How to be an airplane pilot?

Menu of Contents

  • How does an airplane pilot work?
  • Studies and licenses
  • Professional profile
  • Career path
  • Pilot women

Who has never wondered what it would be like to work as an airplane pilot ? Surely at some point in your life it will have crossed your mind. And you know the hard effort involved in exercising this profession.

It must be said that you were not on the wrong track. Working as an airplane pilot involves long training, hard work and a lot of physical and mental maturity . However, professionals working in the profession proudly display their craft. And most importantly, they ensure that the result is worth it. So from Turijobs we encourage you to fulfill your dream.

The Boeing company stated that between 2016 and 2034 a total of 1,167,000 airline jobs will be created. Among them, 558,000 will be commercial pilots and  95,000 in Europe. One of them could be you, do you dare?

How does an airplane pilot work?

At a general level, airplane pilots are responsible for making flights around the world, short or long distance. Most flights are led by at least one captain and one co-pilot . And in his charge is the cabin crew.

However, their work begins long before the flight itself. Pilots must study the roadmap to be carried out and check that the aircraft works correctly. In addition, they should check that the meteorological conditions are adequate. Once on the plane, the professional also performs tests on the controls and equipment to verify their proper operation.

Just before takeoff, airline pilots must face one of the most critical tasks of their job. They must coordinate with air traffic controllers to ensure a good takeoff (and subsequent landing). Furthermore, during the flight they must communicate with traffic controllers and monitor the technical performance of the aircraft. Of course, you must be prepared for any unforeseen event that may arise during your flight.

Studies and licenses

In Spain, the training available in this regard is very extensive, but they cover 3 types of specific licenses. The CPL License , designed to work as a commercial pilot, the PPL License , created to work as a private airplane pilot and the ATPL License , designed to work as an airline transport pilot.

Additionally, there are two ratings that can be added to PPL or CPL licenses. Instrument flight rating ( IFR ), which allows the pilot to fly under the instrument flight rules, or multi-engine rating ( ME ), which allows the pilot to fly in aircraft with more than one engine.

Professional profile

To exercise the profession of airplane pilot, professionals must be able to work under pressure. Consequently, they must be prepared to make difficult decisions. Other characteristics would be leadership abilities, good communication skills, good concentration and coordination, in addition to having good physical and mental health.

Among the requirements to start training , you must be at least 18 years old and have an Advanced level of English. In addition, you must have a class 1 medical certificate and pass different psychological and fitness controls, among others. Although it will not be until 23 years old that professionals can work as an airline pilot. In this case, they must have obtained the 3 previous licenses.

Career path

With the skills described above and 1,500 hours of flight practice , a professional could work at any regional airline. Although it could be 3,000 hours if your goal is to work for a large airline. With 1 to 5 years of experience, flight engineers can become first officer or co-pilot . Later, between the ages of 5 and 15, talents can be promoted to captain or commander .

However, it must be taken into account that the licenses will be valid over time. To do this, the pilot must pass the periodic reviews assigned by the company he works for and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

In addition to being a commercial airplane pilot, professionals have the option of working as a flight instructor, private airplane pilot, flight engineer, or charter and air taxi pilot, among others . To learn about other professions from the industry benchmarks, check out our Talent Talks .

Pilot women

In Spain there are about  200 female pilots  compared to about 6,000 men, according to the Spanish Union of Pilots (Sepla), which means that the female community represents only  3.5%  of the profession. A small figure that shows once again the labor discrimination of women although, nevertheless, it is situated in the European average.

Fortunately, airlines, associations and professionals continually work on projects and actions that contribute to changing the distribution of the aviation union. This is the case of  Vanessa Velasco,  who plans to increase the number of women pilots with her Aviadoras project  , a platform that is born for diversity, integration and equality between women and men in the aviation sector. Today we are talking to her, a plane pilot for 15 years and a pioneer woman in Spanish aviation.

  • What was your experience like when you started in aeronautics?

It was a different experience than it may be to start a more conventional career. Surrounded by planes, in an airport like four winds, with a long aeronautical tradition and surrounded by professionals from light and commercial aviation. We were all very young in a very vocational profession.

  • In your career as a pilot, have you encountered obstacles due to being a woman? In training, initiation, development opportunities, retribution … 

I have not encountered more obstacles than can be found in other types of races. Exams and training were the same for everyone. I started flying in the company after four years as an instructor, I consider that it was a balanced and sufficient time. As for promotion, it is the same for men and women when it comes to ranking. Although it is true that in airlines there are considerably fewer women in positions of responsibility or instruction.

  • What attracts you most about this profession? And what do you dislike?

I love being able to work without being tied to a pre-established schedule, it gives me a lot of freedom. That has two faces, since on the other hand, not having a linear schedule to use, makes you miss many plans and special occasions, as well as holidays or weekends.

  • Currently only 3.5% of pilots in Spain are women. What does the sector need to equalize the figures between men and women?

Visibility is needed so that more women know and are encouraged to be pilots, give historical references that show that women have always been present in the sector in one way or another and create community, between men and women, to change the trend.

  • You have become a benchmark for many female pilots with your Aviadoras association. And you, do you have any reference?

My references have been my instructors and instructors, men and women who instilled in me a passion for flying and made me feel that I could achieve my dream of working in a company. I also have a family tradition, since my father and brother are pilots and my mother always showed me that I could get what I wanted if I tried hard and worked on it.

  • What support can professionals find in Aviadoras?

A place where you can find pilot women and men who will accompany you in your training giving them support if they need it. References on aeronautical history and women, a guide to start studying and working and active participation among pilots.

  • How do you see the aeronautical sector in a few years?

The market is changing a lot, new technologies affect all sectors. We are in a very good time for aviation and many pilots are needed in a short-medium period of time. There is going to be spectacular growth in the industry, so it will take specialized and technically trained people.

  • What professional projects are you up to?

Now I am very focused on the Aviadoras movement. I am training day by day and enjoying the experience of doing something productive and good for society. You never stop learning. On the other hand, I am a “facilitator” of human factors in aviation, a part of my job that excites me, apart from continuing to fly in the company as a co-pilot.

  • What advice would you give to pilots who are looking for their job opportunity at ? 

I would tell them to select well, to know that they are qualified and specialized professionals. Pilot work involves continuous study, training and constant evaluation. They are going to be the new generation that is going to set the standards for the industry of the future and they have to believe in themselves.


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