How much does it cost to become a pilot?

The future of ab inito flight training, according to AIN, is dependent on the fact that the aviation industry will need to hire up to 70 new pilots a day to meet the growing demand for their services – though almost half of these will be based in the Asia-Pacific.

For those looking to train in Europe and the US, the demand is still significant, but competition for the cockpit is fierce. While major airlines like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Emirates are reacting to the ever-growing pilot shortage with an increased number of ‘future flyer’ financed training options, winning a place on a paid-for course isn’t easy. Airlines handpick candidates most likely to make a strong return on their investment, as the fees are steadily repaid through the airline’s payroll. Read: prior experience; top percentile exam scores; strong interview skills; a clean Class 1 medical – the full roster.

For everyone else, there’s self-financing. Obtaining an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) can cost over USD $140,000 and take the best part of two years, or up to four if combined with a degree course. But potential pilots shouldn’t be put off by this, and cadets can shop around to find a deal that works for them – whether that’s supplementing hours in the logbook working as a flight instructor, or having a part-time job while training.

As a potential new recruit, it’s also essential to keep up to date with the current regulations for pilots in the region. Across the board, stricter age requirements are seeing a lot of experienced captains heading towards retirement, opening up posts for new recruits. It’s also essential to research the flight hours required to get a stint in the captain’s seat, as this varies widely between regions, regulatory bodies and airlines – 1,500 hours are required in the US, but in the EU some airlines will take first officers with 1,200 or even fewer.

From flying corporate jets to commercial airliners, there’s no normal route to becoming a pilot; and for many it remains an expensive, and often difficult, career path. But with supply due to slip below demand across the industry, becoming a pilot may well become increasingly affordable – and therefore accessible – over the coming years.