International standards require pilots to be at least 21 before holding a Captains licence, although no-one ever takes command with this licence unless they also have thousands of hours flying experience as well.
After selection, a pilot will progress through more junior licences and become qualified to fly multi-engine planes, to fly at night, to fly on instruments and to be able to operate a plane in the controlled airspace that airliners fly in. The highest licence, the Airline Transport Pilots License will allow its holder to be a captain of a flight carrying fare paying passengers on aircraft of a certain size.
Here is the typical qualification progress of a pilot:
A pilot’s initial training will reach the standard of Private Pilot, which is approximately 45 hours flying
The pilot will then undergo advanced flying training of about 200 hours, in addition to 18 months of ground school and examinations. After that, an aspiring pilot will undergo basic training on large aircraft and then another 40 hours of advanced simulated flying, prior to be able to fly the real aircraft.
Before being qualified to act as a crewmember, the pilot will be tested on the handling of the aircraft he/she wishes to have endorsed on their licence.
The airline will then give the pilot approximately 60 flights with a training pilot before authorising him/her as a company pilot.
Within six months of qualifying, the pilot will be required to demonstrate his/her proficiency and skills again to the same high standard. This check will involve all the normal flight manoeuvres and those applicable in emergency situation. Instrument flying to an amazingly high standard is tested over a period of at least 45 minutes unassisted flight in demanding conditions, in controlled airspace.
The pilot will have a total of at least 12 separate tests each year … and every year until his /her licence expires at retirement age.
It’s worth mentioning these points too:
Flight simulators are now so sophisticated that experienced pilots will do all of their training on the flight simulator, only when they have completed all their training and been certificated will they actually fly the real aircraft.
Pilots normally retire between the ages of 55 and 65 and according to which country their flights fly over then a maximum age may be imposed by the country concerned. For example France used to not allow captains older than 60 to operate in their airspace.
Throughout the world, aviation authorities combine their resources to ensure that the training given to new pilots and the refresher training given to experienced pilots, matches the needs of the changing industry.
The skills and competence of the crews on your aircraft are beyond doubt and you have every reason to be confident in them and their very high level of skill.
See what it’s like flying a jet airliner