How long does it take to train to become an airline pilot?
A look at how long it takes to go from zero flying experience to a qualified First Officer operating for an airline
The shortest possible time it takes to train as an airline pilot is around 18 months, assuming the trainee has no previous flying experience and performs to a high standard throughout their training.
If you enrol on an integrated flight training course, you can start the course with no previous flying experience and reach the point of operating a commercial passenger aircraft in about 18 to 24 months. To do it within this time frame, you would need to be accepted onto an integrated flight training course. An integrated training course is a full time, intensive course, where you complete all the required training at one flight training organisation, including all the theoretical studying and practical flight training.
You will typically spend 6 – 9 months completing the theoretical training (ground school) prior to moving onto the practical training on the aircraft and in the simulators. After completing this training you will have obtained a licence referred to as a ‘Frozen’ Air Transport Pilots Licence (ATPL). This is a pre-reqresit to going onto train on a specific commercial aircraft on which you are employed to fly with an airline (the type rating).
If/when you secure employment with an airline, you will then spend about another 2-3 months training specifically on the aircraft you will be flying for that airline (e.g. Boeing 737). This is called the type rating and is the most intensive part of the flight training journey. It consists of both technical classroom and simulator training which must be completed before you start flying passengers. It is possible to complete this type rating training without having secured a job, but this isn’t something we would recommend due to the substantial cost (£20k+).
There are other ways to complete your commercial flight training, for example through part time courses and these will obviously take longer to complete. This is referred to as ‘Modular’ training. It would conceivably be possible to complete Modular flight training in the same sort of time frame as integrated training, but it would be an unusual route.