Even when your type rating is awarded, you’ll find that you may need further training. Sure, you would rather hop in the jet and head for the flight levels. But if you got that type rating in a simulator, and never held a type rating before, the FAA requires that you ride with a type-rated pilot to help you build real-world experience. Under FAR 61.63, you could need up to 25 hours of supervised operational experience (SOE) with a qualified pilot.
USAIG Vice President Daniel Bullard said the FAA requirement for 25 hours is the minimum, “...the lowest common denominator.”
“Some pilots might need more—as much as 30 to 50 hours in our conservative view of things,” Bullard said. “If the pilot flies only 200 hours per year, then even 50 hours might be too few.” The person who rides with you need not be an instructor and can act more as a baby sitter. The industry has taken the FAA requirement for supervision beyond baby sitting to introduce mentoring that is based on typical scenarios you are likely to see in the real world. Mentoring is an attempt to make experienced pilots out of newly trained ones.
Eclipse Aviation pioneered light-jet mentoring and made it mandatory under the aircraft type certificate. You will take mentoring even if you don’t need the FAA’s 25 hours of SOE.
Experienced pilots will take at least two to three hours of in-flight mentoring, said Randy Brooks, Eclipse director of customer training. After the type rating is awarded, Eclipse trainers assign a series of tasks to be accomplished, such as Class B procedures or nontowered-airport operations. The hours flown also count toward the FAR 61.63 requirement for 25 hours of SOE, if you need them. After you have used the $600-per-day mentors to complete all the tasks, you can hire a qualified friend to fly with you as you finish the 25 required hours. The training system gives Eclipse unprecedented control over training.
Cessna Aircraft Company’s control over Mustang training comes not from requirements in the aircraft type certificate, but from the form known as the pilot proficiency index that you will fill out prior to training. Once Cessna officials gather your background data, training firm FlightSafety International (FSI) assigns the classroom and simulator coursework that you will require for single-pilot operations, or suggest you work your way up to single-pilot operations from lesser ratings such as “crew” or “second in command.” If you don’t agree, you can’t train. The training is done by FSI at its Wichita facility. (Eclipse is currently adding a similar tiered pilot rating system but currently trains only for single-pilot operations.)
After the Mustang type rating is awarded, FSI offers a voluntary scenario-based mentoring course that takes 25 hours to complete, and is sure to impress your insurance company. There is no pass-fail involved, but the FSI instructor notes your performance as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory.
If you can complete the course in five days, the cost is $1,325 per day, but if FlightSafety recommends additional training and you agree, the cost drops to $1,200 on the sixth day and to $1,100 on the fifteenth day. Few have signed on for the program so far. Of 248 Mustang owners trained, only nine have purchased the FlightSafety mentoring. (Some of the 248 pilots were from Europe where the mentoring idea has not caught on.) Cessna Director of Training Chad Martin said the average Mustang trainee has between 5,500 and 7,200 hours total time. (One had only 800 hours.) FlightSafety Mustang Program Director Randy Burke said half of the trainees have previous type ratings.
Jeff Rubenstein of Erieville, New York, is a new Eclipse 500 owner who thought at first that mentoring sounded like baby sitting. “Turns out it is not baby sitting. There are lots of things about the airplane that they don’t teach you in the sim,” Rubenstein said. He completed assigned mentoring tasks—including unending emergencies—in 17 hours, and then hired a friend to ride with him for eight hours of SOE to meet the FAA 25-hour requirement.
One of the surprises waiting for him in the real world—and covered during his mentoring—is the frequent request by air traffic controllers to fly the approach at 150 to 160 knots to fit in with faster traffic. The Eclipse normally approaches at less than 100 knots IAS.
Eclipse mentor Dominic Ruscitti, a former check airman on the Boeing 747, said pilots new to jet operations and glass cockpits need 25 to 30 hours of mentoring. “Why would you think you could do it single pilot in a few weeks [for the type rating]? You are taking [the aircraft] alone. You don’t have any help,” he said.
FlightSafety instructor Brandon DeVore provided a glimpse of an actual mentoring flight in one of two $25 million Mustang simulators at FSI in Wichita. The scenario involved a quick flight from Denver to Colorado Springs on a hot day. Pilots learn to keep their power up during approach because the engines spool up slowly at high-altitude airports; a valuable tip if a go-around requires quick application of power.
Trainee Jim Merek, a former airline pilot with 16,500 hours, will fly a Mustang in charter service for the Gary Jet Center in Gary, Indiana. His supervisor said Merek does not require mentoring because of his airline experience. By contrast, new Mustang pilot Paul David Miller of Dallas has several type ratings and 2,000 jet hours, but he opted to take the mentoring program. The primary reason was to gain experience with the Mustang’s glass cockpit system. “By the time I finished, I felt really comfortable,” he said.
Mentoring is gaining support in the United States. Cirrus Design will use it for training in its SJ50 Vision, and Piper Aircraft will include mentoring as part of PiperJet training. It’s an additional expense, but one that avoids potential pitfalls.