Check out my best selling Pilot Training Guide on Amazon for a comprehensive guide to completing your modular pilot training steps. I share the best advice from what I learnt completing my pilot training in 12 months around my full-time job and now flying the B737.
If you want to jump straight to any one of the modular pilot training steps, see the table of contents below.
I got rejected from an integrated pilot training MPL course because I did not show enough captaincy during the group exercise. This rejection was genuinely one of the best things that ever happened to me in all my life.
I saved myself the £120k MPL course fee, avoided selling/ remortgaging my house/ HUGE loan for pilot training. Instead, I followed the modular pilot training steps I am about to share.
Modular pilot training meant I could remain working in my full-time engineering role in the oil and gas industry whilst progressing my modular training during the evenings and weekends.
I completed my training in 12 months vs the 18 months minimum integrated would have been. It also cost me less than half of what the integrated course would have cost. Did I have any pilot training problems or issues finding a pilot job? Three job offers four weeks after finishing (2x B737 FO & 1 A320 roles).
That was pre-COVID and times are very different now – and being real, low hour pilot jobs will be hard to come by for a little while (but we are starting to see some recruitment again).
Terms are much worse with many new pilots working on seasonal contracts and most likely self-employed. Gone are any sponsored type ratings too. Most will charge a £20-30k fee for the type rating. But, if you want to become a pilot still, despite all the friction I have been through (take-home pay slashed by 50% – a combination of pay cuts and furlough) I wouldn’t change my profession.
I love what I do and count myself lucky to be in employment with an airline. This post aims to share the modular pilot training steps to help those trying to chart a path towards a modular fATPL.
Step 1: Making sure you meet the prerequisites to start the modular pilot training steps
- 5 GCSE’s including Maths and Physics
- You need to be 18 years or more to hold a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) & 21 years to hold an ATPL
What I would recommend:
The airline industry is fragile, and because of that, it would help you significantly if you could come into aviation with other established qualifications or skills. The chances of losing your job or being on part-time/self-employed contracts in aviation are incredibly high, and you need to have a fallback plan.
I studied aerospace engineering at university and worked for 12 years in the oil and gas industry (becoming a chartered engineer), before becoming a professional pilot.
Do I need a degree to become a pilot?
You do not need a degree to become a professional pilot. Still, it would be wise to have developed other skills and have additional qualifications outside of flying that you can fall back on before coming into aviation.
Step 2: Trial flight
The trial flight is to determine if flying is really for you before committing plenty of money to pilot training. Find a flying school close to you and book a trial flight.
How to become a pilot for free
A trial flight typically last from 30mins to 1 hour. If you book direct with your local flying school rather than an adventure day website, you can often get the trial flight cheaper.
The trial flight is also an opportunity for you to ‘interview’ the flying school and see what the customer service is like and decide if that is somewhere you would like to progress your PPL.
Step 3: EASA Class 1 Medical & Creating a Budget
The requirement to fly professionally is an EASA class 1 medical. Check with your local CAA authority to find your closest Aero-Medical Centre and Aero Medical Examiner.
If you want to fly for fun, then all you need is an EASA Class 2 medical. I started with a class 2 medical for my private pilot licence before getting my initial CAA class 1 medical when I was sure I wanted to progress my pilot training professionally.
I decided to get my EASA Class 1 medical after I had completed my PPL and had started my hour building.
Suppose you decide to get a Class 2 medical for your PPL license. In that case, it is essential to bear in mind that you do not want to commit vast amounts of cash towards your pilot training only to realise later on that there is a reason precluding you from flying professionally.
Creating a budget for your modular pilot training steps
Before commencing your pilot training, you want to plan your spending and have a suitable budget. I created a spreadsheet with all the milestones I would need to achieve, along with a rough spending plan. This will help you manage and plan your cash flow too.
Step 4: Private Pilot Licence (PPL)
Your Private Pilot Licence allows you to fly recreationally. The requirements for your PPL are:
- 45 hours flight instruction
- 25 hours dual
- 10 hours of supervised solo
- At least 5 hours of cross country solo time
- 1 cross country flight of at least 270km (150NM) with landings at 2 different airports to that of your departure
There is some ground school to complete, and the theoretical knowledge exams consist of:
- Air law
- Human performance
- Principles of flight
- Operational procedures
- Flight performance and planning
- Aircraft general knowledge
Step 5: Hour Building
The next stage of your modular pilot training steps is to complete your hour building. Hour building is a fantastic time given the amount of freedom you have.
There will probably never be a time when you can head to the airfield and fly to a different country for lunch – for no real reason. During hour building, make sure you enjoy yourself but also push yourself to develop your PPL skills ready for your CPL course.
What are the hour building requirements on for modular pilot training?
- 100 hours pilot in command
- 50 hours cross country (for your multi-engine instrument rating)
- 20 hours cross country (for CPL)
- VFR cross country flight of at least 540km (300 NM) for which landing at two aerodromes (different from the aerodrome of departure) must be made
Step 6: Night Rating
At some stage between PPL and before starting your CPL course, you need to have completed your night rating. The night rating consists of:
- theoretical knowledge instruction (no exam though!)
- 5 hours instruction at night of which, 3 hours are dual instruction and 1 hour of cross country (at least 50km/ 27NM)
- You also have to complete five solo full-stop landings.
I did my night rating at ANT in Blackpool in the winter.
Step 7: ATPL theory exams
The 14 ATPL theoretical exams are probably the worst part of professional pilot training! I completed my ATPL exams via distance learning. During the week I would study and at the weekend progress my hour building. Figure out what would work best for you and your specific situation.
What are the ATPL exam subjects?
- Air Law
- Operation Procedures
- Human Performance and Limitations
- VFR Communications
- IFR Communications
- Principles of Flight
- General Navigation
- Mass and Balance
- Flight Planning and Monitoring
- Radio Navigation
- Aircraft General Knowledge – Airframes/ Systems/ Power Plant/ Electrics
- Aircraft General Knowledge – Instrumentation
Once you sit your first ATPL exam, you have 18 months to complete all the ATPL exams. Check out my YouTube video on how to pass your ATPL exams here.
Step 8: Multi Engine Instrument Rating (MEIR)
The standard Multi Engine Instrument Rating course is a 55 hours course.
- up to 25 hours may be instrument ground time in a FNPT I or
- up to 40 hours in a FFS or FNPT II. A maximum of 10 hours of FNPT II or an FFS instrument ground time may be conducted in a FNPT I
The remaining instrument flight instruction shall include at least 15 hours in multi-engine aeroplanes. The Multi-Engine Instrument rating allows you to fly in poor weather.
When shall I complete my Multi Engine Piston Rating?
This is up to you. It can be completed during your MEIR. Personally, balancing time off work and holiday, I chose to complete my MEP rating prior to my MEIR.
Either way, if you choose to complete your MEP rating in advance of your MEIR, then ideally, you want the gap between completing your MEP rating and starting your MEIR to be short.
This is so you do not forget all the things you were taught during your Multi-Engine Piston Rating!
Step 9: Commercial Pilot Licence CPL course
Is it best to do MEIR or CPL first in the modular pilot training steps?
You have the choice of which you do first: CPL or your multi engine instrument rating. What tends to be the factor for most modular pilots is the requirement to have 200hours total time by CPL skills test. For most, this is a challenge, so they complete their multi engine Instrument rating first to boost their hours.
CPL Course Prerequisites:
- 150 hours total time
- 100hrs PIC
- CPL qualifying cross country
- Theoretical exams (Either CPL or ATPL)
**Money saving tip** – CPL can be completed on a complex single engine piston aircraft to save cash. There is no requirement for CPL to be completed on a twin!
Step 10: MCC & Advanced Upset Prevention and Recovery (UPRT)
The Multi Crew Course is where you get introduced to the multi crew environment. So far, you have been operating as a single pilot i.e. just you flying the aircraft. Multi crew is necessary as aircraft complexity increases. The multi crew course also forms the bridge between your CPL/MEIR training to the transition into airline assessment and employment.
Should I do – APS or MCC/ JOC?
Ideally, you want to do the best MCC course you can afford. I genuinely believe your MCC will dictate how successfully or otherwise you will be at airline assessment and type rating.
I often say, a weak MEIR can be fixed at the MCC stage (through a solid MCC), but a good IR and weak MCC can leave you exposed when it comes to looking for a job.
From a risk-reward perspective, if money is tight, you can save cash by completing your CPL on a single instead of a twin. Use that money saved to complete your APS MCC course.
The Upset Prevention and Recovery training course is to familiarise you with certain unusual situations that happen whilst flying. The course consists of 5 hours of theory instruction and 3 hours flying. The course is great fun!
You will look at dynamic upsets, recovery from unusual attitudes, get to experience different G loadings and how that feels on your body!
If you found this useful and want to learn more about how to progress your modular pilot training steps, check out my best-selling Pilot Training Guide on Amazon.
Modular Pilot Training Steps Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any flight training finance specialists?
Most specialist lending for pilot training is now tough to come by and scarce. The usual high street lending still exists though.
Should I get a loan for pilot training?
Everyone’s situation is different. From what I know now, professional pilot employment will be challenging to come by. Those lucky enough to find work will most likely be on self-employed and seasonal contracts to begin with.
Salaries have also been significantly cut since COVID and will probably never return to their previous levels. Knowing what I know now, I would be cautious in taking out large flying loans as they may prove difficult, if not impossible to pay back given the current state of pilot recruitment and the huge numbers of pilots outside of work.
I would love to hear from you if you have any questions on modular pilot training steps! Please leave me a comment in the section below.
Kudzi Chikohora is a B737 pilot with around 2,000 hours flying in Europe. He holds a masters degree in Aerospace Engineering and is a chartered engineer and 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.