Is this pilot training????

I was reading Bob Miller’s newsletter, and I about had a bird over inadequate training…. I am hoping this is an abnormality, but I fear it isnt. From Bob’s newsletter.

A CFI who recently graduated from a well-known four-year aviation college in the Northeast United States came into my office recently inquiring about a job as a flight instructor.

My first question, as in all such such interviews, was, “How much actual instrument time have you logged?”  Regrettably, the answer was predictable.

“Ah, I’d say less than one, maybe two hours,” replied the job candidate

The saddest part of this, is chances are this applicant was likely teaching others before applying to work for Bob. How on earth can anyone teach IFR, much less sign off on an 8710, without significant actual experience? Simulators are great, and todays are far beyond the Link Trainer of my bosses time and the ATC610 of my era, but they fall far short of the demands of real inflight calls and decision making. While I dont have my old log ready at hand, I do remember some actual IFR work, well before I even took my private checkride. If memory serves, I had over 5 hours actual at the time.

During my instrument training, actual played a big role too… we dealt with thunderstorms, approaches to minimums, icing, busy ATC, all in actual. I admit, it did add cost, and time, but it was well worth it. In less than an hour after passing my IFR checkride, I was in the soup for real on the way back home with confidence.

Granted, the airline focused procedural type training that apparently goes on in many 4 yr programs does make sense for what it does, even if shy on actual. It prepares the student for further training with an airline… provided, the airline actually does so. In reading the Colgan 3407 transcript, and finding out that with as many hours as the co-pilot had, that she had no icing experience was very concerning.

In many ways, the dues paying of old paid a multitude of benefits. Ie, a thousand hours single pilot IFR in a old freighter, flying all over the country in all seasons is a somewhat scary and very intense, albeit massive skill builder. The thing is, an aviation training program which only teaches to the minimum PTS levels and FAA requirements, no way no how preps students for such an activity, albeit the certificate does provide for such operations.

If we add in todays economic realities, and that airline traffic is likely to shrink to 1984 levels, the number of airline right seats are going to be hard to come by. Thus, far too many folks on that path will have to change gears…. Students are going to need real life, real challenge experience, if they are to prosper, much less survive outside the airline career world.

Secondly, with TAA such as the Cirrus, with its resounding call to be used in a multitude of arenas, not to provide ones students with other than simulated experiences is just going to push the accident rate higher and higher.

Otoh, there is no question, that an instrument rating makes for a safer VFR only pilot. The additional flight skills, as well as the decision making skills are of great value. I know back when the FAA drastically lowered the PIC time require for the instrument rating, one of the factors was to improve low time pilot safety. I think it was successful in that regard… The other factor, of course was how it impacted the safety of those who exercise the privileges of the certificate, which led towards a much needed, and greater focus on decision making, again, a successful endeavor. However, the shortened overall time period, often times precludes actual, much less seasonal variations, provided location allows for them, and that’s a real problem when it comes to the privileges granted by the certificate.

The solution… well there are some out there, but it requires the individual pilot to take responsibility.

  • For thunderstorm or icing experience… bite the bullet, and spend big $ for some time in an A/C certified for known icing, and with weather radar.
  • Inquire around, see if you can swing a deal on a repositioning flight, or dead heading with in the right seat, ideally with a gifted instructor serving as PIC in the left. Even if its not possible to log time, or manipulate the controls, the experienced gained of being in upfront in the soup, in the ice, and/or discussing radar returns is invaluable.
  • Bug your CFI, tell em you want actual, if the school doesnt want to train in actual, but has amazing instructors, and you want to stay with them, ask for a referral to an outfit that does for a few hours.
  • See about a major IFR x/c experience, such as offered by Field Morey has been doing this for years.

As far as IFR competency and employment goes, I think what Austin Collin‘s has to say to potential new employees makes a ton of sense.

Every pilot must have a level of knowledge, skill and experience that would enable that pilot to cope — ALONE — safely and legally with any situation that is likely to occur while flying the line. Such situations include icing encounters, thunderstorms, approaches down to minimums at night in turbulent conditions, complex ATC clearances with last-minute changes, or various instrument and equipment failures. ….. If you are not already current and proficient on instruments in a complex, high-performance airplane, common sense dictates that you need to get current and proficient on instruments in a complex, high-performance airplane before you go out and apply for a job flying on instruments in a complex, high-performance airplane! A doctor would certainly not go out and apply for a job with a hospital or a medical clinic if he was not already a competent physician. Likewise, a pilot should not seek aviation employment unless he possesses at least the minimal level of basic and general knowledge and skill to perform those functions and exercise the privileges of his certificates and ratings.


Unless you plan to operate VFR only, or use your instrument certificate for enroute only, ie, from IAF to landing will be in solid VFR conditions, most training programs, if only to the PTS are pretty inadequate, and most certainly for employment without further training. To truly use your certificate, you need to demand more than the minimums prescribed by the FAA.

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