Modular vs Integrated CPL Training, this is a subject that I’ve considered for many years. There are so many factors to consider and as I’ve recently found out, making the wrong decision can have dire consequences further along the track.
Before we continue, we should first decide on the definitions of both modular and integrated training as there are many differing opinions currently in Australia. In my own words, modular CPL training is to complete both the flight training and theory components at your own pace whereas with an integrated CPL course, both the flight training and theory are completed as part of a structured course from ab initio.
The main differences that I’ll discuss today are time and money. To be a bit cheeky, I’d say “if you have lots of time and money, integrated is for you. If you have time but no money integrated could still be for you. If you have no time and no money, find a different career.” Of course, in reality there are many different paths and time frames available.
The first path is modular. This is for someone who might work full time, have a family and mortgage etc, though has a little bit of disposable income or savings. For this person, modular is pretty much the only way to go as a full time flying schedule and the best part of $100,000 simply isn’t realistic. Modular means they will be a 200 hour CPL student and can probably hope to achieve a CPL in a few years. Multi engine, instrument or instructor ratings will generally be quite a ways down the line. This person will generally attend a private flying school once or twice a week and self-study most theory.
The second path is integrated. This is ideal for a younger person with little responsibility who can afford to have 3 or 4 years with little or no income. The main point with this type of training is that all flight training and theory will be conducted in a very structured manner and within a set timeframe. This training will generally be conducted at a University initially and then at an aero club or academy. Most courses from ab initio take around 18 months to complete (plus the university studies). Many new providers are popping up now offering VET FEE HELP as a funding option as well. This new method generally removes the need to attend University and provides the candidate with a Diploma instead of a Degree.
Now, what are the pros and cons of both? Let’s start with modular.
Pros: Modular is at your own pace and, in the case of most, you end your training not owing the government $100,000. You get more time between flights to reflect and hopefully learn what you did wrong.
Cons: You only get limited time with an instructor and your ‘ground school’ is generally 30 mins of briefing before a flight. Definitely not enough to help you pass the tests. You need to be highly self-motivated and put in a lot of time behind the scenes which can be difficult when you’re trying to live and work at the same time. Another downside is that if you go too long between flights, you may need to relearn some things. You will be considered a 200 hour commercial pilot and will be fined 50 hours ($15,000) for taking your time with your flight training.
Integrated probably has more pros than cons though certainly mainly caters for the young or the wealthy. The term sausage factory is thrown around a lot with these types of schools though I think that is only true with a small amount of schools that cater mostly for the cash flow generated by international students. Most schools however, offer a genuine training focused service that creates an opportunity to fast track your commercial training.
Pros: Integrated will generally take you all the way through to Multi Engine Command Instrument Rating (MECIR) with a pass in all ATPL subjects. This stuff is ideal for obtaining a job in the real world. Being able to defer the cost of your training in invaluable in such an expensive industry. The ground school is structured and designed to help you pass the tests. While self-study is still vital, you definitely have more support with your theory training. You will only need to complete 150 hours to get your CPL (even though in reality it may take a bit longer anyway). You’ll get a nice uniform and some shiny wings (major selling point for me).
Cons: When you finish, you will generally owe the Government or bank a hell of a lot of money that you’ll still be paying back when you’re old and grey. The training is a lot more rushed and doesn’t provide for as much revision time. There are always lots of little fees that they don’t tell you about initially and you will still have to have a stash of money in preparation.
Summing up, it really is horses for courses. What works for one, may not work for another. Ultimately, you need to research your options thoroughly. It’s best to do this before starting your training or, as I have now discovered, if you make the wrong decision initially, our wonderful regulator will fine you accordingly. Speak to all of the flying schools / aero clubs / academies that you can and be sure to ask them for ANY out of pocket expenses that may arise so that you have the full picture before opening your wallet.