Hello Captain Lim,
Thank you for creating such a wonderful and informative website. I'm a student from the maritime college. I have this question that always ponder me:
In the transportation industry, we have the airline transport pilots, that's you guys, handling the aircraft, whether it*s cargo or passenger. On the maritime side, we have the captains who are overall in charge of the whole vessel. Well both cases require pilots to start off as cadets (deck cadet for the maritime, cadet pilot for the aviation). However, the requirement for deck cadet is not as demanding as cadet pilot as the nautical side does not require a University degree (which is broadly preferred by airlines), undergo aptitude tests, attend difficult interviews, (yes, nautical side does have such but it isn't that stringent) etc.
For a deck cadet to become captain, he needs to attend the relevant course at the maritime college, then sails for 18 months in order to take the Certificate of Competency (CoC) examination that will qualify him as a 3rd Officer. Thereafter, he sails 36 months in order to take the Masters* CoC (comprise of written, oral and simulator examinations) before he becomes a Captain of a ship.
As regards to the route from a cadet pilot to captain, I have read about it in the SIA and your website. In the nautical CoC exams, you can fail more than twice and not get expelled, but you can*t do that in the ATPL exams (as I read from Japan*s Koukuu Dai - students who failed a ATPL module twice are forced to give up their flying career).
Why is the difference between becoming a ship captain and an airline pilot so wide? I mean, both captains are competent to take charge of huge and sophisticated transports yet it seems like the road to becoming an airline captain is much more tougher and stringent than a ship captain. Is it true that an airline captain outshine a ship captain?
Your views on this discussion are greatly appreciated.
Different countries subscribe to different policies. For example, in the European countries, they have the JAA or JAR ATPL. In the USA, the license awarded to an airline commercial pilot is known as an ATP. (Outside, it is known as ATPL - Airline Transport Pilot License). A US ATP (same as ICAO ATPL) is not equivalent to a JAA ATPL even though both pilots with the different licenses can still fly the same Boeing 777 or 747. So, a US airline pilot holding an ATP will have problem getting a job in Europe unless he spends more money and time converting his license to a JAR ATPL.
What I am trying to say is that, a country can stipulate its own policy for the award of the ATPL. I am not familiar with the Japanese Civil Aviation policy of only allowing 2 failures for the ATPL examination, but the rules for other countries are less stringent. For instance, in Australia, for the award of the theoretical ICAO ATPL examination, candidates may choose to sit any number of papers at any particular sitting. When all the seven subjects have been passed, a candidate is awarded an ATPL. However, all the examinations must be passed within a 3-year period. Perhaps the gap between becoming a ship captain and an airline pilot is wider only in Japan.
Does an airline captain outshine a ship captain? I don't think so. Both undertake an equally responsible job. It is just that each person carries out a different function. I think it is probably a perception only. Somehow, I must admit that, anything to do with aviation (especially air accidents) tends to hog the limelight more. A good example is the case below - the JetBlue landing gear drama had a good live TV coverage in Los Angeles as it was burning off 3 hours worth of fuel in the air. Yes, Captain Scott Burke was the hero of the day. See what I mean? More publicity is always generated, especially involving flying and the plane. In that sense, an airline captain gets a little more public exposure than a ship captain, but in other sense, both shine equally! :-)