What it takes to be a pilot in Kenya: the grades, cost & expected fat salary

By , K24 Digital
On Fri, 29 Jan, 2021 18:09 | 3 mins read
Kenya boeing
Pilots climbing up the skies in a Kenyan Boeing jetliner. PHOTO | http://www.worldairroutes.com
Pilots climbing up the skies in a Kenyan Boeing jetliner. PHOTO | http://www.worldairroutes.com

Hundreds of students across the country dream of one day becoming a pilot, at least for one of the airlines in Kenya, including the esteemed Pride of Africa and the national carrier, Kenya Airways (KQ).

Of course, there are other airlines operating in Kenya, including Jambo Jet, Fly540, Freedom Airlines, and Silverstone Air, to mention but a few.

Pilots can fly helicopters, cargo, and commercial planes so there are plenty of jobs and the pay is not glum if audit reports are anything to go by.

Oftentimes, many of those who would otherwise qualify as pilots kill their own dreams prematurely either because they fail to seek information on how to pursue their dream career or by assuming a pessimistic stance that only those who are super-bright and superrich make it to the profession.

KQ Captain Qualifications

Far from it, it turns out that an average student can easily find themselves employed as a captain in one of leading Kenya's, Africa's, and world's leading airlines, our own national carrier KQ.

According to the Kenya Airways Careers Site, the minimum educational qualification for a Direct Entry Pilot is a Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) mean grade of C or an equivalent with at least grade C in English, Mathematics, Physics/Chemistry/Physical Science.

Some of the flight schools in Kenya require a minimum KCSE mean grade of C+ or an equivalent with at least a grade C+ in English and the other training relevant subjects.

However, one must score Grade "A" in Aeroplane Performance Rating, one of the tests that commercial airline pilots must undergo.

Further, an aspiring KQ Direct Entry Pilot must have a Kenyan Commercial Pilot License (CPL) with instrument rating with no limitations and a minimum of 250 hours accident as well as incident-free.

Besides the technical training, KQ pilot applicants must also pass aptitude, psychometric, medical, psychomotor, flight, and positive referencing assessments.

With pilots working in teams for commercial flights, airlines also required pilots to be strong team players, have high integrity, excellent interpersonal, communication, and organizational skills.

Many tasks in the cockpit require going through checklists, for take-off, and in emergency situations.

Given the cutthroat competition in the airline business, pilots must also sound friendly to their passengers during their communications which reassure clients that they are cared for and that they are incapable hands.

The starting point

But the journey to qualify to be a Direct Entry Pilot for commercial airlines begins at the lowly stage as a pilot trainee.

To qualify as a pilot trainee, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority requirements require students to be at least 16 years old and demonstrate the ability to read, write and understand the English language. Potential pilot trainees must also possess a valid Class 2 Medical Certificate.

To be allowed to fly an airplane day and night, one must be at least 17 and have the Private Pilot License (PPL), which allows students to obtain the foundational knowledge and skills for all future aircraft pilot training.

With the PPL, a trainee can carry passengers such as friends, family and co-workers but cannot be compensated or hired. The PPL only acts as a foundation course on the pathway to a Commercial Pilot's License.

Commercial pilots train as private pilots, which allows them to learn the basics of flying before progressing into more complicated planes and situations.

Having a CPL with Grade A allows flying for compensation or hire, so it is the choice if you wish to pursue flying as a career.

Cost of training, rewarding career

The only obstacle that can stand in the way of many would-be pilots is the cost of training.

One of the flying schools in Kenya charges approximately Sh6,000,000 for helicopter training, for both theory and flying lessons.

For the first basic license, the Private Pilots License which takes six months to complete, the school charges Sh800,000.

To obtain the second level license, the Commercial Pilots License, a training must pay Sh2,600,000 with the training estimated to last between 8-12 months.

For the last stage for those looking to fly commercial airplanes, the training for a two-engine plane which is called instrument rating and multi-engine rating, a pilot must fork out Sh1,300,000.

The total cost for the entire training, a pilot will have paid Sh4,700,000.

For those students wishing to pursue a career, the cost must not block one's sight to the otherwise rewarding career.

On average, for instance, Kenya Airways pilot costs the company Sh1.3 million, a sum rivaling the pay of top chief executives of State-owned firms. Not really a bad deal even after spending all those millions to learn the craft.

Of course, if one's parents are not rich, one can always fundraise through friends, churches, old high-school network. If it is your dream, you make it happen.