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Flight training is expensive, but then, what costs money is usually worth it. Don’t we often hear people say “you get what you pay for”? 

So, what should you do if you’ve gone for a cheaper flight school and feel that you may have missed out ?

Let’s start by examining what the differences are between a cheaper flight school, pricing an integrated ATPL with an MCC JOC at around 75000€, and a much more expensive one, pricing an APS MCC at sometimes as much as 110 000€ ?

This is what you’ll usually get in the more expensive schools:

– Newer planes with G1000 instrumentation, able to carry out RNAV and LPV approaches like a real airliner, with advanced visualization systems such as GPWS

– Cirrus and/or Diamond planes are present in the fleet

– A training completed in English, granting you, by default, a Level 4 without the need for an FCL.055 exam. Having worked in English from the start will give you a definite head start for selections.

– A higher level of standardization and working in an environment resembling airline operations.

– Some of these schools are able to tie partnerships with airlines, who see their training systems matching their own operations. 

– Training takes in Western Europe and sometimes partially in the USA or Canada.

– An APS MCC instead of an MCC JOC, meaning you get 40h of MCC training instead of just 20.

– These schools pay their instructors well, meaning their instructor pool has a stable core, which has a positive impact on standardization.

– Additional training such as helping you with your CV and bringing in specialists like Airline Selection Programme, to assist you in understanding the selection process.

But some cheaper schools still offer very good quality and are large enough to have attracted airline partnerships. They may not have all the bells and whistles described above, but they may have enough of them, on top of saving you as much as 40 000€. That’s a full type rating, and cash to spare to invest in some gap training we will discuss further down.

By the way, I’m a big fan of the APS MCC but if you plan to do a type rating right after flight school, an MCC JOC  may be enough. Something to consider, once again, only if you’ve already decided that you’re going to invest in a type rating right after school. During your type rating, you’ll be doing 32h of exercises involving crew coordination. It will do more than bridge the gap between a JOC and an APS. Once you have your type rating, most airlines won’t look at what MCC you’ve done anymore. There may be some exceptions where some airlines want you to have done your MCC at their preferred Flight School, but then the idea is to finance the type rating through them after you get the job… If you’re tight on cash at this point, as most people would, doing a JOC will save you enough money to afford a type rating, then to me, it’s a no-brainer. The type rating will open so many doors for you. I wouldn’t think twice about it. If you do have the cash though, invest in the APS, like I said I’m a big fan of it and you do want to put all the chances on your side, bearing in mind like I said in the previous paragraph, you’ll definitely need, whatever the case, to budget for some gap training after flight school.

What should you absolutely not save on unless you’re really short of cash:

– You want to learn on a modern plane. All planes from training halfpoint to training end have to have a G1000. It’s fine if you do 40h or so, 60h maximum on a plane without a G1000, but after that, you really want to be on a modern plane.

– Forget the PA28 or C172 from the 1970s with conventional dials then. If your flight school has this sort of equipment, it’s not going to help you later on and you’re going to have to budget heavily on some gap training after flight school for you to get an adequate adjustment. So, try and find a place that has modern planes, as much as possible.

– Standardized procedures. Most schools, even the cheaper ones, and/or smaller ones, are supposed to guarantee this to you, but still, ask them how this is guaranteed, and what procedures they have put in place to make sure changes from one instructor to the next will not mean SOP changes, but just technique discovery.

– If your English is not great, you should definitely go for a school that operates in full English. If you’re bilingual already, this isn’t quite as important but still… I’m bilingual, and I was bilingual before… some terms you learn in one language don’t come out naturally in the other.

All this being said, let me tell you the only thing that really counts: being ready on the day of your selection, shine at the interview and ace the sim. 

For this, what do you really need ? Do you need CPL skills such as decelerated turns and dead reckoning VFR navigation in degraded weather? Or completely different skills you haven’t had the opportunity to work on yet ? 

First of all, you need to have a solid CV and cover letter to get invited. Then, you need to understand recruitment practices so you can shine at the interview. Finally, and that’s the main point of this article, you need to know how to fly a medium jet with basic instrumentation in an efficient manner.

So, in fact it doesn’t matter much how good you were at your CPL. CPL skills are never used in airline operations. Sure you have to be able to use pitch and power settings, and to trim your plane. But you’ll never have to fly VFR using a bearing and stopwatch ever in your life once you enter an airline.

What is key now is that you pass this one sim assessment that will define the rest of your life. 

Notice how airlines invite candidates from all flight schools for selections ? Not just from the most expensive ones? There’s a good reason for that. Many candidates from the more expensive flight schools won’t pass at the interview, or in the sim.

So this is your chance, and the only thing you want to focus on now, is something flight schools, whether you spent €75 000 or €110 000 never taught you: a thorough understanding of recruitment practices, how to fly a medium jet with no FD, no AP, no AT and no MAP, and be able to manage a technical or non technical event in a crew environment whilst maintaining situation awareness and having enough skills to place yourself on the ILS to fly a stabilized approach raw data.

What I just described is what will be expected of you at nearly all airline selections. This exercise is not the same at all as an MCC, where automatics are very much present. It is not either the same as a type rating, or an airline LPC or OPC. It is a specific exercise and one you absolutely must master and that flight schools can’t teach because it takes an onsite medium jet simulator plus a resident airline pilot with instructing experience and airline selection knowledge to be able to train this.

This is where we come in at Airline Selection Programme, but let me make it clear that we’re not criticizing any flight school here.

Flight Schools give you the tools you need to get your license and work in a procedurally organized way, so you have a good enough technical base, flying skills and soft skills to be successful once you enter an airline. And this, they do very well.

But they don’t train that part that gets you from flight school to the airline, nor can they be blamed for it at all. It’s up to you to take matters in your own hands, to learn what is not in the flight school’s remit to teach you, to do what’s required for you to get the job, such as :

Being excellent at English (not just good, excellent)

– Conducting proper research and remaining abreast of industry trends and specific airlines’ strategies

Writing a proper CV and compelling Cover Letter

Understanding airline selection processes 

Working psychometrics

Learning how a recruitment department works

Working on yourself to align with the key competencies sought for by airlines

Preparing for the selection sim exercise, as described above

Do you see how none of this depends on the flight school, and is really your responsibility ?

Now some flight schools will include some of these services as part of their integrated offering, which is great of them. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to do what it takes and use that training or go get it for yourself.

So, remember the theme of this article… You’ve gone for a cheaper flight school, now what ? 

The good news is that despite the differences between cheaper and more expensive flight schools, very little of what the flight school taught you will actually make a difference. Getting an adequate gap training specific to selections will.

Whichever school you trained with, we recommend you invest adequately in gap training. This is also what I did. My training was modular as in the late 1990s, integrated training didn’t exist in France. I went for the cheapest option. I was lucky enough to be introduced to an airline pilot who had a B200 sim and to do a session with him. I was shocked. 

He told me I had a lot of progress to make, and was absolutely not practical in my approach. It took 4 to 5 sessions of hard sweat and tears. I never failed a sim after that. I just needed someone to show me. I passed with my first airline flying F100s, and my next sim selection was with British Airways. I used the same practical training my original instructor taught me. Without him, I’m not sure I’d have had the career I subsequently enjoyed.

As a conclusion, whichever flight school you went for, what matters is what you do after. I believe it’s absolutely key that you maintain your skills and get gap or continuation training on a medium jet, for the sole purpose of passing airline selections. You should schedule a first session without delay so the instructor can tell you whether you need to plan for more sessions and that you don’t get trapped with a selection invite landing in your email tomorrow with not enough time to prepare.

So yes, the initial cost of flight school is important, because as we said initially, you may be able to finance a type rating with the difference, but whichever the case, you must plan to keep some money on the side for gap training as you will desperately need it to succeed at airline selections.

Airline Selection Programme prepares at all stages of the airline selection process, but in link with this article, we feel you’d most benefit from taking a look at our Sim Preparation Course.

We created this course to save you time so you can transition from a flight school to an airline environment with ease. By taking this course, you will gain handling skills on medium jets as well as airline operational knowledge which will be very useful at the interview.

It’s an eLearning course which we use as a base with our Sim Partners, but you can also take it with you for any sim preparation with any provider. This eLearning course was created to give you the knowledge and skills to make the best of your session, and show an assessor that you can fly in an elegant and controlled manner, so you get the job of your dreams.

Guillaume D

CEO / Airline Selection Programme

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