Monday, June 7, 2010

The $5000 question

Slooooow times for me. Flew 2 hours last week. Sat airport reserve 4 days....32 hours.

I've discussed in the past that I did all my flight training at AllATPs. I did the Self Paced Program for both the Private and the Airline Career Pilot Program. I started with 0 hours on May 5, 2006 and finished late March 2007 with Commercial Multiengine Instrument (also Commercial Single) and my CFI tickets (Instrument, Single and Multi). After that I sat in the right seat as a CFI for 300 hours or so before heading to my airline.

Before I made that jump though I did take the ATP RJ course.

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This is one of the ATP Frasca RJ FTD's in Jacksonville.

Now before I go further I can already hear the screams, "No one needs an RJ course!", "The Airline will train you!". "Why waste that much money!?!?!?". All valid.

The full price is $4,995. At the time ATP offered the course for free if you instructed for so many hours for them. My total cost was an airline ticket to Florida, a rental car and a hotel room for a week. I used my airline miles for the ticket and slept on the couch of a buddy of mine who lived there. So really I paid for a rental car for a week. But would it have been worth it if I had to pay the full $4,995?

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Took this one during my RJ course while in Jacksonville.

My interest in flying started when I first saw Microsoft Flight Simulator back in 1991. I "flew" literally thousands of hours throughout the years. There are some really nice models out there that have very accurate systems. The ERJ145 from Wilco Publications is amazingly accurate with several systems correctly represented. The CRJ they offer is nice, but not as perfect. Anyway, I was used to glass cockpits and basic concepts before I even started at ATP. I really thought I would get little benefit for the RJ Course. I was wrong. I learned quite a bit.

The concepts of flows (going through a series of motions and then using a checklist to make sure I did everything), profiles (a set way of flying the aircraft), dealing with emergencies and true CRM (Crew Resource Management) were heavily emphasized during the week long course. I was a little concerned that I would learn everything on a CRJ (that's the type of FTD the use) and then get hired flying an ERJ and be confused. Non issue as the course teaches a broad overview of jet concepts.

When I got hired by my airline I was much more comfortable in ground school and the sim. My sim instructor was very skeptical of me passing training as I only had 560 hours total time. He pushed me hard during training. I still remember flying a DME arc single engine to an ILS, in Mexico, in a valley surrounded by mountains, at night, in IMC, no autopilot, no flight director. It started normal and things just went down hill. It wasn't pretty, but I did it. After that session he was a little less skeptical, and I thought I was ready.

In my initial new hire class at my airline there were pilots with as few as 500 hours to former military guys with 5000+ hours. Sitting next to me during initial ground school as a CFI who had a little more than 2400 hours. He was teaching at a school in Arizona as well as flying a King Air 200 on the side. Lots of experience, but all with steam gauges. Turns out he washed out in the sim. He just couldn't keep up with the glass. All the time and effort he spent over the months preparing for the interview, studying for ground school and preparing for a nice career was wasted. I am pretty sure he had a "career day", where the airline takes you in and offers you a chance to leave without having  mark on your FAA record. This way he can go on to another airline without having a negative mark against him. Even if he got hired by a new airline the next week, he was still at least 2 months behind money wise. Would it have been worth $5K to him to take the RJ Course?

For full disclosure, I did get hired by ATP to teach the RJ course for a few months back in 2008, right before the hiring spree at the regionals stopped. I enjoyed it. My background is teaching. I double majored in college in Journalism (with a photojournalism interest) and Sociology. I planned on being a high school teacher for Newspaper and Yearbook. Although I never taught a day in High School I did teach computer repair classes at a local community college. A few of the students I taught in the RJ course I still talk to today.

Five thousand dollars is a lot of money. It's more than I earn in a month...almost two months. It's 4 months of mortgage payments. A year of car payments. Another 20 hours or so of twin time. I won't say the RJ course is right for everyone. Anyone who's flown glass (G1000 or Avidyne systems are awesome), had lots of formal training with checklist and CRM, and has a basic understanding of jet operations will likely be fine. For everyone else, I would at least give it a good thought as it could (and I mean could) really help ease the transition from flying a prop to a jet.


  1. While the course sounds expensive, when you put it in the light at the end: two months of career earnings wasted. Also - it isn't just two months at regional pay, if the pilot who failed out of training gets to a major, he'll make top end Captain pay two months later. Top end Captain pay is presently around $13,000 a month - so that's around $26,000 he theoretically missed.

    Also, the CRJ course does provide a certain level of confidence, which can be invaluable in a training environment.

  2. love the insight on whether you have previous G1000 or Avidyne time. See I am currently and probably will continue to train in G1000 and its comforting to hear you say that it could help me in the long run.

  3. I never flew a G1000 or Avidyne. Having some glass experience will help you. I wouldn't pay for it for all of your training unless its a small difference in cost. Being used to trend vectors, flight directors and such will be a huge help.


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