Monday, September 12, 2011

We Interrupt This Sequence

I'm going to suspend the trip I've been describing right there to describe--and solicit your help with--the process of converting a Canadian ATPL to an FAA one. I have an opportunity for an interesting short term job, and potentially others in the longer term, if I have an FAA licence. Don't worry, Americans, I'm not stealing your jobs, the job is not in the USA and is not for an American company. It's for a company based in country A that is operating an airplane in country B and that airplane just happens to be N-registered, that is, it's registered in the US. The law says that the pilot's licence has to match the airplane registration. (In many cases you have a period of time, typically six months to a year, to make the transition from in internationally respected licence such as a Canadian one to the local licence, but not for the US).

The process involves getting an FAA medical certificate, passing a written exam, and putting them together with a bit of paperwork and a processing fee. I've already had the FAA physical, and am just waiting for their approval. I'm studying for the exam so I can have that written as soon as possible. I haven't yet figured out if I need to make an appointment to write it or can just show up at a testing centre. Er, I guess that's a testing "center."

My first impression as I look at the material to be studied is that there's a disconnect between what I have and what I'm converting to. There's an assumption that someone writing an ATPL level exam has mastered the material of the private pilot level, but I have to figure that out too. The material is totally unrelated to what I'll be doing, so there isn't a lot of point in thoroughly learning and understanding it. In the US all test bank questions are available in advance, so when you're in this situation you can just learn the correct answers with out really know why. I've never taken a test this way before, but when in Rome Washington, D.C. Things like I've learned that "part 91" means general aviation, "part 135" is on-demand air carriers and "part 121" is scheduled air carriers. But the questions mention "domestic carriers" and "flag carriers" and "supplemental air carriers." They must be defined somewhere. My local pilot shop has run out of the FAR/AIM because the new one is on order, so I've ordered one directly from the US.

I have to figure out how aircraft approach categories (A B C D) work in the US. There's something in the questions that implies that it's not just based on approach speed as in Canada. I have to figure out how the NOTAM system works. Apparently you get different sorts of NOTAMs with different letters from different sources.

Up until now I've almost deliberately not learned about US regulations that don't affect Canadian pilots (like needing one flight attendant for the first 10 passengers (in aircraft with a payload capacity of 7500 lbs and up) of for the first 20 passengers when the aircraft payload is under 7500. With 50 to 100 passengers you need two flight attendants, and one more for every fifty passengers or part thereof after that. And it's based on seating capacity, not boarded passengers, implying that you need three flight attendants for a B737-600 with four people in the back. Or something. Maybe I can store this in a part of my brain that's reusable.


Jeremy said...

This is a pretty much off-topic comment, but since it all this is being rehashed, United Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania, had 7 crew on board - 2 pilots and 5 flight attendants. Since it was a B757 with 182 seats, it needed four - maybe the extra was a trainee? But there were only 33 passengers. Of course, a flight with that low a load factor is virtually unheard of today.

david said...


AIM, etc.:

Will said...


In my experience most written testing centers require an appointment. The knowledge tests are mostly an exercise in learning the answers to the test questions, as you stated. I recommend Gleim test prep books or software, if you have not already chosen your prep material.

Federal Aviation Regulations (14 CFR) are available online, here. I stopped buying paper copies of the FAR/AIM a while ago, since the website is easier to reference and is up to date.

The terms "domestic," "flag," and "supplemental" are defined in 14 CFR 110.2. These are different types of Part 121 operations. The definitions reference aircraft powerplant type and capacity, but they also depend on the nature of the flight. Basically, domestic operations are scheduled air carrier flights conducted solely within the contiguous 48 states, or entirely within a state. Taking off in Florida and landing in New York is domestic. So is taking off and landing back within Alaska. Flag operations are scheduled air carrier flights that are not domestic operations. For example, taking off in New York and landing in London is a flag operation. Taking off in New York and landing in Alaska is also a flag operation. Many air carriers have OpSpecs authorizing them to use domestic rules for nearby international flights, but this is not mentioned in the basic regulations. Supplemental operations are non-scheduled flights using aircraft that must operate under Part 121.

Aircraft instrument approach categories are based VREF or the actual approach speed in KIAS, whichever is higher. Please see AIM 5-4-7.

US NOTAMs fall into two categories: regulatory and non-regulatory. Regulatory NOTAMs are released as FDC (Flight Data Center) NOTAMs and provide information about things like TFRs or changes to instrument approach minimums. Non-regulatory NOTAMs are released as D (Distant) NOTAMs. These concern everything else, such as runway closures or approach lights being out of service. There used to be a cateogry of L (Local) NOTAMs for things like taxiway closures. This category was discontinued, and all NOTAMs are either FDC or D now. I hope the written tests have kept up. Here is a brief presentation about new D NOTAMs.

Hope this helped.

JScarry said...

Like David said, the AIM and FARs are online. You might also like the Pilot Controller Glossary.

Part 1 of the FARs has lots of definitions.

NOTAMS can be found at another FAA website.

And don't forget to check TFRs before each flight at this website.

And if that's not enough, you might want to buy my app for iPads/iPods. FAA Glossaries.

Sarah said...

Your cracked research team springs into action. Good luck on your studies or memorization as the case may be.

Approach categories based on something other than Vref? News to me... My Jeppesen Instr/CPL book just states the rule, based on Vref or 1.3Vso if none, A 90kt or less, B 91-120, C 121-140, D 141-165 and E above 165. Probably the same in Canada.

The definition, google tells me, is in a part 97.3 rarely printed in FAR/AIM excerpts.

Sarah said...

And google lied.. 97.3 is in the ASA FAR/AIM

Jeff said...

The definitions for flag, domestic and supplemental carriers can be found in 14 CFR 110.2.

Definitions of approach categories are in 14 CFR 97.3.

Anoynmous said...

My silence doesn't mean I'm not reading, or that I don't care. It just means I have nothing to offer in this case.

Kate said...

I wrote the conversion exam 2 years ago. I had to make an appointment (I went to Air Richelieu near Montreal) as it was a computer based testing system and they only had a limited number of terminals that the test could be administered on. Not sure if that's true if you go to a regular test centre south of the border.

It's a lot of rote memory stuff, unfortunately (I used Gleim to sort out the Part 91/121, etc) but something I wish I knew before I started is that there are no flight planning questions on the conversion exam. :)

Good luck - and make sure your paperwork is all correct and double check your license when you get it in the mail. I had a typo on my first one. :)

frac said...

Hello Aviatrix,

I wrote mine on the basis of my Canadian ATPL(A) at FlightSafety (LFPB). If you are already familiar with Part 91 IFR operations, you could prepare yourself for the conversion quickly (I would say 5-10 hours at most).

I used an ASA FAR/AIM as well as ASA Test-Prep (the green book) only to brush-up the "Air Law" / Operations chapters.

I also used dauntless software prep software and managed to score a healthy 100% on the basis of my Canadian Knowledge and a couple hours of preparation.

Also, focus your study on material described in the FAA study guide.

If you need specific advice, please let me know.

Salutations AĆ©ronautiques

Marc-Olivier, in San Diego

D.B. said...

I agree with Sarah. Even though my Bonanza typically approaches at 90 to 100kts, it's considered a Class A a/c because Vso is 53. 53 x 1.3 is 69kts, ergo class A.

If you do the written in the USA, most schools only ask that you reserve a time so they can guarantee computer availability. Otherwise you can just walk in. Can't speak to Canada.

I also have the FARs and AIM on my iPad, which is nice because they get automatically updated whenever there is a change. Also works on iPhone/iPod Touch if you have really squinty little mouse eyes.....

Wayne Conrad said...

@D.B., I thought that your approach category was based upon the speed you actually fly the approach. That would make sense, because the minimums for each category are designed to leave adequate clearance, when flying at the highest speed in the category, from things-that-make-you-go-splat. The ground doesn't care what your Vso x 1.3 is...

I'm not a pilot, so the above is uninformed speculation, not to be relied upon by anyone for anything.

zb said...

Sorry that I'm not able to contribute anything on topic, but anyway: May I suggest it is safe to assume that Randall reads your blog?

grant said...

Re. Difference in approach category definitions: Not 100% sure any more, but it may be that in Canada the approach category is defined by the Max. Certified weight of the aircraft - so an A320 is always CAT D, but in the US the actualy weight/speed of the aircraft at approach time is used? (variable) ... Don't quote me on this ;-)

Cedarglen said...

You have our sympathy. Many U.S. pilots do not understand the regs well enough and YES, they are complicated. As you already know, 1:1 conversion is not possible with out some exams, physical and otherwise and several fees. (The U.S. Government LOVES fees!) My sincere suggestion is to lock-on to the FAA website's FAR page, start reading and bookmark your spot when you fall asleep. In preparation for the exam(s), perhaps start thinking U.S. RULES as you plan your current flights. What would a U.S. pilot have to do? You are NOT the first to convert a 'foreign' ATPL to ATP and I'm sure that more experienced others will assist you. Unless you anticipate flying a lot of N-registered hours, I wonder if this is worth the trouble. OTOH, A full set of U.S. credentials won't hurt you; they are just expensive. Please, keep us posted! -C.

Sarah said...

Grant: so an A320 is always CAT D, but in the US the actualy weight/speed of the aircraft at approach time is used? (variable)...

Yes. Maybe I should elaborate, to beat this question into the ground. If the aircraft Vref is weight dependent, or if other considerations ( inoperative engine, flaps, etc. ) dictate a higher approach speed, the approach category changes. This is from the FAA's "Instrument Procedures Handbook" sec. 5.7, just so you know I didn't make it up.

The idea is that circling minimums, or even straight in should change with a higher speed. So DB, if you're still at 100kt past the FAF ... Practically, most plates have the same minimums for A-B, but that's the rule.