Darren Smith, Flight Instructor
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Why you Should Do your IFR Ticket in a Twin

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
from IFR Checkride Reviewer
IFR Navigation:   General Info Instrument Rating | Instrument Rating Lesson Plans | 7-day IFR Rating IFR Adventure | Instrument Ground School | Safety Pilot | Holding | IFR Risk | Trip Reports | Flight Profiles | Rating Requirements | After the IFR RatingCheckride Reviewer | Are you ready?
At least weekly, I'm asked:
  • I want an airline career.  When should I get my multi rating?  After the private?  Or after the Instrument & Commercial?
  • I'm a private pilot, single engine, and I want to buy a light twin.  Should I get my multi rating first or my Instrument rating?
  • I want to go all the way... I want to fly for an airline.  How should I proceed?

Option One - Get the Multi Add-On as soon as possible and build time

For the individual who plans a career in aviation, this is my recommendation.  At the end of your instrument rating, if you are still short of the 250 hours needed for the Commercial rating, build multi time by acting as a safety pilot for other instrument rating students until you achieve approximately 210 hours.  Then begin the Commercial rating training in the multi.  The result is about 75-175 hours of multi-engine time. 

Option Two - Get the Multi Add-On at the end

This option is for the individual who doesn't have a lot of money.  The result is about 10-15 hours of multi.

Now What?

Even if you don't have a lot of money, consider following the "Option One" path described above.  The reason is that the incremental cost of obtaining the multi time during training that you will accomplish anyway is small. 

Jim, a 33-year old private pilot with 100 hours is trying to find the best way to accomplish his ratings to be prepared for his airline career. In this scenario, we'll compare the true costs of going with Option One that I recommend.  Some costs are identical no matter which option you choose. Those costs are not included in the comparison worksheet below because we want to determine the difference in cost between the two options.  Those costs which are identical whether you chose Option One or Option Two are:
  • Checkride costs
  • Ground instruction, ground schools, textbooks
  • The 15 hour multi add-on transition in Option Two is the same cost as the 10 hour multi and 5 hour single add-on transitions in Option One.
We'll follow Jim's career as he follows my recommendation and chooses Option One.  Consider the following spreadsheet.

Note that Jim paid $21,500 to go with Option One while the cost for Option Two is $13,360.  The difference is $8,140 which is Jim's incremental cost of obtaining his training as multi engine.   He needed the training anyway to accomplish his goal so it means he got 150 hours of multi time for $8,140 or an incremental cost of $54.26/hour. The faster you get it done, the less it costs you. 

Your next most likely step after obtaining your rating using either option is to do the CFI ratings.  You will be very pleased if you chose Option One (Multi Engine Instrument) because when you are ready for your CFI-MEI Multi engine instructor rating, you won't have to buy additional multi time because you'll already have 15 hours of multi-PIC you need to begin the MEI training.  The folks that chose Option Two will have to buy 15 hours of multi time (at a cost of $2,550 to $3,150) before they even start their MEI training.  That reduces your incremental cost of choosing Option One to $5,000 or $33/hour for that 150 hours you paid for your initial training.

After you get all your CFI ratings, you'll have approximately 300 total hours.  Here's the resume of the folks that chose either option:
Option One - Multi Engine Instrument
Option Two - Single Engine Instrument
Jim's total time:
300 hrs total time
160 hrs multi engine
Poor CFI's total time:
300 hrs total time
40 hrs multi engine

Can you guess which one got a job as a CFI first?   Jim.  He was immediately more attractive to flight schools than the folks that chose Option Two and only have 40 hours of multi. 

After a year of being a flight instructor, both pilots taught single and multi engine students.  Each pilot got 40 hours of multi engine instruction during their short CFI career.  This is the resume of the pilots who chose each option:
Option One - Multi Engine Instrument
Option Two - Single Engine Instrument
Jim's total time:
1200 hrs total time
200 hrs multi engine
Poor CFI's total time:
1200 hrs total time
80 hrs multi engine

Guess which one was just hired by an airline?  Jim.  The other CFI will have to work another year to get 200 multi hours to be competitive for airline applicants.  Either that or he's going to have to buy the 120 hours of multi time that he needs but probably can't afford it after a year of being a CFI.

A year later, Jim was promoted to Captain at his airline and the poor CFI finally got enough multi time to be competitive in his applications to airlines.  Here are their resumes:
Option One - Multi Engine Instrument
Option Two - Single Engine Instrument
Jim's total time:
2000 hrs total time
200 hrs multi engine
800 hrs jet-multi engine turbine
Poor CFI's total time:
1800 hrs total time
200 hrs multi engine
Guess which one made more money this last year?  Jim.  Guess which one made more money over their career?  Jim.

In summary, if you're looking for an airline career.  Definitely chose Option One:

Remember... nothing is getting cheaper as time goes on.  Start today and get it done.  And the faster you get it done, the less it costs you.

What You Said

Date: Wed, 4 Jul 2007 01:37:38 Name = Ken G
Comments = Finally Someone who sees the real benfit in getting it done by Option One. My flight instructor has been trying to sell me on  Option Two. I have 360 TT as private pilot, and my goal is to fly regionals only @ 48 yrs. Thanks for the breakdown, I can now forward this information to my knucklehead CFII. Blue Skies, Ken
[Reply: Your CFII is probably trying to get it for you the cheapest possible way. Perhaps he's not an CFII/MEI so he can't do the multi-instrument route.  Nonetheless, you're time is limited, so push forward. Actually... time is limited for everyone, but some folks will still try to go the cheap route and end up paying more in the long run.]

Date: Saturday, 5 February, 2011, 10:59 AM    Name = juan
Comments = i got to tell you Darren, you're so right about this. That is why i am picking XXXXXXX flight school

Date:  Monday, 20 February, 2012 20:12           Name = Tom R
Comments = I'm glad i found this Darren. At 46 years old, I'm only a few hours into my private but hoping to be done in 7 weeks. When I mentioned this scenario/route at a school I was looking at, they looked at me like I was clueless. I'm glad to see my intuition based on some research was correct. It's going to be uphill anyway so I'd like to cut out any additional time not necessary and increase my marketability. Thanks again.

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