How to become a pilot in Europe

Do not leave home without finding out how to become a pilot in Europe. Find out the ‘must know’ right here to learn to fly or transfer your pilot’s license.

Introduction

There are several pathways to becoming a pilot in Europe that have evolved in line with the local conditions. It usually has a lot to do with building flying hours and Europe is not widely known for smaller aircraft flying when compared to countries like Australia. This means gaining meaningful experience needs a tailored way for someone to contribute as a valuable crewmember in a jetliner. If you are new to aviation, then this article comes with a TLA warning! TLA stands for ‘Three Letter Acronyms’ where most concepts are shortened to the three-letter code. Pilots can speak whole sentences in these!

What are the different ways to become a pilot in Europe?

There are several pathways to becoming an airline pilot in Europe however there are some basics every pilot needs to attain. This article will step through the options so you can figure out what aligns best with you. Firstly, however, we will let you in on a little secret so make sure you are leaning in … there are three questions pilots use daily to work through a problem. If you take note of these now you are already on your way to making it as a pilot and ahead of the pack. (You’re welcome!)

a. Where are we now?

We are assuming that you have no experience flying but have a big dream to fly, so we know where you are.

b. Where do we want to be?

We are assuming that you are reading this as you are wanting to work as a pilot. To be paid to fly in smaller aircraft, the basic licence you need is a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL). Now if you want to be that pilot that strolls through the airport to your airliner in Europe, then you need an EASA Frozen ATPL. (EASA = European Union Aviation Safety Agency and ATPL = Airline Transport Pilots Licence). In case you are wondering about what ‘frozen’ means, it is the socially acceptable word for when a pilot has completed their fourteen ATPL theory subjects but have not yet achieved the flying hour component.

c. How are we going to get there?

To get your EASA Frozen ATPL you need to achieve the following components.

Private Pilot Licence (PPL) = Fly with passengers on board but only cost sharing

Night Rating = Fly at night!

Building flight hours = Fly family and friends to impress them and get subsidised flight hours

ATPL theory = The subject required to eventually fly an airliner

Instrument Rating (IR) = Fly in cloud and low visibility

Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) = Get paid to fly

Multi-Engine Piston rating = Fly aircraft with more than one engine!

https://www.easa.europa.eu/the-agency/faqs/licensing

how to become a pilot in europe, lufthansa
Anything worth doing takes effort. If you are prepared to do the work, right now there are jobs in Europe.

How much does it cost to become a pilot in Europe? Does it vary much? 

The cost of becoming a pilot in Europe varies depending on the flight school you choose, the pathway, and any offering of employment at the end. The cost to attain a CPL, Instrument rating, multi engine rating and ATPL subjects is between €70,000-€140,000 (USD $70,000-$140,000).

How long does it take to become a pilot in Europe?

To become a pilot from scratch in Europe varies from 12 to 16 months depending upon which pathway you choose.

How to become a commercial pilot in Europe

Once you have your CPL, multi engine rating and instrument rating, you are already able to work as a pilot. From here there are five pathways are for people with no prior experience. (The zero (0) = zero hours (no experience) to begin with.

Pathway 1 – 0-ATPL

Time to Complete: 12-14 months

Theory: In a group

Practical flying: Individually

Start: Anytime

Hours at end: 200

Benefit: Structured/organised

Pathway 2 – 0-ATPL, modular

Time to Complete: 12-14 months

Theory: In a group

Practical flying: Individually

Start: Modular

Hours at end: 200

Benefit: Flexible, you can work while you learn

Challenges: Needs self-discipline and motivation

how to become a pilot in europe, air france
The cost of becoming a pilot in Europe varies depending on the flight school you choose, the pathway, and any offering of employment at the end.

Pathway 3 – 0-ATPL, USA experience

Time to Complete: 12 months

Theory: In a group

Practical flying: Individually

Start: Modular

Hours at end: 200

Benefit: Gain PPL in the USA with participating flying schools, build hours faster, get FAA PPL and EASA Frozen ATPL at end, broader flying experience

Challenges: Additional study with differences between FAA and EASA

Pathway 4 – 0-1500 for EU citizens

Time to Complete: 14-16 months

Theory: In a group

Practical flying: Individually

Start: Anytime

Hours at end: 1500 (including working)

Benefit: Attain Flight Instructor rating and work to get first 1500 hours

Challenges: Needs self-discipline and motivation

Pathway 5 – Integrated ATPL to be airline ready

Time to Complete: 14 months

Theory: In small groups

Practical flying: Individually

Start: Anytime

Hours at end: 200+

Benefit: Advanced IR flying, MCC (Multi crew cooperation course), JOC (Jet orientation course)

Challenges: Additional training

What is a frozen ATPL?

“1500 hours of flight hours and a pass rate of 75% in each ATPL exam is required to gain an ATPL. If a student has passed all of their theoretical exams but has not yet flown the minimum hours of 1500, then their licence is considered ‘frozen’ or inactive.” 

bristol.gs

Can foreigners become pilots in Europe?

In some cases, as a professional pilot, you can work in Europe however you will need to do your own homework as each country in Europe is different. With any foreign pilots in another country, remember that if you qualify to work there, you are there as a privilege and local pilots will have an opinion on it.

https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/work/professional-qualifications/regulated-professions/index_en.htm

How much do pilots in Europe get paid? Does it differ much between countries?

On average, pilots in Europe based on an airline Captain wage are USD$200K – USD$250K per year. It will differ between countries and operators, but it is a pilot’s market right now so do your homework first!

Is Europe a good place to be a pilot?

As Europe has plenty of amazing history, architecture, and amazing landscapes, as a destination to work it stacks up. As for piloting there, the conditions are challenging with the weather but working conditions depend upon individual contracts.

how to become a pilot in europe, greece
As Europe has plenty of amazing history, architecture, and amazing landscapes, as a destination to work it stacks up

What qualifications do you need to become a pilot in Europe?

Private Pilot Licence (PPL)

Consists of some theory and actual flying. In aviation, a word they use about licenses is ‘privilege’ meaning what the license allows you to do. The privilege of a PPL is you can fly as a Pilot in Command (PIC or Co-Pilot (second in charge) on non-commercial flights. Non-commercial flights means that you can only cost share the expense of the flight, not earn an income.

Night Rating

Flying at night is a fabulous sensory overload the first time you do it and you may be surprised at the different challenges presented by the darkness. The privilege of a night rating is simply to fly safely at night in visual conditions … where you can still see the lights on the ground.

Building flight hours

There is a gap between the hours you attain during your PPL flight training and what you need by the end of your CPL so there is a necessity to build hours by taking friends and family. It can feel a bit nerve-wracking when you take your first passenger!

ATPL theory

There are fourteen of these beauties but do not worry, the content builds on your knowledge from your PPL theory.

Principles of flight  Air law and ATC proceduresOperational Procedures  
Human Performance and limitations  VFR Communications  IFR Communications  
Flight Performance  General Navigation  Flight Planning and Monitoring  
Aircraft General Knowledge  Instrumentation  Radio Navigation  
Mass and Balance  Meteorology   

Instrument Rating (IR)

The instrument rating teaches you how to fly on the instruments allowing flight in the cloud, low-visibility operations which is also known as IMC (instrument meteorological conditions).

Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL)

The CPL training takes what you thought you knew and makes you better! In doing so, it opens the ability to carry passengers for ‘reward’ so you can work as a pilot! Congrats you will have approximately two hundred hours total flight time with one hundred hours in command. But you are not there yet!

Multi-Engine Piston rating

You have done a fantastic job so far however you are only allowed to fly a single-engine aircraft. That is where this fun step of learning the craft of flying with two engines. This may sound great that you have an additional engine however it brings great responsibility! If one engine fails, the aircraft wants to swing the opposite way. As the pilot, you need to counteract this swing and that is what you will learn.

Are pilots in demand in Europe?

Pilots are in demand globally, and Europe with many operators is no different. We are in the middle of a shuffle between jobs.

https://pilotsglobal.com/jobs/europe

“In Europe, Norwegian, one of the industry’s fastest-expanding carriers, described crewing issues as a “fundamental problem” for the business, citing flights it had to cancel at peak times this summer due to a lack of resources.”

aviationbusinessnews.com
how to become a pilot in europe, finnair
The nature of aviation right now is finally in the pilot’s favor and if you have ever thought of a change of scenery, it is worth doing your homework on Europe

 Is it hard to become a pilot in Europe?

Anything worth doing takes effort. If you are prepared to do the work, right now there are jobs in Europe. To convert a license from outside Europe to an EASA ATPL can take up to eight months depending on your time.

https://www.easa.europa.eu/document-library/regulations/commission-regulation-eu-no-11782011

What is the best way to become a pilot in Europe? 

If you have no experience, select the best of the five pathways to achieve your frozen ATPL and if you are unsure then ask more questions. If you are a foreigner, the process will take eight months to transfer your FAA ATPL. If you have an airline job lined up, the operator should assist you with the transition.

Conclusion

If you want bragging rights to say “I fly in Europe” as a commercial airline pilot, then you need to know it is possible however there are steps to make. The nature of aviation right now is finally in the pilot’s favor and if you have ever thought of a change of scenery, it is worth doing your homework on Europe, including homework on flight schools as well as vacant positions. Imagine flying over buildings that date back to Roman times! If you are considering a flying career, the pilot training in Europe is a commitment of only a year and a half at most. The current aviation climate could be the trigger you need!

eBusiness Institute
eBusiness Institute

Ken

Ken is a passionate aviator, a professional pilot and flight instructor. He has over 17 years of flight experience across hundreds of aircraft ranging from recreational, aerobatic, historic, commercial and military aircraft, training hundreds of students along the way. Find out more.

Ken has 93 posts and counting. See all posts by Ken

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