A career in aviation can seem daunting from the offset, with lots of conflicting information, it’s hard to know where to start. I’ve created “Future Coepilot” in order to help other budding aviators understand the industry, the technicalities and the opportunities available within aviation. I’ve been lucky enough to receive scholarships and bursaries to help me get to where I am; I want to show future aviators that it’s not as hard as it looks on the surface, but with determination and a passion, the sky is the limit!
“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”
Leonardo da Vinci
For those of you that are brand new to the idea of a flying career, there are a couple of ways you can get started. One of the options is getting down to your local flying club and taking a trial lesson with an instructor. Another option is to partake in a cost-shared flight with a local pilot. An alternative to both of these is to try gliding, of which there are many schools/clubs located around the country.
Beyond a trial flight you might decide to complete your Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL), either to fly for fun, or towards a career. Regardless of your choice, PPL flying is without a doubt the most fun and enjoyable flying you can do.
Flying Career Paths
Can be paid and make money from flying.
Training costs: £0
Time to train: 3-5 years
- Fighter pilot
- Cargo flying
- Reconnaissance flying
- Medical evacuations
- Troop carrying
- Air-to-air tanker pilot
- Flying instructor
- Helicopter pilot
Future options: Transfer to civilian flying
Cannot be paid or make money for any flying.
Training costs: £8,000-12,000 (lots of bursaries & scholarships available)
Time to train: minimum 45 flying hours (can be as long or short as you make it)
- Recreational flying (multiple aircraft types)
- Additional training (e.g. night rating, instrument rating)
- Flying instructor
- Glider towing
- Banner towing
- Cost shared flying
- Dropping parachutists
- Air racing
- Aerobatic display flying
- Glider flying and/or instruction
- Microlight flying, hang gliding or power paragliding
Future options: Progress to commercial flying
Can be paid and make money from flying
Training costs: £25,000-40,000 (some bursaries & scholarships available)
Time to train: around 200 flying hours (can be as long or short as you make it)
- Air taxi/private charter flights (commercial air transport single pilot operations)
- Flying instructor
- Agricultural spraying or bush flying
- Aerial photography, banner towing or ferrying aircraft
Future options: Progress to Air Transport Pilot’s Licence
Can be paid and make money from flying
Training costs: ‘Integrated’ £90,000-120,000, ‘Modular’ £50,000-80,000 (limited sponsorship options for both)
Time to train: fast track/integrated training ~18 months, modular training can be as long or short as you make it
- Multi-crew and multi-engine aircraft operations
- Airline flying
- Corporate jet flying
- Air ambulance pilot
- Test pilot
Future options: Chief pilot, fleet captain, training captain etc.
Commercial Training Paths
Multi Crew Pilot’s Licence (MPL)
The Multi Crew Pilot’s Licence (MPL) is a licence which has been developed to streamline trainees to the first officer role in an aircraft. The training is heavily simulator based compared to the Air Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL) and focuses on teamwork and aircraft/company standard operating procedures. The licence allows you to be part of a multi crew environment of an airliner but is more restricted than the ATPL. After completing a certain number of hours in the industry with your MPL, you will be eligible for an ATPL however, until this point you don’t have any transferable flying qualifications (as the MPL is specific to airline and type). There are many different companies and courses, some of which are sponsored by airlines. They are all integrated courses as the licence is designed to ‘fast track’ people to the cockpit. Prices range massively, but you could be looking at paying in excess of £120,000 once you factor in living expenses etc. As it stands the MPL route is for fixed wing operations only.
Air Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL)
Once you have completed all of the training below, you will be granted a frozen ATPL. The frozen part means you have minimum experience flying aircraft for real in an air transport environment. Once you have built up hours, this will become ‘unfrozen’. The (f)ATPL is usually the minimum requirement for airline pilot jobs. Some airlines will require you take a type rating course before commencing flying with them. This is a training course spent in a simulator learning the specifics of the aircraft type. Some airlines will fund this for you however, others will expect you to pay. These can be expensive depending on the aircraft type.
An initial class one medical is a requirement for any person undergoing any form of professional flying. The medical will last around half a day and involves many tests as well as a thorough check of your medical history. The initial medical costs around £500-600, however it could save you lots of money on flight training if you’re declared medically unfit to train. Please note, there are only certain places you can obtain an initial class one medical from. The class one medical is valid for 12 months. Once you have had an initial class one medical, you are able to renew it at a more local CAA approved doctor. As the class one medical is stricter than the class two medical, whenever you take a class one medical, you will also obtain a valid class two medical, which is valid for 5 years and can be used for any form of private flying
A Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) is a licence that allows you to fly aircraft without getting paid for it. The PPL is the first step for all pilots, whether you want to be fly commercially or just fly for leisure. Different flying schools offer different packages but the PPL will usually set you back around £8000-£12000.
After completion of your PPL you can train toward your night rating. This allows you to fly at night and must be completed before commencing CPL training. Again, dependant on where you choose to complete this training you will be offered different packages. Typically it will cost around £800-1500. Hour building consists of building up around 150 hours to start commercial flight training. Many people choose to travel abroad to complete this phase of training, to cut costs and often to make use of the better weather in other countries, meaning the hours can be built quicker. Hour building costs vary tremendously; it would be hard to put a cost to it – just find the cheapest flying you can!
The ATPL theory consists of 14 examinations, which are all multiple choice. The learning phase can be completed as a distant learning course or as a full-time or part-time classroom based course. Courses can range in price from £2000-4500
A commercial pilot’s licence is like a more advanced version of the PPL. Once completed, it means you can legally be paid to fly. However, before airlines will consider you, you will need to have a valid instrument rating alongside your CPL. A Commercial Pilot Licence will set you back between £4000 and £6000 dependent upon where you decide to train.
A multi-engine rating allows you to fly aircraft with more than one engine. This training consists of a minimum of 6 hours training in a twin-engine aircraft. Depending on where you complete your training and what aircraft type, expect it to cost between £2000 and £4000.
An instrument rating is a requirement by all airlines that allows the holder to fly on airways and by the instruments for example in poor weather. An instrument rating course requires you to complete 55 hours of flight training of which some of this time can be done in an approved simulator, which most certified schools have access to. You should budget, between £15000 and £20000 for an instrument rating course depending on where you train.
A Multi Crew Cooperation (MCC) course is a simulator based course which focuses on training you to operate in a multi crew environment, such as in an airliner. Many airlines have this as a perquisite for applications. Completing a MCC course will cost you around £2000 to £4500 depending on which simulator you chose to use.
A Jet Orientation Course is similar to an MCC course, however instead of a teamwork focus it is aimed at providing the student with experience flying jets in the simulator. This course varies in price from £500 to £2000 and most can be done alongside the MCC course.
Sponsorships, Scholarships & Bursaries
Air Cadet Organisation
If you are part of the Air Cadet Organisation (Air Training Corps, Combined Cadet Force or Girls Venture Cadet Corps) you are eligible for several Gliding/Flying Scholarships. Speak to your Squadron staff about applications to get the ball rolling. Additionally, there are many work experience opportunities which you could apply for.
Members of the Air League have a variety of Gliding, Flying and Engineering Scholarships on offer to them. They are usually open for applications in the last month(s) of each year and close around February. A lot more is on offer from this organisation, including visits, work experience, talks and more.
The British Women’s Pilot Association offers scholarships, bursaries and competitions to women who have a keen interest in aviation. Similar to the other organisations, more is on offer than just those; take a look at their website to find out more.
The Honourable Company of Air Pilots
The Honourable Company of Air Pilots is an organisation offering similar things to the Air League. Members have access to a wealth of contacts, as well as many Flying, Gliding and Engineering Scholarships and Bursaries. HCAP usually offers some post PPL scholarships too such as a Flying Instructor Scholarship; something which some of the other organisations don’t offer.
Royal Aero Club Trust
The Trust offers some bursaries to aviation enthusiasts who have either, gone solo in an aircraft/glider (or a similar alternative), have a passion and take part in some form of flight simulation or enjoy aero modelling. It’s a great chance for young enthusiasts who enjoy flight simulation or aero modelling to get some flying hours. You don’t need any flying experience to apply for the flight simulation/aero modelling bursaries.
RAFA, a charity that supports members of the RAF offers flying scholarships/bursaries to those who have gone the extra mile to support the charity and other charitable trusts. If you are, or have been a member of the Air Cadet Organisation, you have more than likely contributed lots to the charity without knowing.
University Air Squadron
For those who are looking at attending University, consider joining your local University Air Squadron. A adult version of ‘Air Cadets’ the University Air Squadron enrols you as an Officer Cadet as part of the RAF Reserves. The Squadrons offer an access to a wealth of information, guidance, activities and lots of free flying. It would also put you in very good stead for joining the RAF even if you wouldn’t want to be a pilot.
Light Aircraft Association
The LAA occasionally offers bursaries and scholarships to its members however; being a member grants you several advantages and privileges. They have fly ins, fly outs, monthly magazines packed with information and are heavily involved with home/kit built aircraft and their approvals to fly.
Royal Navy Gliding/Fleet Air Arm Association
Whether you’re interested in gliding directly or are looking at progressing to flying, consider applying for the scholarships offered by the association. Gliding is a great way to gain invaluable airborne experience and it’s a great way of getting in the air if you’re too young to go flying. You can now fly solo in a glider aged just 14! The scholarships offered aim to take you to your first solo in a glider.
Helicentre based out of Leicester offer PPL(H) scholarships to those looking at becoming helicopter pilots. The flying school also offer post PPL flying courses allowing you to progress after you have got your first licence. Even if you’re a fixed wing fanatic; what’s to lose if you get awarded the scholarship?
Royal Aeronautical Society
The society offers lots of advice and support for people aiming to enter into a career in aviation. Links and partnerships with many organisations means there are regular talks, stories, visits and contact opportunities. Although there are no direct bursary/scholarship or sponsorship opportunities, the society can put you in touch with people who can help you move forward with flying training.
Top Tips for Scholarships and Busaries
1. Start searching for scholarships etc. as soon as possible. Don’t wait even if you’re debating the idea, you can always say no or withdraw your application. There are many scholarships available to different ages, not just over 18s or those with flying experience. There are even scholarships etc. for ground based roles e.g. engineers. Continue searching for more scholarships etc. even if you have received one previously; there’s plenty out there!
2. Don’t make up things to try and seem better than you are. The scholarships etc. are designed for people who are looking to go further but might not be able to for whatever reason. They will look at the type of person you are over your qualifications page on your application.
3. Always keep your eyes and ears open for new scholarships etc. Many have different application periods so you don’t want to miss any!
4. Talk to previous scholarship etc. winners. They wouldn’t have been able to get where they are now without some help from someone and I’m sure 9/10 will be happy to help you get there as well.
5. Apply to every scholarship etc. for which you are eligible. Many people only apply for one or two, but the more you apply for, the more likely you are to be awarded one. If you get awarded more than one – bonus!
6. Don’t miss deadlines. Allow plenty of time to put the application in, in case there are any problems.
7. Read and follow the instructions carefully, there’s nothing worse than going off topic and, did I tell you I had cottage pie for dinner?
8. If you have difficulty writing essays, try recording yourself as you answer the question out loud, and transcribe the recording later. Most people can think and speak faster than they can write or type. Create an outline afterward to organize your thoughts.
9. Personalize your application and be passionate. Make your application individual and unique. Talk about your experiences and feelings; give examples and be specific.
10. Make sure you have reliable and professional contact details. If you were to be selected for the next stage, you want to be able to be contacted. Also, “firstname.lastname@example.org” isn’t the best email address to use…
11. Proofread your application more than once. Get someone else to have a look too; four eyes are better than two!
12. Make a copy of your application before submitting it. One, you have a reference for next year to work by. Two, you have it if something didn’t go through properly.