For many pilots, getting a first type rating is part of the process of buying an airplane that requires one, so the kind of type rating they get (SIC, PIC or single-pilot) is dependent on the airplane and their needs for it. A lot of these individuals, by definition, are the very busy people whose lifestyle — travel, long hours and high stress — doesn’t mesh well with the demands of flying a jet. Often these pilots are part of a team that flies the company airplane, and the single-pilot type rating allows them to fly left or right seat — or stretch out in back — depending on the mission and depending on the day.
Improving the Odds
Would-be jet pilots can do several things to improve their chances of succeeding at the first type rating. Some of them might sound pedestrian, but they underscore the fact that type ratings are serious business and the airplanes they apply to are complex machines that demand a certain level of professionalism.
Pilots who have good experience, including turboprop twin time and time flying in the system, are in better shape. Brannon stressed too the importance of basic instrument flying skills. “The scan is king,” he said, explaining that without a good basic scan it’s hard to transition to a complex and unfamiliar airplane. There are a lot of things all pilots can do to improve those skills, he added, including hand-flying instead of using the autopilot, flying the full approach instead of taking vectors to final and flying full route clearances instead of long direct legs.
But when it comes down to it, Brannon stressed, the real key is attitude.
While he admits that SimCom will occasionally host pilots who are difficult cases, who don’t want to listen to their instructors or who feel offended that their skills are questioned — we’ve all run into this type before — for the most part, the first-timers who come to SimCom are ready to learn.
Part of that learning is studying in advance, and there are things every pilot can do to get a leg up. Brannon recommends learning the checklist memory items as a starter. For those of you without a lot of complex airplane experience, this might sound like an odd suggestion. But in the turbine world airplanes run on checklists, and some of those lists address situations — like an engine loss just after decision speed — for which there is no time to consult anything but your own trusty brain.
A lot of schools offer accelerated type rating courses. For those pilots getting a first type rating, I’d counsel great caution here. It’s tempting for all of us to think that we can do it. But once these pilots have gone through a little training — day one is usually enough time — it becomes clear that there is more than enough to learn even with a typical 14-day course. My advice: Clear the schedule and do a full course.
What kind of course one chooses is dependent to some extent on what kind of setting fits best. I’ve trained at several excellent schools for various ratings and for a number of different airplanes, and for me, individualized instruction is extremely important. Training with a partner can have advantages, including a built-in support network and study buddy, but it’s hard to overestimate the value of one-on-one instruction.