Most Pilots Were Once Dreamers Too

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  • You’ve wanted to fly your whole life. Now you have the opportunity. You just need some direction. Fortunately, getting into flight school, and learning to fly for a commercial airline, isn’t as hard as it sounds. You’ll be expected to work hard, put in a lot of flight time, and pass a practical exam, but you’ll be rewarded with a good salary and plenty of benefits over the lifetime of your career.

    Where To Attend School

    You have a few choices when it comes to flight schools – you may attend a Part 61 flight school, a Part 141 school, or an accredited school. The Part 61 schools are not routinely audited by the FAA, but require you to take a minimum to 250 flight hours to pass. Part 141 schools only require a minimum of 190 flight hours. This might seem significant, but airlines often want you to accumulate 1,500 hours before you fly with them (at least, as a full-time pilot).

    Accredited schools work just like universities recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. That’s because these schools meet the rigid standards set forth by this government agency. Like any other accredited school, you qualify for educational loans and grants

    Financial Assistance

    Financial assistance can be had by the usual routes: grants, scholarships, and even education loans. A number of resources exist in the industry including the American Historical Association, The ATCA Scholarships Foundation, the ATCA Scholarships Foundation, the Airports Council International (Scholarship), the American Association of Airport Executives, the National Business Aircraft Association, The Aviation Scholarship Foundation, The Festival of Wings Over Houston, the National Gay Pilots Association, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the Northeast Chapter, the Rockwell Collins-Dallas Female and Minority Scholarship, among others.

    There’s also traditional grants like the Pell Grant if you qualify for it through an accredited school. You may also obtain government-backed education loans to supplement any scholarships and grants you obtain.

    Flight Requirements

    Generally, you must have over 250 flight hours to be a professional pilot. While schools top out at 250 required flight hours, many airlines want you to have 500, 800, or 1,500 or more hours in the sky. You must also have at least a class 2 medical certificate, have a cross country flight consisting of 300 nautical miles – with 150 of those being in a single leg.

    For most airlines, you must have an instrument rating and a multiengine rating. You must also have experience flying in a complex aircraft, so make sure you practice on one. More requirements can be found on sites such as the Phoenix East Aviation Flight School.


    Once you graduate, the sky’s the limit. You can work for an airline, the government, or a private corporation. Some jobs include a pilot for a passenger aircraft, a tour guide, a corporate pilot (flying executives), a cargo pilot (i.e. working for companies like FedEx and UPS), and a flight instructor.

    Don’t just think you’re limited to working for airlines or large companies though. Many pilots are also involved in banner towing, airplane ferrying, pipeline and powerline inspection, skydiving, border patrol, test piloting, medivac flying for hospitals, commercial sightseeing, traffic reporting, and police operations.

    Ian James enjoys training future pilots for a living. S articles mainly appear on aviation blogs.

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