Upper Limit is Giving You a Clear Path to Becoming a Pilot with SkyWest Airlines

SkyWest Cadets receive a number of great benefits as they work to become a SkyWest Pilot.

Upper Limit Aviation is excited to partner with SkyWest Airlines as part of the SkyWest Pilot Pathway Program. SkyWest’s program provides a direct path for exceptional pilots who want to take control of their aviation careers. Upper Limit Aviation’s current chief pilot, Belinda Villa, is a captain at SkyWest and is a strong believer in the program, having already served as a mentor and coach for bright, talented, Upper Limit pilots who plan to fly with SkyWest’s amazing team. In addition to the in-depth, professional flight training you’ll receive from Upper Limit, as a SkyWest Cadet you’ll enjoy a variety of benefits as you work towards earning your place as one of SkyWest’s 4,000+ professional pilots.

Benefits include:

  • Company seniority for benefits eligibility, which activates as soon as you’re a SkyWest Cadet.
  • An enhanced introduction to SkyWest, which includes a tour of SkyWest’s SLC facilities and more.
  • Mentorship from SkyWest pilots, including regular visits, mock interviews and ongoing association with crewmembers.
  • A guaranteed final interview with SkyWest.
  • Increased seniority within your ground school class.
A SkyWest Cadet, taking part in the SkyWest Pilot Pathway program

Image courtesy of SkyWest

The Pilot Pathway Program, unlike an internship, allows pilots to stay on the campus and complete the flight training necessary to meet ATP requirements. And with Upper Limit Aviation’s campus being located in Salt Lake City, which is one of SkyWest’s largest operational hubs, our pilots are right in the heart of the action. The individual mentoring each SkyWest cadet receives is a key benefit, as SkyWest pilots provide invaluable tips to aid pilots on their journey to becoming professional commercial pilots.

If you are ready to take control of your career, professional flight training using Upper Limit Aviation’s tried-and-true teaching methods coupled with SkyWest’s Pilot Pathway Program provides the ideal path to becoming a professional commercial pilot. Our wonderful flight training program at Upper Limit Aviation prepares you to embody SkyWest’s values of professionalism, teamwork, and success; making us a perfect flight!

To become a SkyWest Cadet and take part in this program, you must hold:

Additionally, you must not have more than three failed check rides, though stage checks do not apply.

No matter where you are in your flight training, we can help you earn your ratings, guide you through the requirements and help you make it as a professional commercial pilot. So if you have the Upper Limit Motivation to succeed, this program with SkyWest can be your entrance into an amazing lifelong career in aviation. Get started now with Upper Limit Aviation and become the best pilot you can be!

Get started with your flight training today:

If you would like more information, you can:

  • Call us at 801-596-7722

Featured Image: courtesy of Alan Wilson, CC BY-SA 2.0

FAPA Pilot Job Fairs and Future Pilot Forums on the Horizon

FAPA members enjoy both registration fee discounts and FAPA Premier members may receive priority at FAPA Pilot Job Fairs.

Upper Limit Aviation is proud to promote FAPA (Future and Active Pilot Advisers) and their three upcoming Pilot Job Fairs, and three Future Pilot Forums, scheduled to coincide with each other. According to the company, the FAPA Pilot Job Fairs bring in pilots from around the nation and provide those looking to start their career in the airline industry a chance to meet those qualified pilots, and to conduct pre-screenings and on-site interviews. Just like FAPA, Upper Limit Aviation flight training will push pilots and student pilots in the right direction to create legendary skills and safety-minded Pilot Advisers.

FAPA says they average about 220 pilots at each event, with those pilots averaging around “5,900 hours of total flight time with 4 type ratings.” However, they do note that each event is different, and to be sure to inquire about the demographics for each event. For example, their Regional Airline only Pilot Job Fairs will have entry level pilots attending. The events also provide pilot candidates a chance to educate themselves with “up-to-date industry news from the experts at FAPA and network with your colleagues and peers.

Regional Pilot Job Fairs are free, but if pilot candidates or Upper Limit Aviation pilots are interested in attending a job fair with major airlines represented, there is a registration fee. In addition, FAPA members enjoy both registration fee discounts and FAPA Premier members may receive priority at job fairs, and so Upper Limit Aviation strongly recommends our pilots join and participate.  For more information on becoming a FAPA members and the variety of additional benefits FAPA members receive, click here.

Upcoming FAPA Pilot Job Fairs

FAPA Houston Regional Pilot Job Fair

No major airlines will be taking part in this job fair.

  • Date: Saturday, March 25, 2017
    • Registration – starting at 8:00 AM
    • FAPA welcome – 8:15 AM
    • Job Fair – 8:30 AM – 12:00 PM
  • Location: Houston Airport Marriott at George Bush Intercontinental
    • 18700 John F. Kennedy Blvd. Houston, TX, 77032
    • Direct: (281) 443-2310
  • Cost: $0.00

FAPA Las Vegas Pilot Job Fair

Both UPS and Atlas Airlines will be at this job fair, in addition to Regional Airlines. However, FAPA says that they UPS slots are currently sold out, and that FAPA members will be notified if more UPS slots become available. Atlas Airlines currently still has slots available.

  • Date: Friday, April 21, 2017
    • Registration – starting at 8:30 AM
    • Presentations – 9:00 AM
    • Job Fair – 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Location: Tuscany Suites and Casino
    • 255 E. Flamingo Rd. Las Vegas, NV 89169
    • Direct: (702) 947-5925
  • Cost:
    • FAPA Premiere Members: $49.00 for Major Airlines, $0.00 for Regional Airlines
    • FAPA Members: $99.00 for Major Airlines, $0.00 for Regional Airlines
    • Non-FAPA Members: $139.00 for Major Airlines, $0.00 for Regional Airlines

FAPA Seattle Pilot Job Fair

Alaska Airlines will be at this job fair, in addition to Regional Airlines. Exact details are still being worked out regarding the date, time and location.

  • Date: August 2017
  • Location: According to FAPA, this fair will be at “a Sea-Tac (KSEA) area airport hotel.”
  • Cost:
    • FAPA Premiere Members: $49.00 for Major Airlines, $0.00 for Regional Airlines
    • FAPA Members: $99.00 for Major Airlines, $0.00 for Regional Airlines
    • Non-FAPA Members: $139.00 for Major Airlines, $0.00 for Regional Airlines

FAPA says after registering, you’ll only need to bring a photo ID with you to the event to pick up your name badge. They add that the attire is business casual, and to remember to bring plenty of resumes, as all the recruiting companies are accepting resumes unless otherwise noted.

Upcoming FAPA Future Pilots Forums

FAPA’s Future Pilot Forums are informative presentations and networking opportunities meant for aspiring pilots of all ages, including middle school and high school students, and are not job fairs for qualified pilot candidates. Topics that will be discussed are:

  • Projected Pilot Demand and Career Earnings Potential
  • Financing Your Aviation Training and FAPA Flight Training Scholarships
  • Choosing How To Complete Your Flight Education and the Paths To Be A Professional Pilot

Admission to these forums is free, and FAPA encourages parents and/or school counselors to attend as well, as the forums are a great opportunity for future pilots and their parents to learn about the available options and how to accomplish career goals.

FAPA Houston Future Pilot Forum

FAPA Las Vegas Future Pilot Forum

FAPA Seattle Future Pilot Forum

Featured Image: Boeing 777 cockpit, Jim Sher, CC BY-ND 2.0

Becoming a successful commercial pilot starts with excellent and thorough flight training, which we are happy to provide at Upper Limit Aviation. Once you take the first step with us towards flying with the airlines, FAPA could be your second.

Get started with your flight training today!

If you would like more information, you can:

  • Call us at 801-596-7722

Regional Airline Association’s 2017 Scholarships Now Available

The submission deadline for 2017 RAA Scholarships is May 1, 2017.

If you’re studying for a career in aviation with Upper Limit Aviation and eyeing the Captain’s chair, you may be interested to know that the RAA’s (Regional Airline Association) 2017 scholarship window is open, and the RAA says that they will be awarding four $4,000 aviation scholarships this summer. The money you can earn with this scholarship can fuel your flight training with ULA and put you miles closer to your end goal of the Captain’s chair.

Qualification Details for the 2017 RAA Scholarships

In order to qualify for the scholarship, you must be a US citizen or permanent resident and submit a completed electronic application no later than May 1, 2017. The RAA says they will not be accepting mailed applications, and will only consider digital applications submitted through their website. Applicants will also need to meet the following requirements:

  • At the time of application and award, applicants must be officially enrolled in an accredited college, in a program that is leading them toward a career in the airline industry.
  • Applicants must have a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA, and provide a transcript reflecting those grades through the previous academic year at either high school or a college.
  • A resume that details the applicant’s working experience, extracurricular, and/or community activities will need to be provided.
  • Applicants will need to submit a 350-word career essay describing their interest in the airline industry.
  • Applicants will need to provide a faculty recommendation.

Student pilots in flight sim cockpit - 2017 RAA Scholarships Now Available

The RAA says that the scholarships will be awarded “without regard to sex, race, religion or national origin.” Instead, they say the following criteria will be used for ranking the scholarship applicants:

  1. Demonstrated scholastic achievement.
  2. Demonstrated work experience, extracurricular and/or community activities.
  3. The strength of the applicant’s faculty recommendation.
  4. The strength of the applicant’s 350-word career essay.

Recipients of the scholarships will be announced on July 14, 2017, and all recipients will be asked for a headshot and short bio so they can be featured in Regional Horizons, the group’s quarterly publication.

For more information, and to apply for the 2017 RAA scholarships, click here to visit their website.

Upper Limit Aviation is proud to offer any and all assistance possible to our student pilots to help them earn these scholarships and achieve their goals of flight and commercial flight.

Featured Image: Kent Wien, CC2

Get started with your flight training today!

If you would like more information, you can:

  • Call us at 801-596-7722

Exploring a Commercial Airline Pilot’s Quality of Life

Starting off as a commercial airline pilot is no easy task.

Jennifer Roth

To anyone on the outside of aviation, the life of an airline pilot sounds exciting and luxurious. However, that is just not the case, especially in the early years of a pilot’s career. Typically when a pilot begins their career in the airline world, they are probably carrying a load of student loans and surviving as best they can. And considering regional airline pay can start as little as $22,000 a year, it can be difficult for a person to afford much. Commuting, crash pads, time away from home as well as sitting reserve and allotted benefits from the airlines all affect the quality of life for a commercial airline pilot.

Commuting

With any job, commuting is difficult. The longer the commute, the more exhausting and draining it can be on a person. With commercial airline pilots, commuting will most likely be a part of life, at one time or another. Unless a person lives in a major city such as Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and so on, they will more than likely commute. And many times, even if they are living in a major city, they may not be able to have that city be their home base for a while so they will still be required to commute. Commuting can be difficult for a pilot regardless of their experience, but especially for a newer pilot who does not make a lot of money. Salary only includes scheduled flight time, so for a person who has to commute, that does not include the time they put in getting to the airport, making a flight and arriving at the location their actual scheduled flight will start. Weather also affects the ability of a commuter to get to their starting destination on time. If there is any weather at any point between where they live and where they work, it can cause a chain of events preventing them from making it there on time. Because of this, the pilot may have to commute a day early to prevent missing their scheduled flights. This is unpaid time and adds time to their trip as well as stress.

Commercial Airline Pilot Crash Pads
Crash pad for an airline pilot or flight crew

Photo courtesy of ABC News

If a person is commuting to a different city than where they live, they most likely will have to have a place to stay. Hotel bills can add up and, as mentioned, the starting salary of a commercial airline pilot is not much. Enter the “crash pad,” a term that pilots know well. It can be anything from a hotel room with multiple bunk beds, to an apartment with bunk beds in every room. This not so ideal living situation allows the commuter to pay a monthly fee anywhere from 50 to 100 dollars, depending on the living quarters, and it will provide a bed for them to sleep in. It is not ideal in the sense that you may not always have a bed (depending on how many pilots are there at the time) or you may be sleeping when other people are in and out, or your bed may be in a closet. This does, however, allow for an affordable alternative while stuck in the city and trying to get home. Many people have to rely on this to have a place to stay when either sitting reserve or stuck due to weather or maintenance issues.

Other pilots, or someone within the aviation industry such as a flight attendant, usually establishes crash pads. This is beneficial because these are the people who have had to rely on them, so they know what is needed as far as space, location and price. Without crash pads, pilots would be forced to either pay for expensive hotel rooms or sleep in crew rooms at airports. Pilots can usually find information about crash pads on airline forum boards, crew rooms, or even just word of mouth from other pilots.

The Commercial Airline Pilot’s Schedule and Time Away From Home

The airline’s totem pole also affects the pilot’s line. A line is their schedule for the month; usually, a new hire will have to sit reserve. So many times they only have a 2-hour call-out if they will be flying. For commuters, this means that on their days to fly they have to be in that city, so it is often the pilot who depends on the crash pads. Sitting reserve is difficult even if the pilot lives in the city they are based in. They may be home but they cannot really make plans because they have to be on call whenever they are on duty. As they increase in seniority, they are able to hold a line and therefore can plan their time off or time away more accurately. Reserve, unless specifically requested by a pilot, usually occurs for new hires if they have plenty of pilots to fly lines, and then again once they upgrade to captain. They fall back down the totem pole for the captain position and may have to sit reserve again depending on how many pilots they have working or their seniority number at that point.

Time away from home is the time that is spent working but not necessarily flying. Sometimes a person may have a flight but once they arrive at their destination, can have a 22-hour sit, or layover. On occasion, this can be fun for a pilot, giving them a chance to see and explore the city they are in. But many pilots have families and time away is difficult, and when they are not getting paid for those hours being away from home, it can be frustrating. Also, a 22-hour sit in Fargo, North Dakota may not have the same excitement that San Diego, California, would. So time away is not always fun for a pilot. Many experiences have shown that a pilot can be gone many days but only accrue a small amount of paid hours to bring home.

Because of this, as many pilots gain in seniority and no longer have to fly reserve, they work towards moving to the base of their choice, which allows them to use their own home instead of a crash pad or hotel, leading to a better quality of life.

In Conclusion

Now, with all this being said, there are many benefits to being a commercial airline pilot. The office view really doesn’t get better than the one they have. From mountains to oceans, farmland, forests, mountains, gorgeous clouds and sunsets, pilots often have amazing picture worthy days. They also have the benefit of flying free. If a seat is available, they can jump on almost any airline to any destination that airline flies to, whether in the US or overseas, such as Europe. They can also have these benefits extend to certain family members as well, so they can often travel with their spouse, children, and / or parents. And not many people get the opportunity to see as much of the United States as pilots do. Finally, as a pilot advances in their career, their pay does go up, especially as they transition from flying with regionals to major airlines. Many commercial airline pilots are able to very comfortably retire after a career with the airlines. And even with all of the struggles, it is a proud accomplishment for a person to say, “I am a pilot”.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

Featured Image: Keven Menard

Understanding How to Fly a Commercial Plane

A vastly different world exists when transitioning from flying small planes to understanding how to fly a commercial plane.

Vern Weiss

You’ve been grinding away making yourself marketable to large jet companies. Until now, your sphere has been light planes weighing only a few thousand pounds. The phone rings. You’ve been selected for an upcoming class of new-hire pilots flying “heavy iron.” “Flying is flying, right? How different can it be, right?” This new world is not dissimilar from that of someone who has driven only automobiles then transitions to 18-wheelers. Welcome to “The Big Time.”

By “heavy iron” we are talking about aircraft substantially larger than small corporate jets and turboprops. In the simplest of terms, the kinds of aircraft I am referring to are those in which you don’t have to bend to enter or walk through the passenger cabin or into the flight deck. Notice I said, “flight deck?” On larger airplanes, the cockpit is customarily called the flight deck. Behind the flight deck is the “cabin.” The place where the coffee pot and food preparation equipment is called the galley and the john/potty is commonly called, “the lav” (shortened form of “lavatory”). The men and women who supervise passengers in the cabin are called “flight attendants.” The “head” flight attendant is either called the purser, lead or in some cases “A” attendant. Obviously, the big cheese in the front end is called the captain and the second-cheese, first officer. “Co-pilot?”- nuh…not used so much.

How to Fly a Commercial Plane –  The Flight Deck

As a first officer, what’s the first thing you’ll probably think about when entering the flight deck? Preflight? Computations? No. Garbage! In light plane flying, the most garbage you probably accumulated on flights was the wrapper from a Snickers bar. On large aircraft, you’ll likely fly multiple legs that are longer and the garbage mounts up. You and the captain will toss out the equivalent of a kitchen-sized garbage bag full of used coffee cups, scrap paper, TOLD cards1, weather/release packages, wadded-up Kleenex, pop cans etc. As such, your first order of “housekeeping” will be to obtain a small garbage bag and hang it on one of the pilot seat levers.
Depending on the company’s policies, as first officer, you might start the auxiliary power unit (APU) if it’s a “dark” airplane. This gets electricity flowing in the aircraft and provides heat if it’s cold or air conditioning if it’s hot.

How to Fly a Commercial Plane –  Preflight

Your company may consider the first officer the designated preflight-doer. This means you do a cockpit preflight by checking switch and control settings and doing a walk-around inspection outside. There are some items on these checklists that will be only accomplished on the first flight of the day and not redone on subsequent legs. FAA Part 121 and 125 companies require an external pre-flight and post-flight “walk-around,” regardless of how hard it’s raining outside.
When both crew members are present on the flight deck, the entire checklist is verbalized. Some items only the captain responds to and other items are reserved only for the first officer’s response. Depending on the aircraft, this verbal checklist recitation is recorded on the cockpit voice recorder (CVR). Ordinarily the CVR begins recording as soon as power is applied to the aircraft either via APU, ground power unit or the battery switch selected ON. While older CVRs only record the last 30 minutes of radio and pilot conversation, newer Flight Data Recorders (FDRs) typically store the last 2 hours of ambient noise and conversation.

Pilots waiting to start taxiing Boeing 757

Photo by: Kent Wien

Once the flight crew receives its load manifest (passenger count, baggage) and has obtained the final “numbers” on fuel load (either through dispatch release or from crew member computations), the engine power settings, V-speeds and minimum needed runway lengths are figured out. This task is usually the first officers. Both pilots electronically or mechanically move little colored markers around on their airspeed indicators to denote important speeds. These are called “bugs.” Glass cockpit screens will “bug” the speeds graphically. It is different from light planes where take-off power amounts to just pushing the throttle(s) all the way to their limits. Because you are dealing with a variety of critical engine limitations, you need to factor in variables like weight, air temperature, and wind speed. Maximum power settings may be required due to available runway length. Use of anti-icing equipment needed for take-off also reduces the available take-off power. Crew computations are necessary to protect against over-torque and over-temp on engines. Noise abatement climbs and “flex” power settings will also require consideration. A “flex” power setting is used at the captain’s discretion when the runways are long enough to use reduced power for takeoff. This reduces noise, engine wear, and maintenance cost. After the “housekeeping” duties are done and you’re within 30 minutes of the flight plan’s proposed departure time, you can radio Clearance Delivery for the instrument clearance.

How to Fly a Commercial Plane –  Taxiing and Takeoff

The flight actually starts with the captain setting the parking brake and calling for the engine start checklist. It is common for the first officer to start the engines. Once the after engine start checklist is complete it’s time to taxi. In large commercial aircraft operations, taxiing is permitted only when all passengers are seated. (There’s always some clod that feels he must stand up to get a roll of Certs out of his carry-on luggage so he can hit on the girl seated next to him.) In Part 121 operations, the flight attendants are required to notify the captain and the aircraft has to stop moving. Obviously, this boogers things up for ground controllers and all aircraft waiting behind you.

In the taxi check list, you set the flaps and trim and the flying pilot will verbalize a takeoff briefing. This briefing is vitally important and delineates who’s flying the leg, confirmation of power settings, climb profile and standard departure procedures to be used. Additionally, planned action in the event of an emergency is included. (“In the event we lose an engine after V1 we’ll continue the takeoff but since we’ll be above maximum landing weight we’ll advise ATC we need to burn off fuel or dump fuel prior to returning to this airport,” or whatever is prudent.)

A Boeing 767 taking off at sunet

Photo by: Paul Nelhams

Let’s say this is going to be your leg to fly. Even so, typically the captain generally taxis the aircraft and lines up the aircraft on the runway prior to takeoff, after which you’re advised to hold the brakes, then, “it’s your airplane.” Once cleared for takeoff, you will increase thrust, attentive to ensure both engines are accelerating equally until you’re close to the target power setting. You may hold full forward pressure on the yoke to place as much weight as possible on the wheels for traction. As you begin to move you will find the rudder/brake peddles are sluggish and won’t become effective until you’re beyond 40 or 50 knots. Meanwhile, believing that you’ve got the power set close to what it should be, you say something like, “SET POWER” and the non-flying pilot (the captain) refines the power settings as you concentrate on the takeoff.

Several call-outs are pretty standard on large aircraft: One is “80 knots” and you respond with “Cross checked.” You’re just confirming that your and the captain’s airspeed indicators agree. Next, the non-flying pilot calls out, “V1.” This is the point of no return: you’re goin’ flying regardless of what happens! High-speed aborts are often disastrous. Even if you blow an engine after V1, you’ll continue the takeoff roll. Shortly afterward, you hear, “Rotate.” You’ll pitch the nose up to the desired attitude and hold it while you wait for the wheels to clear the pavement. Once airborne the non-flying pilot says, “positive rate” (meaning you’ve got a positive rate of climb and not sinking back to the ground) and you’ll respond, “Gear Up.” The captain reaches over and retracts the landing gear. The first time you do this it may surprise you how noisy the hydraulic pumps are and how loud the “ker-thunk” is when the nose gear slams against its uplocks. Depending on aircraft profile, around 400′ AGL you’ll call for the flaps up. Some aircraft momentarily level out around 1,000′ AGL to accelerate at what’s called the acceleration altitude; then resume the climb.

How to Fly a Commercial Plane –  In Flight
Two Pilots in the flight deck of a commercial plane

Photo by: Condor

Use of the autopilot is encouraged after the configuration changes but especially passing through 10,000 feet. Reduced separation requirements mandate that autopilot use is required between FL290 to FL410 (29,000 to 41,000 feet).

You’ll climb to the cruise altitude using your familiar airspeed indicator but at a point called the cross-over altitude2 will transition to flying by Mach number. The reason for this is that, at altitude, the Mach number is limiting whereas your indicated airspeed will be lower than you’re used to seeing and be of little value.

Control responses are slower and take more muscle. The payoff is more stability. Standard rate turns (on which instrument flying is predicated) are no longer are used. Because you’re moving faster you’ll only use half standard rate in turns. In light planes, standard rate requires 15 to 20 degrees of bank angle. In large planes, producing a 3° per second standard rate turn would require a bank angle of 50°. The Aeronautical Information Manual states that turns in a holding pattern should be at 3° per second to a maximum of 30 degrees of bank, whichever results in the lesser bank angle. “Standard rate” in large aircraft typically is no more than 1.5° per second.

How to Fly a Commercial Plane –  Approach and Landing
A boeing commercial airliner landing

Photo by: Roy

As you approach your destination a new TOLD card is needed containing runway length at your weight, speeds and go-around power settings. Landing speeds are “bugged” and ATIS information, approach procedures, and techniques for special conditions such as wet/slick runways and LAHSO3 are reviewed and briefed. The approach may seem to move pretty fast at first. The difference is flying approaches in light planes at 100 knots compared to 120 to 160 knots is conspicuous. But after you get accustomed to it, light plane approaches will seem to take forever.

“Grease job landings do not a pilot make.” In large aircraft, you’re interested only in stabilized approaches and touching down at the desired touchdown zone. It may seem awkward how high you are when landing. Depending on aircraft you’ll actually be sitting anywhere from 20 to 100 feet above the ground when touching down. Good positive runway wheel contact and minimal “wing-wagging” trumps a grease job. Yep, in large airplanes, you pretty much wanna “fly ’em on.”

Thrust reversers are maybe new to you.4 Before using them, it is important to ensure both reversers are equally deployed otherwise you’ll spin around faster than that guy with the Certs does when checking out good looking women after arriving in Ft. Lauderdale.

On landing roll-out, the non-flying pilot may call out “80 knots” which is your cue to begin stowing the thrust reverser levers. At 40-50 knots the captain will say something like, “I got it” or “my airplane” and take over control, taxiing to parking. You’re done with all flying pilot’s duties at that point and resume radio work and the “clean-up,” retracting the flaps, re-setting the trim and performing the after landing checklist.

One thing that is sometimes hard for first officers to understand is that the airplane is the captain’s airplane. It is the captain who is responsible for that airplane and you are there only to
assist. Although it is customary to alternate flying legs, it is at the captain’s discretion only. Privilege in a multi-crew setting is not a 50/50 proposition.

In Conclusion

The difference between small and large plane flying is “bigness.” Its numbers and speeds are higher. Pilots sit two or more feet apart. Its weight is computed with index numbers such as 100.3 instead of 100,300 pounds. There’s at least one extra fold out seat on the flight deck for jump seaters. Center of gravity is a location measured in percent within the wing’s aerodynamic chord instead of inches after of a datum line. But there is one thing that makes learning how to fly a commercial plane worth it over smaller planes, besides the freedom to stretch your legs and walk around, and that is the salary is usually much better and who can find fault with that?

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

Footnotes:

1 – “TOLD” cards are take-off and landing distance data cards and prepared for each leg and generally include ATIS information for the airport from which you’re leaving and approaching. Once the leg is complete the TOLD card gets discarded. Sophisticated multi-function displays are also being used that present this information.

2 – Crossover Altitude is the altitude at which a specified CAS (Calibrated airspeed) and Mach value represent the same TAS (True airspeed) value. Above this altitude, the Mach number is used to reference speeds.

3 – LAHSO – Land and Hold Short Operations is landing on one of two intersecting runways requiring precise planning. Pilots are not required to accept a LAHSO clearance to land but it can expedite your landing at busy airports.

4 – In turboprops, deceleration is handled with a propeller reversal called “beta” which also slows the aircraft by reversing thrust.

Featured Image: Wilco737

What Makes Us Aviation Professionals?

A Summary of Qualifications, Ethics, and Responsibility

Amber R. Berlin

I catch the look exchanged between the pilot and his cargo as they board their commercial flight to Los Angeles. Can we trust you? This unspoken request hangs in the air, each gaze finally broken by the crowd pressing forward to find their seats. A few of the passengers here are flying for the first time. All of them trust the pilot and flight crew with their lives. What is it that makes the crew able to accept the responsibility for so many? Do they hold certain personality traits that make them better suited for this type of work, or have they simply adapted to the high demands of the job, and high expectations of the public? These are the questions we will answer as I take you on a journey with an in­ depth look at today’s aviation professionals, their responsibilities, and the characteristics that enable them to carry our most precious cargo, the passengers.

An airline cabin interior

Photo by Ian Abbott

The aviation industry is responsible for thousands of lives every day. Each aviation accident has the potential to cost millions of dollars in equipment, and even more tragically, extinguish precious life. In a field where trust is hard earned, and accidents happen, they must hold themselves to a higher standard of accountability.

The ability to think clearly in times of crisis, when most people freeze, is what defines us as aviation professionals. Many people can do their job well every day, but when disaster strikes they stand frozen, unable to react. “Fear is the most powerful emotion,” said University of California Los Angeles psychology professor Michael Fanselow. (Associated Press 2007). Professionals have the ability to separate their personal feelings from the task at hand, and since their thought process isn‘t hampered by emotion, they retain the ability to make sound decisions.

The public also holds aviation professionals to a certain standard of excellence. They are expected to know their job, and know it well. Thousands of hours are spent learning in classrooms, on­ the­ job, and later in the field, and training on updated techniques or upgraded equipment is never ending. Every airline passenger expects certain needs to be met, with safety, timeliness, and comfort ranking high on the list of importance. If you let them down, they go straight to customer service, or the news, with their complaints. American Airlines Executive Vice President of Marketing Dan Garton said, “There are huge costs when you have inconvenienced your customers.” (Associated Press 2009). Staying current in techniques, technology, and industry news is vital to being able to assist the customer and your crew to the maximum extent.

As aviation professionals, we must have the ability to follow the rules, pay close attention to detail, and get the job done as scheduled. Following the rules means being aware of the rules in the first place, so staying abreast of changing procedures and regulations is vital to success. Because of the steady evolution of the aviation industry, professionals must continue to expand their knowledge, with a willingness to learn new techniques being essential. It is important to follow the rules, even when no one is looking. This “ethical behavior is learned behavior, and managers can build organizational processes and strategies that contribute to this learning effort.” (Menzel 2006).

Individuals in the aviation industry have certain personality traits that enable them to hold positions that require a high level of accountability. According to the Keirsey Temperament Test, most of these individuals have a guardian­ type personality, with a strong desire to protect others. This desire is what drives them to step into aviation instead of some other field. It is spurred by the desire to gain knowledge, and the motivation to step into a position of command.

The Keirsey website further explains a guardian’s motivation in their 1 1⁄2 page description:
“They have such a clear vision of the way that things should be, that they naturally step into leadership roles…they are extremely talented at devising systems and plans for action, and at being able to see what steps need to be taken to complete a specific task.” (DeBruhl, 2002, p.67).

Guardians have a deep set vein of integrity and they hold their crew’s honesty, as well as their own, in high regard. They also tend to hold themselves to higher than average standards, and consistently strive for excellence in their work. This description of a Guardian is accurate according to a survey of aviation professionals and college students taken earlier this year, making them a perfect match for the high standards of aviation.

As a former air traffic controller, holding oneself to a higher standard was a way of life. With hundreds of lives depending on you each second and only moments to make each decision, professionalism was a requirement of the job. It was this high standard that kept us safe, and training was focused on the perfect execution of each task. There was no room to be sloppy as the traffic picked up and when you’re too busy to think, you fall back on the training you worked so hard to master.

An ATC tower at night

Photo by Loaded Aaron

One evening I was working approach at Sheppard Air Force Base, TX. I had only been certified to work alone for a few months. Storms had hit northern Texas hard that day and the visibility was poor. A flight of T­38’s joined my pattern and requested a flight split. I separated and identified each aircraft, and my gut instinct was to vector them with additional spacing. Instead of the required 3 miles, I was giving them nearly 7. My supervisor came to stand behind my chair and started criticizing my way of working traffic, saying it was a waste of resources to make them use so much fuel in a wide pattern. I maintained my professional attitude and continued to work the pattern, although the criticism wasn’t easy to listen to. I felt a sinking sensation in my stomach…Was I wrong? The thought echoed in my head as I pushed everything out and focused on the task at hand. After several minutes the aircraft landed and the supervisor walked away, obviously displeased. Within the hour, one of the pilots called the RAPCON and asked to thank me for providing the extra separation on final with such poor visibility. I was relieved to hear that my decision was the right one for the situation. But more than that, I’m glad
I didn’t let the criticism compromise safety or cause me to respond to the supervisor in a negative way.

Each individual in the industry has the ability to prevent an accident from happening, and it is each individual’s responsibility for costly mistakes. They are constantly striving for the unattainable goal of perfection, and consistently falling short. However, this quest is not without rewards. Saving just one life is reward enough, and whether you’re the maintenance man who turned the last screw, or the pilot in command during flight, each of the aviation professionals involved in this process ensures the safety of the skies.

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References:

Associated Press, (2007). Frozen with fear? Science tells why. Retrieved from
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21547710/from/ET/

Associated Press, (2009). As fares and fees rise, passengers want service. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26791797/

DeBruhl, A.D., (2006). The ultimate truth: An objective commentary on just about everything. Boston: 1st World Publishing.

Menzel, D.C., (2006). Ethics management for public administrators: Building organizations of integrity. New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.

Featured Image: Jetstar Airways

How Crew Resource Management Makes Flying Safer

Vern Weiss

On December 29, 1972, an Eastern Airlines Lockheed L-1011 with 176 people aboard crashed in Florida’s Everglades only 3 minutes from touching down at Miami International Airport. Three flight crew members, the Captain, First Officer and Flight Engineer became focused on a landing gear indicator light bulb that was not illuminated. As the airplane descended rapidly the three pilots continued to fuss with the indicator lamp. This marked the beginning of a series of horrible aviation accidents in the 1970s involving highly trained, professional flight crews.

The Beginning of Crew Resource Management

Something had to be done and that same year a British aviation psychiatrist and professor, Elwyn Edwards, developed the beginnings of, what originally was called, “Cockpit Resource Management” that since has been expanded. CRM now includes crew members including flight attendants, on or off duty aboard an aircraft as well as others on the ground and today is known as Crew Resource Management. Little by little, Dr. Edwards’ concepts have been built-upon and enhanced culminating in a comprehensive study and proposal by NASA in 1979. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has been instrumental in mandating CRM training and vigilance in aviation and has encouraged worldwide government aviation agencies like the FAA to comply with their CRM standards and protocols.

The NASA studies resulted in the belief that the primary cause of aircraft accidents was human errors created from interpersonal communication, leadership and decision-making problems. As defined, Crew Resource Management is a methodology in which the resources of equipment, procedures and people are collectively utilized as needed to safely complete every flying task. The individual components of CRM resources are communications, situational awareness, problem solving, decision making, and teamwork.

How Crew Resource Management Works

You are driving on a busy expressway. The sun is in your eyes. As you attempt to put them on you drop your sunglasses and they slide to the passenger side floor of the car. You should:

  • A. Forget about retrieving your sunglasses and continue driving even though the sun occasionally blinds your vision so your passenger doesn’t think you’re a wimp.
  • B. Pull over on the shoulder to safely retrieve the sunglasses before pulling back onto the busy highway.
  • C. To demonstrate your prowess as a driver, you reach down to the passengers’ side and grab your
    sunglasses.
  • D. You ask your passenger to hand you your sunglasses.

Obviously, answer “D” is best because it allows you to remain focused on control of the vehicle while using someone who is not otherwise busy to complete the task. This example is the essence of what Crew Resource Management is all about.

CRM is not about technical knowledge and the skill of flying an aircraft. It is he interpersonal and cognitive processes of situational awareness, communication, problem solving, decision making and working as a team.

Situational awareness is knowing what is going on around you and recognizing your place in the “big picture.” Walk through any Walmart and you’ll see any number of examples of people who lack situational awareness. As you walk down one aisle suddenly some guy who had stooped down to look at canned prunes stands up and immediately backs into you without looking up first. He had no idea that there could possibly have been anyone behind him even though your grocery cart wheels can be heard for miles around as you approached him. We don’t know where his head was but maybe that’s why he’s buying the prunes.

A flight attendant in the cabin of an airliner with passengersDon’t get me started on those myopic customers walking around glued to their iPhones, although they are great fun to watch when they walk into a clothing rack or knock over a display of ketchup bottles.
Crew Resource Management applies all the resourceful assistance each crew member requires to safely and efficiently perform flight operations. It includes all direct and peripheral personnel. Besides the immediate flight crew, it can include other pilots who are riding as passengers, jump- seaters, flight attendants, mechanics that may be on board; via radio, utilizing air traffic controllers, company dispatchers and pilots of other aircraft. For instance, you hear an aircraft ahead of you report that it flew through a large flock of birds. Use this information for your own benefit. “Old thinking” was that a pilot must be a “super pilot” and be able to do it all without asking for help. Not so. But pilots who are act autonomously and are unwilling to accept outside help tend to make big mistakes.

Crew Resource Management starts with receiving information, analyzing then making it meaningful. From this, analysis of all the choices enables the best decision out of possible alternatives. The consideration of various alternatives should include any available information, knowledge, prior experience, expectation, context, goals and greatest possibility of a successful outcome. There are times when decisions have to be made quickly, such as when an evasive maneuver is necessary to avoid a mid-air collision. In these instances you must fall back on training and procedures. In the example just cited…traffic at 12 o’clock and closing in on you fast, you veer to the right as per the Aeronautical Information Manual. But what if the bonehead closing on you veers the wrong direction and turns left? You must be willing to amend your response now. This is one of those extreme situations that fortunately does not arise very often. Most situations afford enough time to consult the non-flying pilot. There may be considerations that occur to that pilot that you omitted in your decision and the other pilot’s input will make the final decision a better one. Brittle methods practiced for years and unwillingness to consider others’ suggestions and unwillingness to do nothing have been diminished thanks to CRM, which is a giant leap forward in enhanced safety.

What Would You Do?

You’re headed straight for a black cloud. To its left is a blacker one. To your right the clouds are even blacker than the one on your left. Ah! No sweat…do a one-eighty, right? But the front is moving rapidly and has closed off everything behind you. Probably doing nothing and staying on course is one of the choices. Of course, there’s other things that can be tried like changing altitudes (the middle third of a cumulonimbus is usually where the most violent weather is found), slow up so you don’t hit the “potholes” so hard once you’re in the cloud. Ask your non-flying pilot to check on ride reports ahead of you. Maybe the blackest cloud wasn’t all that bad as reported by an aircraft immediately in front of you. What’s the radar show? Turn on your ADF receiver and watch the needle swing. It points to the area of strongest static caused by lightning discharges. Cinch up your seat belt and tell your passengers to do the same. If you have auto-ignition, turn it on. Follow the procedures in the checklist for turbulence and heavy precipitation penetration. And ask you non-flying pilot what he or she thinks. Maybe the non-flying pilot is more skilled at use of the radar than you and can “see” where the passage ahead would be better. Crew Resource Management uses everything at your disposal.

An important component of CRM is use of standardized checklists for normal, abnormal and emergency operations. When pilots start creating impromptu procedures things can turn ugly real fast. Checklists are developed, tested, re-tested, evaluated and authorized from manufacturers and the FAA have worked out the kinks. Obviously, if one pilot starts extemporaneously throwing switches, the other pilot won’t have a clue as to what his partner is attempting to achieve. Checklists. Checklists. Checklists.

A United Airlines airliner taking offLong overdue, awareness of fatigue and workload have fortunately become important considerations the last few years. There are times when the cockpit gets very busy and at those times both pilots should be sharply attentive. Even though one pilot may be listening to, say, the ATIS frequency and not monitoring the active ARTCC frequency, that pilot should continue to monitor that frequency in case something transpires that require urgency in getting back “into the loop.” Even ATC has changed their policies on issuing clearances, recognizing that pilot workload and information retention has its limits. ATC will not issue a clearance with more than 2 numbers at a time. If they want you to turn left to a heading of 160, descend to 4,000 feet and slow to 230 knots, they’ say, “Ercoupe 38 X-ray, turn left heading 1-6-0, descend to 4,000.” You respond with the read back. Then they call you and say, “Ercoupe 28-X-ray slow to 230 knots.”1

As aviation has developed, automation has increasingly become more integrated into the pilot’s world. Flight management systems (FMS) and a myriad of aircraft-specific enhancements like auto-throttles, thrust management systems and FADEC-controlled engines, to name a few, have placed more importance on staying on top of what’s going on. While the civilian perceives automation on an airplane as something that makes less work for pilots, it’s actually the opposite. In fact, automation requires more vigilance than non-automation, so pilots must now be more in a systems management role than switch-and-control manipulation role. This makes it imperative that Crew Resource Management be applied to inputs, outputs, programming and cross-checking of all automatic systems.

Simply stated, Crew Resource Management is two or more people performing as one. Pilots utilizing CRM help each other by filling in any voids when tasks mount up and one person can’t do the job without sacrificing attention to the airplane. As mentioned earlier, CRM involves people other than the pilots as well. An example is approaching an airport with deteriorating weather. One of the pilots could direct his or her attention to switching radio frequencies to get a weather update, however both pilots may be very busy. The ATC controller has access to the same weather information that pilots can get from the ATIS, so why not just key the microphone and say, “Approach (control)…you got the latest weather for Booger International?”

Done.

Personal Experience with Crew Resource Management

Some years ago I was flying with another pilot who consistently demonstrated acute and superb skills. One Monday morning, we took off to start a trip and he seemed uncharacteristically “behind” the airplane. I thought his unusual sloppy and lethargic performance was maybe just that this was a very early morning departure and he “wasn’t awake yet.” Second leg of the trip, he was flying the approach and the profile for an ILS was at glide slope intercept to call for landing gear down and full flaps. Glide slope intercept came and he started to descend which, of course built up speed rapidly. He then started reducing the power to counteract the speed. Something was wrong. I said, “Gary, you ready for the gear and flaps?” Breaking his reverie he responded, “OH! Oh yeah…uh…gear down…uh full flaps…uh… and the before landing checklist.” We completed the approach and landing without further incident. After shutting down the aircraft and putting our other duties behind us I asked him if everything is alright. He said, “Well, no. On Friday my mom passed away and yesterday my dad had a heart attack and died.” Whoa! What was this man doing flying an airplane? We were not in a position where I could initiate a crew change but I did convince him to blow off the rest of the trip when we got back to our domicile and replace him with another crew member. I wish I had known before we had even started that morning so I could have intervened. Knowing the stress he was experiencing, at the very least my CRM observations would have been heightened to watch for mistakes and omissions earlier. The goal of CRM is for two people to act as one well-tuned machine.

My first exposure to CRM was my first job as a whipping-boy/corporate co-pilot in a two-pilot turboprop. The guy I worked for was a jerk. But I sucked-it up because I needed to build flight time if I was going to make a career in aviation. One night he ordered me to get him a cup of coffee. The galley was toward the rear of the passenger cabin so I responded dutifully. Just as I returned with his %&*# cup of coffee we flew into an area of turbulence. I am standing there holding his cup of coffee and he turns to me and barks, “NOT NOW! Do something…GET RID OF IT!” I was not a coffee drinker but the only thing I could think to do as we were getting the you-know-what kicked out of us was to drink the coffee quickly. I wanted to puke. In retrospect perhaps my choice to alleviate the problem created by the captain’s cup filled with coffee in some abstract way was a bit of CRM. I also know that that first cup of coffee I drank lead me to try it again and that now I am a die-hard coffee drinker.

So the moral of the story is Crew Resource Management is beneficial to pilots because it enhances safety and allows us to discover coffee.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

Footnote:

1 – Ercoupe? 230 knots? I’m joking, right?

Sources:

Advisory Circular for Air Operators, “Training Programme for Crew Resource Management,” International Civil Aviation Organization, 2013.

Internet Website: http://www.crewresourcemanagement.net/information-processing/decision-making

Featured Image: Kent Wien

The Growing Pilot Problem is Getting Worse for Regional Carriers

Anders Clark

Republic Airways recently filed for bankruptcy, but few people were aware of it. That’s in part because Republic Airways is not a recognized name in air travel. However, many people fly with Republic on a regular basis and just aren’t aware of it. Republic operates a variety of flights for Delta Connection, United Express and American Eagle, the big airlines’ affiliates for shorter flights and / or less popular destinations. In fact, as many as half of all Delta, United and American branded flights are in reality handled by regional airlines like Republic. Most people who fly with any regularity have likely flown with Republic or one of many other unknown regional airlines.

According to Republic’s CEO, there were several problems that led to the bankruptcy filing, but the primary issue was “…grounding aircraft due to a lack of pilot resources.” And they’re not alone in this problem. Last October, Seaport Airlines, another regional airline, dropped most of the routes it was flying from its Memphis hub, also due to a lack of qualified pilots. But this pilot problem isn’t limited to just the smaller regional airlines, and it is slowly spreading to more known and established names. SkyWest, which also handles flights for Delta, American, and United, reduced their flight capacity last year. And during SkyWest’s third-quarter earnings conference, President Chip Childs did acknowledge that they are “not immune” to the shrinking number of pilots and, in a transcript provided by Seeking Alpha, that to address the problem, they would need to manage the problem “from the very, very beginning.”

The idea of a “pilot shortage” may surprise those outside the industry as most people assume that there is intense competition for the job of an airline pilot, with the associated high salary, perks and glamour. So what gives? Well, those inside the industry point to two things. First, Congress enacted regulations in 2013 that increased the number of required flight hours for first officers (or co-pilots) from 250 to 1,500 in order to fly for a commercial airline. And there’s a large commitment of time and money involved in accumulating those extra flight hours. Second, while the salaries at and jobs at the big commercial airlines are competitive, newly minted pilots who start flying for the regional airlines can make as little as $20,000 a year. And with consolidation among the major carriers, they hold a strong negotiating position over the regional airlines, which makes it difficult for the regionals to raise wages.

So, for pilots, a low-salary job with a high barrier to entry isn’t very attractive. And when you consider that regional airlines operate roughly half of all the flights in the country, many pilots begin and end careers at the regionals, never able to make the jump to the major airlines. In addition, many young pilots have started signing up for foreign airlines, attracted by higher salaries and reduced requirements.

Forbes, in a recent article, provided an argument that this is not a short-term problem:

Here’s some hard reality that’s now firmly in place. There is no “pilot shortage”—that term implies a situation where there is the possibility of correction. It isn’t “correctable”—the new regulatory barriers to entry to the pilot profession are effectively permanent. And that means that the availability of this resource will be different than in the past—read: a lot less. Result: less flying of smaller airliners. Less service at smaller local airports.

Up until now, the effects of all this are being felt primarily by the smaller airlines. But with the pilot pipeline shrinking, and drawing in qualified pilot candidates becoming more and more of a problem, the major carriers may start feeling the effect of the pilot problem soon. In another recent piece from Forbes, they estimate that in the next 20 years, the number of available pilots will only meet two-thirds of the demand. And this could mean the major airlines will have to start dropping routes.

Many regional carriers have been lobbying Congress to change the 1,500 hour rule, but the feeling is that they’re not likely to, as it would make them look like they are prioritizing airline profits over the safety of passengers. In the meantime, the regional airlines are working hard to boost recruitment, including approaching and pitching high school and college students aviation career opportunities. Some in the industry say that with luck, the problem may start to correct itself to a degree. With fewer candidates, salaries will eventually have to go up to draw them in, which should start to make the job more competitive again. But until the issue is addressed and conditions start to change, regional airlines and passengers will continue to take the hit.

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Featured Image by Caribb

Continuing Pilot Shortage Causes Airline to File for Bankruptcy

Anders Clark

Don’t think the continuing pilot shortage is having an effect on the aviation industry? Tell that to Republic Airways, a major feeder airline who has just declared bankruptcy in New York. Republic flies smaller regional jets for three major carriers, Delta Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines. And they say that the continuing pilot shortage caused them to ground so many planes that filing for bankruptcy became their only option. “We worked hard to avoid this step,” said CEO Bryan Bedford.

Interestingly, Republic Airways is relatively healthy financially speaking, reporting an overall profit for eight straight quarters. They are literally declaring bankruptcy because they don’t have enough pilots to cover all their scheduled flights. In addition, it has been reported that they are also leasing a large number of smaller airliners, in particular 50 seaters, that have become a cost drain to fly and are not favored by major carriers. According to a statement released by Republic Airways regarding the bankruptcy, this appears to be a move on Republic’s part to find a way to re-size their business and better match the size of and aircraft in their fleet with the number of available pilots.

Over the last several months, we’ve attempted to restructure the obligations on our out-of-favor aircraft – made so by a nationwide pilot shortage – and to increase our revenues. It’s become clear that this process has reached an impasse and that any further delay would unnecessarily waste valuable resources of the enterprise. Our filing today is a result of our loss of revenue during the past several quarters associated with grounding aircraft due to a lack of pilot resources, combined with the reality that our negotiating effort with key stakeholders shows no apparent prospect of a near term resolution.” – Republic Airways CEO Bryan Bedford

Currently, Republic has an estimated 240 jets in their fleet and operates roughly 1,250 flights a day to around 100 cities in both the US and Canada. They employee an estimated 6,000 staff, including about 2,100 pilots. But, over the first three quarters of last year, the number of hours Republic has been flying dropped by around 5%. This has caused at least one of the majors, Delta, to file a breach of contract suit against them for failing to operate all of the flights they had contracted to fly.

So, what does this mean for regional carriers? Right now, they operate 45% of the nation’s flights, and are the only provider of flights to many smaller cities. And like Republic, many are starting to feel the bite of the continuing pilot shortage. Industry experts say one of the key concerns is pay. In the past, pay has been so bad that regional pilots can make as little as $23,000 a year. In response to this, Republic has started paying new pilots at $40 an hour, under a contract that went into effect this past November. And while this increase in pilot salary is a marked improvement, industry experts point out that you also need to consider flight hours. Regional pilots can only fly an estimated 1,000 hours a year, meaning that an impressive hourly wage doesn’t equate to as much pay as it may appear to.

Another key concern is the recent change to the number of hours required to fly as a first officer. In 2013, the FAA announced that first officers would now be required to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, which requires 1,500 hours of total flight time as a pilot. Prior to this, they were only required to hold a commercial pilot certificate with 250 hours of flight time.

The industry has dealt with pilot shortages in the past, but most of them didn’t last long. But these changes have many industry veterans convinced that unlike those past shortages, this one isn’t going anywhere soon.

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Featured Image courtesy of Republic Airways

ATP Certification: Is It Really “King of the Hill”?

Wilson Gilliam Jr.

When a pilot opens his or her certificate wallet, the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate is usually the one on top. It is a diamond on a black cloth. ATP certification is a significant accomplishment, as the requirements for both the written and practical tests are demanding.

I could have used all of that ATP weight shift knowledge when Target Stores hired us to fly tours around the parking lot of a grand opening in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Passengers of all sizes stepped up to be next on board and I (the pilot) just kept waving them on. I do remember politely gesturing for one excited, portly gentleman to move to the back of the group until I had burned off a little more fuel. Every take-off was a running, bumpy, pavement scratching event and the two-seat helicopter strained to clear the rooftop shingles of a nearby apartment complex. That’s the takeoff over 100 foot obstacle problem on the ATP test.

Some professional pilots never venture into ATP training. This could be due to the relatively high costs of flight training and a necessity to generate some income to offset those expenses.
According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, ATP pilots slightly outnumber those with commercial ratings. This means that nearly fifty-percent of pilots with “for hire” airmen certificates do not have ATP certification.

It’s important to note that an increasing number of employers require the ATP. This requirement seems to be more prevalent in the fixed-wing world. Helicopter operators have a focus on “type of operation” experience but are now beginning to require ATP certification as well. In any case, planning a long-term aviation career without ATP certification could reduce your competitiveness with other job candidates.

Should a pilot attempt ATP training as soon as they are eligible? Of course, this is a personal choice and is regulated by the experience requirements in Federal Air Regulations (FARs), Part 61. ATP training is a definite plus. The route to getting the experience required for certification can be varied. I suggest becoming a CFI/CFII first.

I earned my ATP rotorcraft helicopter rating license well after I had been teaching flight students of various experience levels. In my estimation, both the CFI and the ATP are important for different reasons.

I realized that I didn’t know much about flying until I started providing flight instruction. When an instructor becomes more comfortable in the cockpit, threats to safety stress levels begin to subside and openness to outside stimuli is heightened. Stress creates a narrowing of focus, understanding and reactionary response.

Unnecessary stress in the aircraft can interfere with teacher or student learning. I can remember when I was taking fixed-wing lessons, trying to earn my initial instrument rating in a Beechcraft Sundowner. My instructor had just taken a new pilot position with one of the local commuter airlines. Like many students, I remember having trouble visualizing my position when entering holding patterns. To be honest, all of the VOR radial dialing and cross-checking left me thoroughly confused most of the time. Out of the corner of my foggles, I could see my head shaking instructor. The thought of a new career was apparently blinding my CFII to my primal difficulties with direct, parallel and yes, good old teardrop maneuvers. Stress increases, attention is focused on the threat and the student (me, in this case) doesn’t learn, nearing resignation.

As a new flight instructor gains confidence, aircraft control stressors are reduced and a whole new world of sensory data opens up. The instructor should be prepared for this new experience and realize that that it is an unbelievable learning opportunity. Being able to see most of the flight environment simultaneously permits the new instructor to recognize control input lag versus performance, traffic conflicts and allows some forecast of student accident chain potential.
This is why an experienced flight instructor makes an excellent ATP. A flight instructor combines the developed ability to discern multiple input channels with well-honed aircraft control skills. I contend that simple, point A to B commercial experience counted toward the ATP experience requirements is inferior to comparable hours of dual instruction given. For highly developed situational awareness and control skills, consider becoming a flight instructor prior to training for the ATP.

The additional knowledge gained from ATP training challenges the pilot to think on many different levels at once. The ATP experience is an opportunity for increased situational awareness. Rote learning becomes less prevalent as causal relationships and risk mitigation becomes the norm.
Choosing an experienced and dedicated flight school is another important step in the ATP process. Some of the most proficient students I’ve ever taught started with me with zero experience and became ATP certificate holders. But, they all had one thing in common – they were all flight instructors for at least one year.

ATP certification doesn’t guarantee that you will be a great pilot. Some of the best have never held an ATP. If you decide that the ATP is for you, consider becoming a CFI/CFII first. Absorb your world for a single year and then get your ATP. I think you will find that this approach is within a few degrees of being perfect.

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Featured Image by Jonathan Gross

IOE, AQP, FOQA, CRM, etc: The ABCs of Airline Training Programs

Airlines are integrating new curricula and shifting the focus of airline training programs more towards enhanced safety.

Vern Weiss

Some day I should experience a different career just to see if other fields are as crazy with initialisms, acronyms and abbreviations as aviation. I’ll bet not. For the benefit of the purist, an initialism is not the same thing as an acronym. Each letter is spoken separately representing the first letter of a phrase like “FAA” (pronounced “eff-ay-ay”). Whereas an acronym is a spoken word comprised of the first letters of a phrase such as METAR (pronounced “mee-tahr) which, in everyday conversation amongst pilot buddies, would be pronounced (of course) météorologique régulière pour l’aviation. OK, so the translation isn’t as straightforward as FUBAR and SNAFU. But you must agree aviation has a bucket-load of ’em and the movers-and-shakers in aviation have been buying up all the available consonants and vowels that they can.

An Overview of Airline Training Programs

Airline training programs pretty much follow the same pattern regardless of which offers you a job. New hires start out in ground school learning about systems specific to the aircraft they’ll fly. Then comes simulator training and, depending on the simulator which is available for your particular aircraft, a short period of actual flight training might be required.1

A Boeing 747 instrument pane; at night - The ABCs of Airline Training Programs

Photo by: wilco737

Once completing the ground and simulator training phases there remains a final component in the sequence of airline training programs: Initial Operating Experience (IOE, sometimes called just “OE”). This stage of training is every bit as important as the others and, yes, there have been pilots who made it through ground and simulator training but could not get through IOE; but that is rare. As an airline pilot, every change you make in aircraft and every time you upgrade, you are required to complete IOE with a company check airman. IOE actually takes place during scheduled flights carrying paying passengers and you perform the duties of a regular first officer. The check airman (who doubles as the flight’s captain) will watch you carefully and provide instruction, tips and guide you through the myriad of procedural tasks you must perform. Think of it as “on the job airline training programs.” Even when you upgrade to captain it will be necessary for you to complete IOE. The check airman has the prerogative and obligation to terminate IOE at any time if it becomes apparent that you are a weak candidate and it’s probable that improvement is not anticipated. IOE typically consists of ten to twenty hours of flying spread out over the course of three to five regularly-scheduled multi-day line trips.

The Tenerife Airport Disaster and Introduction of CRM

In 1977, two Boeing 747s collided on a runway in the Canary Islands at Tenerife. The airport was cloaked in fog and neither aircraft’s pilots could see the other nor could the air traffic controller see either aircraft. There were language and phraseology misinterpretations and the long- and short- of it is that one of the 747s began its take-off roll while the second 747 was still on the runway. Nearly 600 people died in the Tenerife disaster. As a result of the Tenerife crash, NASA began studying the role cockpit communications played in accidents as well as the rigid authoritarian hierarchy and situational awareness existing on airline flight decks. By the early 1980s a new concept, “cockpit resource management”2 became accepted worldwide to minimize and, hopefully, eliminate those behaviors that contribute to accidents. CRM is now an important component of airline training programs and FAA Part 142 schools are including it in their programs designed for Part 91 corporate and Part 135 air taxi operators. At the core of CRM is sound reasoning: Speak up if you see or suspect something is wrong, verify, help each other; common sense basics like “drink your milk” and “don’t run with scissors.” Many improvements have appeared as a result of CRM even outside the aircraft. As an example, prior to CRM awareness air traffic controllers would rattle off a string of instructions. Now they limit the numbers given in clearances to pilots. Instead of “TransAir 257 turn left heading 2-6-0, descend to 2-5-0 and slow to 190 knots.” Did he say descend to Flight Level 2-6-0, turn to a 190 degree heading and slow to 250 knots?” No. So now they issue only two numerical components and, only after you read it back correctly, will they issue you the third piece of the instructions with which they want you to comply.

CRM is now integral to new-hire and re-currency training programs. It defines how the two-person flight crew interacts in the spirit of unity and cooperation. It can get real busy on the flight deck of an airliner, especially approaching the destination. Captains and First Officers commonly alternate flying each leg. The PF (Pilot-Flying) just flies. Period. The PNF (Pilot-Not Flying) does all the radio work. But approaching your destination, there are many other duties required of the PNF: Company Operations is waiting for your radio call with your ETA info, maintenance status and in return advise you of your parking gate. The PNF must also obtain the weather from the ATIS (or ACARS if equipped) and calculate landing data and target speeds for the approach. The PNF is real busy. Meanwhile the air traffic controllers seem to continually be calling with headings and altitudes as they line you up for the approach. You can’t do it all. Enter CRM. Even though the PF’s duty is only to fly the airplane, everything might be under control and you will be excused to go off the controller’s frequency to take care of all those things while the PF handles any calls from the controllers.

A flight attendant and passengers on an airliner - The ABCs of Airline Training Programs

Photo by: Kevin Morris

Or the flight attendant calls and says there’s an unruly passenger and the captain is the PF on that leg. He feels comfortable being alone during this portion of the flight and can handle the radio easily while managing the airplane. Even though he’s the ultimate authority for the flight and usually the one to handle such problems, he also knows you are brand new on the job and it will also start getting busy soon. His evaluation of the situation leads him to decide not to leave you alone handling the radio and the imminent flurry of flight instructions, so he delegates the responsibility of your going back to settle the problem. Before you remove your headset you say, “I’m off the radio” and he says, “I got the radio.” Anyone observing this exchange might think it should have been obvious to both of you who was listening and who wasn’t. But it’s verification that he’s now handling his and your tasks and you are excused.

Or the air traffic controller issues a clearance to turn to 320° but the pilot who’s flying makes no attempt to change the aircraft heading. The non-flying pilot leans over toward the flying pilot and says, “Um, Jim…did you copy he wants a turn to three-two-zero?” “Oh gosh! I was daydreaming!”

That’s CRM.

The Advanced Qualification Program

In the last 15 years a new pilot training concept has been introduced with increasing use among most major and a growing number of regional airlines. The Advanced Qualification Program (AQP) is a voluntary departure from traditional FAA Part 121 and 135 pilot training methods. Once an air carrier submits and receives FAA approval for their AQP program, pilots can be trained using innovative, non-traditional means so long as their proficiency meets or exceeds the level resulting from traditional curricula. FAA Advisory Circular 120-54 states that in an AQP program, pilots are trained to a standard of proficiency on all objectives and it is not necessary to verify proficiency by checking every such item on every check ride. Rather, the proficiency evaluation may consist of a sampling of one of several similar items.3 The benefit of the AQP program is that it can reduce training time and cost. More flexibility is permitted to introduce new technologies and equipment, operations and training techniques without conflicting with the literal interpretation of regulations and/or protracted approval protocols. Proficiency tasks can be consolidated in an AQP. As an example, outside of an AQP pilots must demonstrate non-precision approaches during each proficiency check. This means VOR, NDB and localizer approaches must each be flown. Under an approved AQP a pilot need only demonstrate one of these types of nonprecision approaches.

Advanced Qualification Programs place heavy emphasis on Crew Resource Management. In the “old days,” the mentality leaned toward pilots showing that they could be “loaded up” during an emergency and handle it all. AQP’s attention is on safety, efficiency and utilizing all of the resources (including other crew members) in dealing with emergencies as well as non-emergency situations.

What is FOQA?

Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) is an acronym pronounced “foh-kwah.” It’s not a training term but is a significant tool in the development of airline training programs. FOQA centers on Flight Data Monitoring4 whereby equipment monitors and records sensor parameters as an aircraft moves. In turn, this data is downloaded and analyzed to determine operational problems, maintenance issues and reveal areas where cost could be reduced. The overall goal of FOQA programs is to improve safety but often Flight Data Monitoring reveals problems that would not otherwise be known in the way aircraft are handled. Here’s an example: There may be an instrument departure that requires an aircraft reaching 3,000 feet by the time it is 5 miles from the airport. FOQA analysts notice that airline pilots consistently violate this requirement and routinely reach only 2,700 feet by the time they pass the 5 mile point. To fix this performance deficiency, the airline implements changing it’s training procedures to include a departing airplane leveling off at an interim altitude to allow it to accelerate to a predetermined speed, then continue its climb. The additional speed and momentum gained in a momentary level-off might be all that is needed to achieve the performance required to comply with the 3,000′ restriction in the departure procedure.

FOQA may also reveal pilots’ violations or mishandling of the aircraft. This probably explains why the program doesn’t enjoy unanimous enthusiasm although checks and balances are built into data collection to protect anonymity to a certain degree. FOQA exists for what its name implies, quality assurance.

In Conclusion

There was a time, not so very long ago, that pilot training was somewhat inconsistent and check-ride maneuvers spontaneous. Ask someone who got their ATP certificate in the 1960s what their check-ride was like. Some of those pilots’ stories about the devious things concocted by their examiners are incredible. Thankfully we have moved beyond such haphazard methods and airline training programs are now more carefully thought out, tried-and-tested and audited to make it more “real world” and safe. Isn’t that the goal of any training?

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

Sources and Footnotes:

1 – Flight Simulator Training: Cutting Costs and Improving Skills – STIMulation BY SIMulation Vern Weiss – December 8, 2015.

Older models of aircraft still flown by airlines may breed older types of simulators. Pilot proficiency check rides conducted in Level “C” and Level “D” simulators (if approved and usually are by the FAA under Part 121 Appendix H) can be used for the entire proficiency check. However older simulators that are still be around may require an inflight training session (“3-bounces” or touch-and-goes) in the actual aircraft.

2 – The term “Cockpit Resource Management” later evolved into “Crew Resource Management” because the concept was extended beyond pilots to other flight crew members and the cockpit was more often called the “flight deck” on airline transports.

3 – https://www.faa.gov/training_testing/training/aqp/more/background/

4 – Many pilots prefer the derisive term, “the snitch.”

The Call: The Moment When Your Childhood Dreams Come True

Getting “The Call” After Your Airline Pilot Training

Making it through the airline pilot selection process is an accomplishment but successfully completing your airline pilot training is nothing short of awesome.

Vern Weiss

You’ve been submitting applications to airlines for over a year and reading doom-and-gloom on pilot blogs, which is beginning to work on your mind. If you allow yourself to believe what you’ve read, you’d give up. “How can I ever hope to get called-in for an airline interview with my experience?” “What do they want? Space shuttle proficiency?” Sheesh! Simply stated, they seek candidates who exhibit the basic skills required for training, good character, “fit in,” sound judgment, common sense, a positive attitude, compliant principles and professional behavior. They just want quality individuals and pursue neither Einsteins nor dim-wits.

airline pilot trainingNext Step in Your Airline Pilot Training: The Interview Process

Since the 1980s, the field of personality and psychological testing has exploded in American business and even job applicants for low-level, non-professional/non-career jobs can be required to undergo such assessments. Major passenger and cargo airlines are most prone for this screening. Small and medium-sized companies are more content with simplicity in their processes.

The interview process for most major carriers tends to follow a similar format. Dinky little airlines may whip you through their process in a day or two while majors may drag it out to 4 or 5 days and spread it out over several months.

If the airline is actively recruiting pilots and after you’ve submitted your on-line application you may hear from them between a couple weeks to couple months later. Major airlines now incorporate personality and psychological testing along with their on-line applications. While applying, you will be invited to click a link for their personality test. The Hogan Personality Inventory and MMPI are two such tests and consist of 400+ questions to sniff out “the REAL you.” Questions are carefully designed to minimize your “outsmarting” the test. If you are going to be invited to continue in their process, you’ll probably hear within a month.

When invited for an interview the airline often furnishes a non-revenue pass for travel; but not always. Plan a back-up in case your flight cancels. If you can, try to arrange things to arrive the night before and stay at a nearby hotel if even at your own expense. Being slam-dunked into an interview by traveling on the same day can frazzle you, which you certainly do not want.

The interview usually starts with a welcome presentation by human resources and flight operations management. You’re then whisked away to a personal interview with an HR person. They’ll go over your application, resume and ask those “gotcha”-type job interview questions like, “Have you ever had a conflict with a supervisor?.” If you have and spill your guts, make sure the noose is cinched up tightly around your neck before they pull the lever.

Company Knowledge: Don’t Leave Home Without It!

It is very important to do some homework and research the airline because they’ll find out if you’re interested enough to do it. Learn all you can. Know the CEO’s name, their stock value, number and types of planes, their history et cetera. Internet search news stories about them in the last year. When asked if you know anything about them they don’t want you to rattle-off a memorized spiel but if you can casually work in some fact about them it shows your interest and makes a positive impression. (Interviewer: “Why do you want to fly for us?” You:Blah-blah-blah-blah and I understand you’ve ordered 40 new 737s early this year which underscores this as a solid, growing company.” Interviewer’s Voice Inside His Head: “H-m-m-m, this guy’s on top of things. I won’t bother asking him anymore about the company. And maybe for lunch today, I’ll order pastrami on rye.” Interviewers are human, too.)

airline pilot trainingThe Pilot Board or Panel Interview

Another component is a pilot board or panel interview. Expect from one to five management pilots to pelt you with scripted questions. They’re probing. They want to see if you can think on your feet. They’re sizing up your personality to see if you’re the type they’d like to be paired with inside a cockpit for long hours. They’re sampling the depth of your aviation knowledge. They may ask you questions that they themselves don’t even know the answer to like, “I see you are now flying a Beech Baron. What is the maximum takeoff weight of that airplane?” Not one of them on that panel may be able to answer that question but you’d better be able to or, at least, can act like you do. Also, you can expect “What would you do if…” judgment questions. Think through your response before opening thy mouth. They’ve interviewed hundreds like you so don’t blow smoke.

The pilot board interview may be when your logbooks will be scrutinized so be sure they are up to date. The person thumbing through them might pick out something to ask you about: “I see you flew into O’Hare three years ago. What did you think about that experience?” On any questions try to be positive. They don’t want to hear that you screwed-up making a taxiway turn, gridlocked 35 airplanes behind you that were waiting to take-off and got so stressed out that you never want to go back. “Um..,” the questioner might say, “we fly into O’Hare.” Oops. Cinch up that noose a little tighter.

Instead, answer temperately with something like, “It was fascinating to watch how ATC can move so many aircraft so efficiently.” Spin things with an “up” tone. Of course, there are things that cannot be spun positively like violations or accidents. Be honest because it is assured that they will check your FAA records before hiring you. There’s probably no such thing as putting a “positive spin” on a blemished record but we make our mistakes and then move on. If skeletons are in your closet, anticipate dreaded, tough questions and develop honest, humble answers. Mistakes and mishaps might be “softened” by admitting their value as a profound lesson burned into your head that ensures your never again allowing them to happen.

Not All Airline Pilot Training is in the Cockpit: Written and Medical Exams

There is usually a written examination consisting of aviation knowledge questions. The questions are often multiple choice and true-false and similar to those found on FAA written examinations. Such tests are administered both on-line or in person during the interview process.

Large carriers customarily put you through a medical examination and, of course, all airlines are mandated to test for drugs and alcohol. Smaller airlines are normally content just with your holding an FAA medical certificate. Although it was common practice not too long ago there could be a psychological assessment done by a “shrink.” Major US airlines have moved away from this but some foreign carriers haven’t. In one such interview of mine, I entered the company psychiatrist’s office. In front of his desk was a blue chair and an orange chair. I don’t know if it was true or not but word from the grapevine was that whichever chair you chose somehow mattered. Since I was hired I guess they wanted pilots who choose blue chairs. Sigh.

One Last Piece of Airline Pilot Training: The Simulator Evaluation

The final component is frequently a flight simulator evaluation though the majors are abandoning them. Smaller airlines generally use a contracted simulator center at a nearby pilot school or Part 142 training company. Though many times smaller carriers use simulators emulating small general aviation twin-engine aircraft, large airlines conduct the assessment in a simulator for one of their aircraft types. You may find comfort knowing that they don’t expect a non-trained pilot to fly the simulator as an experienced one should. However what they do expect to see is good instrument scan, judgment, prioritizing skills, planning and corrective action if something goes wrong. The simulator evaluator may run the simulator by remote control while sitting in the right seat and serving as your co-pilot.

Important: Use the simulator evaluator all you can get away with!

Have him/her adjust your power settings, dial radio and navigation frequencies, run checklists, set flaps and landing gear. Don’t feel rushed. When it’s time to set up for an instrument approach, tell the evaluator to take the controls while you familiarize yourself with the approach procedure. It’s not expected that you would know their emergency procedures but if something happens like an engine fire, order your “co-pilot” to run “the appropriate checklist.” You don’t have to know what the checklist is called; they just want to see a pro-active reaction from you. This isn’t a check-ride, it’s an evaluation to see if you possess core abilities to be “trainable.” Do your best, be respectful and gracious, shake hands and exit the simulator on your wobbly knees. Then hope for the best.

Waiting and Fitting In

Each step in the interview process may be separated by days or weeks. The waiting is agonizing although applicants disqualified during any phase are usually notified quickly.

When I arrived to interview for one of the majors I wore a tan coat with brown pants but noticed that every other pilot wore either a dark blue or black suit. I was also the only one with a mustache. Somehow, even with my colossal blunder, I got through that day and, obviously, when getting called back for Phase II, my mustache was gone and my suit was dark blue. Silly? You bet it is! Maybe it wasn’t even noticed by anyone at the airline. But why blow this opportunity by with something that may be interpreted as not fitting in? Airlines are not interested in pilots who hear a different drummer. They want discipline, consistency, and players who fit in with the team.

airline pilot training

They say there’s a pilot shortage but leave out that the jobs with good, solid companies still get plenty of applicants. It’s smaller airlines flying smaller equipment with less pay that seem to be having the pilot shortage. Many small-to-medium sized airlines are overlooked great places to work. Even if you land a job with a company but cannot see yourself there for the long-term, it’s never a wasted effort. The time and experience you acquire will make you that much more attractive to the good, solid medium-sized and major carriers than you are now.

In Conclusion

Airline pilots must continually prove themselves and the first proving of oneself is the pilot selection process. It’s a compliment just being chosen but then your effort continues. Next comes the interview process. Slaloming around the pitfalls and potholes of the interview to be offered a job is deserving of all the gratification you’ll feel. But the job offer is just a gateway allowing you to be trained. Airline pilot training is demanding and challenging and successful completion provides another well-deserved feeling of accomplishment. Then, as a line pilot, you’ll prove yourself through PCs (Pilot Checks), line checks, annual ground school final exams, upgrades or transition training and, of course, your frequent FAA physical. Some pilots scornfully view these checks as a game of chance with its stakes being their jobs. Others see these re-qualifications as only routine renewals for the privilege of having a pretty cool job. Though periodic checking is an ongoing requisite throughout an airline career you’ll come away from each with a sense of professional recognition and satisfaction.

But the most satisfaction comes during your quiet moments of reflection. Each day of flying presents hundreds, maybe, thousands of things, each one requiring a perfect plan, a perfect response and perfect handling by you. It is then that you’ll understand that each day is really a check-ride and those periodic ones become nothing more than routine formalities demonstrating what you know, what you do and what you are every other day.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

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