*A quick disclaimer* – As I am currently just one year into my airline pilot training, there are many people who will be much more knowledgeable on this than me. However, I have spent years researching into my own training, and I know how confusing it can be to make a decision. With that in mind, this post has been written to help those who have recently started their research become aware of the differences between the two main routes of training. To avoid confusion, I will not be looking into tagged airline schemes. There are many available, and the vast majority follow the Integrated model. At the bottom of this article, I have included links to some articles/web-pages which I highly recommend you take a look at. Enjoy!
Integrated vs. Modular
It’s a subject that has been debated for years, and a decision that all aspiring pilots face when looking at how to train, but what are the facts concerning Modular and Integrated training? There are some who prefer Integrated and others who prefer Modular, but for someone trying to choose a route it can get very confusing very quickly. There are pages upon pages of heated debate on this subject, where the ‘advice’ is often quite bias. Of course people have their preferred route, and rightly so (at the end of the day we all have to make the decision), but too often people write-off one of the routes simply because it’s the one that they didn’t take. Anyway, the point of this post is not for me to argue that one is the better than the other, but rather to discuss the positives and negatives of the two main routes and give some examples of where you could train.
Modular Flight Training – A summary
Modular training (which was known as ‘the self improver’ route) basically involves the trainee getting one license at a time. This route will take them from a PPL (Private Pilots License), through hour building and then onto ATPL theory (which could be done whilst hour building, for example, to save time). Upon successful completion of the 14 exams, you can then begin the CPL, IR and MEP. 150 PPL flying hours are required before starting the CPL. The CPL, IR (instrument rating) and MEP (Multi-engine Piston rating) can be completed in any order. Other modules can then be added on top of this to prepare the student for multi-crew Jet aircraft flying. The MCC (Multi Crew Co-operation course) and JOC (Jet Orientation Course) are both offered by numerous flight schools. The first aims to build up your experience in a multi-crew environment, and the latter provides you with Jet Simulator time, during which students will fly in IFR conditions in a multi-pilot role. Emphasis is placed on developing CRM (Crew Resource Management) skills, which is a vital part of the job. You will end up with an fATPL (frozen Airline Transport Pilots License), which allows you to apply for the airlines.
You get used to them after a while…
Modular students are not tied to any particular company, and have the freedom to complete the training at their own speed, perhaps whilst earning. This route is ideal for those who want to stay in work whilst they train and, as you probably know by now, it often works out to be much cheaper than the Integrated route (but more on that later).
Now, let’s have a look at Integrated training….
Integrated Flight Training – A summary
Integrated flight training is, in a nutshell, Modular flight training all balled up into one full-time course (You don’t get a PPL, mind). Instead you will do single engine flight training (over 100 hours) followed by some Multi Engine time and then the CPL skills test. You will finish this section with an MEP rating and CPL license.
You will train, full-time, at one FTO (Flight Training Operator). Many FTO’s provide Integrated Courses, and most require the applicant to sit an assessment which is a pre-requisite to beginning training. These assessments will test Hand-Eye co-ordination, maths and physics skills, and will include interviews and/or group assessments as well as simulator tests.
If you pass an FTO’s assessment, you will be offered a place on their course. No previous flying time is required but a trial flight or two is, in my view, vital (to see if you actually enjoy it)! In reality, you’ll find that most will have flown previously.
Make sure you enjoy flying first!
When onto a course, the Integrated route generally starts with ATPL groundschool, where all 14 exams are studied for and sat over a 6 to 8 month period. Following this, trainees will then begin flight training, which is usually done abroad. For example, AFT have a centre in Jordan, CTC have a centre in New Zealand, and OAA have a centre in Phoenix, Arizona. Some Modular providers will also send you abroad for some of your flight training because (1), it’s usually cheaper and (2) there is MUCH BETTER WEATHER.
Following the CPL Skills test, Integrated students will then start the IR course where suddenly, the weather in Blightly is favorable for your training! This will be completed in multi-engine aircraft, and culminates in the IR rating being issued. From there, students go straight on to complete the MCC/JOC.
Many Integrated courses have added extras that can include CV workshops, extra modules (Often covering other areas of aviation, to give students a more broad knowledge of the industry) and foundation degrees. For example, OAA include ‘First Officer Fundamentals’ with their APPFO Integrated course, as well as a Foundation Degree. However, this is not to say that Modular providers don’t give you some extra goodies! ProPilot, a Coventry based ATPL groundschool provider, offer ‘Pilot Development Days’ which aim to provide students with a broader knowledge of the subjects they are studying (often provided by experts in the relevent field).
At the end of both Modular and Integrated training, students will have all of the licenses that make up what us EU bunch call the fATPL (frozen Airline Transport Pilots License). From here, you will be in a position to apply to the airlines, where the fATPL will become ‘unfrozen’ when 1500hours have been flown. Once un-frozen, you are technically able to advance to captaincy. Other avenues can be taken upon gaining an fATPL of course, such as Flight Instruction or Bush Flying.
Possible Course Structures
(CPL/MEP/IR can be completed in any order)
Modular = PPL > Hour Building > ATPL Theory > (CPL > MEP > IR) > MCC/JOC = fATPL
Integrated (example) = ATPL Theory > Single Engine flying > MEP + CPL > IR > MCC/JOC = fATPL
Some of the differences
This is what causes the majority of debate – what are the differences between the two routes? It’s important to highlight that BOTH will end up with the same licenses (grouped together, and called the fATPL) being awarded, it’s just the way you get there is different.
1) The Price.
– By now, you will know that Integrated courses cost more than their Modular counterparts. Of course, Modular courses vary in price depending on who you train with, where you train, and what extras you may add to your training. It can cost as little as c. £30,000 right up to £70,000. Integrated courses again range in price, but are generally around £80,000. Whichever way you go, it’s expensive!
2) Added extras
– Integrated courses will tend to have more ‘added extras’ than Modular courses. More than anything else, this is because Integrated courses are full time at one FTO, and extras can be easily integrated into the course. You can always add extras to a modular course of training, such as a degree. This will, of course, involve extra cost and extend the training timeframe.
3) Employment Prospects
– A BIG source of debate. Modular students do get hired by airlines, but it is important that their training is completed at as few FTO’s as is possible. This ensures that the student has some sort of continuity to their training, and airlines like this.
– At a lot of FTO’s, Integrated students will have access to a range of graduate services. The cadet still needs to be pro-active in searching for employment of course, but the FTO will have airline links, and you will likely be placed in a ‘holding pool’ of some kind. As and when required, airlines (who have an agreement with the FTO) will take a number of cadet pilots from the holding pool. The airline recruiters will know the graduate team at the FTO, who will provide them with the number of cadets they require.
– Now, a lot of airlines do seem to take preference to Integrated students, but that does not mean that they will not recruit from the modular route as well. Ryanair, for example, took over 130 pilots from OAA’s Integrated pool in 2012, but I know of a number of modular pilots who also gained employment with the airline in this time. The Integrated students may have had a shorter wait, but it is an example of an airline that looks at both methods. Other airlines that hire low-hour pilots from both routes include Thomson and Flybe.
Here I would like to quote a brilliant article from ProPilot, that explains the employment prospects of both routes:
“…airlines do have a preference for graduates from integrated training courses. There are many reasons for this, not least because the airline is not paying for your training and so does not have to consider the cost involved.”
“Beyond that, many airlines take the view that a full-time course offers a better guarantee of readiness for the big step from a training aircraft to an airliner.”
“The modular route is a perfectly acceptable alternative, provided that you take great care with the selection of your training providers. Airlines might prefer integrated graduates but they also recruit from the modular stream, particularly when there is a shortage of pilots”
This is a brilliant article which is well worth a read. You can find a link (along with others) at the bottom of this post.
So, to sum up, Modular students may not have access to graduate services, but this does not mean that they won’t get hired. It may take them longer, but they may also get hired quicker than an Integrated cadet. At the end of the day, luck is a huge factor
– Integrated is a full-time course, taking you from zero hours to fATPL in around 18 months.The modular route can vary in length, and it is possible to get it done very close to an Integrated timeframe (sometimes called Integrated Modular. Confusing, huh?). However, the reason that many take the modular route is because of it’s flexibility, so the training can be spread out over a few years.
We haven’t had a picture for a while…
Positives and Negatives
+ More focused, full-time training
+ All training is done at one FTO, meaning a complete training record is available to airlines
+ Lots of “added extras” included in the course (i.e. foundation degree, CV workshops, modules covering other areas of the industry).
+ Some FTO’s will pay you back if your training ceases (CTC have their bond protection scheme, OAA have SkillsPlus Guarantee).
+ Graduate services and Cadet holding pools. Airlines will approach their partnered FTO’s and take on a number of Integrated cadets as and when required.
+ A lot of airlines take more Integrated than Modular pilots. Some airlines have exclusive agreements with FTO’s, meaning they will only take low-hour pilots from an Integrated source. This does not mean that modular pilots won’t get hired!
– More expensive
– You can’t ‘pay as you go’, license to license. However, you will pay in installments as you train which gives financial security. NEVER, EVER, EVER PAY UP FRONT FOR ANY FLIGHT TRAINING! EVER!
– In tough economic climates, the holding pool will stay fuller for longer.
+ Can work out to be much cheaper
+ You can fit training around other commitments (work, family etc…)
+ Training can be completed to a more ‘Integrated’ timescale (Integrated Modular)
+ You aren’t tied to any particular company
+ ‘Pay as you go’ payment is an option. This gives you more control over funds.
– Training can be less focused
– Takes longer (not necessarily a bad thing, it depends on your situation)
– The vast majority of modular FTO’s don’t have contracts/agreements with airlines, where they will take cadets from a holding pool. However, some modular FTO’s will have links with airlines such as Flybe or Ryanair, who have taken their students in the past.
Where you could train
The main European Integrated providers are FTE Jerez, CAE Oxford Aviation Academy, and CTC Wings. Other FTO’s who offer integrated include Atlantic Flight Training and Pan-Am Academy. Below I have pasted the links where you can contrast and compare the integrated courses offered by each of these academies (there are other Integrated courses available, this is just a selection of the European offering). For the purpose of this post, I have only linked self-sponsored courses. There are sponsored or part sponsored courses available as well, such as the Flybe MPL.
CAE Oxford Aviation Academy (APP First Officer)
CTC Wings Cadet (Part Sponsored)
FTE Jerez (Airline First Officer Program)
There are a large number of European FTO’s who provide modular training. Some specialize in Flight Training, some in theory training, and some do both! Below are the links to their websites, as well as a couple of UK and US Flight Schools where you could complete your hour building. There are 100’s of places in the US where this can be done, so I have included a couple of examples. CAE Oxford Aviation Academy provide an Integrated Modular course, called Waypoint, which is linked below.
[Flight Training] Aeros
[Flight Training] Multiflight
[Flight Training] Ravenair
[Flight Training] BCFT
[Flight Training and ATPL Theory] CAE Oxford Aviation Academy
[ATPL Theory] ProPilot
[ATPL Theory] Bristol Ground School
[Hour Building] Wycombe Air Centre
So, that’s it. I hope that this post has outlined some of the positives and negatives of both routes, and given you some ideas of where you can train and at what price.
I hope you’ve found this post useful and, if you have, please share it with others who you feel may benefit from it! As a closing statement, I’d just like to give some basic advice that you should keep in mind…
– I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again, NEVER, EVER, EVER PAY UP FRONT FOR ANY FLIGHT TRAINING! EVER! Search ‘Cabair’ to find out why.
– Do not get sucked in by fancy brochures. You need to visit the FTO’s you are considering, and see what they are all about. Attend open days, contact staff and students and find out everything that you need to know. All the FTO’s I have dealt with are always happy to answer any questions that I have.
– Take a trip to the Flyer Exhibition, where all of the FTO’s mentioned exhibit.
– Take on-board the experiences of others, but also do your own research. You will get very good and very bad stories about each FTO. People are more likely to express negative experiences than positive ones. It’s a big decision to make however, so don’t rush into anything.
– Only train at approved Flight Training Organisations.
– Ask yourself, why is the cheapest training so cheap? Do not be guided by price alone.
ProPilot ‘Integrated vs Modular’ article
CAA Commerical Pilot Training Advice
OAA ‘First Steps’ to pilot training in Europe
GAPAN ‘So you want to be a Pilot’ Guide
Pilot Career News – A brilliant website that provides you with the latest training news.
If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me! Thank you for reading.