Philippine Pilots: Not Pandemic-Proof

Philippine Pilots: Not Pandemic-Proof

Thinking about your dreams

I always wondered what it feels like to be a pilot.
-Curious Kid

A dream of many may not be the reality to everyone. Many foreigners who seek their pilot training in the Philippines have always gotten their value for money. The Philippines is one of the best places to train for aviation because it is significantly cheaper than other countries like the United States of America, Canada, Germany, and France.

Although it is comparatively cheaper, not every Filipino can afford the necessary training. Families often go in debt, trying to put up with the money. The basic training itself, which costs around USD 25 000, does not guarantee you a place for an airline a job.

The Road to Airlines

If you know little about aviation, you might think that being a pilot means that you always fly the big planes. You are partly right. A civil aviation pilot is categorized into an airline pilot and general aviation pilot [1]. Other than civilians, military pilots receive honor by serving the country.

What is the difference?

General Aviation

This is where everyone begins. Training schools, recreational flight companies, and small logistic companies belong here. You can somehow include aerial works operation[2].

The Airlines

Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Emirates, and Asiana Airlines are just a few. These companies specialize in large scale commercial transport.

Where do I start?

Pilots start earning their wings by finding the right pilot course for you. The basic package consists of the Student Pilot training, Private Pilot Training, Commercial Pilot Training, and Instrument Ratings[3][4]. Each phase is a prerequisite for the succeeding stages.


If you are given a chance to join the service, please do so. It will be an excellent opportunity to exercise your nationalism while gaining hours for free.

Student Pilot

Your first job is to study the theoretical knowledge and history of aviation. A choice of training aircraft is also needed. You will be required at least 40 hours with cross-country flights[5] and solo flights[6] to proceed into the next stage.

Private Pilot

A private pilot license holder can carry passengers and act as pilot-in-command without compensation.
To most people, having this license is enough to enjoy the full flying experience.

Commercial Pilot

The requirement is 150 hours of flying time to achieve this point. This time you can now carry passengers and get paid. Most airline and regional companies acknowledge this license as a minimum to get hired. You may want to look for the requirements in job listings. It depends on the employer.

Airline Pilot

This is both optional and required. It is the big leagues in terms of aviation. Some airlines in the Philippines do not require you to have an Airline Pilot License for First Officers[7] and Second Officers[8]. Although it is necessary when you are planning to upgrade for an Airline Captain position. You need at least 1500 hours to apply.

Other Pilots

Being a pilot is not limited to being an airliner. A pilot can be the following as well and more:

  • Helicopter Pilot
  • Agriculture Pilot
  • Test Pilot
License Requirements

Every phase has different requirements, which you have to console in your aviation governing body, CAAP[9] here in the Philippines. The requirements can be as follows:

  • Bachelor's Degree
  • Pilot License
  • Medical License
  • NBI Clearance
  • NTC Radio License
  • English Language Proficiency
  • Logbook

How can I be an Airliner?

Before becoming an airliner, you have to meet the requirements first. Some airlines will require 200 to 500 hours minimum before they can entertain you. Many will ask how you can get that number of hours. Once you get the Commercial Pilot License, you are no longer required to pay for your flying time. You can choose to earn money while building up hours or continue to pay for additional training.

Instructor Pilot

This is the best method of gaining flying time experience. Not only will you gain hours free and compensated, but you will also earn a pilot-in-command experience. If you love teaching, this can be for you. Getting an instructor job is even more comfortable as the flying school that you have applied to have usually vacant instructor jobs. Almost yearly, instructor pilots get in the airlines, leaving more room for hire.

Other General Aviation

You can have many jobs in the General Aviation industry. This includes private charter, private cargo, crop-dusting, recreational, and more. The competition here is almost on par with the airlines, but they demand fewer requirements. This is where most of the people go if they do not like the instructor job and airline lifestyle. Some pilots who are still fit to fly that have retired in the airlines take jobs here. It is more lenient and flexible compared to airline operations. The salary of General Aviation Pilots can, at times, be higher than those in the Airline Industry.

Type Rating

A training that is focused on the equipment or aircraft you will use in the airlines. The training is usually free when you get past the airline hiring process. It will be an advantage if you have already taken this when you have a limited number of hours. Take note that choosing to self-sponsor your equipment means you are only limited to that aircraft. Having both a Type Rating and a high number of flying time experience increases your chances of getting hired. An airline company you have dreamed of applying for may not have the position available at the time of hiring.

It is harder to maintain the rating if you are not yet affiliated with an airline. As required by the law, you will be needing at least 1 proficiency check per year. The airlines give free recurrent training sessions every 6 months when you get hired. You will have to think about this part carefully. It is strongly suggested that you only self-sponsor Type Rating when you have extra money. The Type Rating costs at least USD 32 000 and USD 5 000 to maintain yearly.

The Reality and the Pandemic

Not every Filipino can afford the pilot courses. The basic training does not guarantee you a place for a job.

With all being explained as briefly as possible, you may now understand the relationship of pilots to the current pandemic situation.
The aviation industry has been suffering even before COVID-19 all started. Flights are being canceled already because of the flu rumors. The preparedness level is lower than expected. The hiring process has been put on hold, and job cuts are happening globally. Airplanes are being put to storage. No one knows when will be the exact public vaccine release date. It is indeed a scary sight for the aviation industry.

Before the pandemic, it is estimated that pilot jobs are at an employment rate of just 40%[10]. Pilots often change careers after graduating from flying schools to pursue a different field. Others are still unfortunate to have no jobs at all. During the pandemic, it is still unknown how many pilot jobs were lost. Employment numbers can drop to as low as 10%. The numbers cannot be determined as it is still ongoing. This is the most challenging period in Philippine Aviation history. Airline companies are losing billions of dollars each day.

The Future

Unemployment is inevitable at some point. For people like me who need to strive harder than the rest to achieve a goal, it is common to have no job security. That does not mean you won't do anything about it. You always have a take and choice in everything you do. Which path to choose is entirely up to you. It might still take 2-3 years for everything to go back to normal. New pilots may have to wait a little longer to have a job. Airline pilots who got retrenched will be prioritized when the hiring resumes as they already have experience with their respective companies.

You should always target the airlines no matter what, as this is the highest place you can go to as a pilot. Unless you are eligible for an astronaut job, which is a dream of mine as well. Being able to travel is just a small part of it. Airline pilots receive generous job benefits ranging from insurances to incentives.

For those who feel grounded, everything will just pass. It might feel like it is the end of the world, but it will not be. Try to find pilot related jobs that can strengthen your application when the time comes.
It will also be a great time to study and reflect on your prior mistakes.
We will all endure this and become the more potent version of ourselves.
Future pilots and other aviation jobs will soon enjoy the result of their hardships.

As a pilot, you may want to keep your licenses and requirements up to date. That is the least you can do for yourself. It is vital to do this as you will save time when hiring is in progress. You never want to miss any job opportunity when it presents itself. That is why I chose Coradine Aviation Systems to handle my flying time. Log Ten Pro is a leading electronic pilot logbook service that makes your life easier. It is available for iOS and macOS. It is amazingly fast, lightweight, and easy to use. The Fly Now can log your flying time faster. With the help of the magnificent InSight Technology, your past and current flights are thoroughly analyzed to ensure you an issue-free experience. I enjoy specifically the Night Mode feature, as it helps me protect my eyes during the night.

Please comment below what topics you want to get discussed for my next article.

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  1. ICAO categorizes aviation operations into three: General Aviation, Commercial Air Transport, and Aerial Works. ↩︎

  2. By ICAO definition, Aerial Works are separated from General Aviation. ↩︎

  3. Instrument Rating is also required by most commercial and airline companies. A rating obtained for flights will rely solely on instruments under IFR rules (Bad weather conditions). ↩︎

  4. Requirements vary with every state. Please inquire at the nearest aviation governing body in your area. ↩︎

  5. Flights that operate between two aerodromes (airports) over a given distance. ↩︎

  6. Flying as the sole occupant in a non-multi pilot aircraft. ↩︎

  7. First Officers are the second-in-command in a multi-pilot aircraft ↩︎

  8. Second Officers are the third-in-command in a multi-pilot aircraft. They are necessary for long haul flights. ↩︎

  9. Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines is the Philippines' governing body that reports directly to the International Civil Aviation Organization. Other members of ICAO are FAA, JAA, and EASA. ↩︎

  10. Based on a survey I made with my colleagues to determine who I should help prepare for a pilot job. ↩︎

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