviation course must be completed and a conversion qualification should be gained.
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