Pilot Career: What Will You Carry in Your Backpack?

When packing a backpack for a camp-out, Boy Scouts keep in mind the motto “Be Prepared.” It’s a good motto for a pilot career too.

Vern Weiss

Do you want to know who makes good pilots? Mechanics. They know aircraft systems inside and out and, as pilots, often pull a rabbit out of a hat in an emergency. They know the nuances and intricacies of systems beyond the level of many pilots. Pilots responsibly grind through emergency checklists until the last item is completed. When the checklist is done, that’s it. The End. But a mechanic knows all those little weird-isms of valves, solenoids, doohickeys, thingamabobs and thingamajigs. When a checklist hasn’t fixed a problem they tap into their knowledge from back in their troubleshooting days “working the floor” and, as pilots faced with inflight emergencies they sometimes devise impromptu procedures that can make them heroes.

Pilots make extraordinarily good instructors. Don’t waste my time with a teacher who’s never “been there, done that.” They’re good because they are calm and confident about their abilities. They’re knowledgeable because they’ve flown, over and over, the scenarios they’re teaching. Weak instructors get rattled (“Ohmygosh!Ohmygosh!Ohmygosh!”) and can make a big deal big deals out of nothing. Experienced pilots can separate the wheat from the chaff and impart to students the important stuff patiently, in real-world terms and in an orderly fashion.

Many dispatchers (also called flight controllers) are pilots, either private or possess some degree of commercial training. This provides them with perceptions, common sense and judgment that is worth a lot in the planning and decision-making they do. Dispatchers are unsung heroes. It’s dispatchers who respond to unplanned crises and quickly respond with safe and legal alternatives for a flight crew. When pilots radio them with some problem, the pilots look to the dispatchers for solutions often requiring a bucket-load of calculation and research. You can’t do that if you don’t know your stuff and know it well.

Maybe you can see where I am going here. The more talents you have, the better you will be at your job and the more your window of opportunities will expand, too. Pilots who have non-aviation schooling in professions dealing with numbers are outstanding with performance charts. Flight attendants who have a background in elementary education handle the broad spectrum of passenger personalities and problems on an airplane well.

The Unpredictable “What If?” of a Pilot Career

There’s another very important reason to be dualistic, the unknown. What if you train as a pilot, immerse yourself in your pilot career and then, wham-o…you lose your medical and can no longer fly. Or what if you train to be a mechanic and your airline is gobbled up by a bigger airline and closes your maintenance base? You’ve got 9 kids in school, a house you love that you paid-off last week and your wife bursts into tears at any suggestion of leaving the community. What’s more, you’re only 3 years from being fully vested in the airline’s retirement plan and you really want to stay with the company rather than lose those benefits.

Or maybe you became an engineer and after a few years have grown to be bored by it and would like to try something else. Defining yourself by one job classification is the same as backing yourself into a corner. Pilots are taught to always have a back-up plan which is sound thinking whether you’re a pilot or in any other career. One of the best aviation ground schools I have ever been in was taught by a pilot who had lost his medical but had a degree in law. Not having a medical did not preclude him from teaching in the simulator but, holy cow his presentations in ground school interpreting the regulations were academy award winning.

Spirit of St. Louis aviator Charles Lindbergh was once asked by his son what career field he should choose. Lindbergh’s answer was to do something no one else was doing. This tangential strategy can be applied to one’s own career by preparing for your chosen pilot career but also working on something else perhaps unrelated to it. It’s not uncommon to find mechanics who are also real estate agents or pilots who are accountants. If you are training in any field of aviation and your school is affiliated with a college it is worth looking into a degree in something else while finishing your aviation training. You’ll have the added benefit of accumulating college credit toward your degree for your aviation training. For pilots it’s worth mentioning here that most airlines don’t care what your college major is, they just want a degree.

There are things that can happen short of a catastrophe that having experience in or knowledge about other areas might prove to be a lifesaver to get you over a rough patch. I know an airline pilot who broke his arm and couldn’t fly. It wasn’t permanent but he’d be out for several months so he took a temporary assignment in crew scheduling. Another pilot was furloughed and worked on the ramp. When he was recalled to flying status he told me he’d have to renew his gym membership because he’d never been in that good of shape. One pilot with whom I have worked had a degree in education and worked as a substitute teacher on days off. If things went sour in his pilot career he could always return to the classroom full time. Cockpits are full of real estate agents, lawyers, building contractors, writers, radio announcers, you name it. Captain Jim Tilmon spent 29 years with American Airlines. On his days off for over 25 years he “moonlighted” on Chicago television as an on-camera meteorologist. His degree was in music.1

Whether you want to do something to fulfill personal or professional initiatives on your days off or just want something to keep in your back pocket as a hedge against unemployment, it’s not a bad idea to be thinking about back-ups.

As a flight attendant your airline experience would be appealing in any hospitality career field, restaurants, hotels et cetera.. And mechanics often use their skills in automobile repair. Although it’s nice to rake in a little extra “funny money” in a sideline, if the bottom should fall out of your airline job there’s peace of mind knowing you can do something else.

Up until now we’ve been gloomily musing about alternatives in the event that your chosen pilot career interest is taken from you. But there are other reasons for a back up plan that are not necessarily due to misfortune. A colleague of mine was looking to hire a manager of standards for his airline. He was inundated with applications from pilots who had passed retirement age. In spite of the accepted hyperbole that seems to surround any discussion about retirement, retired airline jocks no longer allowed to fly begged him to “get me out of the house.” “I can’t stand the boredom.” “I miss the airlines.” Retirement isn’t for everybody and while some employees dream of the day their lives become filled up with fishing poles, rocking chairs and motor homes, others don’t. A former pilot with 30 years and 30,000 hours of Part 121 experience is perfectly suited to set and supervise the technical intricacies of airline standards and one of them ended up being his choice. The airline benefited by filling the position with someone of vast experience while an ex- pilot no longer felt cut adrift and is able to keep his juices flowing.

Let’s talk about moonlighting. Some airlines have strict policies prohibiting outside employment. You certainly don’t want to jeopardize a solid high $$$ job by picking up (what may amount to) loose change on days off.

Two cautions should be mentioned here. Aside from most airlines prohibiting its pilots from outside flying for compensation there’s other risks. Under FAA Part 121 you are limited to flying 100 hours per month and 1,000 hours per year. Any flying you do outside of the airline must be reported and included in those maximums or you are violating the regs. Airline do not look kindly on pilots running up against the 30 hours in 7 days regulations either. Say you fly for a local company on your day off and earlier this week you flew 3 hours one day. The next trip sequence that begins tomorrow on your airline schedule is built to 28 hours. Legally you must drop some portion of your schedule to be legal. With your outside flying, you’d end up flying 31 hours in 7 days and that’s a no-no. In airline vernacular not being able to fly because you’ve flown the legal limit is known as “timing out.” Sometimes “timing out” is unavoidable such as when delays bloat the legal schedule and 28 hours becomes more. In those cases the airline must remove you from finishing your trip schedule. They do not like doing this but they recognize it as being just one of those unavoidable things that can be caused by weather, ramp delays and so forth. However your outside flying would not be received by your employer with the same yielding attitude.

Another risk of outside flying is involvement in an incident, accident or violation. The serious ramifications to your airline job should be obvious. What a sorry situation you’d create for yourself to get caught-up in some violation that puts a substantial airline job on the chopping block.

Naturally a potential injury is something no one wants but becoming injured on a second job is probably worse because it is avoidable. One pilot for a major airline (with a strict policy against outside flying) was moonlighting as a fill-in pilot on a private corporation’s jet. After completing a short trip the pilot was helping the tug driver hook-up the tow bar to push the jet into the hangar. Long story/short…the pilot’s hand got jammed while fastening the tow bar to the tug and was crushed. After re-constructive surgeries and a year of physical therapy the pilot got his medical back but the airline fired him. In this same vein, a mechanic who gets hurt working part time on somebody’s car is taking a chances. So, although many airline employees do have gigs on the side, most are careful about risk-taking and stay comfortably far away from any window of vulnerability. There is no reason to be too scared to get out of bed in the morning; just use common sense and be careful. It is something to keep in mind.

There are no guarantees, assurances or absolutes in a pilot career. Even as you are preparing for what hopefully will be a successful pilot career it’s a good idea to keep a backup plan in mind just in case your career needs that first aid kit that is found in the Boy Scout’s backpack.

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Sources:

1 – http://www.tilmongroup.com/images/JAT%20Full%20Bio%20January%202013.pdf

Aviation Degree Programs: Taking a Look at What’s Available

Mark Overman

Getting started in the aviation industry can be a daunting task, especially if you’re a newcomer and have caught the aviation bug. Fortunately, there are great aviation degree programs that are tailored to both pilots and non-pilots. When selecting a training program there two main considerations we will discuss. The first is a question you have to ask yourself: What kind of career you want in aviation? The second question is: what are you willing to do in order to get the training you need in order to get there.

Before we get started it is important to understand is that working in the aviation industry is a profession much like everything else. Whether you intend on flying airplanes, controlling them, working on them or managing companies that do, a college degree will not hurt in the slightest. Understand that you should pursue the amount of education that is consistent with your goals. If you intend on working in upper management or flying airplanes for a major airline, having a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree (more for you management types) will make you extremely competitive. However, if your goal is working on airplanes, ensure you have the certification necessary in order to achieve that goal. Really in order to find out exactly what aviation degree programs are best for you, it depends on your dreams and goal.

Once you figure out what it is that you want to do in the aviation industry, now you have to figure out how to get there. With that being said, don’t be frightened, most schools and programs have student counselors that are trained to ensure you meet your education and training goals. In my opinion, the best way to tackle any type of career training is to get training done concurrently. By that I mean if you want to be a pilot, mechanic or controller, then find a program that offers credit for the technical side (FAA training) and that credit can be applied to degree granting programs. This allows the future aviation industry hopefully to earn a degree while receiving the necessary technical training required attains proper FAA certification.

There are many great aviation programs that participate or partner with degree granting institutions. Find the school or program the best fits not only your goals, but your time. There are many students who must work or maintain a household that may need a flexible class schedule. Many universities and schools offer aviation degrees online, where the student can approach their education on their own time. Much like “brick and mortar” institutions, these online aviation programs have knowledgeable instructors, grant college credit for applicable training and provide first rate educational experience for the student. There are various degree types, much like the traditional campus programs. Online aviation degree programs range from associates degrees (two year) bachelor’s degrees (four year), master’s degrees (range from two to three years) and graduate certifications (time varies).

Whatever your dream career within the aviation industry there are many avenues to take in order to achieve your goals. Having a clear vision of what career you want to pursue is the first big hurdle. After that, deciding on what aviation degree program to participate in and the manner in which you achieve is your second step. After all the gut-wrenching decisions, enrolling in the course and going through any aviation degree program is the fun part. Finally walking away with that degree and certification make all the effort worth it!

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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.”

Aviation and Your Flight Training: Choose the Best for a Lasting Impression

Wilson Gilliam, Jr.

A paper on economic aerospace forecasting could be as thick as your computer screen is tall. Even the FAA Aerospace Forecast Fiscal Years 2015 – 2035 is nearly 140 pages long. I’m glad this post is long on brevity and to the point about how you can fit into the increasingly influential world of aviation and aerospace.

The word “aviation” may not capture the complete role that aeronautics will have on our world during the foreseeable future. Having been a pilot for almost three decades, I’ve tended to consider the flying universe in terms of my own perspective. Within the last few years, I’ve realized that the aviation / aeronautics business will have an immeasurable influence on the world and will open up a myriad of economic opportunities. There is, or will be something for everyone.

A Cessna Citation on the runway - Aviation and Flight Training: Choosing the Best

Technology is driving innovation within many aerospace subsets. Innovations in imaging are permitting the use of lighter airborne equipment. Smaller, lighter aircraft can now perform aerial observation and recording missions than ever before. Computer chip memory increases are leading to an ever increasing number of features in avionics. Turbine engines are becoming more lightweight, resulting in a popular trend to design and utilize small business jets. These advancements are resulting in an increasing number of aviation career opportunities in the following areas (not all inclusive):

  • Aircraft Crew Operations
  • Drones
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Aircraft Ground Support (FBO operations)
  • Avionics (GPS and aircraft tracking products especially)
  • Aircraft Maintenance
  • Aircraft Design
  • Computer Programming

What better way to get acquainted with this burgeoning industry than earning a pilot’s license or a college degree in aviation? Having “in the seat” experience lends pilots an edge in the aeronautical job hunt by having first-hand knowledge of the flying world at work. This physical skills interface with aviation lays a bedrock foundation for almost any aerospace occupational field.

Pursuing an aviation interest in one emphasis can open doors in another. I remember initially attempting to prepare myself to be an airline pilot. I wound up owning an aviation company with a helicopter ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) instead. Maximizing your exposure within an interest area is the first step toward longer-term success.

Reduce the chances of becoming deflated by learning from a well-established, proven organization. As you begin to make decisions about your aeronautical flight training and/or college education, align yourself with a proven provider. Having a committed, well-experienced organization on your side from the beginning will help contain those early frustrations and career growing pains that all of us have experienced.

There is no substitute for learning from the best. After earning my flight instructor’s certificate in helicopters, I traveled to New York to attend some aircraft transition training for two weeks. The instructor introduced himself to me as Bill Staubach, a retired flight instructor from Fort Rucker. Now, that was a last name that brought back memories.

A helicopter flying with a pilot and flight instructor

The only Staubach that I’d ever known was stitched to the first name of “Roger” and threw a football for the Dallas Cowboys during my childhood. I figured that anyone with that last name couldn’t be bad at anything. I was right about Bill. He flew a helicopter just about like Roger threw a football. The funny thing is that they really were related. Bill is Roger’s uncle.

Before I flew with Bill, I had only performed some well-managed, full-touchdown autorotations. The instructor’s hands were always nudging the controls like Mother Goose and I never knew which one of us was pulling or pushing on what (and that’s not a good thing). Imagine my surprise as I flared too high for our first auto and I noticed Bill to my left, arms folded tapping his feet and hardly paying attention. He was singing…

Oh Susanna, don’t you cry for me – ‘cause I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee.

The touchdown had nothing to do with the word “touch” and everything to do with slam, bend and panic. The result was an instructor-controlled hop back to the pad and prolonged stint in the classroom, talking about RANT (RPM, Airspeed, Normal Rate of Decent, Touchdown Point). He must have asked me 3,000 times – “What are three indications of an engine failure?” He knew that I knew the answer (needle split, left yaw and quiet). He was ingraining it in my memory like chipping hieroglyphics into a stone tablet. Bill’s skill as a flight instructor challenged me to be a better, more confident pilot. I believe that I passed along Bill’s etiquette and fundamentals to my own students after that.

Giving yourself an edge by lining yourself up with the best is an advantage that you cannot afford to miss out on. If your flight lessons are the first venture into aviation, then your contact with the training school will result in a long lasting impression. Hint: Make sure it’s the right school. The impression will serve to educate and motivate you into remaining engaged in one of many aviation careers.

The aeronautical / aviation industry will have a tremendous influence on the world’s economy in the coming generation. Why not be a part of it? No matter what your age, there’s going to be room for everyone that’s interested. Not only can you work in an exciting environment, the freedom will exist to “spread your wings” to other industry areas as you fly along.

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Bush Pilot Training and Mud Flying – Say Again?

Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady

Often pilots who fly small to medium-sized aircraft as a means of amassing hours to vie for positions with the airlines and cargo planes are likely to become bored with consistently flying prescribed routes and filing the same flight plans. In comparison, there is a category of pilots who enjoys the challenge of flying in adverse conditions and who does not care about earning a large salary: bush pilots. They are highly respected for their flying skills which include the ability to avoid flying by the numbers and to use unregistered airfields or no airfields at all; in essence, it requires the mastery of the “flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” technique. At first glance, it appears to be dangerous and disconcerting, but with the proper bush pilot training, it is neither.

The realities of becoming a bush pilot may be summed up as follows:

  • Being away from home for long periods of time.
  • Expecting to live in accommodations that range from the more traditional hotels or motels to camping out in the back of the aircraft.
  • Existing on a more modest salary.

The journey to becoming a bush pilot begins with obtaining a PPL (a private pilot’s license) and subsequently obtaining CPL (commercial pilot’s license). If as a bush pilot, you plan on ferrying passengers, an ATPL (air traffic pilot’s license) is required and this can take up to five years if it is taken on a part-time basis. The financial investment can range from $10,000.00 up to $50,000.00 depending upon how intensive the pilot’s attention is to the course as well as how cheaply an aircraft and an instructor can be retained. Passing the theoretical portion of the bush pilot training demands a significant amount of studying and writing of exams while passing the practical portion of the bush pilot training demands the ability to cope with abnormal conditions, such as removing ice from the control surfaces of the aircraft because it was frozen overnight. Flying in rural settings in Africa sometimes requires overcoming conditions generated by the indigenous wildlife, such as when the tires on the aircraft needed to be changed because the lions had chewed them up, or the pilot needed to make an extra pass to chase the elephants off the runway prior to landing.

Obviously, before a pilot can be paid for any type of flying, he or she must meet the FAA’s minimum requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English
  • Have at least a PPL or higher pilot’s license certificate from the FAA
  • Have a minimum of 250 hours of flying experience
  • Have your logbook endorsed by a CFI (certified flight instructor) to confirm the aforementioned ratings and experience
  • Pass all practical and theoretical tests to earn a commercial pilot’s license. Most flight programs that offer commercial pilot’s training, offer a program for students to earn this type of certificate.

Some bush pilots at an airport, fueling their aircraft - Bush Pilot Training

Once the commercial pilot’s license has been obtained, there are specialized flight schools that offer bush pilot training which typically includes training to fly aircraft that are equipped with floats, skis or tundra wheels since [even unregulated] airports, landing strips, roads, and other vestiges of civilization are virtually nonexistent in the bush. These flight schools provide training in abnormal conditions, including landing on lakes, gravel bars on riverbanks, and frozen lakes during the winter months. In Alaska, it is not uncommon to travel by snowmobiles during the winter due to a lack of roads and waterways that have frozen solid.

The choice of environment in which the bush pilot chooses to fly determines what type of aircraft and type of work he or she will be flying, as well as the demands of the required courses and flying lessons, which can range from a few hours to a week. On an average, a ski plane and a glacier landing training class will take five hours at a cost of approximately $1800.00, and will include two nights of lodging. In comparison, a sea-plane refresher course will cost approximately $180.00 per hour while a bush and mountain flying course will take five hours of ground school and five hours of flight time costing approximately $1400.00 with two nights of lodging. An advanced bush pilot training course can require up to five days, including five to seven hours of ground school plus five to seven hours of flight time that covers mountain flying, river landings, and high altitude lakes. Learning to fly under such extreme conditions challenges and sharpens a pilot’s skills to enable him or her to expertly function in the remote sections of Alaska, Canada, or in other off-airport conditions. He or she will learn to take off and land under conditions that conventional pilots consider to be impossible or extremely dangerous, as well as learn precision flying which develops the ability to take off and land in very confined spaces safely and confidently (Pieterse, 2008).

In 1932, extreme conditions in Alaska once again indicated that “ingenuity is the mother of invention” when Alaskan aviators invented “mud flying” during a medical emergency. Bush pilot Jerry Jones was able to land on a glacier with skis but a lack of snow would not permit him to take off again. The local fire department lent its assistance by flooding the dirt runway at the airport with its fire hoses which transformed it into mud thereby allowing the pilot to take off. A similar situation played out in Valdez, South America in 1933 when bush pilot Bob Reeve aided in opening up access to the mining of the mineral riches in a nearby area which required landing when the snow was absent to locate the quartz deposits. Approximately two miles from Valdez, he located a tide-water area that at low tide offered a flat surface composed of fine clay silt and wet goose grass where he could land his Fairchild 51 on skis. By keeping the skis on year-round which facilitated the mudflat innovative landing, Reeve was able to encourage the Valdez boom even further. Reeve continued to fly on the mudflats in Valdez until World War II when he supported the military in Northway and the Aleutian Islands (Mondor, 2015).

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Sources and References:

Mondor, C. (2015). “When Alaska Aviators Invented Mud Flying.” Retrieved on February 6, 2016

Pieterse, C. (2008). “How to Become a Bush Pilot.” Retrieved on February 6, 2016

Commercial Pilot Requirements: Everything You Need to Know

John Peltier

It’s easy to get discouraged from pursuing your dreams when you take a quick glance at the requirements to be a commercial pilot. I went through the same thing. But you know what? It’s really not as hard as it seems. Here we’ll break down the commercial pilot requirements, both from a regulatory perspective and also a practical perspective.

FAA Commercial Pilot Requirements

Here it is, interpreted straight from Federal Aviation Regulations Part 61, Subpart F.

General Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible to be a commercial pilot, a candidate must be 18 years of age. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be 18 to start your training – you just have to be 18 years old by the time you go take your practical test. It is possible to get your commercial pilot license the day you turn 18 if you work hard at meeting all of your flight experience for the commercial pilot requirements before you turn 18.

You must also be able to read, write, and speak the English language. There is a provision for those with certain disabilities. For example, if a learning disability prevents proper writing, the FAA may still grant the commercial pilot license with certain restrictions.

A female flight instructor in an airplane cockpit - Commercial Pilot Requirements

Photo by: H Michael Miley

You’ll also need to be endorsed by an authorized flight instructor. The instructor is giving you their blessing that you are prepared to take the required exams. It is possible to learn all of your ground knowledge through self-study, but this doesn’t mean you won’t be spending time in ground school with an instructor. They’ll still need to evaluate all of your knowledge (and they will find holes!) before sending you off for your tests. The endorsements are required before taking your written “knowledge” test and also before taking your practical test – the “final exam”.

While you may be able to do most of your ground training on your own, the flight standards are high and the flight training will need to be done with an authorized instructor. Meaning you can’t take your buddy who is a licensed helicopter pilot, go out flying every day in an airplane, and log training towards your commercial pilot requirements for an airplane.

You will also need to meet aeronautical experience requirements. Put simply, the FAA will not grant a commercial license to a pilot who hasn’t spent a lot of time in the air. It takes a lot of flight time in different flight conditions to obtain skills necessary to be a competent commercial pilot. These are the aeronautical experience requirements – flight time in different conditions, and they’ll be discussed shortly.

As previously mentioned, you’ll need to pass a practical test. This involves an oral exam with an FAA flight examiner and then a flight where you will show him that you are ready to be a pilot at the commercial level.

It should also go without saying that to get a commercial pilot license, you need to hold at least a private pilot license first.

The final paragraph of Part 61.123, Eligibility Requirements, states that you must comply with the sections of these regulations that apply to the aircraft category and class rating. Things like don’t fly while intoxicated, maintain an appropriate medical clearance, wear oxygen masks when required, etc.

Specific Commercial Pilot Requirements

You’ll need to have a good understanding of many different aeronautical subjects. FAR Part 61.125 lists areas of aeronautical knowledge required for a commercial pilot applicant. These are the knowledge areas you’ll be tested on for both your written knowledge test and the oral practical test. I won’t list them all here; the entire list is available in FAR Part 61.125. They include all Federal Aviation Regulations that pertain to commercial pilot operations in your aircraft category and class, accident reporting requirements, aerodynamics, weather, aeronautical decision-making, and night operations.

An R22 Instrument panel - Commercial Pilot Requirements

Photo by: Marg

Now on to the flight proficiency part of commercial pilot requirements. Part 61.127 is about flight proficiency – these are the areas of flight training that you’ll need to do with an authorized instructor. The FAA examiner will test you on these procedures during your practical test. Again, the list is extensive so we’ll just list a few things here. They include: preflight procedures, performance maneuvers, navigation, ground reference maneuvers, and emergency operations. There are different commercial pilot requirements based on if you are pursuing a license in single-engine airplanes, multi-engine airplanes, rotorcraft, powered-lift, gliders, airships, or balloons. Some people pick up these skills right away while others may take a little extra training – be prepared for this and don’t get discouraged!

You will also need to have logged a certain amount of flight time under various conditions. FAR Part 61.29 lists these requirements, and again, they vary between different aircraft categories and classes. Except for gliders, airships, and balloons, they do all require that you log at least 100 hours of pilot-in-command time. This is probably the biggest requirement to get past due to the investment in time and money required. You’ll also need a number of cross-country hours – 50 for airplanes, 10 for helicopters. The FAA also requires a minimum of 20 hours of training with an instructor in the areas of flight proficiency mentioned in the previous paragraph. The good thing is that these will all count towards your 100 hours!

Other Commercial Pilot Requirements

Now that we got all the dry requirements out of the way, let’s quickly discuss other responsibilities of becoming a commercial pilot.

The hard work, dedication, and studying will never end. It’s especially intense while you’re going through your training, but that won’t be the end of it. You’ll constantly have to stay abreast of new technologies and regulations, and study up on the things you may have forgotten. I make it a point to go back and study a subject once a week. It could be airspace weather minimums, emergency procedures, or physiology. The FAA grants you the privilege of flying other people around in compensation for money. Isn’t that amazing? Don’t abuse this privilege and don’t take it lightly.

Along with this is maintaining a clean life outside of your flying as well. Stay out of trouble with the law and don’t do anything to jeopardize your medical clearance. Your job will depend on this!

In Conclusion

Becoming a commercial pilot requires a significant investment in both time and money. Be sure that you’re capable of meeting these requirements before starting your training.

This just about sums up the commercial pilot requirements! There’s just something special about flying – once you get the taste of it, it’ll stick with you forever. And to be paid to do this?! Only in dreams, right? Well, now that you’re starting the journey to become a commercial pilot, that’s one dream that can come true.

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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

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Flight Attendant Training: It’s More than the Seat Belt Demo

If the public had a clue as to how necessary flight attendants are and how rigorous the airline flight attendant training programs are, they’d can their stupid comments.

Vern Weiss

They are there neither to serve you a beverage nor bring you a pillow. That’s what the airline’s marketing departments tell them they should do but it’s not their function. They are flight attendants … air host and hostesses … stewards and stewardesses and they are there for only one reason: to save your life if something goes horribly wrong. It’s a proud profession and tough to enter and equally tough to do.

Flying as a captain for one airline, I was inbound one night to New York’s LaGuardia airport. With 106 people on board, it was the last leg of a long day that started out in Tampa. Due to a hurricane nudging its way up the East coast all occupants in our plane had enjoyed our flight as much as anyone might being dragged on a pothole-filled street in a bathtub. Passengers were crabby and had been taking it out on the exhausted flight attendants all day. As usual in lousy weather, LaGuardia was stacked up and New York Center moved us from one holding fix to another, ostensibly inching us closer to the airport. Although the flight ordinarily took one hour we had been in the air 2-1/2 hours.

As the air traffic controller issued yet another holding clearance, hail began to pound our fuselage. The flight interphone chimed and I answered. The “B” flight attendant said the gentleman in seat 23-C was having chest pains. As is procedure, she made a PA announcement asking if any medical professionals were on board. No. Meanwhile, the first officer was busy convincing Approach Control to give us priority handling into LaGuardia. The airspace was thick with airplanes, every one of them filled with passengers similarly without cheer. Aircraft in a sorry state like ours get priority so we were cleared to leave the holding pattern for immediate radar vector headings to a “conga line” to join the airplanes on the approach. This would still take us north of New York City but then we’d double back and land to the south.

flight attendant trainingAnother call to the cabin and I could hear babies crying behind the flight attendant’s taught voice and what sounded like a guy angrily yelling. She’s doing all she could but 23-C is now sweating profusely and his color is changing. To my right, the first officer is arranging for an ambulance to meet us on the ground. A lady in 5-B then pushes the flight attendant’s call button. The “A” attendant breaks off the commotion around seat 23-C to check on what 5-B needs. 5-B thinks she’s having a baby. “…make that TWO ambulances.”

We are cleared for the approach…I call for flaps. Behind me, the flight attendants are doing cabin checks in the midst of telling 5-B to breathe while watching 23-C for signs to start CPR. They’re running through the before-landing PA announcement like an auctioneer. “Breathe ma’am!” “Hang on, sir!” Glide slope intercept. “Landing gear down”. Flight attendants rushing around to configure the cabin for landing. “Full flaps.” One last plea to 5-C to “BREATHE!” then the “A” attendant hustles to strap in her seat. Passengers see the parking lot lights at window level. Meanwhile, the “B” attendant loosens 23-C’s shirt collar, adjusts the fresh air directed to his face, scurries to her fold-down seat and straps in. Ten seconds later our main landing gear touches down on runway 22.

For flight attendants, it’s all in a day’s work. And very likely on that flight, there were passengers who went home grousing that the flight attendants didn’t offer drink refills.

So, What Does a Flight Attendant Do?

Let’s cut through it all and talk about why a flight attendant is there in the first place. He or she exists to evacuate the aircraft if something bad happens. When an airplane crashes, ditches, skids off a runway or its cabin fills with smoke, the flight attendants are responsible for getting the passengers out. Don’t rely too much on that doofus occupying the seat next to the emergency exit. Like most passengers he was ignoring the flight attendant’s safety announcement and will probably not be able to figure out how to operate the mechanism anyway. In addition, he’ll be crushed and immobilized by people crowding him against the exit. Add to the mix a fuselage that’s upside-down, in water or filled with smoke or fire and it’s no scenario for an amateur. It is the flight attendants who will get the exits open, escape slides activated and people moved out without life-threatening gridlock in the cabin.

flight attendant training

Photo by roman ring

The FAA manual titled Flight Standards Information System (FSIMS) is a repository containing documentation, interpretation, and guidance for FAA inspectors. It’s used for certification and operations of commercial operators. Although regulations specify the criteria1 and duty/rest periods for flight attendants2 it was not until 1985 that the FAA made a legal interpretation to define the flight attendant’s job.3 And here it is: “Safety briefings, Compliance checks of seat belt fastening, Conducting passenger briefings, Ensuring passenger compliance with stowage of the food and beverage tray, Ensuring passenger compliance with the seatbelt and no smoking placards/lights, Checking for the proper stowage of carry-on baggage, Attending distressed passengers, or Responding to emergency situations.” As you see there’s no mention of providing beverage service or pillows. (Those come from the company’s marketing department.)

Flight attendants (or “FAs”) working for FAA Part 121, 125 or 135 operators fall under strict regulations. This is not the case for a flight attendant working for a Part 91 corporate aviation department. Corporate Part 91 flight attendants very often exist primarily for passenger comfort whereas the air carrier flight attendant is a safety role.

FAs belong to a branch of the Flight Operations department called “inflight.” The phrase “inflight” is used casually to describe those holding the position of a flight attendant (as in saying “Who’s working inflight?” instead of “Who are the flight attendants?”).

Until 2003, FAs were not required to be certificated in the US. The certification process is simple. An air carrier’s Director of Operations confirms that a flight attendant has completed its airline flight attendant training course and submits an application for a Flight Attendant Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency. The certificate need not be carried by the flight attendant but must be produced within 15 days if requested by the FAA or National Transportation Safety Board.4

All About the Airline Flight Attendant Training Programs

So what does the airline flight attendant training program involve? Commercial operators requiring compulsory FAs produce a manual approved word-for-word by the FAA. This “bible” is called the company’s Operations Manual and in it is specified what the company agrees to do to train their inflight personnel. More likely than not, the airline flight attendant training programs greatly exceed the spartan requirements found in the regulations. The Sunday newspapers are full of advertisements from schools offering to train you as a flight attendant. This may make training easier but you will still have to pass the airline flight attendant training program of the specified air carrier for which you are hired.

The training is pretty standard between all airlines with variations necessitated by different aircraft configurations. Some airlines use flight attendants on every type of aircraft they fly while others don’t. Aircraft complexity limits the number that one should fly, but it was more ironed-out in negotiations between the airline and its flight attendants’ union.

Initial airline flight attendant training typically runs run no less than 3 weeks and no more than 8 weeks. The Operations Manual specifies what you will spend in classroom lectures. 95% of your flight attendant training program will be safety-related. You will practice evacuation drills, CPR, and first aid, operation of emergency equipment, safety demonstrations, fire fighting and learn about aviation security. Given the unmindful obsession many passengers have with it, you may be surprised to learn that very little of training is devoted to customer service! It’s very expensive to train flight attendants so the airline wants you producing as soon as possible. So most of what you will learn about passenger amenities comes after you are actually on the job.

Airlines either own their own simulators (or lease them from other companies), and this is where the bulk of your training will occur. You will memorize, practice and be graded on all the announcements but that’s not the “fun stuff.” Your simulator is a mock-up of an actual fuselage. In it, you will experience all sorts of adverse conditions like smoke in the cockpit, severe turbulence, and even ditching. Yep. Be sure to bring a swimsuit because you will evacuate your classmates in a swimming pool built just for this training purpose.

In the last phase of your training, you will be paired with an experienced flight attendant who will fly with you on live, passenger-carrying trips. This final portion of your preparation is called “I.O.E” (Initial Operating Experience). You will work the flight as if you are already qualified but the IOE instructor will be making a final check of your abilities. This ordinarily amounts to a 2 to 4 day trip but can be extended if you need a little more time.

Although fading into obscurity, many airlines still have height and weight requirements. These are not meant to discriminate against anyone. They exist because height and weight may preclude some from being capable of performing the physical demands of their duties. Age requirements are essentially non-existent. In fact, I know a man in his sixties who retired from a career as a bank president! I asked him why he wanted the job of a flight attendant and he said he loved travel, talking to people and hated the rocking chair.

Next time you watch a flight attendant go through their demo with the seat belt and oxygen mask remember that they are even more bored with it than you are, BUT they HAVE to do it. If they don’t, an incognito inspector can bring a violation against them, their airline or even shut down the company. More importantly, someone who IS paying attention may get some vital information that could save their life. Now doesn’t that make drink refills and pillows seem awfully silly?

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:

1 – Federal Aviation Regulations 14 CFR Part 121 Section 381 Flight Attendants
2 – 14 CFR 121.467 – Flight attendant duty period limitations and rest requirements: Domestic, flag, and supplemental operations
3 – Flight Standards Information System 8900.1 Vol III Chapter 33 Sec. 4 (Para. 3-3513)
4 – http://www.faa.gov/other_visit/aviation_industry/airline_operators/airline_safety/info/all_infos/media/2008/info08016.pdf

Dispelling Three Myths About Flying an Airplane

Toni Mensching

The military definitely isn’t the only group who will train you to fly airplanes. It may be one of the few groups who will pay you while you learn to fly, but it certainly isn’t the only place you can learn to fly an airplane. The fact that the military will pay you while they teach you about flying an airplane is one of the reasons they are able to be much more choosey: To be a military pilot candidate you must meet a litany of requirements.

Don’t fret though; you can still be a pilot if you don’t meet all those requirements. You don’t have to train in the military to fly several types of aircraft such as airliners, private airplanes and helicopters, stunt planes and crop dusters. To learn to fly civilian private aircraft here in the US, you need only meet the requirements set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (the FAA). These requirements are vastly different than military requirements and almost always less restrictive.

Myth 1: Flying an Airplane is Not an Option if You’re Colorblind

If you’ve ever seen the Jennifer Aniston film We’re the Millers, you might recall the scene where young Kenny discovers he is colorblind. This results in him having a meltdown on the side of a desert road after his pretend sister tells him he can’t be a pilot since he’s colorblind. Even if you haven’t seen the film, it’s easy to sympathize with Kenny. In the real world, your dreams don’t have to be dashed by your fake sister’s assumptions. While a certain severity of color vision deficiency might disqualify you from flying an airplane in the military, most color vision deficiencies are allowable in civilian flying. This means you may still be able to fly airplanes like private jets, airliners or biplanes.

Boeing Airliner in Flight - Dispelling Three Myths about Flying an Airplane

Those who are colorblind are sometimes allowed to train after completing a simple test which demonstrates their abilities despite colorblindness. Pilots must be able to know and understand a variety of signals and light configurations when flying an airplane. Some of these lights are red, green, yellow, blue or white. You might be colorblind, but if you can differentiate between these light colors during a real world test, then you may still be able to fly airplanes. Many pilots have completed this process. If you would like to know more about it, check out this page on AOPA’s website for more information.

Myth 2: Flying an Airplane Requires Pilots to Have Perfect Vision

The same goes for those of us who don’t have perfect 20/20 vision. Pilots are not required to be perfect, nor are they required to have perfect vision. In most cases, pilots do, however, need to have vision that is at least corrected to 20/20. If you wear glasses or contacts, you will be required to wear those glasses or contacts any time you are flying airplanes. So if you lose your glasses one day, your feet are glued to the ground until you get a new pair.

Myth 3: You Can’t Fly if You’re Short

We all know Tom Cruise is rather short. Yet in Top Gun he flies fighter jets, saves the day, and gets the girl. Some people aren’t aware that during the filming of Top Gun great efforts were made to have Tom Cruise, while playing Maverick, appear taller than he really is. The purpose for this might have been rooted in military height limitations for certain pilots. Some cockpits can only fit a person between say 5 feet 4 inches and 6 feet 4 inches tall. Any shorter or taller and you simply can’t fit in the plane and fly it safely. Maybe your knees get in the way of the controls or your feet can’t reach the pedals. While some military aircraft are not accommodating to vertically challenged people, civilian aircraft seats are typically adjustable in a number of ways. In some aircraft, the pedals adjust as well as the seat. There is no law or agency that will stop you from learning to fly most types of aircraft just because you are excessively short or tall.

In Conclusion

There you have it. You can be short, colorblind, and nearsighted and still spend your life flying airplanes. Find your local flight school and get started.

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Careers in Aviation: Opportunities Outside of the Airlines

Bryce Bailey

Professional pilot. What was the first image you just thought of? If it was an airline pilot, you’re probably like most everyone else in the country. There are many opportunities to earn a living in a variety of careers in aviation outside of the traditional airline track, however! Below are a few options to get you started.

Agricultural Careers in Aviation

Also known as “crop dusters”, ag pilots perform a critical function for the farmers of America’s agricultural industry. According to the National Agricultural Aviation Association, there are approximately 2,700 ag pilots in the United States with an average age exceeding 50 years old (2015). These pilots will soon be retiring, leaving a unique window of opportunity for those interested in pursuing this exciting path.

Requirements to be an ag pilot include holding a commercial pilot certificate with the respective ratings for the aircraft you’ll be flying (airplane or rotorcraft), a second class medical, a pesticide license for each state you operate in, and being able to meet the insurability requirements for the aircraft you will be flying.

Careers in AviationWhile flying is a significant aspect of the job, there’s more to being an ag pilot than just hopping into the plane or helicopter each morning. It requires a thorough understanding of the chemicals you are applying and knowledge of the crops you are working with. You can expect your first two years on the job to consist of learning the ground operations as a chemical loader before gradually transitioning to the flight side.

Additionally, ag aviation is a seasonal industry. How many crops can you think of that grow in the middle of December? During the summer, ag pilots are up before sunrise and work until the temperature gets too hot for their chemicals to be applied or until the sun goes down, whichever occurs first. In the offseason, ag pilots may work other jobs or complete continuing education in the ag industry.

Most ag pilots are paid based upon the number of acres they treat, with incomes ranging from $20,000-40,000 for first year pilots and rising to $60,000-100,000 for more experienced pilots.

For more information about an ag aviation career, just read this article about Upper Limit Aviation alum Caleb Mason.

Corporate Careers in Aviation

Corporate aviation is another opportunity for an aspiring commercial pilot. According to the NBAA, there are approximately 15,000 business aircraft registered in the United States (2015). These vary from small, single-engine piston aircraft to large, multi-engine transport category aircraft to helicopters. All of these aircraft require someone to fly them! While the first thing that may come to mind when you think of corporate aviation is a Fortune 500 flight department, according to the NBAA only 3% of the U.S. business aircraft fleet is registered to a Fortune 500 company. The rest are operated by smaller companies such as your local supermarket chain or a local law firm.

One exciting aspect of corporate aviation is the variety of airports you will operate into compared to your airline colleagues. According to the NBAA, corporate aviation reaches 10 times the number of airports that U.S. airlines operate into. Rather than fly the New York to Boston milk run for the fourth time in two days, as a corporate pilot, you may fly into Grand Island, Nebraska one day and Jackson Hole, Wyoming the next.

The minimum requirements for obtaining a job as a corporate pilot are a commercial pilot certificate and a second class medical. If the company aircraft requires a type rating, you will, of course, need that as well. Many companies, however, will have established internal hiring minimums, whether as a matter of safety or to meet applicable insurance requirements for the aircraft. Generally, the larger the company and more advanced the aircraft, the higher you can expect the requirements to be.

The pay for a corporate pilot also varies widely from $37,000 as a first officer on a small business jet to upwards of $190,000 as a captain on a Gulfstream 650, according to a 2014 survey conducted by Professional Pilot magazine (Salary study, 2014). In return for these generous salaries, however, you can often expect to be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, rather than have the predictable schedule of an airline pilot.

Charter Careers in Aviation

Careers in Aviation

Photo by Fly Jersey

Also referred to as “air taxi” or “on-demand” flying, charter aviation is very similar to corporate aviation. The main distinction is that on-demand flying operates under Part 135 of the Code of Federal Regulations while most corporate flying operates under Part 91.

While Part 91 does not have any explicit regulatory minimums, Part 135 flying does. In order to act as pilot-in-command under IFR during a Part 135 operation, you must hold a commercial pilot certificate and second class medical, have at least 1,200 hours total time, 500 hours cross country, 100 hours night flying experience, and 75 hours of instrument time. In some cases, you must hold an airline transport pilot certificate rather than just a commercial certificate. The requirements to act as pilot-in-command on a VFR flight are slightly less. In this case, you only need 500 hours total time, 100 hours cross country, and 25 hours of night flight (14 CFR Part 135, 2015).

Examples of this type of flying include Grand Canyon sightseeing flights, medical transport companies, or on-demand cargo companies flying small piston or turbo-prop airplanes between small outstations. Some charter companies do operate larger, turbine powered aircraft however.

According to the 2014 Pro Pilot study mentioned earlier, pay as a charter pilot on the low end is comparable to that of an entry-level corporate pilot, with high end salaries for a charter Gulfstream captain topping out around $149,000 per year. Pay will, of course, vary by company, aircraft type, and region.

Law Enforcement Careers in Aviation

Law enforcement aviation is another opportunity for those who are interested in being a professional pilot, but also want to serve their communities. As a law enforcement pilot, you may fly either fixed wing airplanes or helicopters. On any given day, your mission may be to provide airborne assistance to ground units in traffic enforcement, manhunt or search and rescue operations. Additionally, some state law enforcement agencies also provide executive air transport for senior state government officials (OHP, 2015).

In order to become a law enforcement pilot, many agencies require you to first spend some time as a ground based law enforcement officer to get an idea of what those officers are going through while you are in the air. Additionally, during times of budget reductions, you may be sent back to being a ground based officer if the need for aviation law enforcement manpower cannot be funded. If this does not appeal to you, you might give a second thought to this career path.

Careers in Aviation

Salaries and benefits for law enforcement pilots are often comparable to that for ground based law enforcement and varies widely by region, though the benefits and job security are often good, as with most government positions. Minimum requirements, as a rule of thumb, are a commercial pilot certificate and second class medical.

Conclusion

While being an airline pilot can be one of the great careers in aviation, don’t be a victim of tunnel-vision. There is an abundance of other opportunities available to those seeking a career as a professional pilot outside of the traditional airline track. All you have to do is find them!

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Aviation Careers: Looking at All the Available Options

If you love airplanes but are unsure if being a pilot is for you, like Heinz soup, there are 57 varieties of great aviation careers that are every bit as important and interesting.

Vern Weiss

Did I say 57 varieties? There are probably over 57 different kinds of aviation technicians alone! How d’ya choose one? And what if ‘ya find ‘ya hate it? Let’s start by illustrating the short-sighted public perception of aviation: To most people aviation consists of pilots and air traffic controllers. The End.

Boy are people that think that in W0X0F1 conditions!

Pilot Aviation Careers

OK. let’s get the pilot thing out of the way first so we can move on to the bajillion other aviation careers available. We all know there are pilots but what you may not realize is that there are very different kinds of pilots. There are business pilots, airline pilots, charter pilots, medical transport pilots, bush pilots, instructor pilots, military pilots, agricultural pilots, aerial photography/cartography pilots and the list would continue to the bottom of this page if we let it. But ask a flier who has been a pilot in two or more of these categories if being a pilot in one category is the same as flying in another, the answer would be a resounding “NO!” Flying for the airlines is vastly different than flying for a private corporation which is vastly different than flying as a charter pilot. It’s almost as different when jumping from being one kind of pilot to another as it is changing your job as a pilot to a job as a non-pilot. What makes each category different is way beyond the space available in this article but suffice it to say, there are airline pilots who hated it and quit and became corporate pilots and loved it (and vice versa).

Right now there are 58,100,000 employed in the aviation industry worldwide. With 7,391,000,000 people on planet Earth, we can infer that 1 out of every 127 people you see on the street work in aviation.2

Other Aviation Careers

You are well aware that some of the aviation job categories such as pilots and air traffic controllers require holding a medical certificate. But what if you love aviation and cannot pass the medical exam or are working in one of the areas requiring one then, unfortunately, lose it due to poor health? Fear not. There are bucket loads of other support jobs that would enable you to remain in aviation. Dispatchers, mechanics, avionics technicians, operations management, and instructors are all areas that someone who cannot pass the physical exam can enter and the bonus is that these jobs usually pay very well.

One of the features of working for an airline is the travel benefits. For this reason, many are quite willing to work in support areas such as clerical, publications, cleaning, ramp operations and customer service so they can enjoy worldwide airline travel. A word of caution here, however: Look at all the benefits offered by one company versus another and not just its travel benefits. Some airlines’ travel benefits are essentially in “name only” and are offered with lots of strings attached.

Maybe you just like being around airplanes and managing an airport would fit your lifestyle. These jobs are stable and decently compensated because they are tied to city or county bureaucracies. Not all airport manager jobs will blind you with benefits, however. There do exist some smaller airports where the airport manager is only a part-time gig. In some cases that manager is provided a trailer on the airport property to live in as part of the “compensation package.” Obviously is takes a very special set of circumstances for such an arrangement to be attractive to someone seeking a professional aviation career.

Federal Aviation Careers

Federal jobs abound in aviation. Working for the FAA as an inspector or the NTSB as an investigator is a most interesting job. The pay is good and the benefits are…well… why do you think taxes are so high? Every state has its own department of transportation and state civil service jobs are plum ways to earn a living. Ordinarily when state aviation jobs are advertised applicants are judged on a merit system and ranked by points awarded for their credentials and experience. The highest ranked person gets the job.

Air Medical Aviation Careers

One of the fastest growing aviation fields today is medical air transportation. In addition to bountiful fixed-wing and helicopter pilot opportunities, there are deep shortages for fliers as well as flight nurses, paramedics, and dispatch people. On the up-side there are bajillions of medical transportation companies sprouting up everywhere so if you’d like to live in a more remote or smaller community, the odds are great that a job will sprout up there. Do a search on the Internet and you will find little one-horse towns everywhere looking for people to run their medical flights. In addition to transporting people who are sick or injured to regional medical centers, there are many medical support companies that are in the business of providing transplant organs, blood and tissue to hospitals. When an organ becomes available and someone somewhere needs it, somebody has to fly that organ to wherever it is needed so the pressure is on and the stress high. It is no surprise that the turnover is high too but the pay is very, very good.

Military Aviation Careers

Who hasn’t dreamed of flying a super-cool military fighter jet? If you can qualify, you can. But the military also has many of the same airborne needs as any airline: dispatchers, aviation meteorologists, mechanics, and avionics to name a few. A military pilot may never set foot in a fighter jet. In fact, the military flies passenger transports aircraft such as the Boeing 737 (called a C-40A when in military use) as well as many specialty aircraft that remains hush-hush. One fighter pilot remarked to this writer that he loved getting out of the fighter squadron to fly transport in the Air Force’s C-9A (also known as a McDonnell Douglas DC-9). He said it was “shirt sleeve flying” and a nice change from flying in bulky pressure suits and helmets. Other than all the brass regalia worn by his passengers it sounded pretty much like a corporate flying job.

Which Aviation Career is Right for You?

So how do you decide which direction to go? First realize that it’s not always about the money you’ll make. Countless people are work at jobs paying obscenely high amounts of money, but they hate every morning they wake up. So figure out what you’d LOVE doing. Think about the jobs you’ve considered in the past and the ones advertised in the newspaper that you passed over because you couldn’t see yourself doing such-and-such day in and day out. It may take some time…weeks or months or even years to finally realize what you truly enjoy doing. As the saying goes, “do what you love, love what you do.”

Next, take an honest look at yourself and decide what you want and don’t want from a job. If you hate the idea of being away from your family on weekends, overnights and holidays corporate aviation might not be your thing. But if you like lots of time off and a very good paycheck, you might decide that you can “suck it up” and celebrate Christmas with your family on a different day than December 25th. Sometimes tradeoffs counter-balance the liabilities of an occupation.

If your interests or situation changes don’t be afraid to try something different. There are many aircraft mechanics who grew tired to turning a wrench and segued into the training department of an airline. Who better can explain the systems of an aircraft than a mechanic who used to work on them? Or perhaps you tire of the cubical-centric sedentary lifestyle of a dispatcher and decide you’d prefer to be out in the sunshine on the ramp, guiding in aircraft and seeing just how much abuse passenger luggage can take.

It is said that the average person changes careers at least 3 times during their lifetime. So consider what you think you may enjoy doing and try it. People who love their work often say they learned to like even the parts they once hated. They might not like something but they love their job and know that that “something” is part of what they love. If you find you really like it you will advance nicely. If you discover you hate everything about it, you eventually will probably notice everyone but you is being promoted. Disdain is hard to hide from your employer. Give yourself a break, admit you don’t like it and try something else. After all, guys like Howard Cosell, Tony LaRussa, and Jerry Springer decided after becoming lawyers that they liked other things better. And so can you.

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Footnotes and Sources:

1 This is an aviation weather term, translated it means an indefinite ceiling at ground level but they can’t be sure because the ceiling is obscured and the visibility is zero in fog.

2 http://www.atag.org/facts-and-figureshttp://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

What Do the Best Aviation Colleges Offer?

Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady

Typically, prospective students who are considering careers in the aviation industry tend to contemplate becoming pilots through aviation colleges which offer five essential pilot ratings as follows: private single engine, instrument rating, private multi-engine, commercial single and multi-engine, and certified flight instructor (CFI). In addition, the best aviation colleges usually offer courses in both fixed wing and rotary (helicopter) endorsements. This provides their students with a greater range of career opportunities.

Since prospective aviation students can anticipate a considerable investment in time and money, it is wise to investigate what financial assistance or funding is available when embarking on a lucrative flying career. Student loans, PELL grant funding, and scholarships are just a few of the types of financial assistance that are offered to qualified students by federal sources, public and private entities that can be found on the college websites and/or on individual scholarship websites.

When conducting a review of the best aviation colleges in the US, there are several criteria to take into consideration before making the commitment to enter their aviation program:

  • The location of the college.
  • The dynamics of the learning environment.
  • The learning objectives and practical application of the degree program(s).
  • The state of the training facility.
  • The job opportunities offered or guaranteed before or after successful graduation from the program.

In addition, here are some questions to consider when entertaining prospective aviation colleges:

  • Do you want to attend an aviation college that is local to your permanent home residence to avoid living on or off campus, away from home, which will incur additional room and board expenses?
  • What is the instructor to student ratio? Is it relatively small to avoid becoming lost in a cavernous lecture hall with little or no interaction with your instructor?
  • Specifically, what are the learning objectives of the degree program that is of interest to you? And what can you do with it (practical application) once you have graduated?
  • Are the training facilities state-of-the-art with access to the most updated flight simulators, aircraft, and avionics for example?
  • Does the college-of-interest guarantee job placement either during enrollment in their degree program and/or following graduation?

Each college publishes their general policies applying to all degrees as well as the minimum requirements for each degree program, such as a minimum of 120-semester credit hours numbered from 1000 to 4999 for all bachelor degrees; the minimum GPA requirements for all coursework for the major as well as for all work taken at the college; and whether a major, composite major or dual major are required with a completion of the specific requirements for one of the bachelor degrees offered by the college. Many universities have extended their programs beyond the traditional on-campus classes to include online courses and/or hybrid courses. Generally, however, there are limitations for the number of courses that can be completed online as well as which courses (major versus non-major/elective) as well as the number of the level (lower division, 1000 to 2999 versus upper division 3000 to 4999) of the courses that must be completed. Coursework and degree program questions, as well as financial aid, can be directed to the academic advising office, the registrar’s office, and/or the financial aid office via telephone, email, or website link.

Researching the anticipated investment in time and money required to enter and to remain in an aviation degree program and the financial assistance that is available to qualified students is important. Investigating the salaries and career potential to recoup that payout is also of vital importance. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for commercial pilots is expected to increase by approximately nine percent through 2022. The median/average salary for commercial pilots is estimated to be $75,000.00. In some cases, this may be only part-time in nature which leaves other income opportunities, such as serving as flight instructors, military pilots, corporate pilots, aerial photography, news or traffic reporting, fire-fighting, and tourism. Another career consideration is to create a niche for yourself if such a niche does not yet exist, like opening and operating an aviation-related business such as a flight school or your own service ferrying aircraft for clients. This allows you to utilize the skills learned when completing a multiple-disciplinary bachelor’s degree.

The Internet provides access to a myriad of aviation-oriented websites. These sites give a significant amount of data and information regarding the business projections for aircraft manufacturers, aviation careers, commercial and private pilots, and so forth. And the FAA website offers information pertaining to certificates, licenses, regulations, policies, aircraft, pilots, and unmanned aircraft systems. Although the Internet allows prospective students a tremendous amount of latitude regarding a virtual tour of aviation colleges, at times it is more advantageous to schedule an in-person tour of the college(s) that have been “short-listed.” This can help you gain a better sense of the learning environment and facilities to ensure the most successful student experience.

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