The job of an airline pilot is no doubt extremely rewarding, exciting and glamorous. But what is the procedure to become a pilot in Singapore? As far as the job of a pilot is concerned, it is much more than simply submitting a resume and getting a job offer one fine morning. Apart from fulfilling certain mandatory requirements, an aspirant has to work hard and possess a lot of dedication.
Today, the world faces a shortage of pilots. Part of this owes itself to the pandemic, but also to many other factors. These include the uptake in air travel across the years as well as mandatory retirement for senior pilots (typically around 60+ years of age worldwide).
In Singapore, you can either be an RSAF (Republic of Singapore Air Force) pilot or a commercial pilot. However, it has been seen that a number of RSAF pilots join as commercial pilots for Singapore Airlines following their retirement from the RSAF. Let us see the procedures.
Things to know about Becoming an RSAF pilot
There are three pilot streams open to you if you join the RSAF. These are:
- The Fighter pilot stream
2) The Helicopter pilot stream
3) The Transport pilot stream
The basic requirements to become a pilot with the Singapore Military Air Force include the following. Most of these also apply for commercial pilot cadets:
- One must be a Singapore Permanent Resident or a Singapore Citizen aged 18 years or above
- The aspirant should possess a complete GCE ‘A’ Level Certification/IB Certificate or a relevant Degree/Diploma
- Medical fitness (Physical Employment Status A or B)
- Eyesight correctable to 6/6 vision, not over 600 degrees for each eye
- Normal colour vision with no significant deficiencies of the eye
- Astigmatism not over 200 degrees for each eye
- Height should vary from 1.62m to 1.90m
All who join RSAF as trainee pilots are required to sign a contract or bond of 10 years and have the provision for working until they are 50 years of age. The starting salary for cadets is SGD $2,420, and on obtaining Wings, pilots can earn up to around SGD $3,500. Extra benefits include flying allowances and pilot allowances. Within 10 years, a pilot attaining the Captain or Major rank can draw a salary of more than SGD $10,000 per month. Again, a senior pilot of the rank of LTC can receive over SGD $15,000 in salary per month (depending on aircraft flown and number of hours flown). RSAF pilots are automatically under the Enhanced Officers Scheme, which provides flexible benefits (in the form of credits), lifestyle benefits and more.
Disclaimer: Figures provided above are ballpark estimates as salaries are often adjusted
To become an RSAF pilot, the candidate has to go through a rigorous selection process involving three stages. The first stage involves the 5-hour Computerized Aptitude Selection System (COMPASS) test, which evaluates areas such as spatial awareness, multitasking under stress, psycho-motor skills and decision-making ability.
Candidates who are successful in the COMPASS test have to go through the second stage, which involves an interview with the Pilot Selection Board, comprising a panel of around 4 RSAF officers. The main aspects assessed in the interview include leadership qualities and the candidate’s interest in becoming an RSAF pilot.
The last stage of the selection process includes an aeromedical checkup, wherein the candidate’s medical fitness, along with the capability of functioning in unnatural surroundings, is evaluated by aviation doctors. Upon qualifying for all these levels, the candidate gets selected and begins BMT (Basic Military Training).
Here is the training breakdown:
Basic Military Training
Air Grading (Jandakot, Australia)
Common Leadership Module (SAFTI MI)
Air Force Service Term (SAFTI MI)
Jungle Orientation Training
Aviation Ground School (AFTC)
Basic Wing Course (Pearce, Australia)
Advanced Flying Course
Up to 15 months
Joining the SYFC (Singapore Youth Flying Club) is highly recommended for those who aspire to become RSAF pilots. You can become a part of SYFC while you are still at school, and this can replace your obligatory CCA in school. The SYFC has close connections with the RSAF, and if a student manages to obtain a private pilot’s license, the road to becoming a pilot becomes easier.
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A Singaporean male student has to enrol in National Service following completion of pre-tertiary studies. RSAF recruitment talks are carried out during the initial three months of BMT. If your dream is to become an RSAF pilot, grab the opportunity and talk to the recruiters about this!
For those who successfully enlist as an RSAF pilot, do try applying for the SAF-Merit Scholarship! It’s available to both locals and PRs and will cover your tuition fees for up to 4 years as well as provide you with a monthly salary throughout, among others. Competition is tough, but there’s no harm in trying. right? Check the details out here!
Procedure for Becoming a Commercial Pilot
The RSAF is undoubtedly the first choice for those aspiring to become a pilot in Singapore. However, if you fail to qualify for the RSAF, there are indeed chances of becoming a commercial pilot. First of all, you need to get a medical examination scheduled with a selected medical examiner.
Following this, you are required to apply for a Student Pilot License offered by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). After this, an application can be made to join some of the flight schools present in Singapore, such as the Singapore Flying College or the Seletar Flight School. One can get trained for joining the Singapore Airlines Group (if you are a successful candidate with SIA (Singapore Airlines/Scoot), your training is fully funded).
With the help of a Commercial Pilot License, one can become the co-pilot and the Pilot In Command of a multi-crew aircraft and single-crew aircraft, respectively. The required criteria are the following (generally):
- The applicant’s age must be 18 years or more.
- Class I/II Medical Requirements must be met
- It is mandatory for the applicant to demonstrate the capability of understanding and speaking English to a minimum of Level 4 (Operational Level) as per guidelines laid down by the Language Proficiency Rating Scale of ICAO.
However, it should be noted that job openings for commercial pilots are very rare in Singapore. Moreover, when it comes to commercial pilot recruitment, there are a number of applicants who are RSAF retirees. Since they are already trained and have accumulated extensive flight time, their chances of getting hired are really high.
Note: Aspiring Singaporean female pilots, there is a scholarship from Revion Training School that you can apply for to help defray expenses! (caveat: it is only tenable with Revion Training School). It covers tuition fees, CAAS Examination fees, ATPL iBooks as well as a navigation computer. We’re not sure if it’s only a one-time thing, so do check back regularly!
If you want to fly an aeroplane badly but have exhausted the above 2 options to no avail, consider taking a private pilot license instead. The downside is that you will not be able to bring a hundred people with you to the sky. If a commercial pilot is a bus captain, then a private pilot is a car driver. Okay, not exactly the best analogy… but you get the idea.
With a PPL or Private Pilot License, the holder can fly as the co-pilot or the PIC (Pilot in Command) of an aircraft registered in Singapore, not for reward or hire, but for the aircraft categories which the license endorses.
The following criteria must be met by the applicants:
- The applicant’s age must not be below 17 years.
- The applicant must conform to Class 2 Medical Requirements. If the applicant desires a PPL along with Instrument Rating, he or she must conform to a Class 1 Medical Requirement
- Level 4 English speaking and understanding ability as per ICAO Language Proficiency Rating Scale is required
- complete an approved flight training programme that meets the minimum flying experience requirements; and pass the flight test
You can also obtain a Recreational Pilot License (RPL) by taking a Recreational Pilot Certificate course. You’ll learn how to fly a Light Sports Aircraft, with the hours in the LSA counting towards the PPL and CPL. The RPL can also be taken at a younger age, as in-aircraft flight training can commence from 14 years old.
So, if you are a student aspiring to fly high in the sky while taking the responsibility of guiding others to their destination, it’s time to get your pilot’s license. The RSAF is the most coveted opportunity, but if, unluckily, you didn’t manage to make it, do not despair. You can always fly high by becoming a commercial or a private pilot.
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Hi I’m currently studying in Secondary 1 and I was just wondering if it is compulsory to take English as a subject for O-levels. This is because I also have another choice, which is taking Higher Mother Tongue as my Language in the Examination. Therefore, could you please tell me if English is compulsory for O-levels.
An interesting article indeed on Becoming A Pilot In Singapore. I am interested in doing so but I have always felt the cost, compared to training overseas, is very prohibitive and is (apart from all other factors) the single most powerful reason for not being able to obtain a PPL in Singapore. For example, when we contacted the Singapore Flying Club, they told us the cost is $30,000 to join (without wven stepping into a plane). As well, we were told that to become a Private Pilot in Singapore, you MUST attend and complete a university degree in Aviation at NUS or similar (another $120,000). And, finally, last but certainly not least, to fly a 1970s-era Cessna 172 in Singapore to obtain your PPL for the mandatory 40-60 hours will cost (at $340 an hour) something in the range of $15,000. The total bill is probably close to $160,000 as a minimum.
Overseas flight schools provide training in similar aircraft to those used for PPL flight training in Singapore for about 1/2 the cost or less.
It would appear, you left a great deal of important and relevant information out of your biased and slanted article. I hope i am wrong; but it seems that obtaining a PPL in Singapore is for the elites, the wealthy, the ‘special classes’ and all that; not for the average person.
Firstly, thank you for your comment. This article is meant to be an introductory article and therefore only gives a brief overview of the ways you can become a pilot in Singapore.
We thank you for the additional information, which we believe will be useful for our readers.