Few things in life are as stressful as starting a new career. Anxiety runs rampant when that wave of emotions begins to overtake you. After all, this is what you’ve been dreaming of – right?
Jumping from your single or multiengine piston to a jet powered machine is like cliff diving for the first time. The rush is surreal and like no other. Adrenaline rushes through your body from head to toe while thoughts race through your head like, “What did I just get myself into?” Naturally, your ‘fight or flight’ response reminds you that this could really hurt. So, how do you best prepare for that wild jump?
For those heading to a 121, my advice is twofold. First, have patience, and lots of it. It’s going to be a long road through training. Don’t get burned out or overly frustrated because that can hurt performance. Second, trust the process! I can’t stress this enough. These carriers have professionals who day-in and day-out train first-time jet drivers to handle the new flight levels at speeds faster than three-quarters the speed of sound. Do as they say and you’ll make it out unscathed. Who knows, you may even have a little fun, if you let yourself.
For my brothers and sisters joining the ranks in corporate or charter; strap in, you’re in for a wild (but awesome) ride, too. Part 91, 91k and 135 ops aren’t for the faint of heart. Just like 121, you have to WANT to be there. Your success depends on you. Without the drive and determination to persevere all the way to the finish line, you could flop. The difference with private or charter ops and the 121-world is that you may be left more to your own devices during training. The training center providers will undoubtedly work hard to show you the ropes, but there’s often a considerably shorter training period. However, you still have absorb the same amount of information. Get ready to “drink from the fire hose.”
So, what are some things you can do to ease the cranial crunch you’re about to endure? Here are a few things that some 91/135 and 121 pilots suggest.
- Become familiar with how jets work. No, I’m not kidding. There are only so many hours in a training day, and there’s a lot of basic information a candidate is expected to already know. Trainers can’t afford valuable time from an already over-packed schedule to cover some fundamental knowledge. You’ll want to be able to understand what the instructor is referencing when “bleed air” and “compressors” come into play.
- If you haven’t flown glass in a while, or ever, take time to figure out what’s what. Go over “what goes where” on those screens you’ll find in the jet cockpit. All the same information exists; the difference is how it’s being displayed. Learn where to look for the information you’ll need and fly that flight director!
- Studying for the ATP Written Knowledge Test is the great big elephant-in-the-room that not many people want to acknowledge. Better to address that stressor now and knock out some study materials before your entire life becomes consumed with systems, flows, callouts and flight profiles.
- Within that ATP theory come things like V1, V2, VFTO(or VFT/VENRor whatever your manufacturer will call it), VREF, VAPPand much more. In class, they’ll reference these speeds and the procedures related to them, show you where to derive the numbers for your jets during performance planning and even integrate them you’re your callouts. The real question though, is whatarethose acronyms? How about that stuff like 1st2nd3rdand 4thsegment climbs? Take-Off Safety Altitude (400’, anybody?) and Go-Around Safety Altitude? It is best find out before you take your seat in class.
- Precision of language is important, too. This is the time to learn a new dialect of aviation. Jets don’t produce power, they make thrust. You may need to re-wire your brain to effectively communicate in the cockpit with CRM.
- Learn how to operate in the high-altitude environment, as well as the transitions that bring you in and out of those flight levels. You’ll be spending two to three months (sometimes more) learning a new airplane, systems, profiles, SOP’s, OpSpecs and more. Don’t overburden yourself by throwing in more stuff to learn. The last thing you want to be figuring out while the box is in motion is what the instructor wants when they give the clearance “RNAV DOCKR, runway two-five right, cleared for takeoff.”
- Pre-Study Materials: No matter where you go or who you work for, you’ll be given pre-study materials. Don’t slack. Limitations are some of the weakest skill-sets for jet pilots. Get ahead, stay ahead.
All in all, the transition from 100LL to Jet-A isn’t much to be afraid of. It’s actually a ton of fun! But, as much fun as it is, it’s also a lot of work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and reach out to those around you. You’re not alone and certainly aren’t the first one to go through the process. There are plenty of resources out there, so take advantage of them!
See you in the flight levels.