Time is growing short for prospective airline pilots to take the written test for the Airline Transport Pilot license without taking a course that includes 10 hours of simulator training. As detailed in Examiner, on August 1 candidates for the written test will must have a graduation certificate from an approved course that will cost $15-20,000.
As Rick Durden pointed out on Avweb, the regulations as currently written provide a last chance for prospective airline pilots to take the ATP written without enrolling in the approved simulator course. As Durden points out, FAR 61.156, which spells out the requirements for the written test (“knowledge exam” in FAA parlance), does not contain any prerequisites for the test until after July 31, 2014. This means that a pilot who does not yet meet the requirements for the ATP can still take the test before August 1.
Once a candidate passes the written test, the results are good for two years. If the pilot met the flight experience and eligibility requirements within two years, he could take the checkride (“practical test”) and earn the ATP license without passing the FAA-approved simulator course. If the written test expires, the pilot must then pass the new ATP simulator course in order to retake the test.
The changes to the ATP are likely to exacerbate the pilot shortage that regional airlines are already experiencing. As the need for qualified pilots becomes more pronounced, Congress and the FAA are likely to issue regulatory changes to make it easier for pilots to qualify as ATPs. These changes are likely to be long in coming, however, and pilots who are close to meeting the requirements would be well advised to take the written test before August 1 if at all possible.
There are several traditional study methods for FAA knowledge exams. There are books available that familiarize test-takers with the questions in the FAA written test bank. There are also computer training courses that simulate taking the actual test on your own computer. Many vendors for these test prep services can be found on GlobalAir.com.
Given the short amount of time left to take the test, a classroom seminar might be the best solution. These courses often last one to two days and are essentially cram sessions for test-takers. ATP Flight School is one of several companies that offer one-day test preps at locations around the country. These “quickie” courses are perfect for busy professionals who don’t have a lot of time to study.
It is possible that the shortage of qualified pilots will force the FAA to change the regulations regarding the ATP, but there is no way of knowing how long those changes will take. In the meantime, a pilot who has already passed the ATP written may very well have an advantage in getting hired by the airlines.