Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Stretching Your Wings

Advanced training is the ticket to taking your flying to the next level

The big question with the instrument rating is whether to go through an accelerated program (there are many excellent 10-day instrument courses available) or a traditional flight-school approach. Each has its proponents and its own benefits, though neither has a definitive advantage over the other. The general consensus is that the 40-hour minimum instrument time is barely enough for most people, so finding a program that works with your schedule—then sticking to it—is critical.

Commercial Certificate
The commercial certificate isn’t a rating but rather a whole new certificate. It allows you to get paid for flying, thus opening up the ability for you to get hired by a commercial operator such as an airline, corporate flight department, charter operation or freight hauler. A commercial certificate also is required for more obscure flying jobs such as banner towing, pipeline patrol and aerial application (“crop dusting”). Without a commercial certificate, you’ll forever be restricted to sharing expenses evenly with your passengers.

A thorough understanding of the differences between Part 91 and Part 135 of the FARs should be part of every pilot’s research when considering a commercial certificate. For example, most pilots think they can personally carry passengers or cargo “for compensation or for hire” once they earn their commercial certificate. The fact is that such an action easily can be considered a commercial operation, bringing Part 135 requirements, which mandate that the operation be certified under Part 135 as well as the pilot. It’s sticky business, so be careful.

The basic focus of the commercial certificate is to raise the quality of the pilot’s airmanship and to give the pilot an understanding of more complex aircraft systems. Thus, the training will concentrate on advanced maneuvers and on advanced aircraft that have retractable gear and a constant-speed propeller. A pilot needs at least a private certificate to be eligible for the commercial ticket, along with at least 250 hours of flight time, with further requirements broken into various categories like PIC time, powered aircraft time, etc. A commercial student will need 20 hours of training, including 10 hours of instrument time and 10 hours in an aircraft with retractable gear, flaps and a controllable-pitch propeller, or a turbine-powered aircraft. Various night and cross-country requirements must be met within the 250-hour minimum.

A second-class medical (good for 12 months) is required, as well as the passing of a knowledge test and practical test (checkride). A separate commercial certificate is needed for different classes (single, multi, sea, etc.) of aircraft. Many schools offer one- and two-week commercial certificate courses. Detailed commercial requirements can be found in FAR Part 61.123–129.

A multi-engine rating can be earned in a relatively short amount of time. Candidates must pass an oral exam and flight check.
Multi-Engine Rating
Adding a multi-engine rating to a private, commercial, ATP or CFI certificate is a rewarding and eye-opening accomplishment. Myths abound about multi-engine airplanes, and nothing dispels those myths like experience. By definition, a multi-engine rating allows pilots to fly aircraft with two or more engines. Obviously, anybody seeking a professional piloting job will need a multi-engine rating, but there also are benefits for those who don’t pursue commercial flying. Added skills and the ability to fly faster, bigger aircraft are just a couple.

Most of the coolest airplanes have more than one engine (think DC-3, Twin Beech, DA42, etc.). Multi-engine birds have an advantage in performance and safety, and the panache of a twin rolling up to the ramp is hard to beat. But here is where the pilot makes all the difference. A rusty multi-engine driver is dangerous, regardless of how many engines are turning up front, because of the consequences of not being able to handle an emergency. Thus, training and proficiency are essential.

The multi-engine rating can be earned pretty quickly. There’s no written test required for the multi-engine rating, and the FAA hasn’t set a flight-time requirement. You only have to pass an oral exam and flight check. Most FBOs offer multi-engine programs that can be done in less than a week. Typically, 10 hours or so are spent flying the aircraft, with an additional five hours or so of ground training. The challenge is learning the advanced systems typical in multis, and mastering the quick thinking and actions necessary in case of engine failure.


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