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Ab initio pilot training - a scam?


If the standards are sufficiently met, why is a frozen ATPL worth absolutely ZERO without passing an ensuing airline assessment?

Because the airlines know that anybody who can mortgage their parents’ house for an integrated ab initio zero to hero course can show up at their doorstep with a wet ink cpl + atpl theory credit (=proof for rote memory MQB clicking) and it says nothing about the candidates aptitude and quality. If it were as you say, one could get hired based on attainment of a fAtpl. Not on this planet, though.

The ab initio airline training is a scam due to conflicts of interest. For profit flight schools require a steady stream of paying student “pilots”, aka customers and washing them out would reduce revenue.

Finance a fleet of cheap trainers (P-Mentor, DA40, DA42) and have a few hundred hours annual utilization. Charge insane prices for it. Especially for the worthless and scalable theory courses (mostly fake self study). Want to increase profits by 30%? Easy, hand out cheap plastic uniforms, iPads (“EFBs”) and useless “Crew ID” cards to your customers. Makes them feel important, and they’ll pay dearly for it.

The win win situation is for the schools and airlines.
Constant flow of customers turned into a constant flow of cheap labor. Some airlines even turn the labor into a profit center by charging new hires atrocious training costs for typeratings included free of charge with airplane orders. The really shitty carriers that can’t make enough money from passengers extend the ticket purchase requirement to, well, the leftovers who really, really, really need that instagram picture in the front seat. "We’ll hire you, but you pay 50k for “the experience”. At that point it’s rotten to the core. Guess where that pay2fly guy did his training? Yup, where everyone else did it. Washout? No no just drag along with some extra training.

Nobody wants to hear about this. Dreamers want to dream and everybody else wants to keep lining their pockets.

You can tell me the fairy tale about the training industry being a loss leader when airlines start owning their basic training outfits as well as fully covering the cost for their future pilots again. This would mean a major trend reversal and I doubt it will happen. Until pilots are replaced with metro like conductors watching the plane do its thing, things will continue to get worse (or, actually, better! Depends on which side you’re on). Even the big “professional” names out there, often pretending some association with reputable operators, all have pesky little clauses stipulating “no guarantees” to make sure the customer (student “pilot”) is the one bearing the cost.

I’m not saying there aren’t great people on both sides. Certainly the case. There would be in any case. My point is that throwing around terms of “standards” and “washout” is ridiculous when every chap walking in the door means potentially another 100-150k revenue.
And when the money is gone, they’re less capable then many of the contributors here regarding piloting.

always learning
LO__, Austria

Sometimes I really miss “like” button on this forum. Thanks @Snoopy for this great (insider’s) insight.

LDZA LDVA, Croatia

It is usually the norm to start this sort of thread with facts.

Am not aware of any at scale integrated school, and in effect in Europe the larger integrated schools are arguably no longer at scale, making money or lining their pockets. The smaller outfits lose money, and hence schools going bankrupt in the business.

The financial cost is typically around six figures, between €100k and €150k, including airline type rating costs. The main integrated schools in Europe with longstanding relationships with the airlines, supply around 25%-33% of the demand for entry level FOs. In effect it pays the airlines to build relationships with the larger well funded, established schools. These schools have selection processes, and indeed washout rates. 95% of the graduates find jobs, mainly with regional jet carriers, although national flag carriers as well. Airlines are now, in certain cases, paying for the TR. MPL cadets already join airlines and the airline pays the TR.

Is this a scam? Starting salary is typically around €50k rising quite quickly to around €80k, once minimum sectors have been carried out. In a regional, command training is expected after around six years, although one regional, with possibly the best safety record in Europe, will have FOs eligible for command training in three or four years (2000 hours on type). Regional jet command is a reasonable six figure salary, and after five years of command the pilot can upgrade to fast track command on a long haul if that suits them. Not sure where packages are headed there but solid six figures.

Whether this is an acceptable IRR for the original investment, and the potential risk of not making the standard factored in, I leave it to people who understand finance to opine. I tend to prefer to spend childrens’/grandchildrens’ education on the traditional professions, but I would suggest, at least at the moment, airline training for the candidates who pass initial screening and complete training is financially rational.

It would be interesting to get ‘(insider’s) insight’ on this vast universe of scam schools and what proportion of the genuine, selection based, integrated market they form. Is this a central European phenomenon? Am not aware of any major integrated schools in the region.

There are pay2play programmes run by some central European fringe operators, where they are recruiting from I have no idea. I am 100% sure not from the major integrated schools in UK/Western Europe.

Ed for typos

Last Edited by RobertL18C at 30 Nov 07:07
Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom

Nobody wants to hear about this. Dreamers want to dream and everybody else wants to keep lining their pockets.

I’m not sure this subject belongs in a GA forum… still, I’ll spare a few short comments.

The ATP profession still seems, strangely enough, attractive enough for the system, e.g. P2F, to work.
One thing not to forget is that the system is driven by… you, the SLF paying customer. As long as you will choose the cheapest carrier for your travel needs, as long as infuriating hi wages of top management are generally supported, the feed line will be anchored.

Some people might “line their pockets” in some cases, but that is largely an exaggeration. It is also true that some selection requirements can follow market fluctuations, but again, not necessarily.

I hope that the majors (flag carriers and large LCCs) will follow the seriousness of their weeding and training. One step towards maintaining certain standards has been the almost disappeared MPLs.

Retired for 6 years by tomorrow, never missed a second of line flying

Last Edited by Dan at 30 Nov 10:21
ain't the Destination, but the Journey
LSZF, Switzerland

I have a chum who sat on the selection board of a not large European carrier.
He tells me that most of the applicants for jobs at the moment come from pilots who either want a change or people who have just passed ATPL/CPL and MCC training. They will already have an IR. They may already have one or more type ratings.
Whichever way they have achieved those qualifications doesn’t bother them much as the selection process starts when they interview the prospective candidate. What they are looking for is something that you can’t easily teach and that is attitude. Of course the selection process isn’t just one interview it goes on for several weeks? During this weeding out process as well as looking at attitude they will be looking at aptitude. That is the aptitude to adapt to the company’s procedures and as time goes on the company’s aircraft types.


Dan wrote:

The ATP profession still seems, strangely enough, attractive enough for the system, e.g. P2F, to work.

Snoopy wrote:

Dreamers want to dream and everybody else wants to keep lining their pockets.

These two statements go together. Yes, being an airline crew is still massively attractive and it is a dream which still is very much there with LOTS of young people. Boys and Girls alike.

I am not surprised by this. Flying is a virus which once you got it it won’t let go. That is the first thing. Being at the controls of any airplane is a joy, being at the controls of a big one or small one alike. Travelling as an air crew, particularly long haul, still has a lot of attractiveness. Those you hear bitching on the fora are, believe it or not, a minority, most of them love every minute of it.

Flying for LCCs often is the way there, but not always. I know people who flew LCC all their careers and were perfectly fine doing it. I have friends who now (god are we really all that old) are close to retiring, who started out with me and are with the airline Dan flew with, others in airlines at ZRH, and somehow I think none of them would have it any other way. None of them was ever pay2fly though, as to my knowledge no swiss airline has ever done that.

As to capability: The washout largely has moved from the training organisations to the airline industry. They will wash out candidates who are incapable or lack character, but sometimes only on the move from what Snoopy calls “shitty carriers” towards legacy or established carriers. So quite possibly, where airlines don’t care too much who sits up front, some of the less capable will end up “eternal copilots” there.

Because one thing should also not be forgotten: At least in Europe and the LCC’s here, safety is a ultra high motive for them. They know perfectly well that they will be taken to the cleaners the moment they have an accident which can be found to be caused by their policies. Hence the likes of Ryan, Wizz and EZY are ultracautious in that regard! I would not suggest that any of them would risk hiring low aptitude pilots either, as they really really can’t afford any accident.

Yes, the pay to fly schemes are a scam and something which should be illegal. Yes, many schools have scammed their way through, but primarily through their advertizing (“There is a massive lack of pilots” when there wasn’t, it is now though…) and the crazy cost of obtaining a license these days. If a lot of people get rich with this, I doubt it somehow. It’s a cut throat industry but these days, the lack of capable pilots is real. Some schools do good work, others less, many now do get their alumni straight to partner airlines or they get snapped up elsewhere.

What may well happen though is that those who fail to gain employments by the airlines will then end up knocking on the door of GA biz jet units. Maybe that is why criticism of todays pilot training is so vocal from that particular corner. Well, I am old enough to recall when GA outfits carried PPL’s in the RH seat without pay just to provide a “2nd pilot” who for all practical purpose was a passenger on a SP jet but who might have gotten some “free” instruction on the way and ended up as a CPL/IR Copilot eventually. Not few of those also worked their way up, many however stayed in that segment, some in shady jobs. At least in the airlines some of the practices in “private GA” can’t be put to use. That stuff, some I’ve seen pre-EASA, were pretty darn hairy to say the least. Also a lot of European rejects end up flying in parts of the world where safety is not such a huge concern.

So I think what Snoopy is saying has a lot of merit but there are always two sides to each medal and there are better and worse outfits. In general, the safety census of European airlines at least (and US as well) show that whatever they do appears to produce flight crews which are capable of keeping a remarkable safety record. And LCC’s at least here in Europe and the US have kept a much better safety record than some legacies. In other parts of the world it may well be very different.

LSZH(work) LSZF (GA base), Switzerland

Dan wrote:

One step towards maintaining certain standards has been the all but disappeared MPLs.

Is that really true? Why would that maintain standards better than an integrated CPL/ME/IR course? (I feel that there must be something seriously wrong with a license that allows you to fly from the right seat of an Airbus, but not from the left seat of a Cessna 172.)

Last Edited by Airborne_Again at 30 Nov 10:08
ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

Airborne_Again wrote:

Is that really true? Why would that maintain standards better than an intergrated CPL/ME/IR course? (I feel that there must be something seriously wrong with a license that allows you to fly from the right seat of an Airbus, but not from the left seat of a Cessna 172.)

As I understood it the main purpose of the MPL was to tie the holder to the first employer and reduce their ability to look for other employment options.


@Airborne_Again, well picked and not what I meant to write but quite the opposite… text corrected, thanks.

ain't the Destination, but the Journey
LSZF, Switzerland

A few airlines still have MPL programmes. There are plusses and minuses for both systems. Obviously a big plus for cadets as they have a guaranteed job and do not pay for the TR. They also enter the TR with a lot of MCC SIM hours on type during the intermediate phase. Recall this is a competency based lesson programme, so again a reasonable wash out rate, usually at the intermediate phase.

While America sets the standards, SP MEP/IR on the path to ATP is likely to remain the norm.

Airborne_Again wrote:

but not from the left seat of a Cessna 172

Actually an integrated MEP/IR graduate can only fly an MEP, they do not get an SEP class rating. Some MPLs actually get a PPL licence with an SEP rating.

@Mooney_Driver is very right. Europe has a ton of grey charter issues, with non multi crew, non SOP safety pilots on SP types. Not sure if this would work in a Part 135 context where at least there is the concept of SIC TR, and the OM will have multi crew procedures and good recurrent training/safety systems.

Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom
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