Aviation in Singapore is ridiculously expensive. To get 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 that you don’t know whether you will enjoy doing for the rest of your life.
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Here are some (cheaper) options!
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. You are however 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 (as compared to 3-5 years in a Low-Cost Carrier like Jetstar Asia and Scoot). You can find links to apply for such a position in our Airline Hiring Status page.
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) and 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 isn’t going to be as cheap to make the transition, it is still possible, and a WSO (Fighter) definitely will have the financial means to finance his own training. Read about how a WSO (Fighter) can make the transition.
Self-Sponsored Cadet Programme
Usually, airlines such as Scoot and Jetstar Asia have self-sponsored cadet programmes. However, because of the grounding of Airlines in Singapore due to COVID-19, applications to these programmes are now closed. Keep an eye on our who is hiring page to see if that changes in future.
If you do secure your place in a self-sponsored cadet programme, 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 decide to get your own CPL, 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 you can’t get into the SIA or RSAF, or if you couldn’t get into a cadet programme), 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. Together 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.
I’ve an exclusive deal for all my readers. For a limited time only, you can enrol a place with AeroGuard for your FAA CPL at just USD$55,000+.
With the FAA CPL option, not only do you save a pretty penny, 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 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.
If you want to explore going down the FAA CPL route, do consider this package that I’ve secured for all my readers.
Doing your CPL in Singapore
There are many training schools in Singapore. They include ST Aerospace Academy (STAA), CAE and Singapore Flying College (SFC). It will take up to 1 year to complete your flight training, including a few months of ground school in Singapore followed by another few months of flying with their affiliates in Australia.
CPL training in these Singaporean schools cost at least $150,000. Read more about the cost involved with the CAAS CPL.
Unless you get a kick start through SIA and RSAF, it is likely you 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, there are many different routes you can take to becoming a Pilot in Singapore. If you are passionate about aviation, i highly encourage you to explore all opportunities. Don’t give up! The career of a Pilot is unlike any other, and it would be well worth the initial struggles. If you like to read more about how a Pilots’ career would look like, here are some links to find out more about an Airline Pilot’s Career and a RSAF Pilot’s Career.
Nevertheless, While it’s not all glamour to be a pilot, it’s one of the best jobs around!
28 August 2020 – Updated for relevance