So you want to be a pilot. Here’s what you should know

So you want to be a pilot. Here’s what you should know

Do you want to be a pilot? Do you know where you need to go and what you have to do? That depends on the kind of pilot that you want to be:  Commercial, private or military. Here’s how to obtain a pilot’s license so you can take to the skies aboard a plane:

What kind of pilot do you want to be?

It’s not the same to be a pilot of a commercial airliner than to be a pilot of a modern supersonic fighter. There are three basic ways of being a pilot:

  • Private pilot: The private pilot’s license is aimed at those who want to take up aviation as a hobby. In fact, one of the limitations of this license is that you can not charge for flights.
  • Professional pilot: Those who want to get involved with aviation for a living, carrying passengers from one side of the planet to another, must obtain this license.
  • Military pilot: To become a military pilot there is a prerequisite: you must join the army. A military pilot’s career is quite vocational, mainly because you must adapt to the disciplined military lifestyle. Of course, if you’re fond of aviation, there’s nothing better than flying modern military aircrafts.

JAR (Joint Aviation Requirements)

It’s the set of regulations, valid in all EU member states, which includes everything related to flight schools and licensing.

Private pilot

This degree is the right one for those aviation enthusiasts who want to further develop piloting as a hobby. To get it is necessary to attend a flight school, where you’ll receive instructions and preparation to actually fly a plane.

You must be at least 17 years old you must have a valid medical certificate. This license will allow you to fly any aircraft -other than those used in commercial flights- as a pilot or co-pilot.

The private pilot course has two parts, one is practical and the other one is theoretical. The first one consists of 45 hours of flight, 5 of which can be using a simulator. Out of these 45 hours, at least 25 must be with an instructor and at least 10 should be under a supervised solo flight. You must make at least one cross-country flight of 270km, stopping at two different aerodromes from the one you departed.

The theoretical part of the course will let you know matters such as aviation regulations, general knowledge of aircraft, performance and flight planning, meteorology, navigation, and others.

When you have completed the course, you’ll have to go through a final test: your first solo flight. If you are able to successfully do that, you will have earned your private pilot’s license.

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Image courtesy of liz west at

Professional pilot

If you want a career in aviation, obtaining a professional pilot’s permit is the most basic requirement. This degree will allow you to fly commercial aircrafts, freight planes, firefighting planes and so on.

To get the title you must be at least 18 years old and have a valid medical certificate.

You have the possibility of obtaining a degree as a professional pilot by taking one of two types of courses: integrated and modular. The integrated course is done all at once, whereas the modular one can be made by modules (as is evident by its name), and it might be a little more expensive.

The integrated course includes a minimum of 150 hours of flight. The modular course, on the other hand, includes at least 200 hours of flight.

Out of the total number of flight hours that a student makes, be it on an integrated or a modular course, it is required that between 70 and 100 of those have been executed as a pilot in command; a total of 20 hours of cross-country flight as a pilot in command including a trip of at least 540 kilometers, stopping at two different aerodromes; 10 hours of instrument instruction, of which no more than 5 may be on land; and finally 5 hours of night flight.

Whoever wishes to become a commercial pilot should also take a theoretical course which includes at least 500 hours of instruction in which the applicant is taught about areas such as aviation legislation, general knowledge of aircraft, meteorology, and navigation, among others.

Having completed the course, the student must take the final test: a solo flight that, if successfully completed, will give him or her the professional pilot license.

Type Ratings

If you become a private or commercial pilot you will be able to fly a certain type of aircraft. If you want to go deeper in your work as a pilot and fly larger and faster planes, this will require you to obtain a Type Rating. This is basically an authorization that a pilot gets to fly more complex machines, depending on their number of engines, propulsion, crew size and several other aspects.

For example, someone who has a title of private pilot is entitled to fly single engine airplanes with a maximum takeoff weight of 1500 kg. To fly a twin-engine aircraft, the conditions would vary. The same applies to commercial pilot’s licenses. Initially, a pilot who has just obtained his degree, can only carry a maximum of 19 passengers on an aircraft.


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