Many people believed that since charter and other business travel aircraft are smaller than airliners, the Charter pilot get less Flight Training than their airline counterparts.
Flight crews operating aircraft that are used for hire and most corporate transport are trained only slightly differently than airline flight deck crews and the standards that they are held to are just as strict.
Federal Aviation Regulations or “FARs” made the rules under which aviation operates. FARs are divided into numbered “Parts” that divvy up such subjects as pilot qualifications, aircraft qualifications, maintenance, airline operations, and charter, or air taxi operations.
FAR part 121 covers the rules for the scheduled airline world air taxi, corporate and charter flying is covered under FAR part 135. Other terms you may hear bandied about when you are at the airport are: “Part 61.” and “Part 91.”
Part 61 is probably the most cited set of regulations you’ll hear around a general aviation airport because it covers the overall basic rules and requirements for pilot training, from pre-solo up to the Airline Pilot Rating, or ATP.
AC 91 covers basic operating rules and restrictions for the owner and operator of privately owned and flown aircraft.
Part 135 is most likely the set of rules followed by your flight crew. The entire set of this part of the rules the entirety of corporate and non-scheduled airline or air-taxi flight.
And it encompasses such a large slice of the aviation pie that you have to focus down on your particular aircraft and the way that you or your company plans to use it to make any sense out of the regulations.
How well trained is my flight crew
For the answer to the question, “how well trained is my flight crew?” the answer found in the regulations is clear – they are very well trained.
And they undergo recurrent training of their pilot skills. and specific knowledge of their aircraft on a regular, at least a yearly basis and must prove this skill and knowledge at least yearly by taking a check-ride.
Pilots must take rigorous initial aircraft systems and flying course before they can begin flying passengers. These flight schools can last as long as two to three months. During this training, the pilot takes a complete systems school for the airplane flown.
Many corporate and charter pilots fly more than one kind or model of aircraft in their daily work. They have to go through initial training for each aircraft they fly along with a yearly recurrent course for each.
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Aircraft systems ground schools cover the requirements found in FAR Part 135, but they also cover extras and go much deeper into the systems than even the regulations require.
Pilots attending one of these Flight Training schools can expect to spend eight hours a day in the classroom or the cockpit procedures trainer and an additional three hours a night studying just to keep up.
Once the ground school course is completed, the student must pass a tough one-on-one examination on these subjects with a designated examiner for that airplane.
This is no crib course, oral exams routinely last six hours and every facet of the aircraft and its systems is covered by the examiner until there is no doubt that the applicant knows the airplane intimately.
Only then does the actual flight training begin.
Flight training can be done in a flight simulator, the aircraft itself, or both. Which is used depends on the sophistication of the simulator available and the certification rules for that particular aircraft.
The flight training portion for most aircraft takes around ten training days followed by a type rating ride and additional training for high-altitude, security, human factors, and company policy.
Simulator rides are preferable to flying the real aircraft because more realistic emergencies and system abnormal training can be done using them. For example, training for an engine fire or engine-out landing is much safer in a simulator.
Also, procedures that a pilot might be having trouble learning can be broken down into individual parts in a simulator and this also can’t be done in the real airplane.
Each training session, whether in the “box” (simulator) or the aircraft is an intense experience. A lot more is thrown at pilot trainees than they would ever encounter in the real world.
The check ride completing the flight training part of the course would be considered harsher by non-flying people than the oral exam, but to pilots, it is far easier to fly the aircraft than it is to answer questions about it.
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Passing a type rating ride is a very big deal for a pilot. Flunking the check ride after this long course is rare but it does sometimes happen. When it does, the pilot could try again after more training or might lose their job.
Your pilot must take a shorter course yearly in order to keep his or her qualifications for that airplane current. Recurrent ground training normally takes two days in the classroom with a written exam at the end.
Flight training for the recurrent is usually made up of two sim rides and a check ride, or “proficiency check.”
After this shorter review course, pilots are still responsible for everything they needed to know to pass the rating ride the year before.
Like the rating ride, passing this check ride yearly is a big deal for a professional pilot. Once again, flunking a ride can mean the end of your career or at least a big blemish on it.
With all the doom and gloom I’ve described you might think that getting training on a new aircraft or going to recurrent training is the last thing a Charter pilot/ commercial Pilot would want to do.
You might be surprised to find that most pilots look forward to that next airplane and are proud of the amount of training they must take and the professionalism they show by taking it.
The atmosphere at a flight training center is serious, but a lot of effort goes into making it a comfortable place to learn. The pilots learn from other pilots and that shared community of flying can take away a lot of the tension that the non-flying public might think exists.
There really is no “good-old-boy” network in this process that I have ever noticed. Even though pilots train and give check rides to other pilots, we hold ourselves to a high standard.
Part of my job as a training center examiner or “TCE” at the school where I teach is to give rating rides and recurrent proficiency rides to pilots.
What is my standard for my students to pass? I just feel that I’d be comfortable letting them fly my family around under any conditions in their aircraft. After all, isn’t that the standard you would hold them to?
They must know the regulations and the factoids about their aircraft for sure, but they also must demonstrate good judgment as well as outstanding stick and rudder, or basic flying skills, to succeed. All of that is easy to quantify during a pilot’s check ride.
There is a certain thing that I like to call a “pilot attitude” that is harder to describe. but must be there as well. This attitude shows that they are comfortable, in control and have the cool and the skills to get the job done if something goes wrong.