Which type of course should I choose and what effect will it have on my employability?
Aviation is full of potentially bewildering acronyms. One of those is MCC, which stands for Multi Crew Cooperation. Before you complete your first multi-crew aircraft type rating, you must complete at least an MCC course. This may be combined with or separate from the type rating.
An MCC course must consist of no less than 20 hours of flight or simulator training, or 15 hours if forming part of an Integrated ATPL course, and some associated theory training. It is usual for half of the hours to be acting as Pilot Flying (PF) and half as Pilot Monitoring (PM).
JOC and MCC-JOC courses
However, the airline industry has for decades argued that 15 or 20 hours in a simulator is wholly inadequate to prepare a pilot, who has until that point been trained to operate as a single pilot, for their first multi-crew type rating. As a result, MCC courses were expanded beyond the minimum hours and things such as the differences between prop driven and turbojet aircraft handing were covered. To differentiate these from MCC courses, the term Jet Orientation Course (JOC) became widely accepted, although there has never been any regulatory definition or recognition of JOC courses. Sometimes these courses were stand-alone JOC courses, sometimes combined with an MCC course, hence the MCC-JOC acronym.
The problem with JOC courses is that there was no regulatory oversight and so the content and standard varied wildly. Some consisted of one day of training and one simulator session, others doubled the size and content of the basic MCC course. Some were even conducted on turboprop simulators, which was somewhat at odds with the course title.
Therefore, the airline industry continued to object. EASA reacted to the pressure for change from industry by throwing the ball back, in effect saying; “if you don’t like it, come up with proposals to fix it!” And so, an EASA working group was formed, consisting of industry representatives and chaired by the Head of Training and Standards from Ryanair, Captain Andy O’Shea.
The result of the working group’s deliberations was a proposal to EASA to introduce a new MCC course standard. This was adopted by EASA and became known as the Airline Pilot Standard MCC Course, or APS-MCC. It basically enshrined in regulation the best practice MCC-JOC courses. The Wings Alliance course was aligned with the new standard even before the regulation was published and so, along with Ryanair’s which was integrated with their type rating, became the first course in Europe to be fully compliant with the APS-MCC requirements.
Which to choose?
So, what should you do; no MCC in the hope that it will be covered as part of your type rating, a basic and therefore cheaper MCC course, an MCC-JOC or an APS-MCC?
- Doing no MCC course will bar you from applying to many employers, who specify an MCC course in their application requirements.
- A basic MCC course will satisfy the minimum requirements of some employers, and so you could save money by choosing this option if cost saving is your primary consideration. However, few of the ‘major players’ in the market offer basic MCC courses and many employers will not accept the course, as the original industry objection is unchanged; they are inadequate training.
- There are fewer MCC-JOC courses around now that the APS-MCC is being widely adopted. Many of those that did exist were of dubious quality and so may be disrespected by potential employers.
- The APS-MCC is the new industry standard. The training is better, they are accepted by all employers and even those who might say that a basic MCC is technically acceptable may either explicitly or implicitly give preference to applicants who have completed an APS-MCC course. For example, Ryanair state “preference will be given to applicants who have completed an APS-MCC course”.
To an extent ‘you pay your money and make your choice’. Remember though, that your training serves two purposes:
- To make you acceptable to a potential employer; and
- To act as the professional foundation on which to build your career.
Do you really want to build your career on shaky foundations?
How to choose an APS-MCC course
It is fair to say that the standards of APS-MCC courses are far better than some of the more dubious MCC or MCC JOC courses of the past. Nevertheless, there are some features that you should look out for:
- Aircraft type. Unless combined with a type rating, MCC course are not type-specific, rather the simulator is required to represent the class of aircraft. In the case of an APS-MCC this must be a twin turbojet aircraft of no less than 50 seats. Boeing 737 variants are widely accepted as very suitable; later versions such as 737NG and 737 Max mean you will be exposed to the latest equipment. Sometimes A320 sims are used. Some say they are less suitable because of the lack of ‘thrust-pitch couple’, which is when the aircraft trim changes as the thrust is varied (on the Airbus family this effect is taken out by the flight control system) and sidestick controls. Other aircraft types are used, but not widely.
- Simulator approval level. The minimum requirement is FNPT II MCC. FNPT stands for Fight and Navigation Procedures Trainer. The next level is FTD 1 or FTD 2 (Flight Training Device) and thereafter FSS which stands for Full-Flight Simulator. Collectively, these classes of simulators are called Synthetic Flight Training Devices (SFTD). The differences are:
- FNPT II MCC are officially ‘generic’ rather than type-specific, but this may just be that the simulator manufacturer has not paid the aircraft manufacture for a certified copy of the flight characteristic data. In other words, the simulator may be identical to an FTD but not certified as one.
- FTDs are type-specific as they may be used for some of the hours of a type rating. They are widely used for MCC courses as well.
- Both FNPT II MCC and FTD machines may be ‘fixed base’ in other words have no motion platform. However, a FSS must be full motion. It adds to the cost of the machine greatly and motion is only useful as part of a type rating, so not worth paying extra for on an MCC course.
From your viewpoint there is not much difference between a simulator that is approved as an FNPT II MCC and a FTD except that the latter is guaranteed to be quite ‘true to type’ whereas the former could be type-specific or generic. It’s probably not worth paying extra for a FFS.
- Number of simulator hours. The minimum requirement for an APS-MCC course is 40 hours which will usually be spilt 20 hr PF and 20 hr PM. There are some really good courses consisting of 40 hours, so more is probably not worth paying for.
- Instructors. Are they current or recently current airline pilots or long retired?
- Reputation. Previous trainees are unlikely to have any benchmark to compare their course against, so endorsements should be judged in this light, but you wouldn’t want to spend your money on a course which produced dissatisfied customers.
- What do the employers think? You could try asking, but in the absence of direct feedback from potential employers, try and find out how many graduates get jobs with the sort of employer you are interested in.
- Extras. Does the course include help getting a first job? Is accommodation available?
- Customer Service. How responsive is the provider? How much information is on their website, how helpful are they on the phone, etc?
Then you are down to price, convenience, etc.
An APS-MCC course is the final stage of training before you apply for a job and will have a big influence on your preparation for your first type rating and your attractiveness to potential employers. The course can be great fun; hard work, but a steep and rewarding learning curve and much more representative of the sort of thing you’ll do in your first job than anything you have come across before in your pilot training.