By then familiar with “expecting the unexpected,” your check-ride will probably be anticlimactic once you finish your ATP flight training.
If it was easy it would be meaningless. The Airline Transport Pilot certificate is obtained only by those who have shown unquestioned ability commanding and controlling aircraft. But you need to be ready.
The original Air Transport rating of 1933 became the Airline Transport Pilot certificate and by 1965, the scope was changed to more closely resemble today’s check-ride. Even beyond 1965, there were reports of examiners requiring applicants to demonstrate odd-ball maneuvers so an applicant never knew for sure what to expect on the check-ride. With the advent of the FAA’s Practical Test Standards, fortunately, things have calmed down. Although the performance standards remain pretty much what they’ve always been (airspeed + 10 knots, altitude + 100 feet) there is more emphasis now on judgment, planning and resource management (whether you’re taking the check-ride in an aircraft requiring 2 pilots or in one which is flown single-pilot). The examiner is not looking to see a Super Pilot but, instead, one who is organized, disciplines and can prioritize.
Although you can obtain an Airline Transport Pilot certificate in a single-engine airplane, multi- engine ATP applicants have a new set of requirements to fulfill. Prior to taking the written examination you must complete the ATP Certification Training Program. This consists of 30 hours of ground school and 10 hours of simulator training in either a level C or D full-motion simulator. The CTP must be conducted by an approved Part 121, 135, 141 or 142 training facility. The cost of such a course typically runs $4,000 to $5,000. Once completed you will receive a graduation certificate and then may sit for the FAA’s written examination and pursue ATP flight training at any Part 141 or 142 pilot training school with an approved ATP curriculum.
CTP ground school covers aerodynamics, upset prevention & recovery, meteorology, air carrier operations, turbine engines, performance, automation, leadership, and crew resource management. The simulator phase includes navigation, automation and high altitude operations. Most of these things were already covered by Part 142 schools in their “airmanship” curricula when getting a type rating but now the FAA wants to make sure all ATPs have this training.
A multi-engine ATP may be obtained using the method just described or you can piggy-back it on to a type rating in a multi-engine aircraft. Depending on the aircraft model in which you wish to obtain a type rating, ATP flight training costs vary between $5,000 to $25,000. Turbine aircraft (turbojet or turboprop) type ratings are probably more beneficial to one’s career and, generally speaking, the smaller the aircraft, the less the cost. King Airs and Citations tend to be least expensive for training cost outlay.
The check-ride itself will include the same things whether it’s for your initial ATP rating, a type rating or an airline proficiency check. Here’s the check-ride:
That’s it! That’s all there is to it! The check-ride that you take for your initial ATP certificate will require the same maneuvers as your 6-month captain’s Proficiency Check at BiggerThanLife Airlines on their Boeing 837 or Airbus A530. Of course, by then they may have added some maneuvers we don’t have now that Jules Verne couldn’t even dream up.
Ordinarily an examiner will combine several of these tasks so as to knock out 3 or 4 requirements from one event. For instance you may have a no flap landing out of a non-precision approach.
The ATP flight training that will help you the most will come AFTER your CTP. The CTP is just there to expose you to things that most ATP applicants have never experienced. This is the reason you want to choose a school that trains a lot of ATP students for the nitty-gritty preparation for your check-ride. Even though you may pick up ten hours’ training in a DC-9 or the smaller RJ simulator, you’re not going to be ready to take an ATP check-ride by then. You will be familiar with the new world you are about to enter as a high-altitude Airline Transport Pilot but the post-CTP work will polish your skills to a point where the check-ride maneuvers will not seem so daunting.
The ATP is not an easy thing to get. If it was everyone would have one. I contacted the FAA and found that there are now 3,419,2891 certificated pilots in the US. Of these, only 17% are active2 and 4.5% hold an ATP.3 If you were told that buying a ticket for a million-dollar lottery had only a 4.5% chance of losing, would you buy one? There are so many variables involved but an average pilot salary can catapult your career earnings to over $4 million with a retirement nest egg well over a million.4 The figure is higher for left-seaters at major air carriers even with the existing Part 121 age 65 mandatory retirement regulation.5
Of course, not everyone is fortunate enough to get hired by a large carrier and upgrade after a few years. Some may elect to go the corporate route and find they prefer the quality of life and simple pace of flying a small, local company’s King Air on hundred mile trips every day. No, the pay might not be the same but it will usually still make for a darned good living. Maybe when there are choices in front of you, you’ll decide that it isn’t only about the money anyway. There are corporate flight departments flying “heavy iron” with pay scales that match the large airlines; so don’t rule anything out. The important thing is that you will be in a better position to HAVE those choices if you possess an ATP.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort.” The effort you put forth in achieving the flyer’s Gold Standard will make a huge difference professionally and economically so set your sights on getting an ATP. It will make all the difference in a career that is moving versus one that is lethargic.
1 – Conversation with Roland Herwig, Office of Communications (Public Affairs) Federal Aviation Administration Oklahoma City, OK as of 1/18/2016.
2 – For purposes of data the FAA only counts pilots with a current medical certificate as “active.”
5 – https://www.iapa.com/index.cfm/travel/blog.article/blog/community/art/Pilot-shortage-in-Asia-has-airlines-rethinking-retirement-age Several countries have raised the mandatory retirement age of airline pilots to 67 and the FAA is studying it as a possibility in the US.