Making the transition from Military to Commercial aviation

The aim of this blog article is to offer support and information specifically to pilots within the armed forces considering leaving and joining a commercial airline.  At AirlinePrep, we have team members who have done just this and can help make this complex process as simple as possible!

The military to civilian pilot transition is, for most pilots, an inevitable and eventually very rewarding experience, but it’s fraught with hurdles along the way.

The first bit of advice, start preparing early, even before you have decided to leave.  If you’re within 3 years of an option point, we would suggest you start getting ready, because when the industry opens the door, it's often for a short period of rapid recruitment, and if there’s one lesson to take away, it’s that they won’t wait while you obtain your licences etc. to be processed by the CAA, which can, believe it or not, take over 10 weeks.

The first hurdle to cross is the ground school exams.  To be able to commence these you must have the requisite PPL i.e PPL(A) for fixed wing exams.  The vast majority of service pilots complete their ground school with Bristol Ground School.  They’re an exceptionally well run school that will provide you with the preparation you need, not just to pass the exams, but to attain high marks.  They’re also well set up for service personnel and are ELCAS friendly, so the process will cost you a fraction of the course price.  Ideally, complete the exams with 2 years to exit, but at the very least, you really want them completed before you take your option/PVR.  If you don’t manage this, then don’t worry, but it will mean that you’ll be working rather frantically during those final months when your energy should be focused on job applications.

With the exams complete, start applying for jobs and book a course with a flying school to complete the practical training: CPL, MEP, MEIR.  There are a number of schools but email them with your credentials to see what training they think you require.  This can vary widely as there are a number of dispensations that you may be entitled to take advantage of depending on where you were awarded your wings and your operational type.  Airways Flight Training in Exeter is a popular school for service leavers and it is one of the cheapest.  However, Booker aviation at Wycombe Airpark is becoming very popular with service leavers.  

With the licences complete, the job search starts in earnest.  Ideally, start the process before you even do the practical training.  Most airlines tend to recruit for short periods, so take the opportunity whilst the doors are open.  The application process is very different to joining the military and it does vary throughout the industry. The consistent aspect throughout all airlines is that you will sit some form of maths test/aptitude test, a competency based interview and group exercise.  The competency based interview is really quite challenging and very different to anything that you are likely to have experienced before.  As with anything, practice is the key, and with the experience gained whilst flying in the armed forces, you’ll have plenty of examples to explore. That said, drawing on those experiences and high-lighting the core competencies they are looking for, in relation to the specific question, is not particularly straight forward.  This is where an investment in a session with AirlinePrep will help.  We suggest booking a course as soon as you make your first application or even when considering whether to leave the service.  Our instructors have a wide range of experience preparing people for airline assessments and we can provide guidance on everything from getting your licence to how best to prepare for the application process, with a particular focus on the competency based interview and group exercise. 

As stated at the beginning, it can be a fairly long process and will require a great deal of time and energy. Anything you can do to make the process easier is well worth the investment. 
At AirlinePrep our interview, assessment and simulator preparation courses can be tailored specifically for those considering leaving the Military and joining an Airline.  We can work alongside you for the entire process from creating you a new CV, helping you choose the correct flight school, to preparing for an airline interview and assessment.  We can provide a complete solution.  
If you would like to know more about how we can support and help you with your Military to Airline transition then please feel free to contact us.