For 2014: ATP, Glider or Something Else?
Accidents, like elections, have consequences. And as youíve probably read, a consequence of one accident is that the ATP will soon rise to the level of unobtanium, so if you always wanted one, 2014 is the time to act. And better be quick about it.
The accident, of course, is the Colgan Air crash in Buffalo in 2009, where the Captain stalled a Dash-8 Q400 on approach and spun the airplane in, killing 49 on the airplane and one on the ground. The consequences are that First Officers on such operations have to have an ATP and after July of this year, if you want an ATP, youíll need to complete 30 hours of ground school and up to six hours in a level C or D sim.
Yeah, those are the sims whose per-hour cost rivals that of flying an actual turboprop twin, a concept that itself is becoming more rarified. Sometimes I wonder if we should just develop simulators for the passengers, too and save everyone money. On further thought, maybe thatís what teleconferencing is.†
But back to the ATP. Is it worth having one just as wallet candy? Or to pursue the rating in lieu of a flight review? I could follow the usual Boy Scout aviation journalist doctrine and say yes, if you earn the rating, youíll be a better pilot. But Iím pretty sure thatís BS, so Iím going with the notion that itís a $1500 flight review and probably a waste of money, unless you need it for the type of flying you do or just want it for the recurrency. But a year from now, it will very likely be a $10,000 rating so youíre getting a discount price. Maybe your insurance company will be impressed enough to give you a lower premium. In any case, that much money spent on sim time or dual might be a better value.
I got an ATP purely as a coincidence 20-some years ago. I was doing the multi-engine instructor ride and the DPE suggested I combine it with the ATP. All Iíd have to do was take the ATP written, which is no big deal if you donít mind grinding through a dozen weight-and-balance calculations for a DC-9. After the ride, I had exactly the same skills as before the ride, unless you consider the ability to pencil whip 400 pounds of bags from one station to another a skill. I needed the rating exactly once, when I flew some scheduled charter work. But otherwise, wallet candy.
The new rule will require six hours in a high-level sim which, if youíre about to apply for an airline job, might prove useful in keeping you from blowing the screening ride in the airlineís sim. Iím just wondering how many people are going to look at the cost of an ATP and measure it against the miserably low starting salary for an airline job they might not even get. Maybe a career in the bail bond industry isnít such a bad deal after all.
The worst part of the new requirement isnít the sim workódespite the cost, itís at least funóbut the 30-hour ground school requirement. Thirty hours? Although this wonít have so much as a speck of influence on safety, the upside is that the course developers may come up with a sleep aid thatís less habit forming than Ambien. Maybe Fred Tilton will sign it off as a sleep apnea cure. Add another 10 hours, and you could get a medical degree, for Peteís sake.
So the next time I flash my totally impressive ATP and someone asks me if they should bother to get one, Iíd say maybe consider a glider rating instead. Thatís my plan for 2014. As you approach your dotage, you wonít need a medical and itís an altogether more peaceful pursuit than load testing your VISA every time you tank up your airplane. Adhering to consistency here, I wonít pretend that a glider rating makes you a better pilot. It just makes you a glider pilot. And the only way to get one is to actually fly a machine above the surface of the earth. I know itís a shocker, but itís still permitted, at least until next July.