How do I become a pilot ? [ 4 options available] Updated 2024

How do I become a pilot ? [ 4 options available] Updated 2024

May 21, 2019
Posted on May 21, 2019
How to become an airline pilot
airline pilot taxiing

The road to becoming a pilot is not easy, even when completing your flight training exams the study does not end, you must remain current with regulatory and company standards and complete simulator checks regularly.

Having said that those that are passionate and persist end up with a rewarding career. 


  • Apply to the Military
  • Apply to an Airline Cadet Program
  • Flying School (141 CASA approved, self funded flying school)
  • Flying School (142 CASA approved, aligned with TAFE and University)

Pilot Shortage

There has never been a better time to become a pilot if that’s the career path you would like to pursue.

Well not anymore or not now anyway due to Covid-19. The estimates for the number of pilots required in Oceania alone which includes Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific was 13,600 by 2030 ( source Boeing ).

Now airlines around the world are losing billions and are mapping out a new smaller or streamlined carrier, in order to survive. Thousands of crews globally are being retrenched or are being stood down without pay, whilst some are surviving on government help .

IATA (International Air Transport Association) has once again revised the date for air travel and does not see it returning to pre Covid – 19 numbers until 2024. Boeing and Airbus are also laying off thousands of staff, as orders for new passenger aircraft reduce.

You may be thinking that now is not a good time to become a pilot but if you have a burning desire to become one, then do not let current circumstances stop you from flying. Should I become a pilot post Covid-19? That’s the question and we have answered it for you in more detail here.

Prior to Covid-19 the pilot shortage tactic for the better word, was what a lot of flight training organisations would use to get you to hand over your cash. As you know presently, there is no shortage of pilots. Like my old boss used to say “shake a lemon tree and count how many pilots fall out”.

It will bounce back, but very slowly. The downturn this time is greater than what we saw after September 11.  If you check out the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) website where they display current pilot positions you will also notice now the hour requirements for flying positions has increased. Supply and demand effect, something the young pilots of today will get a taste of.

When some airlines were screaming for pilots to fill positions they would let applicants in with just an exam pass in Human Factors at ATPL (Air Transport Pilot Licence) level and 1000 hrs total flight time. Now its back to all seven subjects and 2000 hrs minimum with 500 multi engine in command.

Looking at the advertised positions and the minimum requirements is a good indication of the health of our industry. Not sure if it was a joke, but a Cessna 182 position recently advertised, had a minimum requirement of 5,000 hours. Don’t ever fall for the pilot shortage tactic as there never was and never will be, as further explained in this link.

One thing that will not change is those that are passionate and persist, will end up with a rewarding career.

So back to our question…


There are a variety of ways you can become a pilot and there is no best way to become a pilot in Australia. I guess the first thing you need to ask yourself is what type of flying would you like to do, knowing this will help you outline your career and flight training path.

Maybe you are just looking at flying for a hobby, maybe you have dreams of flying an F-18 or a seaplane and quite possibly flying a big Boeing. Let’s look at the types of ways you can go about becoming a pilot.


How to become a fighter pilot in Australia
Flying an FA/18 is the dream of many…

For many the option of joining the military ( RAAF ) Royal Australian Airforce is something they have dreamt of for a long time. Both the army and the airforce recruit pilots.

The benefit of joining the military as a career is it is much more secure as opposed to the airlines. Airlines that are run poorly suffer the terrible fate of bankruptcy and if they cannot pay their debt are shut down.

Joining the military it would be highly unlikely that it would ever go bust. Of course the government may from time to time reduce funding but it’s a safe bet you’ll be safer than being in an airline.


The minimum age to join the RAAF and become a fighter pilot in Australia is 17. You will be required to complete your tertiary studies at ADFA (Australian Defence Force Academy).

Prior to undertaking initial pilot training (24 weeks), intermediate pilot training (30 weeks) and either an operational conversion for transport or surveillance aircraft, or the advanced pilot’s course for those selected for fast jet aircraft.

You will have an Initial Minimum Period Of Service (IMPS) of seven years associated with your tertiary studies at ADFA, this will be served concurrently with the nine year Return of Service Obligation (ROSO) you incur from the commencement of your operational conversion or the advanced pilot training. For all the information on joining the military go to –

Tip – Find out as much as you can about their recruitment process and invest in refining your interview/test skills, especially if your fresh out of High School or have had no previous interview experience.

There are some really good resources and aviation interview coaches on line. I can recall going to a airforce interview and being asked about a certain part of a fighter jet, preparation is important. Be prepared.

Good luck with your application.


  • Complete your Commercial Pilot Licence
  • Complete your Multi Engine Command Instrument Rating (MECIR)
  • Complete your 7 ATPL Subjects
  • Complete 1500 hrs minimum with 500 Hours Multi Engine

If you have chosen the military option and looking at become an airline pilot down the track then you will have to complete the Airline Transport Licence Subjects (ATPL) and get current for the civilian licenses.

Airline Cadetships and CASA 141 and CASA 142 flying schools are the main producers of airline pilots.

2. Airline Cadetships

Airline Cadetships
Airline Pilot is a rewarding career

Major airlines are again offering Airline Cadetships and each airline has their own process and information for the recruitment process on their website. 

Now with the corona virus outbreak I have heard that Jet Star cadets specifically have been told there will be no movement for at least 3 years, so check their recruitment page and apply if the option is available.

If successful you will have to still fund your training or be on some bond type system. The figure is different across different airlines but $130,000 is a rough guide to the cost.  

This route will be highly competitive, with a large number of aspiring pilots competing for the limited positions. You will not need to meet the hour requirements outlined above with an airline cadetship.

All the information can be found on their respective websites. 

If unsuccessful don’t give up and try alternative avenues. If becoming an airline pilot has been your dream.

Tip –  Again find out as much as you can about their recruitment process and invest in refining your interview/test skills and look into psychometric testing.  

There are a number of companies that offer airline interview techniques online, not a bad idea to utilise them to your advantage. And remember preparation is key.

Good luck with your application.

3. CASA 142 Flight Training Organisation

A 142 flight training organisation is a flying school which has been approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to deliver the 150 hour integrated course.

Flying Schools that are 142 accredited are aligning themselves with TAFE and Universities to deliver either a Diploma or Degree in Aviation.

There are a number of schools across the country now offering this option.

No need to pay up front if you go down this path if you choose a school aligned with a RTO (Registered Training Organisation) i.e. TAFE/Uni, as you will be eligible for VET (Vocational Education Training) fee and your HECS debt does not kick in until you are employed.

Oxford Uni
Universities are educators and do not guarantee a degree or licence after your 3 year course

I suggest you do your homework and if possible get feedback from industry personnel, previous students or even current students of the schools you are considering using. Also find out about their aircraft and facilities.

A school with high numbers of students should not be used as an indicator of a good school. Usually larger schools rely on many junior instructors and the standard of training may be impacted.

Aviation is also an industry governed by recency, and lots of students with low aircraft numbers, means flights will be few and far between and your money will be spent on revision rather than progression. 

Here’s an example –  if the school mentions that they train 200 pilots and they have 10 planes.

Basically, Each week, 1 plane is shared by 20 pilots. A well planned roster will get 4 flights a day meaning each pilot flies 1 flight per week, given that every day is sunny, instructors and students are both well and theory has been completed ready for the flight.

1 flight per week = 52 flights per year.

Compared to a school with say 30 Students and 5 planes.

Basically Each week, 1 plane is shared by 6 students. The Roster still allows 4 flights per day, so still allows for 20 flights per week. With 6 trainee pilots, per plane, per week, Each pilot can expect to fly 3 times a week, 156 flights per year, which would help with recency and progression.

A large amount of emphasis should also be placed on the quality/experience level of the instructor.

A Grade 1 usually has over a thousand hours and has honed his own as well as his students flying skills to a high level. A grade 3 instructor is a beginner instructor and may have only just learnt to fly himself. Preference should be given to a school which gives you access to and flights with Grade 1 instructors.

There is no substitute for experience.

Grade 1 and 2 Instructors are getting harder and harder to find. The airline industry has absorbed so many of General Aviations experienced instructors. They are still about and if you can find a school where they still fly and interact with students, that is a great start. 

4. CASA 141 Flight Training Organisation

pay as you go flying lessons
Pay as you go flying school

A 141 CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) approved flying school is a flying school which is approved to deliver the 200 hr syllabus.

Your good old flying school/flying club. Prior to the commencement to the HECS/VET support scheme this was the only way to become a pilot except for the cadetships and military option.

The majority of experienced pilots in the airlines today have come from the traditional flying school. Students who choose to train with these organisations have to self fund their training.

There are benefits to this option, the biggest being a huge saving in course costs and no HECS/VET debt. Also it is more flexible as you can fly at your own learning pace and choose to fly full time or part time.

There is no requirement to pay up front with a 141 school you can pay after completing each lesson. I’ve known of a number of airline pilots whose children have decided on a career in aviation and even with the options mentioned above they have put them through this route, and encouraged them to get a GA (general aviation) job and gain some real life experience as a pilot.

The 141 approved schools are also the place to go if you are considering flying for just a hobby. Many take up flying and complete the Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) and then the Private Pilot Licence (PPL), the route to a private pilot licence is not as extensive as the commercial licence. For more information check out Private Pilot Licence – PPL.

Trial flight Melbourne
Trial Flight

Book a Trial instructional Flight (TIF) to see if flying is for you

If you are considering flying whether as a hobby or career then I suggest booking a Trial Instructional Flight (TIF).

A TIF is a refined version of your first lesson Effect of Controls. The benefits of booking a TIF is you will definitely have a better idea if flying and flight training is for you. You can book a TIF here either for yourself or as a gift voucher for someone you know that is interested in learning to fly.

step to become a pilot
Steps on how to get started as a pilot

So you have completed a TIF and have decided to continue with flying. We have outlined above the step by step process to kickstarting your flying career. 

Step 2 is important to complete early on in case for some reason due to a medical condition you cannot hold a class 1 medical which is a requirement to fly commercially or a class 2 which is the minimum for a private pilot’s licence.

Further information about flying and aviation can be obtained here or by visiting the CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) website.

Good luck