A Change in the Wind

A Change in the Wind

I have been flying long enough to have seen a remarkable evolution in flying. From renting a vacuum-gauge Cherokee 140 for $10 an hour ($5 more if you wanted an instructor) to Cirrus and Cessna products with avionics more capable than some air carriers. Simulators have evolved also. The “Link” multi-engine box I used in the 1970s featured partial motion. “Partial” is a strange descriptor. Like in, “When we found the body, he was partially breathing.” The old Link trainer bucked to and sometimes fro. 

During one session, after a rather hard landing, the instructor said I had crashed the sim. “Do you reset something now,” I asked. “No, son,” said the crusty instructor. “You broke it.”

An hour later, we were back to bucking.

Today, full-motion level D electric and hydraulic monsters can realistically simulate more than I care to experience. I estimate that I have died at least six times over the 40 years I have been training in a simulator. Even though my record in the airplane is better, I’m still impressed with the realism that a simulator can produce.

But the actual training requirements and regimen in either the airplane or the simulator has changed little with the times. 

My current 61.58 check is more of choreographed dance to fill in the boxes than a real learning experience. That is not the fault of the training companies. The FAA mandates exactly what we are supposed to know and exactly how we are supposed to show it during our checks. And every few years, an accident will require a new item to be trained and tested on, the most recent being high-altitude stalls.

Some of the training is valuable, some fairly worthless. One of the major Part 142 schools has a very involved scenario where you practice taking off from Memphis with an RVR of 600 feet. You actually taxi your airplane by following a simulated “truck” on the taxiway, report to ground control when you arrive at some silly place called “pink spot seven” and wait for the tower to clear you for takeoff, but not before they turn off a row of flashing red lights just short of the runway. This whole package takes about 30 minutes of my two-hour sim session.

I don’t know about you, but I have no intention of ever taking off with an RVR of 600, much less at night between FEDEX heavies at Memphis. What I need to learn is how to evaluate the risk of landing on contaminated runways, or how to fly my airplane with multiple avionics failures, or how to professionally brief a takeoff, approach, and landing.

Help for pilots like me is now available.

FlightSafety is offering a series of two hour “Extended Training Scenarios.” These simulator-based Citation courses are in addition to the annual 61.58 training and they are free to full-service customers. Courses include:

  • Decision making: go/no go
  • Departure and approach performance planning
  • Inadvertent severe icing encounter
  • Approach plate analysis and landing
  • Use of minimum descent altitude (MDA) as decision altitude (DA)
  • Single pilot LOST
  • High density traffic

TRU Simulation + Training also offers additional enrichment courses for single-pilot Citation operators.

I am heading to KICT for Mustang recurrent this month and will have a review of one of the courses soon.

Fly safe.

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