How I Became a Commercial Multi-Engine Pilot

16 Jun, 2022

Introducing Daniel 

My name is Daniel Chihane, and I'm a multi-engine commercial pilot working for an Instrument Rating with CAE as one of the final stages in landing my dream job as an airline pilot in the near future. With that in mind, this book will provide a brief overview of the CAE application process as well as a typical day in the life of a cadet pilot during flight training.

In general, the application process for an Integrated ATPL course at CAE is divided into three stages: online application, technical assessment, and non-technical assessment, which is essentially a personal interview but may also include a group exercise part, depending on the program.

Application process 

Simply described, step 1 is a conventional online application in which a person would enter all of his or her personal information, as well as provide recent academic scores and potentially a copy of a CV. If the requirements are met, you will be invited to the CAE in-house Stage 2 assessment, which is the technical portion of the application process and is based on the ADAPT test model, which is a combination of several Math and Physics problems, as well as cognitive skills tests such as multitasking, hand-eye coordination, and so on.

You will be invited to the third and last step of the application, the personal interview, if you pass this to a suitable standard. As the name implies, you will be invited to an in-person interview with a few of CAE employees and/or airline officials, depending on the program you applied to. This section might also contain a group activity that assesses your participation, commitment, group ethic, leadership abilities, and so on.

If you pass this section to standard, you will be invited to a course with a specific course start date, and your trip to the appropriate seat will have officially started. When I was in my final year of high school, I went through the same same thing.

I had to take a couple of days off from school to go to the United Kingdom and attend both the Stage 2 and Stage 3 examinations. I received a call three days after my Stage 3 assessment giving me a position on AP435 with a start date of January 2020, and I can simply say that was one of the happiest moments of my life, which I still remember clearly to this day.

Obtaining a Class 1 Medical Certificate from the EASA

My next aim was to earn an EASA Class 1 Medical Certificate, which is the highest level of medical certification and one that airline pilots must carry at all times and renew every 12 months. After all was taken care of, I traveled to Oxford, England, to begin the ground school section of the Integrated course, which was by far the most difficult experience I have ever had.

A typical day in the life of a commercial multi-engine pilot

A typical day would consist of an 0830-1630 schedule with a lunch break in the middle, followed by 2 to 5 hours of studying at home. It wasn't easy, but as most pilots will tell you, one of the only things that motivates you to keep going is the prospect of passing all 14 ATPL exams and moving on to the flying phase of the course, which is by far the most rewarding!

With that mindset, my classmates and I persisted in studying seven ATPL subjects at a time, all while attempting to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Meteorology, Principles of Flight, Instrumentation, Aircraft General Knowledge (Airframes & Structures, Powerplant, Electrics), VFR & IFR Communications, and Human Performance and Limitations are all covered in Phase 1.

The remaining 7 ATPL subjects are General Navigation, Radio Navigation, Flight Planning & Monitoring, Mass & Balance, Aircraft Performance, Air Law, and Operational Procedures, and Phase 2 is significantly more practical. When we were in ground school, each phase lasted around 3-4 months and consisted of three separate sets of tests: Progress Tests (PTs) at the midway point, School Finals (SFs) at the conclusion, and finally the official EASA exams, which were all conducted under the supervision of the appropriate authorities.

One of, if not the most difficult hurdles I've had to conquer so far in my training, but it's an important aspect of any airline pilot's career and has proven to be far more than just passing the test.

This is an example of a normal day in flight training. Due to the extreme heat in Arizona, we preferred to take off as early as possible in the morning to get the most out of the little Piper Archers we used for our single-engine training.

As a result, it became the usual to get up about 3:30 a.m., wash, have a small breakfast, and then travel directly to the airport, as we were needed to arrive an hour and a half before our departure time. Arriving around 4:30 a.m., it is our responsibility to ensure that our day's aircraft is available at a well-known parking location.

After that, we'd return to the planning room to finish the day's mass and balance, as well as the performance figures. After that was completed and submitted on our online platform, 'Aviobook,' we would meet with our instructor, who would go over the lesson plan for the day, the destination airport if we were to switch flying partners in between sessions, as well as a detailed weather briefing of the area for the time we would be in the air.

The mission is now considered authorized, and we are cleared to go up to dispatch to make sure all of the paperwork is in order, usually 1 instructor and 2 cadets.

 A typical mission would last 1.5-2 hours for each cadet, with a 0.5-1 hour turnaround between missions, which meant that one cadet would fly with the instructor and the other would back seat the flight, with the roles being switched at an airport somewhere around Phoenix, where we would usually relax and have a coffee or a light meal before hopping back in the plane and returning to Falcon Field airport.

As a result, with a wheels-up time of around 6:00 a.m., we'd usually be back around 11:00 a.m., where we'd thoroughly debrief the mission, including everything that went well, what could have been done better, and any mistakes that needed to be addressed throughout the course.

We'd return to our flats for an afternoon of relaxing around the pool, BBQing with some friends, and, of course, some revision/preparation for the future missions once that was done and our logbooks were filled up and signed by the instructor.

Solo navigation flights are a unique experience.

However, if I had to pick one aspect of flight training to highlight, it would have to be the solo navigation flights. For those of you who are unaware, in order to obtain a commercial pilot's license, we must have completed at least 50.0 hours of Pilot in Command (PIC) time, which is essentially solo time. In Phoenix, we accomplish this by flying around the state and occasionally landing at an airport before fueling up and flying back home.

When you're up there with your own jet for the day, securely navigating through the congested airspace and rugged terrain before returning home at the end of the day, it's an entirely different atmosphere. It's a truly rewarding experience, one that I believe we take for granted at the time as 'just another day in the life,' but which has genuinely proven to be such a therapeutic and awesome daily occurrence, and I consider myself extremely fortunate and privileged to have had the opportunity to participate in it.

Finally, the transition to multi-engine flying in the Piper Seminole brings the flying phase in Phoenix to a close. We would have flown around 130 hours in the Archer by this stage, so the transfer seems comfortable because they are quite similar to operate, with the apparent difference being the addition of an additional engine to deal with.

We then spent about 12 hours in the Seminole practicing various failures and malfunctions in preparation for the commercial skills test, which was by far the most nerve-wracking experience I'd had thus far. It is essentially a test of our ability to operate the aircraft as commanders, capable of making conscious and responsible decisions in the face of a variety of emergencies while maintaining the highest level of aircraft operation.

A simulated engine failure after take-off, which requires utmost precision and ease of mind in order to safely and efficiently operate and control the aircraft on one engine, while running the drills and checklists from memory, is typically presented in a multi-engine commercial check ride.

The examiner and I debriefed the flight after I performed my check ride to a satisfactory level and returned to our base airfield, following which we completed the needed documentation for my license application further down the road, shook hands, and called it a day! What a relief it was to realize that all of the long hours and hard effort, from ground school to flight training, had paid off and that it had all been worthwhile.

So that's how I become a multi-engine commercial pilot and what a normal day in flight school looked like for me. I'd want to take this moment to express my gratitude to all of my professors during this process; without you, none of this would have been possible!


Moreover, a heartfelt thanks goes to my course mates, and all the friends and flight mates that I had the pleasure of sharing this incredible experience with, you guys really made this phase wonderful and so worth it! I would also like to thank my parents for providing me with the opportunity to do what I love on a daily basis. Without your support, I wouldn’t have become who I am today, so thank you!