As a supplement to my previous post, I thought I’d write something about the training path to a Commercial Pilot’s Licence with Multi-Engine Instrument Rating and Frozen ATPL Credit (often referred to as a Frozen ATPL).

A couple of things – firstly, I had a PPL and around 150 flying hours before starting any commercial training but was offered a place on a cadet scheme, which involved starting again from scratch on an Integrated Course. An Integrated Course is a 15-18 month residential course offered by several schools, notably FTE Jerez, Oxford Aviation Academy, and CTC. Whilst the delivery of the material will be slightly different at each school, you’ll leave with exactly the same licence.

The same goes for Modular training. This is popular because you can usually fit your training around your job or family, and things can work out a little bit cheaper. Again, the licence at the end of it all is exactly the same.

There’s advantages and disadvantages to both methods. One isn’t better than the other, so I’ll let you do your own research and come to your own conclusions.

Let’s start with integrated training, then I’ll briefly explain the differences between integrated and modular. At most flight schools, you’ll start with ground school. At Oxford and CTC, the groundschool is completed in the UK, before travelling abroad to commence flying training. At FTE things are slightly different. Because all the training is delivered in one place, your training is divided into three phases; groundschool, groundschool and Flying together, and finally just flying. Whichever school you choose you’ll spend around 800 hours over five to seven months in the classroom, 9 to 5, five days a week, with a significant amount of study to do in your own time. The 14 subjects you’ll sit exams in are…

General Navigation
Radio Navigation
Principles Of Flight
Aircraft General Knowledge, comprising Systems, Powerplants and Electrics
Flight Planning
Human Performance
Aircraft Performance
Air Law
Operational Procedures
Mass And Balance
VFR Communications
IFR Communications

The material isn’t terribly hard, although you’ll need to be good at arithmetic, have a good grasp of trigonometry, and reasonable algebra skills. These are all things which will serve you well in your career, so it’s worth making sure you’re up to speed. The difficulty lies in the quantity of material you’ll need to digest. Everyone has a different method, but I found making notes each day in class then typing my notes up each evening helped me to retain the information better. I still have my notes now, and occasionally still refer to them!

Once groundschool is complete, your flying training can begin. Forget about whether you want to fly a Boeing or an Airbus, you’ll start by flying around 120 hours on a single engine light aircraft like a Piper Warrior or Diamond DA40. Here you’ll learn the tools of your trade, starting with visual flying. Taxying, straight and level, climbing and descending, medium and steep level turns, stalling, taking off and landing, and forced landings without power will all be covered before you move into the circuit. This is where you put all the skills you’ve learned together, taking off and flying a rectangular pattern around the airfield before landing again. You’ll fly many circuits with your instructor until he or she thinks you’re ready to be sent solo. Then you’ll taxi out and fly a circuit all by yourself. This is one of the most memorable days in your training!

After this comes visual navigation. You’ll plan a route using your map and the forecast winds, and then fly it with your instructor. As your training progresses, you’ll begin leaving the circuit on solo exercises, practicing general handling and navigation by yourself.

Then comes your first flying test, after about 50 flying hours. Often referred to as a PT1, this is a test very similar to a PPL skill test where you’ll demonstrate everything you’ve learned so far. The test is in two parts – a visual navigation exercise with a diversion, and a general handling part where you’ll demonstrate your ability to safely and competently handle the aircraft.

You then move onto the next phase of flying training. You’ll hone your general handling to make it more precise, and your navigation will become more accurate. Your instructor will start introducing you to flight by sole reference to instruments. You’ll simulate this with screens inside the aircraft that won’t allow you to see out. This will ultimately allow you to fly in poor visibility, flying standard departures and arrivals known as SIDs and STARs, Precision and Non-Precision approaches and holds, which is exactly what you’ll do when you’re flying a jet. You’re working towards your Commercial Pilot’s Licence, which is a test of visual flying, whilst starting to work towards your Instrument Rating.

Again, each school has a slightly different approach. At FTE, you sit a PT2 test after 120 hours on the Warrior, which is effectively your Commercial Pilot’s Licence Skill Test, but on a Piper Warrior. A CPL must be taken on a complex aeroplane with a retractable undercarriage, so at FTE you then move onto the Piper Seneca, a high performance twin engine aircraft with retractable gear. FTE are replacing their Senecas with Diamond DA42 aircraft, but the concept is the same. Training on the Seneca involves getting used to the higher performance, and then learning about asymmetric flight – dealing with an engine failure then flying the aircraft on only one engine. Once you’re used to the Seneca, you’ll sit your CPL skill test. This is conducted as if the examiner is a paying passenger. You’ll have to navigate somewhere fairly difficult to find, and the diversion will be even trickier – mine was to two boulders in a field! Your CPL allows you to receive remuneration for flying, but at this stage you are still only qualified to fly under Visual Flight Rules.

You still have one more test to pass – your Instrument Rating. Time on multi engine aircraft is very expensive, so chances are a significant portion of your IR phase you’ll be flying a fixed base sim known as a Flight Navigation and Procedures Trainer, or FNTP. This might not be terribly realistic, but it’s ideal for practicing Instrument Flying. Personally, I think the CPL is a harder test. Instrument Flying is more procedural, and for your IR skill test you’ll conduct a flight under Instrument Flight Rules. You’ll fly an IFR departure, then navigate to another airport where you’ll fly an ILS. You won’t be visual with the runway at minimums, so will have to go-around, where one of your engines will fail. You’ll then continue back to your departure airport on one engine, where you’ll be expected to hold and then fly a non-precision approach. Again you’ll fly an asymmetric go-around before flying a visual circuit to land. On an integrated course, you’ll do around 30 hours in multi engine aircraft, and 40 hours in the FNTP sim.

Modular training is very similar, although you can’t start your ATPL groundschool until you’ve completed your PPL. The hours required before you can sit your CPL skill test are also slightly higher than those required on an Integrated Scheme, but other than that there’s no major differences.

The path to your CPL with ME/IR is long and extremely hard work. Remember that the price quoted by your flying school assumes that you’ll complete everything in the minimum time possible, and you’ll be required to pay for any additional training.

The important thing to note is that at this stage, you haven’t gone anywhere near a Boeing or an Airbus. The Multi-crew Pilot’s Licence, or MPL is slightly different, but you’ll still do a significant amount of your training on light aircraft.

Here’s my key piece of advice – don’t try and rush through your training to get into a jet. Once you fly a jet you’ll spend less time flying, and more time managing, although you will often be flying it through the autopilot, which is a totally different skill. My next blog post will be about this. Most of your job involves managing the flight, briefing your arrival, especially when you’re not familiar with the destination airfield, or the weather is poor, and coping with abnormal situations when they develop. It’s a very satisfying job, but very different to the pure joy of flying a light aeroplane. I still fly light aircraft whenever I get the chance, and have recently become a Class Rating Instructor for Single Engine Piston aeroplanes so I can share the fun of flying with others.

Now comes the “intermediate” part of your training, your MCC or JOC. Up until now all your flying has been single pilot, and you’ve never had to work as a crew. The Multi-crew Cooperation Course and Jet Orientation Course aim to get you used to a multi crew environment whilst getting a feel for operating a jet aircraft. JOCs are typically longer and more expensive, but are likely to give you a head-start when you find a job and go on to do a Type Rating. I’ve spoken to people before who have been tempted to pick a flight school because of the sim they operate (for an example FTE has a Boeing 737-800 sim). The MCC or JOC is only a small part of the whole course, and is not a Type Rating, so I’d advise against using this as the main reason for picking a school. I did my JOC on a 737 sim and then did an Airbus Type Rating without any major problems!

Now comes the really hard part – finding a job. Opportunities are always scarcer than applicants, and you may well not get straight onto a jet, and even if you do, there’s a very high chance you’ll be based abroad. FlyBe are well renowned for giving flight school graduates their first opportunity and I have many friends working there. Other companies offer jobs where you fund your own Type Rating, but be aware this can add another £30,000 to the cost of your training. Finally, some companies offer what are sometimes referred to as “pay-to-fly” schemes where you’ll pay for your Type Rating and a set amount of line training, with a chance you’ll be kept on afterwards. Be very wary of such schemes – chances are a company like this will get rid of you at the end of your line training to make way for someone else who’s willing to do the same. Be realistic about what you need to live on. You want to make a career out of flying, and if you’re not being paid, it’s more of a hobby!

Hope there’s some useful information here, and if you have any questions, please get in touch!