Professional pilot training is a minefield – where do I complete my APS MCC? What will give the best chances of employment? Is it more cost-effective to go abroad for MCC JOC? In this post, I’ll share how best to prepare for your MCC course.
I did my APS MCC with VA airline training.
I saw a post from someone asking how they best prepare for their APS MCC course and wanted to share my preparation.
In case you missed it, did a chapter on MCC courses and choosing the right MCC course in my Pilot Training Guide that goes into more details about which course to pick etc.
Looking specifically at what prep to do, for most pilots, the MCC course is the first time moving from a ‘single pilot’ operation into the Multi-Crew Environment. So far, you would have been used to doing everything for yourself whenever you wanted while flying.
For example, if you wanted to put the gear up or down, you just did so. If you wanted to select flap, you just did so.
To change the setting on an altimeter, again, you just did so. With the increased complexity of larger aircraft, higher speeds, more systems to deal with, more passengers etc, more checking and monitoring is necessary to conduct a safe operation.
The key to multi-crew- looking after each other and supporting each other in the flight deck.
APS MCC Technical Theory
With most APS MCC courses being conducted on a small passenger jet (B737/ A320) or some hybrid version thereof, there will be a certain amount of theory to learn as part of the course.
The technical theory will include items such as aircraft systems, performance etc. The idea for the theory is not to give a type rating but to give you the baseline in terms of system understanding to learn and practice MCC principles.
I learnt my theory similar to how I studied for my ATPL exams. I set aside a given amount of time each day to study. Around 45mins each day for a month before the course was plenty.
This meant, by the time my APS MCC course started, I knew the technical theory well, and I did not have to spend my evenings on the course learning what the aircraft limits are – e.g. gear extension and retraction speeds, flap limits etc.
If the information is committed to memory, it also frees up capacity during your sim sessions. Ask your APS MCC provider for the technical notes you will need to learn during the course.
Other reading that I found useful was Handling The Big Jets by D.P. Davies.
Originally published in 1967, it is still very valid and provides many lessons on how to transition from flying piston aircraft to heavy jets.
Standard Operating Procedures
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will probably be the most alien aspect of the APS MCC course. There will probably be a new aircraft type, so you will need to learn where all the switches and buttons are that you will be using.
Multi Pilot flying is split into two aspects: Pilot Flying (PF) and Pilot Monitoring (PM). Depending on which role you are playing, you will have specific areas of responsibility.
Pilot monitoring looks after anything not concerned with the aircraft flight path? radios, checklists, updating the flight management computer (FMC) based on PF’s request etc.
In addition, the most important role of PM is to monitor what PF is doing and offer support as needed. On your MCC course, you will need to learn both roles – PF and PM.?
The easiest way to learn the SOPs is to get a cockpit mockup of the aircraft you will be flying and sit in front of it practising. The earlier you start this process, the easier it is. Sitting in front of the mockup, you can figure out where the switchology is.
As you practice the calls for each phase of flight, you can move your hand/ fingers to the correct place in the flight deck and start to develop some of the muscle memory, so you do not have to hunt around for switches/ levers during your actual simulator sessions.
I purchased a full-size poster for my APS MCC and subsequent type rating course prep – but this is expensive, and some may consider it not entirely necessary.
My justification was that I was spending £7k plus already for an MCC course and would hopefully be on a type rating on the same type in the future so if £300 expenditure improved my preparation, it would be money well spent.
To save money, I just purchased the posters from flightvector.com for around £300, and I stuck them down onto some poster board (eBay) to give them some rigidity and mounted them in my room during my MCC course and later on my type rating.
For cost-saving, an A3 poster will probably do the same job, but you won’t have actual physically correct dimensions as you try to reach for the gear or flaps for example.
The other difference I found moving from piston to the jet aircraft during APS MCC was that, on piston aircraft, your actions are checklist driven.
So for example, during your Pre Take-Off checks: you complete the steps as you say the checklist item e.g. checking for the mag drop between left and right mags.
In the multi-crew environment, checklists are completed after a given ‘flow’ to verify all the items have been completed.
A flow is a set of actions to prepare the aircraft for a given phase of flight. An example of this is when the flight crew get a line-up clearance onto the runway: the before takeoff flow is completed by the PM (Stobes, arm the necessary autopilot modes, transponder etc.).
Once the flow is completed, PF calls for the before takeoff checklist to verify the items are complete and BOTH pilots check the items are complete. The cardboard mockup is an essential tool to learn your flows.
Flight Management Computer
One of the other new items on your APS MCC course will be the use for the first time of a Flight Management Computer (FMC).
To get to grips with the FMC during my MCC course, I purchased Microsoft’s Flight Simulator for PC and downloaded PMDG 737 and some tutorials to practice using the FMC.
This is not mandatory, but it helped me during the MCC course and later, type rating become comfortable with the FMC much quicker.
I appreciate that right now during the COVID-19 crisis, it is impossible to predict what future employment may bring in terms of aircraft type and choosing what tools to purchase – I guess a good starting point would be to use what you already have e.g. flight sim etc.
Accommodation and Well Being
The APS MCC course is quite demanding, lasting around 3 weeks depending on which product you choose. The course content is heavy, and you will generally finish each day exhausted so you need to be well-rested and try to avoid distractions as best as you can.
Although you would have already spent a lot on flight training just to get to the APS MCC stage, try to find accommodation not too far from your APS MCC course provider and of a good standard too, so you have somewhere comfortable to rest and also eat well.
In managing your distractions (family, friends, partners etc), try and also find a period where you can genuinely concentrate 100% on the APS MCC course.
I was working at the time, so I booked three weeks of annual leave and did not go home during that period as my days off were either spent preparing for upcoming sims or getting some much-needed rest.
I thought my APS MCC course with VA Airline Training was excellent.
Please leave a comment in the section below with any questions you have on MCC – I will do my best to reply as soon as possible!
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.