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Poor kids are put off from training as a professional airline pilot because of the cost and potential debt burden even though they may have worked hard to get great A levels results, out today.

That’s the view of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) which today called for the airline industry to ensure pilot selection is open to all, and that those from less advantaged backgrounds are not put off.

The pilots’ association says training costs of up to £100,000 mean good A-level results are not enough for aspiring pilots who have to work out their finances before chasing their dream career.

“Historically, airlines would fund training, offering cadets a guaranteed job at the end for those who successfully passed,” said BALPA’s statement.

“However, in the last few decades the burden has fallen increasingly to the pilots who now fund their training themselves, at a cost of up to a whopping £100,000. Selection must be based on ability to do the job and not ability to pay.”

Casual contracts

BALPA has also raised concerns about the increase of casual contracts in safety critical roles. It says financial uncertainty might lead to greater risk, especially for those newly-trained pilots considering training debts.

BALPA Head of Membership and Career Services, Wendy Pursey, said, “Unfortunately, many aspiring pilots who have worked hard to get top-notch A-level qualifications will fall by the wayside because they are unable to fund their training.

“We believe this financial burden has a real impact on pilots and has wider repercussions for the aviation industry.

“Pilot contracts are changing and the big salaries associated with being a pilot are fast disappearing. There are some contracts out there for low-hours pilots which barely pay enough to live on, let alone cover the cost of training.

“Whilst we don’t want to put anyone off a pilot career, we must ensure our future pilot members are entering the industry with their eyes wide open.

“We believe more needs to be done to ensure fresh talent is supported early in their career.

“That’s why BALPA launched its nextGen project to give trainees a voice and lobby the Government and airlines to do more to ensure recruitment is based on talent and not on who has the deepest pockets.”

BALPA nextGen