Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pilot Training in Mexico: A Reality Show

The story reflects various student pilots experiences in both Mexico and the United States. It's a story to show the differences in paperwork time required, efficiency and training quality of both countrys. The flight hours required and time in the flight training can vary. Everything depends on an infinate number of factors, such as financing, student performance, weather, flight school administration, airplane, instructor availability, etc.

Let me write a story about two guys: Bob and John

Bob and John finished highschool in Mexico the same year and wanted to become professional pilots. Bob decided to do his PPL/CPL flight training in Mexico and John in the United States. Bob and John did some research about flight schools, fleet, training programs, housing and costs, to make a good decision on what school to choose.

John found out there are two kinds of flight schools in the US. They operate under Part 61 or Part 141 training requirements, both of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). You can read about them in this site.

John began to read flight school articles in pilot maganzines and the internet. He also found out there are 'flight academys' operating under Part 141 training requirements and it was structured with an airline training style program with Standard Operating Procedures, a good structured ground school, simulators and a modern single and multiengine fleet. He also found a Part 61 flight school with a good fleet of airplanes, a self-study program with little ground school. It was also cheaper than the flight academy. He decided he would enter a Part 61 flightschool, because he would also have to pay for housing and pay the license conversion course in Mexico. John had many schools to choose from and after making a good list with pro and cons, he finally chose one. Let's name the flight school: "Flying Circus Training Centre".
It had four Cessna 172s, four Piper Archers and two Piper Seminoles. The installations were ok and there was a great pilot shop nearby where he could buy all his charts, books, training kits with pilot bag and of course, a cool uniform. He also had to buy a good headset for his flights.
After waiting two weeks for his Visa, John flew to the city where the flight school was and as soon as he got to the flight school, he got his training schedule and began studying for his Private Pilot License training. John also had to make an appointment with an Aviation Medical Examiner to get his Class 3 medical certificate. It took no more than a three days to get an appointment and undergo the medical examination. The Class 3 medical certificate is 5 years valid. TSA has to approve the training to foreign students as well and that takes about 2 weeks.

He studied hard, completed ground school, his 40 hours in the 172, passed the knowledge test and checkride in four months. When John went through his checkride, the FAA Designated Pilot Examiner made sure John had all the documentation needed for his PPL and gave him a temporary license right after passing checkride. John received his license within three weeks of passing his checkride. Flying Circus had a good schedule for its flight students so that they could fly with continuity. The majority of the flight instructors cared about the students excecuting all tasks, maneuvers and procedures with excellence and professionalism. Flying Circus also rented its airplanes so that John could fly anywhere he wanted to. John found out there are good services for pilots and he could get any information for his flights pretty quick. If a chart wasn't valid anymore, he could go to the pilot shop and buy the current chart. That way, he would always fly with updated information. John continued his Commercial Pilot License training. After completing the course, requierements and tests, he got the Multi-engine Commercial Pilot License with an Instrument Rating. It took no more than 10 months to complete it. He liked the way Flying Circus prepared its students with a good training syllabus and encouraging them to complete tasks with excellent skills. He also was happy with the maintenance of the aircraft in which he flew, knowing that his school would always comply with the mandatory inspections established by the FAA and in case he had any unforecasted situation he had been trained to deal with it properly.
John flew back to Mexico, satisfied with what he had experienced and more important than that, confident of his abilities as a commercial pilot.

Bob began his research by reading mexican aviation magazines and on the internet in aviation forums. He found out there are only two or three flight schools with a good number of aircraft (2 Cessna 152, a Cessna 172 and a rented Piper Aztec), good facilities, simulators and instructors. He made a list and chose "Triple Ace Flight School".
Before he could begin with his flight training, he had to make an appointment for his medical examination. He called the SCT (Mexico's transport authorities) and got an appointment in one month. After getting the unnecesary paperwork for the medical examination, he got his Class 2 medical certificate with a validity of 2 years. He had 90 days to get his training permit. Triple Ace Flight School did all the paperwork for the permit, but it took Bob a month and a half to finally get it. He could now begin with his flight lessons. Ground school went pretty good and he got all his books and training supplies from a exaggeratedly expensive pilot shop in another city. The only pilot supplies available in Mexico are imported from American companys. Everything's in english and the textbooks contain the US flying procedures and structure. The navigation charts were outdated for his visual flights and he couldn't get any information from flight services on the internet.
Triple Ace only had two flight instructors and there were too many students, so they couldn't fly continuously. After completing his "checkride" with the instructor he had flown with many hours before, Bob now had everything for his PPL. He had to undergo medical examination once more, because there's a 90 day limit to do all the paperwork required for the Mexican aviation authorities. It took him more than a 10 months to get his PPL. Triple Ace didn't rent its airplanes and Bob couldn't find any flight school that rents planes so that he could rent one and fly with his friends and family; and more important than that, to gain experience and self confidence.

He continued his CPL training at Triple Ace and went through the same process of unnecesary medical examinations for paperwork. Bob completed his CPL course after 16 months without having a good training program and syllabus. The Mexican Civil Aviation Authorities (DGAC) don't provide Practical Test Standards, nor training/education materials. It is slow, inneficient and old. The only thing Bob had to do is the newly implemented International Center of Civil Aviation Training (CIAAC) professional exam to get a professional pilot's degree. When he passes the exam, he will get his CPL. It's a new requirement to get a CPL in Mexico. Quoting the Mexican Professional Association of Pilots,

created the Comission of Professionalization; which worked together with the Technical Committee of Professionalization created by the Communication and Transport Ministry and the Public Education Ministry; in which made the commitment to contribute that all member and non-member pilots of Mexico obtain their Professional Degree.

To obtain the Professional Degree is not only an established requirement in the Law, but it is to recognize that our pilot profession demands a high academic level and safety to benefit the society, as any profession commits and obligates itself to it.

What John had to do after his flight training in the US, is a license conversion course. Before November 2009, a pilot with an FAA CPL could convert his license in two weeks. John must choose one of three flight schools to complete the course. The required ground school lessons are based on what type of flight school, Part 61 or 141, John had attended. In John's case, Part 61, approximately 300 hours of ground lessons. 120 ground lesson hours for Part 141 schools. That’s for american flight schools. What about canadian or european flight schools? You get subjects that you have studied already. It should be enough to get subjects as ATC, Mexican air law, AIP content lessons; meaning learning the differences of oparations and procedures in Mexico. The required flight lessons are randomly told by the director of pilot licensing in the DGAC: "Well, you need 13 hours". 10 hours in a Cessna 152 that you flew in the private pilot course and 3 hours in a multi-engine aircraft that had little to no availability because of the high quantity of students. Why 13 hours? To “demonstate” that you already can fly on a plane flown many hours before and done maneuvers and procedures that aren’t required and practiced in Mexico? After completing the conversion course, John must do the CIAAC's professional exam.

The conversion course is known to be unnecesary and it's said it works to "compensate" the bad ground school teaching in the United States. What do they mean by 'bad ground school teaching' in the US? You follow an organized and updated training Syllabus and Practical Test Standards. You must pass the knowledge and practical tests established by the FAA of greater level compared to Mexico’s. The conversion course is a waste of time and money.

The professional degree was tipically obtained when completing more than 1500 total time (The same required for the ATPL) and it wasn’t a requirement for the CPL. Having a CPL and necessary ratings, demonstrates a person is capable of executing a safe flight with an airplane. Mexico is the only country that requests the professional degree and it seems it was only made so that the CIAAC and DGAC get more money from students who want to obtain their CPL. It’s a form of abuse as many ministries do in Mexico.

The problems will indeed continue if there's no change in the mexican aviation regulations and laws. Especially the pilot's licensing and certification regulations. How do they want to improve aviation in general if they don't change regulations and don't make things more efficient? They haven't changed since the 1970s. The FAA downgraded Mexico to a lower category. What did the DGAC change? Nothing. They just showed irrelevant and documents of "improvements" made in aviation safety. Everything must be improved from the beginning: With education and training. The DGAC must change. It must not continue to patch regulations and laws. It must totally reform them to get a higher level of aviation culture that is not corrupt, efficient and, most important of all, safe.

There's tons more to be said, but I'll end this here.


  1. Replies
    1. Hey hello i had some doubtin mexicon dgac,could u please forward me your email id?

  2. mexico is very corrupt. they don't want a healthy aviation climate... they view pilots as a privilege for the very rich... don't even worry about building airplanes in mexico.. youknow homebuilts.. mexico doesn't have the resources for that..they will probably charge you extra tax on that...lol...even though my parents are from mexico i would rather take a bus to see them than fly an airplane their...that little usable country can keep being backwards when it comes to aviation. remember that a healthy militia is always their to help defend in case of an attack... wtf.. is backwards mexico going to do if it gets invaded again?