How to become a pilot

Written by april kohl
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How to become a pilot
You will need at least 45 hours of flight training to gain a private pilot's licence, the first stage in becoming an airline pilot. (pilote de voltige image by iMAGINE from

Being a pilot is a dream many have had since the first aircraft took to the skies. However, many people do not know how to become a pilot: where to go to learn, what licences are required and whether there are any prerequisites, as there are with the more advanced forms of the driving licence. In the UK, anyone 17 or older may learn to fly if she passes the mandatory health checks.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Medical assessment
  • 200-plus hours of logged flight time for a commercial licence

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  1. 1

    Contact a medical examiner certified by the Civil Aviation Authority to arrange a medical test. Potential commercial pilots are required to pass a Class 1 medical test while recreational pilots must pass the cheaper and less rigorous Class 2 medical. It is best to undertake this test before booking flight lessons as you will not be able to qualify for a pilot's licence without being able to pass the medical.

  2. 2

    Undertake at least 45 hours of flying lessons with a local flight school. According to, the majority of trainee pilots require 60 hours of flight training before they are ready to take their Private Pilot's Licence (PPL) test. Meanwhile, study for and sit the seven multiple-choice exams required for the PPL: Air Law and Operational Procedures, Aircraft General, Flight Performance and Planning, Human Performance and Limitations, Meteorology, Navigation and Radio Navigation, and Radiotelephony.

  3. 3

    Undertake the eight-month Airline Transport Pilot's Licence (ATPL) Ground Course, which consists of either a residential course or a distance-learning course (which is cheaper but takes longer) followed by 14 written exams. Gain at least 200 hours of flying time on your logbook (you will probably have 45 to 60 hours after your PPL). Undertake the commercial pilot training course, which consists of 25 hours flight training, followed by a practical assessment test flight.

Tips and warnings

  • Although the 45 hours of compulsory flight training for the PPL can be spread out over months or years, you will often forget important skills and information if you leave too much time between lessons. If you cannot afford to pay for all the flight hours you will need on a regular basis, consider saving up first to make learning easier.
  • Passing the PPL allows you to take friends and family out with you when you fly. However, the PPL does not allow you to "fly for money" or operate as a pilot in any commercial capacity. To qualify as a professional pilot, you will need to pass the commercial pilot training course and gain your CPL. Accepting payment for flights without a CPL can lead to prosecution.

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