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I remember trying to get some hour building done near my parent’s house in north London. Before the local flying school would allow me to solo hire their aircraft, they insisted I complete 3 hours of dual training with their instructor at roughly £250/hr.
I was a qualified private pilot, and although I was still a relatively new low hour pilot, I still had a licence and would question the true intent of insisting I did 3 hours with their instructors.
Was it for me to be ‘safe’ or was it for the flying school to make more cash from me for the increased fee of £250/hr with an instructor vs £150/hr solo hire? A lot of the success and failure of modular pilot training depends on how you scope and plan your training.
You could be the most gifted pilot in the world, but pick a school where aircraft availability is low, you won’t progress. Equally, pick a school where you are overpaying, and your resources won’t go as far. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the easy mistakes that can be made during your modular pilot training that could cost you and even de-rail your flying training altogether!
Mistake #1: Paying over the odds for your trial flight when deciding on Modular Pilot Training
The first natural modular pilot training step when starting your modular training is to organise a trial flight. The trial flight is an opportunity for you to see if pilot training is for you, check out your local flying school and see if you have the aptitude for flying.
What many prospective people wanting trial flights do is book through companies that would normally offer adventure or car racing track days. The trial flights are significantly marked up and can sometimes cost £300-£400. In comparison, booking a trial flight direct with your local flight school could save you £100-£200
Mistake #2: Picking a PPL school that is not suitable for you
Many factors go into selecting your school for your PPL flight training. Choose the wrong one, and you could find yourself getting very frustrated and having really slow progress. An example is your days off work fall on Monday and Tuesday: but your flying school has limited instructor cover during those days.
Another example is that the airfield is notorious for poor weather – the higher the airfield elevation, then generally, the worse the weather is.
You don’t want to be grounded for weeks on end because of consistent low cloud or winds outside of crosswind limits to allow you to progress your solo hours. This is one of the many pilot training problems you want to avoid.
Mistake #3: Completely underestimating the ATPL theory commitment.
I got up at 4 am every day for 8 months, to study ATPL theory before work. At 8, I would then go to work. At lunchtime, I would study for 30 mins on my lunch break. When I got home in the evening, I would then do another hour or so if I had the energy to.
I would then go to bed early and then repeat the process again the next day. At the weekend, I would pause my study and instead go to the airfield to progress my hour building. There are no shortcuts in how to pass your ATPL exams – you just have to put the work in. If you put the work and the hours in, you will eventually get through.
Mistake #4: Not developing the necessary skills for CPL during hour building
If you spend all your hour building flying within to the same airfield 30mins from your hour building base for a cup of tea, you will struggle during your CPL. Hour building is meant to build your captaincy and polish your basic skills ready for CPL pilot training.
An example is that during your CPL skills test, you are not allowed to use GPS navigation. The luxury of having readily available GPS on an iPad poses the real danger that at the start of your CPL course, your basic map, compass & dead reconning skills will not be at the level that they need to be!
Mistake #5: Not being selective in your choice of schools for CPL MEIR.
I totally subscribe to the fact that you move in the travel direction of the people you spend your time with. If you want to get rich, spend your time around millionaires and copy their behaviour.
If you want to be a professional pilot, spend your time around professional pilots or in an environment with a proven track record of creating professional pilots.
My Multi Engine Instrument Rating (MEIR) instructor was incredible and had an amazing track record in that every one of his past students eventually flew jets. Flying a jet is not the be-all and end-all, but if you want to become an airline pilot, I’d say that a good place to start is spending time with a flying instructor whose students all fly jets.
When picking your flying school for your professional pilot training, you want to ask what past students have done. I did the Competency-based instrument rating on a part-time basis with a flying school in Leeds.
I had my issues during my instrument rating course, but my instructor did very an excellent job in arming me with the necessary instrument flying skills to eventually pass airline assessments. During my CPL course at Westair in Blackpool, airline pilots flew recreationally from there, and some of the instructors were current airline pilots.
I genuinely believe that I found the best UK modular flight school for my specific circumstances and requirements. Research thoroughly and find the best school for you. Remember, the most expensive is not necessarily the best.
Mistake #6: Starting pilot training without enough money or borrowing excessively
However you fund your pilot training, you need to be in a position to progress your modular pilot training at a sensible pace. You do not want to be midway through your MEIR and find that you run out of money.
The CPL IR MEP cost is very expensive so it may be worth budgeting contingency money in case you overspend for whatever reason (re-test, extra training required etc).
Stopping mid-way through your MEIR for example, due to money issues will set you back and the pause in your flying will mean that you need to re-learn most of the course once you return to flying. You do not want to complete the advanced stages of your pilot training ‘slowly’.
There is the flip side of the dangers associated with getting big pilot training loans. Getting into financial difficulties can completely ruin the enjoyment of flying, and your life for that matter. Think carefully about borrowing to fund your pilot training – it may not always be the best solution for you long term especially right now when pilot salaries are depressed and employment difficult to come by.
Mistake #7: Not thinking carefully about which route you take (modular vs integrated)
Whilst I am a big advocate for modular pilot training, modular pilot training does not always work for everybody. I have met people who have said they could never imagine having to complete their ATPL exams and progress their flight training alongside a full-time job.
There are many different paths to get to your final destination, so pick the most suitable one. Some excellent integrated pilot training courses are sold at a reasonable price with a high standard of training.
A full-time ATPL program can often be a better option for some people.
Mistake #8: Penny pinching on your multi-crew course
Do the highest level of MCC course you can afford, ideally APS MCC. MCC forms the bridge between pilot training and airline flying (when airline job opportunities eventually return!).
You don’t want to throw away all your hard work at the final hurdle and find that you are underprepared for airline assessments because of a weak MCC course.
You only get one real opportunity with each company when airlines recruit, so try and position to be in the best shape possible for airline assessments. MCC courses play a key role in this aspect. I would even go a step further and say that without my APS MCC, I would never have got an airline job.
Mistake #9:Thinking that MCC marks the end of pilot training
After flight training, you need to keep your skill sharp and current as you wait for aviation employment opportunities. This is expensive and a big advantage at this stage of the game is to be in employment to fund your flying to keep current.
Most people do not realise, but the average cost of an airline assessment is around £1000! You have to pay for your assessment usually and this costs roughly £300-500 depending on the company.
You will also then have simulator prep expenses to brush up prior to your sim check rides. This is on top of transport and hotel accommodation during the assessment process. You give yourself a massive advantage in airline jobs if you are working and can pay to get yourself into the best possible position for your assessments.
If interested in learning more about Modular Pilot Training, check out my pilot training guide on Amazon.
I would love to hear from you if you have any questions on modular pilot training or if I have missed anything. Please leave a comment in the section below.
Kudzi Chikohora is a B737 captain with over 3,000 hours of flying in Europe. He holds a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, is a chartered engineer, and is a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Kudzi completed his pilot training via the self-funded modular pilot training route and created kcthepilot.com to share pilot training and aviation content.