While COVID-19 has thrown the entire industry into a tailspin, it doesn’t mean that your dream of becoming an airline pilot in Singapore is dead. The government has highlighted multiple times through the pandemic the commitment to reviving Singapore as an airhub once again. That means that demand for pilots in Singapore would be revived once we can put COVID-19 behind us.
Your dream of becoming a pilot in Singapore isn’t dead by any measure. – Captain Ong
However, aviation in Singapore is ridiculously expensive.
To work in an Airline, you need a Civil Aviation Authority Singapore (CAAS) Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL). And to attain your CAAS CPL, it will cost you at least $150,000. That is a lot of money to invest in when you don’t know whether you will enjoy doing it for the rest of your life.
If you can’t pump $150,000 into a CAAS CPL, there are other options. Here they are!
SIA Ab Initio Cadet Pilot
The cheapest way to get your CPL in Singapore is through the SIA Ab Initio Cadet Pilot programme. Through this programme, SIA will take you in as a trainee with zero flying experience put you through a training programme to help you attain your Commercial Pilot Licence.
The entire cost of getting your licence ($150,000) is fully sponsored. You will even receive an allowance during your course of training. However, you are bonded to SIA for 7 years after you become a Line Pilot. Also, your upgrade from a First Officer to a Captain will take at least 15 years (compared to 3-5 years in a Low-Cost Carrier like Jetstar Asia and Scoot).
Unfortunately, the SIA Ab Initio Cadet programme was closed after COVID-19 and has yet to reopen. We will update this page once that changes. You can also regularly visit our Airline Hiring Status page to stay updated on the hiring status of SIA’s Ab Initio programme!
The other organisation that will pay for your flying training is the Republic of Singapore Air Force. While the RSAF does not directly help you attain your CAAS CPL, through your career in the RSAF, you should achieve the pre-requisites for getting your Commercials Pilot Licence.
The bond is long, though. You have to serve a minimum of 12 years. But the good thing is, the RSAF pays the pilots well.
After serving your 12 years RSAF bond, you can easily get your USA FAA ATPL (read about how much that will cost). With that FAA ATPL, you can apply for a job in an airline in Singapore. We also wrote an article about the career of an RSAF Pilot. Here’s a collection of step by step guides for RSAF Fighter, Transport and Helicopter Pilots.
And even if you can’t secure a job as an RSAF Pilot, you might want to consider becoming a WSO (Fighter). Though it will not be as cheap to make the transition, it is still possible, and a WSO (Fighter) will definitely have the financial means to finance his own training. Read about how a WSO (Fighter) can make the transition.
The best part of this programme? The RSAF is always hiring. You can visit the RSAF career site here.
Self-Sponsored Scoot Cadet Programme
The industry is on its recovery leg post-COVID-19, and Scoot recently reopened its self-sponsored cadet programme in December 2021. Visit our who is hiring page for the link to Scoot’s HR site!
Suppose you do secure your place in a self-sponsored cadet programme. In that case, the biggest advantage is that you are assured of a job (with some terms and conditions attached) after spending SGD$150,000 on your CPL. If you decided to get your own CPL instead of going through Scoot’s Cadet Programme, there is a chance you might be left jobless after spending a fortune on your CPL.
Getting your own CPL
If you prefer to go on your own (or can’t get into the SIA, RSAF or Scoot programmes), you can consider getting your own CPL. There are two ways you can go about getting your own CPL. We’ve got a summary below, but we wrote an article about the advantages and disadvantages of an FAA CPL and a CAAS CPL.
Doing your CPL in the USA
Getting your FAA CPL in the USA will be cheaper than doing it in Singapore. With your living expenses in the USA for roughly about 6 months, it will cost you just under SGD$100,000 to get the CPL.
With the FAA CPL option, not only do you save a pretty penny, but your FAA CPL will also allow you to find work in the USA and many other countries (the CAAS CPL will only enable you to work on a Singapore registered Aircraft. Defecto most of them are in Singapore 🤣 ). However, starting salary for a CPL holder in the USA is very very low compared to in Singapore. The reason for this is that the airlines in the USA only hire ATPL holders. CPL holders are restricted to working as pilots in regional private jet operators and flight schools.
You can read about the FAA way of becoming an Airline Pilot in Singapore.
Doing your CPL in Singapore
There are not many training schools in Singapore. CAAS requires CAAS CPL training in an Approved Aviation Training Organisation, and CAAS currently only lists 2 approved schools. These 2 schools include Singapore Flying College (SFC) and Australian Airline Pilot Academy (AAPA).
It’s worthwhile to note that most of these training programmes conduct most of their programmes in Australia. SFC conducts their ground school in Singapore and the flying phase in Australia, while AAPA’s conducts the entire programme in Australia.
It would take up to 1 year to complete your flight training.
CPL training in these Singaporean schools cost at least $150,000. Read more about the cost involved with the CAAS CPL.
Your dream of becoming a pilot in Singapore isn’t dead. While COVID-19 was indeed a setback to the industry, the industry will recover.
Yes. Cost is a major hurdle, and unless you get a kick start through SIA and RSAF, you likely need to make a substantial investment to start as a Pilot in Singapore. But you can look at it this way; A typical degree in Singapore will cost you $20,000-$100,000 a year for tuition fees, including your living expenses and employment opportunity cost. It will take you at least 3 years, costing you a total of $60,000 – $300,000 to get your degree.
The CPL will cost you $150,000, and will only take 1-year. Meaning you potentially can get a job immediately after your 1-year training and start earning back the money while the other people in Universities are still studying and burning cash!
As detailed in the article above, you can take many different routes to become a Pilot in Singapore. If you are passionate about aviation, I highly encourage you to explore all opportunities. Don’t give up! A Pilot’s career is unlike any other, and it would be well worth the initial struggles. If you would like to read more about how a Pilots’ career would look, here are some links to find out more about an Airline Pilot’s Career and an RSAF Pilot’s Career.
Nevertheless, While it’s not all glamour to be a pilot, it’s one of the best jobs around!
25 January 2022 – Post COVID-19 update
28 August 2020 – Updated for relevance