How to become a pilot for British Airways

Updated November 21, 2016

Becoming an airline pilot for an international aviation corporation like British Airways is the dream of many. Though more people dream about it than actively pursue it, with dedication, determination and self-discipline this particular fantasy can become a reality. If you fall asleep each night with visions of yourself in a crisp navy uniform soaring from one exotic location to the next, follow the steps in the guide below.

Call your nearest flight school and schedule a demo lesson. The lesson will begin on the ground with a basic description of the plane's main components and the mandatory preflight engine and equipment safety check. This is generally followed by 30 to 60 minutes of flying.

Acquire a medical certificate from a practitioner who has been approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. Medical certificates for pilots have two different classifications: class 1 for professionals and class 2 for hobbyists. If you are not certain whether you wish to pursue a career as a professional pilot, get the class 2, as it is much more affordable. You can always upgrade later.

Get your PPL or JAA private pilot license. This license will allow you to fly alone or to take several people up in the air with you. You cannot make money from a PPL, but it is the most common stepping stone to a commercial pilot license. Training for the PPL generally takes between 45 and 60 hours and can be completed in a single calendar month or can be spread over the course of a year. In addition to flight training, you will need to study for and successfully pass a series of multiple-choice examinations covering subjects such as navigation, flight law and standard safety operations to get your license.

Begin studying for the Airline Transport Pilot License examinations. This series of 14 written tests can be taken through a standard classroom program or through a distance learning curriculum and takes anywhere from 8 to 16 months to complete.

Spend the time you are not using to study in the air. You will need to have a minimum of 175 hours of flight time logged with your PPL in order to qualify for entry into a commercial pilot program in the UK.

Obtain your commercial pilot license. Once you have passed all the written tests and logged at least 175 hours in the air, you need to enrol in a 25-hour commercial pilot flying course wherein you will learn to fly larger aircraft.

Earn your instrument rating. As a commercial pilot you will need to be able to successfully pilot the plane using information you are able to gather from the plane's instruments only, as your vision outside the plane will be completely obscured on occasion.

Enrol in a multi-crew operations course. This two-week course will help you learn to work as part of a flight team and to communicate and function well as part of the crew.

Apply for a position within the British Airways Direct Entry Pilot Scheme (see Resources below). Be sure to list all of the relevant work you have completed on your CV. If they find your CV and credentials appealing, they will invite you to an interview. If the interview goes well, they will give you a tryout on a flight simulator. And, if that goes well, they will probably make you an offer within a week or two.


Be mentally prepared to spend anywhere from 6 to 12 months waiting for a position to become available. To qualify for a position within British Airways, in addition to all the above, you will also need to pass a criminal records check and a drug screening.

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About the Author

Lisa Parris is a writer and former features editor of "The Caldwell County News." Her work has also appeared in the "Journal of Comparative Parasitology," "The Monterey County Herald" and "The Richmond Daily News." In 2012, Parris was honored with awards from the Missouri Press Association for best feature story, best feature series and best humor series.