Jul 24, 2017
Becoming a pilot in New Zealand is a highly specialised career choice. Professional flight training can lead to a very rewarding career, both within New Zealand and around the world. Being a professional pilot takes dedication, responsibility and perseverance as well as significant financial commitment.
While some flight training courses involve full time integrated theory and flight time, others cater for on-demand style flight training accommodating time and funding constraints. Whatever path is taken, New Zealand pilots graduate with a broad knowledge of NZ specific flight conditions, world class aviation skills and solid technical aircraft knowledge – making them highly sort after within the aviation industry.
Flight Training Options
For many New Zealanders a trial flight at a local aero club or flying school serves as their first introduction to the world of flight. Trial flights are a great way to get a taste for flying and see if it is right for you. Participants do not need any prior flight experience, there is no need to own an aircraft and there is no obligation to continue with lessons. There are hundreds of aero clubs and flying schools operating all around New Zealand.
In New Zealand there is one university offering flight training and quite a few private training establishments providing everything from the basic Private Pilots Licence and Commercial Pilots Licence through to various specialised Ratings.
Some flying schools are registered as Private Training Institutions under the NZ Qualifications Authority (NZQA) framework and others are not. It is not necessary for flight schools to be NZQA registered however the purpose of the NZQA is to regulate courses to ensure students are receiving consistently high quality learning. Being NZQA registered also means students are able to apply for student loans and allowances. For more information on flight training schools that fall within the NZQA framework see the NZQA website.
Prospective pilots should consider their long term intentions, particularly if an airline career is the main goal as choosing the right training organisation can have an impact on future employment prospects.
Becoming A Pilot In New Zealand
Whether you want to fly as a weekend hobby or tackle a full-on airline career the initial entry process and requirements are fairly similar. However how far you wish to take your career will determine how much there is to learn about the different types of aircraft, the rules, weather conditions and more skilled flight practices like instrument flying.
Private Pilots Licence – PPL
The beginning of everyone’s journey to becoming a pilot in New Zealand is with a Private Pilot Licence or PPL. With a PPL pilots can fly for recreation, carry non fare-paying passengers and learn to fly different types of small aircraft.
- A PPL will require approximately 50-70 hours of flight time (50 hour minimum).
- A Class 2 medical examination is required to gain a PPL.
- Flight training will include dual flight time with an instructor, solo flight training by yourself, terrain awareness and cross country navigation training.
- The first solo flight is usually achieved after 10-15 hours of flight training.
There are six theory exams you need to pass for your PPL, these include:
- Aviation Law. How to interpret Civil Aviation Rules.
- Meteorology. Understanding cloud formations, New Zealand weather patterns, aviation weather reports and weather conditions that affect aircraft performance.
- Air Technical Knowledge. Becoming familiar with the aerodynamics, engine, flight instruments, electrical systems, weight and balance of the training aircraft.
- Navigation. How to use aeronautical maps and calculate flight times and fuel consumption.
- Human Factors. The impacts of pilot health and stress on judgement and decision-making.
- Flight Radio (FRTO Rating). The appropriate phrases and radio language to make communication calls via the flight radio system.
Commercial Pilots Licence – CPL
For some a PPL is as far as it goes, but for those wishing to make a career out of flying, the next step in the process is a Commercial Pilot Licence or CPL. This allows pilots to earn an income in industries such as agricultural flying, charter flights and becoming an instructor.
- A CPL licence allows pilots to fly using Visual Flight Rules (VFR).
- The CPL will require a total of 200 hours of flight time minimum (This includes the hours already achieved in the PPL).
- Flight training will include intensive cross-country training and advanced handling techniques, basic mountain flying, approximately 30 hours of cross-country navigation and 10 hours of instrument flight.
- To commence training for a CPL you must hold a CAANZ Class 1 Medical Certificate. A listing of approved medical examiners is located on the CAA website.
- A New Zealand Private Pilot Licence (PPL) is also required prior to commencing CPL training.
- Applicants to degree or diploma flight qualifications may also need to pass the ADAPT Pre-Pilot Screening Test with a final score of average or above.
- It is also necessary to be proficient in the English language or be able to pass an English Language Proficiency test.
To successfully qualify for a Commercial Pilot’s Licence applicants must:
- Be a minimum of 18 years old.
- Have logged at least 200 hours flight time in a fixed wing aircraft (including the specifically required navigation and instrument flight hour allocations).
- Pass the required flight training written examinations which include six CPL theory subjects Human Factors, Aviation Law, Meteorology, Principles of Flight, Navigation and General Aircraft Technical Knowledge – these require a 70-80% or higher pass mark.
- Meet the CAA’s fit and proper person requirements, which includes providing proof of identity and address, a Criminal Record History from the Ministry of Justice and an Offence History Report from the NZ Transport Agency.
- Pass a practical flight test at the conclusion of training.
Different types of aircraft and different commercial applications such as agriculture or airlines will also require additional flight hours and qualifications.
On top of the CPL pilots are able to gain additional ratings and endorsements including but not limited to; an Instrument Rating (IR), Flight Instructor Rating (C-Cat), Aerobatic Rating, Multi Engine Instrument Rating (MEIR) and Single Engine Instrument Rating (SEIR) as well as a Basic Gas Turbine Rating (BGT). Ratings are predominantly made up of a combination of theory and flight time.
Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL)
If wishing to gain employment as a Captain on large airline aircraft an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) is required in addition to the CPL.
- ATPL ground theory covers Aircraft Law, Flight Navigation, General Flight Planning, Meteorology, Aircraft Aerodynamics and Systems, Human Factors and Instruments and Navigational Aids.
- In order to sit the final ATPL flight test pilots must obtain 1500 hours of flight time.
- Pilots usually sit the theory first and gain the hours needed as part of their normal duties as a co-pilot for an airline due to the high number of hours required.
- The ATPL is considered “frozen” until the correct number of hours is reached.
As Air NZ is the main airline employer within New Zealand the path to becoming an airline pilot is fairly well documented, qualifications can be obtained at a number of flight training organisations around the country although pilots are advised to attend Preferred Flight Training Organisations.
Air New Zealand Preferred Flight Training Organisations – FTO’s
Air New Zealand’s Aviation Institute currently has four flight training partners located across New Zealand which are the preferred providers for airline career training. Air NZ constantly works with these providers to ensure their training programs meet the requirements of the specific airline industry. The four approved Air NZ Flight Training Organisations in New Zealand are:
Southern Wings. With convenient Auckland and Invercargill locations, Southern Wings offers pilots comprehensive training programs including the NZ Diploma in Aviation – Airline Strand, Instrument and Instructor Ratings and the Airline Integration Course .
The International Aviation Academy of New Zealand. Christchurch based, the Aviation Academy offers NZQA approved courses that are designed primarily for those seeking an airline career.
Massey University. Available from the Manawatu campus in Palmerston North, Massey offers NZ’s only Bachelor of Aviation (Air Transport Pilot) which is a three year university degree.
Nelson Aviation College. Available from the Motueka base in Nelson, the Nelson Aviation College offers the Diploma in Aviation – Aeroplane Airline Preparation Strand, the course is 88 weeks in duration.
Minimum Qualifications Needed To Work For Air New Zealand
The minimum qualifications required for a starting a role as a Link airline First Officer with Air NZ are:
- Private Pilot Licence (PPL)
- Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL)
- Multi-Engine Instrument Rating (MEIR)
- Basic Turbine Knowledge (Sometimes referred to as BGT or Basic Gas Turbine)
- Airline Captain’s must also have an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL).
Air NZ Airline Integration Course – AIC
If selected by Air NZ representatives pilots can enrol in the Airline Integration Course or AIC. Successful completion of this course offers pilots a ‘preferred pilot status’ possibly increasing the opportunity for employment with Air New Zealand. Pilots who complete their training using the National Diploma in Aviation – Airline Stream and the Batchelor of Aviation will have already had the opportunity to complete the AIC as part of the course.
The AIC is designed to equip pilots with human factors, airline specific safety and advanced aircraft skills in order effectively work as part of a flight-deck team and manage complex aircraft situations.
The Civil Aviation Authority – CAA
To become a pilot in New Zealand the requirements set out by the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAANZ) need to be met. The CAA legally defines the qualifications pilots need to fly in different types of commercial operations in New Zealand.
Pilots, airlines, air traffic controllers, engineers, aircraft operators and aerodrome operators in New Zealand all come under the jurisdiction of the CAA. The CAA establishes, maintains and monitors compliance of the New Zealand aviation rules to ensure the safety of all concerned. The CAA also produce safety publications and run safety training courses and seminars.
ADAPT Pre Pilot Screening Test
Many flight training institutions require applicants to sit the ADAPT Pre-Pilot Screening Test in order to help better determine candidate suitability. Developed by UK-based company Symbiotics, the ServiceIQ online assessment has become a popular pilot pre-selection tool.
Anyone who wants to see if they have what it takes can give it a go, taking the test costs around $80 NZD and the results are available within a few hours.
Pilot Medical Certificates
A Class 1 Medical Certificate is required for anyone wishing to become a professional pilot in New Zealand. Class 1 Medical Certificates can only be issued by CAA approved medical doctors and are valid for 12 months before needing renewal. It is advised prospective pilots go for the medical Certificate prior to committing to any flight training.
During the medical examination the doctor will likely ask questions about current health issues, carry out hearing and vision tests and enquire into any on-going or historic health problems. The doctor may also carry out further testing dependent on the individual circumstances.
In some cases it is possible to be denied a medical certificate, depending on the circumstances applicant may be allowed to reapply after a certain period of time. For more information on how to get a pilot medical certificate visit the CAA website.
If you have any questions or want to know more about how to become a pilot in New Zealand feel free to contact the professional flight training team at Southern Wings.