How to become an airline pilot!

The selection is rigorous, the process is demanding and the course is overwhelming. In this post, I try to give you everything I wish I knew before joining L3 Airline Academy as well as my best advice.

Choosing the right school and programme! 

So many training organisations and independent flight schools offer the same product so it can be hard to determine who to choose for your training and why. Whether it be their airline links, facilities or training locations, each establishment has its benefits and drawbacks. When choosing my flight school, I visited and researched all of my available options. Some I disregarded straight away, others it was difficult to determine what they could offer me in comparison to other flight schools – I wanted somewhere that was going to be right for me and help me gain quality training into an airline.



L3 offered an intense training course with high quality facilities such as new generation aircraft and state of the art in house simulators. When I completed my selection day, it was still known as CTC Aviation – they ensured a very personal touch and really seemed to care about the individual.

Integrated or modular? 

Before beginning my journey with L3, I researched heavily into the modular training programmes and the benefits they have over the integrated course. They tend to be cheaper, you choose where you want to complete ground school and your flight training. In that regard, you could make your training exactly what you want it to be. However, I chose the integrated course as it offered me the quickest route to the flight deck, something which I was conscience of as I want to get into the right hand seat as quickly as possible. The knowledge that L3 had unrivalled airline placement statistics instilled confidence in me that I had made the best choice for my training.


At the time of applying this question never really crossed my mind. MPL’s have been designed by the airlines for the airlines – it allows them to get their standard procedures into their cadets much sooner in training as well as allowing you to work with future colleagues during training. Flight schools don’t offer a non-airline specific MPL course, hence why the L3 Integrated ATPL Whitetail course is so popular. The term “whitetail” simply means the cadet is not sponsored or part of an airline training programme and will apply for jobs on completion of training.

I chose the Whitetail course as I wanted choice over my first airline. However, after entering the industry and realsiing that most accept any airline job offer that comes their way, I wish I had done some more research into the MPL routes their airlines had to offer. Other than that, there is not much choice on ATPL or MPL as I stated above due to schools not offering a non-airline specific MPL course.


The dreaded question: how much does it cost to be a pilot? Integrated routes are known to be extremely efficient, however they come with a much larger price tag than a modular route. In some cases, integrated routes can be nearly twice as expensive. L3’s Integrated ATPL Course costs £96,800, not including type rating – however airline MPL programmes can cost just shy of £130,000. Banks and training organisations have some solutions to help overcome funding issues – L3 have a unique package which allows those who cannot afford to train to be a pilot gain access to the funds required, you can read about that here:

This question is best answered based on your personal situation and what you deem to be the most economically viable option for yourself. That, weighed up with everything else should leave you with an answer as to which training organisation is the best fit for you.

Additional Costs

This is certainly something I wish I had thought about more before joining. Additional costs may be low in cost, but they come in their plentiful, below is a list of the items not included in the training cost:

  • Selection fees
  • Class 1 Medical (Initial and yearly renewal) and any additional required tests
    • Initial: Approximately £550.
    • Renewals: Approximately £115 – I complete mine with Aviation Medicals Wessex, they provide a 25% discount as an L3 student pilot, the link to their website is here:


  • Insurance (Travel, loss of license, medical)
    • Provided by Finch Group Insurance Brokers.
  • Living costs
  • Additional uniform and equipment – L3 require an iPad for their programmes
  • Exam costs and resists if required (if course doesn’t include them)

I hope this gives you an insight and helps you decide on your path to becoming an airline pilot. I’ve included a contact form below if you have any more questions or feel free to message me privately on any of my social media accounts. Stay tuned for future posts!

A day in the life (flight training)…

This blog post will be written based on my experiences with Etihad Aviation Training/L3 Airline Academy at their Al Ain training location in the United Arab Emirates. L3 are currently utilising Etihad’s facilities to ensure they maintain an adequate number of flight training positions for their cadets worldwide.

A typical flight day usually begins quite early, however this depends on the slot times that Etihad have on the day. Sometimes wake up’s can be as early as 3am, or, if you’re lucky, as late as 12pm. I tend to ensure all my preparation for the flight is done the evening before so I can be certain of a good, stress-free night sleep. This includes: completing the relevant mass and balance, practicing flows and procedures, and ensuring I have all the necessary equipment in my flight bag. Although there isn’t much to prepare for except from the above, it allows me to feel prepared and ready for the flight the following day.


Here is an outline of what a typical day in Al Ain can look like:

  • 03:00 – Wake up and get ready for the day. This includes getting myself ready and double-checking I have all the relevant and necessary items that I need to complete the flight. I usually give myself 45 minutes to 1 hour to ensure I am not rushed.
  • 04:00 – Depart for Al Ain International Airport. The airport is located 30 minutes away from our accommodation in Green Mubazzarah and Etihad’s stipulations require us to arrive at the airport 30 minutes before our scheduled briefing time to allow us to complete the walk around and ensure all relevant documents such as the mass and balance and solo authorisation forms have been completed properly.
  • 04:30 – Check in with operations at Etihad.
  • 05:00 – Briefing with the instructor on the lesson plan and outline the key parts of what to expect. This is done in coordination with L3’s Training Manual to ensure our training is completed correctly. The lesson has a mission number, such as FM008 and its relevant information such as prerequisites, duration of flight and type of flight e.g. dual or solo.
  • 06:00 – Briefings are usually scheduled 1 hour before take-off time, which of course depends on sunrise times. Most lessons are scheduled to be 1 hour long, however some are less and some are more.
  • 07:15 – After returning to the airport after the flight and having a short rest period, the instructor and student debrief to reflect on the flight. This tends to include whether the flight met expectations, how the student felt throughout as well as the instructors thoughts. The flight is then graded depending on performance and comments are made as to whether or not any elements of the flights must be repeated.
  • 07:30 – Debrief done and its time to head home. Depending on delays and cancellations etc, the entire flight including briefs can last as long as 8 or 9 hours – however if all runs smoothly I can be back in bed for 9am!

Although the flight doesn’t last awfully long, it is extremely intense and therefore I tend to be exhausted after its completion. Depending on the time, I asses whether or not it’s worth me heading back to bed for a few hours or not. If not, I take some time to just relax for the next flight. Preparation is key!

I hope this has given you an insight in what you can expect as an L3 cadet undertaking their flight training with Etihad Aviation Training.

My first solo!

I am elated to be writing this blog post. It feels like it has been a long time coming as we have been out in the United Arab Emirates completing our flight training for 12 weeks now; but with just 11.7 hours under my belt I have gone solo!

Al Ain International Airport, 04/01/2019, A6-FTK

Listen to my solo congratulations from ATC here:!AtqoIx8qKf40iSuwyb2Tuz7RtxgA!

Having been cancelled the day before due to solo crosswind limitations being exceeded, I completed my first solo check on 04/01/2019 followed by my first solo circuit which lasted all of 24 minutes! I felt this week was the perfect time for me to go solo, I had flown every day leading up to it and felt very confident in previous lessons.

My first lessons of circuits were certainly challenging. I found there was so much to do in such a small space of time: flows, checklists, radio communications…breathing! However I would certainly say my confidence and ability grew throughout each of my circuit lessons. The instructor introduced and practised flapless and glide approaches as well as aborted take offs and engine failures after take off – known as EFATO! Although these are all situations I wish to never be in during my career, its so important to know how to deal with these situations if they do arise. After becoming more confident in my circuits and approaches I began to enjoy them more and couldn’t wait to go solo.

On the day of my solo it was still touch and go whether or not I would be allowed to fly due to winds again. However when the METAR came out at 0700, my instructor had no hesitations to at least give it a try. After completing my solo check, consisting of 3 circuits, I dropped my instructor off and was given the all clear to head back into the air, but this time alone. The time flew by and before I knew it I was back on the ground, completely overwhelmed by the whole experience. This certainly feels like one of my biggest achievements so far on my journey to the flight deck.

The solo wouldn’t be complete without the traditional “solo dunking”, which as I’m sure you can imagine is quite welcome out in the desert heat. My instructors didn’t hold back on grabbing the hoses. I was very pleased to be able to share my dunking with 2 fellow cadets, Calvin and Darryl who also went solo just an hour after me. It certainly feels like we are moving in the right direction to getting our CPL!

I sit here writing this with another solo lesson planned for tomorrow, hoping that I can manage to get another hour alone in the skies if the weather allows me!

Thanks for reading.

My L3 selection tips!

Selection can be somewhat difficult to prepare for – you don’t know what to expect, how difficult it will be and you’ll be super nervous. Do not fret, my selection day with L3 Airline Academy was very relaxed and they were very welcoming.

The day is typically split into 2, the technical and non-technical skills areas. Here is what they consist of:

Technical: PILAPT and Maths Test

PILAPT – Perhaps the part of the day I was most nervous for. Having read many blogs online on what to expect, I can say that it surpassed all of those feelings I had anticipated. I would highly recommend using SKYTEST ( for practising anything and everything PILAPT; without this I wouldn’t have passed. PILAPT tested on 6 areas, mainly concentrating on areas which required focus and concentration as well as testing your capacity and speed at which you can monitor and complete tasks. The tasks seemed to get harder as they went on, however SKYTEST prepared me brilliantly for it as they were almost identical tasks. The examiners on the day even said that Captains of airlines still fail the test to this day – so don’t feel too hard on yourself if you don’t manage it first time.

Maths – I found this relatively straight forward having just done both GCSE and A Level Mathematics. For those who haven’t studied maths for a number of years, my tip would be to study the basics such as: long division and multiplication, conversions between fuel and currencies and speed, distance and time calculations. There was nothing in the 15 questions which necessarily throws you off, its just the time limit. 15 questions in 15 minutes can feel somewhat stressful.

Non-technical: Individual Interview and Group Assessment

Individual Interview – A very relaxed setting, the interviewer wants to get to know you and why you would be suitable to join L3 Airline Academy. Most of these questions are scenario based, e.g. “tell me a time when” or “give me an example of”. Before my interview, I brainstormed some key ideas which can help you prepare for those questions which you can expect – as I’m sure many will freeze at points like I did. Try to think outside of the box, I tried my best not to give the most generic answers even if they were true.

Group Assessment – I believe the key to passing this section of the assessment day is finding a correct balance. You want to come across as a good leader and listener, however being a good leader incorporates the individual being a team player and thus allowing others their opportunity to speak and voice their own opinion. The assessors give a scenario to the group, and as a team you must work to an end goal. This includes decision making, time keeping, brainstorming and finally collating. My main tip is to get involved as much as you can, a career in the aviation industry requires people to work as part of a day continuously so the assessors won’t be looking for those who are quiet.

Within a couple of weeks I found out my result stating I had been accept onto the Integrated ATPL programme, it was a truly incredible feeling that marked the beginning of my journey to the flight deck and something that I will never forget.

I only had 2 weeks between discovering out my result and starting the ATPL ground school in Southampton – before I knew it I was at my ‘First Flight Event’.

Good luck with your assessment and please get in touch if I can be of any more assistance.

Defeating the modules…

Ground school was the most challenging period of my life without question. If you’re an aspiring pilot as I was, you would have heard that a thousand times. But until you’re 3 months in, with 3 months left to go, you’ll be telling everyone exactly the same.

The ATPL course has 14 theory exams, which L3 CTS split into 3 modules:

Module 1:

  • Human Performance and Limitations (HPL)
  • Mass and Balance
  • Principles of Flight (POF)
  • Meteorology (Met)

Module 2:

  • Instruments (Basic and Advanced)
  • Radio Navigation (RNAV)
  • General Navigation (GNAV)
  • Aeroplane Performance

Module 3:

  • Aircraft General Knowledge (AGK)
  • Flight Planning
  • Air Law
  • Operational Procedures
  • VFR Communications
  • IFR Communications

Each of the modules are equally challenging in their own right. I personally struggled in the first Module, but found they became less challenging as ground school went on. I believe a large part of this was becoming familiar with the type and style of revision – it was so different from studying for A Levels or even GCSE’s – the workload was unlike anything I had experienced before. Content was not necessarily hard to comprehend, the difficulty came with the shear volume that needed to be committed to memory in an extremely short and intense period.

These are my top 5 tips to anyone starting ground school…

Work together, others may be struggling too…

I was never afraid to ask others for help. If I didn’t understand an instructor explanation, another cadet may have a better knowledge or understanding of the subject and therefore can describe it in their own words.

Be focused and stay organised…

A night completely free of studying may seem like a good idea, but I would recommend ‘always doing an hour’. Go home and get an hour of solid revision in before stopping for the evening, too much time off leads to you becoming behind – trust me!

Set goals, but be realistic…

I have always worked better with a plan of what I need to achieve that day – especially when it comes to weekends otherwise time will run away.

Be fair to yourself…

Your brain cant concentrate for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – I found going on walks a huge stress relief! It gets you out of your post-it note covered room and exploits you to some very much needed fresh air.

Celebrate your successes!

Be proud of what you have achieved – whatever the outcome. If you’ve worked hard enough, results will come. Grab a few beers, because that next module is already breathing down your neck!

Keep an eye out for my next blog – ‘A day in the life…’.

The Flying Begins

Flying has finally begun. I’m currently located in the UAE, beginning my Commerical Pilots License (CPL) with EAT (Etihad Aviation Training) as part of the L3 CTS Integrated ATPL. With my first hour now in the logbook, I’m more eager than ever.

Having finally completed the dreaded 14 ATPL EASA exams with L3 CTS at their Southampton training centre, I find myself in the middle of the desert, embarking on my flight training. Last week I took to the skies for the first time in the Cessna 172, an extremely reputable single engine aircraft. The flight was somewhat more of a demonstration and a ‘tour’ of the local airspace in Al Ain. It included scanning flows, which EAT have implemented for us to have a smoother transition from flying small aircraft to when we get to the airlines, checklists and preparation for the flight such as the mass and balance and aircraft performance. Due to the extremely warm weather in the UAE, the aircraft produces much less thrust and lift and due to this, cannot carry as much weight – something which we must consider thoroughly when planning quantities of fuel and baggage to take.

Moving from the classroom to the skies also sees an additional stripe added to my shoulders. At L3 CTS as a ground school cadet you begin with no stripes, gain one once you have passed ground school and another after your CPL skills test. They also provide a pair of wings once you have completed your first solo. Here’s me on our first day at EAT, rocking that one stripe epaulette…

One stripe epaulettes...

I feel really privileged to be able to wear the first stripe on my epaulette, hopefully the first of 4 as I begin the long journey to the left hand seat!

It was incredible to get into the skies to have my first contribution towards my CPL, and seemed extremely rewarding after working tirelessly on the EASA exams. Fingers crossed next week brings more flying and a new update to Aviator Taylor.

What can I do to prepare for ground school?

My time between discovering my starting date and actually start was somewhat short – just over 2 weeks to be exact. This left me limited in options with what I could achieve in such a short space of time, especially as I was still in full time employment. However, for those who find out weeks and even months in advance, here are some things I would suggest you do before you discover the gruelling effects of ground school…

Get ahead of the game!

Read, write and start revising. I would suggest finding out how you work best, whether that be kinaesthetic, visual or reading and writing. Try and find a schedule that works for you and what you can achieve in a evening. As soon as ground school begins you’ll be immersed in a world of work and textbooks – I really wish I had the time to read through some of the books and get to grips with each of the subjects a little bit before starting ground school. Some cadets on my course even read through all 14 ATPL PadPilot books before beginning.

Know what to expect…

Reading blogs like this can give you a real insight into what to expect when starting ground school. It can be somewhat daunting not knowing what you’ve signed up for – but there are thousands who have been through the experience before and they can give you tips and advice on what worked for them during their ground school. I will reiterate that I believe nothing will prepare you for what ground school will bring as everybody deals with it in different ways – but it can certainly give you an idea on what to expect.

Think of ways to revise…

Working for 14 hours a day, 7 days a week can begin to get repetitive and quite boring. I tried to think of new ways to keep my mind interested in what I was learning. At times it feels like there’s no end to the new content so I found this very useful in helping me to remain focussed on the end goal. Here are a few ways I revised during ground school:

Revision Cards

    : Keep them short and sweet. I tend to use these for short facts and figures that I needed to commit to memory – the continuously reading and speaking aloud really helped to make them stick.

Post it notes

    : My walls were practically a different colour every Module – I used them for noting things I couldn’t remember, no matter how hard I tried. Post it notes may jig your mind if you have forgotten something as you may be able to locate where that post-it note was in the room and from there remember what the contents were.


    : I tried to condense large topics into posters – for example, the e-book for Principles of Flight was over 1000 pages, most of it information explaining that particular topic. I tried to make the posters colourful, brief and included pictures or diagrams to help my understanding and to vary the ways in which I was revising – rather than just continuously writing.


A day in the life…

Ground school is challenging, rewarding and certainly stressful – however one thing it does provide is structure and routine. A typical day at ground school can last 16 hours, mostly always jam-packed with revision and general studying. I tried to structure exercise and eating around my revision to ensure I still maintained some form of normality; it also allowed me to stay focused and keep in a good mindset ahead of the next set of looming exams.

My day during ground school with L3 CTS looked something like this…

0645 – Morning: Wake up and get ready for the day, set for a prompt departure at 0745 to the Southampton training centre. Having a big breakfast was something I became a massive believer in, it fuels you for the morning of intense studying and makes you feel good and energised.

0830 – Lessons begin: The day is usually split into 2 subjects, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, however subjects like Principles of Flight are over 1000 pages long and are therefore more time consuming than others, so don’t be surprised if you have a whole day of some subjects! We tend to break every hour or so, to catch some air and refresh the brain.

1200-1300 – Lunch: Time to refuel and get ready for what the afternoon has in store for us! I used to get back into the classroom 15 minutes before class was set to restart, just to read over notes from the morning’s classes – this certainly wasn’t hardcore revision, more just a brief recap. If we had time, a few of us would go for a 10 or 15 minute walk to enable us to stay focused for the afternoon’s lessons.

1600-1630 – The end of the day…at the centre! Life doesn’t stop when you’re back at the accommodation! Driving home into the city centre can sometimes take up to 45 minutes, I gave myself 30 minutes at home just relaxing, before grabbing a drink and beginning the evenings study.

1900 – Dinner: I enjoy cooking so saw this as having some time out from studying, not just ‘cooking dinner’. I’d typically break at the same time as my flat mates, we’d just chat or even go over some things from class that day. It can be so helpful as others may understand something in a different way which may help you.

2200-0000 – Bed: Depending on how the evenings revision had gone I’d typically go to bed some time between 10 and midnight. I never used to set a timeframe as if I felt I was working well and could continue doing so I would give myself another hour revising or even just going over questions on Bristol Ground School’s question bank. However, some nights my body felt like it couldn’t take anymore so I would go to bed earlier, tomorrow is a new day and I had to make sure it was a better one!

As we got closer to exams this timeframe became somewhat non-existent. The 16 hour days sometimes turned into 18 or even 20…However trying to maintain a balance of what keeps you going and workload is so important. On a Friday evening we used to play football together and sometimes go for a few drinks and I’d try and go for a walk in the New Forest on each day of the weekend, exercise and social events are what keeps you human on such an intense course.

I hope you enjoyed this blog, thanks for reading and please contact me if you have any questions! You can also sign up to receive notifications of when I post at the bottom of this page!

2 months in the UAE…

Nearly 2 months into my time in Al Ain and I thought it’s time to write a blog post on what I’ve been up to…other than flying!

Al Ain is somewhat remote, they seem to build outwards rather than upwards here so everything is considerably spread out – especially when you compare it to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In terms of attractions, Al Ain is quite limited and we seem to have been to or seen the majority of the suggested sites. However, having Dubai and Abu Dhabi just one and a half hours away means we have endless things to do…

Here are a few of my best bits since arriving in the United Arab Emirates in early October…

Dubai Creek and Old Souq, Dubai

Visiting Old Dubai was incredible and one of my favourite trips so far. Compared to central Dubai, it is extremely cultural and you can find so many things to do and see. We took an hours long trip on an Abra (an old wooden boat) along the Dubai Creek for just 40 dirhams each – approximately £8! It was amazing to see so many different sights. The creek is predominately used for transporting industrial goods such as fabrics and tyres around Dubai – something you certainly don’t see in Dubai itself.

Formula 1, Abu Dhabi

Since discovering I would be conducting my flight training in the UAE, I had my heart set on attending the Abu Dhabi Formula 1. We managed to get some last ditch tickets from a couple on holiday in Abu Dhabi who were selling them on behalf of a friend. It all seemed too good to be true…Marina Grandstand, Row A, access to the After Race concerts…it turned out to be one of the best weekends of my life. We had access to the Thursday, Saturday and Sunday as well as their respective concerts which included Post Malone, Sam Smith and Guns n Roses – we also luckily picked up some tickets from one of my friends parents for the Friday night concert of The Weeknd. It was incredible, the racing, the entertainment – I would recommend it to anybody visiting Abu Dhabi or the UAE in November.

It was also topped off with an incredible flyby, all coordinated by Etihad Airways. It included their incredible Boeing 787 – painted in a special Formula 1 livery, the Airbus A380 and the Al Fursan aerobatic display team…what a combination!

Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Perhaps one of the most beautiful and picturesque buildings in the world. It’s size and stature is overwhelming. I felt such a presence whilst visiting – everything is so peaceful and tranquil. The building is kept spectacularly clean, emphasised by the fact you can only walk around without shoes on. The pictures speak for itself on this one…

Jumeirah Beach Resort, Dubai

JBR is one of the most credited hotels in all of Dubai, and understandably so – it’s absolutely huge and seemed to have everything you could ask for. We were walking through shops and restaurants for over 45 minutes before reaching the beach – where only hotels guests may reside. However, we somehow managed to wriggle our way to enjoy the views of the Burj al Arab as the sun set…

This was definitely one of those moments that I’ll look back on and pinch myself to remind me that I actually lived in the United Arab Emirates…

That wraps it up for now – I hope you enjoyed this blog post. If you want notifications of when I post be sure to sign up below!