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To be totally honest, getting on a type rating course with an airline is probably one of the best moments a trainee pilot can wish for, yet in the same instance, a perilous period for any low hours first job pilot.
You have been through all the hard work of your pilot training to land the job, but there is still a lot of risk. For me anyway, I felt like I had ‘everything’ but in the same instance had nothing!
Fail your type rating, and you don’t have a job anymore, and also the type rating course fees are very high. For me, I had quit my stable engineering job, had a mortgage to pay and my flying loans to make good, so the stakes were high.
I had to get through my type rating. In this blog post, I wanted to share the things I learnt during my type rating to help you get through yours.
Tip #1: Doing a good MCC course before your type rating course
I have mentioned previously that your MCC course is the bridge between your pilot training and airline employment. It actually goes a step further.
I did the APS MCC with VA Airline training and hands down, without that, I would not have got the job and in turn, be placed on a 737 type rating course. The MCC course (in my case APS MCC) had me really well prepared for my type rating as a lot of the content covered during the MCC course was on the type rating.
During my MCC course, we had an insight into the level of theoretical knowledge that needed to be digested in a short space of time. The intensity of the sims during the APS MCC course also gave a pretty good outline of the workload and expectations during the type rating.
Tip #2: Do as much preparation before your type rating course as you can and know your SOPs!
The average A320 type rating cost is around £25-30k and this has to be paid upfront by the cadet! To de-risk your type rating you want to do as much prep as you can in advance of the type rating.
In my case, I got the Flight Crew Operating Manual and operations manual from my airline and started studying all the standard operating procedures (SOPs) learning all the flows and memorising the memory items for non-normal events.
This definitely helped flatten the learning curve during the type rating and made things much more relaxed as I was not stressing about having to learn SOPs the night before my sims.
The type rating duration is typically 6-12 weeks depending on your airline or how they structure the training. You can expect a couple of weeks of ground school and then about 4 weeks of simulator sessions.
Once the type rating starts, the pace is QUICK and you will be expected to get concepts near enough on the first attempt. If you need additional sim time to remedy any issues, this is often charged extra and sim hire can be £1200plus per hour!
Tip #3: Get a cockpit mockup or some way to practice the flows, SOPs and Memory items.
Get yourself a cockpit mockup or poster. Use your flight sim or download one of the various interactive cockpit apps on your tablet.
In the multi-crew airline environment, each phase of the flight typically involves a certain flow that the pilot monitoring does and then a challenge and response checklist with the pilot flying to confirm the critical items have been completed during the flow.
I started my type rating with the bulk of my SOPs committed to memory, and this takes a HUGE amount of pressure off once you start your type rating.
If you have to learn your SOPs on your type rating whilst also trying to get to grips with all the other items (theoretical knowledge, sim profiles, non-normal memory items etc.), you can become overwhelmed and start to fall behind really fast! I got a full-scale cockpit mockup posters from flightvectors.com.
To save money, I just purchased the posters alone and then got some adhesive board from eBay and stuck the paper posters onto the board for rigidity.
Although the posters were expensive (around £350) – I thought they more than paid for themselves in terms of the benefit knowing your SOPs well gives you. I used the mockup for my MCC course, then type rating and then also once on line training with my airline. I completed all on in minimum hours. If you prep well beforehand, you save yourself a lot of aggro.
Ultimately, the sooner you complete your training with your airline, the sooner you get on full salary so it is your interest to be as prepared as you can during your training.
I can not stress enough how much of a difference knowing your SOPs well will make to your type rating (and line training journey after your type rating).
Tip #4: Make it completely clear to your family and friends that you will have very limited availability during your type rating course
During my MCC course, my partner, unfortunately, had some personal issues that meant he had to drop out of the course.
Although this was not on the type rating, it highlighted the importance of arriving on the type rating course and focusing and committing 100% to the course. There is no time to do anything else during your type rating between studying, exams, simulator sessions, and getting some useful rest.
If you expect to get back to your families, loved ones regularly, this is unlikely to be a realistic plan. As you progress through your type rating, you will need to use your days off to prepare for the type rating requirements coming up with your sim partner.
The schedule typically involved 4 days in the sim, followed by 4 days off on my type rating. I do not want to over hype the type rating course’s difficulty because it is perfectly doable. If you put the work in, you will have no difficulties passing.
Tip #5: Make sure you get some good rest and take a break
I know people who have had issues during their type rating because of burning out. With most type rating course durations lasting 2-3 months, you need to pace yourself and make sure you don’t burn out towards the end.
During our 4 days of sims, followed by 4 days off, my sim partner and I would normally have the first day off to catch up on rest or maybe grab that much-needed beer! after the intensity of what we were doing.
The second day would be a rest day, and we would reconvene on our final two days off to prepare for the upcoming sims. Find a routine that works well for you and your sim partner. Make sure you get regular breaks.
The other item to add is that some sim sessions last 5 hours. This is not 5 hours of cruising around with nothing happening; it is 5 hours if emergency after emergency after emergency. You need to get a good night sleep before each sim.
Tip #6:Work hard for your sim partner and do everything you can to help them pass
Everybody finds at some stage during their type rating that they have a bad sim or things do not go as planned.
One of the best pieces of advice I was given was doing everything possible to help your sim partner pass their type rating, and inevitably that will encourage good CRM and improve your chances of passing. In most cases, it is completely fine to have a slip up during a sim on your type rating provided that either you or your sim partner trap the mistake.
This is what CRM is about.
We cannot always choose who we work with, but arguing and bickering with your sim partner and not working together is one of the surest ways to hinder your progress during a type rating.
One of the first officer‘s roles is the be able to adapt to the different working styles of your fellow crew members (both flight deck/ cabin & ground staff) – the success of your type rating hinges on being able to work well with your sim partner.
Tip #7: Try and enjoy your type rating course
The examiners and the airline want you to pass the type rating course, so work hard and try and enjoy the process. As you approach your licence skills test, there will be some nerves (as I had) but try your best to relax.
The licence skills test is purely a demonstration to the examiner that you can competently carry out the tasks and manoeuvres you have been taught during the type rating. The examiner is not there to try and catch you out or pull any tricks!
Have you got any questions or tips on how to prepare for your type rating? I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment in the section below
Kudzi Chikohora is a B737 pilot with around 2,000 hours flying in Europe. He holds a masters degree in Aerospace Engineering and is a chartered engineer and 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.