Hello Captain Lim,
I was wondering if you would be able to give me some advice or tips on the best route to become a major airline pilot as you are. I am currently in the U.S. Air Force and I have been a Crew Chief for 8 years now. I never had much of an interest in airplanes until I began working on them. I probably have more knowledge of flying today (on airport operations, navigation, etc.).
I use my Microsoft Flight Simulator to learn a lot about navigation, and also by using my full set of flying charts and aircraft instruments. I currently have only a high school education, but I am about 3 classes away from my associates degree. I would like to take flying lessons but as I am stationed in England (not to mention my newborn baby), it's seemingly impossible right now. Well that's enough about me. Basically I just have these few questions:
1. What education level is required, or preferred, to fly the "big iron"?
2. Do most pilots start out flying small props to gain flying hours, or do some airlines offer a training program to start you out on jetliners?
3. As I am 27 now, does that somewhat hamper me because of my late start?
4. Do you have just any general tips for me to follow to achieve my newfound dream of becoming and airline pilot?
1. To be a pilot, a degree is preferable but not an absolute requirement. It depends on the Airlines. The Cadet Pilot or Airline Sponsorship Program is very competitive and usually the cream is selected. For instance, in one recent advert for sponsorship in UK (they have stopped this program today), there were 40,000 applications for the 100 positions available. However, not all is lost if you do not meet the stringent entry requirements. In your case, are you able to change your trade to become an Air Force pilot to gain some flying experience? Most flying jobs in the military would require a college degree although there are a few exceptions. Your military flying hours are usually recognized in civil aviation.
Once you have accumulated sufficient flying hours in the Air Force, enroll yourself into a Commercial Pilot's License course first. When your term with the Air Force expires, you would most likely be ready to seek employment in the civil sector as a co pilot in a multiengine transport airplane. You will have to work your way from the bottom of the ladder but you will not regret for you will learn a lot on the right hand seat. Most major airlines are unlikely to recruit pilots without any flying experiences.
2. A good number of pilots start off from the airline's cadet pilot or sponsorship program where they are trained in CAA or FAA approved Colleges or Flying Training Schools. They commence flying with the small single engine props, and when they graduate, they are given further training by the airlines on the jetliners.
3. You may be a bit late to join the airline cadet or sponsorship program at 27 years (most prefer younger candidates) but some airlines may have different age limit for entry into these schemes (getting very rare today).
4. Alternatively, join a Flying Club and get your Private Pilot's License. Gradually, build up your experience to become an Assistant Flying Instructor or get a Certified Flight Instructor Certificate. From there, work your way towards a Commercial Pilot License/Certificate with an Instrument and Multiengine Rating before you would be marketable as an pilot with any airlines. If you work hard enough , you will achieve your dream, though it may take a little longer.
All the best to your dreams!