How To Become A Pilot

A career as a pilot is both exciting and fulfilling. This article explains how to become a pilot, qualifications are required to prepare for it after 12th and more.

By Amrita Gracias

How To Become A Pilot

Asha smiles as she hears the all-too familiar and exhilarating sound of the roaring jet engines. She looks up into the sky just in time to see the airplane soar high into the clouds. She closes her eyes and pictures herself at the console in the cockpit, listening to the instructions from the control tower and directing her co-pilot to climb to an altitude of 20,000 feet while making sure to avoid a thunder cloud! Asha is all but 14, but is quite sure that she wants to train to be a pilot once she finishes her schooling.

A career as a pilot is most definitely an exciting and gratifying one. Apart from being able to travel around the world, one also gets to handle the sophisticated airplanes that are equipped with the latest technology and navigation systems.

So, does your child have a passion for flying and wonders how to become an airline pilot? Here is some important information on how to become a pilot and what it takes for your child to realise these dreams.

How to become a pilot: Qualifications needed

How to become a pilot after 10th?

A candidate can apply for a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), only after 10th.

How to become a commercial pilot after 12th?

To get a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), the aspirant can apply for it only after he completes class 12th with Maths and Physics as mandatory subjects. The selection to the PPL and CPL training is based on an entrance exam that includes aptitude tests in English, General Knowledge, Mathematics and Physics.

Training criterion

To obtain a PPL and a CPL, one can apply to an aviation training centre recognised by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in India.

How to get a PPL

To obtain a PPL, the candidate should be at least 16 years old. The licence can be acquired once he has 60 hours of flying experience, which must include 20 hours of dual flying. Apart from this, he must also clear theory exams at the end of the training. The subjects covered include air regulations, aviation meteorology, air navigation, aircraft engines and seamanship.

How to get a CPL

To obtain a CPL the candidate should be at least 18 years old. She must acquire 250 hours of flight experience during the training, which includes 60 hours accumulated while obtaining her PPL. The 250 hours must also include dual flying (20 hours), solo flying (150 hours), cross-country flying (25 hours) and height flying. She then needs to clear theory exams for subjects including air regulations, aviation meteorology, air navigation, aircraft engines, cockpit resource management and map projections to name a few. The training and flying hours must also involve exposure to a range of various airplanes like two-seater planes or twin-engine planes.

How much does it cost to become a pilot

In India, the cost of becoming a pilot is roughly around Rupees 8 to 10 lakhs for PPL, and Rupees 30 to 40 lakhs for CPL.

Some airlines even demand training in simulators of Airbus 320 and Boeing 737. This could cost an additional 30 lakhs. One is required to undergo routine flying tests and medical check-ups to keep the CPL valid. The flying tests may vary depending on the type of planes that one pilots.

Flying schools

There are several flying schools both in India and abroad where flying licences can be obtained. Flying hours can be obtained faster (in about 8 – 12 months) abroad as they have several planes for training, which enables one to acquire a licence sooner. In India, the same could take up to three years. Do make sure that an international flying school is genuine and recognised by the civil aviation authority in that particular country. However, if one obtains a CPL abroad and wishes to apply for a job in India, he will have to write an additional exam and acquire additional flying hours to validate the licence.

Once an individual is employed with an airline, he will be required to get further specialised training from time to time. This cost is however usually borne by the employer.

Top flying schools in India

Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA)

Fursatganj Airfield, Amethi – 229302. U.P.

Phone: +91 (535) 2441144, 2441150, 2441151

Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology

Trivandrum International Airport

Chackai ITI Jn., Beach P.O, Thiruvananthapuram – 695007. Kerala.

Phone: 0471 - 2501977, 2501814

The Bombay Flying Club

5th Floor, Avionee Building, Near Nanavati Hospital, Vile Parle West, Mumbai – 400056. Maharashtra.

Phone: 093217 68802

National Flying Training Institute (established by CAE Oxford in India)

c/o Airport Authority of India, Birsi Airport, Paraswada, Gondia - 441614, Maharashtra.

Phone: 07182 665 023

Chimes Aviation Academy

Dhana Airstrip, PO Dhana, District Sagar- 470 228. Madhya Pradesh.

Phone: +91 62620 33655

Top flying schools abroad

CAE Oxford Aviation Academy – centres in Canada, Belgium, Australia, UK and USA

8585 Cote-de-Liesse, Saint-Laurent, Québec, H4T 1G6, Canada

Phone: +1-514-341-6780

L3 Aviation Academy (CTC Wings) – centres in Europe

Mauretania Road, Southampton, SO16 0YS, UK

Phone: +44 (0)2380 737 567

Flight Safety Academy

2805 Airport Dr, Vero Beach, Florida 32960, USA

Phone: +1 772-564-7600

Singapore Flying College

SIA Training Centre 02-B, 720, Upper Changi Road East, Singapore 486852

Phone: +65 6481 5166

Pan AM International Flying Academy

5000 Northwest 36th street, Miami 33166, Florida, USA

Phone: +1 (305) 874 6000

Skills for becoming a pilot

A pilot’s job, although exciting, is demanding, no doubt. Here are some of the skills one should have to meet the requisites of the job, as described by a senior pilot.

  • Discipline and commitment
  • Physical and mental fitness
  • Alert mind
  • Ability to respond to crisis situations
  • Technical knowledge
  • Good communication skills
  • Ability to work with a team
  • Self-confidence
  • Leadership skills
  • Willingness to learn

A pilot’s medical requirements

In order to obtain a CPL, one must obtain Class I and Class II Medial Fitness Certifications. These tests must be performed by DGCA-approved doctors. A Class II Medical Certificate is necessary to join a flying school, while a Class I medical certificate can be obtained during the training tenure. The medical check-up includes a general inquiry about one’s medical history along with tests for eyesight, hearing, heart and lung functions, cholesterol and haemoglobin, among others. With regard to eyesight, it is imperative to have perfect vision in one eye, or 6/6 eyesight. The other eye is allowed an imperfection of 6/9; however, it must be correctable to 6/6. Specialised tests like an electroencephalogram (EEG) have also been made compulsory to rule out any problems related to brain activity. Psychometric evaluations are also included in this process.

A pilot is also required to undergo routine medical tests throughout his career, which he must clear in order to keep his licence valid.

Career as a pilot

Do keep in mind that a CPL does not guarantee a job with an airline. There are several air travel options available, such as airline passenger planes, air freight or cargo planes, corporate planes or even special charter planes. One can even choose to become a flight instructor. A pilot is first recruited as a trainee pilot after which he will be promoted to First Officer, Second Officer, Co-pilot, Captain and finally to the highest rank of Commander.

Government agencies like the Coast Guard, Border Security Force and Military also offer exciting career opportunities for those who aspire to become pilots.

How to become an air force pilot

Career in Indian Air Force: The Flying Branch of the Indian Air Force is an excellent option as well for those who wish to serve in the military. If your child wishes to apply immediately after he completes his class 12 examinations, he can apply to the National Defence Academy (NDA). The training at NDA lasts for 3 years after which he will be posted as a pilot at an Air Force station.

Or, he can choose to complete his graduation first, after which he can enter the Air Force by any one of the following modes:

  • clearing the Combined Defence Services Exams (CDSE)
  • joining the Short Service Commission (SSC)
  • entering the National Cadet Corps (NCC) Special Entry scheme

These institutes also have various criteria to be met before one can be allowed to train as an Air Force pilot. However, one needs to clear the crucial Pilot Aptitude Battery Test before being admitted to an Air Force academy. More importantly, a candidate can appear for this test only once in a lifetime. The test checks one’s mental abilities, technical proficiency and potential to qualify as a military pilot.

The aviation industry offers some of the highest paid jobs. Travelling by air has now become common in India and with the increase in the number of flight operators, job opportunities are aplenty too. A career as a pilot is most certainly an adventurous and a lucrative one. So, encourage your child to pursue it. After all, the sky is the limit!

About the author

Amrita Gracias holds a degree in English Literature from Stella Maris College, Chennai and a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism (specialising in Print Media) from the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. She takes to writing and editing when she isn’t answering to the duties of motherhood!

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