how to be a commercial pilot, getting a CPL

All you need to know about becoming a Commercial Pilot

How do I get a CPL (Commercial Pilot’s License) ?

  • Step 1: Get admitted in a flying clubhow to be a commercial pilot, getting a CPL
  • Step 2: Start flying
  • Step 3: Give an oral exam administered by the Chief Flying Instructor for a Student Pilots License and an FRTOL (A document required to fly solo)
  • Step 4: Apply for Class 2 medicals with a registered DGCA doctor prior to issue of the SPL and FRTOL.
  • Step 5: Apply to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for a unique Pilot Computer Number (A number that stays with you for the rest of your life)
  • Step 6: Apply for Class 1 medicals during your CPL training.
  • Step 7: While finishing the 200+ hours of flying you need, apply to DGCA for 5 written examinations that have a 2.5 year validity (5 years for ATPL) each for issue of license. These examinations are Navigation, Technical General, Technical Specific, Regulations and Meteorology.
  • Step 8: Apply to the Wireless Plannning Commission for a RTR(A) License.
  • Step 9: Contingent on having all the above requirements done, apply to DGCA for a CPL and an FRTOL.

Total process takes around 18 – 24 months. Cost is around 18 – 25 lac Indian rupees.

At some point in time during the process, you will need to get an ELP (English Language Proficiency Test) done if you are not a native English Speaker. For an Indian CPL, this is generally a requirement.

Is it worth being a Pilot? What does it feel like?

capt samarth singh da 42 pilot general aviation

To fly an airplane under your command, is the most liberating feeling in the whole wide world. To have a place of work above the clouds is fulfilling and satisfying ONLY if you are truly passionate about flying. Now lets talk about the passion for a bit.

When I was a kid all I ever wanted to be was an airline pilot. That was purely for the love for and the fascination with flying. When I grew up I began to analyze the profession more objectively.

Flying for an airline comes with a lot of perks, the traveling, the pick ups and drops in a busy city like Bombay where professionals battle it out on the crowded streets everyday and the sheer attention you enjoy as a ‘PILOT.’ However, in my 7 years as a pilot I’ve realized all those kicks and perks start meaning ‘less’ very soon. You get used to the attention, the traveling and the convenience becomes part of your life. The ONLY thing that’s left behind is the sheer PASSION for flying. If a pilot is truly passionate about FLYING, he will always have fun doing what he does.

As a grown up, I think the single most fulfilling thing about flying for a living, is the fact that I almost NEVER bring my work back home. What happens on a flight, stays on a flight, and the next day is a new one. Mistakes made, fights with colleagues and a bad landing never carry forward to the next day. ALSO, I’m almost certain I’m not flying with the same crew the next day which makes work so much easier!

Responsibility: Contrary to what many believe, ‘flying professionally’ doesn’t make you loosen up, like many other adventure sports do. Flying professionally makes you a more ALERT human being. We are talking responsibility of the utmost kind. I don’t remember one flight I’ve done where I haven’t thought of or been aware of the utmost responsibility for human life and the machine, that costs a tonne! ‘Flying professionally’ makes you much more ‘disciplined.’ Bungee jumping, Parasailing or Hang Gliding need not have the same effect.

Long story short, being a pilot is SATISFYING, EXITING, PROFESSIONALLY ISOLATED (in a good way) and the money isn’t bad too.

This is my opinion of course. I’m a very passionate flyer. I head back to my old flying club every once in a way to just get into the cockpit of a good old Cessna 172 trainer for the PURE LOVE OF IT. I can’t get enough of flying and I don’t think I ever will.

Does a commercial pilot license need renewal after every fixed period of time?


A ICAO commercial pilots license needs renewal once every 5 years. This is the Renewal of the CPL itself and not the contained ratings which may have different renewal frequencies.

Renewal by check:

A Commercial Pilots License renewal generally entails a general flight test by day and night, each of these tests usually last upwards of 45 minutes and are done by a Chief Flying Instructor or in some cases a DCFI or PII.

Renewal by Recency:

Alternatively, a pilots license may also be automatically renewed if recency requirements are met. This in lay man’s terms means that the pilot needs to have flown a certain required hours as pilot in command of the aircraft he/she is rated for in the preceeding 6 months prior to application for renewal.

Renewal of Ratings:

An aircraft rating or endorsement on a license is generally accompanied with an Instrument Rating for that same aircraft.

This instrument rating lapses once every year. A pilot is required to fly an instrument check once a year to have this renewed to continue to exercise privileges to fly that aircraft as pilot or co-pilot.

Grouding by medical and/or other aux documents:

This is an extra piece of information. A valid First Class or Class 1 or Professional Pilot Medical is always a requirement to exercise privileges of a CPL or other license types. This medical lapses once a year or once every six months depending on the age of the license holder. Generally medicals start becoming more frequent once the pilot is older than 45. Notwithstanding any Rating ot License Renewal itself, if a license holder’s medical lapses or a license holder becomes medically unfit, he automatically loses license priviledges as well.

In some ICAO member nations, other auxiliary documents are also linked to a CPL like a Radio Telephony License. A pilot is required to ensure all of these documents remain valid at all times.

How can a person of age 40 become pilot?

samarth-singh-hybrid-sardool-singhBecoming a Commercial Pilot at 40 is not an issue. Getting a commercial license in most ICAO states needs you to have finished 12 years of school with Physics and Math.

Landing a job at 40, now that’s where the challenge is.

In an environment like India or Malaysia where Pilots are made at the age of 21 – 25, sometimes even younger the competition for the limited jobs is very very steep.

From my casual reading of the airline industry in both these countries, an airline or even a corporate charter firm ideally prefers candidates between 25 and 30 years of age.

Some private airlines in a country like India place a bar on ab-initio (nil experience) pilots applying to them above the age of 35. This is true for most private airlines in India which leaves you with just one choice, the national carrier, Air India which, on occasion, has allowed applicant to be up to 45 years of age.

Here ends fact, if you’re looking for my own opinion read on…

40 is late, way too late for a person to decide to be a pilot. If the wish to want to be a pilot is stemming out of raw passion for flying, hobby and club flying are becoming more and more accessible in eastern countries (even India). Being an airline pilot, I still manage to clock flying club hours every now and then and while commercial flying has its own charm for me, club flying in a Cessna 172 is equally exciting!

If the idea is to try to be a commercial pilot at the age of 40 just because it pays well, chances are you aren’t in it for the passion. Over the years I’ve heard many people contemplate what one needs to be a pilot. Some say academics, some say discipline, I say, first and foremost, you need to have an inherent love for flying in you. If you do, go right ahead and try your luck but don’t get your hopes up too high. The choices are few and the competition is steep.

Confused about a Type Rating? Click the picture below to read more about it.

Ab-Inito Pilots Training on an ATR 72-500 Level D (FFS) Simulator at Madrid, Spain