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How to Become an Airline Pilot


How to Become an Airline Pilot
Photo © rbrwr/flickr
Have you ever wondered what it takes to be an airline pilot? Perhaps you’re considering a career in aviation, or maybe you simply wonder how pilots get their wings. Either way, you can be assured that learning to fly isn’t much more complex than learning to operate your new iPad. It does, however, require hard work and a significant financial commitment. Here are four possible routes that a prospective pilot could take to become an airline pilot:
Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: 2 Years +

Here's How:

  1. Part 61 or Part 141 Flight School
    Most people start flying at their local airport with a small flight school. These schools are often known as Part 61 or Part 141 flight schools, terms derived from the 14th Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), the Federal Aviation Regulations. For example, 14 CFR Part 61 details the requirements for the certification of pilots, while CFR Part 141 describes the regulations surrounding pilot schools.

    Flight instruction that takes place under Part 61 is the least regulated, making it the most informal and often the least expensive option. Instructors at Part 61 schools can conduct training in the manner they choose, without much oversight from the FAA.

    Part 141 flight schools, on the other hand, must adhere to a strict training outline that has been approved by the FAA. Both training methods offer a casual, at-your-own-pace environment, and many offer training on nights and weekends. With this route, a student can get the necessary certificates and ratings to become a commercial pilot, but will still need additional experience to become an airline pilot. For this reason, many pilots go on to become flight instructors.

  2. Aviation College or University
    The obvious benefit of attending a college or university with an aviation program, such as UND or ERAU, is that students can earn a four-year degree while learning to fly. Coursework consists of aviation-related classes that are geared toward the career pilot, and the quality of training is high. A university might provide a student with a professional experience and the most up-to-date technology and equipment in the country.

    The disadvantage of a collegiate program is the cost. The good news is that scholarships and financial aid are commonly available to help offset tuition and flight costs. After graduating, most students need additional experience to become and airline pilot.

  3. Aviation Academy
    An advanced technical program or aviation academy, such as ATP offers a way for students to gain the required pilot certificates and knowledge in a short amount of time. Often these programs will train people to be airline pilots in a year or two with condensed coursework and intense airline-oriented training. Many times these companies will partner with airlines to offer guaranteed job interviews to graduates. The biggest drawback here is the cost. Advanced technical programs are the most expensive option.

  4. Military Aviation Career
    A military aviation career can ease the financial burden of flight training. While the military expects a lengthy commitment from its aviators(about ten years), the training is paid, making this a desirable option for some. In addition to the financial benefits, military pilots can enjoy traveling the world while gaining experience flying large aircraft.

    Becoming a military pilot means facing stringent acceptance requirements, both physically and mentally.

    The drawbacks of becoming a military pilot include the long commitment, potentially a lot of time away from home, and the likelihood of deployments. When the commitment is over, many military pilots apply for airline jobs. Military experience is highly desired by airline recruiters, and pilots with a military background can typically find work easily in the civilitan aviation industry.


  1. To save money, order the required books and/or software and study at home.
  2. Does the thought of flying an airplane intimidate you? Remember that flying the aircraft isn't the hard part for most people. Finding the time and money to complete flight training is usually the bigger challenge.
  3. Gain support by joining a professional aviation organization in your community, such as the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), or the Aircraft Owners and Pilot's Association (AOPA). Many times these organizations offer scholarships and free training seminars.

What You Need

  • Time
  • Money
  • Supplies, such as books, a flight computer and navigation charts
  1. About.com
  2. Industry
  3. Aviation & Aerospace
  4. Pilots and Piloting
  5. Training
  6. Requirements for Becoming an Airline Pilot

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