Marty White reveals the different routes you can take in order to become a qualified airline pilot

One of the most common questions asked by potential pilots is: "Should I go to university and do a degree, or should I go straight into pilot training?". On the whole, there is no hard and fast rule. However, there is a third way. You can still go to university and get a degree, but now you can do commercial pilot training as part of that degree.

Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College (BCUC) offer a degree in air transport with commercial pilot training. Areas of study during the first year include: an introduction to the air transport industry; health, safety and security for airlines and airports; airline and airport ground handling; and airline and airport marketing. The remainder of the first year involves gaining a Private Pilot's Licence (PPL). Practical flight training for the PPL is done at both Denham Airfield in the UK and Orlando Flight Training (OFT) in sunny Kissimmee, Florida.

In year two, provided students have passed all academic modules, obtained their PPL and gained a Class 1 medical certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), they can commence training for an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL). The first six months are at Cabair's European Pilot Training Academy in Bournemouth or Cabair College of Air Training, Cranfield, studying ATPL theoretical knowledge, also known as ground school. In year three, trainee pilot students complete their honours degree before finally obtaining their frozen ATPL with Cabair at Cranfield or Bournemouth.

Kingston University offer a foundation degree in aviation studies for commercial pilot training with an optional one-year or part-time degree in aviation studies. This exciting new course, which starts in September 2007, is designed to provide a broad base of knowledge and help students gain employment within aviation, and the airline industry in particular. It also aims to provide not only a suitable progression route to an honours degree programme, but the educational base for the ground school phase of commercial pilot programmes and the opportunity to progress with professional pilot flight training to achieve an ATPL.

For those who feel that three years is too long to wait to commence pilot training, there is an opportunity to complete the foundation course and the ATPL in two years, gain employment with an airline then complete the degree top-up in your own timeonce established as a first officer.

The ground school takes place in either Bournemouth or Cranfield, the basic flight training in Orlando, Florida and the remaining commercial-pilot training is based in the UK at one of Cabair's flying schools.

So there you have it: two similar - though quite different - routes to becoming an airline pilot. Both offer a unique opportunity to have the best of both worlds: airline pilot training and a university degree.

Marty White is marketing manager for the Cabair Group of Aviation Companies


Ryan Harris, 23, Is A Flight Instructor

I started training for my Private Pilot's Licence (PPL) when I was 15, was solo flying at 16 and got my licence when I was 17. I then got my Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL), which is 14 subjects that you take at Gatwick. You have to do 150 hours total time and 100 hours Pilot in Command, which is where you are the captain of the aircraft without an instructor.

Once you've done that you move on to your Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) which involves 25 hours of training with a commercial instructor and then you take a skills test with a Civil Aviation examiner. After that it's your multi-engine conversion (flying an aeroplane with two engines rather than one), and then a multi-instrument rating where you do 30 hours in a simulator and another 20 in the aircraft itself. It simulates you taking off straight into cloud at 300 feet, doing a two-hour flight and then landing without looking out of the window!

Finally there was a multi-crew co-operation course. Everything you've done up to that point is single pilot, so this gets you to share responsibility working with somebody else.

I decided to go on and do a flying instructor rating, though that is optional. That's a 25-hour course which is learning about how to talk and fly at the same time, which is harder than it sounds! I've been instructing for four months now and it's good fun. I'm still learning with every flight I do, so there's a challenge every time you go into the air.


For more information on studying air transport with commercial pilot training at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College, contact John Furley ( or Keren Caird (

To find out more about the foundation degree in aviation studies with commercial pilot training at Kingston University, contact the faculty of engineering ( or Jane Brookfield (

To get the lowdown on airline pilot training with Cabair, contact Keren Caird at ( or Jane Brookfield at ( Alernatively, check out the website (