Becoming a Pilot

Here  you can download the information brochure "Becoming a Pilot" by the Qualification & Training Committee. It contains detailed information about the occupational profile and its requirements.

Please be aware the brochure has been developed before the COVID-19 Crisis.

Here you can download the brochure "Pilot Career for women" of the working group Diversity & Social. Furthermore the brochure "Family and Career", about the compatibility of having a family and working as a pilot.

We would like to use this webpage to answer the most frequently asked questions on the topic of airline pilots. Our hope is to be able to provide answers to the many telephone calls, which reach the VEREINIGUNG COCKPIT on a daily basis.

What is the benefit in attending a pilot job-fair?

Over the past years there has been a marked rise in job-fairs on “becoming a pilot”. Generally, it makes sense to attend such fairs, in order to get a better picture of the pilot-profession, as well as of the conditions surrounding the training.

However, it should be clear that many of the exhibitors use these fairs as a sales-platform. One should thus questions whether the information provided is legitimate, objective or rather a “sales-pitch” for a product/service?

Should a “pilot-screening/-assessment” be offered in conjunction with the fair, we refer you to our FAQ-bullet “I heard about a test. What is that about?” 

What are the chances on the job market?

Before the COVID-19 crisis there has been a market for qualified pilots, but the conditions regarding salary, working hours, stationing location, etc. are very different (see also the FAQ point “How much does a pilot earn?”).

The pilot demand forecast by aircraft manufacturers and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is based on projections which should be viewed critically, as the past has repeatedly shown that slumps in the global economy can also lead to noticeable drops in pilot demand. Due to the current crisis student pilots will hardly have any chance to get a job with acceptable working conditions in the following years.

Regardless of this, any growth is taking place mainly in the Asian region (China, India).

I heard about a test. What is that about?

Grundsätzlich führen alle europäischen Fluggesellschaften Tests vor der Einstellung durch. Es wird unterschieden zwischen Eignungs- und Einstellungstests.

As a basic principle, all major airline companies conduct recruitment tests. Some prior to training and others after training is completed. There are different types of tests: Aptitude and recruitment tests.

Aptitude test:

These tests assess the skills required for a career as a professional pilot (e.g., spatial sense, high level of resilience, etc.) On your way into the flightdeck, we recommend taking such a test, which meets the requirements of EASA (AMC1 CAT.GEN.MPA.175(b) to EU Regulation 965/2012). In this way, it can be determined whether the occupational aptitude is basically given, which makes it much easier to assess whether the challenges during the training and the later activity as pilot can be mastered. Determining aptitude is thus a helpful safeguard against being overburdened later in the job, having no chances in later employment tests, or having incurred high debts due to a discontinued training-program. In the meantime, there are providers where a corresponding certificate of basic aptitude can be acquired.

Recruitment test:

For German airline companies, recruitment tests are usually conducted in connection with an aptitude test from the German National Aeronautics and Space Research Centre in Hamburg or the company Interpersonal. These consist of specific recruitment criteria of the airline companies.

How can I prepare for these tests?

As long as preparation entails actively dealing with the matters at hand and polishing up on knowledge (English, physics and math exercises, etc.), it is beneficial and attests a professional work ethic.

Various commercial institutions offer, to some extent very expensive, training programmes, the value of which is debatable. In principle, we do not recommend these programmes. Skills can be trained, aptitude cannot.

The test centres usually provide you with preparatory materials.

At what time can I become a member of the Vereinigung Cockpit?

You can become a VC member at the beginning of your training. Membership is free for trainee pilots.

How much does a pilot earn?

That strongly depends on the airline company. A First Officer receives a starting monthly gross salary between 1500 Euros and 5000 Euros. A captain, which you can become after approximately 3 to 20 years as a First Officer, receives a starting salary between 3000 and 10,000 Euros depending on the airline company. On the other hand, the significant expenses for training must be taken into consideration.

I heard that the training is much easier and less expensive in the USA?

In general, flight training in the USA is less expensive than in Europe. Except for the PPL(A), a direct transfer of licenses of the American Aviation Authority (FAA) to licenses of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is not possible but requires some additional effort.

Can I combine the training with academic studies?

Yes, different universities offer study courses in cooperation with flight schools. Preferential hiring into flight management positions has not proven to be true.

What kind of advantages does study programmes offer?

The degree's additional qualification raises chances to get a job outside piloting after private flight training. A license does not come with a job. A study degree minimizes the risc of unemployment after pilot training.

What is an MPL and what can I do with it?

MPL stands for Multi Crew Pilot License. As the name suggests, this license is tailored to operations in two-person cockpits. It closely corresponds to the CPL(IR) “frozen ATPL”, i.e. qualifies for the position of First Officer in a commercial aircraft. The theoretical training is identical, during the practical training some training contents are transferred to the simulator at an earlier point in time. Overall, a significantly higher proportion of the training takes place in the simulator instead of in the aircraft.

In contrast to the classic license, however, only flights in two-person cockpits may be flown with it. In order to professionally fly Single Pilot Command (i.e. alone in a smaller business aircraft for instance), the so-called bridging requirements must be met, which are associated with significant financial expenditures.

Is it better to complete the training for the ATPL in one go?

Uninterrupted training is the quickest possible and most effective way to obtain an ATPL (continuous learning curve, separate intermediate exams do not have to be taken, etc.). A training period of approx. two years is realistic.

Modular training (first PPL, then CPL etc.) may make sense if the license is to be acquired, alongside an existing employment. Warning! This path requires a high degree of self-discipline in order to complete the training in a methodologically sensible time frame (no more than 36 months)

And what does it cost?

Depending on the training school, you must realistically anticipate at least 60,000 to 120,000 Euros (plus living expenses and accommodation facilities). Furthermore, at some airline companies, an up to 30,000 Euro investment for obtaining a type rating can also be a cost factor.

Warning! Obtaining and retaining a type rating constitutes a considerable investment, which the VC strongly advises against prior to having received a guarantee of employment (employment contract).
Keeping a license current can also represent a significant cost factor over a longer period of time.

Rejected outright should be offers such as "Pilot Line Training / LIFUS / Hour Building / Pay-to-fly", where the additional costs of up to €60,000 are to be borne by oneself.

Is there an upper age limit for the start of training as a professional pilot?

Based on the recruitment requirements of various major airlines, there is evidence that opportunities are significantly decreasing from an age of more than 30 years. Of course, the current demand figures also play an important role.

I heard that there are also distance learning courses?

That is correct. That is an option to prepare yourself for the theoretical exam. However, after covering all that material, you still need to complete approx. 80 hours of full-time education at a flight school before being able to take the exam. 

Who trains to become an airline pilot and are there paths that lead directly into the cockpit of an airline?

A complete list of German flight schools training to become commercial pilots (MPL, ATPL(A)) can be found on the LBA homepage. 

In addition, there are many flight schools in other European countries that train according to European regulations. WARNING: It should be clarified here in advance to what extent the acquired qualifications will also be recognized by the national authorities of future employers.

Basically, there are two possible ways:

1) Acquisition of the required license at a flight school listed by the LBA and subsequent application to an airline. A checklist with assistance in selecting a flight school can also be found on our homepage. Warning: We consider any promises to have better chances with certain airlines by training at a certain school to be dubious.

2) Occasionally, cadet-pilots are trained directly for airlines, although the selection procedures and financing methods used for this vary considerably. This method can also result in considerable waiting times and costs after successful completion of the training, since the trainees are only hired as required and one does not necessarily get a job with the desired airline within an airline group.