How an executive and father of five learned to fly a jet in four months
Once a pilot decides to earn a jet type rating, the next challenge is often to fit training time into busy work and family schedules.
Former Microsoft executive and father of five – including 17-year-old triplets – Stephen Elop faced a similar challenge when he decided to step up from his Cessna® Skylane® to a jet. Instead of taking time away from either his family or his job, he approached training like the engineer he is and deconstructed the process, dividing it into small, manageable steps.
Elop tells other pilots facing the same busy schedule and steep learning curves to reject intimidation. Standard requirements of a type rating – simulator training, high-altitude endorsements and check rides – are familiar and attainable to experienced pilots.
A pilot since the 1980s, Elop increasingly found himself wanting more from his flying experience. Based in Seattle, Washington, he frequently travelled to California for business, and to Hamilton, Ontario to visit family. With his busy schedule, he needed an aircraft that could make the 2,552-mile trip even faster.
“It all started to make sense to go to a jet,” he said.
As an executive vice president at one of the world’s most well-known corporations, Elop knew the only times he had available were the small blocks between meetings, projects and family obligations.
To begin, Elop had to earn his multi-engine rating. He simplified the overall process by choosing a training aircraft equipped similarly to the Skylane® he owned and the Cessna Citation® M2® he planned to buy. It proved to be a timesaving strategy, allowing him to focus on the more challenging aspects of the process.
“I had to minimize the number of things to learn because there was so much more that was new to me,” Elop said.
He eventually earned his multi-engine rating in a piston twin-engine aircraft equipped with Garmin® G1000™, an avionics suite similar to the one installed in his Skylane 182, and not too far removed from the Garmin® G3000™ system his new jet would include.
Elop then further familiarized himself with the avionics on the Citation M2. He loaded the Garmin G3000 software onto his PC simulator and learned how to operate it using his previous knowledge of the Garmin G1000 platform in his piston airplane.
“I learned the G3000 system on the ground, sitting at my desk. That was a matter of hours. It wasn’t days. It’s just an easy step up,” he said.
At the same time, Elop got a hold of the jet’s flight and system manuals and reviewed them during his down time.
“It’s basically, ‘How does a hydraulic system work?’ ‘How does an electrical system work?’” Elop said. “I was an engineer just sitting down before the type-rating course and learning it on my own.”
Logging mentor time
Elop was eager to finally fly his Citation M2. Insurance providers almost invariably require pilots who move up to jets to log mentor time.
Elop sought out a mentor pilot, and together they used his business and family trips to California and Ontario to review the fundamentals of airmanship. With Elop in the co-pilot’s seat, they practiced take-offs, landings, turns and speed management, all before the student pilot had spent a day in class for his type rating.
“We were just getting into the procedures,” Elop said “We did that for a while so I’d get used to the feel and flow of the aircraft.”
Stephen Elop’s step-by-step guide to earning a jet type rating
Earn your multi-engine rating
Set aside time to self-study the jet’s avionics systems
Log time with a mentor
Review emergency procedures
Review emergency procedures
Elop entered the jet type rating course having familiarized himself with nearly all aspects of flying the Citation M2 by the time classes began.
“I went into the type rating class with only one thing left to do for the first time, and that was all of the emergency procedures in a new plane with a new pilot,” Elop said. “We felt safer saying, ‘Let’s do it in a simulator.’”
After four months of studying and training, Elop earned his single-pilot jet type rating on his first attempt.
“There are some people who are naturally great pilots; I’m more methodical. I worked at it, and I just had to come up with a plan.”Stephen Elop, Citation M2 owner
To keep his insurance costs low and coverage high, Elop also agreed to fly with a co-pilot during the first year with his Citation M2, despite having achieved his single-pilot certification.
Making the transition to a jet has changed Elop’s life. He flies his Citation M2 twice as much as he originally planned.
“That just speaks to the utility of it,” he said. “It gives me so much time back, and so much more flexibility.”