The following advice and information is a synopsis of the views of a number of pilots who have undergone commercial training in recent of years before flying as a pilot for Aurigny.
In terms of which training path to follow, the consensus is that an integrated course is the best way into the airline industry. The main disadvantage to this is the cost. Although this isn't greatly more expensive than the modular route the costs are higher and the payments are required either upfront or in instalments during the first year of training. The main providers do have agreements with banks for trainees to take out a loan subject to passing an aptitude assessment, although this normally needs to be secured on a property.
All integrated course providers require applicants to pass their aptitude assessment before acceptance onto a course, whereas with the modular route this is not required. There are many examples of these assessments and advice on preparation for them available online. It is strongly recommended that any budding pilot go to one of the larger schools and undergo an aptitude assessment even if it is not their intention to join an integrated course. It gives you a very good idea of whether this is the right career for you and your likely success in training before any significant monies are committed.
The larger airlines generally only recognise integrated and Multi-Pilot Licence (MPL) courses. Their perspective is that if you have undergone an integrated course from start to finish with a quality provider, they then automatically know the quality of training you have been provided with and the intensity with which it has been delivered. Most integrated courses teach even the single-engine training element along airline-style procedures. If a student has followed the modular route, in many cases the training has been provided by a school or flying club that an airline has no knowledge of, and over a much longer period of time. If a prospective pilot can join an MPL course that normally offers a job at the end, but the nature of the course means that if the sponsoring airline cuts back on training, no licence will be issued at the end of the course as completion requires the final elements to be conducted within the airline involved.
The main advantages of the modular route are that you can take your time and work in between your training to maintain an income plus it is the slightly cheaper option. There is also more flexibility as to training location, so it can be possible to do most of the training closer to home. If the modular route is chosen, it is recommended to complete all aspects with one school, which will provide a greater degree of continuity and standardisation.
When choosing which route to follow, career ambition is also a factor. Once employed the route and training provider are no longer relevant in future job applications, whereas it is important when applying for the first job. For example, larger carriers generally only recruit through schemes at integrated schools, whereas smaller airlines still take pilots from either training route. So a lot depends on what career path is envisaged when you finish training. If the plan is to join a large airline, an integrated course will be needed. To join a smaller airline or a corporate operator either route is likely to be acceptable, although for the more complex aircraft most corporate operators usually only recruit pilots with previous multi-pilot experience.
One particular word of warning - A lot of trainees have been caught out by going to some of the newer and cheaper integrated colleges, particularly in the USA. Several have ceased trading with students having already paid upfront for their training in full. As you do not qualify for a licence at every stage during integrated training (i.e. nothing is issued until the end of the course), if the college ceases trading during your course you have nothing to come away with other than a lot of debt. Many students have paid in full and have only completed ground school when a college has failed, so this is not a route to be recommended.
Anyone wishing to train to fly commercially is recommended to attend a flying careers exhibition. A lot of training providers, both integrated and modular, attend such exhibitions, along with a number of UK airlines, and you can gain a lot of the information you need by attending one of these exhibitions. One of the larger exhibitions is organised by the publishers of Flyer Magazine via their Pilot Career News website. Good advice can also be obtained from the website of the Civil Aviation Authority.
In terms of providers, the training elements at the major schools are more or less identical in format, content and quality. If financially possible, use of one of the larger providers (CAE Oxford, FTE Jerez, and CTC Wings) is recommended. The school’s airline relationships are important, as most people are only finding work through their training provider once they graduate through airline schemes set up in the graduate services at the school. This is a disadvantage of the modular route as you will generally be unable to secure a place in a holding pool for placement with one of the major airlines. When deciding on the training provider, the graduate services department are fundamentally the people who will help you find a job are therefore an important consideration.
In terms of additional training providers, well-known providers are Aeros at Coventry, Aviation Services at Leeds, BCFT at Bournemouth, CATS at Luton and Ravenair at Liverpool. Other schools are available and a full list can be found via the CAA website address above.
The best providers have several airlines that they regularly send their graduates too. Don’t be too attracted to a provider that sends, for example, 150 people to one airline each year as opposed to one that sends smaller numbers to a larger range of airlines. If a school deals with only one airline, and that airline slows recruitment, the school’s students may be left with no other options whereas some schools send people directly several airlines and sometimes have contracts that guarantee a certain number of candidates per year.
Finally, type rating training costs are something that is often overlooked. Pilots joining Aurigny currently are being offered company-funded type ratings for the ATR and Dornier 228, with a decreasing liability to the pilot over a three-year period. This is quite an attractive prospect, as many larger airlines can charge candidates up to £30,000 in advance for a type rating, with usually no guarantee of a full-time or permanent contract at the end of it.
From all of the above it is clear that there is much to consider. The modular route is cheaper and more flexible, but less likely to lead to employment. The integrated route is more expensive and intensive, but is preferred by most airlines. Every candidate is different and therefore elements of either route may be more attractive to one trainee over another, but overall the consensus is that an integrated course with a reputable provider will offer the greatest likelihood of career success.