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Training Prospective Pilots for Commercial Aviation


THE COMMAND OF A GIANT AIR LINER is open to ambitious pilots



































THE COMMAND OF A GIANT AIR LINER is open to ambitious pilots. Experience and a record of safe flying are the chief requirements for the higher paid positions. A pilot may continue active flying until the age of 45 or more, and he thus has ample time in which to become widely experienced and to obtain a responsible post in the higher grades. This illustration show the Imperial Airways liner Horatius.




MANY young men are so much attracted by flying that they wish to adopt it as a career. As a means of livelihood, the career of a civil pilot makes a strong appeal. Flying is ideal for the adventurous and for lovers of the open air.


Those who choose flying as a career should be sure of their keenness, for the life of a pilot makes big demands on the individual from the beginning. A real love of the work will make the necessary sacrifices entirely worth while. Pilots have to maintain a high standard of physical fitness. Hard work and concentration are needed while qualifying, and no income from flying is available during this time.


The man who adopts the profession cannot expect to become rich quickly. Well-paid positions are, however, available to the pilot of long experience. Moreover, the art of flying is a reward in itself. There is considerable satisfaction in a flight successfully accomplished in difficult conditions. Flying is a healthy occupation and the pilot enjoys a degree of freedom and responsibility which are not often equalled in other professions.


Although some air-line companies provide advanced training for their pilots, they do not teach them to fly. The cost of this must be borne by the pupil himself. The prospective commercial pilot should therefore have some reserve of money at his disposal. Unfortunately this does not always apply. But there is one possible alternative. This is for the prospective pilot to learn to fly by taking a short service commission in the Royal Air Force. Four years is the normal duration of such a commission. A gratuity of £300 is paid on completion of service. This sum would enable the pilot to gain some experience on commercial types of machines, and would maintain him while doing so, or while seeking a position.


The smaller aircraft operating companies often prefer to engage pilots whose whole experience has been in commercial flying rather than in the Royal Air Force. There are, however, good posts to be had by men who have been pilots in the Royal Air Force. Some of these men may be accepted for training in the aviation school of Imperial Airways. But the majority of those who decide to take up flying as a career pay for tuition at a flying school.


A pilot’s “A” licence (see the chapter “Learning to Fly”) is obtained before the “B” licence - which is for commercial flying - and the “A” licence is easy to obtain during the pupil’s spare time. Therefore, as the adoption of flying as a career may mean giving up some other career, it is wise to delay the final decision until an “A” licence has been obtained. By the time that this stage has been reached, a pupil will have decided whether he is as keen as he imagined, and any psychological or physical inaptitude for flying will probably have been discovered.


A particularly high standard of physical fitness and suitability is required to obtain a “B” licence. To avoid a possible waste of time, money and perhaps opportunities in other vocations, a candidate for a “B” licence should apply to undergo his medical test early in his training, or even before he begins to train. Application should be made to the Air Ministry. A description of the official medical tests is described in the chapter “Tests of Flying Fitness”. A wise preliminary precaution is for the candidate to be examined by his own doctor. The wearing of glasses to correct short sight or astigmatism rules out all possibility of a career as a pilot, although this disability does not prevent private flying.


Next in importance to the considerations of physical fitness and of suitability is that of cost. The charge for training up to the “B” licence standard varies considerably with the particular flying school attended. Assuming that the various tests will be passed at the first attempt - the rule rather than the exception - £300 is a good average figure to allow for training fees. A course can be completed in from six to eight months.


The autumn and winter are the best months in which to train for a “B” licence. Although the weather during these seasons is not so pleasant for flying as during the spring and summer, the pilot who obtains his “B” licence at the beginning of spring has a better chance to obtain a position quickly than a pilot who seeks his first post in the autumn or winter.


For a “B” licence the pilot must, have completed 100 hours of solo flying, and must satisfy examiners in certain practical flying tests. These include general flying and spinning. Two cross-country flights of at least 200 miles have to be made. One of these is a triangular flight with two stops on the way, and a height of 6,500 feet must be maintained during this flight for a total time of one hour.


Another cross-country flight is made with an examiner in the aircraft, and includes three forced landings. A night flight of at least thirty minutes has to be made, and also a flight by instruments alone. This instrument flight includes a take-off and the performance of normal manoeuvres.


These practical flying tests have to be completed within a period of two months. Failure in any one of these tests makes it necessary to take again only that test in which the pilot has failed. In addition to these practical tests, the pilot has to undergo an examination in theory.


Civil flying as a career









SHORT AIR ROUTES such as from the English mainland to the Isle of Wight may provide a pilot with his first post. Such routes do not make the same demands on a pilot as long overseas routes. This picture shows an Airspeed Envoy, Series II, with a Wolseley Scorpio II engine, in flight above the Solent.

















ONE OF THE ATTRACTIONS of an air-line pilot’s career is the opportunity to visit overseas countries. This picture shows the Imperial Airways liner, Hanno, at Gwadar, on the coast of the Baluchistan Agency, India. The Hanno is a four-engined liner of the Handley Page 42 type. It has a wing span of 130 feet, a length of nearly 90 feet and a height of 27 feet. The weight when fully loaded is a little over thirteen tons.









The period of validity of a “B” licence is six months. A medical test has to be passed at each renewal. If a pilot has flown 125 hours as the pilot of aircraft within thirty consecutive days of the renewal of his “B” licence, he must submit himself for a further examination before continuing to fly.


From the time that a pilot has embarked on his training for his “B” licence until he stops flying in later years he will be continuously learning. The “B” licence is merely the beginning of his career, and there are many other licences to be gained which will help him to obtain the higher paid positions. The amount of a pilot’s experience, and his qualifications determine largely the kind of post he will get.


The “B” licence alone is insufficient for a pilot to obtain a good regular post. He will need to gain experience and, except in a few instances, will need a second-class navigator’s licence. Regulations in Great Britain require every aeroplane carrying goods or passengers for reward to have on board a navigator who holds at least a second-class navigator’s licence if a journey of over 100 miles is to be flown without landing. At night the limit of a flight without such a navigator is sixteen miles. In the majority of flights the pilot may perform the duties of navigator.


Thus, by obtaining his second class navigator’s licence, the pilot materially increases his chances of obtaining a post. For this reason it is desirable for a pilot to study for his second-class navigator’s licence while he is qualifying for his “B” pilot’s licence. The cost of a course of lectures for the second-class navigator’s licence varies greatly, but it may be obtained for as little as six guineas.


After a pilot has obtained his “B” licence and his second-class navigator’s licence, he enters on what is probably one of the most difficult stages of his career. He should take any commissions that are offered to him because they will all add to his experience. He must, at all costs, avoid anything in the nature of an accident.


Reputation for Safety


If he can build up a reputation, however small, for safety, he will be well on the way to a successful career. His “B” licence will be confined to certain types of aircraft. He can have other types added, and one of his aims should be to increase the number as much as possible.


If a pilot is lucky, he may obtain a full-time, though temporary, position immediately. This might be with a firm of aircraft operators who have short-distance or ferry services. Or he might be able to obtain employment in connexion with “joy flights”. He may receive a fixed salary, or he may be paid a retaining fee plus a bonus for each hour of flying time. He should have no difficulty in earning from £6 to £8 a week.


Apart from the chance of a regular position, opportunities will arise for the pilot to carry out specially commissioned work. This may take the form of occasional “joy flights” work, air taxi work, or flying in connexion with Army cooperation. Alternatively the pilot may be able to obtain work in night flying for searchlight practice.


There are many possibilities, and initiative will prove a great help. The pilot must never hesitate to make “contacts” with people who might be able to offer him employment at a later date. Although the pilot may have a preference for some special type of work, it is inadvisable for him to try to specialize at this stage. Experience is what he needs, and the more varied it is, the better.


STUDYING NAVIGATION at the Imperial Airways training school at Croydon




STUDYING NAVIGATION at the Imperial Airways training school at Croydon. Although pilots learn to fly before they join Imperial Airways, they must undergo considerable advanced training before being passed for duties as senior pilots. Most successful civil pilots continue to study throughout their flying career; many of them hold ground engineers’ licences as well as pilots’, navigators’ and wireless operators’ licences. A second-class navigator’s licence is generally obtained concurrently with a pilot’s “B” licence.







Sooner or later, most pilots begin to specialize. Sometimes they can choose their branch of aviation. More often, the branch which they follow is decided for them by their first important post.


Air-line work offers the most numerous openings. With the present rapid expansion of services, pilots may look forward to ample chances of advancement in the future. Grades of pilots employed on air lines vary from the pilot beginning his career on a ferry service to the men at the top with thousands of hours’ experience and master pilots’ certificates. These men may earn £1,500 a year. It is possible for them to earn even more.


Master pilots’ certificates are issued for landplanes or for seaplanes. To obtain the certificate the pilot must have held a pilot’s “B” licence for at least five years, and must have flown for at least 1,000 hours as the pilot of a civil aircraft. Certain other stipulated experience is required also.


Air-line work gives the pilot the opportunity of visiting many countries, and of flying large aircraft such as those used by Imperial Airways on Empire routes. He may even become the pilot of a flying boat. For this he will need to receive further training, because there are considerable differences between handling a flying boat and handling a landplane. His additional training, however, will be at the expense of the firm by which he is employed. Pilots of large aircraft need to obtain radio operators’ licences and some of the ground engineers’ licences. Pilots of large long-distance air liners are as much technical experts as pilots. The business of handling these large aircraft is no longer a glamorous task, but an important and highly skilled profession. Although the air-line pilot’s remuneration may be greater than that of pilots in some of the other branches of civil flying, the hours of work may be irregular and rather long during the summer months. To some, therefore, one of the other branches may have greater appeal.


Opportunities for Test Pilots


Instructional flying is probably the second largest branch of civil flying. It has much to commend it to those who have the right temperament. But every good pilot would not make a good instructor. A pilot might not have the gift of imparting his knowledge to others. Before a pilot may give instruction in flying he has to pass certain Air Ministry tests.


The work of an instructor at a flying club or school can be highly congenial. The hours are fairly regular, although long in the summer when the evenings are light. The social side is attractive and the work is interesting, almost fascinating, to those who have a special aptitude for it.


An instructor cannot, as a rule, hope to reach such a high salary as the air-line pilot. The attraction of his job. how ever, is often more than compensation for lower remuneration. From £500 to £700 a year may be earned; as with all other branches of civil flying, salary is largely governed by the experience and record of a pilot.


The work of a test pilot has a strong attraction for those considering flying as a career. It does not appeal so strongly to pilots once they have taken up their career. Yet to the right man it is almost ideal. The pay is high, possibly the highest of all the branches of civil flying. This is entirely justified. The risks taken are the greatest, and a high degree of technical knowledge is necessary. The whole success of an aircraft manufacturing firm may depend upon the skill with which a test pilot carries out his duties.


INSTRUCTIONAL FLYING is a branch of civil aviation in which many pilots find employment









INSTRUCTIONAL FLYING is a branch of civil aviation in which many pilots find employment. It provides interesting work in a congenial atmosphere. In this picture an instructor, in the right-hand seat, is explaining the controls of a Praga monoplane to a pupil. This machine has a twin-cylinder engine and the cockpit is closed when the aircraft is in flight.










Another branch of civil aviation is air survey work. The pilot engaged on this work must be prepared to go to sparsely inhabited parts of the world. His work calls especially for steady and accurate flying. Among the remaining types of work are advertising display - the towing of banners or smoke-writing in the sky, air taxi work, “joy flights” flying, demonstration of new aircraft types, and pilot to a private owner. The last of these does not offer many openings, and the pilot should hold ground engineers’ licences to enable him to keep the aircraft mechanically efficient.


Many of the jobs such as advertising display and the demonstration of new aircraft types are performed by pilots who are also directors of the company for whom they work. Pilots thus sometimes have opportunities of entering the business side of aviation. Their personal knowledge of practical flying proves invaluable in the successful discharge of their duties. This is an aspect of flying as a career which should not be overlooked.


The earliest age at which a pilot may obtain a “B” licence is nineteen. The normal upper age-limit is forty-five, provided always that the pilot can continue to pass his medical tests. In special circumstances, where a pilot is actively engaged in flying, the age-limit may be extended beyond forty-five.


Civil flying is not a nerve-racking occupation, and the older men are often the best pilots. Their long experience makes them of great value to the air lines employing them. The time has to come, however, early or late, when the civil pilot must cease active flying for pay. He may even desire to do so before he is compelled to by regulations. What possibilities are open to him then?


In Demand as a Consultant


If he has already become a director of a firm, his future should be assured. On the other hand, there should be no difficulty in the way of his obtaining a good ground situation in administration or control work. His experience makes him the only suitable person for many such positions. Alternatively, he may find remunerative work as a consultant. A pilot with a long, successful flying career behind him will find his services in demand when the time comes for him to cease active flying. There is no reason why he should not be in a position to retire comfortably if he so chooses. A young man considering flying as a career should beware of considering it in the light of the exploits of record-breakers. The thrilling stories he reads in the newspapers concern an aspect of flying which is an exception. Opportunities of this nature may come to experienced pilots of an adventurous turn of mind; they must not be expected. Civil flying to-day is not a job for those who desire nothing but thrills. It is rather a congenial occupation with plenty of hard work and has its times of monotony. The steady, self-reliant, manly youth is the one most likely to succeed.


For every pilot’s post in civil aviation there are dozens of other posts in the same industry. Therefore, there is room for only the best types of men among flying personnel. Civil aviation is rapidly expanding. To those who are prepared to face responsibilities with determination, the career of a civil pilot offers almost unlimited opportunities. The opinion was once held that commercial flying was a hazardous occupation in which the pilot continuously faced the possibility of an accident. Such an opinion is now unsupported by the facts.


[From Part 17, published 28 June 1938]



You can read more on “Aeroplane Engineering as a Career”, “Learning to Fly” and “Tests of Flying Fitness” on this website.








Civil Flying as a Career