On a recent trip to Ireland I visited National Flight Centre, one of the country’s two full-scale flight schools.
Lufthansa decided to abandon cloud-plagued Germany and train all of its ab initio pilots in Arizona. How can it work to learn to fly in Ireland, famous for rain?
One part of the answer is simulator time. The school has several sophisticated non-motion sims, one of which has a full 737-800 cockpit (Ryanair uses this plane). Of the 220 required hours of training for a “frozen ATPL“, 80 may be accomplished in a simulator. (On reaching 1,500 hours of flying experience, presumably gained in the right seat of a B737 or A320, the ATP becomes “unfrozen”.)
Students start as young as 17, though roughly half already have college degrees. They pay 82,000 euros for an 18-month program and, upon graduation, can work for any airline within the EASA umbrella (all of Europe, Turkey, etc.; does not include Qatar, Dubai, or China, all of which would require a license conversion). Starting salary at Ryanair for these 140-hour heroes is roughly 70,000 euros per year (depends on the base). Other European airlines pay in the same ballpark.
(What about Americans who want to escape the cruel dictatorship of Donald Trump? The American ATP can convert by doing 650 hours of home study through National Flight Centre, taking 14 exams (on site), and getting an Irish Class 1 medical. Budget for two trips to Ireland, a couple of weeks on the ground there total, and less than $10,000 out of pocket.)
Job prospects currently are awesome, with Ryanair alone hiring nearly 1,000 pilots per year.
The school is very well-organized, comparable to the best university-run U.S. schools. Instructors are a mixture of young enthusiasts and retired airline captains. Airplanes are dispatched with a GPS tracker and a flat-screen TV next to the front desk shows all aircraft positions. A web-based system keeps track of every lesson and the instructor’s evaluation. There is a nice restaurant overlooking the runway for relaxing between classes.
(It is vastly more difficult to start an airline career in the U.S. due to the 1,000/1,500-hour minimum. Also, the first job for a white or Asian male U.S. pilot will be in a regional jet, not a Boeing or Airbus (opportunities are better for members of victim groups, but there is no relief from the statutory minimum hours requirement).)
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