Employers only let you take their large metallic airborne vehicles up into the sky if you have something a little bit more than the standard 20 meters swimming certificate you got when you were eight.
So what do you need, and what are good extras to help you learn to fly, and to improve your (currently steamrollered wafer thin) chances of getting employed at an aerially based organisation? Read on for more details on this truly exciting subject.
This is a general guide for what to do, as whether your ultimate goal is an airline pilot job or crop duster – they all need the same licence in order to get paid for it!
What qualifications will help for training?
This is a question that many students ask when choosing their A levels, and to a lessor extent when choosing a degree course. The ATPL Theory exams (about which we have written a whole electrifying section) are the part where there is the most book based learning on the twisty road to a commercial pilot licence.
These exams are not that hard, although there is a lot to learn. While A-levels and degrees in the murky worlds of physics, maths, engineering etc. are going to make life easier while studying for the ATPLs, they are certainly not required.
The most hardcore maths is in principles of flight, and is just trigonometry. GCSE level maths (mental maths, Pythagoras, graph reading etc.) is used alot in these exams across all of the subjects though, so while you may not need to know all the content of A-level maths (I have yet to find a use for poisson distribution or the equally arousing Cartesian coordinate system for the Euclidean plane in my airborne adventures for example) the confidence it will give you with numbers might be something to consider. Unless you are already Rain Man.
Physics is probably a more handy subject to get, as electro-magnetic waves, mechanics, electronics and a load of other stuff covered in both GCSE and A-level physics courses make their welcomed appearance across many of the 14 ATPL subjects. This will give you a more in depth understanding of what exactly is going on.
Again, you can still pass the ATPLs without these A-levels if you don’t want to do them/are crap at them. It would be better to get an A in needlework than an F in physics for example.
However, if that is the case, you need to think hard about whether this is the correct career for you, as you need to have a good grasp on physics and maths to do your job in a non crashy way. If you don’t enjoy them – you ain’t gonna enjoy that aspect of piloting too much.
Degree wise, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Maths or physics degree is well beyond requirements for piloting – the only thing that might help a little is an aeronautical engineering degree but only if you actually want to do this. Don’t just do a degree in that because you want to get away with falling asleep in a handful of principle of flight lessons.
Do a degree that you enjoy in whatever subject you want. It may even be a good idea to get a degree in a subject completely unrelated to aviation, as the industry at the moment is not exactly a peachy industry, and you will have something to fall back on. Perhaps get a degree in economics, they seem to be doing very well at the moment too.
What qualifications will help for getting a job?
Airline wise; you generally need at least two A-levels as a minimum. What subjects these are is up to you.
Again, maths and physics are good checks in the box, as it shows you have at least some aptitude at the skills that will be required of you every day. Assuming you get decent grades anyway – an A in Psychology is better than an E in Maths (perhaps if you would get an E in maths you should not do it. At least they then remain ignorant of your less than stellar number skills).
In job interviews, they are looking for a well rounded, confident individual who is future captain material. By well rounded I do not mean obese. Make sure you do plenty of extra-curricular activities throughout your time at school like joining Air Training Corps, doing Duke of Edinburgh award, joining the schools bands etc. This will look a lot better than simply handing in a blank CV with three A’s at A level printed in the middle. You also need to be somebody who you can sit next to for a five hour sector without driving the other pilot insane with tedium.
So all that can be summed up as:
That would have saved us all a lot of time.