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Path to become an airline pilot

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  • Jun 17th, 2012 2:31 am
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[OP]
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May 3, 2005
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Path to become an airline pilot

I am in my mid 20's, Canadian, completed high school and college in Canada. Having study Computer Engineering Embedded Networks and working in the IT field for a bit more then a year, I am considering to try pursue into another career, pilot.

In general and from my understanding, there are three types of pilot license. PPL (Private Pilot License), CPL (Commercial Pilot License), and ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License). I have non of that and zero wing time. So this is starting from scratch. I think a CPL is needed to enter into any airline to be in the cockpit? Where a captain requires an ATPL?

Approach: from my understanding, there are four ways to enter into the career.

Military: but this is really hard to get in and I heard you have to be nearly perfect in everything, marks in high school, college, medical condition above standard of airline pilot requirement, very clear family background, etc. Is this true?

Flight School: this method is one of the lower cost path, you can get PPL while working full time and attend evening courses, but will this get you a CPL/ATPL and how long will a take?

College School: Some college offers aviation program along with a degree. Usually takes 4 years *correct me if I am wrong*, this will cost quite a lot ($75,000 CAD approx I was told in Canada) but you come out with CPL along with necessary ratings for airliners and will most likely get hired right away.

Cadet Pilot Program: training offered by an airline, usually two years and you will become a second officer. This is what I am mostly interested in but have some questions. How hard is it to get accepted? Do you have to pay anything for training? Since you are technically employed by the airliner once they accepted you, are you paid during training?

Making a living: I can survive (food/water/shelter idea) with my current IT position, I am not looking to make big money like kids dreaming. I just want a career change, instead of sitting in the office on a computer everyday doing routine things, I want something different everyday. There are lots of myth saying pilot's paid are poor, low, no job security. True? When you fly to another city/country as a pilot with an airline, do they pay for your hotel for the night or are you totally on your own? *this might sound silly but I really don't know*

Any advice will be appreciated.
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Oct 31, 2007
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Google is your friend. I found this after literally searching for 10 seconds.

http://www.atac.ca/en/learn_to_fly/pilo ... chure.html

Sounds like a long grind. Good thing you're not in it for the money as it appears a lot of roles don't pay much until you get lots of experience. BTW a friend of a friend is an aspiring pilot and confirms it takes a gazillion years to get enough hours for doors to open.

If you're thinking Westjet or Air Canada - good luck with that until you have years and years under your belt.
[OP]
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thanks ac328

maybe I should reword my thread, I am looking for more info about pilot training, the life of it, the pay, etc. I found that article prior to posting, it gives a good general info about the types of license and what it does (which I wrote in the first post)

Any cadets program in Canada / Canadian Airliners?
I am not sure about westjet but AC only wants pilots with experience (1000+ hours...)
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achc wrote: Making a living: I can survive (food/water/shelter idea) with my current IT position, I am not looking to make big money like kids dreaming. I just want a career change, instead of sitting in the office on a computer everyday doing routine things, I want something different everyday.
Why do you think pilots do "something different everyday"? Flying a plane seems about as varied as driving a bus.
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Oct 31, 2007
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ac328 wrote: Google is your friend. I found this after literally searching for 10 seconds.

http://www.atac.ca/en/learn_to_fly/pilo ... chure.html

Sounds like a long grind. Good thing you're not in it for the money as it appears a lot of roles don't pay much until you get lots of experience. BTW a friend of a friend is an aspiring pilot and confirms it takes a gazillion years to get enough hours for doors to open.

If you're thinking Westjet or Air Canada - good luck with that until you have years and years under your belt.
Ok understood. However RFD is totally the wrong place to be asking this - if you had a question about accounting, now this is the place to come to!

I would try www.avcanada.ca as a start and ask your questions on the forums there.
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Feb 18, 2012
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If you want to work at one of the major airlines, the air force route is the only realistic option that is available to you. It is virtually impossible to crack into a major airline without prior air force experience or personal connection to the company. Contrary to what many people believe, by the way, most pilots make a little more than the minimum wage unless they are unionized. I have a friend who graduated from the Seneca Aviation Technology program, and this is what he told me.
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nauru wrote: Why do you think pilots do "something different everyday"? Flying a plane seems about as varied as driving a bus.
One obvious difference is that you would be able to travel to different cities and probably different countries. You also probably would probably fly with different co-pilots and different crews. I'd also imagine that being a pilot is much more challenging and stimulating.
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May 17, 2008
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eiad77 wrote: One obvious difference is that you would be able to travel to different cities and probably different countries. You also probably would probably fly with different co-pilots and different crews. I'd also imagine that being a pilot is much more challenging and stimulating.
It would depend on the type of plane you end up flying, but once you are in big, modern aircraft, it is almost entirely automated. I heard life as a pilot described as "years of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror." It is a lot of just checking to make sure everything is ok, and only really intervening if something isn't ok.

Travelling for work would be really cool for a while, but I'm sure the negative aspects of that accumulate faster than you think. The OP should really talk to some people who have spent their life in this industry to get a good idea of what the life is really like.
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Jan 1, 2007
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Applecart wrote: If you want to work at one of the major airlines, the air force route is the only realistic option that is available to you. It is virtually impossible to crack into a major airline without prior air force experience or personal connection to the company. Contrary to what many people believe, by the way, most pilots make a little more than the minimum wage unless they are unionized. I have a friend who graduated from the Seneca Aviation Technology program, and this is what he told me.
You have no idea what you are talking about. The majority of pilots at the major airlines in Canada are not former Air Force pilots period.
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Jan 2, 2009
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I don't think you'd want to get into that field today. I found out that the Jazz pilot that flies me on my last leg home all the time makes about half what I do. This is not reassuring.
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Jun 6, 2007
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Applecart wrote: If you want to work at one of the major airlines, the air force route is the only realistic option that is available to you. It is virtually impossible to crack into a major airline without prior air force experience or personal connection to the company. Contrary to what many people believe, by the way, most pilots make a little more than the minimum wage unless they are unionized. I have a friend who graduated from the Seneca Aviation Technology program, and this is what he told me.
:lol: no you have no Idea…. you need around 2500-4000 hours of flight time with a lot of theming PIC(pilot in command) and experience on turbine…. check out avcanada.com forum it is like RFD but for pilots…. Honestly though its a tough industry and can be shady and unsafe but also rewarding and interesting… be prepared to live like a BUM for the first 1/4th of your career… there are to many unexerpience pilots for low hour jobs

read this book too…

http://www.amazon.ca/Want-Pilot-Guidebo ... 097813091X
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Oct 23, 2006
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I would say the number one quality to becoming an airline pilot is to not get motion sickness easily....that's why I will never become one even though I loved Catch Me If You Can :(
Board games!!!!
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My sister in law is now finally an air canada pilot after about 15 years of flying and collecting hours. During those 15 years she'd be lucky to make $20,000 in a year flying privately for the simple reason that owners of planes know that you need hours so they pay next to nothing in exchange for you getting hours.
Yes you may get lucky and get a job working for a gazionairre that will pay big but the reality is that you will literally starve until you gain enough hours just to apply for a commercial company like air canada.
Then, you start at the bottom of the seniority list and pay scale and have to work your way up always under the threat of the airline going under or cut backs to pilots which would chop you off immediately starting fresh.
If you want to learn to fly for fun, go for it, if you want to make a career out of it, you'd be better off working as a Wal-Mart greeter and earning a living!
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industry_killer wrote: You have no idea what you are talking about. The majority of pilots at the major airlines in Canada are not former Air Force pilots period.
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Feb 18, 2012
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industry_killer wrote: You have no idea what you are talking about. The majority of pilots at the major airlines in Canada are not former Air Force pilots period.
I may not know what I am talking about, but my pilot friend definitely knew what he was talking about. Notice that I said the air force route is the only REALISTIC route, not the one and only route. Good luck with meeting the flight hour requirement on your own!! You need an experience to get a job, but you cannot get any experience without first getting a job. Maybe you could get a job as an assistant flight instructor like my friend did.
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Jan 30, 2010
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OP I got my private pilot license (single engine) through Air Cadets and have thought about going into the field but I didn't think it fit my interests. I do know alot of people pursuing it though. Some pursue it by joining the Air Force and getting the education and training. Other go to schools like Seneca Aviation or Waterloo, or Western's aviation program and they get their private license's by the end of 2nd year i believe, and then move on to learn larger planes etc.

From what I understand of how to become a commercial pilot, is that you need to get your licence and then either get your hours through being an apprentice of sort by applying to major airlines, where you'd be expected to do the menial tasks. I hear that in Asia, specifically in China, that they are hiring many American pilots to fly between cities within their China (with much better benefits/compensation) since they are expanding so quickly.

The other way is that you get your private license, then get hours and do exams for your commercial licence, then become an instructor at an airport (probably a small one)
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an easy way to gain hours is to become an instructor. i know this cuz i myself wanted and aspired to become an airline pilot for a very long time. still do, but i don't have the money nor the time to pursue that path anymore. all the best to you! pm me if you have any specific questions.
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eiad77 wrote: One obvious difference is that you would be able to travel to different cities and probably different countries. You also probably would probably fly with different co-pilots and different crews. I'd also imagine that being a pilot is much more challenging and stimulating.
lol

You're not driving in the city, you are landing on a runway at an airport. If you just want to travel around, just go be a FA. Different co-pilots/crew? you can interact with your TTC passengers if you wanted.

Being a pilot is very boring coming from a friend who's a pilot with AC. Everything is automated including the landing, you just sit there strapped into your seat for hours until someone relieves you and you go for a quick nap or sit in a different chair.

You seem to have pilots mixed up with being a FA.
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Mar 27, 2004
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You neeed to put a lot of time flying up north if you want to rack up hours.
My friend did it in northern ontario and in nunavut. Recently hired with AC at 28.
It takes time and money. Do you have both?
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Jan 1, 2007
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Applecart wrote: I may not know what I am talking about, but my pilot friend definitely knew what he was talking about. Notice that I said the air force route is the only REALISTIC route, not the one and only route. Good luck with meeting the flight hour requirement on your own!! You need an experience to get a job, but you cannot get any experience without first getting a job. Maybe you could get a job as an assistant flight instructor like my friend did.
Ok the problem is you do not know what the term "realistic" means. There are many realistic ways into the airlines. In fact at the three airlines I have worked at within Canada, there are of course former RCAF pilots, but far more who had worked their way up the ladder, and of course that ladder includes crappy first, second, and third jobs to build hours until some airlines will look at you.

Guess what, that makes those routes more than "realistic".

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