By Jennifer Cairns 09 Aug 2023 5 min read

How I Completed University and Became a Private Pilot Within Three Years

Meet Helin Sorgucu, a Modular Trainee Pilot at Skyborne Airline Academy. Helin is 22 years old and originally from South London.


"Since I was a little child, my greatest ambition has always been to become a commercial pilot, so in this Aviation Job Search blog, I will discuss how I went about fulfilling my dream of being a pilot."


Where did the dream of aviation start for you?

Having had a lifelong ambition to pursue a career as an airline pilot, I was amazed by the fact that this heavy metal machine carrying hundreds of passengers was able to fly in the sky. Every since a young age all I ever dreamed about was becoming a pilot, so I had my first trial flight at the age of 14 at my local airfield, Biggin Hill Airport. After this flight, I was hooked and have no desire in the world other than achieving my lifelong dream of becoming a pilot. Not to mention the beautiful view of the world we live in waiting to be explored. After conducting a great deal of research, I thus began my journey at the age of 18 by completing my Private Pilot License at Elstree Aerodrome with Flight Training London. 


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What did you study and university / what was the experience like? 

I was eager to start my pilot training right after A-Levels, but thought it would be sensible to give myself options for the future. I discovered that University of West London offered a degree entitled ‘Bsc (Hons) Aviation Management with Commercial Pilots License’ which allows you to complete a degree alongside your pilot training. I subsequently submitted my application and began my studies in September 2019.

The university degree is structured so that during 1st year of studies, I completed my university modules, such as those on Aviation Security & Safety, Introduction to Airline & Airport Management, Contemporary Issues, and many others – along with getting my Private Pilot License.

This was challenging at times because I was revising for my 9 PPL theoretical exams while still working on my module assignments.

After successfully completing and passing 1st year of university, my 2nd year would now consist of going off and doing my 13 ATPL examinations and Hour Building.

Thanks to all of my ground school instructors, I successfully passed all 13 examinations. A special thank you to Pete Begley for all of his assistance and guidance during ground school.

While still studying for my 13 ATPL exams, I also completed my Night Rating with EFG flying school at Biggin Hill Airport.  

After the challenging portion was complete, I enrolled to Skyborne Airline Academy to fulfil my Hour Building, MEP, CPL/IR, APS MCC and UPRT requirements. For my hour building I flew out to Vero Beach, Florida, the location of Skyborne’s US base where I completed 100hrs PIC.

I successfully completed my Hour Building just under 3 months, and it was the most amazing experience. I landed in some of the most incredible airports like West Palm Beach International, Daytona Beach, Melbourne, Orlando International, and many more, and gained a lot of experiences while facing numerous challenges.

Fast forward to 3rd and final year of university, no flying is commenced because it is solely focused on earning your degree. Modules like Air Route Planning, Strategic Airport Management & Development, and - most importantly -  Dissertation were all part of the 3rd year academic coursework.

My chosen dissertation topic was The Effects of Self-Service Airport Technology on Passenger Perceived Value and Satisfaction since it was a subject I was extremely enthusiastic about, and one that I enjoyed writing about and performing all the primary research for. 

During my time at university many aviation professionals visited our university to share their stories and experiences within the aviation industry. This helped me better understand some of the career paths I might choose once I graduate from university.

The best decision I ever made was to complete a university degree in the sector I am passionate about, alongside training to become a pilot because it expanded my understanding of how airports and airlines make strategic decisions to advance their growth.

I recently graduated and received my diploma, and now I’m almost ready to take my Commercial Pilot License (CPL) skills test. I owe Skyborne’s outstanding instructors and team a huge debt of gratitude for guiding me in this direction. This will allow me to stand out when applying for the latest pilot jobs.


Did you face any challenges, and if so how did you overcome them?

Like many other aviation professionals, I’m sure, becoming a pilot demands a significant financial commitment as well as a lot of time and effort to achieve your goals.

The most difficult aspect of my training to become a pilot was the financial aspect, which is why I decided to go for the Modular route.

When we were hit by COVID-19, I’m sure that like many others, it did temporarily halt my training because the future of aviation was so uncertain. I was nearing the conclusion of my first year of university at the time and was ready to finish my Private Pilot License. I was faced with the difficult decision to either continue training/studying, or, working full-time at my retail job, and I’m very happy to say that I opted to pursue my aspirations by continuing my training.

Moving forward, I will soon be taking my CPL skills test with Skyborne and, ideally, beginning my Instrument Rating (IR) immediately after.

By selecting the Modular path into the flight deck I was able to practically “pay-as-you-go” through my pilot training, while working a part-time job to help pay for it. Skyborne Airline Academy have offered me a fantastic Modular package to complete the rest of my training who I am eternally grateful to, as well as the outstanding instructors I fly with who have really pushed me to achieve my dreams.


What advice would you give to aspiring aviation professionals currently considering doing the same kind of degree? 

Being a woman in this field, I’ve always been the supportive type, encouraging and assisting anyone to enter the field in order to challenge norms and keep the industry moving forward.

I strongly advise anyone who wants to train to become a pilot and feel a little more “secure” to enrol in the combined course, which combines pilot training with earning a university degree. This is being offered by Skyborne Airline Academy through their fully Integrated programme, which combines flight training with earning a degree with University of West London. They have the most cutting-edge fleet and training simulators, as well as highly qualified instructors. I feel as that I bring a bit more when I will be applying for pilot jobs as not only have a pilot's license, I will have a degree to back it up.

Be prepared to dedicate all, of your time, effort, and hard work to realising your aspiration of becoming a pilot. Anything is possible where there is passion and love, provided you don’t give up!

Becoming a pilot requires relentless pursuit of excellence and unwavering determination. But success is not a one-time event. It’s a continuous journey, marked by challenges and rewards. And so, we must never give up. We must embrace the obstacles and look steadfastly toward our goals.

I believe the definition of great success is defined by what you do after failure, never give up, wake up each morning with a grateful heart and an open mind. There is light at the end of the tunnel!