BALPA is the professional association and registered trade union established to represent the interests of all UK pilots
Elinor Evans
Pilot Careers Live Content Editor
A job as a commercial airline pilot is a dream that many will have held from a young age. However, as BALPA has found, while 98% of its members are proud of their profession, only 61% would recommend it as a career, so it’s important to keep an open mind, and get hold of as much information as possible. If you’re adamant that a career in aviation is for you, what should be your first steps to make that dream a reality?

The first and most important question to ask yourself is: ‘why do I want to become a pilot?’ The road to the cockpit isn’t easy, and the challenges along the way will vary from person to person. Some may face financial challenges, while others may struggle with exams and the intensity of pilot training. On top of that, being away from family and friends, and missing important occasions due to airline rosters or unpredictable shifts is another thing some find difficult.

Before you think about embarking on any kind of pilot training, it is important to be certain you’re choosing the career for the right reasons. Is aviation your passion, or are you doing it because you think the job is glamorous? Do you like the idea because of the good pay, or have you just always wanted to wear a smart uniform?

The truth is, while many pilots love their job (and their uniform), being a pilot does not hold the glamour it once did, with longer hours, lower pay, and changes in airline attitudes demanding more from pilots than ever before. Similarly, while starting salaries are traditionally higher than other professions, many pilots will have taken on loans to cover their training, and will have to factor in repayments into their monthly pay check. Remember, the question of why you want to be a pilot is one you’ll most definitely be asked at a job interview, so being certain on your career choice is essential.

Another important step towards a career in aviation is obtaining your pilot medical. Before signing on the dotted line for any kind of training, you should look into obtaining your initial Class 1 Medical, which is necessary for anyone wishing to train for a commercial, or airline transport pilot licence. It would be foolish to commit any finances to a full-time course before you’re entirely sure you’re medically fit to fly.

If you’re after more guidance on the next steps to take, a great source of impartial information is the annual Pilot Careers Live events. Now in their twentieth year, the events are supported by BALPA, and offer the chance to talk to current pilots, associations, airline representatives and trainers. Whether you’re a school or university leaver, or have just decided on a change in career, these events aim to help you find the best possible independent advice. This year’s event features presentations on life with British Airways, university degrees and financing your training. Also, for the first time, the event also welcomes companies such as NATS and Eurocontrol, who will be on hand to offer advice on a career with Air Traffic Control. The one-day event will take place on Saturday 5th November at the Sofitel Hotel, T5 LHR, from 10am until 4.30pm.

We’re offering free tickets for BALPA members and their family and friends. To claim your free tickets, visit our website at and enter the code: Balpa16. For any other information, visit or call our events team on +44 (0)1225 481440. We hope to see you there.

Posted on 16 September 2016

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