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As aviation begins to experience a noticeable pilot shortage, there's no better time to get started. Pay rates at the regional and major airline levels haven't been this good for decades, and are getting better each day.
There's no "perfect path" to becoming a pilot flying something like a Boeing 777, but here's one great way to make it happen. Thousands of pilots follow these steps, and you can too. Enjoy the journey along the way, it's a long one!
You probably know a pilot or two through friends and family. The best way to get your training started is by talking to them about their experiences and what your goals are. Having someone to mentor you along the way is invaluable.
Look up flight schools in your local area and contact them to set up a discovery flight with one of their instructors. You'll get to take controls on this very first flight...pretty cool, right?! Being nervous at first is totally normal; I have a few friends who got air sick every flight for their first few lessons. Today, they're airline pilots.
There's no "right way" to become a professional pilot. You can train through a local flight school, university program, airline cadet program, or even the military. There are a lot of options out there, so do your research to see what works best for your goals. Here's why I chose the training path I'm on.
It's no secret that flight training is expensive. But it's not impossible to figure out a way to fund it. Loans (private and federal) are available at many flight schools and universities for training. Don't forget to apply for as many scholarships as you can. Research scholarships for your local area, school, or apply through national organizations like Women in Aviation, EAA, AOPA, etc.
Now that you've made your plan, it's time to start studying. Knocking out your basic aviation ground knowledge will make a huge difference in how quickly you progress through training. You can take your FAA Written Exam without any flight time... All you need is an instructor's sign-off!
Struggling with Airspace, Weather, or Charts? So is everyone else! We have training courses to make it easy.
The Boldmethod team is made up of University of North Dakota aviators, past and present. With one of the largest training fleets in the country (we're talking nearly 100 aircraft in Grand Forks alone!), you'll get to know literally hundreds of aviation students from all over the country. Click here to learn more.
Better yet, you can qualify for in-state tuition after just one year in North Dakota. That will bring your yearly college tuition to just over $8,000 (excluding flight costs, room & board).
It's time to truly become a pilot. At roughly 40 hours of flight time, plus some other requirements, you'll get your first pilot's certificate. If you maintain currency and a medical certificate, it's valid for life! Follow these 8 steps to keep your flight training as cheap as possible.
After you become a private pilot, you'll continue building experience and skills through flying by looking instruments alone, adding precision with commercial flight maneuvers, and flying multi-engine aircraft. Once you get that commercial pilot's certificate you can begin getting paid to fly! Follow these 13 training tips to make the most of your training.
Along the way, don't stop networking and be careful to never burn bridges. It's often said that getting a job in aviation is about who you know, not what you know. So as you continue training, get to know the instructors, students, and professors at your schools. Take advantage of opportunities to attend career fairs and develop working relationships with people that share your common interests, the people who want to see you succeed.
There are a lot of ways to build flight time towards your first airline job, but one of the best is through flight instruction. It's said that you'll learn more in the first 100 hours of flight instruction than you learned throughout all of your training. We couldn't agree more. Get that CFI, CFII, and maybe even an MEI certificate.
It's not easy. But the rewards of teaching someone how to fly, seeing them succeed, and learning a lot about yourself in the process, is invaluable.
Depending on where you trained, you can become a First Officer for a regional airline at 1,000 hours if you're a civilian. Check out the Restricted ATP Requirements For First Officers.
Every regional airline is currently hiring, and pay at many is approaching $60,000 for your first year! There are so many options out there, each with their own pros, cons, different aircraft, and unique bases of operations. So study up on what works best for you and your goals. Read into the fine print of each airline's employment contracts and don't get sucked in by gimmicks... Because, remember, they're all desperate for pilots right now!
We've done a lot of work with ExpressJet, one of the country's largest regional airlines. They're one of the best options out there for new First Officers. Find out why by checking out the full Boldmethod-ExpressJet Series.
At most regional airlines today, you'll upgrade to Captain in anywhere from 18 months to 3 years. Ten years ago, that was unheard of. Once you're a Captain, you'll begin building turbine PIC time, an important qualification when you're ready to apply for a major airline.
Something even crazier is happening out there in the airline world. Some First Officers without Captain time are getting picked up by major airlines. It's a beautiful time to get into the airlines.
After a few years at the regional airline level, you'll build the necessary qualifications to get picked up by a larger airline. The legacy passengers carriers in the USA are Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines. But don't forget about other large airlines like Southwest, Alaska Airlines, Frontier, Spirit, FedEx, UPS, etc. There are dozens of good options out there, so don't rule any out!
After all that work, you finally nailed your dream job. You'll be flying heavy equipment now, possibly all over the world. The pay isn't too bad either...top earners at the largest airlines can make over $300,000 per year.
Remember, this is just one path. It's not all about the airlines. Cargo, mission flying, corporate, charter, and private aviation have just as many opportunities. There are endless training options and career paths in aviation, making becoming a pilot one of the most flexible and rewarding professions out there.
At Boldmethod, we're here to help you make it happen. What's your path? Where are you headed? Tell us in the comments below.
Better yet, share this article with someone you know who's considering becoming a pilot.
Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, commercially licensed pilot with multi-engine and instrument ratings, and a commercial aviation student at the University of North Dakota. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. Swayne's experience ranges from international flights in a King Air F90 to ferrying a 1943 Grumman Widgeon across the country. You can reach Swayne at email@example.com, and follow his flying adventures at http://www.swaynemartin.com.