Is there a Pilot Shortage?

Is there a pilot shortage?

An independent look at the truth behind the much talked about pilot shortage

Is There a Pilot Shortage?

Prior to Covid-19, the answer was yes there was a global pilot shortage but the situation was a bit more complex than the straight forward answer might suggest. However, at present in 2021, there is no pilot shortage due to the impact on aviation of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whenever you hear reports of ‘pilot shortage’ it is usually referring to a world-wide shortage, not necessarily a shortage in Europe or the UK. The shortage is always specific to a region, type of operation and pilot experience.

Covid-19 Pandemic & Aviation

The impact on of the Covid-19 pandemic on commercial aviation has been catastrophic. With huge portions of fleets being grounded for almost a year, tens of thousands of pilots around the world have found themselves out of work. IATA do not anticipate airlines recovering to pre-Covid levels of operation until 2024 and beyond.

However, flight training provider CAE have stated that due to natural attrition (such as retirements), the world will require 260,000 pilots over the next 10 years. This suggests that whilst the immediate outlook is bleak, when the industry recovers, employment opportunities will start to open up.


Pilot Shortage Pre-Covid

The remainder of this article was first published prior to the Covid-19 pandemic but address the age-old questions that come up when this topic is discussed.

First of all, let’s get the statistics out the way. In 2016, Boeing have forecast that the aviation industry will require 679,000 new pilots between now and 2035. Airbus have said that between 2016 and 2035, there will be a requirement for in excess of 500,000 new pilots. Keep in mind though, that this is a worldwide forecast.

Flight Schools

It’s a general point, and I don’t want to tarnish all flight schools with the same brush, but if you are considering starting your flight training, be aware that lots of Flight Training Schools will always tell you there is a looming pilot shortage regardless of the market state. To them, ultimately you are profit, and to make profit, they need people to train with them. It’s not going to be good for business if they tell prospective students that there is no point training as there are no jobs! It’s not the case at the moment, as the market for freshly graduated low hour pilots is better than it’s been in a long time, but keep it in mind.

Airlines

Secondly, the airlines want to avoid a pilot shortage from occurring, in fact they want the exact opposite; lots of pilots on the job market. It’s simple economics. Pilots cost a lot of money to airlines. They get paid a lot and have lower productivity than other personal due to flight time limitations. If you have lots of unemployed pilots, it puts a downwards pressure on wages as you have lots of applicants for one position. The opposite occurs when there’s a shortage; airlines have to put up terms and conditions to attract the best candidates. Lots of pilots looking for employment suits airlines.

Terms and Conditions

In 2008, we saw a recession across Europe and other parts of the world. This put a lot of airlines out of business and left a lot of pilots unemployed. As a result, the last 10 years have seen pilot wages stagnate in many regions as pilot supply has outstripped demand. This pressure on terms and conditions wasn’t helped by an increase in the retirement age in Europe from 60 to 65 being introduced. This meant that pilot who were planning to retire, could stay on for an additional five years if they wanted to.

More recently, airlines have again been expanding, and the major carriers have been recruiting heavily. When the major carriers recruit, it tends to shake up the employment market as people move up the next step of the ladder. As a result, there are less pilots to choose from and we are now slowly starting to see terms and conditions improve at mainly airlines, as they look to generate interest from the most capable crews.

Airline Finances

As airline financial performance has started to improve, their pilots have started to demand a share in the profit through increased wages. Lufthansa pilots have been striking throughout 2016 to fight for a better increase in their salaries as they haven’t had a pay rise since 2012. Delta Airlines pilots recently secured a whopping 30% increase in their pay.

Middle East & Asia

The pilot shortage is more notable across the Middle East and Asia. Airlines in this part of the world are expanding rapidly and don’t have enough established and experienced local pilots to fill the seats. Therefore, they need to recruit pilots from parts of the world where aviation has been established for a longer period, such as Europe, America and Australasia. They are offering huge sums of money to attract crew, in some cases in excess of $20,000 a month.

However, whilst there is clearly a pilot shortage in these parts of the world, it isn’t for inexperienced cadet pilots straight out of flight school, it’s for experienced First Officers and Captains. An experienced Captain takes years to train and build up the required experience whereas a cadet pilot can be ‘on the line’ in as little as 18 months.

Who does the pilot shortage affect first?

In general, a pilot shortage would usually hit the regional carriers first, as they are unable to offer the terms and conditions found at the charter, low cost and legacy airlines.

Naturally, most people aspire to improve their living standards throughout their career, and this means moving up the ladder to the next job. Once working for a legacy carrier, there isn’t a step up, and therefore pilot retention at these companies is very high and generally only recruit when they expand and to replace retired or medically unfit crews.

Regional Airlines in the United States

The pilot shortage is particularly notable at regional airlines in the United States. In the US, the FAA introduced a requirement for pilots to have 1500 hours total flight time before operating for a commercial transport operator. You graduate from flight school with around 250 hours, but you now need to build those hours up through instruction, banner towing, general aviation etc. The regional carriers have traditionally recruited the cadet level entry pilots, and this has significantly stemmed the flow of available candidates.

Europe

The European market is currently doing pretty well with recruitment for pilots of all experience levels from legacy carriers through to the regional operators. It’s debatable whether you could call it a shortage, rather than just a good employee’s market for the moment. Flybe did however suggest last month that a shortage of pilots was holding back growth.

To assess if or how bad any pilot shortage in Europe will get, you need to look at potential expansion opportunities and how saturated the market currently is. Much of Europe is well connected to Europe and millions of people now have access to air transport thanks to the success of low-cost carriers over the past ten years.

Can there be more expansion?

How much more room is there for airlines to expand in order to offer services to new destinations and untapped markets? That’s yet to be seen but it’s certainly nothing like those opportunities in developing counties with huge populations like India and China. That being said, airlines like Ryanair, Wizz Air and Norwegian Air Shuttle have impressive numbers of aircraft on order, and many of these frames are for expansion rather than fleet replacement.

Conclusion

Looking at it independently, now is a good a time as any to start your flight training. You must however, consider this. Just because you have a licence, you don’t have the right to secure employment as a professional pilot. The airlines want more than just a licence, they need a competent commercially minded operator and a frozen ATPL doesn’t guarantee this. Just because there is a job opening, meeting the minimum requirements doesn’t mean you’ll get it, even if you’re the only applicant. Yes, there is a pilot shortage across many parts of the world but this isn’t a job guarantee.

Choose your training route and flight school carefully, and be aware of the qualities that airlines are looking for in their pilots. It’s much more than just stick and rudder skills.

Typical Day as an Airline Pilot

A Day in the Life of Flight Deck Crew

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

An 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’.

Check-In

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 with regards to 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 fly’s 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 walkaround 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 walkaround, 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.

Briefing

Once the walkaround 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 walkaround 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.

Taxy

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.

Take-off

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.

Cruise

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 aircrafts 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.

Descent

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.

Approach

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.

Landing

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.

Turnaround

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.

Conclusion

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 to 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 and it take years of training and experience to become fully proficient at.

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


This article is based on a typical day as a short haul pilot. If you are interested in reading about a typical day as a long-haul pilot check out our article on it.

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?

Generally speaking, the bigger the aircraft and the further the aircraft is flown, the more an airline pilot gets paid. Many airlines also have a yearly increase in salary that reflects the pilots 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 coversion. 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)
£60,000 ($94,000 / €85,000)

Long haul aircraft types would include Boeing 747, 767, 777, 787, Airbus 330, 340, 380. Airline examples might include British Airways Long Haul, 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. Pilot pay examples of such airlines include Ryanair, easyJet, Wizz Air, Norwegian Air Shuttle, CityJet, Jet2.com, Monarch, British Airways Short Haul, Fly Dubai, Air Southwest.

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 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.

Conclusion

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.

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.

Book/Enquire

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]

A Typical Airline Pilot Roster

A Typical Airline Pilot Roster / Schedule

Ever wondered what a typical pilot schedule looks like? We have some examples of both long and short haul rosters for you to look at…

Example Pilot Rosters

A pilot’s roster is very variable and depends on what aircraft they are flying and for which airline. With long-haul rosters, you usually spend more time away from home (when working) than a short haul pilot, but you usually get more days off at home as a result. Short haul rosters often have a mix of day trips and “tours” where you might spend a few nights away from home at different destinations. Some airlines will only plan you for day trips (such as Ryanair). Whilst others will have you regularly staying away from home (flag carriers like BA or KLM).

There is a common misconception amongst the general public that pilots fly a set route, but this is actually very rarely the case. Pilots typically operate any route that is flown by the specific aircraft type they are qualified to fly that is operated by the airline. This could be anywhere from a handful of destinations at a small airline to hundreds at a large one! For example, an airline like Ryanair or easyJet only operate one aircraft type, therefore their pilots could literally operate to hundreds of potential destinations.

A Pilots Typical Long-Haul Roster

Most airlines that operate Long Haul routes have a “variable” roster. That is to say that there is no fixed pattern and you can end up working any day of the week at any time of year. Most long haul airlines operate using a seniority based system which allow pilots to “bid” for certain trips or days off. The more senior you are (the longer you have been working for the airline), the more likely you are to have your request awarded. This means that if you are a very senior pilot and enjoy having weekends off and doing the flight to New York, you could well end up doing this most of the time! Junior pilots (those low on on seniority list) will have less control over their lifestyle, and in the early years will end up operating to the less popular destinations.

Long-Haul Example Roster

This example is over a one-week period without any annual leave or special requests.

Monday: OFF
Tuesday: London Heathrow (LHR) – Las Vegas (LAS) departing at 11:00 UTC.
Wednesday: OFF (day off down route in Las Vegas)
Thursday: OFF day down route (in Las Vegas)
Friday: Las Vegas (LAS) – London Heathrow (LHR) (departing 23:45 UTC). Arrive LHR Saturday Morning.
Saturday: OFF (rest of Saturday off)
Sunday: OFF

The time you get off down route depends on how long the previous flight was, how long the next flight is and what the rotation of the aircraft is. For example, if the airline only operates two flights to the destination each week, you will probably get a bit more time off down route than if there were daily flights.

Read more about a typical day in the life of a long haul pilot.

Short Haul Pilot – Touring Roster Example

Monday: Check-in 06:00, STN – EDI – STN – MAD,  Check Out 14:00
Tuesday: Check-in 05:30, MAD – STN – RTM – STN, Check Out 13:00
Wednesday: Check-in 08:00, STN – ZRH – STN, Checkout 15:00
Thursday: OFF
Friday: OFF
Saturday: Check-in 12:00, STN – GVA – STN – GVA, Checkout 22:00
Sunday: Check-in 13:00, GVA – STN – ABZ – STN, Check Out 20:00

Airport Codes Used:

STN – London Stansted
EDI – Edinburgh
MAD – Madrid
RTM – Rotterdam
ZRH – Zurich
GVA – Geneva
ABZ – Aberdeen

A short haul day trip roster would be similar to that above but finishing back at your home base every night.

Fixed or Variable Rosters

Some airlines like Ryanair and easyJet operate a fixed roster pattern. At Ryanair for example, most bases operate 5 days on (at work), 4 days off pattern. Many pilots at easyJet operate on a 5 on, 4, off, 4, on 3 off roster. This gives the pilots the ability to effectively plan their time off as they know what days they’ll be working in a year’s time. Some airlines like BA or Jet2.com operate a variable roster with no fixed pattern. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Due to their nature, long haul rosters are nearly always variable.

When do Pilots receive their roster / schedule?

Again, it depends on the airline. Some airlines issue rosters to their pilots a month before the first date on the roster whilst at others it might only be a week or two. Typically, most pilots receive their rosters for the following month about half way through the current month. So, for example, you would usually get your December roster around half way through November.

Some airlines reserve the right to change their pilots rosters right up until the day before the flight without penalty or ability for the pilot to refuse the change.

Other airlines offer roster protection periods, where the roster can only be changed with the pilot’s permission or through financial incentives. This will depend on the scheduling agreement between the airline and its pilot’s and/or union.

Example Pilot Rosters for Specific Airlines

This provides some guidance as to the type of roster and how many days off you get a month with specific airlines based on a full time contract. These are examples only and may vary or be changed by the airline at any time.

British Airways – Variable Roster. Typically 9 – 15 days off a month.

Delta – Variable Roster. 15 – 19 days off a month.

easyJet – Fixed Roster. Most bases: 5 on – 4 off – 4 on – 3 off.

Jet2.com – Variable Roster. A very seasonal operation so you work harder in the summer than in the winter. Typically 5 days on, 2 off in the summer but significanlty more days off in the winter season.

Lufthansa – Variable Roster. Minimum 10 days off a month but typically 11 – 13 days off a month.

Ryanair – Fixed Roster. Most bases: 5 earlies on – 4 off then 5 lates on – 4 off.

Virgin Atlantic – Minimum 10 days off a month with a minimum of 2 days off between trips. Max 750 hours a year.

Vueling – Operate both fixed roster 5 on – 4 off, and a variable roster.

What are the best thing about being an Airline Pilot?

The best things about being an Airline Pilot

What a career as an airline pilot can offer you…

What are the best things about being an Airline Pilot?

Without a doubt, the job of a commercial airline pilot is incredibly satisfying and rewarding. 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’s 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 bits about 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.

Aviation Abbreviations

Aviation Acronyms and Abbreviations

Specifically written with Pilots in mind…

The world of aviation abbreviations and acronyms is huge. More and more acronyms keep arriving and it will take an entire career to have heard and used them all! If you’ve got one in mind that you can’t find, give us at FlightDeckFriend.com an email and we’ll get it added.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

AA – Acceleration Altitude

A/A – Air to Air

AA – Anti Aircraft

AA – American Airlines

AAIB – Air Accident Investigation Branch

AAL – Above Aerodrome Level

ALPHA – Angle of Attack

AB – Auto Brake

ABP – Able Bodied Passengers

AC – Alternating Current

A/C – Aircraft

ACARS – Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System

ACN – Aircraft Classification Number

ACP – Auto Control Panel

AD – Airworthiness Directive

ADC – Air Data Computer

ADF – Automatic Direction Finder

ADI – Attitude Director Indicator

ADU – Air Data Unit

AFE – Above Field Elevation

AGL – Above Ground Level

AH – Artificial Horizon

AI – Altitude Indication

AIP – Aeronautical Information Publication

ALS – Approach Lighting System

ALT – Altitude

AMSL – Above Mean Sea Level

AoA – Angle of Attack

AOC – Air Operators Certificate

AOG – Aircraft on Ground (due to a technical defect)

AOM – Airport Operating Minima

AP – Auto Pilot

AP – Aeroplane

APP – Approach

APS – Airline Pilot Standard (MCC Course)

APT – Airport

APU – Auxiliary Power Unit

ANC – Aviate Navigate Communicate

ANP – Actual Navigation Performance

AR – Aspect Ratio

AR – Authorisation Required (RNAV Approaches)

ARP – Aerodrome Reference Point

ASDA – Accelerate Stop Distance Available

ASI – Airspeed Indicator

ASL – Above Sea Level

ASR – Airport Surveillance Radar

ASR – Air Safety Report

AT – Auto Throttle

ATA – Air Transport Association

ATC – Air Traffic Control

ATC – Air Training Corps

ATIS – Automatic Terminal Information Service

ATM – Air Traffic Management

ATP – Airline Transport Pilot

ATS – Air Traffic Service

ATPL – Air Transport Pilots Licence

ATZ – Air Traffic Zone

B

BA – Braking Action

BA – British Airways

BAA – British Airport Authority

BAA – Baltic Aviation Academy

BACF – British Airways Cityflyer

BALPA – British Airline Pilots Association

BT – Backtrack

BCS – Back Course (ILS)

BPR – By-Pass Ratio

BRK – Brookfield

BST – British Summer Time

C

CA – Critical Area (ILS)

CAA – Civil Aviation Authority

CAE – A flight training organisation (OAA)

CAS – Calibrated Air Speed

CAT – Category (ILS)

CAT – Clear Air Turbulence

CAVOK – Ceiling and Visibility OK

CB – Circuit Breaker

CB – Cumulonimbus

CBT – Computer Based Training

CC – Cabin Crew

CC – Crew Control

CC – Company Council (BALPA Related)

CDA – Continuous Descent Approach

CDFA – Continuous Descent Final Approach

CDI – Course Deviation Indicator

CDU – Control Display Unit

CFI – Chief Flying Instructor

CFIT – Controlled Flight into Terrain

CGI – Chief Ground Instructor

CL – Center Line

CLB – Climb

CMD – Command

CMV – Converted Meteorological Visibility

COBT – Calculated Off Block Time

CoG – Centre of Gravity

CON – Contingency Fuel

CON – Max Continuos Thrust

CP – Chief Pilot / Cadet Program / Cadet Pilot

CP – Critical Point

CPDLC – Controller Pilot Data Link Communications

CPL – Commercial Pilots Licence

CPT – Captain

CRM – Crew Resource Management

CRMI – Crew Resource Management Instructor

CRZ – Cruise

CSM – Cabin Service Manager

CSS – Cabin Service Supervisor

CTC – British Integrated Flight Training Organisation

CTC – Chief Training Captain

CTOT – Calculated Take Off Time

CTR – Control Zone

CTZ – Control Zone

CVR – Cockpit Voice Recorder

CWS – Control Wheel Steering

CX – Checks

D

DA – Decision Altitude

DALR – Dry Adiabatic Lapse Rate

DC – Direct Current

DEC – Direct Entry Captain

DER – Departure End (of the) Runway

DG – Dangerous Goods

DH – Decision Height

DI – Direction Indicator

DIV – Diversion

DLR – Aptitude Testing Used by Lufthansa

DME – Distance Measuring Equipment

DNF – Did Not Fly

DODAR – Diagnose/Options/Decide/Assign/Review

DOC – Designated Operating Coverage

DOW – Dry Operating Weight

E

EASA – European Aviation Safety Agency

EAT – Estimated Approach Time

EET – Estimated Elapsed Time

EFB – Electronic Flight Bag

EFIS – Electronic Flight Information System

EGT – Exhaust Gas Temperature

EGPWS – Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System

EHSI – Electronic Horizontal Situation Indicator

ELT – Emergency Locator Transmitter

ELW – Estimated Landing Weight

EMB – Embraer

EMR – Emergency

EPR – Engine Pressure Ratio

ET – Elapsed Time

ETA – Estimated Time of Arrival

ETOPS – Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards

ETOW – Estimated Take Off Weight

ETP – Emergency Turn Procedure

EZFW – Estimated Zero Fuel Weight

EZY – easyJet (ICAO Code)

F

FA – Flight Attendant

FATPL – Frozen Air Transport Pilots Licence

FAA – Federal Aviation Administration

FADEC – Full Authority Digital Engine Control

FAF – Final Approach Fix

FAP – Final Approach Point

FAR – Fedral Aviation Regulation

FAT – Final Approach Track

FBS – Fixed Based Simulator

FBT – Fixed Based Trainer

FBW – Fly By Wire

FCL – Flight Crew Licensing

FCOM – Flight Crew Operations Manual

FCTM – Flight Crew Training Manual

FD – Flight Director

FDR – Flight Data Recorder

FE – Flight Engineer

FFS – Full Flight Simulator

FI – Flight Instructor

FIR – Flight Information Region

FIS – Flight Information Service

FLCH – Flight Level Change

FMA – Flight Mode Announciation

FMC – Flight Management Computer

FMS – Flight Management System

FNPT – Flight & Navigation Procedures Trainer

FO – First Officer

FOM – Fuel of Merit

FOD – Foreign Object Damage

FPA – Flight Path Angle

FPL – Filed Flight Plan

FPM – Feet Per Minute

FPP – Future Flyer Programme

FPT – Flat Panel Trainer

FR – Ryanair (IATA Code)

FREQ – Frequency

FT – Flight Training

FTE – Flight Training Europe, Jerez

FTO – Flight Training Organisation

G

G – G-force

GA – General Aviation

G/A – Go Around

GAPAN – The Guild of Air Pilots & Air Navigators

GC – Great Circle

GE – General Electric

GENDEC – General Decleration

GH – General Handling

GI – Ground Instructor

GND – Ground

GNSS – Global Navigation Satellite System

GP – Glide Path

GP – Guidance Panel

GPA – Glide Path Angle

GPS – Global Positioning System

GPWS – Ground Proximity Warning System

GS – Ground School

GS – Ground Speed

GS – Glide Slope

H

HDG – Heading

HDG SEL – Heading Select

HEA – High Energy Approach

HF – Human Factors

HF – High Frequency

HIALS – High Intensity Approach Lighting System

HIL – Hold Item List

HoT – Head of Training

HOT – Hold Over Time (Anti-icing)

HPA – Hectopascal

HP – Horse Power

HP – High Pressure

HPT – High Pressure Turbine

HSI – Horizontal Situation Indicator

HST – Hypersonic Transport

HUD – Head Up Display

HWC – Head Wing Component

HYD – Hydraulics

I

IAA – Irish Aviation Authority

IAC – Instrument Approach Chart

IAP – Instrument Approach Procedure

IAF – Initial Approach Fix

IALPA – Irish Airline Pilots Association

IAP – Instrument Approach Procedure

IAS – Indicated Air Speed

IATA – International Air Transport Association

ICAO – International Civil Aviation Organisation

IDG – Integrated Drive Generator

IFR – Instrument Flight Rules

ILS – Instrument Landing System

IMC – Instrument Meteorological Conditions

INOP – Inoperative

INS – Inertial Navigation System

IR – Instrument Rating

IRS – Inertial Reference System

IRST – Instrument Rating Skills Test

IRU – Inertial Reference Unit

ISA – International Standard Atmosphere

ITCZ – Intertropical Convergence Zone

J

JAA – Joint Aviation Authorities

JAR – Joint Aviation Requirements

JFO – Junior First Officer

JOC – Jet Orientation Course

JS – Jump Seat

K

kHz – Kilohertz

KIAS – Knots Indicated Airspeed

KM – Kilometres

KPH – Kilometres per hour

KTS – Knots

L

LCC – Low Cost Carrier/s

LCK – Line Check

LCTR – Locator

LD – Landing Distance

LDA – Landing Distance Available

LDA – Low Drag Approach

LDR – Landing Distance Required

LG – Landing Gear

LHO – Live Human Organs

LHR – London Heathrow

LLZ – Localiser

LOC – Localiser

LOE – Line Orientated Exercise

LOFT – Line Oriented Flight Training

LORAN – Long Range Navigation

LNAV – Lateral Navigation

LP – Low Pressure

LPC – Line Proficiency Check

LRU – Line Replaceable Unit

LSK – Line Select Key

LSS – Local Speed of Sound

LST – Line Skills Test

LT – Line Training

LT – Local Time

LT – Leadership Team

LTC – Line Training Captain

LTP – Landing Threshold Point

LVL – Level

LVP – Low Visibility Procedures

LW – Landing Weight

M

MAA – Military Aviation Authority

MAA – Missed Approach Altitude

MAC – Mean Aerodyanamic Chord

MACG – Missed Approach Climb Gradient

MAP – Missed Approach Point

MATZ – Military Air Traffic Zone

MCC – Multi Crew Cooperation Course

MCP – Mode Control Panel

MCRIT – Critical Mach Number

MCT – Maximum Continuous Thrust

MDA – Minimum Decent Altitude

MDH – Minimum Decent Height

ME – Multi Engine

MEA – Minimum Enroute Altitude

MEL – Minimum Equipment List

MMEL – Master Minimum Equipment List

MEP – Multi Engine Piston

MET – Meteorological

METAR – Meteorological Aerodrome Report

MFRA – Minimum Flap Retraction Altitude

MLM – Maximum Landing Mass

MLS – Microwave Landing System

MLW – Maximum Landing Weight

MM – Middle Marker

MMO – Maximum Mach Number

MOA – Memorandum of Agreement

MOC – Minimum Obstacle Clearance

MOR – Mandatory Occurance Report

MORA – Minimum En-route Altitude

MPA – Multi Pilot Aircraft

MPL – Multi-Crew Pilots Licence

MPS – Meters Per Second

MRW – Maximum Ramp Weight

MSA – Minimum Sector/Safe Altitude

MSL – Mean Sea Level

MTOW – Maximum Take Off Weight

MZFW – Maximum Zero Fuel Weight

N

N1 – Low Pressure Compressor Speed

N2 – High Pressure Compressor Speed

NADP – Noise Abatement Departure Procedure (1 or 2)

NATS – National Air Traffic Service

NAV – Navigation

ND – Navigation Display

NDB – Non Directional Beacon

NG – Next Generation

Nigel – A British Airways Pilot (Slang)

NM – Nautical Mile

No1 – Number One (Senior Cabin Crew Member)

NOTAM – Notice to Airmen

NOTECH – Non Technical Skills

NPA – Non Precision Approach

NPPL – National Private Pilots Licence

NSC – No Significant Cloud

NTS – Non Technical Skills

NTSB – National Transportation Safety Board

NWS – Nose Wheel Steering

O

OAA – Oxford Aviation Academy (UK Integrated School)

OAT – Outside Air Temperature

OB – Off/On Blocks

OBS – Omni Bearing Selector

OC – Operations Control

OCA – Obstacle Clearance Altitude

OCC – Operators Conversion Course

OCH – Obstacle Clearance Height

OEA – One Engine Approach

OEI – One Engine Inoperative

OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturer

OFP – Operational Flight Plan

OM – Operations Manual

OM – Outer Marker

OPC – Operator Proficiency Check

OTP – On Time Performance

OTS – Out of Service

QTY – Quantity

OW – Operational Weight

OXY – Oxygen

O2 – Oxygen

P

P1 – Pilot in Command

P2 – Pilot Second in Command

PA – Public/Passenger Announcement

Packs – Air Conditioning Units

PANS-OPS – Procedures for Air Navigation Services

PAPI – Precision Approach Path Indicator

PAR – Precision Approach Radar

PAX – Passenger/s

PCN – Pavement Classification Number

PET – Point Of Equal Time

PF – Pilot Flying

PFD – Primary Flight Display

PFL – Practice Forced Landing

PIC – Pilot in Command

PICUS – Pilot in Command Under Supervision

PIO – Pilot Induced Oscillations

PIREP – Pilot Report

PoB – Passengers on Board

PoF – Principles of Flight

POH – Pilot’s Operating Handbook

PM – Pilot Monitoring

PNF – Pilot Not Flying

PNR – Point of No Return

PPL – Private Pilots Licence

PPR – Prior Permission Required

PRNAV – Precision Area Navigation

PSI – Pressure per square inch

PSR – Point of Safe Return

PSR – Purser (No 1 Cabin Crew)

PT – Progress Test

PTT – Push to Talk

PUT – Pilot Under Training

Q

QDM – Magnetic heading to a station

QDR – Magnetic Bearing from a station

QFE – Field Elevation (Pressure Setting)

QNH – Regional Pressure Setting

QRA – Quick Reaction Alert

QRH – Quick Reference Handbook

R

RA – Radio Altimeter

RA – Radio Altitude

RA – Resolution Advisory

RADAR – Radio Detection and Ranging

RAF – Royal Air Force

RAS – Rectified Airspeed

RAT – Ram Air Turbine

REL – Runway Edge Lights

RESA – Runway End Safety Area

RET – Rapid Exit Taxiway

RMI – Radio Magnetic Indicator

RN – Royal Navy

RNAV – Area Navigation

RNP – Required Navigation Performance

RPL – Repetitive Flight Plan

RT – Radio Telephony

RTB – Return to Base

RTFQ – Read The F**k**g Question

RTO – Rejected Take Off

RTS – Return to Stand

RYR – Ryanair (ICAO Code)

RVR – Runway Visual Range

RVSM – Reduced Vertical Separation Minima

RW – Runway

RWY – Runway

S

SADLR – Saturated Adiabatic Lapse Rate

SAR – Search and Rescue

SAT – Saturated Air Temperature

SCCM – Senior Cabin Crew Member

SE – Single Engine

SELCAL – Selective Calling

SEP – Single Engine Piston

SEP – Safety and Emergency Procedures

SFI – Synthetic Flight Instructor

SFO – Senior First Officer

SHF – Super High Frequency

SIC – Second In Command

SID – Standard Instrument Departure

SIGMET – Significant meteorological advisory

SLF – Self Loading Freight (Passengers)

SLP – Speed Limit Point

SM – Statute Mile

SMR – Surface Movement Radar

S/O – Second Officer

SOP’s – Standard Operating Procedures

SOS – Save our Souls (Distress call)

SPIC – Student Pilot In Command

SR – Sunrise

SRA – Surveillance Radar Approach

SS – Sunset

SSR – Secondary Surveillance Radar

SST – Supersonic Transport

STA – Scheduled Time of Arrival

STAR – Standard Terminal Arrival Route

STD – Scheduled Time of Departure

STD – Standard (Pressure Setting 1013mb)

T

TA – Transition Altitude

TA – Traffic Advisory

TAA – Terminal Arrival Area

TACAN – Tactical Air Navigation

TAF – Terminal Area Forecast

TAF – Aerodrome Forecast

TAFB – Time Away From Base

TAS – True Airspeed

TAT – Total Air Temperature

TCA – Terminal Control Area

TCAS – Traffic Collision Avoidance System

TCH – Threshold Crossing Height

TDZ – Touch Down Zone

TECH – Technical

TEM – Threat and Error Management

TERPS – Terminal Procedures

TFC – Traffic

THOB – Total Heads On Board

THLD – Threshold

THLD – Thrust Hold

THR – Threshold

TKI – Theoretical Knowledge Instructor

TL – Transition Level

TLA – Thrust Lever Angle

TMA – Terminal Manoeuvring Area

T/O – Take Off

TO/GA – Take Off Go Around

TOC – Take Off Configuration

TOC – Top Of Climb

TOD – Top Of Descent

TODA – Take Off Distance Available

TORA – Take Off Run Available

TOW – Take Off Weight

TP – Turbo Prop

TR – Type Rating

TRE – Type Rating Examiner

TRI – Type Rating Instructor

TRTO – Type Rating Training Organisation

TRU – Transformer Rectifier Unit

TS – Thunderstorm

TT – Total Time

TTL – Total

TWC – Tail Wind Component

TWR – Tower

TWY – Taxiway

U

UA – Unusual Attitude

UAS – University Air Squadron

UAV – Unmanned Air Vehicles

UFO – Unidentified Flying Object

UHF – Ultra High Frequency

UIR – Upper Flight Information Region

U/S – Unserviceable

USAF – United States Air Force

UTC – Universal Co-ordinated Time (Zulu)

V

VA – Virgin Atlantic

VAAC – Volcanic Ash Advisory Center

VAC – Volcanic Approach Chart

VASI – Vertical Approach Slope Indicator

VFE – Maximum Flap Extension Speed

VFR – Visual Flight Rules

VHF – Very High Frequency

VIP – Very Important Person

VIMD – Maximum Drag Speed

VLE – Maximum Landing Gear Extended Speed

VMC – Visual Meteorological Conditions

VMCA – Minimum Control Speed Airborne

VMCG – Minimum Control Speed Ground

VMO – Maximum Indicated Airspeed

VNAV – Vertical Navigation

VNE – Never Exceed Speed

VNO – Normal Operating Speed

VOLMET – Meterlogical Information In Flight

VOR – VHF Omni Directional Radio Range

VR – Rotate

VRB – Variable

VS – Vertical Speed

VSI – Vertical Speed Indicator

VTOL – Vertical Take Off and Landing

VIP – Very Important Person

VV – Vertical Visability

VVIP – Very Very Important Person

VX – Best Angle of Climb Speed

VY – Best Rate of Climb Speed

W

WILCO – Will Comply

WIP – Work In Progress

WOCL – Window of Circadian Low

WPT – Way Point

X

WX – Weather

XPDR – Transponder

XWC – Cross Wind Component

Z

Z – Zulu Time (Same as UTC and GMT)

ZFT – Zero Flight Time

ZFW – Zero Fuel Weight

Day to Day Life As an Airline Pilot

Day to Day Life of Commercial Pilots

What’s good about being a pilot and what you may not have considered . . .

The Realities of Being an Airline Pilot

Flying can be a very rewarding career, both financially and in terms of job satisfaction, but it is important to know both the ups and downs of the profession. It is also important to know what you are looking for in the career as this could significantly impact on the type of flying and airline you may set out to work for.

Flight crew undertake intensive and expensive training to develop a highly unique and perishable skill set. As a result, pilots are generally well paid, earning significantly above the average salary varying between around £30,000 to over £200,000 depending on seniority, aircraft and airline. The remuneration can vary considerably from company to company, but generally speaking low cost carriers tend to pay less than the flag carriers, and as one might expect, the bigger the aircraft and the further you go, the greater the pay.

Most airlines will offer excellent staff travel packages, with flag carriers typically offering 90% off their ticket prices for you and your family.

Rosters

A typical day for an airline pilot can vary considerably. One day you may start work at 5 am and only work for 4 hours whilst other days you might start work at 12 pm work for 13 hours.

In terms of time off, the rosters are also generally quite good, offering more days off than your typical Monday to Friday 9-5 job, and better holiday allowances. The downside to this is that you may find yourself seldom having a free weekend; little or no summer leave and bank holidays are just another normal working day. Whilst this may seem minor to some, having to miss Christmas or family a member’s birthday celebration year after year can take its toll.

Maintaining a normal social and family life can be a challenge as you may often find you have your time off when your friends are at work or your children at school.

Some of the Positives

There are of course many positives and negatives to the job in general terms across the industry. Being trusted to operate a state of the art multi-million-pound aircraft alongside healthy a remuneration package and having the opportunity to travel extensively are some of the obvious benefits. You get to see some truly fantastic sights from the air – sunrise at 35,000 feet is something you will never tire of.

Health Implications

There are on-going debates about the occupation’s impact on long term health. Having a continuously changing body clock, being up during the circadian low and regularly experiencing jet lag (long haul pilots) all has negative effects on health.

Equally, spending a lot of time at a pressure altitude of 8,000 feet can be very fatiguing.

Other theories about contaminated cockpit air and cancer associated with solar radiation continue to circulate.

Short Haul Low Cost Pilots

Short haul pilots for low cost airlines typically start and finish their day at their allocated base. They do not tend to do night stops and therefore can expect to be back at home for the night. Technical problems or weather issues down route can of course have an impact on the operation which could result in an unscheduled night stop.

Short haul flights might last anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Medium haul is defined as 3-6 hours.

There are usually two pilots on short haul flights, a First Officer and a Captain.

The roster is usually fixed with set days off, and this gives you the advantage of being able to plan your life in advance. The short haul vary in stability depending on which airline you are working for. With some airlines, they might hardly change at all after they’ve been issued, at other airlines, they might be changed right up until the last minute.

            Typical Short Haul Roster

Different airlines offer different opportunities. For example, a well-known European airline offers a 5 on 4 off roster at most of their bases, and there are no scheduled overnight stops. For some this can be great if you are at the base of your choice and want to be back home with your family every night, but can also be very challenging if you are based a long way from home and are commuting back and forth on your days off.

Rosters usually alternate from week to week, for example you will be on an early shift pattern one week, then switch to a late shift pattern the next.

Depending on the duration of the flight, short haul pilots can expect to fly between 2 and 6 flights a day. This has the advantage of doing plenty of manual flying when compared to operating on a long haul fleet. Short sectors can be demanding due to the high workload placed on the flight crew.

As a low cost short haul pilot, you will operate to a range of destinations, often to smaller airfields that are less well equipped which can make the flying quite demanding.

Long Haul Pilots

A long-haul flight is defined as having a flight time of more than 6 hours.

Long haul pilots fly all over the world and can spend a lot of time away from home. Trips can last from a few days to over a week. The constant changing of time zones can be very fatiguing.

Long haul pilots will typically get more days off than short haul pilots due to the amount of time they spend away from home and thus the need to rest and adjust their body clocks.

To become a long-haul pilot, you would typically need to gain some experience as a short haul pilot. Long haul pilots might only get to land the aircraft a couple of times a month. To get to a skill level where you can achieve this, you require a good degree of previous experience flying short haul operations where take-offs and landings are frequent. This is why you typically progress from short haul to long haul operations.

There may be a number of pilots on long haul flights to allow the flight crew members to rest in the crew quarters on particularly long flights. Generally speaking, a long-haul pilot can expect to be paid more than a short haul pilot.

Check out our blog of a typical long haul flight from a pilots perspective.

Cargo Pilots

Cargo pilots typically fly at night and work more consecutive days than short haul passenger pilots. However they tend to get more time off as a result. West Atlantic for example, offer a one week on, one week off roster.

Corporate / Business Jet Pilots

Corporate pilots are required to be extremely flexible as they could be called to operate a flight at any time of day or night and to anywhere – you are often completely at the disposal of the customer or aircrafts owner.

Once you arrive at the destination specified by the customer, you could spend a number of days in a hotel without knowing when or where you will fly next. You may also have to do additional duties such as filing the flight plans, loading the aircraft and greeting the passengers. As a result of the flexibility required, corporate pilots are usually very well paid. Whilst they are on “standby” for long periods (often 1 – 2 weeks) you are then given roughly an equal time off.

Common Questions about Becoming an Airline Pilot

Becoming a Pilot – The Common Questions

How to Become an Airline Pilot – Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions on the topic of becoming a commercial airline pilot. These questions are designed to get you started with some basic information. All of these questions are expanded on in further detail throughout the website.

If you have a question on a subject we haven’t covered, feel free to email us.

If you’ve done plenty of research and you’ve decided you want to become a pilot there are 2 things you need to do first.

  • The first thing to do is to get a Class One Medical. You need a Class One Medical to operate as a commercial airline pilot so there’s not point doing any training until you know you are capable of holding the medical certificate. Unfortunately some people do not pass the medical process. The initial medical examination is very thorough and occasionally it finds an issue that excludes people from obtaining the medical.
  • The second thing to do is decide whether you want to complete your commercial flight training through the Integrated or Modular route. There are advantages and disadvantages to both routes and you need to decide which is the right type of training for you. When making this decision, you will need to factor in how you intend to finance your commercial light training. Once you’ve decided which route you are going to take, find out which flight school(s) is right for you.

Depending on which route you take, you can expect to pay between £40,000 and £120,000 to train as a commercial airline pilot. Integrated flight training courses are usually between £80,000 – £120,000, where as modular training can be completed for as little as £40,000.

There are now many airlines who now charge you for your “type rating” when they offer you a job as a First Officer which is typically costs an additional £20,000 – £35,000 which you need to factor in to your budget.

See our detailed article on ‘The Cost of Pilot Training

This depends on which flight training route you select. There are two different types of flight training called “integrated” and “modular” training. With the integrated training, you complete all of your training in one full time, intensive course with an Approved Training Organisation (ATO).

From having no flying experience, to holding a commercial airline pilot’s licence, it typically takes around 24 months / 2 years. Completing this intensive flight training course would allow you to apply to airlines as a First Officer. However, on acquiring your first flying job, you would need to complete a type rating before flying passengers on a large commercial aircraft and this would typically take an additional 2 – 3 months.

If you complete modular flight training, you dictate the progression and time-line of your training rather than the flight school. This allows you to complete training as and when you can afford it alongside a full-time job if you need. You can still complete your training intensively and full time, but you have much greater flexibility. Modular flight training could take anywhere between two years to five plus – it’s up to the individual.

In Europe, airline pilots are limited to flying 900 hours a year. Else where in the World, pilots are limited to between 900 and 1,000 hours a year. The number of hours you actually fly can vary significantly between airlines. For example, some airlines, like Virgin Atlantic limit their pilots to 750 hours a year.

Both short haul and long-haul pilots will typically fly between 700-900 hours a year. Cargo and business jet pilots tend to fly much less, usually between 300-400 hours a year.

Pilots usually get between 9 and 15 days off a month with long haul pilots normally requiring more time off to recover from large time zone changes and deep night flights.

See are article on how many hours a day can a pilot work?

As a pilot, the amount of time you spend away from home varies with the airline you work for and it’s type of operation.

At low cost, charter and short haul airlines (such as Ryanair, Vueling, TUI or easyJet), you can expect very few night stops and will typically be home most nights.

At legacy short haul airlines like Lufthansa, BA, KLM etc. touring rosters are common where you might spend 2 – 4 nights away per week staying at European destinations.

On long haul fleets airlines like British Airways, Emirates or Cathay Pacific, the length of trips vary, but you can be away for as many as 10 days at a time on on a longer tour. You tend to get more time off after a trip as a result of being away for longer.

For more detailed information, have a look at our article on a Pilot’s Typical Roster.

Pilots are generally very well paid with a First Officer typically earning between £/€ 35,000 and £/€ 120,000 a year whilst airline Captains can expect to earn between £/€ 80,000 and /€ £250,000 a year.

The amount a pilot can expect to earn varies significantly and can depend on a number of factors:

  • Experience. Generally speaking, the more experience a pilot has the more they get paid. A pilot starting out their career will earn a salary towards the lower end of the scale.
  • Length of Service. At some airlines, the longer you have worked for that airline, the more they will pay you.
  • Type & Size of Aircraft. Pilots who fly large wide-bodied aircraft are often paid more than pilots who fly smaller short haul aircraft. This isn’t because it’s any harder but because it generally requires more experience.

For more detail, have a read of our article on How Much Pilots Get Paid.

Integrated Flight Training

Integrated training is completed through a single approved training organisation (ATO) which is specifically authorised to conduct the intensive flight training course. It is designed train a cadet with zero flying experience through to holding a frozen Air Transport Licence (which is the licence required to act as a co-pilot / first officer in an airline) in a period of around 24 months. All training is completed at the same training organisation on a full-time basis.

Integrated flight training is more expensive than modular flight training. However, when recruiting pilots straight out of flight school who have not had a flying job before, airline generally prefer to recruit pilots from an integrated flight training course. This is because integrated courses are developed specifically to train pilots to become an airline pilot rather than generic pilot training. Integrated courses are known to be intense and the quality of training delivered is a known entity.

To obtain a frozen ATPL through an integrated flight training course, you need to fly less hours than a modular course as they are heavily regulated.

Modular Flight Training

As per its name, modular training is where the training is split up into different modules. For example, you complete your PPL first, then your ATPL theory, CPL, IR and MCC. These modules can be completed at a pace dictated by the student, such as completing it alongside work commitments which means you can train as and when you can afford to pay without taking out huge loans. It can be completed at a range of flight schools rather than it all being completed with the same organisation, thus offering more flexibility.

It has the advantage of being significantly cheaper than integrated flight training and you can complete the training as and when you can afford it.

In the past, some airlines have only recruited pilots (with no previous airline experience) from integrated courses as modular training is not always specifically geared up to train prospective airline pilots. The quality of the training may therefore be more variable than an integrated course.

However, more recently, some flight schools offer specific modular training packages. These remain a cheap option than an integrated course but provide you and your prospective employer some reassurances about the quality of training.

For more detail, have a read of our Integrated vs Modular Flight Training page.

Integrated Flight Training Advantages:

  • Historically favoured by various airlines such as British Airways due its level of regulation, intensity and quality of training.
  • Integrated flight schools usually have links with various airlines which may help with getting a job on completion of the training.
  • It’s quickest way to obtain a frozen Air Transport Pilots Licence (ATPL).
  • The syllabus is clearly set out with all the training organised for you.

Integrated Flight Training Disadvantages:

  • It’s very expensive, £/€ 80,000+. Usually requires a huge loan to be taken out secured against a property.
  • Once you start, there is no flexibility regarding the timeline of training completion. If a world event like the Covid-19 pandemic occurs during your training, which brings the pilot job market to a standstill, you can’t suspend or postpone your training. This may result in you being jobless on competition of training, with huge debts to pay.
  • Realistically, you will not be able to earn any money for the duration of the course resulting in lost earnings

Modular Training Advantages:

  • It’s significantly cheaper
  • Training can be conducted at a pace dictated by the individual
  • The timing of training can be adjusted based on airline employment market factors
  • Training can be completed alongside another full-time job
  • You can complete your training at various flight schools of your choosing

Modular Training Disadvantages:

  • Airlines tend to prefer integrated training rather than modular
  • Quality of training might not be consistent
  • Training may not be geared up to train a potential airline pilots at the earlier stages of training

Am I Too Old To Start Flight Training?

In short – if you’re under 65 then no you’re not too old, but the older you start your training, the more limited your employment options may be and the less money you can expect in return over the course of your career.

We discuss this topic in some depth on the following page.

Should I go to University before Flight Training?

You don’t need to go to University to become a pilot, but it may or may not be a good idea to so do.

There is no right or wrong answer as to if you should go or not, it is completely dependent on individual circumstances.

We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of getting a degree before starting your professional flight training on our dedicated University or Not page.

What is a Type Rating?

A Type Rating is a qualification to fly a specific type of aircraft. Any aircraft which has a maximum take-off weight of more than 5,700 kgs. or is turbine powered requires a type rating to operate it.

A type rating course consists of a technical ground school course covering the aircrafts systems and performance and a simulator course, where you learn to fly the aircraft in normal and emergency situations for approximately 30 hours.

A type rating normally takes between 1 – 3 months to complete depending on your experience level and type of aircraft.

What is Pilot Line Training?

Line training is an advanced stage of pilot training which takes place on the aircraft for which you have acquired the type rating. It takes place with passengers onboard whilst being supervised and trained by a ‘Training Captain’.

The Training Captain is a specially selected qualified Captain who is there to provide training to the trainee whilst when making the step from the simulator to real life, flying the aircraft during normal revenue operations.

This phase of training is designed to get the trainee up to speed with the normal operation of the aircraft on a daily basis, ensuring the student is familiar with company Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), flight profiles, manual and automatic handling whilst within a real-life commercial environment.

Line training for new pilots lasts anywhere from between 40 to 100 sectors (number of flights) which can take 2 – 12 weeks.