Every week, Zikoko will share the hustle stories of Nigerians making it big in and out of the country. With each story, we’ll ask one crucial question in several ways: “How you do am?”

Lawrence’s hustle story took us through his surprising transition from civil engineering to flight school, eventually becoming a pilot. Fancy a career in the sky too? This guide will help you.

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Firstly, what kind of pilot can you be?

You know how every doctor studies medicine but can specialise in different aspects of medicine? The aviation industry works almost the same way. You can be one of three types of pilot: commercial, private or military.

A commercial pilot is qualified to fly a wide variety of aircraft, including passenger and cargo planes. If you’ve ever travelled by air, you were most likely flown by a commercial pilot. 

Private pilots, on the other hand, are only qualified to fly small single-engine aircraft like some private jets. 

While the army specifically trains military pilots for combat missions and to covertly gather intelligence.

Not to be confused with the type our village people use, though:

Where do you study to become a pilot in Nigeria?

Numerous aviation schools in Nigeria offer flight training courses and licensing, and the most popular is the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria. It’s a government-owned institution and a parastatal of the Ministry of Aviation, plus it’s widely regarded to be one of the best aviation schools in the nation.

Other aviation schools that offer flight training include:

  • Universal School of Aviation: This is in Lagos and also provides training for other professions in the aviation industry, such as flight dispatch, flight attendants and customer service.
  • International Aviation College: The state-owned institute is in Ilorin, Kwara state and offers various flight training.
  • Dhaewood Aviation Business School (DABS): Also based in Lagos, the school offers both private and commercial pilot training, and other aviation courses such as aircraft maintenance and air traffic control. 
  • BlueSky Aviation-Helicopter Pilot Training Academy:
    The academy offers helicopter pilot training and is based in Lagos. Other courses include Private Pilot License (PPL), Commercial Pilot License (CPL), and Instrument Rating (IR).

RELATED: Hustleprint: He Started His Career in Civil Engineering. Now He’s a Pilot

How long does flight school take?

Flight school in Nigeria typically involves a two-year training program, consisting of a six-month training for the Private Pilot License (PPL) and 18 months for the Commercial Pilot License (CPL). This is the standard for most commercial pilots, and while admission requirements vary between institutions, the minimum qualification required is a secondary school certificate.

How much does it cost to be a pilot?

Two words: A lot.

Depending on the flight school, tuition fees for a standard piloting course typically range between ₦7.5 million and ₦8.9 million. In March 2023, it was reported that the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) had raised its fees to ₦12.83 million (excluding accommodation and feeding) for its two-year course, citing the dollar-denominated aviation industry as a major factor. 

How much do pilots earn in Nigeria?

Training is really expensive, but it’s expected that you make what you spent back when you start flying. A pilot’s salary depends on the aircraft they’re rated on (or “type rating”) — this is another certification pilots need to acquire after earning the pilot license — as well as their flying (or flight) hours. “Flight hours” simply refer to the number of hours the pilot has spent in the air. 

The flight hours determine the pilot’s experience level, and their rank. A new pilot enters the industry as a Second Officer, then a First Officer (or copilot), Senior First Officer and finally Captain. 

To become Captain, the pilot must have attained a minimum of 4,000 flight hours and a spotless record.

The pilot’s pay also depends on the airline they work with. Second Officers can earn between ₦1-₦1.3 million monthly, and this figure typically increases with type rating, flight hours and the airline. Usually, the more type ratings the pilot has, the more aircraft they’re cleared to fly, and the higher their earning potential is.

In summary

Research is fundamental in pursuing a piloting career. Knowing the path you want to take determines the relevant courses and certifications you’ll need to acquire. An aviation career is rewarding but also very intentional.

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