Want to train to be a pilot in the UK? Check out my best-selling Pilot Training Guide on Amazon for the best flight training advice to SAVE you TIME and MONEY! In the book, I summarise all that I learnt from training to be a pilot in the UK and share some of the mistakes I made, so hopefully, you can avoid them.
How much does it cost to train as a pilot in the UK
Becoming a pilot in the UK can cost anywhere from around £50,000 to £110,00 or even more!
Modular pilot training can cost as little as £50,000, but some integrated pilot training providers charge up to £110,000 or, in some cases, more.
Taken from the post on how to become a pilot for free in the UK, the main costs for pilot training in the UK via the modular route are:
- Medical class 1 medical (£800 including transport and accommodation)
- Private Pilot Licence (£12,000)
- Night rating (£1500)
- Hour building (£12,500)
- ATPL Exams via distance learning (£5,000)
- Commercial pilot licence (£7,500)
- Multi-engine instrument rating (£20,000)
- APS MCC course (£8,000)
Total cost £67,300
Modular pilot training allows you to conduct your pilot training in the UK in stages on a pay as you go basis. Modular pilot training typically takes around 24-36 months to complete but can be done sooner. I completed my modular pilot training in 12 months (but had no social life!)
Integrated training is when you complete your training with one provider finishing with a commercial pilot licence with a multi-engine instrument rating (and multi-crew course). The other option available via the integrated route is the multi-pilot licence.
Other costs to consider during pilot training are:
- CAA fees
- Ipad/ electronic flight bag
The closer your flying school is, the cheaper your transportation will cost. I had to travel over 1.5 to 2hrs to complete my pilot training in Blackpool in the UK and later Leeds for my multi-engine instrument rating.
You can save a lot of money on accommodation by living at home during your pilot training. Accommodation in the UK is not cheap, so in choosing where to complete your pilot training in the UK, it is worthwhile also factoring in accommodation costs.
Most flying school quotes do not include CAA lience and exam fees. You need to consider these when budgeting as they can be significant.
- Class 1 medical: £750
- PPL initial issue application fee £196
- Night rating application fee £127
- CPL test fee £826
- CPL Application fee £256
- MEIR test fee £826
- MEIR licence processing fee £127
Ass you can see, it is worth budgeting £3,000 – £4,000 in CAA fees.
If learning to fly and money is tight, having an expensive headset (Bose A20) or similar is unnecessary. A budget David Clark for under £300 will be more than sufficient. Once you have a job flying professionally, you can always upgrade
During my flight training, I purchased an iPad mini as an electronic flight bag for my planning and moving map (Skydemon). Once I got to my instrument rating, I got ForeFlight with the Jepp plate subscription. I found both Skydemon and Fireflight to be money well spent.
Just be mindful that you cant use Skydemon on your CPL skills test, so don’t allow yourself to become too reliant on the GPS moving map feature.
A budget of around £1,200 will suffice for your iPad and software subscriptions.
Is it hard to become a pilot UK?
Becoming a pilot in the UK is not hard in the sense that you need superhuman intellect, formula 1 driver reaction times, or to be from a family of RAF fighter aces. If you put your mind to it, you can definitely become a pilot in the UK.
What makes becoming a pilot in the UK difficult is the combination of extremely high costs and the need to find a mechanism to fund flying. The weather plays a key role too in delaying your pilot training progress.
Like learning any new skill, practice makes perfect. In-between finding the money, good weather, aircraft and instructor availability – it is easy to become disheartened and give up.
The relatively long period you need to work hard to be successful consistently, be it for a private pilot licence or your commercial pilot licence / multi-engine instrument rating, adds to the challenge.
The high cost of pilot training means that there has to be some mechanism to fund pilot training.
To become a private pilot, you need at least £10,000. To complete professional pilot training, i.e. Commercial pilots licence with a multi-engine instrument rating and a multi-crew course, you are looking at at least £50,000.
Many people find that they have to work to fund the training, so managing your time of generating the income to pay for flight training and at the same time keep going with pilot training is particularly difficult.
In my case, to complete my ATPL exams, I had to get up at 4am each morning, to allow 2.5 to 3hours to study before my full-time job as an engineer.
The cost also adds to the pressure – in terms of being mindful of how much money you are spending. Towards the end of my multi-engine instrument rating, it cost around £550 per hour for each lesson.
Have a bad lesson, and the instructor may recommend you have another session to iron out the problems before progressing to the next stage. The pressure of watching yourself quickly running out of money adds to the difficulty and is terrifying.
Assuming you have the funds to fly, the next challenge is finding the weather window to allow you to progress. At the early stages of pilot training, you rely on good weather as most of the principles are based on being able to see outside the aircraft, i.e. visual flight rules.
Even at the height of the summer, when the weather is supposed to be good, haze or strong winds can quickly put conditions outside of limits to allow you to progress.
To allow flight training to progress smoothly, you need to fly regularly. Going 2-3 weeks without flying because the weather is not suitable on your flying days can mean you start having to repeat lessons as you begin to become rusty on what you learnt previously due to a lack of regular flying.
Pilot training in the UK takes time
Irrespective of what level of pilot you wish to be, e.g. private pilot, glider pilot, commercial pilot, helicopter pilot etc., the training is very in-depth, and you have to pass several elements to obtain your licence:
- Theoretical knowledge exams
- Dual instruction with an examiner
- Certain amount of ‘solo’ hours need to be achieved
- Final skills test with an examiner.
The depth of the training means that it will take some time. On average, it takes most at least 12 months to get a private pilot licence assuming one day of flying per week (or occasionally two days).
Having the staying power to keep going over this period of time makes training to be a pilot in the UK demanding.
Flying school and instructor availability
Just because you have the money, weather and the time to train to be a pilot in the UK, you still need to source suitable instruction.
With many airlines snapping up instructors from flying schools to meet their recruitment needs, it is getting increasingly more and more difficult for flying schools to retain good instructors.
COVID 19 did bring a brief pause as airlines furloughed their staff, but many airlines now report that demand has returned to pre COVID levels. For this reason, finding a good flying school and instructor with availability that suits your schedule is one of the aspects that makes training to be a pilot in the UK hard.
Do airlines pay for pilot training
Most airlines do not pay for flight training at the ab initio level (i.e. zero experience pilot). Most pilot training has to be self-funded.
What is changing, particularly in the US, where they are experiencing a dramatic pilot shortage, is that airlines are now offering large bonuses to successful candidates who are suitable for a given airline role.
Airlines in America are now going further to secure a pipeline of new talented pilots. Some are offering to sponsor those reaching the end of their pilot training (i.e. approaching the 1,500hour requirement) in return for candidates agreeing to join that airline once they have the necessary experience.
Airlines will pay for pilot training at the type rating stage for experienced suitable candidates. A type rating is a course a qualified pilot would need to complete to be accredited to fly the specific type of aircraft that the airline flies, e.g. Boeing B787 Dreamliner or Airbus A320.
New entrants into the airline industry can expect to pay for their type ratings (circa £15,000 – £30,000) depending on the airline.
Jet 2 pilot apprentice does offer free type ratings. The scheme works based on spending 12-18 months on rotation in various departments (including being a cabin crew member for some part of it) before finally being offered a type rating at the end of the ‘apprenticeship’.
Inexperienced pilots are typically not paid during the 3-4 months it takes to complete their type rating and have to fund their accommodation expenses.
What are the requirements to be a pilot UK
Minimum requirements to be a UK private pilot
These requirements are taken from the UK CAA website
- Age 16 to go solo and age 17 to hold a PPL
- Hold a UK CAA Class 2 medical certificate
- Pass 9 theoretical knowledge exams
- 45 hours of flight instruction (5 hours may be completed in an approved flight simulator training device)
- 25 hours of dual flight instruction
- 10 hours supervised solo time (including 5hours solo cross country)
- 150NM (270KM) cross country flight with landings at two different aerodromes
- Pass PPL skills test
Minimum requirements to be a commercial pilot UK
- Age 18 years to hold a CPL
- Hold a UK CAA Class 1 medical certificate
- Pass 13 theoretical knowledge exams
- Hold a PPL(A) in accordance with Annex 1 of the Chicago Convention
- 25 hours of dual flight instruction (including 10hours instrument and 15hours visual flight instruction)
- 5 hours of instrument instruction can be in an approved simulator (BITD, FNPT I or II, and FTD 2 or an FFS
Before commencing your CPL course – these requirements will need to be met:
- 150hours flight time (modular)
- 70hours pilot in command (integrated)
- 100hours pilot in command (modular)
- Completed night flying course (5hours night flight, 3 hours dual instruction at night)
Before UK CPL skills test:
- 200hours total time (modular), 150hours total time (integrated)
- 20 hours as PIC, including a VFR cross-country flight of at least 540 km (300 NM)
- 5 hours in complex aircraft i.e. aircraft certified for at least 4 persons, variable pitch propeller and retractable landing gear (taken from CAA website)
Minimum requirements to become a UK Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) holder
- Hold a multi-engine instrument rating
- The minimum age to hold an Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) 21.
- Pass 13 theoretical knowledge ATPL exams
- 500 hours in multi-pilot operations on aeroplanes
- 500 hours as pilot in command under supervision (PICUS) or
- 250 hours as Pilot in Command (PIC) or
- 250 hours to include a minimum of 70 hours as PIC and the remainder as PICUS.
- 200 hours of cross-country flight time, of which at least 100 hours should be as PIC or as PIC under supervision
- 75 hours of instrument time, of which not more than 30 hours can be instrument ground time
- 100 hours of night flight as PIC or co-pilot.
Of the 1500 hours of total flight time required, up to 100 hours can be completed in a suitable simulator (FFS or FNPT – but only a maximum of 25 hours may be completed in an FNPT)
- Pass a skill test in a full flight simulator
You do not need a degree to become a pilot in the UK. The minimum education you need is GCSEs, including English and Maths and physics.
Some providers will ask that you have completed A-Levels, but a degree is rarely a prerequisite to flying professionally. Having a degree is not a requirement to become a professional pilot.
If you are planning on going into aviation to fly professionally, it is worth having a good backup plan. The aviation industry is susceptible to external events, and most professional pilots (through no fault of their own) will find themselves out of employment at some stage in their careers.
With how fragile the aviation industry can be, it would be worthwhile to seriously consider coming into aviation with education or skill that you can fall back on if flying does not work out.
How much do pilots earn UK per mounth?
The amount pilots earn (take home after tax) can be anywhere from £1000per month to £7000 or more!
It depends on the level and seniority of the pilot, the company – i.e. what type of aircraft they fly and existing union agreements.
From my pilot salary post, flying instructors typically earn around £20 per hour for PPL instruction. This rate can increase if the flying instructor has other qualifications and can teach instrument rating or conduct CPL courses. Senior instructors can earn £40 per hour or more.
Turboprop pilot UK earnings per month
Turboprop pilots will typically earn around £1,000-2,500 per month take home, assuming fairly standard tax arrangements. Turboprop pilot roles can be anything from air taxis, regional services or medical evacuation.
Short-haul UK pilot earning per month
A short-haul UK pilot first officer take home earnings can be anywhere from £1,500 to £4,500 per month depending on the company, seniority, operation and existing union agreements.
COVID 19 caused most airlines to slash their salaries by between 20-40% depending on how salary reductions were applied. Many of these pay cuts were being reinstated during 2021 and will continue to be reinstated as air travel recovers.
As more airlines return to the skies, salaries will likely return to pre-pandemic levels and probably increase as certain pockets of the world see acute pilot shortages and competition for pilots between employers increases.
A captain in a UK short-haul operation assuming standard tax arrangements will take home between £5,500- £7,000) per month, although this figure could be higher.
Suppose the captain has additional duties such as training responsibility, i.e. line training captain or type rating examiner, or happens to be a very senior pilot. In that case, the earning level can be over £8,000 per month take home.
Long haul UK pilot earnings
Long haul pilot earnings are struggling with a good few UK long haul pilots still on reduced hours due to the COVID 19 pandemic. These pilots may have been stood down and are being paid a nominal retainer before being called back.
Assuming typical tax arrangements, long-haul first officers will take home per month between £3,000 – 5,000.
Long haul captains will take home anywhere from £6,000 to £10,000 plus depending on seniority, additional responsibility or training duties.
What GCSE do u need to be a pilot?
You need GCSE maths and physics at grade C and above as a minimum.
How do I become an Easyjet pilot UK?
There are three main paths to becoming an EasyJet pilot in the UK. These are:
- joining as a direct entry captain or first officer (type-rated or non-type-rated)
- through their cadet scheme (Generation Easyjet)
- Completing your CPL +MEIR + MCC and then applying directly to Easyjet for the Amy Johnson Flying Initiative
Joining as a direct entry captain or first officer or captain
The requirements to become a direct entry Easyjet pilot in the UK as a captain or co-pilots are (source easyJet Careers page):
- Type Rated Captains: minimum 4000 flying hours with 1000 PIC hours
- Non Type Rated Captains: minimum 4000 flying hours with 1000 PIC hours on jet aircraft over 30T MTOW
- Type Rated Co-Pilots: minimum 500 hours on A320
- Non Type Rated Co-Pilots: minimum 1000 flying hours with 500 hours on aircraft over 10T MTOW
What is the recruitment process to become an Easyjet pilot in the UK?
You start the recruitment process by completing an online application answering a series of questions and submitting your CV.
You are then sent a link to undergo some online tests to assess numerical and verbal reasoning for co-pilot applications. When I completed my application, several questions also assessed your personality and behaviour suitability for the flight deck.
The application is then reviewed to assess your suitability for the co-pilot or captains role.
Assuming you are successful, you are then invited for a non-technical assessment. On my assessment day, we had an HR interview, assessing motivation for applying, knowledge about Easyjet and its operations, and competency-based questions. An example of this could be ‘tell us about a time when you had to go above and beyond.
The non-technical assessment also included 2 group exercises. During the group exercises, you are assessed on how well you work with others i.e.
- organisation and prioritisation
- conflict resolution
- time management
- ability to listen and observe other peoples viewpoints
Technical assessment (simulator ride)
Subject to passing all the other phases, you are then invited for a simulator check ride. The simulator assessment, similar to the group exercise, will check your flying competencies. The ICAO pilot competencies that most airlines look to assess during simulator assessments are:
- Application of Knowledge
- Application of Procedures and Compliance with Regulations
- Aeroplane Flight Path Management, automation
- Aeroplane Flight Path Management, manual control
- Leadership and Teamwork
- Problem Solving and Decision Making
- Situation Awareness and Management of Information
- Workload Management
The simulator assessment profile itself typically includes
- general handling
- an emergency of some sort
- return for landing
- occasionally an engine problem leading to a single-engine sequence.
Online testing (for captains)
From the Easyjet careers website, there is an additional section for captains. The online testing for captains comprises an online psychometric questionnaire followed by a video interview.
Becoming an Easyjet pilot in the UK through the generation Easyjet cadet scheme
The generation Easyjet cadet scheme focuses on pilot training to get a Multi Pilot Licence (MPL) whilst being mentored by the airline. The course footprint is split into 5 phases:
- ATPL Theory
- Core flight training
- Basic flight training
- Intermediate training
- Advanced training
The ATPL Theory phase consists of completing the 13 ATPL exam subjects, including the EASA subject KSA 100. There is roughly 950hours of study and can take place at CAE Oxford in the UK.
The core flight training phase gets you to the equivalent of an advanced private pilot standard with an introduction to piston multi-engine operation.
This phase of pilot training also includes Advanced Upset Prevention & Recovery Training (A-UPRT)
The basic flight training element gets you straight into the multi-crew environment using the airline standard operating procedures. In this phase, you use fixed based simulators, which lasts for approximately 46 hours.
The intermediate flying phase moves onto the high-performance aircraft type that the airline flies, i.e. A320 fixed base simulator. Easyjet procedures are used, and threat and error management play a key role in this training phase. The intermediate flying phase is equivalent to the first few sessions you would have on a traditional type rating. The intermediate flying phase lasts 76 hours.
The advanced stage combines all the training and focuses on line-oriented flight training (LOFT) scenarios and builds on the ICAO pilot competencies. The LOFT scenarios then lead to the licence skills test and A320 type rating for Easyjet. The final aspect of the training is completing base training (12 take off and landings) before licence issue.
MPL course (whitetail or MPL with CAE)
The other avenue if training with one of the Easyjet approved training providers, e.g. CAE is after completing your pilot training, you might be given the opportunity for a fast track assessment with Easyjet. Success at this stage would lead to an employment offer that is subject to the satisfactory completion of the Easyjet type rating.
As a concept, the MPL is a great idea – getting cadets straight into airline operations, being mentored by the airline with training very much geared to the airline.
My reservations of the MPL course are:
- Very high upfront cost (£110k when I applied) and financing was based on secured lending (remortgaging your parent’s house being how the majority fund training).
- The MPL was reliant on the support of the airline. If the airlines’ recruitment plans change, the conditional employment offer might be withdrawn. Had this happened in my case, I would not have been able to finish the MPL course.
- MPL licence could not be issued without base training complete. I was uncomfortable about waiting until the very last stage before being able to apply for a licence.
- While some CAAs and airlines recognise that the MPL is ‘equivalent’ to a CPL MEIR, with an MPL alone, you can not, for example, hire a Cessna at your local airfield without further training.
- Equally, if you could not complete the MPL course for whatever reason, converting to a standard CPL MEIR could cost more than £50k despite already having committed £100k plus to the MPL program.
If you found this useful or have any questions, please comment below. We would love to hear from you.
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.