“How to get started – Integrated Vs. Modular”
Integrated and Modular courses are the two mainstream routes to achieving the dream of becoming a commercial pilot.
One of the first questions asked by a prospective pilot and/or concerned parents is – Integrated or Modular?
One question always leads to another. What do they both mean? How do they differ? And most importantly, how does the route you choose impact future job opportunities? To cut a long story short – it doesn’t. Whether you complete an integrated course or a modular course, you will end up with a frozen ATPL upon completion, but what is a Frozen ATPL?
The main differences between integrated and modular courses are three things:
1)where the training is completed
2) the total cost
3) The time is takes
What is an integrated course?
An integrated course is an ab-initio course designed for students with no previous flight experience. it is a ‘zero to hero’ course which is aimed to be completed within 18 months.
Integrated courses are designed so that the student completes all stages of training with the same approved training organisation (ATO). However, ATOs may outsource some stages of the training to other ATOs, usually abroad to enable efficiency. For example, an ATO in the UK may subcontract the flying phase to another school in the USA to enable students to expedite their training due to better weather and cheaper costs (due to lower fuel prices).
A typical timeline for an integrated course:
• Phase 1 – ATPL theory:
Before flying, you will complete ground school ATPL theory (approx. 750 hours of ground instruction). Simultaneously, you will complete the 14 ATPL examinations in three different phases which are broken down according to your chosen school’s syllabus.
• Phase 2 – Flying:
A series of progress tests and final skills tests are completed to gain a multi-engine piston rating, commercial pilots’ licence, and instrument rating. The total number of flying hours on an integrated course is 200 hours.
• Phase 3 – MCC/JOC course:
This is a course designed to aid the transition from single-pilot to multi-pilot operations.
Upon completion of all stages, students will have a frozen ATPL licence.
What is a modular course?
A modular course is another course designed for students with no previous flight experience. However, it is less intensive in some ways and more flexible to suit the individual.
Students do not have to complete all stages consecutively. They can take breaks between training stages – which is a particularly favourable route for someone who may be working alongside their pilot training. Students also have the advantage of going to different schools for various stages of their training. A student may decide to complete their ATPL ground school with one school and their PPL with another.
A typical timeline for a modular course:
• Stage one – PPL:
Ground school PPL theory (approx. 100 hours of ground instruction) and PPL theory examinations. Simultaneously, you will complete a minimum of 45 flying hours in a single-engine aircraft. After finishing the theoretical exams and satisfying the minimum flying hours, you will complete a skills test to achieve a PPL.
• Stage two – ATPL theory:
Ground school ATPL theory and examinations.
• Stage three – Hour building:
A student will need to complete 100 hours of pilot-in-command time to satisfy the requirements for a CPL course.
• Stage four – MEP/CPL/IR
Completion of the multi-engine piston rating, commercial pilots’ licence, and instrument rating.
• Stage five – MCC/JOC course.
This is not a requirement for the modular course. However, it is necessary if you are looking to fly commercially in a multi-crew environment.
Upon completion of all stages, students will have a frozen ATPL licence.
Let’s talk finances
How expensive is it to complete a modular course compared to an integrated course?
This question is often difficult to answer. Why? Because there are so many schools offering competitive pricing, it’s about how much research you’re willing to do to find out how much money you can save!
As a baseline, integrated courses range from £85,000 to £130,000. Modular courses range in price depending on the schools you go to, but the average modular student will spend between £60-65,000 on their pilot training.
These prices are often based on licences being achieved in minimum hours, first-time passes, and NO delays. When looking at prices, it is often best to budget an extra 10-15% on top of the course fees as training is not always smooth sailing for multiple reasons. For example, you may need additional hours for a specific part of your training, or you may need to repeat a skills test.
Both courses will help you to achieve the same goal – a commercial pilot’s licence. But which do you choose? This is a personal decision and very much based on your circumstances.
Factors to consider when deciding between integrated and modular:
How much money do you have to invest?
Ultimately, how much money you have at your disposal will determine which route you decide to go down. Since modular courses often work out cheaper than integrated courses, you may decide to go down the modular route if you are looking to save as much as possible.
Do you have any time constraints?
If you are looking to be done in the shortest time possible, then you may decide the integrated course is more suitable for you so that you can be done in around 18 months. However, it is worth mentioning that although integrated courses aim to get you airline ready in 18 months, this is not always the case.
Training may take longer than planned due to multiple reasons. E.g., students’ ability, poor weather which may cause delays, and other unforeseeable circumstances. It is also worth mentioning that modular courses can be done in the same time frame, however, pre-planning is required since you will be planning your training independently with different training institutions.
How much support do you require during your training?
Embarking on the pilot training journey can be quite daunting. Some people are certain of their aspiration to become a pilot but are unsure of the steps they need to take to achieve this.
Therefore, some people may prefer more guidance throughout your training, you may decide it’s best to join an integrated course so that the ATO can guide you through the process, step-by-step.
However, if you possess the knowledge about the various steps to becoming a pilot, or you know others who have embarked on the same journey, you may opt to go for the modular route since you have some familiarity with the process. This does not mean that the modular route is complicated as such, but a great extent of independent research is required to be able to research which schools offer the licencing courses you require and where you will complete each stage of your training.
Many years ago, multiple airlines only recruited integrated student pilots as they were previously seen as less risky to airlines. However, this is no longer a determining factor for recruitment. Most airlines will now accept both modular and integrated student pilots.
Although airlines are now accepting both integrated and modular students, integrated schools tend to have stronger partnerships with airlines.
Many integrated schools have existing partnerships with established airlines so that when the airline wants to recruit cadets, they can take former student pilots from that school.
Although this is not the case with all schools and does not guarantee employment as it would on an MPL course, it gives former students the advantage when applying directly to the airline.
Since modular students are not tied to one school during their training, they will not be able to benefit from such partnerships.
It’s always worth remembering that there is no right or wrong route to becoming a Pilot, it all depends on you and your circumstances. Make sure you decide what’s best for you!
Written by our very own MCC/JOC cadet Nourhan.