Alternative Careers for Lawyers


Will require time and money, especially without sponsorship.

To start from scratch, look at the 'How to become a pilot' page on the BALPA website (, which describes 3 approaches to entry:

  1. Via the forces
  2. Commercial pilot training via sponsorship or self-funded (up to £100,000)
  3. Obtain a Private Pilot's Licence and undertake commercial training modules at your own convenience. A professional pilot requires a 'Class 1' medical endorsement. The Civil Aviation Authority Medical Dept holds a list of authorised medical examiners (

The second of the above entry approaches is most likely to apply to a career-changing lawyer.

This is 'ab initio' training - no previous flying experience is required (but a few hours may be an advantage in the selection process).

The cost can vary but is likely to be between £80,000 and £100,000 - the fees typically include accommodation and uniform during training, but people need to budget for food and general living as well.

The ab initio course typically lasts about 18 months.

As at the turn of 2013, there are no sponsored commercial pilot training schemes in the UK, in the traditional sense (i.e. in the good old days, the airline would pay for everything upfront and the candidate just turned up and trained).

BA is currently running a scheme that requires successful candidates to deposit an £84,000 security bond to cover training costs but (a) if you don't have the cash, BA will guarantee a loan for this amount (as opposed to providing your own security) and (b) if you successfully complete the course, BA will repay you the £84,000 in your first seven years with them in annual instalments of £12,000 (if you leave before the seven years are up you forfeit whatever hasn't been repaid to you by then).

The first application window for the BA scheme (Future Pilot Programme) was open between late August and 9 September 2011. It was opened again on 19 November 2012 and closed in mid-December.

When the scheme was first announced, BA said that they expected to run it once a year for 5 years, although things change all the time in aviation, so there is no guarantee it will be run again. Rumours vary about the numbers of people who applied, between 4,000 and 6,000, for 72 places.

Full details of the BA scheme are found at The two principal providers of ab initio commercial pilot training in the UK are CAE Oxford and L3 Harris Airline Academy and, again, there are full details on these sites.

Helicopters: The Private Pilot's Licence (PPL(H)) can cost over £10,000 in training hours, leading to full or part-time modular training to achieve the Commercial Pilot's Licence (CPL(H)) about another £45,000.

The senior professional licence is the Airline Transport Pilot's Licence (ATPL(H)). The 'I want to be a helicopter pilot' page on the BHAB website is very comprehensive if a little long-winded.

British Airline Pilots Association, (BALPA)
British Helicopter Association (BHA)