Reaching for the Skies (Part 1)

Aviation

A pilot’s advice for students considering a career in aviation – Choosing and Funding Your Pilot Training. 

Although I have only been in the industry for 8 years, my experience allows me to give a few words of advice to those wanting to start a career in aviation. There are many ways to get this career right and no pilot has the same story. With this article I’d like to give you an idea about what to expect from a career in the skies.

I’ll start off with some words of caution and advice. Aviation is a VERY hard industry to be successful in – it comes with a lot of trial and tribulation. But that’s not to say you can’t be lucky and get the necessary breaks to ‘make it.’ And once you’ve ‘made it’ you will fly – in all senses of the word. Essentially, it comes down to having the right attitude, and being in the right place at the right time.

People in the aviation industry often try to dissuade others from joining it professionally. Even as I began my career doing my PPL, I was often advised to choose a different career and only fly for fun due to the many hardships I would face in this line of work. Although this concern certainly has some validity, I don’t think it’s necessarily fair and right to try and dissuade someone from pursing aviation.

Aviation School and Funding your Training

Let’s start right in the beginning… You are a young, enthusiastic and passionate pilot-to-be. In SA, there are a myriad of air schools based in every province. One of the first places you go to is a local air school to get your pilot license.

For information on flying schools in SA, you can follow this link to the pilot portal and click on the pilot training directory link.

Unfortunately, starting up in aviation comes down to money – a lot of it! The more you have at your disposal, the quicker you can move up. With ‘unlimited’ funding you can do your COM in no time at all (it can take around 12-14 months if this is the case). But in reality, not everyone has unlimited funding…

If you don’t have the necessary funds to finance your pilot training, there are ways of acquiring financial assistance, for example:

  • Bank loans
  • Cadetship programs

Most SA banks offer loans to student pilots. It is an option, but loans come with a high interest rate and a massive debt.

There are also a few airlines who offer cadetship programs and provide the opportunity to start with zero experience and end up flying a Boeing 777. These programs are very competitive, accepting only a select few applicants. Some of the companies that offer this are:

  • 43 Air SchoolThere is also the highly recognised 43 Air School cadetship program. 43 is one of the most expensive schools out there, but offers an incredibly high level of training not easily found in SA.  Try to get in touch with 43 Air School, as they will be able to give you all the latest details on their program.

Airports like Lanseria and Wonderboom are also great places to train; as they are a couple of the biggest general aviation hubs in South Africa. Doing your PPL at Lanseria can allow you to make the required contacts to get a job after your qualification.

Many schools are quick to promise wonderful future aviation careers. However, this is normally not a very accurate depiction of your future. The pilot training is great and incredibly satisfying! It’s both challenging and stimulating, providing you with an experience like no other – but the actual issues start after you have completed your training, and the job hunt starts…

Regarding your training, however, there are pro’s and con’s to everything and there is no one right and wrong way of going about it – as I have said, everyone has their own success story.

Read Part 2 to find out more on how to find a job in aviation!

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