Reaching 500 Hours

Goals, time building, industry changes, and future advancement.  A look at the modern career pilot.

Flight photo of earth and sky.
Flying Over Texas
Chart of flight hours
Work Weeks Include up to 30 Hours of Flight

At the 500-hour milestone, experience comes more quickly for me.  I enjoy six days per week at the airport, often arriving at 6:45 am and returning home by 8 or 9 pm.  My schedule is not consistent, though.  If I am training new students, the appointments always fall between 7 am and 5 pm.  But the instrument students are scheduled by airplane availability, which means my shift sometimes begins at 4 pm and ends at midnight or 1 am.  Fortunately, my company requires ten hours rest.  I stay home and sleep if the schedule gets overbooked or loaded with back-to-back shifts.  There is always a chance of bad weather or mechanical problems forcing cancellations within the schedule, which adds to the inconsistency.

A few years ago, someone in my position could spend their spare time looking into which airlines are hiring pilots, at which experience level, and at which locations.  This changed with the addition of FAR § 121.436 last year, requiring all new airline pilots to hold an airline transport pilot certificate.  I am not yet eligible to apply for that certificate, which has become my next career goal.

In terms of the calendar month when I could be ATP certified, there is no precise forecast.  The situation is optimistic, but complex.  Under the provisions of FAR § 61.160 (b), I could accumulate 1,000 hours of flight time within perhaps 4 to 12 months, and still have no expectation of eligibility.

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Hired!

Robert Chapin at the US Aviation Academy.

A photo to send home, from KGYI, October 2013.

A successful career move happened since my last post.  I am now the newest flight instructor at US Aviation Academy based on the North Texas Regional Airport!

Leading up to this development, my commencement ceremony at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) was in April, followed by my official flight instructor course completion in June, and my official graduation in August.

Between June and August, I used my time to obtain the flight instructor instrument airplane rating, which I was advised was “the most important job qualification for a pilot.”  The so-called CFII was not a degree requirement at EMU, but now I have to agree with the advice.  I would not have this job today without a CFII certificate in my pocket.

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Eastern Michigan University Graduation

EMU Outstanding Student award in Aviation
Outstanding Student Award

I always thought college graduation would be like high school graduation; a happy day that goes by too quickly.  But in many ways, my college graduation stretched over two months filled with celebrations, gifts, studying, and so many exams that I’ve lost count!

Over the past two months, I’ve had several new experiences and accomplishments:

  • Attended the Alpha Eta Rho National Conference in Kalamazoo.
  • Received the Outstanding Student in Aviation award at the College of Technology Celebration of Scholarship banquet.
  • Mailed commencement announcements.
  • Scored 100% during the 3-day final exam for Aircraft Dispatcher.
  • Moved out of my dorm room.
  • Enjoyed my undergraduate commencement ceremony.
  • Passed the FAA practical test for Aircraft Dispatcher certification.
  • Took a train ride from Ann Arbor.  Collided with an 18-wheeler full of kayaks!  Luckily, there were no injuries.
  • Presented my pilot survey research project to the Dean of the College of Technology.
  • Completed spin training and the flight instructor stage check.
  • Passed the FAA written test for Fundamentals of Instructing.
  • Passed the FAA written test for Flight Instructor Airplane.
  • Passed the FAA written test for Ground Instructor Basic.
  • Passed the FAA practical test for Flight Instructor Airplane Single Engine.

Rob in cap and gown

It was a busy time for me.

From here, I should see my final grades posted for Flight Instructor training.  I will bring those grades to the attention of my graduation auditor who will review the grades and give me a letter verifying I am a graduate (summa cum laude) of EMU officially on August 23, 2013.

Since I have no further academic obligations, I only have to wait for August 23 to come around before EMU can put my diploma in the mail.  I should have it in my hands sometime this fall!

In the meantime, I plan to work on the instrument rating for my flight instructor certificate and send my résumé to a variety of flight schools.  My goal is to have a flight instructing job by the end of year, and I am determined to make that happen.