There are a few aspects of flight training that always make the curious pilot wonder most. Typically price is the number one concern when it comes to investing your life into your flight training. But for some hopeful students they wonder how long does it take to become a pilot.
To give you a bullet proof answer would be doing you a disservice. Aviation and flight training are so fluid and so is the amount of time it takes to complete all you need to become a pilot.
What I can say is that the time greatly depends on what exactly you want to do with your pilot license.
How long does it take to get a private pilot license?
For me it took roughly 2 years to go from zero time to private pilot license. But in all honesty I could have done that at a much quicker pace had I not started at age 15 (I had to wait until I was of the legal age of 17). If you are a young student pilot reading this, I caution you about flight training if you are on a budget and you are 15. For me it all worked out, but I found that I would go weeks where I never flew and it made for a lot of flights with my instructor just to knock rust off to get back into the swing of things.
Typically if you have the $8-$10K in funds ready to go, I would say if you can fly on average of 2-3 times a week it could take you only about 2-3 months to complete your training if you stick with it. I have no data to back this up, but I would say that a bulk of my pilot friends took about a year to get their private pilot license. The more time you can dedicate to studying and training the quicker it will go, which is pretty much common sense.
How long does it take to become an airline pilot?
When it comes to figuring out how long it will take to become a full fledged airline pilot, there are many more variables at play.
Do you have all the finances to fund the training? Are you going through university to achieve your flight training or your local flight school?
You have some options:
The accelerated training program route
First let’s start with an accelerated training program. ATP Flight School is a popular program that offers an Airline Career Pilot Program that advertises that it will take you from zero time to all your flight ratings in as little as 6 months.
After those six months are finished you will have your private pilot license, instrument rating, multi-engine rating, commercial license and your certified flight instructor rating (CFI). You will then be able to take one of their guaranteed certified flight instructor jobs where they estimate after 18 months you will build enough time to be at the airline required time minimums. All in all done, you can be in the left seat as an airline pilot for a regional carrier in as little as 2 years from the start of your training with them.
Not bad, but be ready to pay ~$73,995 or more to get it done this way.
The University training program route
If you’re looking to double up on getting your degree and ratings all in one fair swoop, you may decide to go through a university program for your training. In this case, you can basically expect it to take you the full four years to get your pilot ratings in addition to your degree. Its highly likely that you won’t be at the required 1500 hours once out of college but this highly depends on the program and how it is structured.
If you thought the accelerated training program route was expensive, this gets even harder to swallow. You not only will be paying for a four year or two year degree, but in addition you will have the added flight costs added to your total tuition. This can mean you are facing a lot of student debt out of college and it may make your next few years as a flight instructor hard to stomach as you build enough time just to be able to get yourself into a regional first officer pilot career.
The local flight school route
Me, I’m slowly hacking my way through my flight training taking the more local approach to getting all of my ratings. I typically train in what’s called Part 61 conditions where the syllabus is less structured and I go at a pace that I can afford. It’s not ideal and it certainly isn’t quick for me at this point. The beautiful thing about taking the local flight school route is that you can go as fast or slow as you can afford but getting loans and finding a quality school to train from can be difficult.
I imagine that if you have the funds which I would estimate to be around $40-$50K for all you need to get to teach others and get paid, you could do in a year and half to two. Then spend the rest of your hours past 250 building as a CFI or doing odd jobs here and there building your time up.
This is the route I am taking, and it may be a bit slower but it gives me the most personal freedom in my pursuits and path. It’s okay if it takes me a few extra years.
When it comes to how long does it take to become a pilot, there is no perfect answer
As you can see there is no perfect answer to how long it takes to become a pilot. I covered how long it can take you to become a private pilot all the way through your career type goals. Everything in between is relative and the harder you work the quicker you will knock through everything.
How long does it take to become a pilot comes down to your willingness to make sacrifices for your passion. If you can do that, you will find that opportunities will sprout up through your training that only you can realize if you take that step in the first place.
Happy training! You can do it.