In this final portion of our "How to become a Pilot" guide, we will go over some career options that are available to newly licensed Commercial Pilots and answer some Frequently Asked Questions about learning to fly and flight training.
Newly licensed Commercial Pilots entering the industry will typically have 200 - 250 Flight Hours of experience. Pilots at this stage should focus on building experience (building hours). It is especially beneficial to accumulate PIC (Pilot in Command) time. You can accomplish this by doing the following:
Royal Canadian Air Cadet Fam Pilot
The Royal Canadian Air Cadets operate all throughout Canada and will take kids aged 12-18 for discovery flights during the spring and fall seasons. While this is a volunteer position, it will give you a chance to build precious PIC time and share your passion for aviation with the next generation of aviators. You can contact a cadet squadron near you to see if there are any volunteering opportunities available.
This is a common starting point for pilots looking for employment in Alberta. Many Pipeline Operators will utilize C172 or a similar aircraft, equipped with sophisticated camera equipment. This equipment is used to patrol the vast region of oil and gas pipelines for leaks and/or damages. This is a great opportunity to build PIC time on an aircraft that isn't too complex or unfamiliar.
These pilots are responsible for delivering Skydivers to the correct drop zone and achieving the right altitude for release. Skydive work is seasonal in Alberta, but will give pilots an opportunity to fly larger aircraft. Some operators will use a C208 Caravan, which serves as an excellent transition to a turbine aircraft. When applying to be a pilot, Skydive operators will require 500 hours of experience before being considered.
Forest Fire Fighting
Fire fighting can be one of the most rewarding experiences you have as a pilot. These operations will require a "bird-dog", a scout aircraft, to guide the larger water bombers to the correct drop zone and keep an eye on the spread of the water bombings. These operations will also require 500 or more hours of experience due to the critical nature of the missions.
To act as a flight instructor, you must first complete your Instructor Rating. This requires an additional 25 hours of Ground School and 30 hours of Flight Training. Flight schools that provide the Instructor Rating will often hire the students that graduated from their program to teach at their facility. Instructors' income may fluctuate depending on how many students they have, but good instructors are always in demand.
Low Time Programs
Some airlines and operators may offer a "Low Time Program" for pilots with 200 ~ 250 flight hours. Successful applicants to this program will often work ground or dispatch positions with the company for about a year before moving on to become a First Officer. First Officers work with an experienced Captain to learn the flight operations. This is one of the quickest methods to get into airline operations, but pilots who go through this may struggle to build PIC time.
The list of opportunities is quite long for new pilots! More opportunities to build hours include: Survey Pilots, Photography Flights and Crop Dusting. Once you have logged some serious flight hours and gained work experience, you will have more opportunities to fly larger aircrafts in more complex operations.
Pilots with 1500 hours of experience who hold their ATPL can start looking into:
Most airlines in North America are seeking to hire Direct Entry First Officers with 1500 hours who hold an ATPL. The ATPL is mandatory to upgrade to a Captain position, and airlines are continuously looking for pilots who can become Captains and leaders within the company. Promotion to Captain will typically require a minimum of 3000 hours of flight experience in a variety of aircraft and operations. Airline operations are in especially high demand as the bulk of people from the "Baby Boomer" generation are retiring. In order to combat the pilot shortage, some airlines in Asia and South America are reducing their entry requirements and improving compensation packages of pilots to attract more talented candidates across the globe.
Another common opportunity for pilots is flying Corporate or Private Jets. This is an excellent opportunity to travel to a variety of interesting locations, where every work day is different from the next! The schedule can be unpredictable, but if you want to cruise in the fastest planes, with the latest tech, to the most luxurious destinations, this may be the job for you!
This list is not meant to be comprehensive or complete There are a variety of aviation jobs out there - more than one can possibly list. Your license is simply your first step to a lifetime of learning and adventures that await; you must choose what you want to do with it.
Can I be a pilot if I wear glasses?
Yes! You will still need to pass your aviation medical, which requires you to correct your vision to 20/20 with glasses or contact lens. They will also test for Color Blindness. Many pilots wear glasses and it has not affected their work or ability to find a job!
Is there a height or weight restriction to become a pilot?
No, we have trained students who are 5 feet (152 cm) tall to students who are 6'9" (205 cm) tall; some students weighing over 300lbs (136kg). If you can drive a car, you can likely fly a plane. The school has seat bolsters and pedal extensions to ensure students have proper reach of the pedals and controls.
Where can I get my Medical done?
Please check Transport Canada's Website to search for an Aviation Medical Examiner near you.
We have also included a list of examiners in the Edmonton region below.
What is IFR or VFR? I keep seeing these terms come up.
VFR means Visual Flight Rules. The primary method of navigation is referencing landmarks on the ground and comparing them with the route planned out on the map. This limits flight operations to good weather days. Students in our Aviation Diploma Program will focus on VFR flying in the first year of training in order to build up the fundamentals of aircraft control.
IFR means Instrument Flight Rules. The primary method of navigation uses a combination of aircraft avionics and instruments that receive external signals (radio or GPS) to navigate. The pilot must also coordinate with Air Traffic Control to ensure separation with other air traffic and maintain safe altitudes above obstacles. This effectively allows the pilot to operate without any visual reference outside, allowing for flight operations even in poor weather conditions. This coordination of information while flying the aircraft significantly increases the workload on the pilot. Students in our Aviation Diploma Program will be introduced to IFR flying during the second year of the program as part of the curriculum for IFR rating.
What is different between Solomon College's Aviation Diploma compared to other flying schools?
The Aviation Management and Pilot Training Diploma program offers an all-in-one training course that provides a student who has no aviation experience with everything they need to start looking for work as a pilot. It is designed as an intensive fast-paced program that will help you get a license and a post-secondary diploma with all of the relevant experience in the least amount of time possible. Traditional flying schools tend to provide training on a more part-time or casual basis, scheduling a few flight lessons at a time. This allows the student to schedule flying lessons around their work commitments, but extends the length of time needed to obtain a license.
Another key difference is the availability of Student Loan Funding. Traditionally, students may only apply for student loans for the training of a Commercial Pilot License after the completion of the Private Pilot License. This is done to prevent students from using student learns to learn how to fly for fun. However, this also creates financial difficulties for students who are looking to pursue Aviation as a career. The Aviation Diploma is licensed as a full-time post-secondary study program through Alberta Advanced Education. We allow students to apply for student aid as soon as they are accepted into the program, eliminating the need to hold a Private Pilot License to be eligible!
Can I just get my Private Pilot License through Solomon College?
No. The Aviation Management and Pilot Training Diploma program is designed for students with an interest in pursuing Aviation as a career. If you only wish to fly for pleasure, you can contact your local Flight School to get your Private Pilot License; it will be a much cheaper alternative.
Does Solomon College own or operate their own aircraft?
No. Solomon College is working in co-operation with Cooking Lake Aviation, who will be responsible for the Flight Training portion of the curriculum while Solomon College will be responsible for the Academic and Ground School portion of the curriculum.
How will I get out to Cooking Lake Airport for my Flight Training Semester?
Solomon College will provide a shuttle service (for an optional cost) for students who require transportation to the airport. Students who have their own vehicles will be able to travel or carpool to the airport on their own as well.
What if I get airsick or can't complete my Flight Training semesters?
Learning to fly should be exciting and rewarding, and we hope that your learning experience with us is enjoyable and fun. To ensure you are "fit to fly" we require all students who register in our program to have a Class 1 medical completed before starting class. We also highly recommend that students contact Cooking Lake Aviation for a "Discovery Flight" and let them know you are interested in the "Aviation Management and Pilot Training Diploma program". This will give you an opportunity to get behind the controls of the aircraft you would be training on to see if Aviation is truly for you before you commit to the program. If you decide that flying isn't for you after you start your Flight Training Semester, we are also able to provide a portion of your tuition for refund, based on the number of hours you have already flown. Please see our refund policy for more information.
I am an international student. Is accommodation available?
Solomon College does not provide accommodation or dormitories. However, our international student advisor will be able to provide assistance to students seeking to rent downtown near our campus. Please contact us directly at 780-431-1515 for more information about arranging accommodation.
We hope this article has answered your questions if you're passionate about aviation but didn't know where to start! If you enjoyed this guide, please give us a "like" on our Facebook Page. Let us know if you have any questions about flying or our program! You can also leave us a comment below or on Facebook. Thank you for reading and happy flying!