27 April 2020

Do YOU need a A levels (or a Degree) to be a Commercial Pilot?

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In today’s episode I answer a question for a podcast listener about if you need to go back to school to get GCSE’s, A-Levels or even a degree to become a commercial pilot.

Hear what British Airways and Ryanair think about the importance of your school grades in 2020 and what MUST do before starting your 14 ATPL exams!


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Podcast Episode Transcript

BPP010 [00:00:00] Aaron Henriques: Hello and welcome to the British pilot podcast. I'm Aaron Henriques. And today we're going to be talking to you about whether or not you're going to need A levels, or even GCSE's to become a commercial. Now, before I carry on the reason why I've actually gone through this episode today is because I was emailed by Sean. [00:00:21] Who's 30 years old and he emailed me letting me know that he wants to pursue his childhood dream of the current. A commercial pilot. Now, Sean, isn't that much younger than myself. And I see I've just recently started that journey as well. So the thing that Sean was unsure of is that he says he's got GCCS, but has no age levels. [00:00:46] And that was something that was potentially concerning him or wherever I'm not here to go off and, you know, go and spend a couple of years on getting a levels. And if they're, if they're going to be of any use to him at all, no. That, that that's definitely something that, you know, a lot of people think about. [00:01:01] It's something I fought about before I came here. Now I've only, you know, I did my GCSE, Tom recording. It was like 18 years ago. And, you know, I did my levels, obviously just after that. And you know, it's such a long time ago that, you know, how much value do my GCCS or eight levels really bring to any that. [00:01:23] You know, going forward, the GCSE is that I did 18 years ago. How valuable is that to them now? Okay. So this is something that I wanted to speak about today, but before I get into that, I just wanted to let people know because I've had quite a lot of people contacting me on Instagram. I've had people on the Facebook as well. [00:01:42] You're you're more than welcome, you know, getting contacted me. If you've got questions, don't be afraid to ask, just put them in there, you know, interact with me, put, send me a post. I'm all. I'm all good to listen to you. So if you want to open up your Instagram, that's actually where I spend. Most of my time is on Instagram. [00:01:57] You open up your Instagram, you go to AaronHenray that's AARO and hen R a Y at me. And. Sorry for, if you, if you click on the follow button or whatever it says you know, get in contact with me and more than happy to hear from you. And of course, if there's anything you want featured on the podcast in the future, then we can you know, that's something I can think about doing, but over the last few weeks, you know, obviously I've not been putting much out there on the podcast or even, you know, on my Instagram page to do aviation because there, you know, at the moment we're in the Corona lockdown and. [00:02:31] You know, we're, we're not allowed to be flying. You know, we're, I'm currently still doing the ATPL's and at the moment in the ATPL My, my school was decided to do distance learning through a webinar platform, which unfortunately for me, it hasn't been going so well for that sort of thing. I need to be sat there in front of I'm a teacher, but for some of the other students it's been, it's not been a problem at all, but that's the reason, obviously why I haven't been putting much out there in relation to aviation. [00:03:00] But when Sean puts out this question to me, I thought, you know what? That's a really good question. That's something that lots of people think. So I wanted to get into that with you because it's something I looked at prior to ever coming here. You know, cause I I've, I've got, you know, I've got GCCS and I've got basic K levels. [00:03:19] And as far as academic grades, that's it. Okay. As for, as far as that goes, that that's, that's all it is. And yet I'm still here. All right. So having qualifications, obviously they cannot have. Right. It's good. If you've got them and you know, it's something to think about. Are they actually essential to you becoming a commercial pilot and for you to be able to sit in that flight? [00:03:42] Of course airlines will value people. Who've already got work experience. And, you know, particularly if you've got years of working experience, you know, you can come to them, you can show that actually your, a good employee, because you turn up on time for years on end. You know, you you've you've, you know, you, haven't got this high sick record. [00:04:01] You know, you you've actually got what it takes to, to actually fit into an organization as an employee, because that's what you are. So I believe there's, you know, there's a lots of people who, particularly young people enter aviation. And the thing is with people who've come straight from school into aviation is they haven't really got a track record. [00:04:24] Okay. So. What they do have is yes, they've got their you know, they've got, the GCSE has got over. They may even have a degree, but in terms of track record, quite often, you know, a lot of those people who come in really young may not have actually worked. And there are some don't get me wrong. There are some definitely who, you know, worked their asses off. [00:04:43] Okay. Both in school and also outside to be able to fund their progress. As we know who entered the MTA aviation, because they've, you know, that they've been fortunate enough to be born into families where they could literally pay for their entire course straight from school. Right. So you've got to consider the airlines, they are looking for an overall package. [00:05:05] This isn't just about the side of things where yes, you can pass the 1480 PL exams and then the skill, you know, the flying skills test. There's a bit that comes after that. And that's your HR and. They can, they, they're going to be assessing you for numerous skills. They're going to be assessing you for your ability to work in teams for your you know, for, for, for things like your commitment, your reliability, your problem solving skills. [00:05:29] Okay. Because a lot of those things are not going to be covered throughout the ATPL's. Although there is a new syllabus that's coming out, which I believe is meant to cover more of those sort of more practical things to make you a better sort of candidate. In terms of like for HR purpose. Okay, because it's, you're not just a pilot. [00:05:48] When you becoming a commercial pilot, you are also an employee. Okay. You're an employee and you need to be able to fit into an organization and also do all the other stuff that comes with being an, a. Okay. Like turning up on time, not being sick all the time. Okay. It's not, it's not just something you can turn up when you, like, you might have to go up unsociable, you know, it's unsociable times, you know, I can't tell you how many times in the 10 years of me policing, I've had to be up at four in the morning, three in the morning, you know, going to work and have to be alert at that time. [00:06:18] You know, it's not, it's not time for you to be a lazy, you know, lazy student where. Wanting to stay in bed till midday, because you need to get in, you know, you need to be presentable. You need to represent your organization in a positive way. And that, that, that doesn't just mean for your attitude. That means through how you present yourself, you know, how you dress for example. [00:06:37] Okay. There's lots of other things that employers are looking at more than just your grades and you know, whether or not you can pass the ATPL's. So going onto the whole grade, Right. So prior to this, I've, you know, I obviously haven't been through the HR side with airlines yet. I'm still doing my ATPL's and you know, then after that I've still got to go and do my commercial pilot's license. [00:07:03] I've then got to go and do my instrument rating, upset recovery training you know, there at the APS, MCC, you know, the multi crew corporation course there's this. Oh, I've just mentioned that the upset recovery training you've got to do and then you need to go off and get yourself, you know, in front of an airline, who's potentially going to be giving, you know, some of their money and time and effort into put, putting you on a type rating. [00:07:31] Okay. It's only, it's only at that point really is when you're going to be tested. So I'm quite a way off from the HR side yet, because it's only when I've got all the when I've got the ATPL hours and I've done it with the physical flying train that I need to do to get me to the point where I'll be able to start doing a type rating is when I'll actually be talking to airlines and being assessed by them. [00:07:52] Okay. A couple of airlines that obviously a lot of you will be aware of. You know, one of them British airways, I actually went up to British airways, spent a bit of time up there. You know, had a, had a tour of their facilities, their Sims, et cetera, and got to speak with somebody. Recruiters up there. [00:08:09] And you know, one of the things that I realized about them is that they, they are now taking modular pilots. You know, they traditionally, they had taken integrated pilots to people who've been on a specific scheme for British airways, but they are now taking modular pilots to they're trying to get people from other backgrounds, from other organizations to bring additional skills into the, into their organization. [00:08:35] Okay. And that, that's definitely a positive thing to be doing that because you can take people, who've got managerial skills, you know, customer service skills, all sorts of, you know, years and years of experience in, in other areas and bring them into your organization. And when they come, yes, that they are a pilot, but they've also got all these additional skills that they bring to your organization. [00:08:56] And that's what I believe that British airways are currently doing by opening up to modular pilots now, even British air. Okay. They only want a great C in English, maths and science. Okay. That's at GCSE level, right. And for people who don't know what a grade C is for the very young, among, among you, that's a great four. [00:09:19] Apparently according to their website, it's a great for in English, maths and science at GCSE level, that's the only academic qualifications that they ask. And then you look at other companies like Ryanair, for example, lots of people you know, lots of new pilots will end up with a company like right in there. [00:09:36] And that's not because, you know, there's a myth about Ryanair about potentially like they're you know, they'll, they'll take on new pilots, give you a job, but they don't pay you well, whereas actually it's the complete opposite. They, they actually pay better than the majority of other airlines for new pilots. [00:09:51] Okay. And they'll put you in, you know, one of the youngest fleet. Of of seven free sevens out there, you know? So that's, that's definitely a myth that some people have got, but in terms of Ryanair, they don't, you know, certainly through, through the stuff that I've had with them, I've been to an event with Ryan now I've had, I've had, you know, been lucky enough to. [00:10:15] The to be introduced to some of their pilots, who've actually come to the flying school here at Stapleford to talk to our, to talk to our class. And, you know, it seems to be that rhinos aren't particularly mentioning, you know, specific grades that, where they're going to cut you off. Okay. Now that that's not to say that, you know, there, obviously things can change. [00:10:36] British always may change their policies. Okay. Ryanair may change there's it depends on the market, but at the most. You know, it doesn't, it looks like they're more looking at the personal qualities and the overall picture, the overall candidate, not just their academic side, because the academic side is only one portion of many other qualities that someone needs. [00:10:56] To be able to be, you know, a good you know, good employee, a good pilot going forward in the future. Well, that's what I believe anyway. And, you know, I mentioned that, you know, we've recently, we've had free rhino pilots here just before the Krone locked down, who came that, you know, I think it was like an hour or two hours that they sat down with us and they were just answering, answering questions. [00:11:17] And the thing is of all three of those pilots are all. Okay. They've all come from from Stapleford. And one of them is actually in the recruitment team there. And to, you know, to answer the question about the academic side, you know, the, the re you know, one of the recruiters in Ryanair, for example, here is, you know, by, by his own admission, he is not to it. [00:11:40] He was in a trades in the building trades and you know, definitely not an academic, but what he did do is when he came here, he, you know, he, he knuckled down, did his 14 ACPO exams. Okay. Got good grades on those, you know, cause that that's, that's obviously important. If you don't get the good grades in your ATPL's, then you may find that challenging to be able to move on, you know, to move forward with becoming a commercial pilot. [00:12:05] Okay. But. It's not to say that you absolutely have to have these good grades to be able to get in. Right. The only thing I would say is that because you do, you do have to have these 1480 per exams, right. And there are limitations on on the amount of retakes that you can take and how many, how many, you know, over what period of time that you can take those exams and, you know, airlines also, you know, for example, British airways, Then at the moment for modular pilots and this may change, and I've been told this may change, but at the moment for modular pilots, they're not allowing retakes, right? [00:12:44] So anyone who's coming through the modular route at the moment, you have to get first time passes. Okay. And 85% or above average, whereas other airlines, they may have their own criteria with some where it's not fixed. Because again, like I say, they'll be looking at an overall package. They might have someone who's out to do free retakes in some. [00:13:04] But they may actually be, you know, really great individual, you know, to, to, to, to bring on board as an employee and to represent the airline, you know, because they may have a whole host of other skills and experience that they can bring in that far outweighs whether or not they had, you know, a C in English or a D in English, if that makes. [00:13:28] So if you have been out of school for a while. Okay. So a lot of the older audience, you know, if you're all 30 plus or even just a bit younger than that if you've been out of school for a while, definitely prepare with your masks and fix. Okay. Not, not just to help you for out the ATPL's, but you know, before you even get to start the ATPL course, you have to take a pre entry test work, whatever school you're going to, you're going to take a pre entry test and to check your maths and physics is up to at least a minimum standard before you can continue with it. [00:14:01] And I would say that that pre entry test is probably not representative of what is actually contained within the course itself. That's something where I've struggled. It's the maths and physics and actually bef you know, ju it was only a few days before I was meant to start this course. I didn't actually realize there was a test that you have to pass prior to starting, so that could have literally done my legs. [00:14:24] So I spent a lot of time at GCSE bites. Okay. It's really good. If you want to brush up on your maths and physics, you only need GCSE level maths and physics. You don't need to be going into anything complex. Okay. But if you go and brush up on there I would generally say that that's probably the best thing for you to do brush up on your maths and physics. [00:14:42] Don't worry so much about whether or not you've got the grades to do it. You're, you know, you're going to have to, you're going to have to pass all 14, ATPL exams before you're even looking at any airlines. Okay. And there is a, there is a change coming to the syllabus. I'm not, I'm not actually a hundred percent sure on what it is, but what we've been told for our class is that this new syllabus that we're not doing, we're on the old syllabus, but this new syllabus is meant to have a number of other you know, sort of skills that, that are tested for out. [00:15:15] For example, giving presentations to. Okay. So that's something that's again, you know, look, they're looking at other things. The other qualities that may have been missed traditionally in aviation, that airlines will actually be looking for now. Okay. Because I would struggle with, well, I would argue with anyone who says differently that I believe strongly that becoming a pilot, whether you're a captain or a first officer or whatever you are, if you're on that flight. [00:15:47] Okay. You are in a position of responsibility in a very big way. You going to need leadership. You know, you're going to need leadership skills. You need that ability to be able to communicate effectively with people, okay. People who may be bigger, older, scarier than you. Okay. You're going to need all of them. [00:16:08] And when you're looking at becoming a commercial pilot, you're also going to need to have passed your English proficiency test. You're going to need to pass that, and that is graded on certain levels. Now, luckily for myself, I, I get the level six, which is the highest level just for being a native English speaker. [00:16:25] Right. But for people who are not native English speakers, you will be going through a test and you will be graded on that. And each airline has their own grade that they will. Okay. I've I see that lots of airlines will accept a level four or above, and there are some that may only want a level five or above. [00:16:45] Okay. So again, this is something that you're going to have to think about. If English isn't your first language, then perhaps it may be useful for you to go off and actually go and look at doing, you know, distance learning English, GCSE. If you haven't done one. Or if you can get into college, go and do that. [00:17:05] Now, ultimately, if you get to the point where you've got your, you know, your you've done your 14 ATPL's you've done your commercial pilots license and, and you've done your instrument rating and everything else. And you're ready now knocking on an airline's door, then all of a sudden they've changed the rules. [00:17:25] For example, actually, you're now going to need. This qualification to be able to come in. Okay. Then there isn't much you can do about that. You're just going to have to either go off and get a qualification or candidate. And I would suggest if you've done all that work, you're probably just going to go off and get a qualification. [00:17:45] And by then, because of the amount of work you'd have been doing for out your ATPL's, you'd be back in that learning mode. Okay. And you will probably be able to be a lot more comfortable with going back and literally just going, passing a GCSE. Okay. It's probably not going to seem too difficult to you now. [00:18:02] Okay. Because the amount of work that you're doing in your ATPL's far outweighs fight by, by miles, what you do at GCSE. Okay. So I wouldn't be concerned if there's any of you that are still concerned out there about whether or not you've got the right qualifications that. You know, the best way I would suggest is getting contact with the airlines. [00:18:24] If there are certain airlines that you're looking at that you think, you know, you may, you may be looking to work with in the future, then go and have a look at them. Okay. So if British airways is on your. Okay. Let's just say for some reason that you specifically want to go for British airways and that's your target. [00:18:42] Okay. I would suggest that you probably have your horizons a bit broader than that because they are limited in the numbers that they can take. Okay. And who knows what's going to happen after the coronavirus, but if you are, let's just say that you are looking at airlines that are like exactly library show is all very similar and you do need. [00:19:00] Maths GCSE at grade C, but you've only got a grade D in maths then, you know, perhaps you can, whilst your looking at, you know, getting onto the next ATPL course somewhere, or, you know, before joining Bristol or whatever, wherever you're going to do, your course, perhaps have a look at going about getting that GCSE or just looking at your other options because there are other options. [00:19:29] So hopefully that's been helpful to some of you who have been thinking about whether or not you're going to need certain qualifications or not. And You know, by all means, like I said, get in contact with me. It's AaronHenray on Instagram it's AaronHenray, where you can email me S Aaron, aaronhenriques.com. [00:19:47] And you can let me know what's been going on in your world if there's anything else that, you know, perhaps you know, of some airlines that do need The are asking for degrees or asking for certain levels or, you know, certain other GCSE's. Now let me know and I can let, I can do another episode and let other people know what you found out too. [00:20:06] Okay. All right. Stay safe out there.


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