MPL mythbusters

The multi-crew pilot licence (MPL) is still new enough for many industry people to be suspicious of it.

These suspicions will gradually erode as knowledge and experience accumulates, and the MPL will – eventually – become the default way of training to become an airline pilot – possibly with the exception of the USA.

The erosion of suspicion first began with revelations from the meeting last December at ICAO Montreal, held to validate the MPL concept by getting airlines all over the world to report back on the performance of MPL graduates on the line. No-one reported less than good or very good, although a few treatable anomalies were reported.

Now another little news event has provided the missing proof of the MPL qualification’s transferability across employers during training.

A group of UK MPL trainees dropped by their sponsoring carrier because of corporate restructuring were immediately taken on by another airline, busting the “myth” that an MPL is not transferable.

The carrier, Monarch Airlines, also had to make redundant some CTC-trained first officers with MPLs who were well past their first line check. But CTC’s chief commercial officer Anthony Petteford says the company is already in talks with carriers who will take them on.

For the trainee cadets, the Monarch decision came at the end of their MPL phase one “core skills” syllabus. Petteford explains: “As their training provider, we got involved and facilitated their transfer to another MPL airline – EasyJet – and the guys are now back on track again – in less than one month, all supported by the Civil Aviation Authority. So MPL training is definitely transferable between airlines.”

Another MPL “first” will be announced soon, says Petteford, because a “high profile airline” has signed up with CTC to have cadets trained under the MPL system for delivery straight into the right hand seat of a widebody aircraft. So far most UK MPL graduates have started work on Airbus A320s, Boeing 737s, and – with Flybe – Bombardier Q400s.

The final MPL myth to be busted will take a year or two yet. That is the belief that MPL training only prepares pilots to be career first officers. A glance at the syllabus shows that any MPL is equipped with the technical skills, knowledge and competency, so those who have command potential will get command. When the first MPL-based captains take command of their aircraft, the MPL will finally have arrived.

Meanwhile CTC says it has decided to embed an upset prevention and recovery training module in all its ab initio training, whether for MPL or the commercial pilot licence. This requirement is expected to be mandated by EASA and the US FAA, but CTC is not waiting for the starting pistol.

The UPRT training will comprise three hours in a Slingsby T67 aerobatic aircraft which will be based at the company’s Bournemouth training centre, and four hours in one of CTC Aviation’s Boeing or Airbus level D full-flight simulators “to enable transfer of the core UPRT skills into an operational airline environment”, Petteford explains.

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3 Responses to MPL mythbusters

  1. Thomas 25 October, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    Dear Mr. Learmount,

    It would be better if you just expand your research a bit and not just harp on UK and CTC being the pioneers of MPL. Meanwhile elsewhere in the world….The first MPL holder in the Middle East converted to an ATPL way back in 2012. This was after transferring airlines during the course of their training in 2009. In 2013 an MPL holder also changed airlines (on the basis of their MPL license) from a low cost carrier in Philippines to a Middle Eastern carrier based in Abu dhabi). Also a few former MPLs changed carriers within UAE this year. How do i know all this? i am one of them!

  2. David Learmount 25 October, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    Thomas, thanks for your comment. I hope many more MPLs will send their experiences from all over the world. As I say, MPL will become the default licence for pilots training from the start for airline work, but there is still resistance from the existing system and the old guard. That resistance, I suspect, is strongest in the Americas and Europe, whereas in the Middle East and Asia/Pacific minds are much more open to new approaches like MPL.

  3. Luke 1 November, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    Dear David,

    Another advertorial for CTC? Have you looked into the contracts these cadets sign up for?

    The MPLs in question are not hired directly by the airline but a sub set of CTC. As such they do not have the same employment rights as line pilots for the likes of EZY.

    Have you considered the affects of MPL on other pilots?

    Now that the MPL route into Virgin long haul has been announced it is clear evidence that the lessons from the past like the AF447 zero to automated hero JAR short course FO & SO and the pay to fly (Colgan 3407 Captain paid to pass tests on B1900 with Gulfstream Airlines) are conveniently (for the accountants) being ignored.

    The MPL locks other, more experienced pilots out of the recruitment process. The CTC website claims “exclusive” arrangements and that is precisely what they are – exclude all with more flying background than a Private Pilot licence.

    So now we have Flybe Captains who can’t move to EZY as FOs (EZY exclusive MPL recruitment), EZY Captains who can’t move to Virgin as FOs (why pay to take on when you get MPLs for free?), Flybe FOs who can’t become Captains because no one is leaving and MPLs joining under worse Ts & Cs than existing FOs to under cut them.

    The MPL itself has some good points (such as UPRT) but only if it is taught properly – in most cases it is not – the instructors of the first MPLs were all used to teaching old JAR CPL integrated. Many of them are ex airline TRIs with little aerobatic/UPRT experience. What looks good on paper (3h in a T67) is unfeasible in the air. Very few folk have the mental stamina or stomach for 10 mins of aerobatic flying let alone 1h. Many CPL students are scared of stalling in light aircraft.

    The MPL like Type Rating CBT runs the risk of becoming just another box ticking excercise at huge cost to the individual.

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