In the life of fast paced, over-regulated, safety minded airline pilot there are decisions that have to be made in order to make progress. You have to weigh your options and the consequences of each. You also have to take the opportunities that present themselves, especially, those opportunities that can and will make your life as a pilot easier. See my last blog about being in the aviation industry as an airline pilot.
On a recent trip to Houston, TX to take the FAA required ATP/CTP ( Airline Transport Pilot Certification Training Program) I stared out of my window seat from 37,000ft. It was a beautiful evening flight with smooth air and tail winds the whole way. That makes for a short commute!
Settling into the hotel room, which would act as my temporary home for the next ten days, was bittersweet, to say the least. I already missed my family but I was overly excited to start the CTP course the next day!
The first day of training was a lot of fun and thankfully I have been working on getting in shape! I was initially greeted by a departing Boeing 787 Dreamliner wearing the United livery. This was a first for me and it was a beautiful airplane!
The instructors that we had for the first four days were great guys and really made the course a lot of fun to be in. We went through all the required syllabus powerpoint presentations and even threw in our own little story times that had relevance to each subject. The course included the usual areas of knowledge, such as, aerodynamics (both high altitude and jet aircraft (get your hands on a copy of Aerodynamics for Naval Aviators:NAVWEPS 00-80T-80 (FAA Handbooks series) from Amazon.com)), weather, and regulations. We even covered some company specific aircraft systems, limitations, and operations (CRJ-200 and ERJ-145).
NOTE: this ATP/CTP course is in no way an ATP written “test prep” course. This course is only designed to relay the knowledge required to pass the ATP written test. It is still highly recommended that you purchase an ATP written test prep of some form prior to taking the written.
The knowledge portion of the ATP/CTP lasted through the first four days.
After taking a quick 30 question review test (super easy) we had one day in the ERJ-145 FTD (Flight Training Device). This was more or less to recap a lot of the stuff we had previously covered during the knowledge portion in the class room. Stuff like “Remember how we talked about L/D Max? Well this is how it applies to how we fly the aircraft” stuff.
We had Friday and Sunday off, due to it being Good Friday and Easter and with those days off, my wife flew down to spend the weekend with me in Houston! She had a great time ordering room service and relaxing the day away in our hotel room. It was very refreshing to see her during this time period, too.
During the next two days, we were in the full motion sims for four hours each day. This fulfilled the 6 hour requirement for the FAA and was a lot of fun for me, since I am typed in this airplane. For a new pilot recruit, it can be a lot to take in on your first flight.
We covered unusual attitudes, wind shear avoidance techniques specific to the ERJ-145, wake turbulence upset and recovery, and a plethora of other scenarios during this training. We even shot a lot of category I ILS approaches, visual approaches, and crosswind landing techniques in jet aircraft. I had a great time being back in that airplane!
After the completion of day two in the full motion sims, we were given our certificates of completion and we all shook hands and parted ways. It’s one of the things that airline pilots do best. We are cordial, professional, and essentially pleasant to be around. After we introduce ourselves at the first flight, it is as though we have been friends for ages. However, as soon as the flight(s) are completed we can shake hands say “till next time” and walk away knowing we may never actually see that person ever again, let alone fly with them.
Anyways, I called the airport employee shuttle and requested to be picked up. They arrived shortly afterwards and toted me off to the airport terminal where I would make my way through the crowded halls full of people from all parts of the world. The terminal halls were alive with commerce!
Finding which gate my flight departed out of is always a fun little task but once the gate is found, I rushed off through the airport terminal to catch a flight back to Kansas City, MO and in no time I was boarding my flight!
We taxied out and took off from 15R, made a right turn and proceeded northbound. The best part of this flight home? I knew a cold front was moving across the plains this evening and we were flying right along the boundary.
What did this mean for me? An aerial view of the storms for half of my flight back. If you know anything about me, I love to chase storms and sometimes even chase them in a plane. The storms were literally within 10 miles and easy to watch out of my window seat and this made for one of the most enjoyable commutes home.
My flight returned me home and I took my ATP written test in the following days. I do want to point out that I did not properly study for this test. Instead, I took a calculated risk to see what I had learned solely based on the knowledge from the ATP/CTP course so I did not purchase or use an ATP prep course prior to taking my written. I had heard there were a ton of new questions and that a lot of the new questions focused on CRM (Crew Resource Management) and TEM (Threat Assessment Management). Nevertheless, I passed with a 76%!
Overall, I had a great time in Houston and met some awesome people that really knew their stuff and finished the ATP/CTP requirements with a passing score! We nailed that one down. Time for the next challenge.
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