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Training of Airline Pilots Essay

This motto goes: “One mile of runway can take you anywhere”. Through my little time of being an aviator this has proven to be true. Aviation is an incredibly exciting field of interest that has no limits as to how far an individual can take it. Flying airplanes for a living can be very challenging, fun, and exciting; however looking past the outer shell, aviation is a main component of what makes the global economy work.

According to Airsaftey.Aero, the aviation industry supplies 4.5 million jobs directly related to airports and has a multiplier of 1.7, meaning that for every 100 jobs in aviation their are 170 jobs in associated industries. They also state that the total global value is US $880 billion. The industry allows faster, cheaper, and more efficient ways to travel for business, tourism, cargo, and mail. As you can see aviation is a huge power in the development and success of the global economy. The companies can make big profits and the economy is obviously better off with this industry. One item that is in direct correlation with the revenue of these companies is safety.

Some people say that a pilot will make his whole life’s earnings in one flight and that may or may not be true, but the fact that the training of these pilots is crucial cannot be denied. This paper will discuss the attitude needed to become a pilot, the medical requirements to become a pilot, the beginning steps of becoming a pilot, the three main routes to become a professional pilot, and the continuing training required to maintain a professional pilot’s license.

Attitude of Becoming a Pilot

A pilot’s attitude can be the most important and valuable asset he has, yet it can also be the most dangerous. Decision-making is what separates a good pilot from a bad pilot. Every decision is a reflection of the attitude that a pilot has. Human factors are the number one cause of all aircraft accidents, and most of these stem from undesirable attitudes. It does not take an outstanding set of physical talents to become a pilot. Most people need to understand that the skills are within themselves to become a professional pilot. Aviation is very unforgiving to those who push the limits. There have been five hazardous attitudes identified that can be most detrimental to becoming a successful pilot. These attitudes have been classified as: Anti-Authority, Impulsive, Invulnerability, Macho, and Resignation. (Haz)

The Anti-authority attitude is found in pilots who do not like anyone telling them what to do. This pilot may disregard rules, regulations, and procedures as silly or unnecessary. They have a “Don’t tell me” type of attitude and the proper antidote would be to say, “Follow the rules: they’re usually right”. The Impulsive attitude is displayed when the pilot feels the need to make decisions without fully thinking through the situation. Instead of saying “do something quickly,” this pilot should be saying, “Not so fast, think first”. Pilots who tell themselves that accidents and malfunctions cannot happen to them face the invulnerability attitude. Instead of “It can’t happen to me” pilots need to think, “It can happen to me”.

Another undesirable attitude is described as macho. This is when the pilot has the attitude that he can take risks and that he is invincible. Instead of saying “I can do it,” pilots with a macho attitude need to train themselves to say, “Taking a chance is foolish”. The fifth category of undesirable attitudes is resignation. Pilots have no room for blaming occurrences on bad luck and that is what this attitude is. The pilot blames an undesired situation on luck and gives in. Someone with this attitude usually says, “What’s the use,” when they should have the attitude that “I can make a difference.” Pilots need to be committed to keeping a positive, levelheaded attitude. A good way to do this is to review human factors before every flight, recognizing the outside factors such as stress, money, commitments, etc. that will effect the decisions they make (Haz).

Obtaining a Medical Certificate

Obtaining an FAA medical certificate is required of every aviator, whether he will be at the controls as a student pilot or an Air Transport pilot. In this process a certified AME (aviation medical examiner) will perform what seems to be a basic physical examination on the patient. The examiner will check the patient’s eyes for distant visual acuity of 20/20 or better in each eye separately, with or without corrective lenses, near vision of 20/40 or better, the ability to perceive colors necessary for the safe performance of airman duties, and normal fields of vision.

Next he will check the ears, nose, and throat of the patient making sure a certain decibel level can be heard, and that no preexisting issues can be identified within the nose and throat. Those are some of the main things that the examiner will be looking for in the physical components of the exam; however the rest of the examination will also include mental health, neurologic health, cardiovascular strength, and anything left that falls under general medical condition.

It is recommended that if one wants to become an airline pilot that he obtain an FAA First Class Medical Certificate rather than the required Third Class Medical rating before beginning training as he cannot and will not be hired without one. The FAA does have an option to give waivers to those who may be on the border of passing one of these sections of the medical exam; however with the costs of training being very high it would be wise to make sure to meet all job qualifications prior to training (Con).

Beginning Steps

Now that the attitude required to be a professional aviator as well as the medical requirements have been discussed, the next step is to ask oneself some very important questions before beginning the actual training. The first question should be, “how much will this all cost?” There is no concrete number, but expect non-military training to cost somewhere around $60,000 for all the ratings.

The next question to ask is, “how long will it take?” Again, there is no set time frame on this as some might learn faster or slower than others. From personal experience, expect two to four years to obtain all of the ratings unless doing military training, which is an accelerated program.

Another question to ask would be, “what topics will you need to learn?” Most professional aviators did not just wake up one day and decide that they were going to try to be pilots. They have a passion for what they do and that is what makes them stand out in the fierce competition of the industry. This leads to the desire to learn many different aviation subjects such as Aircraft systems, Aerodynamics, Navigation, Weather, Aircraft operations, and Regulations.

The last question one should ask is, “where should I go for flight training?” This question leads to the discussion of the three main types of flight training, which include Part 61 civilian, Part 141 flight schools, and military training. After considering whether one has what it takes to become an aviator, then the next step is to evaluate the fastest, cheapest, and most efficient way to obtain the required ratings while looking good on a resume.

Part 61 Civilian Training

While there is no college requirement to be an airline pilot, most employers will look for some college time and prefer a bachelor’s degree. Part 61 training is probably the simplest and easiest to complete, as there is no set time requirement for completion. The private pilot license, instrument rating, commercial license, and multi-engine license can all be obtained through part 61 training. This type of training is usually done outside of a school and all bookwork is done using a self-study style. A certified flight instructor will give all of the endorsements needed to complete the ratings up to the point when the student must fly with an FAA examiner. The timeframe is set on the student’s urgency and is usually a little less expensive than a Part 141 program. The most attractive attribute of a Part 61 flight school is the flexibility it gives its students. Even though this path has the least direction from the FAA, the pilots get a well-rounded training experience.

Part 141 Civilian Training

Part 141 flight schools have a more focused curriculum that requires not only flight checks but ground courses also. The FAA gives a lot of direction to the trainees. There are clear outlines for every part of the training to obtain each rating including the ground lessons, flight lessons, and stage checks. This is the best option for pilots who are serious about making a career out of flying and not interested in serving in the military. As with Part 61 training, there are several check rides required before completing flight training. The curriculum of the flight portion is set up to save flight hours creating a less expensive alternative. A Part 61 school requires a minimum of 40 hours, whereas a Part 141 schools only requires 35 hours. This may seem appealing, but many students at part 141 schools need over the 35 required hours. According to Patch on

“The place where you may want to look at a part 141 school is when you go on to your advanced ratings. This is where your decreased requirements may actually have a true cost savings for you. For example, if you’re getting your instrument rating at a part 61 flight school, you’ll need to have logged 50 hours cross country as pilot in command (PIC). That’s not a requirement for part 141 schools. That’s a considerable cost savings for most students.”

Military Training

Military aviator training is the toughest, least expensive to the pilot, and most desired because one can build turbine time. In the United States Air Force, officers go through a 4-phase program leading to receiving their wings. Phase-one is academic classes and pre-flight training. In this phase pilots learn and test in subjects such as Aerospace Physiology, Altitude Chamber, Ejection Seat / Egress Training, Parachute Landing Falls, Aircraft Systems, Basic Instruments, Mission Planning / Navigation, and Aviation Weather. In phase-two the officers begin primary aircraft training. This phase includes approximately 90 hours of flight training, lasting 22 weeks, with the Purpose of teaching students basic flying skills, Focus, Contact, Instruments, Formations, and Navigation. At the end of this 6-month phase, students pick which Advanced Track in which they wish to fly.

Students pick based on their performance ranking in Phase-2. In Phase-3, advanced aircraft training begins. After Approximately 120 hours of flight instruction in 24 weeks of training, the hope is to put these pilots in fighter/bomber aircraft. Finally these select few are ready for phase-4, which is graduation. After roughly 52 weeks of training, officers receive their silver wings and are awarded the aeronautical rating of pilot (Spe). This method of training is desirable because one can get paid to become a pilot, can receive instruction from the worlds best, and can build turbine time before applying for an airline job (assuming the pilot are placed in a fixed-wing aircraft). The negatives of this path, on the other hand, is the competition and risk that one may end up not being a pilot, as well as a contract requiring a lengthy commitment to service. Overall this can be the way to go if one is confident in his own skills and abilities. Airline Training

Once one has completed getting all of the ratings, certificates, and licenses and thinks all the training is over, well guess again. The airlines require even more training. Joel Freemen of says:

“Regardless of your background, the airline will train you based on its procedures and its FAA-approved training curriculum. Even though all airlines fly the same kinds of airplanes, each airline has slightly different methods and procedures. The goal of an airline is to train you to be qualified in your position and to be standard. Standardization is one of the pillars of a safe airline. The concept is that, within the airline, cockpit behavior and procedure will be the same in every flight, no matter which pilots are at the controls, to prevent confusion and misunderstanding.”

The initial training includes regulations and company-specific procedures. The pilot will then spend two weeks learning specific systems and equipment that they will be operating. Next is the simulator training. The airline will simulate every emergency procedure and mishap imaginable to ensure the ability of the pilot before allowing them to fly their million dollar airplanes. Next the pilot will be fly to obtain initial operating experience. This experience includes at least 25 hours of flight time. After this, the pilot is released to operate scheduled flights as a crewmember. What to Expect

From an article on here are three short testimonies of the life of a few regional pilots: “Alex Lapointe, a 25-year-old co-pilot for a regional airline, says he routinely lifts off knowing he has gotten less sleep than he needs. And once or twice a week, he says, he sees the captain next to him struggling to stay alert.

Neil A. Weston, also 25, went $100,000 into debt to train for a co-pilot’s job that pays him $25,000 annually. He carries sandwiches in a cooler from his home in Dubuque, Iowa, bought his first uniform for $400, and holds out hope of tripling his salary by moving into the captain’s seat, then up to a major carrier. Assuming, that is, the majors start hiring again.

Capt. Paul Nietz, 58, who recently retired from a regional airline, said his schedule wore him down and cost him three marriages. His workweek typically began with a 2:30 a.m. wake-up in northern Michigan and a 6 a.m. flight to his Chicago home bases. There, he would wait for his first assignment, a noon departure.” These scenarios go to show that it takes a lot of hard work, passion, and love for aviation to be an airline pilot. These guys start off making awful wages, are kept away from home, get little sleep, and eat unhealthy fast food most of the year until they obtain seniority.


Pilots are the poster child’s of the aviation business. They are the most seen by the public; therefore it is essential that they demonstrate professionalism when they put on the uniform. Professionalism is not something that a pilot obtains when he/she begins making money for an airliner but rather a personality that shows respect to his/her crew, passengers, and aircraft. Professionalism is what airlines are looking for when they are hiring, they are looking for a potential Captain. Being an airline pilot isn’t for everyone though. You can probably tell from the rest of this paper that it really requires a passion as well as a great deal of sacrifice to make it through the rigorous and lengthy training. The sacrifices don’t end there, as pilots are often in major debt for years before they make enough to pay off the loans they acquire, they sacrifice time spent with their families, and they are physically tested from day one.

Although this all seems negative, it is a must. Hopefully the passengers see these as a positive. The more training a pilot has, the safer he/she will be in the cockpit. The excess in training provides more protection to the passenger and/or the cargo. Training also improves accident rates therefore keeping passengers flying and keeping aviation stimulating and allowing our economy to grow.

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