There is still a mystique that surrounds the gas turbine engine. Asking for a job flying anything that drinks kerosine is normally met with a representative of ‘the system’ sucking his teeth as he says, “Oooh, not if you don’t have some ‘turbine time’ son, get some in and get back to me.”
I never really understood this refrain, perhaps you do?
Maybe this reluctance to take you on relates to the cost of the hardware and the consequence of mishandling it? This is a tad mystifying because the truth is, after flying a range of turboprops from the venerable PT6 through to the GTE 840 on to Rolls Royce, GE & Pratt & Whitney’s finest, nothing could be simpler than the operation of a gas turbine engine – jet, fan or turbo-prop. You throw in the gas, set fire to it and it keeps on running. Few moving parts to fail, huge reliability in use – simplicity itself. So where is the problem?
The tetchiest power plants I have come across have been large, temperamental piston engines; they need focused nurturing to make their its TBOs, are notoriously unforgiving of mishandling and typically return their displeasure at it by leaving metal in filters or just plain packing up.
No, the turbine has it for raw power and simplicity and with training for the operative, modern jet engines are a gift. They seldom if fail, even hiccup hardly ever and have legendary strength, often eating birds with scarcely a burp. Shame that so much capability comes at such a high cost, without that limiter, everything that flies might even now be drinking paraffin. So that cans that blocker on your getting through the door, it’s a myth!
So maybe the reluctance to employ the low/no time jet guy has its roots elsewhere? How about speed? We all know that as the operating speeds ramp up, it takes a while for the brain to acclimatize. I spent the first part of my introduction to the black arts dangling from a long piece of string tied to the tail of a Lear 35. I started at the trailing end seven miles from the tail-cone and clawed my way back into the right hand seat. It took me a couple of months and some patient captains, but I made it. Darned hard work, but just having the challenge was a luxurious if sometimes painful experience to be savored. Training is everything isn’t it, after a course in Wichita with Flight Safety’s talented and patient people, the Lear became a much less mysterious beast.
Let’s have a closer look at our candidate. Let’s call him ‘Roberto’ to be good Europeans here, after paying for multi-crew and jet transition training has had the balls to go out and spend the a vat of money getting type rated on say – an A320. With the costs involved in the simulator this is a brave strategic move involving risk and no little act of faith. Why do we think that this individual is going to trip up during his initial training with his new carrier?
Of course he isn’t, he is going to burn the midnight oil, terrorize his new mates and squeeze them for all the information he can about this new job, he can from them and excel if it is within his power. Transitioning to a jet is certainly hard work, but very few who are given the opportunity fail to make it onto the line.
So is it an insurance thing that causes this 500 hour requirement from some airlines? Well, the very same carriers who ask for this impossible to achieve unassisted figure very often take their own cadet entry pilots into the fold on completeion of their training with practically no jet experience at all. They pop them onto a shorthaul jet and after eight months Bob’s your uncle – hundreds of hours flying high frequency routes where jousting with the weather, airspace and general the cut and thrust of the airline pilots day turns ducklings into swans. Valuable experience and nothing to touch it for value so, Bingo! within a year a reasonably well seasoned airline pilot.
So why oh why are the airlines asking for that elusive 500 jet hours? Well, all I can think of is this. It takes a new entrant with no jet experience significantly more sectors, let’s say 30 – 60 sectors to complete their line training. With my carrier it generally takes an experienced guy around 10 – 12. Time is money and a training captain’s time (and probably a safety pilots as well for the first ten to twenty) is money, and if they can avoid spending it, they will.
Of course It takes time and effort (money) to recruit and train pilots; a low time pilot with no jet experience is seen as unproven and no matter what happens, at the end of the process a ‘bum’ is needed to fill a seat. Course failures really screw up the process and often no allowance above those required are generally recruited. Replacing a course failure is expensive, in cash and time as any new recruit at best will need to join a later course, at worse will need to go through the training process with a ‘stand in’ pilot in the left hand seat – more money. Experienced guys are less of a risk.
The good news is, the numbers of experienced pilots available to be recruited is falling quite rapidly and soon ‘beggars cannot be choosers’. I think the 500 barrier may well be quietly dropped as expediency and reality will join hands to open up opportunity.
Good luck if you are knocking on doors, time will tell if I am right or wrong….