Ask a Pilot with Spencer: How Do You Change into an Airline Pilot?

Pilot Spencer Marker in the cockpit

In our Ask a Pilot collection, pilot Spencer Marker solutions considered one of your aviation-related questions every week. See previous installments right here and submit your individual to

The query

How do you develop into an airline pilot?

The reply

As a pilot in uniform, there are a handful of questions I appear to get frequently from the touring public. Some are frequent akin to, “What time will we land?” Nonetheless, my favourite query, and the one I like to reply most, is “My son/daughter/relative loves airplanes. How do you develop into an airline pilot?” And the reply isn’t fairly as as easy as you’d assume.

There are 590,039 certificated pilots in america, and each pilot’s journey begins with a narrative. Whether or not it’s the grandfather who used to take you up in his outdated airplane, or all the time reserving the window seat on an airline if you traveled, every story is exclusive!

My ardour for aviation began on the best way house from a household journey after I was eight-years outdated. We had a layover within the Pittsburgh Worldwide Airport (when US Air had a hub there). I bear in mind urgent my palms towards the home windows and looking out exterior. I used to be awestruck. The motion of the airplanes scurrying forwards and backwards was enthralling to me. I made a decision in that second what I needed to do; I needed to be an airline pilot.

I used to be fortunate sufficient to have mother and father who would drive me to the municipal airport in Topeka, KS, simply to observe small airplanes take off and land. On the age of 14, I took my first introductory flight with an teacher in a small, two-seat Cessna 152. After we landed, there was little question about what I needed to do for my profession.

Take an intro flight
An introductory flight is an efficient first step for somebody contemplating a profession in aviation. These newbie classes embrace roughly thirty minutes of floor faculty, the place you’ll study basic aerodynamics and plane management. After masking the fundamentals, you step into an actual airplane with a professional flight teacher and go flying. And sure, you’re going to get fly the airplane! These starter flights are supplied by flight faculties across the nation (to search out one near you, click on right here). And even should you don’t plan on changing into knowledgeable aviator, stepping into the sky and experiencing flight together with your palms on the controls is an unforgettable expertise.

The Experimental Plane Affiliation (EAA) additionally gives aspiring aviators nice introductory choices with the Younger Eagle and Eagle Flight packages. These packages pair aviators with a licensed pilot for a free intro flight.

If after an introductory flight you discover that an aviation profession is for you, nice! At this level there’s a option to make: to pursue an aviation profession within the army or as a civilian. Each decisions can ultimately lead you to the flight deck of an airliner, however have barely completely different technique of getting there.

The army path
Pilots selecting to enter the army to pursue their flying goals have the benefit of Uncle Sam paying for his or her coaching. In return, these pilots commit themselves to round 10 years of service to the army. These pilots obtain rigorous and top-notch coaching in change for his or her service. Whereas the dedication could also be daunting, these aviators go on to lengthy and fruitful army careers earlier than getting into the airline world. Up to now, most pilots chosen by the airways have come from the armed forces, however throughout the final decade that pattern has shifted.

The civilian path
Most pilots getting into the airways nowadays come from a civilian background. Pilots selecting to pursue an aviation profession by means of a civilian path are additionally required to endure lengthy hours of educational and flight coaching. Civilian coaching choices vary from rigorous structured coaching programs by means of universities to flight coaching supplied on the native airport. Each choice has advantages and downsides based mostly on schedule and depth of the coaching. Personally, I selected to pursue aviation by means of a college.

Civilian pilots progress by means of their coaching by constructing hours (flight time) and attaining completely different licenses that enable them to do various things. Every degree has minimal flight expertise necessities (flight hours), a written take a look at and a sensible take a look at, or checkride. Throughout these checkrides, college students should cross an intensive oral and sensible take a look at with an FAA Examiner. These assessments consider a scholar’s depth of information and expertise required to perform sure duties in an airplane. And as a pilot progresses by means of their coaching, these duties develop into an increasing number of difficult. These assessments proceed throughout an aviation profession and whereas they’re aggravating, centered research and good coaching make passing them simpler. In reality, airline pilots are evaluated frequently to ensure their expertise keep sharp!

In the long run, all of the rigorous coaching and lofty necessities are supposed to create secure pilots. And no matter whether or not your curiosity in aviation is solely for pleasure or to pursue a profession, the best reward for all of the arduous work is solely guiding that airplane into the air. I received’t sugarcoat it: Flying is a difficult pursuit that requires self-discipline and perseverance. And for these of us fortunate sufficient to placed on our uniform and step into the cockpit day-after-day, we wouldn’t have it another method.

If anybody has a burning aviation query or one thing you prefer to cleared up, drop us a line at to get your query featured in an upcoming “Ask a Pilot” column.

Clear skies and tailwinds,


Spencer Marker