Pilot Training in Europe is not unlike Pilot Training in the rest of the world. There are a series of steps one must accomplish before you are employable as a JAA Certified Pilot. You can accomplish these steps on your own, at your own pace, at a Flight School or through a full-time program within a Full Time Aviation Study.
The first step is to take a Trial Flight – a quick 30 minute flight which will either make you really want to become a pilot (most likely) or may make you realize you are not meant to be a pilot. This flight is not a test of anything, merely an introduction to aviation itself! We, the pilots at the PilotCareerCentre all absolutely loved our first flight and knew right at that moment, that this was the best career for us!
The next step is to get a Pilot Medical done - just to ensure that nothing medical is holding you back from becoming a pilot. Once you receive a valid medical, you can start your PPL - Private Pilot Licence Training. At the end of this training, usually you will have logged between 45 and 80 flight hours (45 hrs is the minimum), you will be recommended by your Flight Instructor to do the PPL Paper and Flight Exam. Passing the JAA Exam, and successfully flying the required maneuvers will result in you receiving your first licence – the Private Pilot Licence. This licence allows you to fly Single Engine Piston Airplanes without an Instructor onboard, but not for renumeration.
The next step is the Night Rating which will allow you to fly at night. This is a brief but important Rating to acquire because the more advanced Licences require a fair bit of Night Experience in your log book.
The next step in the Pilot Career Path is the CPL - Commercial Pilot Licence. A common misnomer is to think that this is the Training you need to fly for the ‘Commercial Airlines’, when in actual fact it is simply the licence required for you to be able to be paid to fly airplanes. This licence involves more advanced training and maneuvers, and also more advanced theory. At the end of this training, and once you have successfully logged the required flight time totals; usually between 200 - 250 hours (Minimum 200 hrs), you will again be recommended to do the JAA Written Exam as well as the Flight Exam. Once both are successfully completed, the JAA will grant you a CPL - Commercial Pilot Licence.
From here you have a variety of options. You can work and be paid as a Single Engine Charter Pilot - although there are not a lot of companies employee pilots solely in this capacity. From here you may elect to train to become a Flight Instructor. Another option is to continue training to get your Multi-Engine Rating. After this rating, most continue on to learn how to fly in clouds under Instrument Meteorological Conditions or 'IMC' with no reference to the earth other than your instruments, while flying a Multi-Engine Aircraft. This is called the Instrument Rating, and is the most popular option as it enables you to be the most employable when you commence your Job Search - Why? Because the majority of Fixed Wing Aviation Companies in Europe have Multi-Engine Aircraft, and also need you to have your IR - Instrument Rating to be able to employ you. Like the rest of your initial training, there is a JAA Written Exam and a Multi-Engine IR Flight Test. Once these are successfully completed, you will receive a new licence in the mail from the JAA with the 'Instrument Rating' endorsed near the top of the page.
ATPL - the "ATPL" stands for Airline Transport Pilot Licence and this licence is highly respected in Europe and worldwide by ICAO. This is also the licence you need to fly for the airlines.
FROZEN ATPL - a Frozen ATPL is for pilots who do not yet have the Flying Experience Level required to have the full ATPL Licence but in the meantime have successful passed all of the JAA ATPL Exams. This is an important qualification to have for those new pilots with few hours of experience, as it shows potential employers that you are serious about your career in aviation. Also many employers and airlines can employ pilots in the right hand seat as First officers provided they have as a minimum a Frozen ATPL Licence. If you can secure a flying job at this point, it will not take long to get the experience level to switch your licence over to the JAA ATPL.