ATP provides a practiced and proven pathway to flying for the airlines, and the best part of my job is helping them transition from General Aviation Pilots to professional Part 121 Airline Pilots. Dustin Means is just such a pilot. He came to ATP at the end of June in 2010 as a Private Pilot, and then went through ATP's Career Pilot Program. Dustin then began instructing for ATP and became one of our Standardization Pilots who actually teach new-hire CFIs how to teach in a very standardized Program for ATP. Dustin was then hired through PilotPool.com by Mesa Airlines, and sent back a description of his experiences going through new-hire training at Mesa:
It all started on April 5th when a Mesa Airline recruiter called me. He said he got my info off of Pilot Pool and wanted to interview me. We did a phone interview and when it was over he offered me a class date to start ground school on April the 15th. He was really interested in finding out “can I fly with you on a four or five day trip and not go crazy"? He knew that after flying 1500 hours with ATP that I knew how to fly. Believe me I had worked six years on getting myself to that phone call, it was very exciting!
I showed up on April 15th in Phoenix for the start of ground school. After drug testing and background checks for the first two days we got to the good stuff. We started with a week of "Basic Indoc". Indoc ended up being about Part 121 regulations and company operations, such as their operation specs, the GOM (general operations manual), the CFM (company flight manual) and we talked about how they want their planes to be flown. At the end of the week we had a test over everything, which wasn't too bad.
Weeks two and three were systems ground school. Now this part I liked! You'll see if you did the ATP Regional Jet Program that you will have studied a lot of the general information already. Mesa flies the CRJ 700 and 900 so there are only slight differences from the CRJ 200 (the simulators used in ATP’s RJ program).
Some words of advice for new-hires: when you start ground school join up with a few people and study together. You'll find it makes it much easier. Ground school was five days a week, and about eight to nine hours a day. One of the things that I'm thankful for is the training I had with ATP. The pace and style in which Mesa ran things was very fast paced, very much the ATP way of life. I found that through my training, and also teaching for ATP, that it greatly prepared me for the airline world and its training.
Once we completed systems ground school we had another written test that contained 50 questions. After that was finished, we were scheduled for oral exams with company check airmen. One important thing I realized was that they are NOT out to fail you, they want you to pass and be on line! My oral was very stressful because I had two FAA guys and a company line check airman evaluate me. Overall they did a great job of making me feel comfortable and I passed.
Now…… as soon as that was done I felt great, but then I started the sim training! Sims are really fun, its just like the Regional Jet Program, but in a full motion simulator. Similar to ATP's jet program, you really have to study "flows" and "profiles" and know them in and out. We studied them while bouncing a ball back and forth to practice dividing our attention.
We had 10 simulator sections, with number nine being the Type-check ride. Sim ten was what they called LOFT (line oriented flight training). I had a great sim instructor and a really good sim partner, which I learned helps a lot!
Once the sim training was over, Mesa had us do four observation flights. That involves you sitting in the jump seat and watching the crew fly a few legs in action. After the observation flights are finished you start IOE (initial operating experience), which you do with an IOE captain. The first four to five days in the plane it’s all you can to hang on! The captains do a great job of helping you out and getting you up to speed!
At the end of the day, you’re going to have a long leg that gives you some time to think, and it clicks, “I've made it, I have 90 people sitting behind me and I'm flying an 89,000lbs aircraft at 450kts through the sky!” At that point you smile and you might even laugh to yourself (it’s even more fun if the captain hears you laugh, wondering what is so funny).
I've been on the line now for about a month and I love it. I can't thank my family, ATP's flight training and instructors, and my experience working with the ATP family enough. At the end of the day it’s those people who helped get me through my ups and downs, and accomplish my goal of becoming an airline pilot! Thanks to everyone and I hope to see my instructors, friends and students out here flying the line with me.