On my Instagram account I often get the question “How can I become a pilot” I wish I could answer you all in person. I am writing this post to share my story, how I did it and hopefully it will answer some of your questions.
I started May 2010 in Gothenburg, Sweden. It was intense, I had no idea what I got myself into. I did my PPL in ten weeks, it was a full time job. After I finished my PPL, the very next day I started the ATPL theory. The ATPL took me from August 2010 till May 2011. I got up one hour earlier than needed every morning to study before going to school. When I got home I took a 30 minutes power nap, dinner and then continued to study until ten o’clock in the evening when I went to bed.
I did not have Instagram back then so my phone did not buzz that often as it does today 😉 I did not even own a smartphone. Every Monday there was s progress test, so you can probably guess what I did during the weekend. I set my alarm for seven o’clock Saturday and Sundays and made my own schedules, example before lunch I had to complete this and this chapter. I also wrote memory cards for myself, a question on one side and the answer on the other and repeated them until I knew all of them.
In the beginning, during my PPL I was lost and struggled but during the ATPL, repeating the same subjects again but more in depth it was like everything fell into place and I started to enjoy it. I graduated my ATPL with great scores that I could not have been happier about.
I did a modular course meaning that I first did my PPL then my ATPL theory and after that CPL, multi engine and instrument rating. Followed with the MCC course.
I can not tell in words how important the MCC course is – I can not name any commercial company that would hire anyone without MCC. MCC stands for Multi Crew Co-operation/Coordination and you need it to know how to work together as a team in flightdeck. CRM- Crew Resource Management is often mentioned together with aviation and is one of the most important aspects to a successful and safe flight.
Summer of 2011 a couple of friends and I from flight school rented a Diamond 20 and a Cessna 172 and did a navigation flight from Gothenburg, Sweden all the way to Almeria in Spain.
During a modular course you need to “time build” 100 PIC (pilot in command) hours in order to get your CPL.
August 2011 I started my instrument rating, first we practiced all the procedures in a simulator and then in a Piper, PA28 with “local” Stratus clouds.
Me and a girl from my class, who today flies business jets, did most of our training together which I could not recommend enough, you get to see everything twice, double training, double learning.
After the Instrument rating we combined CPL and multi engine and did half of our CPL in a twin engine. I know it sounds really cool to say that I flown a Gulfstream, but it was not a Jet, it was a piston. Made in 1978 and only 115 were made. It is known to all the aviation enthusiastic as The Cougar.
December 2011 when I finished with all my certificates and I was now a proud commercial pilot. I still had my MCC to go. Unfortunately at this time, since the flight training was expensive I had to take a break and work to save up for the MCC course. August 2012 I went to Riga to do my MCC at Air Baltics full motion 737 flight simulator. It was amazing! It was so much fun and I enjoyed every minute of it. So finally, I had my MCC in my license and I was ready to take the aviation world with storm.
I applied to what felt like every airline in the entire world. I eagerly checked my email for all the replies I would get. But nothing, absolutely nothing. My inbox was completely empty, nothing there but an empty echo.
I felt like giving up, every year you had to do a check ride to make sure you are still proficient for your license and medical, every year I had to pay around two hundred euros to keep my medical license and around 1000 euro for my pilot license renewal and membership in an aviation club.
It was January 2014 when it suddenly happened. I got an email saying that the airline I am working for today approved me to send my CV to them. I sent my CV and it was followed with a telephone interview. I was so nervous and I am sure the lady I spoke to could hear that, how could I become a pilot if I could not even control my nerves? She was super sweet and had understanding of nerves getting the better of me.
After successfully passing the telephone interview I had my simulator check in London, Stansted and a technical interview.
As preparation I repeated my ATPL knowledge from my school books, read one of the best pilot interview preparation books (ACE, technical pilot interview) flew flight sim, pmdg at home on my computer repeating approach procedures. I even went so far and paid for two hours in a 737-800 simulator practicing the scenarios that might happen during the sim check with the instructors. I was fortunate to have great friends around me who helped me along and came all the way with me to the sim center.
I was prepared but still nervous. My voice was uncontrollable, my face turned red and my legs started to shake uncontrollably during my interview. I rarely get nervous, I don’t see a reason for it and normally thing what is meant to be is meant to be. But this time it felt like everything was at stake and I wanted it so badly. I had been working so hard for this and I knew I would probably not get a second chance.
Back in the hotel room after a full day at the sim center, first thing I did was to lay down on my bed starting to cry, I thought I blew it. I thought I did not have a chance and I was waiting for the email saying that I was not successful. I waited and waited. After three weeks I thought they forgot about me. I kept in contact with other pilots through different forums like PPRune (http://www.pprune.com/)and they as well had not heard anything. Maybe it was a good sign? I would not allow myself to think that I might have passed the assessment. If I get my hopes up I will only be disappointed. Five and a half weeks later my phone rang, someone from aviation something….adrenaline was pumping through my body so I could not make it out what he said, rang and said that I successfully had passed the interview and was welcome to start Type rating course CAE1420 at CAE Amsterdam. I could not believe it. Really! Me? I was going to be an airline pilot, was this my turn? Really?
Five weeks later a group of twelve met in East Midlands for the first week of training. After one week in East Midlands containing safety training and tests we started the type rating at CAE Amsterdam. The type rating took approximately six weeks, six weeks of hard training and not enjoyable at all. Thinking back on that time I wish I would have enjoyed it more. But for me it was so intense and I was so focused on doing well that I did not take time to breath and enjoy the fun of it.
After the type rating was the base training. We were a group of five during my base training, base training is when you do touch and go in a 737, so basically we had a whole 737 to do traffic circuits with. No passengers, no crew, only us and the training Captain.
It was amazing, six take offs and landings each, it went so fast I forgot to enjoy it, again…. I was too focused to do a good job and forgot to be in the moment.
After the base training in East Midlands I started my Line Training in Stockholm, Skavsta. Line training is when you learn the company’s procedures and SOP (standard operating procedures). It takes around 80 sectors, two months approximately. I had a great time in Skavsta, flew with great Line Training Captains. I was happy to do my training in the northern parts of Europe in winter operations and foggy approaches.
We have a great selection of different bases in this company, right now I’m in the south parts of Europe enjoying the summer in the Mediterranean, clear blue sea, 30 degrees Celsius sunshine and a frappe at the beach on my standby days. I´m the happiest where there is a cost line and sunshine.
My next goal would probably be to apply for SFI (synthetic flight instructor), it is a great opportunity this company have to let its First Officers apply for SFI:s. I think I will do my command upgrade in around three years time from now. For my long term future I would love to fly private jets, It is nothing I am planning on now, I am very happy where I am in life and I could not ask for more.
This was my journey, if you yourself is an aspiring pilot and wonder how you can get into the training or where to start. Here is a quick guidance on some tips and tricks to become a pilot.
- Flight training is expensive be sure that this is what you want to do before you start your training. Find a flight club close to where you live, most airfields around have a flight club. Get in contact with them and see if they can take you flying for an hour. It will cost you between 100-300 euros per hour, if you love it and if you still wants to be a pilot, do not let anything stop you.
- Find an airline pilot school. You can do your training either integrated or modular. Integrated means that you do all courses (PPL, CPL, ME, IR, MCC) integrated at once. Modular means that you do them step by step. I did modular, normally on modular training you do not have to pay for everything up front. You pay as you go. Integrated normally wants the whole sum at once.
- Go to recruitment days ask prices, what they offer etc. Learn as much as you can about the school. Ask the students that are already attending the school. They can give you an insight into the training that nobody else can.
- Save money, get a bank loan or however you decide to finance your training. It is expensive I am not gonna lie. It can cost anywhere between €50k to 120k! It’s worth to check out different schools and compare prices.
- Put your heart and soul into the training, it is not easy and it will take a lot of your time.
- When you are done, apply for jobs. This is probably the hardest part. For me it took almost two years. Two years of not even getting an interview, but you will get there, you will get that interview and you will get that job so keep fighting.
- Be the best co-pilot ever and enjoy every day of it!