Mul­tiengine rat­ings, and why they might not be needed


Flying - - CONTENTS - By Stephen Pope

Some blame for­mer Fly­ing ed­i­tor Richard Collins for nearly killing the mar­ket for light pis­ton twins by re­lent­lessly pros­e­ly­tiz­ing on the su­pe­ri­or­ity of sin­gles. He owned and flew a Cessna P210 and so it’s no sur­prise he was bi­ased in fa­vor of sin­gle-en­gine air­planes. But he also helped dis­pel the myth that twins were safer than sin­gles merely by virtue of their ex­tra en­gine. It wasn’t true, but con­vinc­ing peo­ple of that fact was a chal­lenge. Pi­lots re­turn­ing from World War II af­ter fly­ing mul­tiengine trans­ports and bombers wanted to own twins, cre­at­ing a ready-made mar­ket for decades to fol­low.

How times have changed. To­day, the mar­ket for new pis­ton twins is prac­ti­cally nonex­is­tent. Still, we’ve got to keep build­ing new twin train­ers. That’s be­cause aspir­ing air­line pi­lots are ob­li­gated to sidetrack their train­ing to learn to fly pis­ton twins, merely for the priv­i­lege of af­fix­ing the word mul­tiengine to their pi­lot cer­tifi­cate. It’s a silly re­quire­ment. Ac­quir­ing the skills nec­es­sary to feather the prop, pull the cor­rect mix­ture han­dle, and do the del­i­cate dance of rolling into the good en­gine and ap­ply­ing proper rud­der in­put in a sim­u­lated en­gine-out emer­gency in a pis­ton twin will have lit­tle prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­bil­ity to an air­line pi­lot’s fu­ture du­ties fly­ing com­mer­cial jet­lin­ers. Yet we ask stu­dents on an air­line ca­reer track to spend more money and time learn­ing skills they will need for a check ride that will be a dis­tant mem­ory by the time they land their first job in the right seat of a re­gional air­liner.

We also ask flight schools that spe­cial­ize in air­line-pi­lot train­ing to keep fleets of ag­ing pis­ton twins fly­ing, or to buy new ones, merely so their stu­dents can check that box dur­ing train­ing. There was a time when the pis­ton twin mar­ket was burst­ing wide open with lit­er­ally dozens of choices for new air­planes. To­day, the mar­ket for new pis­ton twin train­ers in­cludes a hand­ful of air­planes from a cou­ple of man­u­fac­tur­ers. Ask­ing flight schools to con­tinue op­er­at­ing pis­ton twins when very few of their stu­dents truly need this type of train­ing makes lit­tle sense.

Ob­vi­ously, the ques­tion I pose in the head­line of this col­umn is pur­posely provoca­tive. Of course air­line pi­lots need a mul­tiengine rat­ing to fly mul­tiengine jet­lin­ers. But let the air­lines han­dle that part of the syl­labus af­ter their new em­ploy­ees have ac­quired all the other cer­tifi­cates, en­dorse­ments, rat­ings and flight hours that nat­u­rally come dur­ing ab ini­tio train­ing. If an aspir­ing pro­fes­sional pi­lot wishes to fly pis­ton or tur­bo­prop twins for a liv­ing, cer­tainly they should be able to get the train­ing. But a mul­tiengine rat­ing in a pis­ton twin should be a spe­cial­ized course, not part of the core cur­ricu­lum for ev­ery­one, es­pe­cially as we deal with the wors­en­ing ef­fects of a global pi­lot short­age.

It’s all about re-ex­am­in­ing avi­a­tion or­tho­dox­ies that dic­tate we do things a cer­tain way sim­ply be­cause we al­ways have. Thank­fully, we’re see­ing wel­come signs of change al­ready. The FAA rec­og­nized there was lit­tle ben­e­fit in mak­ing pi­lots take their com­mer­cial check ride in a com­plex air­plane and so re­cently dropped that re­quire­ment. Last month, I wrote about the pos­i­tive changes to in­stru­ment cur­rency rules that al­low the use of home flight sim­u­la­tors. On the agenda, we hear, is a weight-limit in­crease for light-sport air­craft.

Next, let’s take an­other look at the mul­tiengine rat­ing. Pi­lots on an air­line ca­reer path should be al­lowed to forgo mul­tiengine train­ing un­til they re­ally need it. Flight schools ought to be able to re­tire their ag­ing pis­ton twins un­less they choose to con­tinue of­fer­ing the train­ing. If not, let them bid their tired old twins a long over­due farewell.

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