Tag Archives: Commercial Pilot

Not paying your pilots can be deadly

“Human Factors” statistically has contributed to more than 70% of all commercial aviation hull loss accidents. Initially human factors were considered strictly a flight operations issue, which is now classified as “Pilot Error”, but now include the aircraft maintenance, air traffic control operations and few other areas. You can read more about Human Factors on the wiki.

Airlines based in India

In simpler words, more accidents have happened, where the technology was not at fault, and it was a human error, where incorrect decisions were made. FAA implemented the Crew Resource management (CRM) and Maintenance Resource Management (MRM) programs to counteract human errors. There are many external sources that can and do affect a pilot’s judgment skills and abilities. Many have been identified by the FAA and have been incorporated in the training of the pilots.

Illness, Medications, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, Emotions (IM SAFE checklist) are some of the culprits interfering with a good Aeronautical Decision Making process (ADM). I’d like to talk more about Stress here. Many things can cause stress; NOT GETTING PAID at your JOB definitely is STRESSFULL. This is the current situation with many airlines in India, including the state owned Air India!! Many pilots have not received a pay check in months!

Can we look at this simply as a labor code violation, or do you think this can be an accident waiting to happen? Flying an airliner thinking about how you are going to provide for your family? Would you like to be a passenger in one of these airlines, where the pilots have not received their paychecks in months? Probably not. How would you like these airlines to operate in our airspace?

What’s even more disturbing is FAA’s category 1 aviation safety rating for these airlines. FAA does not consider “not paying your pilots” as a threat to safety.

Since 1992 FAA implements a program called International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) and grades countries based on aviation safety rating, and India happens to have category 1 rating, which allows their airlines to fly in and out of our airspace freely. Obviously IASA’s category 1 rating, meaning, India’s oversight of it’s airlines (including the one owned by itself) meets the ICAO standards, and not paying it’s pilots in months is not a safety oversight!!

How to pay for your flight training?

Ever since the US economy went haywire in mid 2008, it has been almost impossible for most us here in the US to obtain a student loan to pay for the flight training. It used to be much easier before. There were various options available to most; like the Sallie Mae, US Bank, Bank of America. Most banks would finance professional pilot training against the applicant’s credit.

Flight Training Loan

Flight Training Funding

Since 2008, things have changed a lot. Now one may walk in with an excellent credit, but still no student loans. Banks look at the borrower’s ability to repay the loan back in a new light. Not only credit, but job availability and potential future income are considered as well.

No bank loan means no chance at being able to afford flight training? It should not be like this. And really, its not. Back in the days, in 80’s when we trained, there were really no bank loans around. We would simply save up money by working various jobs and then go and spend it at a flight school. In my case, it took me 4 years to go from student pilot to Flight Instructor. This was the downside. The upside was that I walked away as a CFI with no student loan to pay off over the next 15 years.

During my career as a flight instructor, I have trained many others in my shoes. Most are airline pilots now. And many had odd jobs to earn the money for their training.

What if I show you how you can earn the money and pay for your flight training cash, and be a Commercial Pilot within a year’s time? And no student loan needed. Would this get your interest?

Top 20 Career Options as a Pilot

When we think of pilots, most of us get an image of an airline pilot in our heads. Well, it is true that airline pilot career is one of the most glamorous and top choice career option for most professional pilots, but many chose to join one of the many other options available to them, and many do very well in those fields. Here are the few other career options as a pilot:

  1. Airline Pilots – fly for the airline industry worldwide, both major and regional airline carriers.
  2. Corporate Pilots – fly the high end, newer corporate airplanes for the rich and wealthy.
  3. Military Pilots – fly the state of the art, top of the line, military aircraft, and learn to fly for free (well, get paid0.
  4. Cargo Pilots – fly for the big and small cargo airlines, and cargo carriers, like FedEx, UPS etc.
  5. Air Taxi and Charter Pilots – fly for growing line of air taxi and charter operators worldwide.
  6. Ferry Pilots – fly as a ferry pilot for aircraft manufacturers like Boeing, Airbus, and then there are a lot of aircraft ferry companies available too, to go deliver the aircraft to it’s new owners.
  7. Patrol Pilots – fly for a news group to report traffic, police chases etc, or fly for aerial surveillance companies, like pipeline patrols, oil well patrols etc.
  8. Flight Instructor Pilots – a career option of choice for someone like me. Teach others how to fly, and get paid for it.
  9. EMR Pilots – fly for the air ambulance operators (big and small), helicopters and airplanes.
  10. Law Enforcement Pilots – most law enforcement agencies now have an aviation wing. And a lot of them hire pilots to fly their aircraft.
  11. Aerial Firefighter Pilots – this is mostly a contract and seasonal job, but you may want to combine this with some other job, like a full time firefighter job, or a military reserve pilot job, or a flight instructor job, then you can have the best of all the worlds.
  12. Aerial Crop-duster Pilots – similar line of work like #11 above, but you spray agricultural chemicals for the ag industry, and sometimes even for the local government bodies (pest control etc).
  13. Helicopter Pilots – a whole complete bag of choices, like, military, offshore oil industry, law enforcement, border patrol, DEA, Customs etc. Maybe even the mafia and drug lords. No, the last one was a joke!
  14. Astronauts – space travel in not limited to NASA guys only anymore. Civilian spacecraft are in the near future (well, they already are) going to be affordable to common people, and you can fly those cool high tech vehicles back and forth from earth to space all day long. Something to really think about.
  15. Test Pilots – fly for various aircraft manufacturers, both transport and general aviation, and thousands of other companies, training centers etc as a test pilot.
  16. Airshow Aerobatic Pilots – read my posts about Sean Tucker by clicking here and here (with videos), and you will get an idea. There are many like him who do this full time and part time.
  17. Aircraft Salesmen Pilots – many aircraft sales businesses, including general aviation aircraft manufacturers hire pilots to work as sales-people so they can go and demo the aircraft to prospective customers.
  18. Federal Government Pilots – probably one of the largest employer of pilots. In addition to all of the above, consider flying for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DEA, Customs, Border Patrol, Air National Guard, and many other agencies, even overseas deployment possibilities.
  19. Contract Pilots – fly for government contracting corporations like dyncorp etc, and you can pick and chose just about everything in your pilot career.
  20. Aviation Universities and College Pilots – many aviation educational institutes like Embry Riddle (ERAU), Daniel Websters etc hire pilots and flight instructors to teach in their aviation degree programs.

I wanted to make this list of 20 pilots today. Trust me, I can add many other pilot career options to this list right now, but it’s getting late and I need to go take care of personal stuff. When you are a pilot, sky is not the limit for you anymore!

Careers in Aviation – 9 Pilot Certificates Explained

Guest Post by: Erik Johannessen

There are millions of Persons around the world, who have learned to fly. Some of them do it just for fun, others use it as a way to travel to work and there are others who become career pilots to earn a living.

If you are starting to do research on how to learn to fly, it can sometimes become an overwhelming task, but stay calm it is not as hard as it looks!!! There are 9 different types of basic certificates. In successive order of qualifications they include student, sport, recreational, private, instrument rated, commercial, certified flight instructor, airline transport pilot and designated pilot examiner. This system of certificates, together with a set of add-on ratings is used to specify the different types of flying a pilot may do.

To successfully acquire a certain certificate, a pilot must complete ground school, written examination, oral examination and flight test. The good thing is that these certificates never expire until they are surrendered, suspended or revoked. However to be able to fly the pilot is required to remain current in certain things such as to hold a valid medical certificate and to fly a certain amount of hours per year.

Let me explain to you each certificate in more detail. Note that this information is based on FAA rules. The rules imposed by the Regulatory Agencies of your country might be slightly different, however in context they are pretty much the same.

Student Pilot

This is the starting point for everyone who wants to learn to fly. It is also the point where you will know if you will like flying or not. This can happen as early as your first flight. In my case, on the first flight I felt like I was the King of the World. Student pilot privileges are very limited, however they provide enough freedom to allow you to learn all of the basics, including cross country flying and interaction with ATC.

When you are starting to learn how to fly, you complete all of your flights with a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) on board. If you have reached the age of 16, have a valid Class III medical and have mastered the basic skills and educational topics of flight, you can make your first solo (Make a flight normally at an airport with low traffic, the location may vary from CFI to CFI, without an instructor or other certified pilots at the controls).

As a student pilot you are allowed to operate only near to your “home-base” and with a sign-off by your CFI you can travel to other local airports to practice your cross country skills. You may only fly in good weather during the day and night. You may think “I have a CFI on board and if weather gets worse he can fly back”. In general terms that is true, but it would be a waste of your money, since those hours do not count towards your certificate. I personally do not recommend it, but hey, it is your money. As a student pilot you are not allowed to carry passengers or fly for hire. Flying on busy Class B airspaces is usually not permitted without a special permission from your CFI.

Sport Pilot

Sport pilots fly in aircraft that fly at low speeds – less than 100 mph. The sport pilot certificate created new medical standards for pilots. These pilots usually do not require Medical Certificates. The only proof they need is to have a current valid driver’s license.

To get this certificate you must be at least 17 years old and have a minimum of 20 hours of flight time. This includes 15 hours of flight training and 5 hours of solo flight.

As a Sport pilot you may fly cross-country; however, you cannot operate at airports or airspaces that require ATC communication unless you receive the proper training and endorsements from a CFI. You are also not allowed to fly after dark and with more than one passenger on board.

Every 24 months the pilot is required to revalidate their certificate by undertaking a flight review with a CFI.

Recreational Pilots

Recreational pilots are primarily people who learn to fly for fun, with little interest in becoming professional pilots or using airplanes as a practical means of traveling from place to place. Recreational pilots must be at least 17 years old and have a minimum of 30 hours of flight time (the real-world average is more than 40 hours), including a minimum of 15 hours of flight instruction.

Recreational pilots may not fly more than 50 nautical miles (about 58 miles) from an airport at which they have received instruction, unless they receive appropriate cross-country training and a special instructor’s endorsement. Recreational pilots may not carry more than one passenger at a time, and they may not fly for hire or at night. They are not permitted to operate an aircraft on any charity flights, nor in connection with a business or their employment. They may fly only single-engine airplanes that have fixed landing gear, no more than four seats, and an engine of no more than 180 hp. They may not fly in airspace where communication with air traffic control (ATC) is required unless they receive the appropriate training and have a special endorsement from a certificated flight instructor (CFI).

As a result of these restrictions, the vast majority of people studying for their recreational pilot certificate continue to earn their private pilot certificate. Because of this, there usually are only about 300 pilots with the recreational certificate each year.

Recreational pilots must have a current Class III medical, which they must renew every 24 or 36 months (depending upon age). They must revalidate their pilot certificates every 24 months by undertaking a flight review with a CFI.

Private Pilots

Private pilots comprise the largest group of pilots and are among the most active flyers. In 2003, there were 241,045 private pilots. To become a private pilot, one must be at least 17 years old and have a minimum of 40 hours of flight time (the actual average is about 70 hours), including 20 hours of instruction and 10 hours of solo. Pilots trained according to accelerated curricula defined in Part 141 of the Federal Aviation Regulations may be certified with a minimum of 35 hours of flight time.

A private pilot — with appropriate training, ratings, and endorsements (e.g., floatplane, tail dragger, multiengine, helicopter, jet, retractable gear, pressurized, high-performance, complex, etc.) — may carry passengers in any aircraft, day or night, good or bad weather (see Instrument Rating below).

Private pilots may not fly for compensation or hire (no passenger or revenue services) but may share equally with their passengers the direct operating expenses of a flight — specifically fuel, oil, airport parking and landing fees, and aircraft rental charges.

Private pilots must have a current Class III medical, which they must renew every 24 or 36 months (depending upon age). They must revalidate their pilot certificates every 24 months by undertaking a flight review with a certificated flight instructor (CFI).

Instrument Rating

While technically not a pilot certificate, the instrument rating is the most common and logical step to take after gaining some experience while flying with a private pilot certificate. This add-on rating allows a pilot to fly in weather with reduced visibilities such as rain, low clouds, or heavy haze. When flying in these conditions, pilots follow instrument flight rules (IFR). The instrument rating provides the skills needed to complete flights without visual reference to the ground, except for the takeoff and landing phases. All pilots who fly above 18,000 feet mean sea level (msl) must have an instrument rating.

The instrument rating makes the use of aircraft more practical for routine transportation because most of the time, an “IFR-rated” pilot will be able to safely conduct their flight in spite of the weather conditions they may encounter.

The instrument rating requires highly specialized training by a certificated flight instructor (CFI) with a special instrument instruction rating (CFII), and completion of an additional written exam, oral exam, and flight test. Pilots applying for an instrument rating must hold at least a current private pilot certificate and medical, have logged at least 50 hours of cross-country flight time as pilot in command, and have at least 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument time including at least 15 hours of instrument flight training and instrument training on cross-country flight procedures.

If not used on a regular and sufficient basis, pilots must revalidate their instrument rating every 12 months by undertaking an instrument proficiency check with a CFI.

Commercial Pilots

As the name implies, commercial pilots can be paid to fly aircraft. Commercial pilots must be at least 18 years old and have a minimum of 250 hours of flight time (190 hours under the accelerated curriculum defined in Part 141 of the Federal Aviation Regulations), including 100 hours in powered aircraft, 50 hours in airplanes, and 100 hours as pilot in command (of which 50 hours must be cross-country flight time). They must hold an instrument rating, or be restricted to flying for hire only in daylight, under visual flight rules (VFR), within 50 miles of the originating airport. They may fly for hire in accordance with applicable parts of the Federal Aviation Regulations.

Certified Flight Instructor

A certificated flight instructor (CFI) is authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration to give instruction to student pilots and pilots taking recurrent training or preparing for additional certificates or ratings. They also may give flight reviews and recommend their students for flight tests. CFIs must be at least 18 years old and must hold at least a commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating. CFIs may earn a special instrument instructor rating, allowing them to teach instrument flying (operating an aircraft in the air solely by instrument indications without visual reference to the ground). An instructor with this rating is called a CFII.

In addition to undertaking their normal flight review every 24 months, CFIs must revalidate their instructor certification every 24 months. There were 87,816 flight instructors in 2003.

Airline Transport Pilots

This is the doctorate degree of piloting — and 143,504 pilots were in this distinguished category in 2003. Airline transport pilots (ATPs) must be at least 23 years old and have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time, including 500 hours of cross-country flight time, 100 hours of night flying, and 75 hours in actual or simulated instrument flight conditions. Most ATPs have many thousands of hours of flight time. ATPs also must have a commercial certificate and an instrument rating. ATPs may instruct other pilots in air transportation service in aircraft in which the ATP is rated. They may not instruct pilots outside of air transportation service unless they also have an appropriate fight instructor certificate.

ATPs must have a current and much more stringent Class I medical, which they are required to renew every six months. Like all pilots, they must revalidate their certificates every 24 months with a flight review. However, most active ATPs undergo a check ride in an aircraft or simulator every six months.

Designated Examiner

If the airline transport pilot is the doctorate degree of piloting, then becoming a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designated pilot examiner (DPE) is the equivalent of mastering advanced post-doctoral work. These individuals are few and far between. They’re almost like judges in that they have to be appointed by the regional FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). Before one can become a DPE, he or she usually has to wait for one of the current DPEs in that region of the United States to retire. As the name implies, these people have been designated by the FAA to test or examine the performance of their fellow pilots. DPEs typically have decades of real-world experience and perform the majority of official FAA check rides or flight tests for everyone from new pilots to seasoned airline captains.

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Don’t forget the Step – Seaplane Lessons

de Havilland Beaver lost – pilot error

A few years ago I went to Norcal Aviation to get my seaplane rating. At that time I could only afford to get a single engine add-on rating. So, I chose to get a Commercial add-on rating, training in the only Piper super-cub in the world on floats. Terry, the owner of the Norcal Aviation, and an FAA DPE (examiner) was very kind, and arranged for an accelerated course for me so I don’t lose too much time away from work and family. Within 3 days I was ready, and get my commercial add-on seaplane rating on my ATP certificate. The only reason why I could not do the add-on at the ATP level was because the Piper super-cub did not have any Navigation instruments, so no instrument approaches, so no ATP.

Then about a couple years later, I went back to Norcal Aviation again, and this time I did my ATP add-on on the only Piper Apache on floats. Excellent experience again. And what a beautiful airplane!

During my seaplane ratings, one thing among many others that I learnt was, get on the step. This is when the seaplane gets moving on the water for the purpose of take-off, you move the control yoke forward to get the trailing edge of the float out of the water and the entire float ride the top layer of the water. This reduces the drag many times, and help the aircraft accelerate to the normal take-off speed as quickly as possible. If you do not get the aircraft on the step (i.e. ride the water) the aircraft will never be able to accelerate fast enough for a take-off.

In the example video here, this de Havilland Beaver pilot was never able to, or for whatever reason, never got the aircraft on the step. If you notice, the trailing edge of the floats never got out of the water. So the aircraft never had enough speed for a normal and safe take-off. I can’t say enjoy the video this time, but please watch it and learn.

Pilot Certificates (or licenses)

Private pilot certificate, private pilot license, PPL, CPL, commercial pilot ….? What are all these terms? This article will briefly discuss these and similar terms so you can better understand what all these things mean.

The following article is for basic understanding of the pilot certificates and licenses, and is not written for the professional educational purposes. Many advanced areas of knowledge have been omitted to keep this simple and easily understandable. Professional aviation knowledge articles are available in a different area of this site.

CERTIFICATE OR LICENSE:

First of all, let us clarify the issue of certificate or a license. In the United States, any individual who needs or wants to fly any aircraft, is required by the Federal Law to apply for and obtain a relevant pilot certificate. Pilot certificates once issued, are valid for the life time of the holder (certain exceptions are there, but for the sake of this discussion they are not relevant, and we will address them in a

different article). In other words, in the US, the pilot certificate is more like an educational credential. Like your high school diploma, or a college degree, and so forth. Once you achieve the requirements, and are issued the certificate, it is yours forever.

In some, or I would say, in most other countries, the same privilege, i.e. the credentials to fly an aircraft, are issued in the form of a license. This license, just like your car driver’s license, or a business license, has an expiration date. And, the holder needs to pay the fee to renew the license at the time of the expiration or upgrade etc. And of course, there is a frequent expiration date for the license.

US pilot certificate is issued free of charge, and never expires, whereas, a pilot license usually comes

with an application fee, issuance fee, renewal fee, upgrade fee, etc. I guess you got the point. A pilot license is a source of revenue for those governments. And of course, as it is a license, it can be revoked any time with or without any cause!

COMMON PILOT CERTIFICATES AND LICENSES:

STUDENT PILOT CERTIFICATE:

A student pilot certificate (or a license in most countries) a.k.a SPL, is required to fly SOLO in an aircraft. In simple words, when you are in the process of learning how to fly, at some point your flight instructor (known as CFI in the US) would let you go fly around on your own. To be able to do this, i.e. fly on your own (sole

occupant of the aircraft, thereby called SOLO), you need to have a student pilot certificate or an SPL. When you are with a flight instructor in an aircraft, you do not need to have any certificate or license. In the US, this is the only pilot certificate that has an expiration date on it. If the student pilot certificate is issued before the 40th birthday of the applicant, the expiration date is set at 3 years, otherwise it is 2 years. The certificate is issued free of charge, however, there is usually a fee involved for the medical certificate (upon completion of the medical examination by the approved Aviation Medical Examiner – AME).

PRIVATE PILOT CERTIFICATE:

A private pilot certificate (or a license in most countries) a.k.a. PPL, is the minimum required to fly around for pleasure or personal transportation (like your class c driver’s license) and take your family and friends with you without any restrictions (for the most part). There are certain restrictions on licenses, but as far as the US private pilot certificate is concerned, you are allowed to fly an aircraft that you own, or a rental, day or night time, and with the required additional credentials, even in the clouds (Instrument Rating). In simple words, you can fly as long as you are not flying as a professional pilot, i.e. getting paid to fly. For that, you would need a commercial pilot certificate (or a commercial pilot license – CPL).

COMMERCIAL PILOT CERTIFICATE:

A commercial pilot certificate (or a license in most countries) a.k.a. CPL, is the minimum required to fly professionally as a job. A holder of a commercial pilot certificate or a license is eligible to fly an aircraft as a professional pilot. Of course there are more additional qualifications, credentials, or ratings as we call them in aviation lingo or terminology, but the idea is that the commercial pilot is the bare minimum requirement for a job as a pilot.

OTHER PILOT CERTIFICATES:

In the US, there are a few other pilot certificates which are available for the public. There is a recreational pilot certificate, a sport pilot certificate, an airline transport pilot certificate, and then there are some additional ratings like instrument rating, type specific type ratings etc. We have discussed all these certificates and ratings in a different article in detail.