A Gift of Wings

Almost, if not every one of us once immensely desired to fly planes at the tender ages of up to 10. The motivation was stirred when we visited airports courtesy of the awesome primary schools we attended.

Sorry for you if your school wasn’t such formidable. Majority of us currently are pursuing nothing that is even distantly related to piloting. What transpired between those desirous passionate piloting moments and now can be largely attributed to the fact that we are different. I personally discovered that Physics, Geography and Mathematics were conceptual difficulties that couldn’t rhyme with the schematics of my brain. Why can’t quantum mechanics explain gravity? What is the relation between algorithms and elevation? Can google maps get visible area radius for zoom level? These are mind benders!

Anyway, an interest of what piloting entails has persistently characterized my thoughts. A passion almost stronger than love is imperative to anyone pursuing this line of duty. It requires absolute dedication of time, the mind and financial resources.

Admissions to a pilot training institution would require you to sit for a general knack paper combining Mathematics, English and general papers where a non-refundable fee of 50000 is paid.

Who is qualified to become a pilot?
Anyone who has been through high school and has been relatively good in Mathematics, English, Geography and any science particularly Physics. Precisely, one should attain the grades A–C in the said subjects.
It is largely advantageous to possess at least a diploma or a degree in aeronautical engineering or any fields that mainly tackle the aspects of math, geography and physics.

There should be however no self-condemnation in case you are not so much good in the above fields. The lingering assumptions that airline pilots are required to demonstrate some sort of Newtonian genius are baseless. Long gone are the days when airmen practiced celestial navigation. The basics are what pilots encounter such as quick mental arithmetic in routine arrivals and take offs.

How does one become a pilot?
Over the years, there are three ways of becoming a pilot:

One could join the military as an officer cadet – This is where the military sponsors you to undergo the trainings required for becoming a pilot. You will be instilled with the military values and definitely undergo the rigorous physical activities that any cadet is supposed to. The mental resolve is as well tested. In return for paying for your flight, you will be bonded to work for the military for a period of about 9 years and to the airline assigned for another 4 years. This way to piloting is always a guarantee of employment.


One could join an ab initio program run by an airline – This is where particular airlines provide trainings for individuals right from scratch to a level where they can be type–rated in a Boeing jet, and ultimately for an airline career. This is not a common method since an airline has first to advertise for the opportunity. In 2014, Boeing company announced such a program that was called Boeing Pilot Development Program.

Private sponsorship – This is where you self-fund yourself for training to become a pilot having satisfied the basic requirements. It considered the easiest method since all that is required are sufficient funds of about 5 million Kenyan shillings and a school to enroll in.
Actual training for piloting.
South Africa and the United States are renown for having relatively popular choices for training institutions for air personnel. In Kenya also exists Flight Training Center, Kenya School of Flying and Skylink Flying School. These are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority of Kenya.
During admission, an aptitude paper is sat for together with 3 flying lessons. The lessons intend to determine one’s ability of handling an aircraft. Whether one is a born pilot or a pilot to be made.

Training in Kenya usually takes 18 months while abroad it usually takes 14 months. The flaw of training outside Kenya is that one will have to obtain a Kenyan license, which will make you part with another 1 million.
Trainees are usually subjected to specific psychometric tests that serve to examine the spatial reasoning, ability to learn and adaptability to new information. Medical tests necessary include depth and color perception.

To begin the training, one will apply for Students Pilots License that enable the commencement of the flying lessons. There are three levels of training where a piloting license is obtained for each level.

Private Pilot’s License (PPL)
Requires 55 – 75 flying hours before sitting for a flight test. It involves trainings in Navigation, Meteorology, Air law and Aircraft performance weight and balance. This lasts for 3 months costing about 870000 Kenyan shillings.

Commercial Pilot’s License
This has to succeed the PPL. It gets more intense as one would have to minimize the social aspect of life, increase dedication and hard work for prosperity. This level is only complete after doing about 145 flying hours on a particular Cessna plane. It lasts for about 8 months to one year with an approximate cost of 2300000 Kenyan shillings.

Multi – Instrument Rating Training
This being the final stage, it requires 50 training hours. Training on instruments as well as twin engine planes is dwelt on. One sits for a technical type rating exam which is a leeway to a form 64 that enables the acquisition of license for practicing. Once this level is complete, you are assured of a job with the Kenya Airways (for Kenya) or any one of the airlines or the general aviation charters.

There are an estimated 27000 new pilots needed every year globally. You are passionate about this? Go for it! You probably could be the answer to the puzzle of how to create a map of all paths of flights incoming to an airport in a given day or whether black boxes have a lifespan. Had it not been for my intolerant-to-physics neurons, I probably could be the Captain of Boeing 787 bound for New York.

“And like no other sculpture in the history of art, the dead engine and dead airframe come to life at the touch of a human hand, and join their life with the pilot’s own.”
Richard Bach, A Gift Of Wings

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