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Being a “Right-Seater” at a Part 142 Flight Training Center is perhaps the most unique path into business aviation because it’s the only first flying job where you don’t fly airplanes at all; instead, you fly simulators.  If you are curious on how to become a professional pilot, check out the earlier article From Intro Flight to Your First Paycheck for a condensed explanation on how to get to this point.  First, some definitions are required:  Part 142 Flight Training Centers are so-named because they are governed by Part 142 of the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and administer flight training exclusively through use of simulators.  However, “training” should be the operative word for these outfits.  Though Level D Full Flight Simulators (FFS) may constitute the bulk of their business, competitive centers like FlightSafety and CAE Simuflite offer a variety of training to aviation professionals.  They also utilize classroom ground instruction coupled with stationary Flight Training Devices (FTD) to dive deeper into both systems and procedure knowledge.  International training and Upset Recovery training are offered as supplemental courses, and even Emergency Procedures training is sometimes offered at a nearby pool, so be sure to bring your swimsuit!  Virtually any subject that warrants deeper investigation or perhaps additional certification has an online course.  They will even tailor training programs to meet the specific needs of their customers.  While the two training centers mentioned earlier are perhaps the most notable, there are several others that can be found on the FAA’s website.

What does all this matter to the low-time professional pilot?

Flight simulators are often used for more economical and safer training in aircraft requiring two crewmembers.  A variety of reasons may require that the training center provide a partner for a lone customer pilot.  Companies may or may not send complete crews for training, so a “right-seater” will need to fill in and complete the crew.  That’s where you come in!  Part 142 Flight Training Centers employ low-time professional pilots to act as the second-in-command, or co-pilot, for individual client pilots.  During training, or even during practical tests, a “right-seater” will support the Pilot Flying and act as a crewmember in a high-performance jet!  Albeit a simulated high-performance jet.

Why is this so different than traditional first flying jobs?

In aviation, as in many industries that require immense personal responsibility, the experience/responsibility dynamic is empirical.  This is reflected in government regulations, insurance minimums, and employer opportunities.  Build some experience, get a rating that provides new privileges.  Build a little more experience, get paid for flying.  Build yet more experience, fly a turbine aircraft.  Since flying a simulator inherently removes the risk of low-time pilots operating a high-performance jet, pilots can avoid the painstaking process of slowly moving from one aircraft to another.  Forget the slow, and perhaps years long, progression from a Cessna 172 to a Cessna 210, then to a Beech Baron, then to a King Air, to finally get into a business jet.  Being a right-seater allows you to jump into a (simulated) business jet directly.

What are the drawbacks to this route?

The biggest drawback to this path is the log-ability of the flight time.  During this phase, green commercial pilots are clamoring to build flight time.  For this reason, this con should be understood and considered seriously.  Title 14 CFR has a restriction that limits the amount of simulator time that can be used for the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Rating.  Title 14 CFR 61.159 (a)(6) reads: Not more than 100 hours of the total aeronautical experience requirements of paragraph (a) of this section or § 61.160 may be obtained in a full flight simulator or flight training device provided the device represents an airplane and the aeronautical experience was accomplished as part of an approved training course in parts 121, 135, 141, or 142 of this chapter.

This limitation pertains to only ratings and currency under Title 14 CFR, however.  Simulator time in excess of this 100 hour limitation may be considered by insurance companies and prospective employers.  For this reason, many “right-seaters” start a second “sim time” logbook as a supplement to their normal logbook.  After the first 100 hours of sim time is exhausted and logged in their “official” logbook, you can use a second logbook for job interviews and insurance minimums when applicable.  It is important to be open and clear when utilizing this flight time; while much of your simulator time will be valuable experience, much of it will not count toward your total time, and you must be forthcoming regarding this distinction.

What are the pros of being a “right-seater?”

Two words: invaluable experience.  “Right-seaters” jump into a very structured and demanding training environment.  You learn to operate as a professional crew, which may be not be an option if you are flying in a single-pilot operation, even as a commercial pilot.  Also, handling emergencies constantly creates a level of confidence that will prepare you well for routine line flying.  Exposure and access to additional training can also build your resume and knowledge.  The biggest two pros, undoubtedly, are professional connections and type ratings.

Professional connections

The people you meet, both clients and employees, at a Part 142 Flight Training Center will accelerate your career.  Regarding your new co-workers, the instructors and examiners will have a wide breadth of experience: general aviation, military, business aviation, and airline.  How much you can learn will only be limited by your desire and aptitude.  Many of these people have already enjoyed long productive careers and may have lost their medical or just want to be home after a long career traveling.   Collectively, they possess a wealth of aviation knowledge and experience.

Access to flight department decision makers is the pro that offsets the “flight time” con.  Remember I mentioned that flight departments may not be able to send complete crews to training?  Often, the “singles” that are sent are Chief Pilots, Directors of Operations, Directors of Aviation.  These pilot/managers might need to squeeze training in around the demands of their busy office schedules, and they go to training whenever they can, often alone.  These are the people that hire pilots, and you get to fly with them.  The industrious “right-seater” may get to the sim session a few minutes early, so the Aviation Department Manager can find a polished, updated resume on his seat.  Professionalism is paramount.  A cordial demeanor, squared-away business attire go a long way in a profession that caters to executives.  What really may make the difference, though, is your performance in the flight deck.  It’s easy to hire a pilot when he has already helped you through a tough checkride.

Paid-For Type Ratings

Finally, a paid-for type rating is the ultimate carrot for the “right-seater.”  The type rating, which is the required certification to fly a particular jet, is a tremendous notch in your belt.  To be sure, a type rating certificates you to operate a jet aircraft either as a pilot-in-command or a second-in-command.  This creates a financial incentive for the potential employer to hire you.  Type ratings cost tens of thousands of dollars and require weeks of training (read: not flying) for the new hire.  A type rating often tips the scales in favor of the applicant who has it, over the one who does not.  Since the chance to earn a type rating is the most tangible benefit of this job, training centers typically lay out the requirements for “right-seaters.”  Here are some details on the FlightSafety International Business Jet Direct Program  and also for the information for CAE Simuflite’s Supporting Crew Member Program.  These links should provide specific details and a starting point for contacting these organizations.  After careful consideration of whether this path is right for you, pick up the phone and give them a call.  They are waiting to hear from you!  Best of luck and GoEightOh.