It was tough! But ATP prepared me well. The pace and intensity of the program primed me for success. I was never worried about my work ethic. I knew I would eventually figure it all out. I just wish I had a mentor to tell me how to prioritize. Thankfully, Horizon has a mentorship program now.
I did my interview as a CFI with 900 hours. Going into the interview I had doubts that I wasn’t prepared enough. I was assured by my peers that I knew more than I thought I did. They were right. I wasn’t expected to have any 121 knowledge since I didn’t have the experience. So, the interview was tailored appropriately.
Ground school was thorough, but jam-packed every day. I had a shoebox’s worth of flash cards. Not the norm, but it worked for me.
Things started to make more sense when we began VPT (Virtual Procedures Trainer) instruction. It’s like a touch screen sim. This helped drill down flows, callouts and familiarize ourselves with the approximate layout of the flight deck.
Sim training was in STL. Idk what was harder, the training, or the midnight to 4a slot. I don’t think I saw the sun for the two weeks that I was there. But anyway, the sim training follows a syllabus. Reading the syllabus ahead of time and brushing up on the procedures goes a long way.
The automation was a new concept for me. So, learning that and how to properly arm the aircraft in the right mode for the correct type of approach was challenging, especially when the FMS wasn’t cooperating and we had to figure out how to get the FMS in the correct mode. There were definitely days when I felt like I just wasn’t getting it, but it clicked when it was time for our LOFT and LOE.
The one thing I like most about sim training is that the syllabus runs under an Advanced Qualification Program (AQP). With AQP, you are evaluated as an individual and a crew. So, mistakes are not automatically disqualifying, like they are when taking a checkride under the PTS or ACS.
The rules vary slightly, but in general terms it’s more like a three strikes, your out kind of deal. Plus, since you are always being checked as a crew, if one pilot makes a mistake, forgets something, says the wrong callout, says the callout at the wrong time, etc. the pilots can query each other at any time. If the error is mitigated, no harm no foul.
After sim, then the real test begins. At my airline I believe new hires get 50 hours of IOE and upgrades get 25. This is all flown with a Check Pilot. The CPs work off of a checklist to ensure that you demonstrate each task within standards. Perfection is not the goal. Just safe and standard.
My IOE went well for the most part. The first few days definitely felt like I was behind the plane, but a rhythm begins to develop quickly. Towards the end of training the only thing I needed to work on was landing. I was given an extra trip, which was not counted against me, and then I was released to the line!
Six months later every new hire receives a Supervised Line Flight (SLF) with a CP. It’s not exactly a checkride. It’s more like, “We just need to make sure you are still operating within standards and haven’t picked up any bad habits.” It’s also a good opportunity for you to ask questions and learn something new.
I’d say it takes, on average, about 500 hours (6-7mo) before you feel comfortable with both the plane and the operation. Of course, it varies from individual to individual. It also depends on the length of time it takes one to accumulate that flight time. The less flight time flown per month (on average) the longer it could take to feel comfortable.
This was fun to write! Thank you for asking such a good question. Let us know if there’s anything you’d like any of us to expand on.