I've previously looked online for pilots jobs at airlines, from budget airlines to cargo carriers; and they always want you to have a ppl.
Do any airlines currently run programmes for applicants with no prior flying experience?
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Lufthansa does. They actually prefer people they can train themselves, so they never learned things which Lufthansa considers bad practice.
This becomes impossible if the airline grows quickly. Therefore, all the new carriers (Etihad or Vueling, for example) need to rely on hiring certified pilots.
See Lufthansa-Pilot.DE (only in German but speaking German is a requirement anyway).
Thanks, Danny, for the link. Lufthansa has now adopted English as their corporate language, so I wonder how firm the German language requirement still is.
British Airways ran the Future Pilots Programme in 2013, which offered applicants with only A-Levels (no university degree/diploma) aged 18-55, the chance to co-pilot an A320 or 737.
Financially, this is how it worked:
We have joined forces with Airline Placement Limited (APL), a subsidiary of CTC Aviation, and together we've designed a unique sponsorship scheme that will make flying feasible for all. APL will sponsor your flight training, jet orientation course and type rating.
Obviously this represents a significant investment by APL and you will therefore be required to deposit a security bond of £84,000 with them. Because this is a sponsored scheme, this entire £84,000 security bond will be repaid to you, tax-free, if you successfully complete all training, and join British Airways as a first officer. The security bond is repaid in equal monthly instalments over your first seven years of employment, all in addition to your remuneration package.
There are a number of ways you can raise the funds to deposit this security bond, for example from your own finances, borrowing from family, or securing a loan. If you're not in a position to secure an asset-based loan then you could be eligible for our British Airways guaranteed loan scheme. If this is the case, our partner bank will run a thorough check of your credit history.
Should this come back clear and you pass the Future Pilot Programme selection process, British Airways could act as your loan guarantor. You will then be able to borrow the money from our partner bank in order to deposit the required security bond with APL. On any loan there is obviously a percentage of interest charged by the lender, but the British Airways guaranteed loan scheme specifically offers a 24-month holiday period before any loan repayments commence.
The year 1 basic salary for a Future Pilot Programme first officer is £23,220, with a further £8-£10,000 of flying allowances typically being earned in a full year of flying.
In terms of the licence that you get:
Each training course in the Future Pilot Programme leads to the issuing of a Commercial Pilot's Licence (Aircraft) with Multi-Engine Instrument Rating. Theoretical knowledge (ground school) is examined to Air Transport Pilot Licence standard and so your licence will be issued with 'Frozen ATPL theory credit'. This combination is colloquially known as a 'Frozen ATPL'.
Unfortunately, the programme is currently closed. That said, one source1 says:
All the 2014 slots have been filled and the opening for 2015 slots will probably occur in October or November. You will probably be competing with over 3,000 other applicants for 60 positions, so the odds of success are not high.
1 Ok, the source is Yahoo Answers! That said, the answerer is a top contributor in aviation.