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Integrated vs Modular

22 June, 2023
Nourhan El-Tourgman

Embarking on the journey to become a commercial pilot often prompts the question – Integrated or Modular? The main differences lie in where the training occurs, the total cost, and the time it takes. Let’s explore the differences and factors to consider.

Integrated Courses

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).

Typical Timeline for 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, students earn a frozen ATPL license.

Modular Courses

Designed for those with no previous flight experience, modular courses offer flexibility, allowing students to take breaks between stages. 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.

Typical Timeline for Modular Course

  • Stage 1 – 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 2 – ATPL Theory: Ground school ATPL theory and examinations.
  • Stage 3 – Hour Building: A student will need to complete 100 hours of pilot-in-command time to satisfy the requirements for a CPL course.
  • Stage 4 – MEP/CPL/IR: Completion of the multi-engine piston rating, commercial pilots’ licence, and instrument rating.
  • Stage 5 – 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, students earn a frozen ATPL license.

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, while modular courses average between £60,000-65,000. These prices are often based on licences being achieved in minimum hours, first-time passes, and NO delays. When looking at prices, it is advisable to budget an additional 10-15% for potential delays or additional hours.

Factors to Consider

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.

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.

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.

Embarking on the pilot training journey can be quite daunting. Some people may prefer more guidance throughout their training and may decide it’s best to join an integrated course so that the ATO can guide them through the process, step-by-step

Alternatively, those familiar with the process or with a supportive network may opt for the modular route, requiring independent research to select schools and stages.

Most airlines now accept both modular and integrated student pilots. However, 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.