The following guide was written specifically for an RSAF fixed wing fighter or transport for this. For the step by step guide for RSAF Fighter & Transport Pilots, read this article. Read this article for RSAF Helicopter Pilots.
So why the FAA ATP?
There are some advantages of getting the FAA ATP instead of getting the CAAS ATPL.
Firstly, to get the CAAS ATPL, you would need to complete and pass 14 academic papers. To make things more difficult, there aren’t many available resources online for your self-study. Whereas, taking the FAA ATP only requires you to pass 4 papers (PPL, CPL, IR and ATP) and there are a lot of resources online for you to study.
Secondly, it is simply easier to get the FAA ATP from the regulatory point of view. In general, all you need is to arrive in the USA, get a few practice flights with a Qualified Flight Instructor, fly 4 flight tests and you will be issued a FAA ATP. This is not to say that it is easy to PASS. There are several minimum proficiency requirements, and without the required skills, you WILL NOT get the FAA ATP. As compared to CAAS, CAAS regulations have a lot of grey areas, and clauses that require case-by-case approvals. While it states in Chapter 13 of the Singapore Air Safety Publication Part 2 Licensing of Professional Pilots states that a fighter pilot and military transport pilot on a multi-engine aircraft are not required to do a flying training in Singapore, this exemption is only given on a case-by-case basis. While I don’t have official numbers with regards to this issue, I have not heard of any RSAF pilots getting their CAAS CPL with just the 14 papers, without doing any flying training, in recent history (over the last 5 year at least).
Thirdly, it is cheaper. As you will see below the FAA ATP is a lot cheaper than the flying training in Singapore, as costs in Singapore could potentially can run up to SGD $100,000.
Prerequisites to get the FAA ATP
There are however a few pre-requisites to getting the FAA ATP. These requirements should be easy to reach as long as you have been actively flying for the last 10 years flying in the RSAF. The only people with problems would be F5 pilots (because of extremely short endurance resulting in extremely short flights), and Fighter Pilot Scholars.
- 1,500 total flying hours
- 250 PIC hours
- 75 Instrument hours
- 500 Cross-Country hours
- 100 Night Flight hours
- 50 Multi-Engine hours
Just to elaborate on a few things
500 Cross-Country hours – Sounds like a real problem isn’t it? Especially if you are a fighter pilot. But not to worry. According to FAA regulations, Cross-Country hours is
- By definition, cross-country time includes any flight conducted by a pilot in an aircraft that includes a landing at a point other than the point of departure that includes the use of dead reckoning, pilotage, electronic navigation aids, radio aids, or other navigation systems to navigate to the landing point. Reference: 14 CFR 61.1(b)(3)(i).
- To meet the requirements for the ATP certificate, cross-country time is more than 50 nm straight-line distance from the original point of departure with no requirement for a landing. 14 CFR 61.1(b)(3)(vi)
- For a military pilot who qualifies for a commercial pilot certificate (except with a rotorcraft category rating) under 61.73, cross-country time is more than 50 nm straight-line distance from the original point of departure with no landing requirement. 14 CFR 61.1(b)(3)(vii)
South China Sea training area is definitely > 50 nm away. You do not need to land in SCS. We fly to SCS every day. So use your SCS training area flights as cross country. Also, if you fly ferry flights, those will definitely qualify as well.
50 multiengine hours – Unless you fly the F5 or F15 or a transport or the M346 (that’s how lucky young fighter pilots are), you’ll definitely not have at least 50 multiengine hours. If you don’t, not to worry. Many F16 pilots “clock” these 50 hours in the USA. I’ll show you how much it will cost below.
The rest of the requirements are pretty straight forward. There are other requirements for the conversion from FAA to CAAS, and you should get these requirements squared away while you are getting your FAA ATP. I’ll be writing an article about this in future.
So how much will it cost?
For the purpose of showing you how much it will cost, we’ve taken the prices from my preferred training school in USA, Pray Aviation.
If you do not have the 50 multi-engine hours – Training package by Pray Aviation USD $27,995 ~ SGD $42,000
If you already have the 50 multi-engine hours – Training package by Pray Aviation USD 18,515 ~ SGD $28,000
Flight to USA ~ SGD $1,500
Hotel for 21 days ~ SGD $2,100
Car Rental for 21 Days ~ SGD $1,000
Living expenses in USA ~ SGD $1,500
4 computer tests (PPL, CPL, IR and ATP) ~ SGD $1,000
Random fees to be paid to TSA – USD $200 ~ SGD $300
To fly 50 multi-engine hours – SGD $49,400
Don’t need to fly the 50 multi-engine hours – SGD $35,400
Yup, it is no chum change. It used to be cheaper (about USD $10,000 cheaper) when there were no requirements to do a compulsory full motion flight simulator training. But now since its a requirement, the prices above reflect that new requirement.
Hopefully, you didn’t spend all your money partying. If you don’t have money, just stay in the RSAF and wait for the RSAF-SIA scheme.