Few professions can match the perks of being a pilot.
But with prestige comes an overwhelming weight of responsibilities. Whereas the engine is the heart of the airplane, the pilot is its soul and determines the fate of all its crew and passengers.
To be competent at this job, a pilot must invest significant money and thousands of hours of practice. After all, good pilots are made, not born.
Let’s learn what it takes to get a pilot course and become a full-fledged aviator in the Philippines.
Table of Contents
Why Become a Pilot in the Philippines?
Training to be a pilot is embarking on a journey full of adventures.
You’ll see the world from the sky and glimpse “heaven” that people on the ground can only dream of.
And while it’s true that becoming a pilot puts a massive dent in your pocket, this is offset by the hefty paycheck waiting for you once you become an airline pilot, more so if you choose to work internationally.
In the survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority(PSA), it’s revealed that those in the aviation industry, aircraft pilots included, are the highest-paid workers in the Philippines, with an average monthly salary of PHP 156,8231.
Don’t forget that Filipino pilots are also in an industry that has seen unprecedented growth in recent years.
One of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers, Boeing, estimates that the global demand for highly trained pilots will skyrocket to around 800,000 in the next two decades2.
In the Philippines, the aviation market is expected to continue growing in the next five years. To keep up with increasing demands for domestic and international flights, local airlines are now shifting to smaller planes as they are quicker to fill up and depart from the terminal.
The growing number of cost-efficient airplanes and Filipino pilots reaching retirement age prompt local airlines to think outside the box regarding recruitment.
As a result, aspiring pilots without access to expensive education and training now have equal chances to fulfill their lifelong dreams.
With a huge market demand, an opportunity to travel the world, and a high salary to recover all your expenses faster than if you would become a doctor, the future is bright for aspiring Filipino aviators.
Pilot Tuition Fee Philippines: How Much Does It Cost To Become a Pilot?
Becoming a pilot entails a lot of money unless you enter the Philippine Air Force. So, if you’ve already decided to conquer the skies, you must prepare your wallet.
To get an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) and apply to be a pilot at some of the best airlines, you’ll have to shell out a rough estimate of PHP 3-5 million to afford the pilot tuition fee and expenses.
Of course, it will still depend on the flight school that you’ll be attending and the pilot training program that you’ll choose. For example, PAL has a pilot training program that costs around PHP 4-5 million but comes with a job guarantee after completion if you pass the training.
You’re not going to pay that staggering amount in a lump sum. Instead, the total training cost will be spread over the years until you become a full-fledged Airline Transport Pilot. This means that you have the chance to save money in between those years to fund your training.
Let us discuss the monetary cost of being a pilot in the Philippines.
a. How Much Does It Cost To Get a Private Pilot License (PPL)?
Let’s start with getting a Private Pilot License. Once you get this license, you may now fly an aircraft for personal purposes but not for commercial passengers. The PPL course requires at least six months with 40 flight hours to accomplish.
You need at least PHP 8,000 – PHP 10,000 to finance your school uniform and shoulder wings, logbook, and other school materials. For the PPL Ground School enrollment fee, you need at least PHP 40,000. At least a 10-hour flight simulator training costs PHP 3,000 – PHP 4,000 per hour. Finally, you must render 40 hours of flight time to complete your PPL course. The cost of each flight session depends on the aircraft you’ll be using, but the estimated total amount is PHP 280,000 – PHP 400,000.
Thus, it will cost you more than PHP 500,000 to get a Private Pilot License.
b. How Much Does It Cost To Get a Commercial Pilot License (CPL)?
To become a paid working pilot, you need to earn a CPL. You must complete at least 150 flight hours to obtain this license and, of course, a Private Pilot License.
Enrolling in a Commercial Pilot License Course will cost at least PHP 50,000 – PHP 70,000. Meanwhile, the actual flights you have to render (which will take hundreds of hours) have an estimated cost of PHP 800,000.
Thus, the estimated total cost of getting a CPL is PHP 850,000 – PHP 900,000
There’s also the Instrument Rating Course that you must take so that you can fly a commercial aircraft in any weather condition. This course consists of both actual flights and flight simulators which will cost you an estimated PHP 250,000 – PHP 300,000.
c. How Much Does It Cost To Get an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL)?
Getting an ATPL allows you to become a captain of commercial aircraft. A minimum accumulated 1,500 flight hours is required to get this license but any flight hour you get after having a CPL is accounted for the 1,500 threshold.
You have to prepare at least two million pesos to get an ATPL.
Take note, however, that you will not be paying the total training cost upfront.
How Many Years To Become a Pilot in the Philippines?
There’s no definite answer since it will all depend on several factors. You have to consider the kind of pilot that you want to become, your current educational attainment, and your financial situation or the number of flight hours that you can afford per week.
Assuming you want to be an airline pilot (as most aspiring pilots do), having a bachelor’s degree will speed up the process since most airlines include having a degree in their list of requirements for pilot recruits.
After earning a college degree, you need to get a Student Pilot License (SPL). During the validity period of your SPL, you need to get 50 flight hours before you can get your Private Pilot License (PPL). You then need to get 250 flight hours during the validity of your PPL if you want to acquire a Commercial Pilot License (CPL).
Finally, you’ll need to earn 1,500 flight hours during the validity of your CPL if you want to get the Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL), the highest pilot license.
Take note that the flight hours required for ATPL are not cumulative. This means you’ll start from zero flight hours again after getting the CPL; the flight hours you earned prior to CPL will not be counted.
It may take you several months to become a Private Pilot. If you want to be a Commercial Pilot, it will take you 3-4 years. To get the highest pilot license and become an Airline Transport Pilot, you’ll have to study and fly for a total of 5-6 years.
How To Become a Pilot in the Philippines: A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Know the Basic Qualifications You Need To Become a Pilot
While you won’t face as many restrictions when flying planes as a hobby, basic qualifications are non-negotiable if you want to take the traditional path of becoming an airline pilot.
Every person who wants to fly an airplane, whether for fun or profit, always starts with a student pilot license. This basic license is only issued to student pilots who are at least 16 years old.
Meanwhile, airline pilots usually take their final flights upon reaching the retirement age of 67. Therefore, while learning how to fly an airplane during your senior years can be fulfilling, it’s no longer feasible to consider a career as an airline pilot.
b. Educational Attainment
For the record, a college degree isn’t necessary for earning basic pilot licenses. You can be a student pilot, a private pilot, or even a commercial pilot in the Philippines with just a high school diploma.
Nevertheless, a college degree is critical if your goal is to work for the country’s major airlines.
You can only be qualified to be an airline pilot if you have a bachelor’s degree, preferably majoring in aeronautics, aviation, aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, physics, and the like.
However, any college course will do. Airlines accept applicants from diverse industries as long as they are degree holders.
A prospective pilot who finished college, regardless of the course, is presumed to have the discipline and work ethic required to survive the airline’s flight training program and be in touch with the latest technology, systems, and procedures related to the job.
Another advantage of having a non-aviation-related degree is the availability of a career option in case things go south with your application. Remember, this is a competitive industry, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a job even after earning all the required flight hours and licenses.
c. Physical Fitness
The lives of the passengers are literally in the pilot’s hands. That’s why you can’t afford to have a heart attack or suddenly go unconscious during a flight. If the pilot goes down, he’s taking all the passengers and crew with him.
Therefore, an aspiring pilot must be ” fit to fly, ” regardless of his operating aircraft. In general, a healthy candidate should have the following:
- Healthy lungs and can breathe normally even at higher altitudes where the air is thinner
- Normal 20/20 eyesight (otherwise, you will be required to wear eyeglasses or corrective lenses)
- No heart problems
- Normal blood pressure
- No hacking coughs
- No recent dizziness or fainting spells
- No history of illegal drug use
- No hearing problems/deafness that could prevent the person from hearing instructions of air traffic controllers
- No recurring headaches
- No history of epilepsy
- No insulin dependency (if diabetic)
- No alcohol dependency
- No color blindness, as a pilot needs to distinguish different colors, mainly red and green, which are the colors of anti-collision lights
- No history of mental illness
- No acrophobia or extreme fear of heights
- No sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS
- No arthritis, osteoporosis, and other joint disorders
- No recurrent infections
- No nervous system issues/disorders
To ensure that you’re medically/physically fit to fly an airplane, you’ll be required to get a medical certificate before beginning your flight training.
There are different types of medical certificates being issued to aviators. Depending on the pilot license you’re applying for, you can be given a third-class, second-class, or first-class medical certificate.
For instance, the first-class/class 1 medical certificate is designed for pilots applying for the Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL), the highest and the most important among pilot licenses.
To secure a medical certificate, proceed to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines head office and have yourself assessed by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).
The AME will combine the findings/readings from different medical professionals to develop a report. These include but are not limited to the electrocardiogram (ECG) reading from a cardiologist, eye exam results from the optometrist, hearing test results from the audiometrist, and chest X-ray results from a pulmonologist.
Your physical health will also be evaluated with the help of your dental certificate, urinalysis, and drug test result, among others.
d. English Proficiency
Radio communication is vital in ensuring the safety of each flight. Since English is the language of international aviation, all Filipino pilots are trained to use it whenever they communicate via aircraft radio.
Therefore, if you can’t speak or understand the language well, you will have difficulty following directions from the control tower.
Being adept in English helps a lot when accomplishing the required paperwork (all written in English) before each flight.
For the record, there’s no height requirement included in the Philippine Civil Aviation Regulations.
This is only imposed by airline companies, primarily concerned about the pilot’s ability to manipulate the controls in the cockpit.
They want to ensure that your limbs are long enough so that your hands can reach the knobs, levers, buttons, and switches while your feet can step on the brakes and rudders.
Philippine Airlines requires its pilots to be at least 5’4″ in height.
International airline companies also have their height requirements, as listed below:
- Cathay Pacific – 163 cm.
- British Airways – 157 to 190 cm.
- Singapore Airlines – 165 cm.
- Lufthansa – 165 to 198 cm.
Again, there’s no height requirement to become a pilot. Only when aspiring to be an airline pilot should you comply with the aforementioned companies’ requirements.
And even if they’re looking for a specific height now, this rule is never set in stone.
As long as you’re not applying in the military (which is much more strict regarding following their guidelines), you still have a chance to be a pilot despite having short or average stature.
The worst case that might happen is having your application rejected. However, there’s also the possibility that they will pick you based on your flight experience and not your height.
If you don’t make it as an airline pilot, you can also try other alternatives that aren’t as strict regarding height. Among the jobs that you can consider are corporate aircraft pilot, traffic info pilot, agricultural spraying pilot, flight instructor, and pilot for skydiving companies.
2. Consider Taking a Discovery Flight (Optional)
Also known as an orientation flight, a discovery flight is a 30-minute or 1-hour instructional demonstration flight where a certified flight instructor will give you a glimpse of the world of flying.
After trying a flight simulator, you will be given a pre-flight briefing, so you understand what will take place in the cockpit and the different safety measures you need to observe.
Finally, you will be flying onboard a real aircraft–either a Cessna 152 or Cessna 172–with the flight instructor handling both the takeoff and landing. Sometimes, you can take the controls mid-flight once the instructor notices you’re at ease.
A discovery flight is similar to “shadowing,” wherein you accompany a professional to the workplace to see what it’s like to work in a particular industry.
This is a relaxed, no-pressure environment; you can ask as many questions as possible to determine whether becoming an aviator is your best career choice.
Recommended to young students fascinated by flying and frustrated pilots who want to relive their childhood dreams, the discovery flight is an introductory course usually offered by flight schools to promote their array of pilot courses.
Prices range from PHP 8,000 to PHP 12,000 per hour, depending on what type of aircraft you’ll be using. For more info, contact the nearest flight school in your area.
3. Choose Your Preferred Pathway To Become a Pilot
There’s no one straight path to becoming a pilot in the Philippines.
You don’t necessarily have to work for a commercial airline to be a pilot. As long as you’re licensed to fly an aircraft, you earn the right to be a pilot.
However, the number of pilot licenses you’re willing to earn will eventually determine what type of pilot you’ll become. Among these licenses, the Airline Transport Pilot License has the highest rank and is the most difficult to obtain.
Assuming that your ultimate goal is to earn the Airline Transport Pilot License and work for commercial airlines, here’s a summary of the licenses you must earn first before you get to the top:
- Student Pilot License – is the license issued to beginners in the earliest stages of pilot training. The minimum age for student pilots is 16, which means you can earn this license by enrolling in a flying school after graduating from high school–no college degree is required.
- Private Pilot License enables you to fly solo or with passengers/cargo without compensation. It’s like driving your car to give family and friends a ride to a particular destination. You don’t get paid for doing so, unlike taxi drivers, who are the counterparts of commercial pilots (see next item).
- Commercial Pilot License permits you to fly a plane as a paid professional. The second-highest pilot license, the CPL allows you to get paid while earning the flight hours required to work for commercial airlines. Unlike airline pilots, commercial pilots are paid to fly planes with a limited number of passengers. They are usually hired by corporations, private individuals, or the government to fly planes for specific purposes such as transporting cargo, performing agricultural spraying, doing sightseeing flights, etc.
- Airline Transport Pilot License – considered the highest civilian license that will allow you to fly passenger airlines. You will need to accumulate 1,500 flying hours to get to this level. To make the most of their time, aspiring airline pilots usually work as flight instructors to gain the required flight hours while getting paid. Aside from the flight hours, you will also need to train and pass specific qualifications such as Instrument Rating (to legally fly planes during inclement weather by relying on the instruments in the aircraft), Multi-Engine Rating (to fly aircraft with more than one engine which is the case for airliners), and Type Rating (to fly a specific aircraft).
Now that you know the licenses you need to obtain to work as an airline pilot, it’s time to figure out where and how to get them.
Although it takes a lot of money (we’re talking about millions of pesos) to become an airline pilot, some ways exist to minimize or eliminate training costs.
In summary, here are four major pathways to fulfill your dream of becoming an airline pilot in the Philippines:
a. Enroll in a Flight School
If you can afford it, you can go straight to a flight training school and earn the licenses you need to become a pilot. Note that local airlines require their pilots to be college graduates, so complete a four-year degree program (any course) before enrolling in a flying school.
Most flying schools in the Philippines offer some or all of the following pilot courses:
- Private Pilot License Training Program
- Instrument Rating Training Program
- Multi-Engine Training Program
- Commercial Pilot License with Instrument Rating
- Commercial Pilot License with Multi-Engine and Instrument Rating
Although it’s the most expensive option, it also provides the quickest pathway to a job as an airline pilot.
For example, the flight school OMNI Aviation has a partnership with PAAT (Philippine Academy for Aviation Training), a joint venture of CAE and Cebu Pacific. Since Cebu Pacific partly owns PAAT, graduates only require 200 hours to become a Cebu Pacific First Officer, unlike non-PAAT graduates who must accumulate 500+ hours.
b. Finish an Aviation-Related College Degree Program
While you can become an airline pilot regardless of the course you take in college, an aviation-related program allows you to dive into the nuts and bolts of the industry early on.
It’s like getting into a medical school with a medical-related course as your pre-med. Although med school is open to everyone, the subtle advantages of exposure to science or hospital work during your pre-med years are hard to deny.
Some of the degree programs related to aviation that you can take before enrolling in a flight school include, but are not limited to, the following:
- BS Aviation Major in Commercial Flying
- BS Aviation Major in Aviation Management
- BS Aeronautical Engineering
- BS Aircraft Maintenance Technology
After completing an aviation-related program, you can leverage it to get into an actual flight school.
For example, you can work as an aircraft mechanic/technician and enroll in a pilot course once you save enough funds.
c. Be Qualified in an Airline Cadet Pilot Program
A cadet pilot program is scholarship airlines offer to meet their increasing demands for pilots.
This is ideal for those who can’t afford a pilot course. The airline will shoulder all expenses; a job is guaranteed after you complete the training.
You will commit to multi-year exclusive employment with the airline in exchange for the scholarship. Therefore, it’s not free but a “study now, pay later” scheme used by airlines to encourage more aspiring pilots to join them.
In the Philippines, Cebu Pacific opens its cadet pilot program every year3. The lucky few who pass the rigorous online and onsite screening process are sent to Australia for a 56-week integrated flying training, after which they’ll earn a commercial pilot license and work for Cebu Pacific as First Officers for a maximum of ten years.
d. Join the Military and Become a Philippine Air Force Pilot
There are two key paths to get the training and licenses you need to become a commercial airline pilot in the Philippines.
The first three options we’ve discussed are traditional ways to get civilian flight training. The other way to train as a pilot is by joining the military.
Just like in a cadet pilot program, the government will subsidize your flight education and training in the military. To become an Air Force pilot, you have two options:
- Enter the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) with the Air Force as your branch of service. You must be at least 17 years old to be qualified in PMA.
- Complete a four-year college degree program (chemistry, physics, engineering, or computer science courses are preferred) and then apply to the Philippine Air Force Officer Candidate School. Getting into this school will then help you enter the Philippine Air Force Flying School.
Since the government will shoulder the tuition, the pilots who graduate from the program must render at least 12 years of service, after which they’re free to apply for a job at commercial airlines.
During your years of service as a military pilot at the Philippine Air Force, be prepared to have unconventional experiences in flying an aircraft. You’ll get to fly the plane close to the ground at high speed, fly near and into combat zones, and expose yourself to the dangers of working as a fighter pilot.
4. Get a Student Pilot License To Start Your Flight Training
All pilots start their journey as students.
Whether you’re getting civilian or military flight training, your learning years are usually divided into two phases:
- Ground School. For the first few months, you’ll delve into the academic aspect of flight. In this structured classroom setup, you’ll learn the basics of aerodynamics, aircraft parts, radio communication, weather, and other fundamental aviation concepts.
- Flight Training. After building your knowledge foundation and passing the exams at the Ground School, you can now start taking actual flying lessons from a certified instructor.
Before you can start flying a plane, however, you must first obtain the following requirements:
- Student Pilot License (SPL) issued by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP). You don’t have to be a college graduate to get this license, but you must be at least 16 years old at the time of application.
- Class 2 Medical Certificate to ensure that you’re safe to fly. To be issued this certificate, a medical examiner will ensure that you’re not using/abusing drugs, have good eyesight (use of corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses are allowed), and are physically and mentally fit for the job.
- Other requirements: NBI Clearance to prove the applicant hasn’t committed any crime; and English proficiency so the candidate can easily engage in radio communications.
Most flight schools assist their students with the license application. Once you’re issued the certificates, you can start your flying lessons.
As soon as you’re deemed ready to fly the aircraft, your flight instructor will prepare you for your first solo flight. Flying on a plane without an instructor is one of the first milestones you’ll never forget.
After your first solo flight and getting an NTC Radio Operator’s License, you can now earn additional flight hours.
Every hour you spend flying a plane costs a lot of money, but it’s necessary for you to build enough confidence and the 40 to 50 hours of flight time required to proceed to the next level: the Private Pilot License (PPL).
5. Become a Licensed Private Pilot
A Private Pilot License (PPL) is the first official and internationally recognized license you’ll get after graduating with a student license.
Earning a PPL is like finally having the right to drive your car after receiving training from a driving school.
Since it’s a “private” license, you can only fly an aircraft for personal pleasure or business purposes. Private pilots aren’t allowed to “work” or be paid for their services.
Despite its limitations, a private pilot license allows you to do what most people can’t–operate an aircraft that you’ve been type rated to fly and see the beauty of the skies at any time.
You can fly solo or carry more than one passenger anywhere in the country. You can also use the license to fly an airplane and do something meaningful, like joining search and rescue missions.
A student pilot can move up to the private pilot level by taking and passing the Private Pilot License (PPL) course, which lasts up to 6 months. The PPL course is a training program that will cover the basic principles of aviation, which include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Theory of flight
- Air traffic communications and control
- Civic air regulations
- Basic principles of meteorology, air navigation, aircraft performance, and weight and balance
In addition to completing the PPL course, the student pilot must also accumulate at least 40 flight hours which can be a combination of solo and dual flights (with the instructor).
Here are the other requirements you need to meet to be issued a private pilot license by CAAP:
- At least 17 years of age
- At least a High School graduate
- Must be fluent in English
- Holds a 2nd or 3rd Class Medical Certificate
- Flight logbook (containing the records of at least 40 flight hours)
- NBI Clearance
- NTC License (Radio Telephony)
- Passed the ATO Knowledge test
- Passed the ATO Practical Flight and Oral Examination test
6. Earn a Commercial Pilot License To Get Paid To Fly
To reach your goal of working as an airline pilot, you need to log hundreds of flight hours.
However, paying for every flight hour can quickly drain your finances if you only have a private pilot license. Remember, having a private pilot license means you can’t be paid to fly.
A more practical approach is to accumulate flying hours and earn money while doing so. This is only possible if you get a Commercial Pilot License (CPL), enabling you to get paid as a working pilot.
You can work as a flight instructor or explore other opportunities that will pay you for your skills. These include jobs as a corporate pilot, agricultural spray pilot, cargo pilot, air charter pilot, etc.
With a CPL, you can gain more flight time and experience while earning back the money you initially invested in your pilot course.
To get a Commercial Pilot License and start flying for a living, you need to meet the following requirements:
- At least 18 years old
- At least a High School Graduate
- Holds a Private Pilot License (PPL), a requirement you must have before upgrading to a commercial license. In other words, you can’t apply for a CPL if you don’t have a PPL.
- Flight logbook containing the records of at least 150 flight hours. This combines the 110 minimum flight hours required in CPL Training and the 40 hours you’ve earned through your private pilot license for 150 hours.
- English Language Proficiency (at least Level 4)
- Holds a valid 1st Class Medical Certificate
- NBI Clearance
- Passed the ATO Knowledge test
- Passed the ATO Practical Flight Test and Oral Examination (Check ride)
- NTC License (Radio Telephony)
- Multi-Engine Rating
- Instrument Rating
As you can see from the list above, you need to secure add-on ratings (Instrument and Multi-Engine) and a private pilot license to get paid to fly.
These ratings are indispensable since you’ll be operating an airplane completely different from what you used to fly when you were still a student or a private pilot.
Besides, you’re now getting paid, so your employers/passengers need assurance that you’re qualified for the job.
Here’s a summary of the two add-on ratings every commercial pilot must have:
a. Instrument Rating
The Instrument Rating enables you to fly an aircraft in any weather condition. An instrument-rated pilot is trained to operate airplanes even in low or zero visibility (due to fog, clouds, rain, etc.) using the cockpit instruments with high precision.
Training starts on the ground, where you’ll learn–either through a flight instructor or self-study–the basics of using instruments for navigation and approaches; communicating with air traffic control; avoiding wind shear; and operating the aircraft under instrument flight rules (IFR).
Next, you must take and pass a written exam to ensure you’re equipped with the right knowledge before moving to the next phase.
After the exam, you must log the required flight hours.
Starting from a simulator and transitioning into cross-country flights under IFR, you’ll demonstrate to the instructor that you can employ different instrument approaches, perform emergency operations, use navigation systems, and complete air traffic control procedures/clearances.
b. Multi-Engine Rating
Since you’ll be operating a bigger multi-engine aircraft, this rating will be useful if you seek employment as a commercial pilot.
Getting a Multi-Engine Rating is relatively easier. After a few weeks, you can be issued this rating, provided you already have a private pilot license.
To get rated, you must also undergo ground and flight training. Ground instruction provides the fundamentals of multi-engine aerodynamics, maneuvers, emergencies, and procedures. As for the flight training, you must log at least 10 to 15 flight hours before being fully prepared for the check ride.
You can apply for jobs after getting the commercial pilot license and gaining the above-mentioned add-on ratings.
You can build more hours by flying planes for somebody else or working as a flight instructor. Either way, you’ll get paid a handsome fee while earning the required hours to qualify for a major airline job.
7. Work as an Airline Pilot
Flying a multi-crew aircraft for a commercial airline is what most pilots consider the ultimate career goal.
After spending significant time and money to earn hundreds of flight hours and getting multiple pilot licenses and ratings, getting hired as an airline pilot is like reaching the finish line.
There are three ways for pilots to land this lucrative job.
First, you can apply for a job as an airline pilot straight from the military.
Since Air Force pilots must commit to a multi-year contract with the government, most airlines hire them assuming they’re already seasoned pilots with thousands of flying hours under their belts.
Second, you can apply for a job at an airline even if you only have a Commercial Pilot License (CPL), provided you have also secured add-on ratings such as Type Rating, Multi-Engine Rating, Instrument Rating, etc.
Most airlines accept pilots with a commercial license, an Instrument Rating, and at least 200 flight hours. Of course, the more flying hours you accumulate before your application, the better your chances will be.
If accepted, you’ll work alongside the Captain as a First Officer.
FOs are at the bottom of the pecking order. It’s a demanding entry-level position with a relatively lower salary than other higher-ranking airline pilots.
However, if you persist and gain more flight hours, you can move up the ladder as soon as your Captain retires.
The last option to become an airline pilot is to keep flying until you accumulate 1,500 flight hours. By gaining this flying experience, you’re already qualified to apply for an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATP), the highest certification any civilian pilot can obtain.
Take note that the required flight time is not cumulative. In other words, you must start earning at least 1,500 flying hours immediately after getting the commercial pilot license.
All flying hours you’ve accumulated before getting the CPL will not be counted.
With an ATP license, you can operate and command a large, multi-crew commercial aircraft from the get-go.
In other words, you’ll immediately work as an aircraft captain once hired, unlike those with a commercial pilot license who have to start from the bottom as FOs.
To be qualified for the Airline Transport Pilot License (ATP), you need to obtain the following:
- Commercial Pilot License (CPL)
- 1st Class Medical Certificate
- Flight logbook containing the records of your flying time (at least 1,500 hours)
- NTC License
- English Language Proficiency (at least level 4)
- ATO Certificate of ATPL Ground Training
8. Explore Opportunities for Career Advancement
If you started as a First Officer, aspiring to become a Captain is only appropriate.
The Captain is the first command in a multi-crew aircraft, receiving the highest paycheck while having a relatively easier workload. However, gaining experience and accumulating the specified number of flying hours is paramount to getting to this level.
In addition to getting an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license, an aspiring Captain must also pass an exam given by the regulator and the airline company’s screening.
Candidates must also undergo online assessments and flight simulator training and submit all the other requirements.
Once you become a captain, you can continue working and honing your skills until you reach the retirement age of 67.
You can still explore post-retirement opportunities if you’re up for the challenge. Retired pilots can work as an instructor in various training schools like PAAT. Or, they can work as an inspector tasked with supervising and issuing certifications to pilot training schools and their trainees.
Tips and Warnings
1. Your aptitude and attitude will determine your career altitude
Becoming a pilot is more than having flying skills. You don’t need to be a math genius or a rocket scientist to succeed in this profession.
In an interview with the Philippine News Agency4, Samuel Avila, a pilot-turned-Cebu Pacific (CEB) vice president for Flight Operations, shares three essential traits that every aspiring aviator should have:
- Passion. Instead of letting the high salary become your primary motivation, join this profession with a service-oriented mindset. A pilot driven by money alone will soon find the tediousness of the job unbearable. By contrast, a passionate pilot considers it a privilege to transport people or goods to their destinations because it’s one way of contributing to nation-building.
- Hard work. The road to becoming an airline pilot is long and bumpy. There’s no shortcut to success, so if you’re not patient enough to spend years gaining experience, this might not be for you.
- Discipline. A disciplined pilot knows how to apply what he’s learned and use common sense when needed. You need to know how to follow the rules and look at the aircraft as a machine with limitations. Play by the rules and consistently learn from each experience. You’ll develop essential skills to succeed as a pilot, namely: situational awareness, quick reaction time, good depth perception, problem-solving skills, good communication skills, sound judgment, as well as knowledge of and ability to monitor the onboard systems.
2. Continuous learning will save your life–and your passengers’
In this profession, it’s a mortal sin to be complacent.
Remember, the lives of the crew and your passengers are in your hands, so you need to be prepared in times of emergency.
Take emergency maneuver training and other relevant courses to help you become a reliable pilot when the unthinkable happens.
One of the common reasons why planes crash is pilot error. A way to prevent this is to keep yourself updated with the latest technologies and changes in aviation regulations. This industry constantly evolves, so if you can’t keep up with the changes, you’re risking other people’s lives (and yours).
3. Learn to fly with an instructor before trying flight simulator games, not the other way around
While playing flight simulator games can be fun, it’s not a good idea to expose yourself to them before enrolling in a pilot course.
For one, a flight simulator game only remotely resembles the thrill of flying an actual aircraft. It may also cause you to pick up the bad habit of solely relying on your instruments instead of looking outside to gauge how the aircraft is doing.
Good pilots know how to fly airplanes visually or under VFR (visual flight rules). If you initially train yourself to fly this way, you’ll see things from a broader perspective.
So instead of looking at and relying on your instruments alone, you’ll figure out how the aircraft moves and “feels” every time you manipulate the controls and learn to adjust it accordingly.
Remember this rule when flying: “Look outside, glance inside.” Learn to fly visually by looking at the horizon and for other airplanes around you. Then, verify with your instruments if your judgment is correct.
Only use flight simulator games as a supplementary training tool AFTER flying with an actual instructor for a while. Flight sims are ideally used to develop and gauge your abilities to maneuver an aircraft during life-threatening situations, all while staying in a safe environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What course should I take to become a pilot?
You can take up any course in college and still become a pilot. No need to take up an aviation-related degree in order to be qualified to learn how to fly any form of aircraft or become an airline pilot.
Whether you’re enrolling in an aviation college or applying for a cadet pilot program, you can do so regardless of your college major. You’ll get to learn everything you need to know about flying once you’re in anyway.
There are some people in the industry who believe that aeronautics and engineering graduates have some kind of edge over graduates with unrelated degrees. But remember, you’ll be flying an airplane, not fixing one.
Meanwhile, for practical reasons, some believe that it can actually be good to pursue a different major during college and then go to an aviation school after. This way, you’ll get to have some kind of a fallback in case becoming a pilot won’t work out for you.
2. Where can I study to become a pilot in the Philippines?
There are several good flight schools in the Philippines that you can choose from. But there are things you need to keep in mind when making your final decision.
First, make sure that you only choose a government-accredited flight school. You can find a list of all the government-accredited Flying and Maintenance Schools at the official website of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
Being accredited by the CAAP is a good indicator that it’s a good school since it follows the regulations and requirements set by the government in order to create a safe and effective environment for learning how to fly.
Then, make sure to pick a school with a great reputation. It should have well-maintained facilities and approachable staff. More importantly, the school must prioritize its students’ safety.
You also have to consider the different pilot training programs that they offer and the kind of training that you actually need. Some schools accept undergraduates while others only train students who already have their degrees. There are also schools that have a partnership with airlines to give their graduates an edge when applying for jobs as airline pilots.
The next factor that you have to consider is the school’s location. As much as possible, pick a school that’s near where you live so you won’t need to travel for hours just to get to your flying session. The weather can also drastically change so the longer your travel time, the more likely it is that you’ll deal with unfavorable weather by the time you arrive at the school.
Studying at a flight school near your place will also significantly lessen your expenses since you won’t have to rent your own place nor spend money on additional living expenses.
You should look for a school that offers a flexible class and flying schedule, especially if you’re as young as 16 and still goes to high school or if you’re working full-time to support your family and your schooling.
The tuition fee or training costs shouldn’t be a huge factor in choosing your flight school since the cost of pilot training is standard anyway. However, there are schools that can help you afford their flight training program by offering ‘Study Now, Pay Later’, bank loans, monthly payments instead of a lump sum, and a lot more.
In summary, these are the top things to consider when choosing a flight school: reputation, pilot training program, location, class schedule, and payment programs.
To help you do your research and compare different flight schools, we’ve listed down some of the best flight schools when it comes to training programs, reputation, and tuition fees:
1. Omni Aviation Corporation.
Address: Manuel A Roxas Highway, Clark Freeport Zone, 2009 Clark, Philippines
Contact Information: (+63) (045) 499-6664, (+63) (045) 599-5524
2. Philippine Airlines (PAL) Aviation School.
Address: PAL Aviation School, Gate 3, Andrews Avenue, Nichols, Pasay City
Contact Information: 02-320-8015 ; 02-855-8000 locals 2318 and 2194
3. PATTS College of Aeronautics.
Address: Lombos Avenue, San Isidro, Sucat, Parañaque City 1700
Telephone Number: (632) 825-8823
Email Address: [email protected]
4. WCC Aviation Company.
Address: Hangar 1, Binalonan Airfield, Bgy. Linmansangan, Binalonan, Pangasinan, 2436
Telephone Number: (+6375) 562 5423
Email Address: [email protected]
5. Asian Institute of Aviation.
Address: 4/F Planters Products Bldg. 109 Esteban St. Legazpi Village, Makati City 1229
Telephone Numbers: +632 8182332 loc 131, +632 8057646
Email Address: [email protected]
6. Alpha Aviation Group.
Address: 1092 Jose Abad Santos Ave, Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga
Telephone Number: +63 (0) 45 599 7435 to 36
Email Address: [email protected]
7. Airlink International Aviation College.
Address: Air Link Building, Domestic Road, Domestic Airport, Pasay City 1301
Telephone Number: +63.2.8854.5795
Email Address: [email protected]
3. How much do pilots in the Philippines earn?
Although pilot earnings vary depending on the airline, these are the best estimates when it comes to an airline pilot’s monthly salary, starting from the lowest rank:
First Class Officer – Php 175,000 – Php 180,000
Captain Pilot – Php 275,000 – Php 280,000
Senior Captain – Php 350,000 and above
When it comes to local airlines like Cebu Pacific, a First Class Officer usually takes home Php 80,000 to Php 120,000 per month. Take note that a pilot’s earnings also depend on his/her ratings and number of flight hours earned.
Depending on the airline, pilots also receive additional compensation in the form of transportation and living costs, clothing, meal, and hotel allowances, and more.
Airline pilots get paid per flight hour. This means that the pilot only starts earning money once the plane takes off. It’s also the reason why most senior pilots prefer international flights: getting longer flight hours means getting more earnings.
4. Is it hard to become a pilot?
Becoming a pilot can be physically, emotionally, and financially draining. However, it will all be worth it in the end if this is what you really want.
So what it’s really like to work as a pilot?
First, you have to know that becoming a pilot requires continuous education and training. This is especially true if you have an ambition of working for commercial airlines. Just because you know how to fly a Cessna or a trainer aircraft doesn’t mean you can already fly an airbus or a Boeing with ease.
As you climb up the pilot career ladder, you need to keep upgrading your knowledge and skills as well. After all, flying an aircraft is unlike driving a car where your driving skills can be applied to any type of car. Each airplane that you’ll fly will require a “type-rating” so be ready to be a lifelong student.
You also need to keep your physical and mental health in tiptop shape, especially if you’re an airline pilot who have hundreds of passengers to safely transport across the world. Exercise regularly, eat right and have a life outside work.
You’ll also be dealing with the ever-changing weather and seasons. Depending on the airline, you might also encounter some type of seniority culture where you’re supposed to pay respects to the older pilots or else become a victim of bullying.
It’s not easy to become a pilot given the amount of responsibility–and compensation–which comes with the job. Probably the worst part is you’ll miss a lot of family events but the reward of providing for the needs of your family is worth all the sacrifices.
In the end, if flying is your passion, you can successfully overcome any struggle that comes your way.
5. Is being a pilot dangerous?
In reality, being a pilot can actually be dangerous. When you’re flying a plane thousands of feet above the ground, there are so many things that could go wrong.
There’s a reason why pilot training involves long hours of studying, a lot of exams, and thousands of flight hours. And that’s to avoid unfortunate incidents while you’re up in the air like crashing or more professionally known as “Controlled Flight into Terrain”.
If you become an airline pilot, you’re responsible for hundreds of lives so you have to make sure to be on your best condition when you fly and be able to make sound judgments during the flight.
The most important thing to remember is to avoid flying into clouds. Small training planes don’t have collision avoidance radar so you won’t see if there’s an incoming plane and won’t have the chance to shift in a different direction in order to avoid the plane.
In order to prepare yourself if ever you’ll be in an unfortunate situation during your flight, consider taking the complete emergency maneuver training and earn as much flight-hour experience as you can to improve your judgment and decision-making process.
6. How long do pilots stay away from home? Is it possible to be an airline pilot and have a normal family life?
It’s completely possible to be an airline pilot and still have a normal family life. However, you might have to change your definition of normal.
If normal means working from 9-5 and coming home to dinner or maybe working during weekdays and staying home for weekends, then it might be unattainable.
Even though it might be hard to achieve a standard normal family life, yours doesn’t necessarily have to be so different. You can still have time to watch your kids grow even if you’ll be away for long periods at times.
Although your general schedule and routine will still vary depending on your rank and the type of flights that you’ll be taking, the situation is pretty much the same for all pilots. The main factor is seniority.
During the first few years of your career, you won’t have the freedom to choose your days off, flights, and your general schedule. You’ll be having off days during weekdays while you might be working during the weekend which is when precious family time usually happens. You might also miss a lot of birthdays, holidays, and special family events.
That can change once you climb up the ranks and become a senior pilot. You’ll have some freedom to choose when you want to work, what days or weeks to take time off from work, and even which flights to take. It might be hard to balance work and family life at first, but it will definitely get better as time passes.
Note that there are instances when you’ll be unable to fly back home after completing a flight somewhere far away, most probably due to bad weather or mechanical issues with the plane. For this reason, you should always have an overnight bag with you containing your everyday essentials like clothes, toiletries, charger, extra battery or power bank, as well as some cash.
7. How many days do pilots work?
On average, pilots get around 12-15 workdays per month. It may not seem like a lot but when you consider the travel time between flights and during the commute to and from the airport you’ll be working in, it can add up to 5-7 additional days per month spent away from home.
You’ll also be away from home for two or more succeeding weeks if you have back-to-back flights and there’s not enough time to go home and come back for the next flight. Your schedules will be likewise full during holidays since those are the busiest days for airlines.
8. Can I become a pilot without a degree?
Yes, you can become a pilot even without a college degree. In fact, most flight schools accept students as young as 16 years old since it’s the minimum age requirement to get a Student Pilot License (SPL).
If you’re satisfied with getting just a Private Pilot License (PPL) or a Commercial Pilot License (CPL), then you don’t need a degree in order to be a pilot.
However, if you want to become an airline pilot, then you need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in any field. A degree is one of the requirements of the best airlines in the country since it’s a great indicator that you’re mature and experienced enough to handle all the stress, responsibility, and complexities of flying a commercial flight.
9. Do you need a 20/20 vision to be a pilot?
No, you don’t need to have a 20/20 vision in order to be a pilot.
According to government regulations, a 20/20 vision is not a requirement to fly as long as your eyesight problem can be managed with the use of corrective glasses.
Although some airlines might require pilot applicants to have perfect eyesight, you shouldn’t be discouraged to apply and still go for it. On an additional note, if you get cleared by the Aviation Medical Examiner that you’re fit to become a pilot, then it’s an indicator that your eyesight problems shouldn’t be an issue at all.
10. Can you be a pilot if you are colorblind?
Yes, you may be allowed to fly planes even if you’re colorblind but there will be restrictions when it comes to the type of planes that you‘ll be allowed to fly.
One way to determine if your color blindness will get in the way of your dream to become a pilot is by doing the red/green light test. If you can distinguish a red from a green light, then you may have a good chance of flying commercially.
For now, the best thing to do is get an Aviation Medical Exam to get properly diagnosed and have a medical professional determine if you’re fit to enroll in a flying school.
11. What is the maximum age limit to become a pilot?
There’s no age limit when it comes to becoming a pilot. However, you must consider that the retirement age of commercial pilots is 67.
You must also consider the number of flight hours that you have to earn in order to apply to be an airline pilot. Some airlines even have an age requirement for commercial pilots.
Another thing to consider is your health; it’s probably best to get an Aviation Medical Exam first to know if you’re still physically fit to fly an aircraft.
In other words, no one’s too old to learn how to fly an aircraft as long as you’re healthy. However, if you’re aiming to pursue a career as an airline pilot, then that’s an entirely different case.
12. Is there any scholarship for pilot training in the Philippines?
Yes, there are some scholarship programs for pilots that you can apply for. The most notable ones are Cebu Pacific’s ‘Study Now, Pay Later’ Program for aspiring pilots and free education at the government-funded Philippine State College of Aeronautics.
For Cebu Pacific’s ‘Study Now, Pay Later’ Program, degree holders will be given a chance to complete a one-year flight training with the expenses shouldered by the airline.
Selected applicants will be sent to Australia to complete a one-year training program consisting of integrated flying training, flight theory, and education classes. After completing the training in Australia, the students will finish type-rating and licensing requirements back in the Philippines in order to become commercial pilots.
Successful student pilots who will complete the program will become First Officers at Cebu Pacific. Once they become airline pilots, the total flight education costs will be deducted from their monthly salary over the course of 10 years.
On the other hand, the Philippine State College of Aeronautics offers free education to aspiring pilots in compliance with the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act. Students should apply for the Bachelor’s Degree in Air Transportation that involves Private Pilot Training as part of the degree program. However, it must be noted that there are certain requirements that students must meet, including a minimum General Weighted Average (GWA) of 90 and no failing grades, in order to avail of the free education program.
Another option is to inquire at your preferred flight schools and find out if they have some sort of ‘Study Now, Pay Later’ Program. Some banks have also partnered with flight schools so parents or students themselves can get loans to be used for the tuition fees. Collaterals and post-dated checks might be required in order to get approved for a loan.
If you aspire to become a professional pilot and experience studying outside the country, why not try the CADETPILOT.AERO Sponsored Pilot Cadet Programme? This scholarship program is open to all Filipino high school graduates, 18 years old and above, and fluent in written and spoken English. The chosen scholars will get a chance to study in Prague in the Czech Republic with free sponsorship, monthly stipend, housing accommodation, EU visa, round trip tickets, and health insurance.
Upon graduation of the pilot cadets, they will be employed by CADETPILOT.AERO partner airlines. The cost of the scholarship will be reimbursed through salary deductions of about 20%. This deduction is free from the interest rate, hidden costs, and any other unexpected fees.
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