Deciding whether to do an APS MCC or standard MCC JOC is difficult, particularly as you get to the final stages of pilot training, and like me, you find yourself rapidly running out of cash!
This post shares my experience with VA Airline Training, my process of selecting an MCC/ APS MCC course, and the impact the APC MCC training had on me.
If you are ready to book right away, make sure you check out VA Airline Training and their APS MCC course.
Which MCC course shall I do? APS MCC or MCC JOC
I was permanently paranoid during flight training at all stages, figuring out what the ‘key’ would be to transition from student pilot to an airline. Which MCC course shall I do: MCC/JOC or APS MCC?
COVID 19 has torn the aviation industry apart. It is good to see that airlines are starting to recruit with some cadets to start type ratings again in the coming months.
Low hour pilot jobs were extremely competitive before COVID, so full respect to those landing jobs in these very turbulent times.
During my pilot training, one of the things I learnt was that the MCC course you did had a disproportionately high impact on your employment chances and is probably one of the most taken for granted aspects of pilot training.
There is a HUGE trap for all those undergoing pilot training: potentially running out of money towards the end and throwing away all your hard work by doing any old MCC course.
What is an MCC course?
An MCC course forms the transition from single pilot operations into a multi-crew environment. The added complexity of heavier aircraft dictates the need for two pilots/ multi-crew.
Before starting your type rating, the bare minimum required is 20 hours of flight simulator training (or 15 hours if part of an Integrated ATPL course).
This is where the first problem lies: there is a considerable variation in MCC courses that all meet the ‘minimum requirements. During my modular flight training, I faced the question: which MCC shall I do?
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JOC MCC vs APS
There was no regulation on who and how MCC JOC courses were previously delivered. You could do a bare minimum 20/25hour JOC MCC course (on a generic flight training device), or you could do an “enhanced” 40 plus hour MCC.
The issue at the time was that more than 50% of airline applicants were failing assessments even though they had completed their Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), Multi-Engine Instrument Rating (MEIR) and Multi Crew Course (MCC).
This brought about the creation of the Airline Pilot Standard MCC course (APS MCC).
The APS MCC focussed on going deeper into the theoretical knowledge aspect of swept-wing jet aircraft, more time in the sim looking at MCC, including dealing with line flight events and none normals.
The regulated minimum for APS MCC was 40 hours in the sim, and a pass/ fail test at the end.
There was a minimum specification of simulator type to be used to make it representative of a modern-day small jetliner. The pass rate from applicants who had completed APS MCC at airline assessment increased to around 80-90%.
How to choose your MCC course
During your flight training, you need to be paranoid and have a razor-sharp focus on which schools people are getting jobs at. This changes as time progresses and is not necessarily driven by the most expensive.
In my case, I started researching MCC courses around 6months prior to attending. For those doing modular ATPL, particularly around work commitments, you need to plan your time and cash well in advance.
These were the factors that came into play when choosing which MCC course to do:
Aircraft type on MCC course
You want to have an eye on where your job is most likely to come from i.e. who is recruiting. When I went through, the largest opportunity came from airlines that operated B737-800 aircraft.
There were 3/4 low-cost carriers recruiting low hour pilots for the B737-800. There were employment opportunities on the A320, but the B737 were more abundant.
I know people will say that it does not matter what aircraft you do your MCC course on as the MCC course’s whole point is to teach you Multi Crew Coordination and is not a type rating! I would agree but think of it in an alternative way.
Complete your MCC course on the same aircraft as you are likely to have during your airline assessment, then type rating – you give yourself such an advantage both during the airline assessment and then subsequently during the type rating.
The B737-800 is unique in certain aspects like the ‘pitch power’ couple. Increase the thrust, and the aircraft wants to pitch up due to the underslung engines. Reduce thrust, and the aircraft wants to pitch down due to the thrust reduction.
Imagine first finding this phenomenon and trying to figure this out during your raw data ILS approach during your airline assessment and the amount of capacity this would take! Make life easy for yourself.
Sim Level during MCC
The required level for APS MCC is an FNPT II small jet aircraft simulator. Some companies offer MCC JOC courses on ‘generic devices’ or you get the other side of the spectrum with MCC courses being offered on Cat D full-flight simulators.
My advice: look at where your job will most likely come from including how and what device the airline assessment takes place on and work back from there.
During your pilot training, you are trying to build an unfair advantage to put you ahead of all the other candidates.
For me, the most likely role would be 737 based so that is the type I chose. It was not necessary to complete the MCC on a full flight sim – looking at the cost vs benefit.
Number of sim hours on your MCC course
This is where the APS MCC course comes into its own. My initial preference was to go to Sky4u in Berlin to complete their enhanced MCC course, but the approval of the VA APS MCC (1st in Europe) made the decision straightforward.
The APS MCC consisted of 40 hours in the simulator (on top of 4 days of Theoretical Knowledge Instruction).
I consider myself to be a very average pilot (nothing more) so figured I could do with all the help I could get with the 40 hours course vs 20 or 25 hours on a generic MCC course.
Instructors on the MCC course
I mentioned in my Pilot Training Guide that at all stages during your pilot training, you want to try and be around the people you wish to become. If you want to become an airline pilot, spend your time around airline pilots!
Ideally, you want your MCC course instructors to be from the airline environment and give you first-hand training. You will know straight away the level you need to get.
Most expensive does not always mean the best. You want to choose your MCC course provider with an organisation that has a reputation with employers as being consistent in producing good candidates.
This is not only applicable to your MCC but to your MEIR & CPL too. As I mentioned in my MEIR posts that my Multi-Engine Instrument Rating instructor had every one of his students flying jets.
It is a good bet that choosing organisations with that reputation statistically will increase your chances of following that same path.
Expect to work hard though in organisations that have good reputations. Just as much as you want to go to a flight training organisation with a good reputation, the ATO will also want to protect that reputation and not allow substandard students. Expect to work hard.
Ties with airlines
This follows on from the reputation that the MCC Course provider has with various employers.
Some providers have ties with airlines, such that if you complete an MCC course to a satisfactory standard, you may be eligible for a fastback airline assessment opportunity (subject to availability).
Finding employment as a low hour pilot is hard enough as it is, so choosing an organisation with ties to an airline can give the benefit of a fast track route to assessment.
One of the biggest worries for any student, particularly as you get towards the end of flight training is what happens if you have an issue and you need additional training or fail your MCC Course.
Some MCC course providers provide a performance guarantee such that in the event of you falling behind, the cost of remedial training is covered.
Alternatively, if after remedial training you still fail your training there may be a performance guarantee element that allows a refund of some of your fees.
Why did I choose VA APS MCC
VA APS MCC was the first to be approved in Europe. In light of all the points I mentioned above, they consistently were ahead for each of the evaluation points discussed above when I chose my MCC course.
To keep costs down and minimise travel, I was looking for an APS MCC course in the UK too.
VA APS MCC Proven success
This blog post is not supposed to be a VA APS MCC sales pitch (this is not a sponsored post!). Everything I say here is genuinely true. The success rate for VA APS MCC cadets at airline assessment was 85-90%.
Their graduates had been consistently successful at finding work.
Standards of instruction with VA APS MCC
All my MCC course instructors were current or previous airline pilots. This was excellent as I knew that all the lessons taught and the feedback given would help me. If I had a poor sim session, the feedback would be constructive but there was no hiding!
The VA Cambridge facilities were fantastic. On days off, you could come in and practice on the training devices or FMC trainer. At VA, I didn’t feel like I was at a flying school but rather at a facility to help develop you.
The VA environment was quite homely too. VA make a point (prior to COVID) to have an evening with the students at a local restaurant. There was a personal touch that I thought was brilliant.
Psychologically too, to have conversations like who do you want to work for talking to an operational captain etc really helped me believe that the goal of getting into an airline would be possible.
For sure – times are very tough in the industry right now, but I’m sure things will improve in time and with that airline recruitment picking up again.
VA APS MCC Boeing 737
VA has a state of the art new FNPTII FTD1 device from MPS. I found this to be excellent for my MCC course and it was the exact same device that I then had an airline assessment and completed some of my type rating on.
This made the decision easy to go to VA.
- Part-FCLPPL/IR or CPL/IR; and
- Part-FCL Multi-Engine Instrument Rating (MEIR)
APS MCC Pre-Course Study
VA do a great job in providing you with the pre-course study material to allow you to be in the best shape possible to get the most out of your MCC course. Your pre-course study will cover items such as:
- Learning Profile Diagrams in the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
- Theortecial Knowlege Study Guide to help orientate you on the aircraft type
- Learn the non normal checklist memory items such as Cabin Altitude Warning and Emergency Descent, Engine Fire and Airspeed Unreliable memory drills etc.
- The non normals use a QRH which is as you would on the type rating – which is excellent.
APS MCC Course content
Theoretical Knowledge Training Syllabus
The VA APS MCC covers a minimum of 30 hours of theoretical knowledge taking place over 4 days (+ 1 day for a transition into airline life and what to expect etc). This level of Theoretical Knowledge Instruction really prepares you well for your type rating.
Synthetic flight training syllabus
After completing your theoretical knowledge instruction, you then move onto the simulator phase. This consist of 40hours split over 10 sessions whereby you perform 2 hours Pilot Flying followed by 2 hours Pilot Monitoring in each session.
The sim sessions culminate in a pass or fail test at the end. In total, the course lasts 3 weeks including rest days.
The course fee is £6,900 at the time of writing.
I really enjoyed living in Cambridge for the 3 weeks during my VA APS MCC during the summer. Cambridge is a beautiful city. My only criticism is that accommodation was very expensive (I paid around £1,500) in hotel costs for the 3 weeks I was there.
If you speak to VA directly, they have accommodation deals.
How to apply
If you have any questions about the VA APS MCC or if I have missed anything, please leave a comment in the section below. I would love to hear from you!
Kudzi Chikohora is a B737 captain with over 3,000 hours of flying in Europe. He holds a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, is a chartered engineer, and is a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Kudzi completed his pilot training via the self-funded modular pilot training route and created kcthepilot.com to share pilot training and aviation content.