L3Harris Airline Academy
How to become a pilot
in the UK & Europe
Deciding to become a pilot is a life-changing step towards an exciting and rewarding career! Flying passengers around the globe as a commercial pilot in an office above the clouds with spectacular views is a job that’s hard to beat! Airline pilots ordinarily earn good salaries, enjoy travel benefits, healthcare perks and have the opportunity to meet new people every day.
How to become a pilot with L3Harris Airline Academy, at a glance:
Airline pilot training is no mean feat, and there are lots of things you’ll need to know before you start your journey to become an airline pilot. You will need an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) and a Class 1 Medical Certificate to become a commercial airline pilot.
- You will be issued a ‘frozen ATPL’ at the end of your commercial pilot training, this enables you to apply for jobs as a First Officer
- To ‘unfreeze’ your ATPL, you will need to complete 1,500 flying hours
- You have the choice to obtain a UKCAA or an EASA pilot licence, which enables you to operate a UK-registered or an EASA-registered commercial aircraft respectively
- It takes an average of 70 weeks to complete your flight school training before cadets embark on their rewarding careers
- Our Integrated ATPL course provides the most direct route to become a commercial pilot and is designed for cadets with little to no flying experience and trains them for a rewarding career on the flight deck
- Our BSc (Hons) Aviation – Pilot Programme combines ATPL training with a degree
- Our Flexible ATPL route allows you to complete training in a more modular fashion, with breaks in between, while still keeping all the benefits of the full-time programme
- Our Modular ATPL route enables you to complete individual courses, depending on where you are in your training journey
- You will need passion, self-discipline, technical aptitude, problem-solving skills, teamwork, spatial awareness, and the ability to make decisions under pressure to become a successful airline pilot
What does a pilot do?
As a pilot working for a commercial airline, you can expect to work weekdays, evenings, weekends and bank holidays completing typically between 39 to 41 hours a week.
You’ll communicate with air traffic control, and you’ll also be required to perform pre-and post-flight checks ahead of the flight, such as checking weather reports and ensuring all instruments, engines, fuel and safety systems are performing correctly.
As an airline pilot you will also need to brief cabin crew and provide passengers and crew with regular updates regarding the journey progress.
1: Research pilot training programmes
With so many routes to becoming a pilot in the UK and Europe, it can feel difficult to know where to start. From integrated and modular training courses to structured programmes specific to major airlines, there are plenty of commercial pilot training programmes to choose from.
L3Harris Airline Academy is renowned for the quality of its pilot training. What sets us apart is our state-of-the-art flight school and training facilities, modern aircraft with the latest aviation flight deck technology and our team of instructors with thousands of hours combined experience.
2: Check you meet the entry criteria & have the common skills required to become a pilot
To work as a professional commercial pilot you will need an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) and a Class 1 Medical Certificate. To obtain your ATPL you will need to complete the necessary airline pilot training.
To apply for a pilot training course, prospective cadets need to meet entry criteria relating to age and height, language, education, medicals, visas and background checks. For course-specific entry requirements, please visit each of our pilot training courses.
- Be at least 17 to submit an application and 18 to commence training
- Minimum height: 5ft 2in (157cm) | Maximum height: 6ft 3in (191cm)
- Fluent in English (verbal and written). Non-native English speakers must achieve level 5.5 individual and overall in IELTS or equivalent ICAO level 4 prior to starting training
- A minimum of five GCSEs grade C/4 or above, including Mathematics, English and Science
Job-specific skills to become a pilot:
- A good understanding of maths and physics
- Excellent communications skills
- Ability to work well in a team and to demonstrate leadership skills
- Excellent spatial awareness and coordination, and ability to remain calm under pressure
Upon graduation from your pilot training, you will be issued a ‘frozen ATPL’ which enables you to apply for jobs as a First Officer. To ‘unfreeze’ your ATPL, you will need to complete 1,500 flying hours of experience.
We will only accept applicants onto our pilot training programmes who have the potential to become a commercial pilot and we will assess you on both the technical and non-technical skills required.
The L3Harris selection process is as follows:
- Once you have completed your application for your chosen pilot training programme it will be screened by our selection team
- Providing your application passes our screening process you will then be invited to a one-day selection event, either remotely (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday), or in-person (Wednesday) at our London Training Centre located near Gatwick Airport
- Prior to your selection day you will be asked to complete an online behavioural assessment
- Your selection day which will consist of an interview and Cut-e aptitude tests
If you have any questions regarding selection, please contact one of the team at: wings.selection.cts@L3Harris.com / +44 (0)2380 748085.
4: Ground school training
Once through selection, you will embark on the initial phase of flight training known as ground school. You will meet your fellow coursemates at one of our approved training locations and complete your classroom and computer-based Theoretical Knowledge training as part of your training to become a pilot.
5: Foundation flight training
Often the most exciting stage of becoming a pilot, you will take to the skies, learning to fly single-engine piston aircraft at one of our global training centres, such as Orlando, Florida. The exact aircraft, location and duration of this phase of commercial pilot training will depend on your programme.
6: Commercial and instrument flight training
The content of this training will depend on the course you have chosen but will involve single and multi-engine aircraft and assessments in our Full Flight Simulators.
7: Intermediate flight training
If you are on a Multi-Pilot Licence (MPL) route, this will involve aircraft specific Type Rating training in an A320 or Boeing 737. On our Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) route you will take our world-renowned Airline Pilot Standards (APS) course, which includes Multi-Crew Cooperation (MCC), Crew Resource Management (CRM) and Jet Orientation Training (JOT).
8: Airline placement
ATPL, BSc (Hons) or APS MCC Modular graduates will be placed in our Graduate Placement Pool where our dedicated team will work to secure your employment as a Co-Pilot with a global airline.
9: Advanced pilot training
You will undertake aircraft specific Type Rating training to prepare you to fly for your airline. You will also complete Line Orientated Experience (LOE) and line check with your airline employer as well as safety, emergency and procedures training.
10: First Officer
Congratulations! You are now employed as a First Officer, sitting in the right-hand seat of the flight deck flying passengers on commercial aircraft. L3Harris can provide all the further training you need to progress your career up to the rank of Captain.
What are the alternative routes to becoming a pilot?
Whilst we recommend cadets complete our Integrated ATPL training (which follows the above steps and is the most direct route to becoming a pilot), there are alternative routes to consider to complete pilot training in the UK and Europe.
A degree is not essential to becoming a pilot but does offer an alternative approach when combined with pilot training. We have a partnership with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) to offer pilot training alongside their BSc (Hons) Aviation - Pilot Programme. In approximately 3 years, you will graduate with a degree and your ‘frozen’ ATPL. Integrating this degree into your commercial pilot training may provide access to financial support from Student Finance England.
Our Flexible ATPL also takes you from little to no flying experience to a fully qualified airline pilot, but is completed in a more modular fashion. This means you can take breaks in between phases of training to travel, work, or study. The course retains all the benefits of the Integrated programme.
Modular ATPL training allows you to complete individual courses with L3Harris, depending on where you are in your flight training journey.
What pilot jobs are available when I graduate?
Our commercial pilot training courses are designed to be the first step towards securing a successful career in aviation, whether that's becoming a commercial airline pilot for a UK or European airline.
With more than 40 years of heritage in pilot training and a dedicated placement team to secure your role as an airline pilot, you couldn’t be in safer hands than with L3Harris Airline Academy.
In order of rank, you can expect your pilot career progression to be as follows:
- First Officer - second-in-command to the airline Captain
- Senior First Officer - the most senior position in the right-hand seat
- Captain - you will command the aircraft in the left-hand seat
How much does it cost to become a pilot in the UK?
The cost of pilot training is reflective of the future benefits and rewards you can expect to receive when you become a qualified commercial pilot.
The exact cost to become a pilot will differ depending on the route you take and the Approved Training Organisation (ATO) you opt for.
Where will I complete my commercial pilot training?
You will complete your commercial pilot training at our flight schools located across the UK and USA.
Each of our L3Harris flight schools are modern sites equipped with the latest training facilities including over 100 aircraft, Flat Panel Trainers, Fixed Training Devices and our flagship RealitySeven Full Flight Simulators (including: Boeing 737 and Airbus 320).
With excellent Flight Instructors and state-of-the-art facilities, our aim is to help you learn how to become the most successful commercial pilot you can be.
How long does it take to become a pilot?
Typically, Integrated ATPL courses take 70 weeks to complete. For more information, please visit our Integrated ATPL course page.
How much can I expect to earn as a pilot?
As a commercial pilot, you can expect to receive high earnings well above the average.
The starting salary for a newly qualified commercial pilot could range from approximately £22,000 to £28,000 depending on the size of the airline.
For more experienced commercial pilots, salaries could be anywhere between £54,000 to over £140,000, again depending on the size of the airline.
For further information, please visit: Aviation Job Search
How can I prepare myself for becoming a pilot in school?
If you’re passionate about becoming a pilot you will be required to have completed secondary education, achieving grades A – C, or 4 or above, in at least 5 GCSEs including English, Mathematics and Science.
How can I obtain my EASA ATPL licence?
To obtain your EASA Licence you will need to complete your commercial pilot training.
This Integrated ATPL course will take you from little or no experience to becoming a qualified commercial pilot. On successful graduation cadets will qualify with a frozen ATPL licence ready to start their flying careers at one of Europe’s major airlines. This really could be the start of a rewarding career flying commercial passenger or cargo aircraft.
How can I obtain my UKCAA ATPL Licence?
Our Integrated ATPL course will take you from little or no experience to becoming a qualified commercial pilot. On successful graduation cadets will qualify with a frozen ATPL licence ready to start their flying careers at one of the UK’s major airlines. This really could be the start of a rewarding career flying commercial passenger or cargo aircraft.
Do you offer a dual licence for UKCAA & EASA?
Yes, we do. The dual licence allows cadets to complete both a UKCAA and EASA licence in one combined course. Cadets will be required to take both UKCAA and EASA Theoretical Knowledge exams. There will also be additional flying hours to meet both regulatory authority requirements plus skills tests that must be taken in both UK and EU airspace.
The dual licence potentially opens up greater employment opportunities as cadets will be qualified to work for airlines registered and operating under either the UKCAA or EASA. Please note however, if you wish to work in the EU you must have a right to live and work in the EU.
Have L3Harris Airline Academy secured any employment opportunities for graduate cadets in 2022?
Yes. At the time of writing (mid-March 2022), thanks to the hard work of our Graduate Placement team and our strong airline relationships we can announce that more than 100 of our UK and European graduates have been offered employment opportunities since January 1st 2022 after completing their flight training with L3Harris Airline Academy - with 50+ joining EasyJet and nearly 30 who have started their Type Rating with Ryanair.