Thursday, July 1, 2004
There are lots of ways to have more flying fun. But if you sign up for advanced ratings, you’ll also end up being a better pilot.
No question about it—earning the private license is a major accomplishment. Some pilots will never need to seek additional ratings. The private allows pilots to operate in a wide variety of conditions, and many aviators content themselves with the entry-level ticket.
Multi-Engine: Although anyone who’s qualified can earn a multi-engine rating, it’s only of value to those who have access to a twin or who expect to fly one professionally. Most multi-engine airplanes are prohibitively expensive to rent, and difficult or impossible to qualify for insurance until you have experience. In other words, it’s the old catch-22: You must have experience in order to get experience.
There is no written test for the multi ticket, but three hours of cross country and three hours of night flight in a multi-engine aircraft are required. Most multi students train to proficiency in 10 to 15 hours before they’re ready for the ride. Not too surprisingly, the flight test concentrates heavily on your ability to recognize an engine failure and fly the airplane properly on one mill. Incidentally, if you train in a centerline thrust Cessna 337, your multi rating will be limited to CLT only.
Airline Transport Pilot (ATP): The ATP is the peak of the pyramid, the apex of aviation learning, and standards are appropriately high. The feds demand a first-class medical plus a commercial/instrument and 1,500 hours of total time, with 500 hours of cross country, 100 hours of night and 75 hours of actual or simulated instrument time. You must be at least 23 years old, of good moral character and a high-school graduate.
Type certificate check rides to operate specific types of corporate aircraft are essentially the same as the ATP practical test, so many pilots combine the two, typically getting typed in a Citation and earning the ATP at the same time.
Seaplane: Seaplanes are great fun, and if you have even a little sailor in your blood, the rating will be practically all fun and no work. There are no specific hour requirements and written test for this add-on rating. You simply train until you’re ready, usually in five to 10 hours. Hulled seaplane or floatplane makes no difference; the practical test is the same for both.
It’s an old story with planes that land on the water that insurance companies control who flies and who doesn’t. Most of the time, you’ll have to buy an airplane and self-insure for the first 100 hours before you’re eligible for insurance.
Glider: Some pilots learn gliders before they transition to powered flight, and many go on to become glider snobs, regarding an engine as little more than another accessory. For pilots starting off in gliders without prior powered-plane experience, the FAA requires a minimum of 10 hours in gliders with at least 20 hours of training and 10 solo glider flights, during which 360-degree turns were made.
For pilots with an existing powered license willing to transition to gliders, the FAA requires three hours of glider time, including 10 training flights and 10 solo flights. No written test is required.
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