Typical Day for an Airline Pilot

A Typical Day for a Short-Haul Airline Pilot

What happens from arrival at the airport to when the passengers disembark the aircraft. A full day as a pilot described.

A Short-Hail Airline Pilot’s Typical Day

Ever wondered what it would be like to walk in the shoes of a short haul airline pilot for the day? We take you through what a pilot does during a typical day at ‘work’.


For short haul operations, the flight crew usually arrive in the ‘crew room’ approximately one hour before departure. Here they meet and introduce ourselves to the other crew members and sign in on the airline’s system to verify they have arrived on time for the duty and are acknowledging they are fit, well rested and up to date with all the latest revisions to company manuals and notices. The pilots will then download the flight plans, weather information and notices to airman (NOTAMS) for the flights they will be operating.

Crew carefully evaluate if the weather is suitable at the departure and destination airports, whilst also looking at airports around the destination in case the flight needs to divert. Weather conditions that require special attention include strong winds, low cloud, fog or thunderstorms. Any of these factors may require changes to the flight plan or an increase to the amount of fuel to be loaded. En-route weather is also reviewed to spot areas of potential turbulence or icing. This gives flight crew a good overview of the day and builds their ‘Situational Awareness’.

The fuel figure is decided on between the two pilots and passed this onto the dispatch team.

The crew will look to find out what stand the aircraft is parked on.

Joint Briefing

The pilots and cabin crew then get together to conduct a quick briefing. This is where formal introductions between the crew take place. You may have flown with some or all of the crew members many times before and therefore be well acquainted but at some larger airlines, you may not have flown with or met any of the other crew before.

During the joint briefing, the Captain or First Officer will double-check that the Cabin Crew are well rested and will highlight a few points which are important to the Cabin Crew such as the flight times and potential areas of turbulence.

Pilot vs Co-Pilot

There is a common misconception regarding who does what on the flight deck. There is a Captain and a First Officer (or called a Second Officer depending on experience) which are often referred to as the Pilot and Co-Pilot. Whilst the Captain has overall responsibility for the decisions and ultimately the passengers and aircraft, most of the duties are split evenly with the co-pilot doing just as much flying as the pilot.

In the briefing room, the pilots would usually decide who is going to do the flying for each flight at the start of the day. For example, if they are flying 4 flights that day, the Captain may choose to fly the first and last flight, whilst the First Officer flies the middle two.

Head to the Aircraft

As with all passengers, all the crew have to pass through a security check at some point before arriving at the aircraft.

The pilots and cabin crew will then head to the aircraft, with the aim to be onboard about 30 – 35 minutes before the departure time. It’s worth noting that the departure time is the time that the aircraft’s parking brake is released to commence push back from the stand. Many people are under the impression that the scheduled departure time is when the aircraft gets airborne, but this is incorrect.

One pilot will do the “walk around” to check the outside of the aircraft. The walk around serves to check that there is no obvious damage or issues with the exterior of the aircraft.

Technical Log

The Captain will also check the aircraft’s technical log to ensure the aircraft is fully serviceable, or identify any defects. An aircraft defect doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t depart as it depends on how critical that system is and what redundancy is in place. There are complex documents which provide pilots with high specific guidance as to what can and can’t be defective. For example, if a windscreen wiper wasn’t working, the aircraft could still depart, but couldn’t land in thick fog.

Flight Deck Setup

Whilst one crew member is completing the walk around, other crew member starts to ready the flight deck for departure. This includes running system checks, configuring the aircraft systems, inputting the route for the flight into the Flight Management Computer and checking the take-off performance. The pilot flying will also plan how they intend to fly the Standard Instrument Departure (SID).

Take-off Performance

The take-off performance varies on a daily basis and is a safety critical function. The pilots need to calculate various take-off speeds such as the speed they initiate the rotation of the aircraft and the minimum speed to maintain if an engine fails during or just after take-off. These speeds depend on runway length, aircraft weight, temperature and pressure. The take-off performance has to be double-checked very carefully by both crew members.


Once the walk around is complete and the flight deck initially set up, the crew will conduct a pre-departure briefing. This covers a range of points such as the initial taxi and departure routing, potential threats or errors that could occur (for example heavy rain showers that may be present on the climb out), high terrain, as well as looking at contingency plans should an emergency situation occur. The passengers are usually boarding whilst this is taking place.

Once all the passengers and their bags are onboard and the correct amount of fuel has been loaded, the dispatcher will hand over the final paperwork confirming how many people are onboard and the final weight of the aircraft for take-off. At this point the Pilot Flying will call for a pre-departure checklist (the names differ between aircraft types).

Doors Closed

Once the main doors are closed the Senior Cabin Crew member will confirm to the pilots that the doors are closed and number of passengers onboard. Another very quick mini briefing will be given to the Cabin Crew member to reiterate the expected taxi time (this gives the Cabin Crew an idea of how long they have to conduct their safety briefing), expected flight time, anticipated turbulence and any other important information.

One of the pilots will then complete a PA to the passengers. During this time, the ground crew outside remove the steps, loading machinery etc. and complete a final walk around as a final check.

Pushback and Start

The pilots will then liaise with the ground pushback team to make sure that the tug is connected, and they are ready to push back the aircraft. The pilots then speak to ATC to request to push back and engine start. Assuming permission is given, the pilots reconfigure some of the aircraft systems and then complete a ‘before start checklist’.

The pushback then commences and the engines are started, usually the right engine first then the left. The pilots carefully monitor the engine indications and this is supported by the ground crew visually observing the engine start; they would report any excess smoke, noise or anything unusual.

Once the engines have been successfully started, the pilots tell the ground crew to disconnect from the aircraft. Some of the aircraft’s systems, such as the flight controls are then checked to make sure there are no technical issues. The after-start checklist is then completed.


The pilots will then request permission to taxy to the runway from ATC.

Taxiing the aircraft is one of the most critical phases of flight and therefore both crew members will be concentrating on maintaining the correct taxi routing whilst looking out for other aircraft and ground traffic. Airports can be extremely busy which is why it is so important to keep a good look out. During the taxy phase, the crew will run a number of checklists to ensure the aircraft is correctly configured and setup for departure.


When cleared to line up on the runway, the pilots will double-check to make sure both the runway and final approach is clear. The flight crew turn on the strobe and landing lights and send a signal to the Cabin Crew that the take-off is about to start (this is usually either signalled by a few ‘ding-dongs’ or the seat-belt sign quickly being turned off and then on again.

Once lined up on the runway, and cleared to take-off by air traffic control, the pilot flying for that sector advances the thrust leavers and sets take-off thrust. As the aircraft accelerates down the runway, the Pilot Flying (PF) controls the aircraft direction with the rudder pedals. The PM is verifying that the take-off thrust has been set correctly, checking the aircraft’s speed monitoring any abnormalities or failures of the aircraft systems.

At the correct calculated speed, the pilot flying carefully pulls back on the control column to “rotate” the aircraft and allowing it to climb away. Pulling back to quickly can result in the tail coming into contact with the ground so using the correct technique is very important.

Climb Out

Once safely climbing away and a positive rate of climb is observed, the landing gear is raised. The pilots will usually have discussed at what point they intend to engage the autopilot on the departure which could be anywhere from about 1,0000 to 20,000ft depending on the airspace, terrain and weather. Engaging the autopilot above around 2,000ft should really have been discussed as part of the briefing.

Even when the autopilot is activated, the pilot’s workload at this stage of flight is still quite intense. The crew are managing the aircraft’s configuration, speed, altitude and heading through manipulating the autopilot controls whilst communicating with air traffic control.

Flap Retraction

At around 1,000ft (although it can vary), the aircraft’s nose is slightly lowered and power reduced from take-off power to climb power. The aircraft continues to accelerate which allows the flaps on the wing to be retracted stage by stage.

Once the flaps are up, the crew complete the after-take-off checklist and continue climbing the aircraft towards cruising altitude. During the climb, various checks are completed and certain systems may need to be reconfigured depending on aircraft type.

The crew will be making initial fuel checks and verifying performance considerations like the maximum altitude the aircraft could climb to depending on the weight and temperature.

Once it is safe to do so the pilots will indicate to the Cabin Crew that it is safe to move around the cabin and will also turn off the fasten seat belt sign at an appropriate point.


Having had approximately one and a half hours of a very intense workload, the pace and intensity of the operation starts to reduce. Once established in the climb and throughout the cruise, the pilots are monitoring the aircraft’s systems, navigating the aircraft, communicating with air traffic control, carrying out fuel checks and getting the weather for airports along the flight path and destination in case an en-route diversion is required. In the cruise, the pilots normally get the chance to have a meal, a cup of coffee and a chat with our colleagues, depending on how long the flight is.

Most airlines have what is referred to as a “sterile flight deck”. This means the crew should not talk about anything that is not related to the operation of the aircraft below around 20,000ft as their focus should be exclusively on the operation.


Around half an hour before the descent commences, the crew brief for the descent, approach, landing and taxy in at the destination airport. This requires a review of what autopilots modes will be used to manage the descent, the expected profile, configuration and landing performance.

A PA will then usually be given to the passengers with an update on the flight progress and expected landing time.


The approach phase is one of the busiest phases of flight. The pilots are carefully managing the ‘energy’ of the aircraft ensuring that the correct rate of descent is being flown at the correct speed. The speed of the aircraft will typically need to be reduced from over 400 mph to around 150 mph whilst reducing the altitude from around 36,000ft to 0ft. This is not always straight forward and needs to be carefully actioned and monitored.

Final Approach

As the aircraft approaches its destination, the flaps are gradually extended to help slow the aircraft down to its landing speed. With the help of ATC, the pilots steer the aircraft towards the final approach and intercept the ILS, usually around 10 – 15 miles from the runway.

At about 5 miles from landing the pilots select the landing gear down, final flap setting and establish the landing speed. They also complete the landing checklist.


The autopilot is disconnected at around 1,000ft, although it can be taken out much earlier on the approach, or left in until a later point.

At about 30 – 50ft, the aircraft’s nose is raised very slightly to reduce the rate of descent, allowing the aircraft to touchdown on the runway. In calm conditions this might be relatively straight forward but in windy and turbulent conditions, it requires considerable skills and hand to eye co-ordination.

A good landing is considered to be one that is on the centreline, within the touchdown zone and at the correct speed. A smooth landing isn’t necessarily a good one if it doesn’t meet the above criteria. Equally, a firm landing is recommended on some aircraft types if the runway is wet, or it’s windy.

Taxy In

As the aircraft leaves the runway, it is again reconfigured and the after landing checklist is complete. The taxy in remains a very critical phase of flight and requires a high level of concentration.

Once the aircraft has come to a stop on the parking stand, the engines are shut down and the shutdown checklist is completed.

The doors are opened and the passengers start to disembark.


The turnaround then starts where the aircraft is prepared for the next flight. The turnaround can be as quick 25 minutes at some airlines. If you are flying 4 flights in a day, which is quite typical at short-haul airlines, you will be doing one initial setup and 3 turnarounds every day as well as doing just about everything spoken about above (after initial check-in) 4 times.


This article assumes that everything goes without a hiccup and there are no issues. However, the reality is that there is very rarely a ‘standard day out’ which runs seamlessly. The reality is, technical issues, poor weather, passenger issues, ATC delays etc. (or a combination of all them) occur quite frequently, and they all have to be managed appropriately by the flight crew.

The check-in, planning, aircraft setup, aircraft operation and flight management described has been toned down significantly to help a person with little or no knowledge about commercial aviation understand what a pilot does on a daily basis. However, the reality is that all of these areas are far more complex than this brief overview describes. It takes years of training and experience to become fully proficient at the job.

Anyone that tells you that pilots don’t work hard or the job is easy don’t really understand what the job entails.

How Much do Airline Pilots Get Paid?

How Much do Airline Pilots get Paid a Year?

Captains and First Officers Salary

How Much Do Airline Pilots Get Paid?

First Officers (or co-pilots) can earn from £25,000 – £150,000 a year whilst the yearly salary for Captains (pilots) can range from £100,000 to about £300,000. Pilot pay varies significantly between airlines and countries with factors such as the type of operation, aircraft flown and experience level all affecting pilot pay. Generally speaking, the bigger the aircraft, the further the aircraft is flown and the longer a pilot has been with that airline, the more the airline pilot gets paid. Many airlines have a yearly increase in salary that reflects the pilot’s length of service or seniority.

The Guardian (a UK newspaper) stated that in 2016, airline pilots were the 4th highest paid profession in the United Kingdom earning an average of £86,915 ($120,000 / €95,000), before tax a year.

The Roles of Pilots

Airline pilots are split into two roles; the Captain and First Officer. The Captain is in charge of the aircraft and ultimately responsible for the safety of the passengers, crew and aircraft. The First Officer assists the Captain in the safe operation of the flight with (on most days), the flying duties being split evenly, taking it in turns to fly the aircraft. The First Officers roles can be further split into a junior First Officer, Second Officer or Senior First Officer. Training Captains and First Officers (pilots who train other pilots) would expect to earn an extra increment on top of those stated below.

Pay Scales

The figures below are meant to be used as a general guide and there will always be exceptions above or below the figures. Each airline has its own pilot pay scales which will vary with the type of operation and aircraft type. The taxation applicable to each country will significantly alter the take home pay (net) for a given gross salary. Please note the Dollars and Euros figures given are based on a UK pound sterling conversion. Salaries are updated to reflect conditions in 2021.

Long Haul Pilot Pay

Long Haul Captain (Maximum)
Long Haul Captain (Minimum)
Long Haul First Officer (Maximum)
Long Haul First Officer (Minimum)

£250,000 ($350,000 / €280,000)
£80,000 ($124,000 / €113,000)
£120,000 ($187,000 / €170,000)
£50,000 ($80,000 / €65,000)

Long-haul aircraft types would include Boeing 747, 767, 777, 787, Airbus 330, 340, 350 380. Airline examples might include, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, American Airlines, Delta, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Lufthansa, KLM, Air France Turkish Airline’s, Iberia.

Short Haul Pilot Pay

Short Haul Captain (Maximum)
Short Haul Captain (Minimum)
Short Haul First Officer (Maximum)
Short Haul First Officer (Minimum)

£130,000 ($205,000 / €185,000)
£70,000 ($109,000 / €100,000)
£70,000 ($109,000 / €100,000)
£35,000 ($55,000 / €50,000)

Short to medium haul aircraft types would include Boeing 737, 757, Airbus 319 / 320 / 321, Embraer 190/195.

Regional Pilot Pay

Regional Captain (Maximum)
Regional Captain (Minimum)
Regional First Officer (Maximum)
Regional First Officer (Minimum)

£80,000 ($120,000 / €100,000)
£40,000 ($63,000 / €57,000)
£40,000 ($63,000 / €57,000)
£20,000 ($32,000 / €29,000)

Regional aircraft types would include Jetstream 41, Saab 2000, Dash 8, ATR42/72, Fokker 50, Embraer 145. Example airlines might include Eastern Airways, Aer Arran, Flybe, Darwin Airways or Logan Air.

Charter Airline Pilot Pay

Charter airlines operate both long and short haul. As such pay will vary between the short and long haul salary brackets.

Pilot Colour Vision Requirements

Can I Be Colour Blind and Be a Pilot?

Colour Vision Requirements for Flight Crew

Can I be Colour Blind and still be a Pilot?

Yes, you can potentially be colour blind and become an airline pilot, however, it depends on the severity and what colours you can or can’t recognise.

Approximately 1 in 12 men are colour blind and around 1 in 200 women. Colour blindness is usually genetic, but it can be acquired with age or illness. Many people don’t realise that they’re colour blind until they go for their initial pilot medical assessment.

Your colour vision will be assessed at your initial Class One Medical assessment (a requirement to be a commercial airline pilot) through the Ishihara test. You will be presented with 24 plates and you must accurately state which number is visible within each plate. They are presented in a random order. If you get the first 15 right in a row, you are considered to have passed the test.

This test determines whether you have the colour vision requirements to operate a commercial aircraft. If you fail the Ishihara test, you will be given further testing to see if you are colour safe. The details of this can be found on the UK CAA website.

Up until 2013, a pilot was automatically rejected for a Class One Medical if they are colour blind. Due to advances in colour vision testing, it is possible to accurately assess the level of colour-blindness an individual has. Providing the meet the minimum standard of colour vision, even if you are partially colour blind, it is possible to be issued a Class One Medical.

Have a go at the colour-blind test below to see if you would pass the test. In all but 3 of the circles, you should be able to identify the number embedded within the circle without a problem. If you can’t identify the number, this is likely to be an indication that you are colour blind. To confirm you have seen the correct number, place your cursor over the white circle with a number in to reveal the hidden number.

Colour Vision Test

Test your colour vision…



















































How Much Does It Cost to Train as a Pilot?

How much does it cost to train as commercial airline pilot?

The total cost of commercial pilot training

How much does it cost to train as a pilot?

As of 2022, the cost of commercial pilot training is between £/€ 40,000 to £/€ 150,000. The cost depends on which flight school you train at and the type of training you do (there’s more than one training route to becoming an airline pilot). Unfortunately, the cost of flight training is very expensive and can be a barrier to some people becoming a pilot.

At present, the majority of airline’s currently require the student to pay the cost of training and this seems unlikely to change for the foreseeable future given the number of pilots out of work who are seeking reemployment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • A full time commercial flight training course (known as an integrated course) completed at a European flight school will cost upwards of £80,000 to around £130,000.
  • Part time flight training, or a course completed at a various flight training organisations (known as modular training) will start at around £40,000 rising up to approxmately £60,000.

Type Rating Costs

You also need to factor in that many aircraft require the newly hired employee to pay for his or her Type Rating. This is the qualification needed by a pilot to operate a specific aircraft type such as a Boeing 737. This can cost between £15,000 to £35,000 depending on who provides the training.

To see what options there are to help you fund your flight training, you can visit our ‘Financing Flight Training‘ page for more information.

Integrated Flight Training

Integrated flight training refers to a full time commercial flight training course, where all of the training is completed with the same dedicated flight training organisation. Students who complete integrated flight training can complete the course with fewer flight hours than that required if completing it through the modular route. A full time integrated course usually takes between about 14 – 18 months, however it is dependant on the weather and satisfactory student progress at each stage.

Integrated Training Advantages:

  • It’s the quickest way to complete your flight training (14-18 months)
  • High quality, intensive training
  • Many airlines have traditionally preferred students from integrated training courses
  • Many integrated flight schools have good relationships with airlines, and have a recommendation system
  • Some airlines run mentored training programs which provide a fast track route into a job after completing your training
  • Fewer flight hours are required to obtain your CPL/IR

Modular Flight Training

Modular flight training refers to completing your flight training one step at a time. You can do the training at your own pace, as your spare time and finances allow. It’s usually cheaper than integrated training and gives you maximum flexibility.

You would normally complete your modular flight training in the following order:

  • Private Pilots Licence (PPL)
  • Airline Transport Pilots Licence (ATPL) Theoretical Examinations
  • Hour Building
  • Commercial Pilots Licence
  • Instrument Rating
  • Multi Crew Cooperation Course
Modular Flight Training Advantages
  • It’s the cheapest way to get your commercial pilots licence
  • You can pay for it as you go, no large fees are required upfront
  • You can complete it in your own time, alongside a full time job

For more information on the Pro’s and Con’s of each training route, visit our Integrated vs Modular page.

Pilot Job Prospects

Job prospects for pilots after graduating from flight shool – Will I get a job after flight training?

It’s a question we are asked all the time! See what one of our Training Captain’s has to say…

Will I get a Job After Completing Commercial Flight Training?

Whether you will get a flying job after completing your commercial flight training depends on the state of the industry, your attitude, aptitude and training record. It’s understandable that people want reassurance about their future prospects given the amount of money they are investing in their flight training, but there are never any guarantees.

For a few years up until March 2020, the pilot job market was particularly buoyant for both freshly graduated and experienced pilots. During this time, you could well have walked straight into a decent First Officer job but as always, this won’t have been the case for everyone. Both aircraft manufactures and airlines across the globe were predicting a substantial global pilot shortage for the next twenty years although it was common to hear this rebuffed by pilots who had gained their frozen ATPL years ago, but were still looking for their first flying position.

The Effect of Covid-19

Unfortunately, from early 2020, Covid-19 has been cataclysmic for most airlines across the world with huge reductions in air transport capacity requirements. As a result, significant airline failures have occurred such as Norwegian Long Haul, Flybe, Virgin Australia, CityJet and AtlasGlobal with more likely as 2021 progresses. Airline’s that have survived are undergoing significant restructuring and, in some cases, retiring entire fleets years earlier than planned such as the British Airways and Qantas B747 fleets, the Air France A380 and the Delta B777 fleet.

This has resulted in significant redundancies across the industry, dumping thousands of experienced pilots into the job market. With no bounce back in sight, potentially, until a vaccine is produced and distributed, this undoubtedly specifically impacts the job prospects of those seeking their first flying job.

Holding a Frozen ATPL Does Not Guarantee You a Flying Job

The reality is that holding a frozen ATPL doesn’t mean you are automatically entitled to a job with a commercial airline, even if they need pilots. They want the right person for the job not just a licence holder. Reputable airlines would rightly rather recruit no-one than a person with a license but with the wrong attitude and aptitude.

Getting to the point of holding a frozen ATPL, passing the theory exams, flight skills tests and multi crew co-operation course, isn’t easy, but it is something that many people can achieve if they invest enough time and money into it. Whilst many complete the training to a high standard, the end product isn’t always a well-rounded, commercially minded, enthusiastic, potential First Officer. To be successful after being issued your licence, you need to understand exactly what sort of person the airline is looking for in their pilots and this isn’t just being able to operate an aircraft to instrument rating standards, it’s much, much more.

Airline Assessments

Some people have all the desirable criteria, but just don’t perform well at airline assessments or interviews. The good news is that this is something that can be improved upon and there are many companies out there who will help you improve (FlightDeckFriend.com is one of them!). You will have invested tens of thousands of pounds in your flight training; spending a few hundred pounds more could significantly enhance your job prospects. The big airlines will only interview once for a recruitment campaign so don’t wait for the rejection email to come through before deciding to invest a bit more in a career that will hopefully last you a lifetime. The time to do it is before your interview.

Other prospective candidates struggle to get invited to the initial airline selection. Again, there could be an element of luck involved (your application getting read by the right person at the right time) but there are steps you can take to significantly improve your chances of being invited to an assessment, and this bit is really the hardest part. Every year we receive hundreds of unsolicited CVs and Covering Letters from people asking to join ‘our airline’, and we also review lots of documents for people looking to apply to the airlines.

Quality of Application Documents

I can tell you that whilst we do see some excellent applications, we do regularly see very poor CVs and Covering Letters which I expect most companies would not even consider – I wouldn’t have done when I was a recruiter. You can see straight away that no thought has gone into the application, in some cases they don’t even bother to mention the company by name, let alone highlight why they want to work for the company in any specific terms.

It’s absolutely vital that each application is tailored to the airline you are applying to. Yes, it’s a bit more work but you’ve just spent the last year or so training to get to this point so the least you can do is spend a few more minutes on each application to ensure its specific to the airline you are applying to. Writing “I would be proud to work for your esteemed company” makes it pretty clear that you haven’t put much thought into the application, and have likely sent the same Cover Letter to every airline you’ve applied to.

Attitude & Aptitude

The final reason some struggle to gain employment is that some people have the wrong attitude and aptitude. Commercial airlines are looking for a particular person and if you don’t fall into their “specification”, many would rather slow down their expansion or cancel flights than recruit someone who they don’t deem suitable.

So, what are they looking for? Well these are a few things you might not have considered.

Someone who is commercially minded. Basically, someone who is going to be actively considering the needs of the airline and its passengers when making decisions (after putting safety first of course). You aren’t always taught this at flight school!

A team player. How well do you interact with others? You need to work with many, many people in a typical day at work and the airline needs someone who can do this effectively. How would you interact with the Captain and Cabin Crew? Are you likely to be overbearing or too timid? They want someone in the middle.

What leadership qualities do you have? The airline wants to recruit future Captains, not career First Officers.

How’s your customer service? It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about what it takes to operate a commercial aircraft, but airlines are placing more and more emphasis on their pilot’s interaction with customers in the same of customer service.


You must always appreciate, that a commercial pilot’s licence isn’t an entitlement to a job with an airline, it’s a gateway. Try to gain the skills they are looking for ensuring you have the right attitude for the job.

We offer our own CV & Cover Letter Tailoring Services where you can have your CV reviewed for FREE by our recruitment specialist. Our friends at Aviation Job Search also offer a free guide on preparing your CV.

Interview a Pilot – For School Projects

Interview a Pilot

Interview Questions for School Projects

School Interview Questions For Pilots

At FlightDeckFriend.com, we receive a lot of requests for interviews with our pilots for school projects. Whilst we are very happy to be contacted to complete such interviews (over email correspondence) we have provided the questions and answers for questions we regularly receive.

Tell me a bit about yourself…

I’m a pilot operating for a well known UK airline. I’ve operated as a First Officer (co-pilot), Captain and Training Captain (a Captain who instructs and supports other pilots). I’ve also flown both Short Haul and Long Haul operations.

How did you get to become a pilot?

I always wanted to be a pilot. An aeroplane was one of the first things I could draw! After going to college and Sixth Form, I went to University and studied Aviation Technology with Pilot Studies. I then completed my commercial flight training before going onto join a low cost airline. I then joined a legacy carrier. I’ve been with my current airline for around 7 years.

How much do you earn?

Pilots wages vary significantly depending on rank, seniority within the company and type of airline. First Officers at an established airline flying a commercial jet can typically expect to earn approximately £40,000 – £120,000 whilst Captains will get between £90,000 – £250,000.

How many hours do you work a day / week?

It varies every day. Some days 2 hours, others 16. Some weeks 20 hours, other weeks over 50 hours. We have strict limits on the amount of hours we can fly – we can’t exceed 900 flight hours a year. This doesn’t include “duty” time such as preflight and post flight paperwork.

Do you get holidays?

Yes, about 6 blocks of between 9 – 14 days off a year. We also get the use of staff travel offering discounted flights and hotels.

Do you have to be particularly skilled?

Yes, but they are skills you can work to acquire. When airlines recruit pilots, they are looking for future Captains. Therefore, they want people who can demonstrate good leadership, teamwork, decision making and communication skills. You’ll also need to have a good standard of Maths, Science and English.

What key skills are required for the job?

Team work, communication, prioritisation, leadership and decision making are a few of they key attributes. A good grasp of Maths and Physics helps.

What training is required?

You need to pass 14 theoretical examinations and complete roughly 150 hours of flight training, passing multiple flight tests before you can apply to become a commercial pilot. You are then training on a specific commercial aircraft before going on to fly passengers. The process usually takes approximately 1 and a half to 2 years.

What subjects should I choose at school?

I would recommend choosing Science and Maths based subjects. Specific subjects that would be useful are Maths, Physics, English, Chemistry, Biology, Geography and IT. However, there is no specific requirement; you can become a pilot with good grades in any subjects you like as long as you have the right skills and attitude.

What do you like most about your job?

The daily variety and challenges that every flight brings. Every flight is different, whether it be the passengers, colleagues, aircraft, weather or destination. No day is ever the same and I wouldn’t it to be?

It’s also a great privilege to travel to far flung destinations across the globe. I’m lucky enough to fly an aircraft that goes anywhere from Australia to South America so I really do get to see the World.

What do you least like about your job?

Getting up at 3am! But at least your day is normally finished by about midday. Flying through the night can also be difficult, but we usually get a bit more time at home compared to a lot of jobs to recover from the nights out of bed.

What is your favourite destination?

The approach into London City airport is absolutely spectacular, especially when landing on the easterly runway. You fly at 2,000ft above central London, something few people get to experience.

Can I be an Airline Pilot if I have Diabetes?

Can I have Diabetes and be an Airline Pilot?

Can I Become an Airline Pilot if I’m Diabetic?

Yes, it is possible to become an airline pilot in certain countries if you have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, with certain restrictions. Currently, this includes the UK and Ireland.

The guidance on this page is relevant for UK CAA Class One Medicals. For information regarding other countries, you will need to check with your regulatory authority.

In the UK, the CAA can certify you as fit to hold a Class One Medical (which is required to fly a commercial airliner) depending on your ability to control your blood sugar levels. This applies to both individuals who require insulin to control their blood sugar and those who are able to control it purely through diet alone.

The CAA have produced a guide to medical certification with diabetes, which can be found here.

If you are certified with a Class One Medical, it will be with an Operational Multi-Pilot Limitation (OML) restriction. With such a restriction, you will only be able to fly as multi-pilot crew where the other pilots is below the age of 60 and does not also hold an OML.

As part of the approval, the CAA set out requirements to regularly check blood sugar levels before and during flight. They also specify that your condition needs to be reviewed every six months.

Simulator Experience For Aspiring Pilots

Flight Simulator Experiences

Fly a multi million-pound flight simulator with a commercial airline pilot

Flight Simulator Experience for Prospective Airline Pilots

If you’re thinking of becoming a commercial airline pilot, you will be investing tens of thousands of pounds in your flight training. Many people do this without even seeing what flying a large passenger jet actually feels like. If you are conisdering becoming a pilot, we’d strongly recommend experience the thrill of it yourself first!

See if you’ve got what it takes

See if you’ve got what it takes by taking controls of one of the most advanced flight simulators in Europe. We offer flight simulator experiences a state-of-the-art Boeing 737 Next Generation simulator. Normally reserved for pilot training, this is a fantastic opportunity to experience flying a seventy tonne Boeing 737-800 anywhere in the world!

Based near Stansted Airport, UK, the 737NG HDX FNPT2 simulator offers one of the best visual effects systems of its type. You’ll take control with an experienced airline pilot sitting next to you, talking you through the session. This is NOT a generic flight simulator – it is type specific using the Boeing Flight Dynamic package meaning it handles exactly like the real aircraft in all stages of flight.

If you’re thinking of becoming an airline pilot, this is a fantastic opportunity to meet a real airline pilot and ask any questions you like from the training required to the lifetyle of an airline pilot.

An Experience Like No Other

Whether you would like to experience a landing at Hong Kong, or a take off at night at Heathrow, the session can be tailored to suit your requirements.

You’ll be briefed by an experienced commercial airline pilot, who will give you a 30-minute briefing on how to fly the aircraft before heading into the simulator to put theory into practice.

It makes a fantastic birthday or Christmas gift, or can be used by current pilots to brush up on their manual handling skills. Simulator views are welcome before making the booking.


All sessions include a 30-minute pre-flight briefing in addition to the stated time in the simulator. The simulator is located at Cambridge Airport, UK.

To make an enquiry or booking, contact [email protected]

What are the Perks of Being a Pilot?

The Perks of Being a Pilot

What a career as an airline pilot can offer you…

What are the Perks of Being a Pilot?

Without a doubt, the job of a commercial airline pilot is incredibly satisfying and rewarding and comes with lots of perks. For many, people get to go to work and do a job they love and wouldn’t swap for the world. It’s not all rosy, there are plenty of negatives to the jobs, like getting up at 3am or missing a loved one’s birthday because of a demanding roster, but at FlightDeckFriend.com, we thing the benefits by far outweigh the disadvantages.

Here’s a list of the best perks of being a commercial airline pilot:

The Office View

Yes, it’s cheesy and it’s probably been used as an interview answer thousands of times, but it’s true. Some of the finest views you’ll ever see are up at altitude. Whether it be a lunar eclipse, the northern lights or a sunrise over the alps, the views are unbelievably spectacular.

The Responsibility

Being given the responsibility to look after a $100,000,000 aircraft with hundreds of people on board is huge and one of the reasons that pilots tend to be well paid. It’s immensely rewarding to be trusted to make decisions in the interests of the safety of the most precious cargo you can carry – people!

The Variation

No two flights are ever the same. Each day presents a new challenge and provides another opportunity to learn something new. Flying these days is portrayed in the media as being repetitive and mundane, and of course there are periods of low work load in the cruise, but there is always something new that comes up every day.

The Career Opportunities

A career as an airline pilot doesn’t just stop when you reach the level of Captain. There are pilot managers, pilot ground trainers, pilot simulator trainers, fleet managers, chief pilots, duty pilots. All require different skills and additional training.

The Travel

As an airline pilot, there’s plenty of opportunities to see new places all over the world. When you night stop somewhere, there’s usually time to explore, especially if you’re a long-haul pilot.

The Staff Travel

Most airlines offer their staff some form of staff travel to you and your family. At the large flag carriers, you receive what is called an “ID90” ticket, that is you get a 90% discount off the fare and its use is unlimited. This means you can end up travelling business or first class across the globe for a few hundred pounds as much as you want.

The Pay

As an airline pilot you can expect to earn substantially more than the average wage. Experienced Captains can earn up to £250,000 a year.

Should I Go To University Or Not?

Should I go to University or not?

A look at if you should go to University or not if you plan on becoming a commercial pilot

I want to be a pilot – should I go to University?

Whilst holding a degree was common place amongst airline pilots in the past, it is becoming more and more common to see prospective pilots going straight from A-Levels or secondary education in to commercial flight training. With the fairly recent increase in University tuition fees it seems this trend will likely increase further in the coming years.

There are arguments for both obtaining and not obtaining a degree before embarking on your commercial flight training.

The arguments set out below are based on you living in a country where you have to pay for your own tuition fees. If you live in a country where going to University is free (or you only need to pay for your living expenses) we would recommend going to Uni.

Fees & Debt

A typical three year degree may now cost over £/€ 30,000 on tuition fees alone. Once accommodation and living costs are added onto this figure, huge student debts are becoming common place among graduates.

With integrated flight training costing around £/€ 100,000 any may airlines requiring you to pay for your own type rating (around £/€ 25,000) you could find yourself in over £/€ 150,000+ of debt before you’ve even got your first job.

Even if you completed modular flight training (the cheapest way to complete flight training) and your type rating is paid for by the airline (you’d be very lucky!) then you’d be in £/€ 100,000 of debt.

You tend to earn a good salary as a commercial pilot so you will end up being required to pay all of your student loans back, unlike others in lower paid jobs where the debt eventually gets written off. Equally, as you earn a good salary, if you have UK student finance debt and work for a UK airline based, a significant amount of money will be taken from your salary every month to pay the debt back.

As holding a degree is no longer a minimum requirement to join most European airlines as a pilot, it’s a perfectly fair argument to say that accumulating so much avoidable debt simply isn’t worth it. Spending a bit extra on loss of income and loss of medical insurance can cover your debts if the worst happens, meaning you might not think having a degree as a back-up plan is worth it.

Having a backup plan

There is however, an equally compelling argument for obtaining a degree.

Unfortunately one of the risks of being a pilot is that we can lose our class one medical at any time for a whole range of reasons which can put an end to our flying career. Equally, the airline industry is also notoriously volatile and cyclic; just look at the number of pilots made redundant due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately there will always be airline failures as economies inevitably contract from time to time. For example, Flybe, XL Airways, Fly Globespan, Silverjet, Spanair and BMI are just a handful of airlines that have folded over the last decade or so, resulting in the loss of hundreds of pilot jobs. As many find out the hard way, it can be years until one finds employment as a pilot again, if ever.

If you find yourself in such a position, it is vitally important to have a backup plan. To be able to go directly in to employment that has a reasonable rate of pay typically requires a degree. it might be expensive, but a degree is a good backup plan if your career doesn’t pan out as hoped. Having loss of income insurance can of course help, but you still have a life to lead outside of aviation.

The University Experience

There’s no doubt that many people class their time at University as some of the best years of their life. It offers more than just an academic qualification, it offers life experience and an opportunity to develop as a person and build relationships. People mature at different speeds so not everyone is ready to start flight training straight after A-Levels (secondary education) and might need a few more years to develop the skills and personality needed to become employable to an airline.

It is worth noting that while many European airlines do not require a degree, it is still a mandatory requirement for many foreign airlines, particularly in the United States, the Far East and Asia.

Which degree should I choose?

If you’ve decided university is for you, choosing which degree to study and at which University is not easy.

There are plenty of degrees being offered by universities which are specific to aviation and airline pilot training (we’ve listed them here).

If you are seriously thinking of becoming a pilot and love aviation, studying an aviation degree is obviously going to be enjoyable and you tend to do well at subjects you enjoy studying. Having an aviation degree will clearly put you in a good position to commence your flight training after University.

Whilst airlines do ‘like’ aviation degrees, they are equally impressed with other core subject degrees (science, engineering, maths etc.). From a recruiters point of view, the final grading you achieved is usually more important than the subject you studied. For example a 1st class degree in media studies will probably be viewed more favourably than a 2:2 in an aviation subject as it shows you are able to apply yourself very well and to a high standard. This is an attribute which you will need to demonstrate throughout your aviation career.

Something else to consider is what type of degree you would fall back on should the worst happen and you can’t fly any more. Having a degree in a separate discipline which is unrelated to aviation may open up more employment opportunities than if you held an aviation specific degree. For example, having a degree in accounting or law is likely to open up potentially higher paid opportunities than an aviation degree would if you can no longer be a pilot.


There are both pros and cons to both the decision of whether to go University or not and what subject you should study if you do decide to go.

For most people, the choice is avoiding the accumulation of a large debt unnecessarily versus getting the university experience and all that entails along with (hopefully) something to fall back on if your career doesn’t take off as planned. It’s very subjective and ultimately a very personal decision – everyone’s situation is different.