The Challenges of Advanced Jet Training

I met today with Recruiters and Operations Executives from both SkyWest and GoJet today at our corporate headquarters at ATP. We had met to discuss ATP’s Regional Jet Standards Certification Program or the “RJ Program” as pilots are fond of calling it, presumably for the sake of brevity.

Both of these airlines have benefited from hiring many pilots who have been trained in the RJ Program and we were meeting to discuss how we could get more pilots through the RJ Program and into their training classes.

As we discussed the RJ Program I explained what we do here, as well as how the Program does such a good job of preparing pilots of all skill levels for their first experience in Part 121 Airline training.

I explained for example that the RJ Program has never aspired to teach a pilot every single aspect of the Regional Jet, and that we work on other important aspects of what a pilot can expect during new hire training while leaving some of the finer details to be learned at the airline.

I talked about how we aim to help an RJ Student in three ways. The first is to help the student transition from flying Recip-powered propellered aircraft to operating an aircraft powered by high-bypass Turbofans. This is not difficult really once a pilot get used to the lag time associated with turbine powered aircraft, as opposed to the instant response one can get from a healthy reciprocating internal combustion engine. Simply put, you just have to think ahead of the need for a reduction of power or the need for more thrust and act sooner than you would need to if you were flying a light twin for example.

The second transitional challenge for an RJ Student is learning to operate in the all-glass cockpit as opposed to the standard six pack of gauges that are still common in General Aviation Aircraft. Most pilots are very visual learners, and it is interesting to watch a student exposed to the full-glass for the first time. It is sensory overload for most. In time though the technology can be grasped and one finds that the automation lifts some of the workload off of busy pilots and allows for a much safer operation of a very complex aircraft if managed effectively.

The third challenge, and the most difficult for most students, is the transition from the single-pilot mentality necessary when flying general aviation aircraft to the Crew Concept (CRM) that is vital for the safe operation of modern airliners. It doesn’t take a village to raise the RJ, but it absolutely requires smooth teamwork from the two pilots charged with successfully getting passengers from Point A to point B. It takes work and a lot of practice for students to learn to share the responsibility for the flight with another professional aviator.

We have been teaching pilots who want to fly for the airlines these important lessons for a long time, and we are constantly adjusting what we do to mirror the experience one gets in actual new-hire training at an airline. Our success with the RJ Program is based on a lot more then what I have touched on here, but these are the common challenges facing an RJ student.