View Career : Pilot: Civilian
Pilots are highly trained professionals who fly aircraft, performing a multitude of tasks. Most pilots are employed in the commercial and military aviation fields.
Civilian or private pilots may not offer flying services in exchange for reward but fly merely for pleasure or may apply their flying abilities in their own businesses. They usually only have a private pilot's licence.
Professional pilots work within the commercial field. They hold either a commercial pilot's licence or an airline transport pilot's licence. The work may involve transporting passengers and cargo to and from airports or performing tasks such as crop dusting, inspecting pipelines, conducting sightseeing trips or helping with rescue operations.
There are usually two pilots on board during commercial airline operations but there may be more depending on the type of aircraft and specific requirements.
The captain is the pilot-in-command and the first officer is the co-pilot. The captain is responsible for the safety of the aircraft, passengers, crew and cargo. The captain supervises the crew, gives instructions and makes all decisions.
It is the captain's job to check the aircraft, route, weather and an alternative destination before take-off, then fly the aircraft over the planned route, land it and file the flight report. The co-pilot assists or relieves the captain in the operation of the aircraft, as well as monitoring flight instruments and air traffic control channels.
The working life of an airline pilot is highly regulated by flight duties. A pilot is only allowed to fly a specific number of hours in a month. Evaluations and medical examinations continue throughout the pilot's career.
Some satisfying aspects of this career
- the opportunity to travel
- the prestige of the position
- the actual flying
Some demanding aspects of this career
- spending time away from home
- irregular hours
- flying in bad weather conditions
- the possibility of accidents
- working under stress
A civilian pilot should:
- pass compulsory aviation medical examination;
- must be at least 17 years old;
- have excellent health and stamina;
- have good hearing, eyesight and good colour discrimination;
- have no history of organic or nervous disease, mental disorders, drug addiction or
- be responsible;
- have above-average intelligence;
- be able to work well under stress;
- be emotionally stable and mature;
- be able to work in a team.
National Senior Certificate
Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences
Recommended Subjects: Geography, Languages
Private Pilot: The training for a private pilot can be done at numerous licensed flying clubs or schools:
- Theoretical training
- Practical training
- At least 40 flying hours.
After completion of the course, a Private Pilot Licence (PPL) is obtained which entitles the pilot to fly for recreational purposes but not for money or any reward.
Professional Pilot: qualified private pilots may enrol at certain advanced flying schools to receive training as a commercial pilot and qualified commercial pilots may receive training toward obtaining an Airline Transport Pilot's Licence.
Commercial Pilot: Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL):
- Theoretical examinations are written at the Department of Civil Aviation
- The practical part is done by the Designated Examiners
- 200 hours of flying experience.
After completion of the course a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) is obtained and the pilot can start work as a pilot, but it is difficult to get employment with less than 500 hours of flying experience. Insurance companies usually require at least 500 hours of flying experience.
Airline Pilot: the Airline Transport Pilot Licence can be obtained from a private airline or the SAA and may take up to four years of active study and flying conversion training.
The SAA has its own Cadet Pilot training programme. You may apply for this programme during January and May when the SAA advertise in nearly all of the local newspapers. The successful candidates are sent by the SAA to a flying school of the SAA's choice. The training programme consists of a theoretical part at a ground school, and a practical part where the candidates are first trained in the flight simulator and thereafter in the aircraft. The successful candidate is employed as a co-pilot by the SAA and when experienced enough, promoted and trained to fly as captain.
- In possession of a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL)
- Younger than 35 years of age.
- Department of Transport
- Directorate of Civil Aviation
- Commercial airlines
- Flying schools
- Charter organisations
- Private airlines
- Air taxi companies
- Self-employment, as a free-lance pilot