How to become an Airline Pilot

Rudderpoint – Guide to Aviation and Defence Careers.

Do you want to become an airline pilot?

I am sure, that many of you dream of becoming an airline pilot, and wish to convert those dreams to a reality. The process of becoming an airline pilot may appear complicated, and quite hard to achieve. Let me assure you that it is not so complicated. Pilot training is fairly simple, if you understand the requirements, and prepare for the full process.

Director General of Civil Aviation, also called as DGCA, is the governing body for civil aviation operations in India. The minimum requirement to fly commercial airliners in India, is a Commercial Pilot’s License, also called CPL, issued by DGCA. Airliners would therefore ask for a valid and current CPL, before considering you for a pilot’s job.

Today, we will discuss, the various steps involved, in obtaining a Commercial Pilot’s Licence, from the Director General of Civil Aviation. During the process, we shall also discuss, a bit about Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence, which is also called ATPL. There are certain variations in the process, if you wish to obtain a pilot’s licence abroad, and intend to convert it to an Indian Licence. We will also briefly touch upon the subject, of converting a foreign licence, to an Indian Licence.

Types of Pilot Licence

Before we start talking about becoming an airline pilot, it is essential, that we learn about the difference, between various types of pilot licences. Therefore, let’s understand, about the various types of Pilot Licences, issued in India.

Rule 38, of Aircraft Rules 1937, authorizes the Director General of Civil Aviation, to grant and renew Flight Crew Licenses, for all civil aviators in India. DGCA issues various licences, for different categories of pilots, based on the type of aircraft, and the task undertaken by the pilot. The different types of licences issued by DGCA are called Student, Private, Glider, Commercial, and Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence.

Student, Glider and Private Pilot Licence

As the name suggests, Student Pilot Licence, is issued, to those who start learning to pilot an aircraft, with an instructor on board. This licence is similar to a learner’s licence, issued for those who wish to learn car driving. Private Pilot Licence, which is also called as PPL, is a licence issued to those pilots, who wish to fly a small aircraft, for their personal use. Airliners, or other organisations, cannot employ Private Pilot Licence holders, to fly their aircraft. Glider Pilot Licence, obviously, is issued to glider pilots.

Commercial and Airline Pilot Licence

Commercial, and Airline Transport Pilot Licences, are the ones you should be interested in, in order to become a Professional Airline Pilot. You may want to know the difference between Commercial, and Airline Transport Pilot Licence. Airline Transport Pilot Licence, entitles the holder to the privileges of a Commercial Pilot Licence. In addition, the holder of an Airline Transport Pilot Licence, is also entitled to fly as Pilot in Command, of a multi-crew aircraft, registered in India.

Eligibility Conditions for CPL

Let’s now discuss, the eligibility conditions, for getting a Commercial Pilot’s Licence. The requirements for issue of specific Flight Crew License, are prescribed in Schedule II of Aircraft Rules, 1937. In order to get a Pilot’s Licence, you should meet the specified qualifications, such as age, education, and medical fitness. Thereafter, you should clear the required ground subject papers, conducted by DGCA. Finally, you should obtain the required Flying Experience, specified for the licence. Let’s discuss, each aspect, them one by one.

Age and Educational Qualifications for Commercial Pilot Licence

First let’s discuss about, age and educational qualifications. Some of you may be thinking, that in order to become a pilot, you need to be an aerospace engineer, or have similar high qualifications. Let me assure you, that the entry level qualifications, for becoming an airline pilot is quite less.

In order to be eligible for a Commercial Pilot’s Licence, you should have passed 10+2 examination, with Physics and Mathematics as subjects. The good part is that, there is no percentage restrictions. Normally, the minimum age for any student, to complete 10+2 in India, is 18 years. Obviously, you should have school leaving certificate, from a recognized School Education Board, like CBSE or other State Education Boards.

Does that mean to say that, you need to wait until clearing your 10+2, to start the process?

No, Not at all. You can start right after your 10th standard examinations. You can apply for a computer number, after 16 years of age, on completion of 10th standard examination. In fact, the you can even get a Student Pilot’s Licence, and start flight training as well. You would be eligible to apply for Airline Transport Pilot License, only after getting an Indian Commercial Pilot Licence.

Process of getting a Commercial Pilot’s Licence

Obtaining a Commercial Pilot’s Licence, is a step-by-step process. The first step in Pilot Training, is to obtain a permanent computer number, from DGCA. Because, DGCA keeps track of all your pilot training activities, using that unique computer number. For example, if you clear a particular examination, it is updated on that computer number.

Reverification of School Pass Certificate

Obviously, the next question is, how to get a computer number?

In order to get your computer number, you should first get your School Pass Certificate re-verified. Apply for re-verification of your school pass certificate, to the board of school education, which had issued the certificate. Some of the school education boards, have facilitated this process through their online portals. In other cases, you may be required to visit their regional centres, and submit a written application, along with a nominal fee for the service.

DGCA Computer Number

Now, we are ready to apply for a DGCA Computer Number. Application for a computer number, from DGCA, is a two-step process. The first step is done online, through the DGCA’s portal. The second step is to send the required documents, along with a hard copy of application, to DGCA Headquarters.

Open DGCA’s examination portal, pariksha.dgca.gov.in, and submit an Online application. Ensure that you read the website’s user manual, before filing the online application. Thereafter, send the hard copy of the submitted online application, along with supporting documents to DGCA headquarters.

Medical Examination

The next step, is to undergo an initial medical examination, from one of the DGCA approved medical examiners.

Class 2 Medicals

This initial medical examination is called “Class Two Medicals”. A list of approved medical examiners, authorized to conduct “Class Two Medicals”, given in DGCA’s web site. Clearing these “Class Two Medicals”, is essential to commence flying training. By the way, this medical standard, is sufficient for obtaining a Private Pilot’s License.

Although, clearing “Class Two Medicals”, enables you to commence flying training, this medical category is insufficient, for issue of Commercial Pilot’s License. The minimum medical standards required, for issue of a Commercial pilot’s licence, is “Class One Medicals”.

Class 1 Medicals

If your aim is to become an airline pilot, it is preferable to clear “Class One Medicals”, as soon as possible, to avoid surprises, at a later stage. “Class One Medicals”, is conducted in a few aviation medical centres, approved by DGCA. Take an appointment, in one of the authorized aviation medical centres, for Class One Medical Examination. A list of authorized aviation medical centres, is given in DGCA’s website.

Training for Commercial Pilot’s Licence

Training for commercial pilot’s licence consists of two aspects; which are Ground Studies and Flying training. The validity of ground subject examinations, is five years, within which, you should complete the required flying hours, and submit all the documents, for issue of licence. If you are unable to complete your flying training during that period, you may have to write the examination once again.

If you are comfortable, you may choose to carry out ground studies, along with flying training. However, the better option is to do them sequentially; that is to clear the ground subjects, before commencement of flying training.

Ground Studies for Commercial Pilot’s Licence

Central Examination Organization, of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, conducts examinations for issue, as well as extension of pilot licenses. General information, regarding the annual examination schedule, is published in DGCA’s website, in the beginning of every year. Specific information regarding submission of applications, allotment of computer number, are given in the DGCA’s examination portal.

Flying Training Organisations

Some of the examinations, which form part of pilot’s training, are not directly conducted by DGCA, but by other organisations, authorised by DGCA. For example, Student Pilot License and Flight Radio Telephone Operator License, are conducted by approved Flying Training Organisations. A list of authorized flying training organisations, is available on DGCA’s Website.

Wireless Planning Cell

Similarly, Radio Telephone Restricted to Aero mobile examination, called RTR-A, is conducted by Wireless Planning Wing, also called WPC, under Ministry of Communications. Details of this examination like, schedule of examinations, or application procedures, are available in WPC’s website, wpc.gov.in.

Aviation English Training Centre

Recently, DGCA has mandated Aviation English Qualification, for ensuring proficiency in radio communications. Aviation English training, helps you to understand and develop linguistic skills, in aviation context. You would have to undergo Aviation English Training, from a DGCA approved organization, before appearing for the English language proficiency test. The list of approved Aviation English Training and Testing Organisations, are also available on DGCA’s website.

Syllabus of Ground Subjects

In order to get your commercial pilot’s licence, you will have to clear six ground subject papers, as per DGCA’s syllabus. Ground subjects to be cleared for obtaining a CPL are, Air Navigation, Aviation Meteorology, Air Regulation, Aircraft Technical (General) and Aircraft Technical (Specific).

Syllabus of Ground Subjects for CPL

In addition, you would have to clear Radio Telephone Restricted to Aero mobile examination, also called RTR-A. Let me give you a short description, of the different subjects.

  • Air Regulations, deals with rules to be followed by all airline pilots.
  • Air Navigation, deals with navigation of an aircraft, from one place to another.
  • Aviation Meteorology, deals with the effect of weather in flight.
  • Technical General, comprises of Aerodynamics, Air-frames and Aero-engines.
  • Technical Specific, provides information on the specific aircraft.
  • Radio Telephony, deals with the use of radio equipment on the aircraft.

These examinations, for issue of pilot licenses, would be of objective type.

Syllabus for conversion of Foreign Licence

Let’s talk about conversion of a pilot licence, issued by a foreign regulator like FAA, to an Indian Licence. In order to convert your licence to an Indian CPL, you would have to clear a Composite paper and Air Regulation. The Composite paper shall cover Air Navigation, Radio Aids, Flight Instruments and Aviation Meteorology. Air Regulations, deals with rules to be followed by all airline pilots.

Syllabus of Ground Subjects for ATPL

Ground subjects to be cleared for ATPL are similar to that of CPL. For heavy aircrafts, an additional paper on Aircraft Performance, would be applicable. The question paper on aircraft performance, would be subjective type. In addition, you would have to appear in an oral examination. The oral examination would be conducted by a DGCA examining board. Oral examination is conducted, only if you secure a minimum of 70% marks, in written paper.

Flying Training for becoming an Airline Pilot

Before commencement of Pilot Training, you need to obtain a police verification certificate. Police verification certificate can be obtained, by submitting an application, at the office of Commissioner of Police.

In addition, you would also need to get two other documents ready, through your Flying School, before commencement of flying. One of them is a Student Pilot’s Licence, and the other one is called, Flight Radio Telephony Operator’s Licence.

Student Pilot’s Licence

If you enroll in a flying school, without clearing the ground subjects, the school would teach you some basic concepts in flying, and administer a test. Once you clear the test, the flight school would issue a Student Pilot Licence. This licence is issued by the flying school, and permits you to start flight training, with a flight instructor. If you have cleared all the ground subjects, this test would not be necessary, for issue of SPL.

Flight Radio Telephony Operator’s Licence

In flight communication with Air Traffic Control, is carried out, using the aircraft’s radio equipment. In order fly solo, without an instructor on board, you will require a Flight Radio Telephony Operator’s Licence. Your flying school would teach, required communication procedures, in the vicinity of airfield, and conduct a test, to ascertain your proficiency. Although the test is conducted by the flying school, the licence is issued by DGCA.

Flight lessons with a Qualified Flight Instructor

Flying training is obviously the logical next step, in acquiring your Pilot’s Licence. You have to fly a minimum of 200 flying training hours, as per the flying training syllabus. If you plan to get a Multi- Engine CPL, you should have at least 10 hours, on a multi-engine aircraft. On completion of the flying hours, either your Chief Flying Instructor or an External Pilot Examiner, would administer a flying test, to certify your competency.

Submission of Documents

Finally, the necessary training documents have to be submitted, to DGCA Headquarters. You have to bear in mind, that the authorities are quite strict, about scrutiny of documents.

We are here to help you

By now, you would have understood that, pilot training is not complicated, but a step-by-step process. In fact, you can start the process even before completion of schooling. For example, you can complete your medicals, as well as study the required ground subjects, for DGCA examinations, even before completion of schooling. That way, you would be ready to clear the papers, and start flying, immediately after schooling.

We sincerely hope that, the information has helped you, to prepare for an exciting career, as an Airline Pilot. Are you ready to start your Pilot Training?

In case, you need any clarifications, feel free to write to us at rudderpoint@gmail.com