What is the Best Way to Become an Airline Pilot

by Devin

I wish there was a one size fits not all answer to this question, but there just is. The options and the possible paths are just too great.

However, with that said here are some on the best


Becoming a military pilot is one of the best ways to become an airline pilot. When you become a military pilot, you receive some of the best training in the world and it is all paid for. This is the big benefit.

The down side is you are committing to several (up to a decade) of service in the military when you become a pilot. This can be a challenging lifestyle and there are no guarantees that you will become a pilot just because you have signed up to become one. The military controls your life and can (and does) change its mind at will.

When I was in college training to become a pilot many of my friends at Embry-Riddle where in ROTC and had been told they had flight training slots after graduation. Then just weeks before school ended most of these slots disappeared due to budget issue. There was nothing anyone could do about it but keep going and hope this training would come back.

Another drawback to the military pilot option is the need to be in top physical health. Things such as eyesight that is fine for civilians will keep you from becoming a military pilot. You must have 20/20 vision for the military.

Aviation College

There are many aviation colleges around that provide top-notch flight training along with a degree. These programs can be a bit costly but do provide a very high quality of background. Some schools like Embry-Riddle or the University of North Dakota go so far as to provide an undergraduate degree in professional piloting.

These programs are in touch with the needs of the airlines and often create training programs to help you prepare for these positions. You will also find these flight schools have advance aircraft for you to train with.

The down side of aviation colleges is the career path can be longer than that of a military pilot. What we often see is military pilots come out of the military and right into the major airlines or larger regionals. Aviation college graduates almost always need to start at the smaller commuter airlines or even air chatter operation then work their way up.

However, you will generally find both paths make it to the major airline interview phase of their lives at about the same age, just by different paths.

Consolidated flight training

With these programs you may spend between 6 and 18 months heavily involved in flight training but then go from nothing to fully qualified in that time period. These programs can be very expensive and because of the time involved often do not allow for outside jobs. This means you need to be ready and have the finances ready before going down this path.

With that said, I love these programs for people who know they want to become a professional airline pilot but have little or no flight time. In half a year, you can go from desk jockey to airline pilot, and because these programs are heavily structured, there is a great chance you will succeed.

These programs, just like aviation colleges, are tightly aligned with the airlines, some are even owned by commuters. This means they train you to the level and with the flight skills you much have to get into the airlines.

The path you take to becoming an airline pilot is all up to you. Each one has pros and cons. The key is to take the time and find the path that is best for you then stick with it. The greatest numbers of failures I see are from people who jump back and forth from path to path.


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