Cost Analysis of Modular Flight Training

Over the past 6 months, I’ve carried out a gradual cost analysis of 8 different modular routes comprising of 10 Air Training Organisations (ATOs). I did this to firstly understand whether or not I had the finances to execute a 2-year plan and secondly there are very few resources that show a unified picture of detailed cost to get to a Frozen ATPL.

I have spent numerous hours researching ATO websites, getting quotes, visiting ATOs and using third party resources such as the Wings Alliance. Along the journey I’ve made great, interesting, and disappointing discoveries. First and foremost, the 10 I chose were based upon my own knowledge, research and likely affordability – there are no integrated routes because I cannot finance them – my aim was to come out debt free using savings built up over time whilst working. After reviewing the 10 and having initial conversations, mostly by email, I down selected to 3 schools. These 3, I would choose to visit and make my final decision.

Cost analysis data

The data seen in the below attached Excel spreadsheet, represents an in-depth financial  forecast starting in January 2017 and ending in May 2019. It is logically laid out but can be information overload upon first sight.

Link: Flying_Cost_Model v4_PR

A quick summary of its contents:

  • The variables tab lists and details all costs: Flight Training, Travel & Subsistence and finally contingency for each (set at 5%) – this tab is the only thing a user needs to edit, all the changes should flow through automatically to proceeding tabs (unless more than 10 schools/routes are added).
  • The 3-year cost forecast tab is a pictorial digest of the costs month by month given the variable entries.
  • The Output tab provides a short summary per route via a drop-down menu.
  • The final tab is a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of all schools which has come from my experience and opinion of dealing with each ATO.
Example cost from one of my routes  – Output tab

Be informed about the commitment to a future career

There are 3 decisions a trainee pilot has to figure out before or during their training:

  1. What ground school should I do?
    • This is determined by how you learn – I best learn residentially with full focus on the subject matter i.e. not distance learning
  2. Where should I complete my CPL/MEIR?
    • This is determined by finances, convenience and visit to prospective ATOs
  3. Where should I do my Multi Crew Co-operation(MCC)/Jet Orientation Course (JOC)? and do I care about a JOC?
    • Whilst I have planned a few routes with a specific MCC/JOC I have also just set aside ‘cash’ to carry out an MCC/JOC or just an MCC when I need to make that decision – This is not a decision I have taken lightly, but I realise my views will likely change in the proceeding 16 months when I will need to make this choice.

Overriding every decision is, what type of Pilot do I see myself aspiring to? A large percentage of candidates will go to airlines and fly wide bodied jets as they have greatest demand. However, there are other routes that some may not consider: FIC, aerial survey and charter. This may seem a benign question. However, it plays a role in all three of the above, in particular for number 2 and 3 e.g. the non-requirement of a JOC or the use of analogue aircraft vs. EFIS in CPL/MEIR.

Conclusion and Findings

I made it apparent that I have discovered numerous things through this process, some good and some bad. The highlights can be seen below:

  • There are numerous believers that the job of a pilot is a dead one. However, whilst things are becoming more automated, the demand for pilots is steady and in the UK a pilot is the 4th average highest earner.
  • I now have clarity in what I perceive as my ‘dream’ flying career.
  • I have utilised this data to save me thousands of pounds as schools have actively taken steps to secure sales by dropping aircraft rates etc. given the information I have collected. Use this information as a bargaining position.
  • The Wings Alliance has good intentions in training modular pilots and is a wealth of resource – it is the first ‘platform’ that does unify solitary ATOs that cannot challenge large integrated schools on their own.
  • Modular trainee pilots require flexibility. However, upon inspection of how to go through the Wings Alliance ‘programme’ and APC (Airline Pilot Certificate) shows a complete lack of flexibility given the following:
    • All stages of training must be completed at Wings Alliance schools to be eligible. Therefore, even if you do ground school in a non-associated place you are denied assessment to the APC even if the rest of your training is carried out at Wings Alliance schools.
    • If you do complete all your training with Wings Alliance schools, but then decide to do your MCC/JOC elsewhere, the Wings Alliance will not support these candidates upon application to airlines.
  • Modular pilots may have shelled out in excess of £40,000 or more after concluding their CPL/MEIR. Therefore, the last thing needed is an overpriced MCC/JOC and a hefty selection fee:
    • The Wings Alliance APC, Kura Best Pilot and CTC AQC (Airline Qualification Course) are specific examples. I don’t doubt any of these entities in placing students and their success (CTC AQC was one of my potential options). However, it is disappointing to see an entity such as the Wings Alliance in amongst this list, given it preaches low cost flight training the modular way and then charges £7,500 for an MCC/JOC and a £120+ selection fee.

It is worth noting, that 4 of my ATOs are affiliated with the Wings Alliance and the remainder are not. It is also noteworthy, that only 2 of my routes would of been accepted by the Wings Alliance as eligible for their Airline Pilot Certificate (APC) course post assessment.

I hope my findings enlighten others to go through the same process and inform decision making. Likewise, I hope the spreadsheet can be used by others but tailored to their specific needs, rather than starting from scratch like I did.

Happy flying.

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