“You must have passion for this job…your first flight is almost like a drug, it’s so addictive!”-Warren Nupen Operations Co-Coordinator Virginia Flight School, Durban, South Africa.
It’s a childhood dream for many and yet it’s the one career that everyone wants to pursue but never actually achieves it. Watching movies like Top Gun, The Aviator, and Pearl Harbour makes an individual just want to jump into a fighter jet and fly off into the wide open sky. Unfortunately reality sinks in and the escapades of Frank Abignale Jr seem a slightly better option to becoming a pilot…

But what are the realities of becoming a pilot, how does one go about doing it? We tackled these questions in true FirstStep.co.za style. In South Africa there are three main areas of pursuing a career as a pilot, firstly join the Air Force but its peace time so the idea of aerial combat is a far off dream, however it’s not a bad option. The second choice is to join the SAA Cadet Pilot training programme which only takes a limited number of individuals a year. Finally do it the hard way, finance your licence on your own.   
According to Warren Nupen from Virginia Flight School in Durban, getting a licence in your personal capacity is financially strenuous and time consuming. However at the end of day if you are Captaining your own airline crew , flying your own jet, going at unthinkable speeds…it’s all worthwhile.
The process of obtaining your Commercial Pilots Licence on a single engine Aircraft is as follows:
Step1) Private Pilot Licence;
Step 2) Night Rating;
Step 3) Commercial Ground School and Hour Building;
Step 4) Instrument Rating and Comm Prep.
Nupen states on average to complete your Commercial Pilots Licence you looking at paying about R220 000 and for a Private Pilots Licence around R60 000. Okay so a number of you just had minor heart attacks and maybe even passed out for a minute. Yes it’s expensive! Nevertheless people in South Africa are actually training to get their licence. How are they doing it? Some people have full time jobs and completing their licence part time. Others have taken a second bond on their homes or have their parents do that for them. And some are just fortunate enough to afford to pay for it. In the case of the military you sign a training bond and you are obligated to the defence force for a number of years. The SAA Cadet pilot Training programme is all fully paid for and provides some really cool opportunities.
So now you get over the whole financial aspects of obtaining your licence what are the requirements? Well SAA and SANDF have set academic and medical standards. Where as if you are doing it privately you need to make sure you are not colour blind and have good vision or vision that can be corrected by wearing spectacles or contact lenses. But get in touch with your local Flight School to make sure that you meet all their requirements.
It all sounds pretty intense and extremely hectic. But do yourself a favour and sign up for an ‘Intro flight’ whereby you go up with an instructor for about half an hour to hour and you get to feel what its like to be a ‘real live pilot’. Most Flight schools offer this facility and its great a way to get the ball rolling.

Movies to watch:
Top Gun: The movie that started cheesy one-liners and made the 80’s look cool. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092099  The International Movie Database
The Aviator: For those of you who believe in building an aeronautical empire, this is for you! http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338751 The International Movie Database
Catch Me If you Can: The adventures of Frank Abignale Jr played by Leonardo DiCaprio. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0264464 The International Movie Database
Great links:
The South African Air Force: http://www.af.mil.za
43 Air School: http://www.43airschool.com
Virginia Flight School: http://www.vfs.co.za