On Final: How Much Is Enough?

On Final: How Much Is Enough?


In the past twelve months I have completed four 61.58 simulator events. Two in the M2 and two in the Mustang. You would think that would be enough. At least that’s what I thought as I accidently shut down the only running engine during my recent M2 recurrent at FlightSafety in Wichita.

It was the worst performance of my career.

I couldn’t blame it on the simulator or the instructor. Both were excellent. But for three days training with M2 owner Larry King, I was behind the airplane. I couldn’t find switches. My steep turns were sloppy. I scraped a wing on a V1 cut. Despite my miscues, I managed to exhibit the minimum skills necessary to pass. But I began to wonder if it was time to frame my pilot’s license and hang it up.

It was that ugly.

After I returned home from the event, I looked in my logbook to see how much time I had actually logged in the left seat during the year. It was a single digit number. I had flown with Larry a number of times but always in the right seat and seldom as PIC. Thirty days later, I returned to the scene of the crime for a Mustang recurrent. My sim instructor was a guy named Ken Estes.

Ken was not in a good mood.

“I woke up at 3 a.m. this morning and chased two coyotes for half a mile. They broke into the henhouse and ate my favorite chicken. I’ve been up since then thinking about our sim session and how I could make it more interesting.”

He had a strange look in his eyes.

After a GPS Rwy 14 approach at ICT with a circle to 01R, we repositioned to Gunnison, Colorado (KGUC). Right after departure, Ken programmed the simulator for a wind shear encounter and then a dual generator failure. Along the way, he threw in a surging right engine followed by smoke in the cockpit. “Hey captain,” said Ken. “We’ve got smoke back here in the cabin.” Sure enough, Ken had a smoke generating machine pouring a cloud of fumes into the simulator. With multiple checklists on my lap, I had to manually blow the gear down while wearing an oxygen mask and smoke goggles. It was intense, real, and gut wrenching.

And it was my best performance in years.

Why was I so lousy in the M2 and so good in the Mustang? For me, it was a lack of PIC time in the M2 and the difference in the G3000 and G1000 platforms. I am not sure how flight instructors do it, but I guess I need to be in the left seat to have my muscles memorize anything.

A week later, on a trip home in the M2 from Alpine, Wyoming (46U) to Dallas, I asked Larry if I could be PIC. “You want to fly from the right seat?” he said.

“No, I think I need to sit where the pilot sits.”

Fly safe.

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