For all you pro and aspiring-pro pilots, here’s an excellent video explanation of the new ATP (airline transport pilot) certification and training requirements, from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Finally, the speculation (if not the controversy) is nearly over!
There’s been lots of controversy lately about the proposed FAA regs requiring 1500 hours and an Airline Transport Pilot certificate to qualify for the right seat of an airliner, versus the current effective 300-hour minimum. Much of the discussion has centered around where those additional flight hours will come from, and whether earning them in light airplanes as a flight instructor, freight, or pleasure pilot qualifies aspiring airline pilots any better than the current 300 hours would with improved training.
Sure, time in type is a big plus, but in my personal opinion the biggest benefit of added flight experience is not the hours themselves, nor the nature of the flying, but rather the value of accumulating command and decision-making experience. Today’s 300-hour airline pilots got there via Part 141 training programs that include literally not a single hour of non-programmed flight. So the typical pleasure pilot with 50 hours under his or her belt following a Private Pilot checkride actually has more true command experience (and the judgment that comes with it) than many straight-out-of-flight-school airline pilots.
Whether it’s through instructing, flying freight, or whatever, I suspect most experienced pilots would agree that dealing with weather, mechanical issues, passengers, etc. makes you a heck of a lot more confident and decisive pilot than someone who has never been in charge. Taking responsibility teaches even relatively inexperienced pilots to assume command and deal with emergencies. Conversely, only pilots who feel in-charge can be expected to take serious initiative to master the challenges and knowledge associated with safety of flight. IMHO, that sense of responsibility comes more from true command experience rather than airplane size.
As for the training part, along with the importance of better mastering relevant safety topics like airframe icing and weather flying, I feel we need to reincorporate autonomy and thereby the development of judgment and confidence back into flight training. I’ve felt that way since writing the following column way back in 1998. Read Rite of Passage: Open Those Cages! here.
There’s no doubt that having good pilot credentials is important when job hunting. But from our earliest days as pilots, each of us has learned to revere flight hours. Somewhere back in ground school was buried the subliminal message, “the pilot with the most hours is the best… the pilot with the most hours is the best.” Strictly from an experience standpoint, maybe there’s some truth to this. But the question we’re considering is a little different. “Does the pilot with the most hours always get the job?”
Let’s face it; almost every pilot out there yearns for some additional “shoo-in” credential for the next job up the career ladder. Single-engine pilots crave multi-engine time. Multi pilots want turbine hours. Turboprop pilots want jet time. New flight instructors wish they had their Instrument Instructor ratings. Copilots yearn for pilot-in-command time. Let’s face it, few pilots ever feel they’ve got ideal credentials. Yet pilots do get jobs, and not always with the best qualifications. Why?
Let’s consider the credentials of the following two pilots. One has recently completed all of the basic ratings; the other is a bit more experienced. For purposes of job hunting, which of these two individuals would you rather be?
I suspect if we polled everyone reading this, 99% would rather be Pilot B. (The remaining 1% would choose Pilot A because they think this is a trick question!) Pilot B is certainly more experienced and, of course, it’s always desirable to have the best qualifications possible. Besides, there are some flying positions that only Pilot B could hold, due to federal regulations and insurance requirements. Unfortunately, there aren’t many secrets as to how to transform yourself from Pilot A into Pilot B. It’s time-consuming, difficult, expensive, and often traumatic to pick up those extra few thousand hours, and it takes years. So, is Pilot A’s situation hopeless? Maybe not. Let’s look again at Pilots A and B, but with one new distinction added.
Now, who would you rather be? Almost every pilot will agree that Pilot A is in the better spot. We’ve all read “Position Wanted” ads, where a senior pilot with six jet type ratings and 10,000 hours is begging for somebody (anybody!) to recognize all that experience, and offer him or her a job. Pilot B could be in that position.
At the same time, each of us knows someone like Pilot A who got a jet charter position or was hired by a commuter on a “wet” commercial ticket, or who made it into the “majors” with relatively limited qualifications.
The difference is that one pilot “knew somebody,” and the other did not. One can either despise the person who got the break, or work hard to be next in line. That’s why you must put as much effort into making good contacts as earning your ratings. It’s far easier getting to know somebody than it is to pick up several thousand hours of flight time! Of course, it’s best to be well qualified as a pilot, and have contacts who can help you meet your career objectives. That’s what you should be shooting for.