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PostPosted: 18 Mar 2012, 21:44 
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Location: Cape Town, SA
I've sent in my application for the Air Force, but I just have a few questions that i'm hoping someone can answer for me please:

1. I know the salary isn't much - apparently approx. R12000pm after pilot training is completed. Is this an accurate (and current) estimation? and do we need to pay back the cost of our training out of this salary or is the 10 years of service the paying back of the training costs?

2. Once training is completed do we qualify as commercial pilots? or would I still have to pay the half a million rand to get that qualification in my own time?

3. How flexible are they with respect to allowing pilots to do civilian work? - e.g. I really want to fly rescue/emergency helicopters - that is my ultimate goal.

Please share any advice you have - this is a tough decision for me as I am about to finish my degree in civil engineering and as such could go work and earn decently, but I really really want to fly but I can't afford the R600 000 to get a commercial licence... so to the air force it is. Is it worth it?


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PostPosted: 18 Mar 2012, 23:10 
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airoooo wrote:
I've sent in my application for the Air Force, but I just have a few questions that i'm hoping someone can answer for me please:

1. I know the salary isn't much - apparently approx. R12000pm after pilot training is completed. Is this an accurate (and current) estimation? and do we need to pay back the cost of our training out of this salary or is the 10 years of service the paying back of the training costs?

2. Once training is completed do we qualify as commercial pilots? or would I still have to pay the half a million rand to get that qualification in my own time?

3. How flexible are they with respect to allowing pilots to do civilian work? - e.g. I really want to fly rescue/emergency helicopters - that is my ultimate goal.

Please share any advice you have - this is a tough decision for me as I am about to finish my degree in civil engineering and as such could go work and earn decently, but I really really want to fly but I can't afford the R600 000 to get a commercial licence... so to the air force it is. Is it worth it?



1: 12000 before tax. I get 11000 before deductions.


2: do not know.

3: why work. Civilian rescue? The SAAF dose rescue work.


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PostPosted: 19 Mar 2012, 00:10 
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I'm not in the air force. What I say is based on what I've heard. Everything I say is my own opinion.

airoooo wrote:
I've sent in my application for the Air Force, but I just have a few questions that i'm hoping someone can answer for me please:

1. I know the salary isn't much - apparently approx. R12000pm after pilot training is completed. Is this an accurate (and current) estimation? and do we need to pay back the cost of our training out of this salary or is the 10 years of service the paying back of the training costs?
You do 3 years initial training, and then sign a 13 year contract to pay back the training. So it's a 16 year commitment.

2. Once training is completed do we qualify as commercial pilots? or would I still have to pay the half a million rand to get that qualification in my own time?
You get a military pilots licence. There's no civilian licence/equivalent. Depending on the line you go to (transport, chopper, jet), and the flying you do, when you leave the military you might be exempt from having to do the whole civilian commercial pilots licence, and walk out with a CPL.

3. How flexible are they with respect to allowing pilots to do civilian work? - e.g. I really want to fly rescue/emergency helicopters - that is my ultimate goal.
I asked this when I enquired about becoming an air force ATC, and they said that, should I want to continue to fly as a civilian, they would be happy with that (as long as it's not on their time). However, I already have a CPL. As a military pilot, you won't have a civilian pilot's licence, unless you do the civilian training (and pay for it out of your own pocket, most likely). Should you wish to do other work, perhaps in the engineering line, and you have the time for it, then maybe they'll be ok with that. Being a military pilot is a lifestyle, but it's still kind of like a regular job.

Regarding rescue/emergency work: A friend joined the air force in the hopes of doing mountain rescues, fire fighting, and AMS-type stuff. I think that in 16 years, no more than 10 mountain rescues were flown by this person. The amount of rescue work you get to do will also depend on which squadron you're posted to.

Please share any advice you have - this is a tough decision for me as I am about to finish my degree in civil engineering and as such could go work and earn decently, but I really really want to fly but I can't afford the R600 000 to get a commercial licence... so to the air force it is. Is it worth it?


"Is it worth it?" I think only you can answer that question.
Chances are that everyone you ask will have a different answer. R600 000 for a CPL, yes... but you could earn big bucks as a civil engineer, do your PPL, and fly for fun.
Or you could earn big bucks as a civil engineer, save, and do your CPL.
And R600 000 is more for a fixed wing CPL I think. Helicopter is probably closer to R800 000 (last I checked an hour in an R22 was over R1800).

Also remember that aviation in civvy street is VERY competitive. You can put in a lot of time and effort to reach the point where you can start looking for work, and nothing will come up. In the last few months, I've gone from having relatively little competition in the area I'm in, to having at least 4 other people competing for the job I'm looking at. And that's just at one, small company.

I don't know much about the chopper side of things, but I do know that chopper pilots are generally paid more than fixed wing pilots. For a job with AMS, for example, chances are you'd need a fair amount of experience before they'll take you on; you'll be flying a twin-turbine aircraft. With fixed wings, a potential employee requires at least 1000hrs experience before they'll be let loose on a turbine aircraft, due to insurance. So it's not a case of getting your CPL and being able to land that brilliant job straight away. You've got to work even more to reach that point.

Do your research. I know people that have struggled their way through a PPL by working two jobs, and are busy working their way through their CPL. Go to some flight schools and make sure you know exactly what is involved in becoming a pilot. When I started, I had no idea how much work it would be; I thought it was a few lectures, and the rest would be flying. Needless to say my jaw hit the floor when I found out the PPL comprises of 8 theoretical exams.

Also look into getting a loan. Standard Bank does offer loans for pilots licences.
The aviation industry is one where, if you aren't passionate and prepared to do anything and everything to get somewhere, you simply won't make it very far. To get a job requires hours. To get those hours you need money. To get the money you need a job... see the vicious circle? I've seen too many people start their PPL, thinking it would be fun and games, a way to see if flying was for them. Several thousand rand later, they've given up. They didn't do their homework.

I'm being very straightforward. But at the end of the day it's your life, and your decision. Just make sure you think very carefully about ALL the options.

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PostPosted: 19 Mar 2012, 08:49 
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In my humble opinion, the comments in Gripen's post are so true for any aspiring aviator. =D>

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PostPosted: 19 Mar 2012, 14:30 
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fix-a-dak wrote:
In my humble opinion, the comments in Gripen's post are so true for any aspiring aviator. =D>


Seconded. That is an excellent post Heather!


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PostPosted: 19 Mar 2012, 21:29 
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Salary depends on rank and time served in the service.
What did you had in mind as starting salary?

You dont get a CPL, but you are able to get exemptions for a lot of the subjects.

You might not do as much rescue work in the SAAF as previous years, but no civilian rescue
will compare to a SAAF res


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PostPosted: 19 Mar 2012, 23:00 
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Thank you so much for all the responses.

The most useful information was that service is 13 years long (plus 3 years training) - thats a really long time! I initially thought it was only 10 years (and that it would include training). I also found it very helpful to know that a military licence doesn't qualify as a commercial licence as I had thought it would. Weighing up my options I have found this to make the most sense: I could save up more than enough to afford a CPL doing civil engineering work in far less than 16 years... I just hope that I will be willing to give up having an income to go train as a pilot in a few years time, because i'm not sure if doing a CPL part time is managable - by what i've read on other forums it is more difficult than people say.
Could I ask for further response on this new topic: I'm a reasonbly bright student (A aggregate overall for Civil Engineering so far) - would I manage a CPL part time? And how long would this take?

I will also look into the feasibility of working as a helicopter pilot once I have a CPL before I make any final decisions. If anyone has any further information on the jobs avilable in that field please let me know.


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PostPosted: 20 Mar 2012, 08:40 
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airoooo wrote:
Thank you so much for all the responses.

The most useful information was that service is 13 years long (plus 3 years training) - thats a really long time! I initially thought it was only 10 years (and that it would include training). I also found it very helpful to know that a military licence doesn't qualify as a commercial licence as I had thought it would. Weighing up my options I have found this to make the most sense: I could save up more than enough to afford a CPL doing civil engineering work in far less than 16 years... I just hope that I will be willing to give up having an income to go train as a pilot in a few years time, because i'm not sure if doing a CPL part time is managable - by what i've read on other forums it is more difficult than people say.
Could I ask for further response on this new topic: I'm a reasonbly bright student (A aggregate overall for Civil Engineering so far) - would I manage a CPL part time? And how long would this take?

I will also look into the feasibility of working as a helicopter pilot once I have a CPL before I make any final decisions. If anyone has any further information on the jobs avilable in that field please let me know.


I started my PPL in 2009, when I was in Grade 11, and completed it in December 2009. In 2010, I started my CPL while in Matric. I wrote one subject and then decided to focus on school instead, and left the rest of the subjects (7 remained), for 2011. I did hour-building during my Matric year. In 2011 I focused on writing the subjects, building hours, and I had a part-time job. In August 2011 I obtained my CPL with an Instrument Rating. In February this year, I obtained my Instructors Rating. I also turned 20 in January this year.

At school, I was an average, and sometimes below-average student; I excelled in subjects like Biology, but scraped through Maths (HG/Pure), and Science.
I know a number of people that have done similar; a guy that trained at the same school as me did his CPL while in Matric, between being a prefect, and taking part in various sports. Another person I know has just obtained their PPL, despite being a lawyer and working during the week (almost all the training was done on weekends).

Regarding how long it will take to obtain your CPL; it depends on how much work you put in. The PPL has 8 subjects, pass mark of 75%. You need at least 45hrs flying experience before you can do your PPL test. If you fly twice on weekends, you could get 3hrs per weekend (weather dependant). Most people only finish their PPL when they have 55-65hrs.
The CPL is another 8 subjects, pass mark is still 75%. You need a total time of 200hrs before you can do your CPL test. Obtaining the extra hours can be a mission, but you'll do things like your Night Rating (some of the most fun I've had), and maybe even your instrument rating.
At the end of the day, it really depends on you. The lawyer I mentioned above took about 4 months, all part-time.

Like with anything you do in life, if you put the time and effort in, you WILL succeed. I'm not the type of person that likes to study (ironically enough; you never stop studying in aviation), but because I love what I do, I don't mind all the books (most of the time :lol: ).

If you were to train at a place like 43 Air School, it will be more difficult to work full-time and study part-time. But 43 isn't the only school out there (it's also one of the more expensive ones). Obviously the school you decide to go to will depend on where you happen to be living and working.

The nice thing about doing a fixed wing PPL/CPL is that if you decided to get a PPL/CPL on helicopters, the total hours required is slightly less, and you don't need to write all of the subjects (only the ones where there's a difference between fixed wing and helicopter, like aircraft systems).

I think that the best thing you can do right now, is visit some flying schools. Go to as many as you can, and see what they say (chances are they'll all say something different though). Get your hands on some of the PPL material and read through it. Read books like Chickenhawk, just 'cause it's well-written, and hell, why not? :mrgreen:

Don't get me wrong, it is a difficult career path. I've spent more time studying than I have in the air (I've got 260 hours flying experience), but there are few things that feel as amazing as lifting off the ground, and seeing the world from a few thousand feet.

Keep the questions coming! :smt023

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PostPosted: 20 Mar 2012, 10:05 
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Gripen has provided very good answers, but just a clarification or two:

With the new training syllabus, student pilots are awarded their PPL after completing their ab-initia training at Swartkop. Only once they have completed the full flying training course on the PC-7 Mk II are they awarded their SAAF Wings.

While the SAAF may allow their members to fly privately, you are still a State employee and forbiden to have a paying 'second job' unless you have received prior permission.


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PostPosted: 20 Mar 2012, 14:13 
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Dean wrote:
Gripen has provided very good answers, but just a clarification or two:

With the new training syllabus, student pilots are awarded their PPL after completing their ab-initia training at Swartkop. Only once they have completed the full flying training course on the PC-7 Mk II are they awarded their SAAF Wings.

While the SAAF may allow their members to fly privately, you are still a State employee and forbiden to have a paying 'second job' unless you have received prior permission.


Ah yes, I forgot about that.
So you'll do at least 45hrs on a C172.
In my opinion, the training is back to front; you complete all the officers courses etc, and only after that do you start with the flying training. They might find that you don't actually have the ability to pilot an aircraft, but they've already spent a whole lot of time and money on your other courses, and will probably try to get you through the PPL training, which could mean spending more time and money.
The flying training (on the C172) should be done first, and then, if you prove to be a competent pilot, they can mould you into an officer.

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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2012, 00:46 
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Thanks Gripen. You're helping tremendously!

I have another question: regarding CPL and PPL - I've heard that there is a time limit; so if I do my PPL in my Nov/Dec vacation this year then start working and try to complete my CPL part time - how long do I have to complete the CPL? - I read somewhere that you have to get your CPL within 4 years of getting your PPL...?
and the maintenance on the CPL? is it the same as for the PPL (take off and land 3 times in 90 days)?


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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2012, 07:34 
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I seriously doubt anyone can complete a PPL in such a short period, unless that is the only thing you do all day every day. My brother did his during his matric year, it basically took the whole year.
There is no requirement to start the CPL within a certain time afyer getting a PPL, but there may be a limit to how long you are allowed to take once you have started.


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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2012, 16:59 
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Hi everyone! A very intresting discussion indead. Be aware that training in the air force is structured as such that you're a soldier first,an officer second and then,and only then,an air force pilot.As a student as well-and aspiring air force pilot-the best advice I can give you is to network,network and network with people in the industry you intend joining.But it seems as if you already know that! All the best along your journey mate!


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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2012, 17:20 
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airoooo wrote:
Thanks Gripen. You're helping tremendously!

I have another question: regarding CPL and PPL - I've heard that there is a time limit; so if I do my PPL in my Nov/Dec vacation this year then start working and try to complete my CPL part time - how long do I have to complete the CPL? - I read somewhere that you have to get your CPL within 4 years of getting your PPL...?
and the maintenance on the CPL? is it the same as for the PPL (take off and land 3 times in 90 days)?


I don't have all the law stuff with me, so some of this might not be 100% correct.

Roger is correct in that you can do your CPL whenever you want, as long as you have your PPL. And you may only do your CPL Test, if your PPL is valid (so licence fees paid up, and you're current; done your 3 take-offs and landings within 90 days). Once you pass your first PPL subject, I think you have 12 months to pass the rest. And once you pass your first CPL subject, you have 18 months to complete the rest of the subjects.

If you put the effort in, and fly twice a day, you might be able to get the required hours (for PPL) within 2 months. But it will be an information overload, and when you start out, you'll probably find that you'll get tired quite quickly. So try and give yourself about three months. You also need to take the weather and aircraft availability into consideration. And then for the exams, you could probably write 2 exams a week. But remember that, for these exams, you can't just study a few days in advance; you have to put some serious effort in.

Maintaining recency (or currency), is for when you want to fly with passengers; you must do three take-offs and landings within 90 days preceding the flight.
For PPL, you do an initial renewal a year after your test, and then every second year after that.
For a VFR CPL, I think the same applies. However, for an IFR CPL, the renewal must be done every year.
As long as you pay your licence fees, your licence remains valid. Whether or not you'll be a competent and safe pilot is another story.

Again, some stuff might not be 100%; I can't access the licencing requirements on the CAA website for some reason. You can give it a try;
http://www.caa.co.za/
-> Licensing and examinations ->Licensing Information
All the info you need should be there. And if it isn't there, try the "Forms" option.

:smt023

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