You want to become a pilot but you’re not sure how? fret not. I’ve written this article to help you figure out a game plan.
If you haven’t done so already, go ahead and read this post about the 3 most popular routes to earning your wings. Next, read this post about some of the different types of ratings and licenses you may earn on your way to the Captain’s seat.
So, you now have a basic understanding of the 3 pathways you have in front of you, and what they may involve. Let’s say you choose to go the conventional route and want to know the most efficient way forward.
Step 1: Medical
First, you’ll need to get your Class I medical certificate. The last thing anyone wants, is to put in all that time, money, and effort into their training only to realize that they aren’t medically fit to fly.
Step 2: Exams
Apply for a Computer Number. This is a unique ID given to candidates so they can appear for their CPL/ATPL theory exams. The pass results of these papers are valid for 05 years from the date of clearing them.
Step 3: Prep
By now, you should have also done your research and not only decided on whether you want to train in India or abroad, but also which school you want to train at, what the costs are, etc.
This is when you’ll apply for a visa (if required), fill out paperwork (and other formalities) as required by the flight school, arrange for your travel & stay, etc.
Step 4: Training
Make sure your training plan is clearly defined – stage checks, flight training schedules, etc. before you begin your training. Many people end up spending more money that they need to, simply because they didn’t factor in things like weather, individual needs, aircraft/instructor availability, etc. If you’re training in the US, ask your flight school if they have discounts on their hourly rates if you purchase blocks of time in advance.
The biggest advice I can give you here is to make sure you’re not rushing into your stage checks, solo release, or checkrides. It is better to spend a couple of extra hours to refine/perfect your skills than to fail a stage check or checkride and take on additional stress. Don’t get me wrong. Failing a check isn’t “The End” of your career. It just means you need a little more training before you’re ready to be in command. Trust your instructor as they have a lot more experience than you and will let you know when you are ready for the next stage.
Step 5: Next Steps
Congratulations. You’ve successfully completed your training and have earned your Commercial Pilot’s License. Now, you have a choice to make. Assuming you did your flight training abroad, you have 2 choices.
If the flight school you did your training from also has a CFI/CFII course and offers you a job upon completion of the course (for example, OPT on an F-1 visa in the US), you may choose to do this to gain more flight experience and get paid in the process.
Alternatively, you can plan your return to India and do the necessary conversion flying at an Indian FTO to convert your foreign CPL to an Indian CPL. If you plan to do this, make sure you get all the necessary paperwork from your flight school before you leave the country.
On the other hand, if you did your flying in India, you simply need to gather the necessary paperwork and apply for your CPL (which your flight school with help you with).
Step 6: TR / Job hunt
Now that you’ve got your Indian CPL, you’ve got another choice to make:
You can self-fund a Type Rating course of your choice (A320, B737, ATR72, Q400, etc.) and then apply to airlines/operators that fly the type of aircraft you are Type Rated for.
You can wait and apply for openings in airlines/operators that are hiring non-type-rated CPL holders where the company will take care of your type rating on their fleet.
In either case, I highly recommend that you prepare for, and clear your ATPL theory and oral exams while you pursue one of the two options above.
As always – if you have questions, a different opinion, or find an error, please feel free to comment below!