British Airways to launch Pilot Sponsorship Scheme

British Airways to launch Pilot Sponsorship Scheme

  • British Airways’ new Speedbird Pilot Academy will fund up to 60 places per year at an approved flight training school, with those who pass the course offered a job as a British Airways pilot
  • The multi-million-pound initiative removes the initial high-cost barrier of training to become a professional pilot, making it a realistic option for anyone aged 18-55
  • Private training costs for aspiring pilots can cost around £100,000

Thursday 20 July, 2023:

British Airways has today announced that it is launching a brand-new pilot cadet programme that will fund training for up to 60 aspiring pilots a year.

The creation of the British Airways Speedbird Pilot Academy will see the cost barrier of training to become an airline pilot removed, making the profession much more accessible. Successful candidates will be offered a place at an approved flight training school and, on passing the course, a position as a British Airways pilot, helping the airline to ensure it has the right levels of future flying talent for years to come.

With initial training that can cost tens of thousands of pounds, the price of becoming a pilot has made the profession prohibitive for many. This cost will now be funded by British Airways – with a multi-million-pound investment from the airline into its next generation of pilots – making it a genuine career path for all aspiring pilots.

The airline remains committed to further increasing diversity in the aviation industry and is determined to increase awareness, visibility, and applications to this new cadet programme to people from all backgrounds – not just those who can afford the initial training costs.

Sean Doyle, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said: “The Speedbird Pilot Academy will make the ambition of becoming a British Airways pilot a reality for people who’d previously written the option off because of the cost barrier.

“Our aim is to attract the very best talent out there for our future generation of pilots. Whether someone is just leaving school or embarking on a second career they never thought possible, we’re levelling the playing field by removing the initial training cost barrier to make a flying career more accessible to a wider range of people and giving everyone an equal chance.

“We fly to more than 200 destinations around the world on a range of aircraft types, providing pilots with an abundance of opportunities and making a career as a British Airways pilot extremely rewarding. This first-in-a-generation initiative will allow anyone to make it a reality.”

Hannah Vaughan, British Airways Senior First Officer and former cadet, said: “This is a great career for anyone. You’ll naturally need a love for flying and travel, but being a British Airways pilot offers so much more.

“From working with an incredibly dedicated team and meeting customers from around the world to benefitting from world-class training facilities – I would absolutely recommend it as a career path.”

Successful candidates will gain a place at one of the approved flight training colleges, with all tuition costs covered by British Airways.

The Speedbird Pilot Academy is one part of the airline’s wider pilot recruitment plan. British Airways continues to recruit current commercial pilots and is working with the UK Armed Forces to provide military pilots new career opportunities in commercial aviation once their agreed service period has ended.


  • More information can be found on British Airways’ careers site
  • Applications will open in September 2023, with training planned to start in the new year
  • Applicants will need:
    • 6 GCSE’s (or equivalent), Grade A-C or 5-9 (including English, Maths and one of the Sciences)
    • To be a minimum height of 5ft 2in
    • To be aged between 18 and 55
    • To pass a UK CAA Class 1 Medical
  • British Airways currently employs approximately 4,000 pilots
  • Once training is complete, cadets can expect to earn a starting salary of c.£34,000 per year, plus allowances
  • The airline has worked closely with Fantasy Wings, the leading UK organisation for diversity in aviation and a member of the BA Better World Community Fund, to promote careers to young people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, and young women in the aviation industry