Whilst there have been many significant changes to the aviation industry with the current global pandemic, aspiring pilots are continuing to embark on their journey to a career in the flight deck.
Anyone wanting to train for a commercial pilot’s licence must complete their training at an approved air training organisation (ATO). This is a registered facility at which various elements of the commercial pilot training is completed. Some of this training can be done at a base or by distance learning with the end goal of providing the appropriate and required qualifications to become a commercial pilot.
As part of the course I am enrolled onto at Buckinghamshire New University, I had already started the process of choosing an appropriate ATO to complete my training. There are various CAA registered training organisations to choose from in the United Kingdom and numerous training schools internationally, each offering their own different advantages and disadvantages.
I have had numerous friends and colleagues who have completed their commercial training with their chosen ATO and so had a rough idea of what to look out for when ‘shopping around’ however each experience differs from person to person. What you look for in an air training organisation may be different from what your colleague looks for. Doing what is right for you is important.
Before embarking on the journey of choosing the right ATO for me I attended a Pilots Career Live event which took place at Heathrow airport. This was an event in which airline recruiters, ATOs, universities offering pilot courses and flights schools were present and provided the opportunity to explore all the various pathways and available routes for my pilot training. It was a great event which allowed face to face contact with current students and allowed me to ask numerous questions about their courses. I came out of the event knowing a lot more than I did entering which was great. I would definitely recommend attending something like this if possible.
In a world dominated by the use of social media, it has become easier than ever to find a lot of information about an ATO through various platforms. I have found most training organisations use the likes of Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn to display their information which is great to get regular updates about their company and also connect with others who already train with them or are thinking about joining them too. The use of social media has become prominent and so checking out their profile page prior to a visit is definitely something to consider when looking around for a suitable ATO.
A major tip I would make to anyone embarking on the process of finding a suitable ATO, is to visit their base or headquarters where they provide the training. I have visited numerous bases and it really gives you a feel of how they operate and how day to day operations are completed. For those considering distance learning it may be wise to find out where abouts the company is located and still pop down to have a look. Numerous organisations offer open days which is great, however having a one to one visit can give you a personalised experience and avoids a “flashy” presentation which I personally was not interested in. You really get to see what a company is all about and will get a valuable insight into what truly goes on, without the red carpet being rolled out.
Quick key takeaways:
Attend as many open days and events as you can. Whilst this might be difficult with the current pandemic, seek further into what companies are doing to compensate for this. Have they made a virtual tour available online? Are they offering one to one tours of their base? If they aren’t currently offering this yet, keep an eye out as to whether they plan to do this in the future.
Do some thorough research into the organisation you are looking to train at. Make sure you really understand what they offer and what they do not. Have a look around at all options before you commit to anything major.
Come up with a list of appropriate questions to ask the ATO you are visiting or are looking at for your training. They should be welcoming and happy to answer any questions you have. Transparency is key and so an organisation being open and clear from the start is important.
Another top takeaway I would give to anyone would be to never shut down any options. Some schools may provide a great ATPL course, however their CPL course may not be for you. Keeping options open in aviation is important as it is an industry which always changes and develops.
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