Four ways to earn your Canadian pilot licence
...Plus a free guide.
“How do I earn my pilot licence?” is one of the most common questions I receive. There are several ways to become a pilot in Canada, so below is a breakdown of how you can start your flight training journey. Also, attached is a quick reference guide you can use while you progress through your training.
1. Flight School
One of the most well known routes to earning a pilot’s licence is through a flight school. For decades you could stop by almost any airport and find a small flight school, or a club, with an instructor on field. Flying schools or clubs allow you to rental one of their aircraft, pay an instructor, and complete your training.
Since these schools are smaller in size they often provide more personalized service and flexibility with instructor availability. This is still a common option with reasonable costs.
Increased competition, increasing costs of operation, and the large reach of post-secondary programs have caused many smaller schools to close. This has left fewer options available and there may not be a school in your area.
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2. University or College
Over the last two decades, there has been a significant increase in the popularity of post-secondary flight training programs. The growing number of schools offering these programs means there is often an option near you.
The draw of these programs is the addition of a diploma or degree. It’s a two-in-one deal. You earn your licence and receive a post-secondary education at the same time.
These programs are becoming more common with their ability to better promote themselves and offer incentives that smaller flight schools cannot. In addition, with some larger carriers still requiring a degree to be hired as a pilot, these programs are sometimes a necessity for certain individuals.
One thing to keep in mind with such large programs is their lack of flexibility. To accommodate everyone and include the education component, they offer a structured progression and delivery. This is welcomed by some students who want to see the progression and to plan around their milestones and end dates, but this can also extend the time it takes to earn your licence. What might take someone a few months to earn at a flight school, can take a year to earn at the post-secondary level.
Another consideration is the higher costs of training. This is often the most expensive option to earning a pilot’s licence. Since these programs are through post-secondary institutions, items such as tuition, residence and other school related cost are added to the flight training expenses. This can quickly add up to a very expensive endevour. Due to this, it is important to budget accordingly.
3. Private aircraft and instructor
Through this option, by using your own aircraft, you train with a flight instructor to earn your licence.
This option offers the most flexibility and often the lowest cost. If you have your own aircraft, it is possible to use it for your training instead of paying to rent a school aircraft. There is also the option to find a private, freelance instructor to complete your training on that aircraft. This can significantly reduce your training costs. In addition, freelance instructors tend to have more flexibility in their schedule.
Some of the advantages of this option are:
· Learning the requirements of operating your own aircraft
· Learning maintenance requirements
· Transport Canada process
· Ultimate freedom and flexibility to fly
· Owning an aircraft which can be sold following your training to recoup costs.
A key part of this is actually purchasing your own aircraft. This is obviously a financial hurdle for many. In addition, the operating costs can be more than expected if a buyer does not plan properly. Proper planning and budgeting are key.
Obviously, there are several variables in this, such as the aircraft itself and any maintenance-related items, as well as the instructor or school. Planning ahead can make this option very financially appealing.
The military offers paid pilot training for those eligible. Not only will your training be paid, but you are also guaranteed a job afterwards. In addition, you have the ability to fly really cool aircraft, on some really cool missions, that only the military operates.
Some of the negatives are, the need to sign a contract following your training, this contract can be a minimum of seven or more years. Also, you will face multiple deployments, often for extended periods. This can be an amazing lifestyle, but one that does not work for many people.
Here is an extra one…
The Royal Canadian Air Cadets is a youth organization for those aged 12-17. Originating in World War 2 to train youth for service in the Air Force, cadets today are not members of the military but still receive excellent training. The league provides training in several areas including leadership, survival, air traffic control, gliding and flying to name a few.
Its most popular courses are the glider scholarship course, which earns participants a gliders licence, and the power scholarship course. Here, participants receive training up to the Private Pilot Licence level.
These scholarships are free to those selected and along with the entire cadet program, provide them the opportunity to make lifelong friendships, and learn valuable life skills such as teamwork and leadership.
I labelled this option as an “extra” for a couple of reasons. First, this option is only available through the cadets, so if you are older than 18, this option is not available to you.
Second, these scholarships are only offered to senior cadets, 17-18 years old and in grade 10 or higher. Out of all the applicants, only a few are selected for the scholarships. This means a spot is not guaranteed, even if you meet the criteria.
That being said, the air cadet league has a long, rich history, and I encourage anyone interested in aviation to take a look and see if the cadet program is right for you.
Now you know where you can get your training, but what does that training entail? What do you need to achieve each category of pilot licence?
Attached is a quick reference guide. This guide breaks down the different licenses, and the theory and practical requirements for each and offers an easy-to-read reference you can use throughout your training.
If you have questions about earning your licence or purchasing an aircraft, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I am happy to help you on your journey.