I am 19 years old and from a young age I have always wanted to become a pilot at an airline. Becoming one is my biggest dream, to me an airline pilot is the most coolest jobs - I get goosebumps just by thinking about me in that position.

I have finished my high school education and hope to go to Australia to study in order to become a pilot. However, most of the university programs don't give me the feeling that I can become a pilot. Most of what is learned and practiced is in small planes, even the career opportunities don't mention that one will become an airline pilot.

Does anyone know the best and fastest way to make my dream come true? What should I do?

The only course that has got me attracted to is the one that's in Swinburne University, but then again, small planes. I am fine with flying small planes, but where does that big jump to airplanes happen, if it's not taught in university. Where do I learn it? Does anyone know the procedure or the best place to train to become a pilot?

Also, I'm not an Australian so I will be an international student. I have checked for jobs in my home country airlines, they require a minimum of 5000 hours of flight, does this mean normal plane flight hours? Where will I get these hours covered from? Of course this many hours aren't offered in university.

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    $\begingroup$ You may want to do a couple things to help us help you. Firstly, try and keep your questions a bit more general (ie., how does any person become an airline pilot in Australia.) Secondly, you are asking several questions in the same post, why not break this post up into several questions so they can be treated individually. We'd love to help you out, it's just hard to answer your questions when they are posted in this fashion... $\endgroup$
    – Jae Carr
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ And another thing: use some more whitespace. Linebreaks can add greatly to readability. And that goes for posts here as well as for job application letters :) $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ @JayCarr Done editing the title $\endgroup$
    – M.S.E
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ Okay :) I will. But, the description is all related to becoming a pilot, how to break it up into different questions. The description is what I think about this. $\endgroup$
    – M.S.E
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ That looks fine, I just hope we have enough people here from Australia to answer the question... $\endgroup$
    – Jae Carr
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 14:15

3 Answers 3


I am Australian and I hope I can help.

Firstly, you don't need to fly through a university. There are hundreds of private flight schools here which are of great quality, and very few of them are associated with a university. More and more international airlines are sending cadet pilots to our schools. Most of them offer theory courses in addition to the flying, or you can always self study.

Having said that, the university courses are great and airlines like people with a degree (but it's not mandatory to have one). You'll be paying more though, it's a trade-off.

Your comment about small planes - All flying is initially in light aircraft - even if you got an airline cadetship you start small. No single course in Australia or anywhere will let your first flight be in a jet.

Speaking of airline cadetships - these are definitely the best and quickest way to get into an airline cockpit but the positions are highly competitive (and maybe not open to international students, I don't know). But you can still get an airline job without a cadetship...

The normal progression is this - you can technically get a flying job after 150-200 hours of private training and flying, having achieved your commercial pilot licence (CPL). I say 'technically' because if you only have minimum hours and minimum qualifications you have to look very hard for a job. Most people straight away get an instructor rating, so they can get a job teaching people to fly. Other early jobs include sightseeing flights, parachute flights, and mail flights to remote towns.

Your training will have been in light aircraft, but fortunately Australia has possibly the largest light aircraft industry in the world, so there's lots of jobs in these planes. It's highly unlikely that your first job will be in anything bigger than a 6 seater plane.

If you get extra qualifications (such as multi-engine endorsement, and instrument rating), you can get more jobs, and gradually fly bigger aircraft.

After you have your CPL, the next big step is the Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL). Regional airlines here generally require as a minimum, 1000 flying hours in light aircraft, the multi engine rating, the instrument rating, and passes in the ATPL theory exams - note that you don't necessarily need the ATPL licence itself. It will take most people a couple of years until they get this experience.

If you have that much experience flying 6 to 8 seat aircraft, it's not actually a huge leap to the 20 seat planes of the regional airlines, and the airlines will train you for this step. And once you've flown those for long enough any airline can train you to their jet.

Of course if you want to go back home after the training it will be different. But no school here can train anyone to go straight to an airline. You've got to do the small things first. Think of it as character building!

I'm sorry but I'm a bit rushed for time but I hope I've helped a bit. Australia is one of the best places in the world to train in my opinion (but I might be biased!). Please ask if you have any more questions. And good luck.

  • $\begingroup$ How old do will I be when I first start flying an airline? An estimate? :) $\endgroup$
    – M.S.E
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 9:58
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    $\begingroup$ It's tough to say. It depends on how quickly you can do your training, how long the training takes (university training in Australia will take longer than just doing it privately), and of course it depends on the airline, if they're expanding they hire more pilots but if they shrink..... If you start training at age 20 I think a realistic time to be applying for a major airline would be 26-27. But it depends. And they normally hire up to about age 40. $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 11:14

I'm not super sure about Australia, but in general terms, I know that it can take a lot of time to get from a regular license to being a commercial jet pilot.

The first step is to get your private pilots license. So I'd find a program to get that taken care of. Then you're going to want to look for programs that get you a commercial rating (which simply means you'd have a license that allowed you to make money by flying a plane.)

There is no real big jump at any point, you go from very small planes to progressively larger planes over a period of years. In fact, when you first start flying commercial, it is likely that you will be flying a somewhat small aircraft for minor tasks. Like a Beechcraft King Air or something similar. From there you just build up more and more hours and get jobs with bigger and bigger carriers until one day you land that dream job of yours, flying 747s ;).

Some colleges will help you scoot the process along by getting you a bunch of hours in the smaller commercial aircraft (like the above mentioned King Air.) But I don't know of any that will have you flying jet airplanes for a larger carrier the moment you graduate.

That being said, I'm not super familiar with colleges in Australia, so perhaps they are significantly different than colleges in the US (which is where I'm from.)

  • $\begingroup$ So the path that I am taking is correct? So there is nothing to study after getting the commercial rating? After getting the commercial rating when I apply to flying small planes, how do I apply to airlines? Because there is a minimum of 5000 hours that you need to do, to be able to apply $\endgroup$
    – M.S.E
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Tharindu lol, zillions of questions! What you really need to do Tharindu, is find a commercial pilot you can speak with in person and have a very long conversation with them. They will probably be able to set you on the right course. On this stack it's hard to move much beyond generalizations, but a real world pilot can tell you (or an advisor at the colleges you're looking at.) I enjoy your enthusiasm though! $\endgroup$
    – Jae Carr
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Tharindu Or, you might trying joining the chat for this stack exchange, there are a few commercial pilots who show up there and could probably help as well :). chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/12036/the-hangar $\endgroup$
    – Jae Carr
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ Ok :) I will :) Thank you. $\endgroup$
    – M.S.E
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 3:41

I am pilot and currently work as a flight instructor in Australia

In order to become an airline pilot you need to get your initial licenses in light aircraft. No one learns to fly in a big jet. There are two main pathways to get a job in an airline

Self funded and/or university training option: You start training at a flight school to obtain your commercial Pilots licence. Once this is done you hunt for your first job but you are limited to:

  • Small aircraft jobs (dropping mail cargo sight seeing flights etc)
  • Parachute plane pilot
  • Working for a farm station (fence inspection etc)

Typically these jobs are found in remote Australia for a better chance of obtaining a job and if you have drive to do it go to a flight school get an instructor rating and teach people how to fly.

Once you’ve obtain the magical 2500hrs and manage to get enough funding to get your instrument rating (another story) you can then get into an airline as a first officer.

The second option is through a Cadetship program. These programs are highly competitive and can be quite expensive but once completed you get a gig as a second officer. Second officers typically don’t do a lot of flying they’re on the flight deck to assist and monitor the aircraft in cruise after many years monitoring you can get upgraded to first officer where you can finally do some good flying.

The training for both these pathways are the same at a flight school getting your initial licenses on small aircraft

Yourself being an international student it would be very difficult to get a job flying in Australia with the visa requirements the best way to do it if you are unable to get a Cadetship program would be to get your instructor rating but do it at a flight school who could use your skills and could potentially offer employment afterwards. (I have friends that have done this) obviously schools will not say they will hire you but if you prove to them how well you can work anything is possible.

Hope this helps and good luck.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Av.SE! $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ Basically, the same way you become a commercial pilot in the US, or anywhere in Europe, or probably anywhere in the world. Start small and work your way up. Nobody jumps straight to the top in any endeavor. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 16:09

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