Student Pilots – Dealing with Lockdown – 2

Becoming a commercial pilot during a global pandemic

In a series of blogs, BGS students will be sharing their pilot training story. Today, we’re hearing from Nick, a current BGS student.

Similar to Jonethan, he says that he’s wanted to become a pilot from a young age – “I have always loved flying, and can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a pilot, especially after I’d completed gliding and flying scholarship through the Air Cadets.”

Nick is nearly halfway through training, and was about to attend our Mod 2 revision week before government restrictions came into force – “I was booked on the April revision course and exam week, we all know what happened there!”

While the coronavirus pandemic has obviously caused problems for student pilots all over the world, modular pilots have arguably fared better thanks to its inherent flexibility, with many able to maintain a source of income during this period. Moreover, with fewer up-front costs, it puts many students in a better financial position compared to their integrated counterparts.

“I was planning on being finished with Mod 3 in August, starting my CPL in September around work. This timeframe is clearly going to shift to the right, but as soon as exams can restart it will be clearer as to exactly how long the delay will be.

“Getting the CPL ME/IR completed as soon as possible after finishing exams is still the aim. This may not be appropriate for everyone though – I am lucky that I am still working full time and in a position where I can financially commit to keeping a ME IR current, and have been able to pay as I go for training so not lumbered with any associated debt to be repaying.”

As with many modular student pilots, Nick has a full-time job which provides another level of financial security – having an alternative means of income can be really helpful, especially when the job market for commercial pilots is less than ideal. It also means that Nick doesn’t have to delay training until the job market picks up.

“I am established in a professional career in a different industry, which I can maintain along with my ratings until I can get a flying job. I am not considering delaying my training. I’ve gone down this path understanding that the worst-case scenario is that I come out a better pilot, being paid to fly would be a bonus!

“I will likely do a flying instructor course if the jobs market has not recovered some time after completing the MEIR and look into instructing alongside my current career. I’ve also never been emotionally tied to working in the UK/Europe, moving abroad to far flung continents that economically recover quicker may well be the only option for the foreseeable future for cadet pilots.”

Current events have really highlighted the benefits of the modular training, and we asked Nick if he was happy he went down this route.

“Yes, absolutely. Having paid the amount of money the integrated schools charge and have little to no job prospects after training must be gut wrenching. I think the greatest challenge here is if you’re already tens of thousands (or more) in debt, being able to pay it back whilst having the spare cash to maintain currency.

“Being able to delay training and / or fit it around work or when the situation looks less bleak is a good way to train as a professional pilot.”

Nick thinks that the airline industry will go through some large changes as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic.

“We will see some legacy carriers continue to go, but also new ones emerge from their ashes without their legacy costs (particularly their debt), who can learn from the mistakes of those that have gone before them.

“Having been a graduate at a legacy airline in the UK, I think we will also see airlines restructure their resourcing model and move to eliminate legacy contracts so that when this is over, their costs will be significantly reduced – possibly at the cost of T&C’s as well as pay.”

As with Jonethan, Nick is optimistic about the appeal of modular students to airlines in the future.

“There will always be airlines who will only recruit cadet pilots from integrated schools. But in the past few years we’ve seen a significant change in the winds with a number of airlines creating entry paths for modular trained pilots, and realising that it’s not fair that the flight deck was ultimately open to cadet pilots who could afford integrated schools.

“On top of that we’ve also seen some integrated schools develop a bad reputation for themselves in the past couple of years – they may not last this crisis either! I  think that if a modular pilot can persevere in these circumstances, then they will  be just as good a candidate as one from an integrated school and this will be reflected when airlines start to recruit again.”

We are producing a number of blogs looking at the journeys of our students – if you want to take part but haven’t been asked, just email liam@bristol.gs.

View our other blogs