Integrated vs Modular
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
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 CTC. 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.
Modular Flight Training
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)
- 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.