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Flight Training: Quick Courses For Building Time
By Kyle Garrett
For the most part flight training consists of active training, where you are flying with an instructor and learning, and time-building, otherwise known as "practicing" or building experience. The thing is, sometimes having a short term goal in mind, like a new rating, helps you stay motivated. While there are many ratings and certificates that take a lot of time to complete, there are three that you can easily complete in a few flight hours: tail-wheel endorsement, complex/high-performance endorsement, and a seaplane rating.
Of the three, the tail-wheel endorsement is likely to be the most difficult. Many years ago, tail-wheel aircraft were the standard. Landing and taking off required that you actually fly the airplane or risk a an exciting and dangerous ground loop. At some point, someone had the idea to flip things around and the tricycle gear airplane became the standard. It was hailed as a safety innovation, but it can hide a nasty truth--sloppy rudder control. Tail-wheel training consists primarily of learning to feel the aircraft and balance it with the rudder and that's where the difficulty and time commitment come in.
High-performance and complex endorsements
High-performance and complex endorsements are generally something that just happens between getting an instrument rating and completing your commercial certificate. They are actually two separate endorsements, but since most aircraft with retractable gear also have big engines, you get them both at the same time. A high-performance endorsement is require to operate any aircraft with an engine rated at 200hp or higher. The idea is that since they are faster, you can get in trouble faster. Complex on the other hand, is a little more complex. Generally a complex aircraft is anything with retractable gear, but there are certain technically advanced fixed-gear aircraft that also meet the requirements. The training for these endorsements doesn't usually take very many hours, but there may be an hour requirement set by the insurance company.
The seaplane rating is widely held as the most fun you can have during flight training. While it is possible to get a private pilot certificate in a seaplane, most pilots get an add-on seaplane rating to their existing pilot certificates. This is the only course of the three that requires a check ride with an examiner, but the course can be completed in a long weekend and you'll only be tested on seaplane specific procedures as outlined in the test standards. It really is a fun rating to get and in some parts of the country seaplanes are an essential part of the daily commute.
If you're looking to add a little spice to your time-building, it is hard to beat any of these three courses. They are quick and affordable ways to build time while feeling like you're accomplishing more than just turning aviation fuel into noise. Not to mention they expand your abilities and grant you access to more types of aircraft for your piloting enjoyment.