Should I choose Modular or Integrated training ?

It’s a question that every person who has undertaken commercial flight training will have asked at some point. Integrated v modular creates a pilot in different ways but end up with the same qualifications and licences.

Trainee pilots who take the modular route decide this for two main reasons; funding and time. The timing of the two routes vary dramatically. Although the integrated course is consistent with the time it takes from start to finish, modular students will see their duration fluctuate up or down due to personal matters.

Integrated flying schools such as L3 (formally known as CTC Aviation), CAE Oxford Aviation Academy and Flight Training Europe all provide an integrated way of training pilots from having zero-hours to being fully licensed to fly an airliner in the span of two years. A route that appeals to airlines which shall be discussed later on, these 24 months puts a cadet through the 14 subjects of theory & exams, Commercial Pilots Licence, Instrument Rating, Multi-Crew Co-oporation (MCC) and the type rating on the airline’s aircraft. With plenty of time to spare to see the family in between.

Such courses require students to be committed to the training 7 days a week. It is near impossible for students to take on a part-time job whilst on the course, even so, the training organisations wouldn’t allow it. The groundschool phase consists of around 6 months of classroom study, approximately 750 hours of teaching. The 14 subjects that students are required to pass are broken down into modules. This allows the teaching of 4-5 subjects per module followed by the exams of the associated subject. Classroom hours are normally from 9-5 Monday-Friday, with time outside of the classroom expected (and needed) to be utilised revising and studying.

The flip-side to this with the modular route is that you can break down the studying and exams at a pace that suits the individual. The integrated schools do not have the capacity to have many students all studying at the same time. There isn’t enough seats or enough teachers for the students. Because of this, the schools expect students to study intensively for 6 months and move on with 14 passes, and thus allowing the next group of students to begin their groundschool. The modular way of groundschool allows the student to either study the subjects themselves at home, at his own leisurely pace, or attend a school set up specifically for teaching aviation theory, such as Bristol Ground School.

When breaking down the cost of an integrated course, it normally works out to be more expensive for the groundschool phase of the course compared to attending a modular theory course. This becomes appealing to those on a tight budget. On the other hand, the integrated course will include the accommodation, where as the modular school may not. Creating the task for modular students to find their own accommodation if they are not lucky enough to live nearby.

It is now normal for an student to enrol on a course at a top integrated flying school where their training costs will range from £80,000 – £120,000. A figure that not everyone has at their disposal, disabling their ability to train as an airline pilot, and because of this give up on their dreams. Modular training, however, can cost approximately 50-60% less than that of an integrated course. This benefits those who are unable to meet the financial demand of signing up to a integrated flight school, but this gives the trainees the ability to have a full-time job whilst learnt to fly in their spare time. In other words, earn the money through work to pay for the flight training at the weekend.

One of the biggest issues in the flight training industry is the ability for a modular-trained pilot to gain employment with an airline. Airlines, in general, like the integrated schools. The problem isn’t necessarily with the modular student, but with how an airline recruits pilots to fill the void caused by pilots moving on, retiring or the airline acquiring more aircraft.

The main pull factor for the airlines with integrated schools is they know what type of pilot they will receive if they hire graduates from the school. Consistency is key for an airline in all aspects of the company. An airline can turn to a school and request 30 cadets to sit an interview with the intention of starting a type rating course in three weeks time. The problem is the current demand for new pilots, especially in Europe, is greater the output of the ‘top’ flying schools. The schools can’t simply provide the amount of pilots airliners are currently asking for.

Luckily for those who are undertaking the modular route, major flying schools that primarily teach an integrated syllabus are opening new opportunities for modular pilots to finish off (or a part of) their training at an integrated school. For instance, L3 allow qualified pilots to join their Airline Qualification Course (MCC course). If passed to a certain standard the modular pilot could enter the school’s hold pool for an interview. This means schools such as L3 can provide more pilots, that they will have trained, to the airline. In turn, the airline knows that the pilot in question will have passed the school’s assessment criteria, keeping the consistency and trust mentioned above. This gives a modular pilot ‘a look-in’ that he or she may not necessarily get if venturing into the job market alone.

As mentioned, the biggest barrier to becoming a pilot nowadays is the cost of flight training. For the past few years, airlines have been able to help ease the financial pain of training costs and open their own sponsored courses. As expected, these are swamped with applicants with one UK sponsored course receiving approximately 9,000 applications for its yearly program. This forces those passionate of following their dream to seek other methods of financing it.

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