My route to the right hand seat

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.

27042016-europa luten - kopia

During a modular course you need to “time build” 100 PIC (pilot in command) hours in order to get your CPL.

27042016-local stratus - kopia

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.

27042016-sembo

 

15112012-IMG_0632December 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.

27042016-annie och jag safrika - kopia

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.

type rating

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.

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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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Put your heart and soul into the training, it is not easy and it will take a lot of your time.
  1. 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.
  1. Be the best co-pilot ever and enjoy every day of it! 

 

41 thoughts on “My route to the right hand seat

    1. This was truly amazing to read! It’s got me really excited and very nervous at the same time… But I won’t be giving up for sure. I will hopefully start taking my hour lessons and follow it step by step as you put it! Thank you for this, you’ve been extremely helpful X

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  1. Thanks maria. I enjoyed each single word of your story. My BigGest dream is to fly…a Small propEller plane! If bari (LIBD) Will be in your ruotes would be Great to manage a chat with you. I wish u all The Best.
    Giuseppe (An istagram follower of yours)

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    1. Hi Giuseppe! Thank you so much 🙏 it’s been taking ages for me to reply but I’m finally getting back at it and hoping to get some new posts up here soon. All the best!

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  2. Hi Maria, really nice and inspirig story.What a pity I did not know your story and you earlier , we could have met while training at CAE Amsterdam, which actually is in Hoofddorp, the place where I live. Continue with your positive vibes, they are contagious. Well done and continue enjoying your flying life as you do. It’s fun to follow you on Instagram. Looking forward to your posts. All the best.
    Peter vd Bergh (pdaddy70 on Instagram)

    Like

  3. Maria, Loved your story. I have always had a love for aviation. I hope to get my ppl. I would love to meet you and Hiwa in person sometime. Keep Calm and Love Aviation
    Riley (jrdulaney on instagram)

    Like

  4. thank you so much for shearing your journey with us! i was really wanted so bad and looking for till i find you! i’m stared doing my ppl, but i’m thinking i started too late because i’m 24 year old now and i don’t know how it will take with my to act as a pilot in the airline, but after i saw how you are happy for achieve your dream, so that made me smiled and gave me inspire. i’ll do all my best to do it in the shortest time. i’m really appreciate your effort to help us!

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  5. Well done Maria, it’s amazing to read your story in such depth and detail. As someone who has worked with you in the past, and had the pleasure to fly with your privately, I must say, you should be very proud of yourself and of what you have achieved. Keep making your dreams come true and one day in the near future, who knows when I will need a private pilot 😉 I am certain you will be the 1st person I would call.
    Kram
    Essi

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  6. I’m going trough the harder path the same way as Maria. Went trough tough selection for national cadet programme and only 15 of us passed it, but eventually they cancelled the program. So I started integrated ATP course on my own. For me its very exhausting because of shortened time, but the feeling is great, I can do what I love to do and I’m appreciating that.
    Would like to add that you can do type rating with line and base training by your own. You can guess it, it cost a lot, the price is similar as for your ATP licence around 50-120k, if you don’t have time or don’t want to go trough the hard way like our friend Maria, and you have money, think of it as a good option.
    By the way great blog Maria! Keep up the good work, and also cheers for all of you aspiring pilots!

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  7. Hi Maria,

    An insane story! Well done!

    I have dreamed to fly jets in the airlines since I was 8year. I have had the past 9 years running a business on cruise ship to get the money together for the school and finally I have it. Where are the best places to train? I am having such a hard time as there are soo many all say same thing. The really good ones are too expensive and the the others are just a big mix and seem similar. I think I should do PPL/ME/CPL/IR/TProp/MCC/fATPL

    I think that getting the turbo prop will give a really valuable edge, what you think?

    Thanks so much!!

    Happy landings

    Like

  8. Hello Maria,
    it’s wonderfull to see how many happyness there is in your words and in your job! … As flying was my not realized dream, read that make me happy! 😉

    Good flight,
    Emanuele (emastyle75, a your instagram follower)

    Like

  9. Hej Maria the Pilot. Sej historie💪🏻 og en god inspiration. Du viser for at man skal tro på sig selv, hele vejen! Er følger på Instagram og bliver altid helt positiv når jeg læser dine indlæg og ser billeder
    Forsat god vind og masser gode vibes herfra

    Like

  10. Thank you for writing this. It is so encouraging for me to read. I am currently in the difficult phase of acquiring a first job. Reading your article has given me new hope not to get tired just yet. Thank you so much

    Like

  11. Hello Maria, thanks! I really enjoyed reading this story! But it took away nearly 95% of my dreams becoming a pilot! Its just the money! Everything depends on money! I am soo unlucky! My parents cant afford ! Still i am fighting hard! Will somehow become a pilot!

    Like

  12. I loved reading this. I am currently pursuing my PPL and definitely understand the feeling of being overwhelmed and stupid – I’ve flown almost 35 hours and still haven’t even solo’d. But every single time that I get in that plane I just feel so at peace. I love it and am so lucky to have the opportunity to even do it. Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

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  13. I loved reading this! I am currently pursuing my PPL and it’s definitely been difficult. I have so many moments where I feel stupid and overwhelmed (it’s been almost 35 hours and I haven’t even solo’d). But the feeling I get when I’m up there is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. I am so lucky. Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great read Maria, really inspirational!
    I have two questions, what did you do before you started flight training and what inspired you to take the leap?

    I am a 26yo married man in the military and all I ever think about is being a commercial pilot, I desperately want to take the leap and start training and my wife supports me 100 percent. Your blogs are really inspiring and influential, thank you!

    Like

  15. Hi Maria! I’m 16 year old from India and I’m a huge fan of yours. You inspire me everyday! I wanted to ask, can I start PPL when I get out of school that is when I’ll be 18? Or do I have to do graduation before that? And what did you do those two years when you were waiting for call back from interviews? And what if I never get selected by an airline company after completing my course? Thanks!

    Like

  16. And how can someone overcome the fear of flying?? I love travelling, exploring cities but it is soooooo hard for me to get in the airplane. I hate the feeling in the stomach during the take off. Please write about that, but not about how few people die by planes and how many by cars.

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  17. Maria,

    it feels so nice & happy to see a young women who believes in her dreams become truth. And made it truth. All of us (I mean all of us pilots) want to see any pilot in the air, in an aircraft. Anyway, If this is a Piper 28, Katana DV20 (like me) or in an airliner (like you).
    Live your dream, because this is your life. All the best, all the best kind of weather, an of course: allways 3 greens & and happy landings.

    Christian (Munich, Germany)

    Like

  18. Hi Maria

    I really enjoyed reading your story. Funnily enough the thing i picked up on most was your dinner plate in the 737, it looked super healthy and it’s health that is my biggest obstacle to achieving my ambition. It was nice to read you had paid for all your training yourself. I meet so many pilots who have it all handed to them on a plate and they don’t appreciate it. Great website and keep up the good work

    Mark

    Like

  19. Thank you for your report. It should encourage people. I was thinking many times to write a blog myself about how I did but I don’t think anybody is interested in a negative story.

    I started with the same enthusiasm like you did. Today I come close to 16,000 hours, flying both short and long haul on Airbus. I became a Captain after just 3.5 years. A few years later a made the only mistake in my life by moving to the wrong company. Since then I am a First Officer again, now for over 20 years and will retire as such, because my company is shrinking and there hasn’t been an upgrade in the last ten years. If I may, I’d like to give you some pieces of advice:

    – If you move away from your present employer don’t rely on promises like ‘fast track upgrades’, etc. that are not written down and signed in a contract.
    – Become a Captain as fast as possible because I you get older as a First Officer you will be discriminated by your age if you want to move to countries like China, Germany or Switzerland.
    – A degree in Aeronautical Engineering doesn’t help at all in pursuing a pilots career. It’s not about how qualified you are, it’s about whom you know.
    – Always pay your taxes.

    This business is full of lies and broken promises. Be careful.

    All the best and happy landings.

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  20. Dear Pilot Maria,

    I am flight training student at the moment,
    I really enjoyed read the steps you had to get through in order to achieve it.
    THANKS A LOT.

    Best regards,

    Benvindo Kita

    (University Of Turkish Aeronautical Association)

    Like

  21. Hi maria I’m 16 and I’m in 12 I wanted become pilot how can I become pilot and I’m big big fan of yours and your new leather jacket is awsm ………….keep flying …how it feels when you fly so high ….. above the clouds…

    Like

  22. Hi Maria! I love your instagram photos and the fact that your a pilot and a woman! My dream has always been to be a pilot and next month I’m going to psychological tests for an airline pilot school. I just wanted to ask if you have any tips or guides how to prepare for the test. Or is there any possibility to train some skills? How did you pass all the tests before getting in to the school?

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    1. Hi☺️☺️ You can always do simple IQ tests at home, there are plenty to find online. Other than that it’s not much to prepare, take a deep breath before and relax, be yourself and take your time through the exercises ☺️☺️

      Like

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