Which rating, when?
Aspiring professional pilots often wonder which ratings or certificates to get and in what order. Flight schools may push a standard, one-size-fits-all training plan, but many variations are possible. Once you complete your private certificate, the normal progression is to start working on the instrument rating. Your "gray sky card" is probably the most important rating you'll ever obtain, and it behooves you to pay close and serious attention to learning how to fly instruments.
The next goal for most pilots is generally the commercial certificate, which allows you to charge for your piloting services. Once you've got the skill to be paid, you'll want to obtain your teaching credential (flight instructor certificate) to gain more experience and flight hours. The CFII (for instrument flight instructor) will broaden your knowledge and permit you to give (and charge more for) advanced instruction. Somewhere along the way, you should obtain a multiengine rating to add to your commercial certificate.
How and when you obtain your multiengine rating is important. If you see an opportunity to log some twin time-for instance, if you have friends who own a twin or there's one for rent at your flight school-then plan to take your training as soon as you finish the instrument rating. It's important to have the ability to log multiengine time early in your career.
There are usually two or three options in multiengine training. If you are learning at a flight school that has a multiengine aircraft, I'd certainly get my rating there. Your total time in type will increase and put you that much closer to meeting the insurance requirements for PIC and the ability to rent the aircraft. If you have a job opportunity to fly a specific type of twin, say a Cessna 310 or a Beechcraft Baron, you may want to seek out a multiengine course that uses that model to become more familiar with it.
Finally, there's the two- or three-day course that offers a multiengine rating in the minimum time, frequently in minimum equipment. This is a good solution for someone who needs the rating quickly and isn't concerned with logging time in a specific type. However you train, be sure you get a good foundation in multiengine theory. The knowledge needed to fly a twin safely is important.
For the professional pilot-to-be, the order of ratings is important. You can save yourself time and money by carefully considering how, when, and where to complete the requirements.
Capt. Karen Kahn is the author of Flight Guide for Success: Tips and Tactics for the Aspiring Airline Pilot and a career counselor (www.Aviation CareerCounseling.com). A Master CFI and 30-year airline pilot, she flies the Boeing 757/767 for a major U.S. carrier.