How to Become a Pilot in South Africa


Whatever your inspiration was, it is important to find out how to become a pilot in South Africa if you will follow through on that dream. You may have discussed with your school counselor at some point but they didn’t give you the information you desire.

Not to worry, you just picked the right post. We will be teaching you how you can become a pilot in South Africa and many other things about being a pilot. It promises to be interesting, so let’s dive straight in.

How to Become a Pilot in South Africa: A Beginner’s Guide

how to become a pilot in south africa

What kind of pilot do you intend to be?

This is the first question you must answer on your journey to becoming a pilot. What we see most in movies or are exposed to in everyday life is being an airline pilot. This is because they are almost always in our faces and they have so much swag.

Beyond their glam, there are several other types of pilots in South Africa. They include:

  1. Contract pilots,
  2. Medical evacuation,
  3. Anti-poaching operations,
  4. Corporate jets,
  5. Tourist charters,
  6. Firefighting

Do your research and be sure which of these you want to be at the end of the day. It goes beyond earning a fat paycheck at the end of each month. You must have a desire to fly planes else you are likely to get scared of the fees or bored with the process along the way.

What are the required subjects?

Usually, there are minimum subject requirements for different jobs. In South Africa currently, there are no compulsory requirements with respect to subjects of study. You don’t need to have passed any specific subjects or have a minimum grade to become a pilot.

There is a recommendation, however, that you should have studied English, Mathematics, and Geography. It is also advised that you should study these beyond basic level so you can have an advantage during your theoretical exams. If you plan on applying for a bursary or a scholarship of some sort, then you should check for the minimum requirements for that.

Is there any form of funding for pilot training in South Africa?

It is unfortunate but right now, bursaries for pilot training in South Africa are very scarce, unlike university fed careers. The few that are available are extremely scarce and have very stringent requirements. The best way to access these bursaries is to go through the provincial education department. As a citizen of the country, you may want to consider the Air Force as well.

If you have been able to fund your Private Pilot License (PPL) training, you may try applying for a TETA bursary. This will help fund your Commercial Pilot License training (CPL). Another way to fund your program is to work at the school in exchange for your training. This depends on the school, but we must warn, they are very limited.

Choosing your training school

You should know by now that training to be a pilot costs a fortune. So when choosing a school you should have this at the back of your mind, else you might end up spending a lot more. There are certain factors to consider when choosing a school for your training. It is way more than the pricing, let’s go through a few below.

  • The location. How far is the school from your base? How much time and money will be spent to travel down to school?
  • The learning atmosphere. When you visited the school for the first time, did you feel like a VIP or there was so much resentment in the air? You probably wouldn’t learn well if the lecturers and staff are not excited to share their passion for aviation.
  • Find out if their aircraft are clean and they have enough to cater to student needs. Find out about maintenance too. It is best they have the common student aircraft as these are easily maintained so you don’t have delays in your training.
  • Find out if they have an unmanned airfield for training or a busy airport close by. Each has its pros and cons.
  • School structure.
  • Access to the flying area.

Medical requirements

This is one of the key requirements for becoming a pilot anywhere in the world. For your first exam, you will need a chest x-ray which you can get from any medical facility with an x-ray department. You should also book a Designated Aviation Medical Examiner (DAME) appointment. Your school should help with one of these.

For your PPL you need a Class 2 Medical Certificate, while for your CPL, you need a Class 1 certificate.

Student Pilot License (SPL)

This license certifies you to fly as a student pilot but you cannot take any passengers along. Your school should assist with getting the necessary forms that will be submitted to the CAA on completion.

Private Pilot License (PPL)

This license allows you to fly on your own and convey passengers in a private plane. You are not allowed to fly at night without a night rating and you can’t fly for payment. It usually takes between 12 weeks to 9 months to complete this training. The total amount required for this training is about R120 000.


  • 17-years-old or older.
  • Be able to read and write English fluently.
  • Class 2 Aviation Medical Certificate.
  • Minimum of 45 hours of flight time, 30 of these should be with an instructor and the remaining 15 should be flown solo.
  • You must have a minimum of 75% score on your 8 SACAA examinations. They can be written or online.
  • Restricted Radio License (oral and theoretical exam).
  • English Language proficiency test.
  • PPL skills test.

Night Rating

This does not just make you a better pilot when flying in low light situations, it is a key requirement for getting your CPL. This currently costs about R25 000 and you will need to write some exams and undergo night training.

Instrument Rating

This is great but not compulsory for a Private Pilot. It just makes you better when flying in adverse weather conditions but it costs a fortune. This is why most private pilots don’t consider taking the training. You can choose to achieve this with a single or multi-engine aircraft.

Though the multi-engine is costlier, it is advisable to go for it once and for all.

Single Engine cost – R75 000

Multi-Engine cost – R100 000

Commercial Pilot License (CPL)

This training is important if you are ever going to fly as a Commercial Pilot. There are three ways of acquiring this license:

  1. CPL (VFR) Single Engine.
  2. CPL (VFR) Multi-Engine
  3. CPL (IFR) Multi-Engine

The last is the most marketable of all the three even though it is costly to pay for and it takes longer. The end justifies the means and it is worth every second and dime spent.


  • A South African PPL with night rating.
  • 18-years-old or older.
  • Valid General Radio License.
  • Class 1 Aviation Medical Certificate.
  • Completed all SACAA examination in flying colors.
  • Practical test with a SACAA certified examiner within 36 months of completing the theoretical exams.

Before you can complete the practical flight test, you need to have completed the following:

  1. 200 hours flight time which includes
  • 20 hours of flight instruction time using an approved simulation device.
  • 100 hours as a pilot-in-command. It may be reduced to 70 hours if you have undergone integrated training.
  • 20 hours of cross country flight as pilot-in-command. This should include a flight of at least 300NM where you have to land at least twice at two different aerodromes away from the base.
  • 5 hours of night flight as pilot-in-command. This should include at least 10 take-offs and landings at night. You should also have flown cross-country of at least 3 legs, each of which should be at least 50NM.
  • 20 hours of instrument instruction time. You cannot have more than 10 hours of this on a simulation device.
  • A minimum of 5 hours instruction on a complex aircraft.

All of these requirements are based on a Single-Engine CPL with an instrument rating.

The basic costs include:

  • Single-Engine CPL Instrument rating – R77 000
  • Multi-Engine CPL Instrument rating – R 105 000
  • CPL including hours building and books – R180 000

After getting your license, searching for a job can be quite difficult because most companies do not employ newly minted pilots. This is because their insurance policies do not cover for pilots that have not acquired at least 400 or 500 hours.

The best way to gain hours while job hunting is to fly as a volunteer pilot, fly family and friends, or work as an instructor. This way, you get to build hours and gain more experience.


Though it is not a piece of cake to become a pilot in South Africa, it is one of the highest paying jobs in the country. If you truly love flying, then you will find a lot of fulfillment doing this. Before taking the leap, ensure you have carried out sufficient research.

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