New BA pilot training scheme removes $120K cost barrier for 60 recruits

British Airways pilot training
British Airways

A new commercial airline pilot scheme has been revealed by British Airways which aims to remove the key barrier that prevents prospective recruits from pursuing their dreams.

The British national flag carrier announced on September 19, 2023, that the Speedbird Pilot Academy program will cover the $123,000 cost of training 60 recruits and will also provide accommodation and food costs during their 16-month training period.

The airline hopes that by removing the high costs associated with pilot training from the applicant, people from across all communities will be encouraged to apply.

“The Speedbird Pilot Academy will make the ambition of becoming a British Airways pilot a reality for people who’d previously written the option off because of the cost barrier,” Sean Doyle, British Airways’ chairman and CEO, said.

The high costs involved in training to become a pilot is the number one deterrent for those who would love to fly for a living not opting for this career path.

Often it is those that perhaps come from wealthier backgrounds or those that have taken out vast loans that are able to pursue becoming a pilot.

“Our aim is to attract the very best talent out there for our future generation of pilots. Whether someone is just leaving school or embarking on a second career they never thought possible, we’re levelling the playing field by removing the initial training cost barrier to make a flying career more accessible to a wider range of people and giving everyone an equal chance,” Doyle added.

Applications for the scheme can now be submitted via the airline’s careers website, and applicants are being encouraged to apply quickly, as due to the expected unprecedented demand, it will close on September 25, 2023.

Training will begin early in 2024 and upon completion of the course, recruits will land a full-time, salaried pilot position with the airline.

BA is working closely with Fantasy Wings, a UK organization for diversity in aviation and a member of the BA Better World Community Fund, to promote the scheme to young people from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, other communities around the country and young women in the aviation industry.

British Airways’ senior first officer and former cadet, Hannah Vaughan, 32, described the scheme as “groundbreaking”, and said it was important for the airline to attract the top applicants and remove barriers that may have put people off previously.

“I know there will be a lot of people who have never thought of being a pilot as a realistic option for them, but this cadet scheme changes that – and might just change your life,” Vaughan said.

Expelling the myths about becoming a pilot

  • The new cadet scheme offers a great career without the need for a degree.
  • GCSEs grade A-C or 5-9 including Math, English and a Science or equivalent qualifications).
  • You can fly for commercial airlines with glasses or contact lenses.
  • Anyone who will be between the ages of 18 and 55 when they start their training can apply.
  • Having flying experience or a private pilot license isn’t a requirement to apply for the cadet scheme. That said, if you can, you may wish to try a short trial flight which can be in a glider or light aircraft to make sure that you enjoy the feeling of flying. There are many scholarships available which may help with this.

“We fly to more than 200 destinations around the world on a range of aircraft types, providing pilots with an abundance of opportunities and making a career as a British Airways pilot extremely rewarding. This first-in-a-generation initiative will allow anyone to make it a reality,” Doyle concluded.

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