Airline Flight Training
and other Aviation Careers

The Career Pilot:

Click here to see what Pilots say about their careers

The first step in Airline Flight Training is to get a Private Pilot License, (for which you may NOT be paid), followed by a Commercial Pilot License (for which you may be paid). As a Commercial Pilot you may work for an Airline, or a Charter Company, but they will only consider you if you have an Instrument and Twin Engine rating, and preferably turbine or jet time as well. If you want to progress up the ranks, you will have to get your Airline Transport Pilots License. 

Airlink departs from rwy 34 at Pietermaritzburg

Although "Airline Pilot"  jumps right to the forefront when the word "pilot" is mentioned, it is not the only type of aviation lifestyle out there.

Flying jobs include a much wider variety. Sometimes pilots pass through flying vocations using them as "stepping stones" to move on to another, usually higher or potentially higher paying position. Airline Flight Training ranks highly because there is no denying that Airline jobs pay from well to very well. Plus the uniform usually looks pretty good.

There are some hard truths below, but for those of us that love flying, it's all worth it.

AVIATION CAREERS: Here are as many as I can think of, (and their licensing requirements):

- Airline Pilot (CPL okay, but will need ATLP eventually)
- Corporate Pilot (CPL okay, ATLP recommended)
- Fire Spotter Pilot (VFR CPL)
- Survey Pilot (VFR CPL)
- Charter Pilot (CPL to ATPL)
- Flight Instructor (CPL, ATPL for DE qualification required)
- Medical evacuation Pilot (IF CPL minimum)
- Fire Bomber Pilot (VFR CPL)
- Crop Sprayer / Agricultural Pilot (VFR CPL)
- Contract Pilot (IF CPL minimum)
- Aerobatic Display Pilot (VFR PPL / CPL)
- Bush Pilot (VFR CPL)
- Police Pilot (VFR CPL minimum)
- Nature Conservation Pilot (VFR PPL / CPL)
- Airforce Pilot.(Military qualification, in-house)



Private Pilot License (you may NOT be paid for flying, but you may fly for your company provided you hold a position other than that of a Pilot, otherwise you need a CPL)


Commercial Pilot License (you are a professional pilot and may be paid) minimum 200-250 hours training.  Can be VFR or IFR, choose twin or single engine aircraft, but must be rated in a complex aircraft with VP and retrac.


Airline Transport Pilot License - the next step up from a CPL, minimum 1500 hours to your name.  You must have an IFR and multi-engine ratings, and may now captain big jets.(Company discretion).


Visual Flight Rules - You may only fly when you can see where you are going.


Instrument Flight Rules - You may fly through and above clouds and don't have to see where you are going as you will be using your aircraft instruments to fly and navigate.


Variable Pitch


Retractable undercarriage

Your Career is tied to your personal health
Earning an income as a pilot, as with any profession, is dependent on your health. One can take out both life insurance and license insurance, so that you are covered for any eventuality. Airline flight training is a very specific direction, and a loss of license due to medical reasons can be devastating.

Aviation Insurers in South Africa are Dennis Jankelow & Associates, and Flightsure.

Your Future
As with any career, you start at the bottom and work your way up. Every hour you earn adds to airline flight training. Some Aviation Careers pay a lot better than others, and each promise different lifestyles. Think about where you would like to be in 20 years. This will help you with your decisions now and in the future.

Take any job you can get in an aviation company, even if it does not involve flying at first. Stay positive, show the powers that be that you are made of the right stuff, and you are likely to get into the cockpit long before an outsider. In aviation, networking is paramount, and people help people they know, like and trust.

Airline flight training never ends, even once in the airline there will always be another aircraft to convert to, requiring weeks of training.

Family Life
You will be away from home a lot unless you choose something like flight instruction,(dismal income in SA, better in some other parts of the world) or fire fighting (reasonable to good income in SA, some contracts 6 months, others permanent employment. Expect to spend 6 months in one small town part of the country, and 6 months in another small town part of the country).

As a parent you will need a forgiving partner, or a dependable Au Pair or nanny to raise your child(ren), because you won't be around much. In the long term, relationships for pilots are challenging since they are often long distance.

Forgetting about the delight of flying:
Some pilots have become a bit jaded. Airline Flight Training is sometimes a long road. I suppose that is like some lawyers, doctors, accountants, business men, bank clerks, drug dealers... it doesn't matter what you do for a living, doing it for long enough can make you a little dis-illusioned, a little dull, a little used up.

I can only speak for myself, there are days that I would rather be doing something other than flying, but then there are those incredible days, crystal skies, crisp horizons, views into forever, or days that I just think "Shite! I'm good!" Days like this re-connect me with that exuberance I felt when I first chose this profession. The former happens usually as the result of a storm or heavy rain that cleans the skies, the latter, when I have handled the aircraft particularly well, and the aircraft and weather have co-operated so that I congratulate myself on my exceptional flying ability. What fun!

The Inside Story
There is no better way to learn about what each route is like than from someone who is or has been there, so ask people you meet who are doing what you would like to do. If you are already an Aviation Professional, and have been through the rigors of Airline Flight Training or any other specialized flight training, please share your knowledge so that those who are following you can do so with their eyes open.

The information you submit below will not instantly go "live", but will first be approved by the moderator, and should appear live within 3 days.

Your input is greatly valued and appreciated.

Tell wanna-be's what your job is like.

Remember when you were a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed wanna-be pilot? Many people reading these pages are now what you were then.

Pay it forward and give a little more back to aviation by telling potential future colleagues what your current job is all about. You may give your name, a 'nome de plume', or just be anonymous.

Below are some points that may be helpful to newcomers:

  • Your current position, and the aircraft you fly.
  • Where you are based.
  • An idea of your flying schedule.
  • Benefits of having your job.
  • Drawbacks of having your job.
  • Your relationship status.
  • The income bracket you fall in. People always like to know what they could expect to earn in a similar position:

    *less than R15,000 per month

    *R15,000 to < R30,000 per month

    *R30,000 to < R45,000 per month

    *R45,000 to < R60,000 per month

    *more than R60,000 per month

  • any other relevant information.

    How did you get to where you are today?

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    What Other Aviators Have Said

    Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

    Easy flying for Pineapple AIR

    I've been part of this industry since I was 3 years old. My dad bought his first crop spraying aircraft in 1989, a Piper Pawnee (ZS-EVG), and I was inspired …

    Previous Chief Pilot of Richards Bay Air Carriers now Corporate Pilot Flying for Hangar 8 PLC 
    My aviation career began back in 2006 when I attended Zero Four Flight School in Margate. The choice of the school was mainly due to its proximity to …

    Life as a Contract Pilot 
    So there you are, with a commercial license and maybe more than a few hundred hours under the belt. It’s just no more fun to fly around in the circuit …

    Life as a Senior Flight Instructor
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    - As person in charge of our aircraft fleet, it is purely an administrative position where I make sure that all aircraft operated by our company have all …

    Life as a Senior Flight Instructor
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    It is very hard to write about my job, since I don’t really consider it a job but a way of life but let me try and see how far you can stay with me. …

    Click here to write your own.

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