I’m a British Airways first officer and here I bust the ‘myths’ about becoming a professional pilot, from the costs to the qualifications (spoiler alert – you don’t need to be a maths genius)
Prospective pilots can now apply for a place on a new British Airways scheme that will see the £100,000 cost of their training covered entirely by the airline.
The national flag carrier’s Speedbird Pilot Academy programme will lift the previously prohibitive cost barrier of training to become an airline pilot for up to 60 successful candidates a year – ‘helping to level the playing field and make a flying career a realistic option for all’, says British Airways.
Successful recruits will also have accommodation and food costs covered during their 16-month training period. Sean Doyle, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said: ‘The Speedbird Pilot Academy will make the ambition of becoming a British Airways pilot a reality for people who’d previously written the option off because of the cost barrier.’
British Airways’ Senior First Officer and former cadet Hannah Vaughan, 32, described the scheme as ‘groundbreaking’, and said it was important for the airline to attract the top applicants and remove barriers that may have put people off previously.
To encourage more applicants to apply, Hannah here ‘busts some of the current myths’ about becoming a professional airline pilot.
Prospective pilots can now apply for a place on a new British Airways scheme that will see the £100,000 cost of their training covered entirely by the airline. Above – a BA A380 cockpit
MYTH: You need to be rich to train as a pilot.
TRUTH: ‘This is false,’ says Hannah. ‘The British Airways Speedbird Pilot Academy is entirely funded by the airline.’
MYTH: You can only become a pilot if you have a university degree.
TRUTH: ‘This is false – the new cadet scheme offers a great career without the need for a degree,’ says Hannah.
MYTH: You need to have A-Level qualifications to apply for a role as a pilot.
TRUTH: ‘A-Levels are not required,’ stresses Hannah. ‘You just need six GCSEs to apply to the cadet scheme. Six GCSEs grade A-C or 5-9 including maths, English and a science or equivalent qualification.’
MYTH: You need to be a maths or science genius.
TRUTH: ‘A lot of people think this, but it isn’t true,’ says Hannah. ‘As long as you meet the GCSE requirements, you can apply.’
British Airways’ Senior First Officer and former cadet Hannah Vaughan has busted several myths about becoming a professional pilot. Above are flight simulators at BA’s Global Learning Academy near Heathrow
MYTH: You need perfect eyesight – if you’re short-sighted you can’t apply.
TRUTH: ‘No, you can fly for commercial airlines with glasses or contact lenses,’ says Hannah.
MYTH: You have to be under 40 to apply.
TRUTH: ‘Anyone who will be between the ages of 18 and 55 when they start their training can apply,’ says Hannah. ‘Everyone has an equal chance of being successful.’
MYTH: If you’ve got no flying experience you’ve got no chance of being considered. You need a private pilot licence first to train as a commercial pilot.
TRUTH: ‘Having flying experience or a private pilot licence isn’t a requirement to apply for the cadet scheme,’ says Hannah. ‘That said, if you can, you may wish to try a short trial flight, which can be in a glider or light aircraft, to make sure that you enjoy the feeling of flying. There are many scholarships available which may help with this.’
More information can be found, and applications made, on British Airways’ careers site – careers.ba.com/future-pilots.
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