What it takes to become an Airbus A320 pilot


Although pilot career is one of the most iconic professions in the world, in recent years there has been a shortage of qualified pilots. It is forcing airlines to search for new opportunities to attract the missing workforce. SmartLynx Airlines has chosen a path where company prepares pilots to operate Airbus A320 type aircraft in its own training program. Tomas Samcik, Director of SmartLynx Airlines Training Centre, talks about career opportunities in the Baltic States after graduating from pilot school.

Requirements to become an Airbus A320 pilot

Average person usually makes his first big life choice after graduating from high school, when he chooses the profession and college to study at. Pilots make that choice two or even more times - first time before joining pilot academy and second time after graduating from the academy and when choosing a specific aircraft for which to get a qualification.

“SmartLynx Airlines fleet is made up of Airbus A320 and A321 model aircraft and our pilot program is specialized in preparing pilots for this specific aircraft. It is specifically designed based on airline`s experience and needs. Meanwhile these Airbus models are among the most widely used in the world, and there is a huge interest among future pilots in obtaining a qualification to pilot them,” explains T. Samcik.

Before joining SmartLynx training program applicants have to qualify for numerous criteria, for example, to have a Commercial Pilot License, Airline Transport Pilot License Theory, Multi-engine Instrument Rating, ICAO level 4 English, to have 70 hours as Pilot in Command, Class 1 medical and Multi-crew Cooperation certificate.

Ways of reaching these requirements

As Mr. Samcik explains, there are two ways how to qualify for requirements to join SmartLynx training program - the first is to join integrated ATPL course. The second is to complete Modular training program.

“ATPL course includes 750 hours of theory and 200 hours of flying. All is nicely organized to cover all fundamentals and after the course student has all required knowledge and certificates to join our Airbus A320 Type Rating course. This course is aimed at candidates that set airline career as their primary goal,” explains T. Samcik.

If the candidate selects Modular training, which means getting all the required qualifications step by step, it brings both advantages and disadvantages. The training typically takes longer to complete, requires more flying hours, doesn`t provide information and training in a concise manner. On the other hand, the student can distribute the financial obligations into a longer period. This approach is mainly suitable for candidates who would like to start flying aero taxi, instructing at flight schools etc., with an option to move towards career in airlines later.

“So, the first step is to choose between integrated or modular training program. Then choose a reputable flight school, pass Class 1 medical check, learn theory, fly the lessons, pass the theoretical exams at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), pass the practical test with examiner, pass the ICAO English examination. And then you'll have all the required knowledge, skills and certificates to join us,” says T. Samcik.

After joining SmartLynx training program

SmartLynx’s A320 Type Rating course consists of 10-day theoretical training. It includes 8 days of computer-based training and two days of practical aircraft performance training course. Then the students continue their journey by training Standard Operating Procedures. This is done on computer devices simulating real cockpit and requires three 4-hour sessions. Last step is real aircraft training. In this part students perform 6 landings and one go around on an actual aircraft.

“To sum up theoretical training consists of 80 hours and the practical part is 55 hours long. I find our program unique in the amount of the training our students receive. I have to mention that our A320 Type Rating course includes also CFM/IAE engine difference training, UPRT training and PBN training. Big advantage is that our ATO has direct access to the airlines aircraft for training needs so arranging the Base training is quite easy,” notes T. Samcik.

Typical time to become a Commercial pilot with Airline Transport Pilot License Theory is between 18 to 24 months. Then the Type Rating program at SmartLynx ATO takes between 5 to 6 weeks. In best case scenario there is a chance to become a fully qualified pilot even within 2 years.

Every year 60 to 70 students from around the world are joining SmartLynx ATO. Majority of graduates are finding a job at SmartLynx Airlines and have a successful pilot career. In 2019/2020 training season SmartLynx ATO have participants from many countries - Estonia, Latvia, United Kingdom, Rep. of Ireland, Sweden, France, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Serbia just to name a few. As Mr. Samcik points out it is the opportunity not only to receive specific qualification to proceed with a career in airline, but also to gain valuable knowledge from pilots who have been trained in other countries.

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