Well where do I start, let me just say that this is my opinion and others may differ. I speak from my experience and what helped me get to where I am now.
The first thing you can ask yourself is why do you want to become a pilot? There are many reasons why people become pilots and each are different. Some people do it for the thrill, others for the passion and some for the money and status. But whatever the reason make sure it is really what you want to do, becoming a pilot and doing well is not always easy. There have been stages in my career where I have questioned whether I chose the right career, but in the end I am extremely greatful I stuck with it! Be sure of your reason and work hard to make it a reality!
I get a lot of people asking me what subjects they need in school to be able to learn to fly. Well the short answer is none (here in South Africa), but this will probably count you out of getting any sort of funding, so if you can’t pay for yourself I suggest doing well in school regardless of what subjects. There are a few I would reccomend though which will help you in your studies to becoming a pilot.
Maths – We do a lot of mental calculations, so the better at maths the faster you will be.
Physics – Understanding physics will help you understand how your aircraft flies and may help in you actual handling of it.
Geography – We fly around the country, being able to read a map and weather will help a lot.
English – You need to be able to pass, the universal language for flying is English.
Doing well in school and learning how to study will help when it comes to the many exams you will have to do to become a pilot. All air schools have ground classes to prepare you for the exams, but in my experience this is only going to help you so much. You are going to have to study hard and put in a lot of time! Also don’t think that once you have your licence you are finished, each plane you will fly has different systems and you will be expected to know how they work, so the studies will never end:)
A great way to get into aviation is to surround yourself with it, by doing this you will first of all figure out if this is really what you want to do and you will be able to meet and socialise with the people who are already involved.
This can be very benificial once you have finally got your licence. Aviation is a very small world and knowing people who can vouch for you is worth a lot, particularly when you are just starting out. There are a few ways you can do this: Try and get an operations job, by doing this you learn the ins and outs of an aviation company and earn money while doing it, sometimes you may even be offered a flying job from the company once you complete your licence. Get involved at your local flying club, offer to help wash planes, help refuel or just try chat with the people there. You may be lucky enough to be offered a flip every now and then. In short get involved and learn as much as you can, as soon as you can.
Now when it does come to getting the licence there are a few avenues you can follow.
Airforce – expect to have a long contract, but on the plus side the planes you may get to fly are amazing. Not everyone gets the chance to fly and you really need to be at the top of your game.
Bursary – at the moment in South Africa there are not many bursaries available, however do some research and maybe you will find some. I know the CAA offers some every year.
Student Loan – this is not always easy to get as it is very expensive to learn how to fly, but it is possible. Contact banks to see what is available.
Self Funded – probably the most popular option, although the obvious hurdle here is that you do need the money.
I see a lot of people these days working other jobs and slowly paying for their licences, it may take longer, but it is the only way for most people. You also have the added benifit of having your CV semi populated:)
Next is choosing the right school, I have written a post about that HERE.
Do your research. The internet is an amazing thing with plenty resources, do as much research as possible into the particular path you would like to take. Watch videos, read articles and whatever else helps you reach your dream of becoming a pilot.The rest is up to you to do as well as you possibly can, most people can be taught how to fly a plane, but not everyone does well. The more time and effort you put in the better you will be and the faster you will move up in the aviation world.
Good Luck and hope this helps a bit in making your decision.