An airline pilot, also known as an aviator, transports passengers, loads and navigate aeroplanes or helicopters. When thinking of pilots, we often think of the people that fly for SAA or other passenger airlines. A pilot, however, can work in a number of different areas. They can fly aircraft for charter flights, rescue operations, firefighting, aerial photography, and crop dusting. So, there are more jobs as a pilot than you were maybe thinking of. The industry is one of the largest contributors to the country’s economy. It brings in tourists, deals with importing and exporting goods and services and employs a number of people in various different roles.

Unlike other careers such as Accounting and Marketing, becoming a Pilot does not require you to follow the traditional route of having to get a university degree or qualification. You can start training from as young as 16 years old, however, you a required to accumulate a certain amount of hours before you can qualify.

What are the tasks and duties of a Pilot?

A day in a pilot’s life includes monitoring the weather throughout the flight path and confirming flight schedules. They also have some pre-flight duties which include checking the load and how the weight will affect the aircraft.

The Course: Do you qualify?

The admission requirements for a Pilot programme vary according to local regulatory requirements and training location.

The Johannesburg School of Flying offers a Student Pilot Licence (SPL), Private Pilot Licence (PPL) and Night Rating (NR) training to become a Commercial Pilot. The basic requirements for admission are as follows:

  • You should have completed your Matric with English, Mathematics and Science on a higher grade level 6 (70-79%).

  • Candidates must pass an aviation Class 1 Pilot Medical exam, which includes testing your eyesight, general physical check, hearing, heart rhythm, lung function, as well as blood and urine tests.

To enter the SPL programme you must be at least 16 years old. To get the licence you must finish the training, pass a technical examination of the aircraft you trained on and pass the student pilot exam. You should also accumulate 10 hours of flying time. After passing and obtaining an SPL, students can move on to the PPL training.

A PPL is generally seen as a learner’s licence in order to obtain a Commercial Licence. A full-time PPL training takes 12 to 16 weeks and a part-time takes 6 to 9 months to complete. The PPL entry requirements include:

  • You must meet the basic requirements (Matric and Medical)

  • You must be 17 years old.

  • You must hold a valid SPL.

  • To get a PPL you will need to accumulate a minimum of 45 hours of flight training, of which a minimum of 25 hours must be dual flight instruction. You will also need to:

  • Successfully pass 8 online PPL examinations with an average pass mark of 75%.

  • Pass a Restricted Radio Licence training.

  • Pass two practical flight tests. The first being a General Flight Test (GFT) which will focus on your ability to handle the aircraft in any situation. The second test is a cross-country Navigation Test which will focus on your ability to navigate safely.

Once you have a PPL, you can move on to becoming a Commercial Pilot.

To complete a Commercial Pilot training course takes 15 to 18 months full-time and 24 to 30 months part-time. The requirements for entry are as follows:

  • You must meet the basic requirements as before.

  • You must be 18 years of age.

  • You must hold a valid PPL and Night Rating.

To get a Commercial Pilot Licence you will need to:

  • Accumulate a minimum of 100 hours as Pilot in Command (PIC), of which at least 50 hours must be cross-country flight time.

  • Accumulate a minimum of 200 hours of flying, of which: 40 hours must be instrument flight training.

  • You must successfully pass 8 online CPL examinations at The South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) with an average mark of 75%.

  • You must complete a CPL General Flight Test in an Advanced Type aircraft.

Once you have accumulated all required flying hours in your logbook, completed your instrument rating and passed all examinations and tests, all your training documentation will be checked and sent to The South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). You can then get an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATP) which allows you to captain larger passenger aircraft.

Are there other institutions of learning to study this course/programme at?

There are various institutions that offer Pilot Licence training such as:

The Air School Next Generation Training

Aviation Institutions such as Border Aviation Club & Flight School

Progress Flight Academy

Westline Aviation

Are there learnerships available in this industry?

To become a Pilot is quite expensive, very few people can afford to complete their qualification and required hours. An alternative is to do your pilot’s training with the South African Air Force (SAAF), before going on to commercial piloting. The training is part of joining the airforce.

South African Airways (SAA) offers aspiring pilots the chance to participate in the SAA Cadet Pilot Development Programme. SAA will cover the training and training costs. However, being part of the Cadet Pilot Development Programme does not guarantee employment at SAA. You do not need any previous flying experience to enter the programme.

To qualify for the Cadet Pilot Development Programme candidates must meet the following requirements:

  • Have a Matric Certificate or relevant tertiary qualifications (SAQA accredited).

  • Your compulsory subjects must include: Mathematics or Statistics 101, Physical Science and English.

  • Subjects are to be passed by D symbol on Higher Grade, C symbol on Standard Grade or Level 5.

  • Be willing to relocate for the duration of the training.

  • Have good communication, judgment and decision-making skills.

  • Have a Class 1 Pilot Medical Certificate.

  • Have a good hand-eye coordination

  • Be technically orientated

  • Show ability to work under pressure

  • Be confident and assertive

Are there any other related jobs in aviation?

Other related career paths in the aviation industry include being a Flight attendant, According to StatsSA flight attendants make up almost 20 percent of the employees in the aviation industry. There is also Airline Administration Support which deals with the administrative side of the airline, such as secretaries, data entry workers and communications officers. Operation Agent deals with receiving and transmitting information from and to pilots, ground crew and other personnel. Aviation Technicians specialise in working on the electronic equipment of the aircraft; their jobs include installing avionic equipment, troubleshooting and repairing. Another career is an Aviation Meteorologist; they provide weather information for pilots and airline dispatchers. They determine the forecast and the speed of the wind. All of these are some of the career paths or jobs in the aviation industry.

Is this the right job for you?

With every career path/job, a particular character trait is required in that field. You must have an understanding of maths and physics. As a Pilot, it is important to understand technical information and comprehend how the aircraft functions. It is also vital to have excellent communication skills and team working skills when working with other crew. The ability to think quickly in stressful situations and good spatial awareness and coordination

What salary do Pilots earn?

Airline pilot’s salaries vary according to the type of airline they work for and whether they travel internationally or locally. According to PayScale SA, average pay for an Airline Pilot or Co-pilot is (R389, 581 to R1, 339,546). This also depends on experience, number of hours and level of training as a pilot in the field.

How many people are employed after taking this course?

A lot of pilots find employment in the aviation industry after finishing their hours and getting their pilot licence. However, becoming a qualified Commercial Pilot takes time and requires patience. You must start at an entry level, working for lower- paying flying jobs until you move up and make more money. It also depends on the experience and level of training as a pilot. With further studying pilots may also be aviation engineers who are highly skilled in dealing with the electronic equipment found in aircraft.

Choosing to become a Pilot is an exciting and adventures path, but the process can be confusing and long. You need to know all the important aspects of its training in order to grow in this field. Obtaining your Pilot certificate is rarely enough, for you to do hired as a Commercial Pilot, you must have a minimum number of hours required in order to qualify.