Pilot Training

Long before being considered for a position at a major airline, a pilot must successfully complete a series of training and licensing requirements, and accumulate a certain amount of flying time. Training can be accomplished through civilian or military streams.


Student pilots can attend accredited aviation college or university programs or private flight schools. These pilots typically start out with a Private Pilot licence for single-engine aircraft. They must subsequently complete night, instrument and multi-engine ratings prior to progressing to a Commercial Pilot’s Licence. Our members who have completed flight qualifications as a civilian will have invested between $100,000 and $150,000 just to attain these basic qualifications.

From there, most will “pay their dues” by working at smaller airlines, often in Northern Canada. Some pilots will also pursue flight instructor ratings. After logging a minimum of 1500 flight hours, a Commercial Pilot can apply for the Airline Transport Pilot’s License (ATPL), which qualifies them to fly at the airline level. Many pilots will then progress to regional airline jobs before applying to a major airline.


Our pilots with military backgrounds have endured rigorous training and a lengthy commitment prior to moving to a pilot position at a commercial airline. These pilots have often served their country for many years, and have experienced the risks involved in military service.

Whether they pursued the civilian or military route, by the time our members join the Air Canada Pilots Association, they will have logged a minimum of 2,000 hours of fixed-wing flying time, though most have much more experience.

Learning never stops

All pilots participate in significant recurrent training to maintain their licences and qualifications.

At a minimum of every six to eight months, pilots must attend two consecutive days of flight simulator sessions, which include training and evaluation for both maneuvers and line-oriented flight operations. Before even stepping foot inside the simulator, each pilot will have completed hours of preparation for the training and license renewal process. There is also a pre-flight briefing with the instructor or Check Pilot. Simulator time is in high demand, so our pilots may end up completing these sessions in the middle of the night, weekends or holidays.

In addition, pilots must complete an annual “line check,” which consists of actual flights overseen by a Check Pilot authorized by Transport Canada to confirm competency.

All active pilots also attend one day of Annual Recurrent Training in a classroom setting to cover such issues as dangerous goods handling, crew resource management and other relevant topics. In preparation for these classroom activities, pilots complete computer-based modules.

All of these recurrent training requirements must be completed in order to fulfill Transport Canada licensing requirements.

Our pilots are generally only certified to fly one specific type of aircraft at a time. If a pilot wishes to fly a new type of aircraft, he or she will be required to spend about two months participating in a demanding training course, which involves ground, simulator and flight training, followed by rigorous testing of their proficiency with the new equipment.