What’s the minimum age for a commercial airline pilot?

Teenagers Luke Elsworth and Besa Mumba recently made headlines after they both landed flying jobs, with easyJet and Proflight Zambia respectively. And what have Luke and Besa got in common? They’re both 19 years old.

Luke was proclaimed the UK’s youngest airline pilot, after taking up a First Officer position with easyJet at 19 years of age. He completed his MPL (Multi Crew Pilots Licence) with CTC Aviation in 18 months and has been flying with the UK low-cost carrier since April.

Besa secured her dream job flying with Zambia’s national airline after a flight training course which lasted two years. She was employed by Proflight Zambia as a First Officer in July 2016 and she has already flown more than 15 hours on Zambian domestic routes.

But despite both pilots obviously having gone through the same rigorous training that every other pilot will go through prior to becoming a copilot on an airliner, plenty of people took to social media to express surprise and ask, how young is too young?

So how old do you have to be to fly commercial airliners?

The minimum age you can begin training for a CPL (Commercial Pilot Licence) is 18. Once you hold your CPL, you can start line training on a commercial type as soon as you are qualified. A CPL/IR is known as a ‘frozen ATPL’.

Then, once the required experience has been reached at CPL/IR level (a minimum of 1,500 hours) and the pilot has reached the minimum age of 21, this will be ‘unfrozen’.

These guidelines are set for member states by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), although the standards may be tightened, or relaxed, from state to state. The United States is an example. For American airlines, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposes a minimum age of 21 years and 1,500 flight hours for commercial aircraft co-pilots. Applicants for an air/airline transport pilot certificate must be at least 23 years of age and undergo an additional forty hours’ training.

All airline pilots, regardless of age, will go through the same training and be held to the same training standards, whether they’re 18 or 48. As former British Airways pilot, Eric Moody said, when asked about Luke’s age, “Best of luck to the young lad, I hope he has a long and successful career. It’s all down to competence. If he’s good then it’s okay.”

Main picture © PA / Proflight Zambia