How to Become a Pilot? Qualification, Training, Jobs and Salary

As a kid, I was obsessed with superheroes (I still am) – especially with the ones who could fly. I’m sure plenty of kids also find the ability to fly quite fascinating. Unfortunately, it is impossible to defy gravity like Superman (note that he is an alien). However, becoming a pilot or an air hostess can fulfill your dream if flying is what you desire the most.

An interesting fact about superheroes: there are characters like Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) whose alter egos are pilots by profession. The astronauts and cosmonauts, who are no less than any superhero, are pilots. If you also wish to become a pilot, here is everything you need to know.

Types of Pilots

Before you prepare to become a pilot, you must learn about the different classifications of crews who can fly an airplane, helicopter, or other aircraft.

Types of Pilot Duties/Responsibilities
Helicopter pilots Professionals who fly civilian or military helicopters.
Commercial pilots Experienced pilots who fly passenger aircraft.
Fighter/combat pilots Well-trained pilots who fly fighter planes at supersonic speed.
Seaplane pilots Professional pilots who are capable of taking off and landing seaplanes over water.
Freighter pilots Pilots who are trained to fly huge freighter aircraft.
Hobby aviators Pilots who own and pilot their small, propeller aircraft.
Test pilots Skillful pilots who test new models of aircraft.
Space pilots Extremely skilled military pilots who fly space shuttles.

I assume you have a preference for your career as a pilot. Eligibility and the procedure for becoming a pilot can vary depending on the type of pilot you want to be.

How to become a pilot?

How to Become a Pilot in India?

In India, there are primarily two ways to become a full-fledged pilot and pursue aviation as a career:

  • Civil aviation: Non-military aviation as a commercial pilot.
  • Indian Air Force: The aviation wing of India’s defense forces.

Becoming a Commercial Airline Pilot in India

To become a commercial pilot in India, you must complete a three-year undergraduate course of B.Sc in Aviation. Like any other B.Sc course, theory classes, assignments, and practical training sessions exist. This course is often confused with B.Sc (Hons) in Aviation Management, which differs from the course.

The eligibility criteria for the course are:

  • Must complete 10+2
  • Should pass the HSC examination with subjects like Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics.
  • Must secure 50% marks in the HSC examination.
  • Must have a Class II Medical Certificate from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) approved Medical doctor for flying hours

The admission to in Aviation is based on merit. The admission forms of aviation colleges are generally available during May and June. You can find the application forms online and offline on the various university websites.

A few universities require students to submit their class X mark sheet, class XII mark sheet, and other relevant certificates with their application forms. The candidates for the course are mostly selected based on merit. However, the colleges may also conduct a written test and personal interview after the selection through the merit list.

It is important to note that the minimum age to apply for a pilot license is as follows:

  • Minimum 16 years for a student pilot license
  • Minimum 17 years for a private pilot license
  • Minimum 18 years for a commercial pilot license

Now, those were the requirements for getting admission to the aviation course. However, you must go through several stages to become a commercial pilot in India.

Step 1: Enroll In A Flying School

Getting admission into a B.Sc in Aviation course is not as easy as it may sound. You need to clear the following tests to enroll in a recognized flying school:

1. Written Test

The written test assesses your general English, mathematics, physics, and reasoning knowledge at 10+2 standard.

2. Pilot Aptitude Test

This test examines your aptitude for air regulation, navigation, aircraft and engine knowledge, and aviation meteorology.

3. DGCA Medical Test

Candidates who qualify for the written and aptitude tests must go through a medical assessment conducted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Government of India.

Step 2: Get Your Student Pilot License

To get your student pilot license, you need to appear for an entrance exam. Now, this exam includes an oral test, which should be taken by either the Chief Instructor at the aviation school or a representative from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

This license permits you to take off on flights on gliders or smaller planes available at various flying clubs across the country. By the time you finish your aviation course, you should have completed at least 250 flying hours. That’s when you can apply for a commercial pilot license.

It is important to mention that the course fee and other expenses of pursuing such an aviation course can be pretty high. However, you can become a pilot without paying a higher fee by joining the Indian Defense Forces.

Becoming an Air Force Pilot in India

To become part of the Indian Defense Force as a pilot, you can apply after completing a 10+2 level course or join the Indian Air Force after graduation. The procedures are slightly different since the candidates’ academic qualifications are different in this one. However, you get equal opportunities in both ways.

Becoming an Air Force Pilot after Class XII

Through NDA

The National Defence Academy (NDA) allows you to become a part of the Indian Air Force as a pilot. The selected candidates must train for three years at the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla. After completing their training, the candidates are commissioned as Permanent Commission Officers. Then, they are posted as pilots at the Air Force Stations nationwide.

The National Defence Academy (NDA) is the first opportunity you will get to be a part of this esteemed institute and join the flying branch. Under this entry, the selected candidates are trained for a period of 3 years at the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla. After the successful completion of the training, candidates are commissioned as Permanent Commission Officers and posted as pilots at one of the Air Force Stations.

Becoming an Air Force Pilot After the 12th

If you plan to join NDA after class XII, you need to qualify for the NDA entrance exam, which includes the following tests:

1. Written test

The written test consists of a math-based paper and a general ability test based on elements of English, geography, history, physics, chemistry, general knowledge, and current affairs.

2. SSB Interview

The Services Selection Board (SSB) assesses the candidates who want to join the Indian Defence Forces. The interview has two stages:

Stage I: In this stage, you must undergo an officer intelligence rating and picture perception and discussion test.

Stage II: You must undergo another test to clear the first stage. In this second stage, you need to face a test conducted by a psychologist, group tasks, and a personal interview.

3. Pilot Aptitude Test

The stakes are high in this test since you can appear only once. If you fail to clear this test, you can never appear for the flying branch again. The test includes a written and a machine test to assess the candidates’ ability to read instruments, control of their actions, and mental strength.

4. Medical examination

Lastly, you need to undergo a medical examination where they will verify your eyesight, height, and weight. To qualify, your height must be at least 152 cm, and your weight must be correlated. The eye vision needs to be 6/6 in one eye and 6/9 in the other, correctable to 6/6 only for Hypermetropia.

The Eligibility Criteria for NDA Admission

You can apply for NDA right after finishing your higher secondary. The minimum age for application is 16 ½ years, while the upper limit for an applicant’s age is 19. Interestingly, only male candidates can apply for NDA. Also, the candidate must have a 10+2 in mathematics and physics.

A Military pilot and aircraft at an airfield on mission standby

Becoming a Pilot in India After Graduation

After graduation, there are several ways to enter the Indian Air Force and become a pilot there. Graduate students can also apply for the NDA if they miss the application procedure after their 10+2. The other procedures are mentioned below:

Through CDSE

Combined Defence Services Examination (CDSE) is a test designed for those who want to join the Indian Air Force after graduation.  The selected candidates are sent to Air Force Academy, Hyderabad, where they must attend a pre-flying training school. After the training, the candidates become commissioned officers assigned to flying units.

Becoming a Pilot After Graduation

Interestingly, the procedure is the same as applying for NDA, which I discussed earlier. To refresh your memory, here’s what you need to do:

1. Written examination

Based on English, mathematics, and general knowledge

2. SSB Interview

Two stages.

I) Officer intelligence rating test and picture perception and discussion test.

II) To clear the stage I, you must undergo psychological tests, group tasks, and a personal interview.

3. Pilot Aptitude Test

You get only one chance at this test, which requires you to pass written and machine tests to demonstrate your ability to read instruments, control actions, and maintain mental strength.

4. Medical Examination

All the requirements for medical examination are similar to the NDA’s medical test, except the minimum height of the candidate for CDS entry is 162.5 cm.

Among other eligibility criteria, the candidate needs to be:

  • A male graduate (three-year course) in any discipline from a recognized university, BE, or B.Tech (four-year course).
  • He must study physics and mathematics at a 10+2 level.
  • He must hold an Indian passport.
  • Candidate must be at least 19 years old. The upper limit for an applicant’s age is 23.
  • The candidate must be unmarried at the time of application.


There’s a scheme named Short Service Commission (SSC) that allows you to join the Indian Air Force and serve there for not more than 14 years. To join the IAF under this scheme, you must qualify for the Air Force Common Admission Test (AFCAT). The candidates are then sent to Air Force Academy, Dundigal, for the 74-week training program.

Becoming a Pilot through AFCAT SSC

Again, the same entrance procedure as the NDA and CDS entrances is applied for AFCAT applicants under SSC.

1. Written examination

Based on verbal ability, numerical ability, general awareness, military aptitude, and reasoning.

 2. SSB Interview

Two stages –

I) Officer intelligence test and picture perception and discussion test.

II) On clearing the first stage, you must face another set of tests, including psychological tests, group tasks, and a personal interview.

3. Pilot Aptitude Test

You get only one shot at this. This test includes written and machine tests to assess your ability to read instruments, control of actions, and mental strength.

4. Medical Examination

The requirements of the exam are the same as those for the medical examination of CDS mentioned earlier.

The other eligibility criteria for this course are as follows:

  • The applicant must graduate in any discipline (three-year course) from a recognized university or BE or B.Tech (four-year course) with a minimum of 60% marks.
  • Both male and female candidates are eligible for this process.
  • The minimum age requirement is 19 years, while the maximum limit is 23 years.
  • However, if you hold a commercial pilot license issued by DGCA, you can get a relaxation of up to 25 years.
  • The candidate needs to be Indian and unmarried.

Through NCC

If you have been a member of the school NCC society and hold the Air Wing Senior Division “C” certificate, you are eligible to join the Air Force through the Directorate General National Cadet Corps or through respective NCC Air Squadrons. If the candidate has secured an “A” or “B” grade in their “C” certificate, he can directly appear for the SSB interview.

Becoming a Pilot through NCC

The procedure is the same as NDA, CDS, or AFCAT, except that there is no written test.

SSB Interview

It has the same two stages.

I) Officer Intelligence test and a Picture perception and discussion test.

II) After clearing stage I, you must face a set of tests, including psychological tests, group tasks, and a personal interview.

Pilot Aptitude test

Again, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance. So, if you fail to qualify for the pilot aptitude test, you can’t appear for this branch again. The test consists of written and mechanical tests to assess your skills based on your ability to read instruments, control or actions, and mental strength.

Medical Examination

The medical exam requirements for the candidates are the same as the CDS and AFCAT medical exams.

Among the other eligibility criteria, a candidate must be:

  • AN NCC Air Wing Senior Division “C” certificate holder.
  • An unmarried male individual.
  • Minimum age of 19 and below 23.
  • Must graduate in any discipline from a recognized university with a minimum of 60% marks.
  • Must have good decision-making skills, perseverance, and the ability to cope with unusual situations.

Air Force Pilot Salary in India

Grade Pay INR 5,400
Pay Band INR 15,600-39100
Military Service Pay INR 6,000 per month
Dearness Allowance INR 21,600 per month
Kit Maintenance Allowance INR 500 per month
Transport Allowance INR 3,200 per month (Major Cities)
INR 1,600 per month (Other Cities)
Flying Allowance (Flying Branch Officers Only) INR 11,200 per month

The total Salary of an Air Force Pilot will be approximately INR 66,110 per month Only.

Over to you!

There’s no greater honor than serving your country as a part of its defense force. But the commercial pilots are no less. They are also responsible for thousands of lives. So, no matter which kind of pilot you choose to become, it is important to understand the job’s responsibilities. After all, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

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