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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Pilot Challenges...


A pilot sent me his concern for today's challenge of becoming a pilot. I'm finding a difficult time identifying the value in any of this for safety.

This is what he wrote: 
New ATP/CTP Course Requirement Prior to sitting for the ATP Written. These can cost between $4995 and $13000. Some flight schools or higher institutes of learning may 'pay' or include this, but you have to commit to getting a degree or staying at the flight school for 12-18 months.

61.153 (e) After July 31, 2014, for an airline transport pilot certificate, must receive a graduation certificate from an authorized training provider certifying completion of the airline transport pilot certification training program specified in §61.156 before applying for the knowledge test required.
Here are the course requirements: 

61.156 Training requirements: 

Must present a graduation certificate from an authorized training provider under part 121, 135, 141, or 142 of this chapter certifying the applicant has completed the following training in a course approved by the Administrator. 

(a) Academic training. The applicant for the knowledge test must receive at least 30 hours of classroom instruction that includes the following: 8 hours of instruction on aerodynamics, 2 hours of instruction on meteorology, 14 hours of instruction on air carrier operations, 6 hours of instruction on leadership, professional development, crew resource management, and safety culture.
(b) FSTD training. 10 hours of training in a flight simulation training. 6 hours of training in a Level C, remaining may be completed in a Level 4 or higher.

Can Qualify for a ATP restricted rating with less hours if met any of the following, per 61.160

750 hours - U.S. military pilot or former U.S. military pilot
1000 hour – Bachelor’s degree with aviation major, 60 semester hours aviation coursework, commercial license
1250 hours – Associate’s Degree with aviation major, 30 semester hours aviation coursework, commercial license

So, the people in my small niche which have no aviation degree and a good amount of hours but need more (I have 969, 1500 needed, since I don't qualify for any of the restricted hours) have to find a way to build those hours. Flight schools are leery as they suspect you might leave after getting to the 1500 hours, and try to lock you in for 12-18 months by offering to include the ATP/CPT or having to pay back training costs if you leave earlier than the 12-18 months. Same for part 135 charter operators - want to lock you in to 12-18 months or you have to pay back thousands of dollars of 'training' costs since you're not ATP certified."

What do you think?

Does this pilot shortage inducing effect create another level of safety... or does it prevent potential pilots from reaching their dreams?

I am off to school for the week in Florida, followed by a trek to recurrent training. Brain expansion in process.

Enjoy the journey!
XO Karlene


  1. Of course this is another level of safety. This law wasn't just a random royal decree from some un-checked authority, it is the product of years of investigating, debating, and wrangling with industry and safety representatives. The gaps in safety discovered in the investigation of Colgan 3407 were widespread and systemic, not just a Colgan Air problem but an industry problem. Some of those gaps were deemed too expensive to fix, but this law helps.

    What about the negatives? The airlines want cheap pilots, and pilots want to be cheap pilots. Historically, until the mid-'90s, cheap pilots flew small prop planes doing pipeline patrols, running checks, hauling banners, and flying commuters. By the time pilots were experienced enough to apply at the airlines, they had 5000+ very expensive and hard-won hours. Then the late '90s brought explosive growth of contract "regional" carriers with rapidly growing airplanes. Suddenly, cheap pilots were flying jet airliners across the country, for companies that only a few years prior had been flying small props. They had rudimentary training and evaluations for their pilots, few rules or limits on scheduling, and very little oversight from a shrinking FAA. It was simply a disaster waiting to happen, and then it did.

    Not to minimize the efforts and sacrifices being made by young pilots today, but you are not being given such an unfair burden. In the early '90s, new pilots didn't get paid much if anything while they built hours toward the thousands needed to get into one of the nine or so major airlines in the U.S. Pay-to-fly was a thing, a real thing, that a lot of us did to build hours. If you were lucky enough to get paid anything to fly, you did whatever your employer asked, or found yourself replaced.

    Why did we do it? Passion. And the lure of huge paychecks and retirements and glamour and prestige. Why aren't young people reaching their dreams today? Lack of passion. And lack of huge paychecks and retirements and glamour and prestige. Everything that attracted and drove young pilots is greatly diminished today. To blame this law for lack of new pilots is to ignore history, and human nature.

    1. Thank you so much for the comment! I will reply. Now, I've been awake far too long in the previous 3 days, so sleep first. Class second. Tomorrow night will read with a clear brain.

    2. I am finally getting back to respond. So many issues all wrapped into one. But, rule-making takes years and what appeared to be a Colgan action was actually in place years earlier. But many regulations are not thought out concerning unintended consequences.
      But., I do know that ability and performance should be the only evaluation scale. Hours do not make better pilots, as where and how did they get them? And low time doesn't mean bad. I have seen what we think to be the opposite of experience and performance. Individuals should be analyzed based on their performance. But, when it costs 250K to get a degree and flight time and many hours short of getting a job. This career does becomes a logistic challenge for those trying to make a living. Yes, passion will carry the most challenged pilot through to the ultimately great career, if they don't give up and are willing to sacrifice a bit. Thanks for the comment and your perspective!

  2. I think more and more regional airlines are starting to realize this problem and that the only solution may be to pay for the ATP. From what I understand there are already a few regionals trying to figure out how to fit all of this into their training program (ATP written and all). I personally think if this is the case, pilots should look to instruct or get some single-pilot IFR time somewhere like Ameriflight while they're waiting to get hired at a regional and don't worry about the ATP in the meantime.

    1. Daniel, That is great advice! And the Regionals will (are) hurting for pilots. I suspect they will help if the pilot has the total time. Thank you for the comment and the great suggestion!

  3. Karlene,

    I think it is all a bunch of political garbage. But there are always ways to manipulate the new rules of the game. It is all about finding leverage, using that leverage to gain an advantage and then maximizing the potential of the newly found leverage.

    There are two things an Airline needs to operate: jets and pilots. Without that, there are no passengers. A young CFI who had the minimum number of hours but needs the ATP might think they are at a disadvantage when in reality they are like gold to the companies.

    The shrewd pilot would interview with as many companies as possible with out accepting a job but working behind the scenes to find out if there is a better deal than the one advertised. Is there a Management Pilot position, Safety officer, or other position where the company can act outside an existing contract to pay for the ATP They will say that you need to stay with the company five years. DO IT! Your not going to get your time any faster anywhere else so hang out and get your hours up. Then move to the Majors, maybe a year behind schedule but with the knowledge that you traded a year or so for the cost of the ATP. And you will still be at a Major before 35. You Win.

    1. Rob, this is excellent advice!! With a supply and demand issue, as long as they have hours, they are going to be needed. This regulation is political for sure. But I think the problem is that regulations are being made from blood on the runway, without knowing how to solve the problem.
      I'm in Florida in school for the week, just finished and heading to headquarters for recurrent. Thus delayed response. Hope you are doing great!!

  4. Excellent comments and information. Thanks all. (I am the pilot who sent this to Karlene initially.) I, at 49, have lived too much in the comfort zone of a middle management IT job. Not under any illusions that there is an easy way to get back in and not complaining. Just always leaning and growing and seeking advice and thoughts from those that are doing and those that have done. Just need to DO IT and get the hours and proficiency, not for the 'huge pay, retirements, glamour and prestige', but for the passion. - Love this community. Thanks again.

    1. Don, Thank you for the question, and the comment. I have a couple posts on building hours:

      And another:

      The key is to get out in the aviation community. Pilots who love flying will share that experience. And... you could also instruct 10 hours on the weekend with the real job. In one year you would have the time needed.

      And you will have 15 years to fly! Or 17... as the case may be.


Thank you for your comment! If your comment doesn't appear immediately, it will after I land. Enjoy the journey!