Integrated vs Modular Flight Training

Integrated vs Modular Flight Training

A Comparison of Airline Pilot Flight Training Options

Once you have decided to commit to airline pilot training, choosing the right training for your individual circumstances is key. There are two potential routes to obtaining a frozen ATPL named integrated and modular. Unfortunately since the terrorist attacks of September the eleventh 2001, there have been very few fully sponsored flight training schemes accessible. There are still a few available outside of the UK, with Cathy Pacific being one of the few notable exceptions for which European nationals are eligible to apply. However at present, there are no fully funded schemes available in the United Kingdom.

Mentored Airline Cadetship

The majority of airline run pilot training schemes are now known as “mentored” programs. The airline selects its cadets to enroll them onto an integrated flight training course where their progress throughout the course is monitored and evaluated by both airline and flight school alike. The airline will expect a high standard to be met, and subject to this being achieved, the cadets are usually taken on by the airline at the end of their training. Despite being sent to carry out the flight training on behalf of airline, a cadet pilot course requires an outlay of around £100,000, and the onus to secure such finances lays with the student not the airline.

The Risks Associated with Flight Training

Up until the global economic downturn in 2008, if like most people, you didn’t have a spare eighty thousand pounds sitting in your bank account, the finances could be acquired though an unsecured loan from several different banks. Unfortunately banks now require security for such a loan in the form of an asset(s) such as property. For many people who are looking to commence their training, such assets are not easily, if at all accessible. This has made the industry somewhat elitist, as it precludes those from a less privileged background from obtaining the resources to commence the training. Some people are fortunate enough to have parents that may be willing to provide security for the loan in terms of the family home, but this in itself is a hugely risky commitment.

If you were to fail to secure a job after completing training and furthermore, (you or the guarantor) were not in employment which would ensure loan repayments of between £700 – £1200 a month for around ten years, the security placed on the loan may be repossessed. This has happened in the past and will continue to occur in the future, and this is why it is vital to have a backup plan before making such a huge commitment. Even if the finances are in place, you must think long and hard about the prospect of parting with £100,000 to chase a dream that may never happen. This is quite a sobering prospect, but there are people who take the “it won’t happen to me” attitude, only to be left crippled with debt. The fact is that there are more fATPL holders than commercial pilot jobs, and as such there is always a risk that one will never achieve their goal of sitting in the right hand seat of a commercial jet.

Integrated Flight Training Overview

Integrated training basically means you carry out all of your training on a full time course at an approved flight school. It takes you from having zero hours flying time to holding a frozen ATPL in around 14-18 months. The training is intensive requiring complete commitment from start to finish. Although the course is designed for zero hour flight time students, it does not preclude those with previous flying experience from applying, in fact a few hours of previous instruction may be beneficial. Many people, enroll on an integrated course having already obtained their PPL.

In the UK integrated training is specifically approved and regulated by the CAA. There are the three “big” flight schools that offer this type of training; Oxford Aviation Academy (OAA), Flight Training Europe Jerez (FTE), and L3 Aviation Academy. All the integrated schools require that you pass a selection process involving aptitude testing, Maths and English tests, group exercises and a competency interview.

Many airlines say they prefer graduates from integrated flight school. They suggested that if you can keep up with the fast paced training and very steep learning curve associated with integrated training then the airline can be fairly confident that you will not have any problems with the subsequent type rating and line training. Some airlines such as British Airways only recruit low hour cadets from the four CAA approved integrated schools. Airlines such as Thomas Cook, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, Flybe, Thomson Airways, Emirates and Qatar Airways all run mentored courses though such courses.

Integrated training is geared up to prepare you for a job as a commercial airline pilot from day one. You are required to wear uniform, and taught to operate the aircraft in a similar manner (as far as practicable) to that of a commercial airliner.

The training is well structured and the standard is regarded as very high. The structure of the courses vary from school to school but all culminate of taught ground school theory subjects, single engine elementary flight training before moving onto the more advanced instrument flight rules training on the multi-engine.

The best way to choose which school is right for you is to go and visit them. Each offers a different training environment and facilities, and the layout of the syllabus tend to have some differences. For example, at Flight Training Europe the students have their accommodation and catering on campus. This can be very useful in terms of practicality and convenience. Not having to worry about cooking dinner after a long day of ground school, or not hanging around flight operations all day having to wait for the weather to clear up are very handy commodities. You also have benefits of an onsite swimming pool and bar making relaxing on your days off pretty easy. Others may find this to be a bit claustrophobic as during the fourteen months of training you get very little time off and so much time living and working in one place, especially abroad, can be daunting.

Integrated Flight Training Advantages

  • Some airlines recruit directly from integrated flight training organisations. For example, easyJet recruit directly from OAA and L3 Aviation Academy.
  • After completing training, you are often placed in a holding pool until an airline recruits you.
  • It’s an intensive course which the airlines like as it demonstrates you can cope with a steep learning curve.
  • All of the training is done with one flight training organisation. This means an accurate record can be kept of your flight training performance, something which the airlines value.
  • Integrated flight training organisations must be approved by the state regulator. This guarantees a high standards of training.
  • The quality and consistency of the training is often better.
  • You will probably get your licence quicker.
  • It takes from you zero flying experience to the ability to pilot a commercial aircraft as a First Officer.
  • There are potentially additional accreditations that might be available through an integrated flight training course, such as bolt on aviation degrees.
  • Flight schools often provide support to their graduates until they secure a job with an airline. Some schools will offer assessment preparation sessions and practice simulator assessments.
  • Some flight schools have performance guarantee schemes due to the faith in their selection process. This means if you didn’t reach the required standard to gain various licences, you could get your money back.

Integrated Flight Training Disadvantages

  • More expensive than the modular route.
  • Training to a strict timetable i.e. less flexibility.
  • Unable to work in any other role whilst on the course so you would need the money or loan to finance the course upfront.
  • More risk in the sense of if there was a significant global event that effected airline recruitment (like the 2008 recession), you will be committed to continue with your training.
  • You can’t pay as you go – much more money is required through specific instalments and this can be difficult to source for some people.

If you are interested in Integrated Flight Training, you can checkout our specific Integrated Flight Training Organisation List.

Modular Flight Training Overview

Modular flight training is traditionally cheaper than integrated. You can choose where and when you complete your training which gives you the benefit of being able to budget appropriately, paying for you training as you go, rather than spending a large upfront sum that is required for integrated courses. You can do it as quickly or slowly as you like, which gives you the opportunity to work while getting your various licences.

The hour building required for the Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL) issue can be completed in other countries, with many people choosing to do this in the United States because of the cheaper cost of flying.

The typical route for modular training is as follows:

  • Private Pilots Licence (PPL)
  • Hour Building
  • Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) Theoretical Examinations
  • Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL)
  • Instrument Rating (IR)
  • Multi Crew Cooperation Course (MCC)

So why doesn’t everyone go through the modular route if it’s cheaper?

  • Historically, many airlines have preferred integrated students because of the quality and intensity of the training on such a course. This can’t be guaranteed through the modular route.
  • No links with airlines. Most integrated schools have links with airlines, allowing the schools to recommend students to a specific airline when they perform to a high standard.

Modular Flight Training Advantages

  • It can be much cheaper than an integrated course.
  • You can complete it in your own time alongside full or part time employment.
  • You can train at your own pace.
  • Less risk in that if there is a substantial downturn which affects the airlines, you can stop the training and continue at a later date
  • You aren’t committed to work for a particular company, which might be useful if lots of airlines are recruiting when you complete your training – you can be a bit fussier about who you apply to.

Modular Flight Training Disadvantages

  • It takes longer to complete.
  • It can be difficult to maintain consistency through having different instructors at different schools.
  • The training emphasis isn’t always on becoming an airline pilot and therefore the training can be less focussed on the end result.
  • Generally speaking, modular flight training organisations tend not to have employment ties with commercial airlines.
  • Arguably, it requires more discipline as there is more emphasis on self study.
  • Many integrated schools recognise they are treating airline pilots from day one, this might not be the case at modular flight schools.
  • Historically it has been harder to modular students to secure employment compared to integrated students. Modular students to get jobs, but it’s probably a bit harder to do so as you can’t benefit from the airline ties of a big flight training organisation.

Before committing to your commercial flight training, we strongly recommend you have a read of our “Employment Prospects After Flight Training” article.