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Yes, It Does Matter What You Fly...

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI

I've been talking to a lot of pilots recently about how to groom yourself for each step of your career.  Folks are starting to ask the same questions again and again which means I need to write another article.  So here it goes... the various questions people ask.

Does it matter what kind of aircraft you're flying?

Initially, no.  But keep in mind that an employer is going to look through your logbooks to see what you have been flying.  Most interviewers will want to see a nice progression into larger and more complex aircraft every 3-4 pages.  After all, there's only a certain amount of Cessna 172 time that's valuable.  It doesn't mean go pencil in a bunch of fake King Air time, but there's nothing wrong with trying to get some right seat time and flying empty legs.  Network so you can make it happen.  Yes it really does matter what you fly. 

For the helicopter folks, those who have done all their ratings in a 60 knot Hiller or Schweizer aren't going to be ready to fly a 105 knot Jet Ranger, R44 or even an R22.  Its often said that if you can fly an R22, you can fly anything.  Well its true.  The stats on folks succeeding in Jet Ranger checkouts are determined by what the pilot flew leading up to it.  If you flew a helicopter at 60 knots all through your training, then you're just not ready for a screamer.  The same is true for the fixed wing crowd that loves Piper Tomahawks and C152s.  Yes it really does matter what you fly. 

I recently met a brand new helicopter private pilot so I asked him, "Whats next?"  He said, "Instrument rating in the R22."  I talked about this concept of career progression and he realized that for a small incremental cost, he could be flying an R44 to get his instrument rating and come out at the end of his training and be able to teach in both R44 and R22 immediately.  It also makes him more valuable to a potential employer.  This rarely happens however, because people dont want to spend the extra money to get the R44 time.  Yes it really does matter what you fly. 

The slower (and cheaper) aircraft are good for a start, but as you progress through your ratings to an professional flying career, try to upgrade to a more complex aircraft for each new rating.  I have long advocated airline bound fixed wing pilots to obtain their instrument and commercial ratings in a twin.  There's no quicker way to jump start an airline career than to do it that way.  For more information on that, see related article:  Why You Should do Your Instrument Rating in a Twin

A final word...
Know what you're flying.  One of the best interview tricks they play is to open your logbook to a random page and pick an aircraft you've flown and ask you questions about it.  Common questions include:  tell me about the fuel system; tell me about any AD that might be on the aircraft.   When you get into a new aircraft, read that POH cover to cover and make sure you know the information.  Not only will it help you during your flight training and checkride, but on one of your future interviews. 

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