Categories: CAASFAA

Want to get a Commercial Pilot License? FAA CPL or CAAS CPL?

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This article was written for Singaporeans who are interested in becoming an Airline Pilot in Singapore, have decided self-funding a Commercial Pilot Licence Training (CPL), but is still undecided on whether to get a CAAS Commercial Pilot License or FAA Commercial Pilot License. If you’re still undecided on how you’ll like to become a Pilot in Singapore, read this article. Read this if you’ve already decided to go the FAA CPL route. Read this if you’ll like to know more about how the career of an Airline Pilot look.

We compare the following differences between a CAAS Commercial Pilot License and FAA Commercial Pilot License.

  1. Duration of training
  2. Cost of training
  3. Privilege of license
  4. Size of Job market

Duration of training.

FAA Commercial Pilot License

While the average FAA Commercial Pilot License training takes up to 6 months, it could be shortened to 1-2 months, depending on how quick a learner you are.

CAAS Commercial Pilot License

The average CAAS Commercial Pilot License training takes up to 12 months. Training generally involves months of intense ground school in Singapore, followed by a flying phase, typically carried out in Australia.

Duration of training winner – FAA Commercial Pilot License

As the time spent training for the CAAS Commercial Pilot License is much so much longer than training for the FAA Commercial Pilot License, the opportunity cost of a CAAS Commercial Pilot License makes the FAA Commercial Pilot License the clear winner. Getting your license earlier allows you to beat other candidates to the interview.

Cost of Training

FAA Commercial Pilot License

The average FAA Commercial Pilot License training cost USD$60,000 (about SGD$90,000). Depending on the school you choose, that cost could drop to just USD$50,000 (about SGD$75,000). Since most FAA flights schools provide accommodations, the cost of living for the duration of your training can be really low.

CAAS Commercial Pilot License

The average CAAS Commercial Pilot License student would need to fork out SGD$150,000 training in a CAAS training school. Similarly, accommodations for flying training phase in Australia is typically included in the training package, but since the duration spent overseas is longer compared to FAA Commercial Pilot License training, you will likely be spending more while living aboard.

Cost of training winner – FAA Commercial Pilot License

The cost for FAA Commercial Pilot License training is almost half the cost of training for the CAAS Commercial Pilot License. If you were to include the opportunity cost of staying longer in training, whereby you’ll be losing slots to other licensed candidates, the FAA Commercial Pilot License is once again the clear winner here.

Privilege of the Licence

FAA Commercial Pilot License

The FAA Commercial Pilot License holder has the privilege to work in charter operations and corporate flying. However, the holder is not allowed to work for an FAA registered airline. For example, the FAA Commercial Pilot License holder would not be allowed to work for United Airlines but would be allowed to fly the private jet for McDonalds Executives.

However, the FAA Commercial Pilot License can be converted to a CAAS Commercial Pilot License (terms and conditions apply, read about the differences in requirements here, and information about the examination requirements for conversion), and once converted, the FAA Commercial Pilot License holder with the newly converted CAAS Commercial Pilot License, would be allowed the privilege of working for a CAAS registered Airline, like Jetstar Asia or SilkAir.

CAAS Commercial Pilot License

A CAAS Commercial Pilot License holder has the privilege of working as a co-pilot in a CAAS registered airline. The holder would not be allowed to work for an FAA Charter. While conversion of the CAAS license to an FAA license is possible, it is rarely done and should be considered impossible.

Privilege winner – CAAS Commercial Pilot License

The CAAS Commercial Pilot License is the clear winner in this comparison. The CAAS Commercial Pilot License allows the holder to work for an Airline, whereas the FAA Commercial Pilot License only allows the holder to work in an FAA Charter. Since Airlines generally pay their Pilots better, the CAAS Commercial Pilot License wins in this aspect.

Size of Job Market

FAA Commercial Pilot License

While the FAA Commercial Pilot License holder is only allowed to work in an FAA registered charter service, there are literally thousands of FAA-registered charters based around the world, and these FAA registered charters are always hiring. Some possible opportunities are as follows.

  1. Getting an FAA CFI to continue working in a USA flight school as an instructor.
  2. Working in the USA in a corporate jet.
  3. Working in Hong Kong with a charter.
  4. Working in Singapore with a charter.
  5. Working in Maldives as a pilot in a VFR charter.

On the other hand, while the options are practically limitless, it isn’t easy for a Singaporean FAA Commercial Pilot License holder to get a job as an FAA Commercial Pilot. Not impossible, but difficult.

CAAS Commercial Pilot License

While there are 4, Singapore registered airlines (Singapore Airlines, Silk Air, Scoot and Jetstar Asia), practically, only Scoot takes in fresh Commercial Pilot License holders. Read our regularly updated page about the hiring statuses of Airlines in Singapore.

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Can you imagine if you flunk in the job interview with the only airline in Singapore that will take fresh Commercial Pilot License graduates? You’ll be left jobless and penniless, with an expensive and useless license.

Size of Job Market winner – FAA Commercial Pilot License

A CAAS Commercial Pilot License holder has just one opportunity to secure a job. While it would be difficult for a Singaporean FAA Commercial Pilot License holder to secure a position in an FAA registered company, the Singaporean FAA Commercial Pilot License holder could also try for an interview with an Airline in Singapore and any of the FAA registered companies. This makes the FAA Commercial Pilot License license the clear winner!

Summary

The clear winner of the two Commerical Pilot License is the FAA Commerical Pilot License. Here’s a table summarising the comparison.

FAA CPL CAAS CPL
Duration of training WINNER
Cost of training WINNER
Privilege of license WINNER
Size of Market WINNER

However, since everyone has their own strengths and preferences, you should not decide blindly on the FAA Commercial Pilot License simply because of this article. You’ll need to ask yourself some honest questions about your strengths, weaknesses, and preferences.

Time for an honest reflection.

While the FAA Commercial Pilot License might appear to be the clear winner in the comparisons above, the advantages and disadvantages might weigh differently for each individual. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before deciding on the CAAS Commercial Pilot License or the FAA Commercial Pilot License.

Where do you want to work?

If you’re the kind of Singaporean that can’t survive a day without Chinese food, or if you’re the kind that can never adapt to live overseas, you’ll likely want to get a job in Singapore. For such an individual, taking the CAAS Commercial Pilot License would be the better bet.

However, if you are the kind of Singaporean that can’t wait to move overseas and have been dreaming of living and working abroad, the FAA Commercial Pilot License might be a better fit for you.

How do you perform in interviews?

An honest review of how you perform in interviews would determine how likely you will pass the interview for the Airline in Singapore. Do you have the tendency to freeze during interviews, or are you a superstar that is able to outshine other candidates in a high pressure and formal interview environment?

If you were the kind of person that shines in interviews, your decision could weigh towards getting a CAAS Commercial Pilot License, since you’ll more likely get a job in an airline in Singapore.

On the other hand, if you generally don’t do that well in a formal interview, you could hire a personal coach to try improving your performance at job interviews, or you should just get the FAA Commercial Pilot License. At least an FAA Commercial Pilot License holder will have the opportunity to interview for the Airlines in Singapore and 1,000 other opportunities before running out of options.

How do you stack against other similar candidates?

In a pool of similar, fresh Commercial Pilot License graduates, how do you think you stack against them? Did you have any experiences in Singapore Youth Flying Club or other aviation-related School Activities that you can sell to the interview that you’ve been passionate about aviation since you were young? While academic achievements aren’t that important for a career as an Airline Pilot, against a pool of fresh Commercial Pilot License graduates with just 200 hours, educational results are the only thing an airline has to compare you against other candidates, other than your performance at the interview. We wrote an article about academic qualifications for pilots earlier.

Conclusion

Now that you are equipped with the facts, you’ll need to do an honest reflection about your own abilities before deciding whether you should get the CAAS Commercial Pilot License or the FAA Commercial Pilot License. Read this article to find out more about how to become a Pilot in Singapore the FAA CPL way.

Did I miss out any important factors to consider? Let me know through FB Messenger.

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Captain Ong

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  • Currently a seafarer working as a navigation officer. 25 years old this year and i'm looking to transition to the pilot profession. I recently got to know about SQ removing the age cap as i was intending to apply when im 26. I'm a diploma holder from a local poly.

    My question is what is your take on taking a BS in aeronautics + FAA CPL considering i dont have a degree( my parents want me to get on). Assuming i dont get into SQ(likely), my choices are to take the CAAS cpl or FAA cpl. I intend to work for an airline in SG. So would it be feasible to take the degree+ FAA cpl then convert to CAAS cpl?

    • Hi there, it is definitely possible to get the FAA CPL and than converting it to a CAAS CPL. Many have done this and i just wrote an article about this today (link here).

      About whether there is a need to get a degree, it really depends. The prerequisite to becoming a pilot is simply a licence, and a degree is only a "good to have" at the interview stage in my opinion. Here's what i think about a degree. There are many airline pilots who are diploma holder, or A levels holder, so your diploma is certainly enough.

      Feel free to reply if you have any questions!

      • Hi thanks for the prompt reply capt. Ong! So the cost of the conversion from FAA to CAAS CPL is basically just the cost of the 14 papers right?

        And i would need to be hired by an airline in SG for me to convert my FAA to CAAS, which basically means if i dont score any interviews, i will be jobless in SG?

        Thanks,
        Sufyan

        • The cost of the conversion is the 14 papers, the class 1 medical (545$) and many various administrative fees that will need to be paid to CAAS by the applicant (about $500)

          Also, if you are joining some of the airlines, u might need to pay for your own type rating, amounting up to $50,000 sgd

          With a faa Licence without a job in Singapore, you will not be able to convert your Licence. But u can potentially find a job at a faa registered charter jet company

          Yeah it’s expensive :(

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Captain Ong

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