Learning to fly a new model of airplane can be challenging. But, now a days, it’s not controlling the airframe that provides the stress. It’s learning the avionics. Many of us go to large training centers, sit in small classes, and are introduced to avionics systems that are new to us. In owner flown jets, there are usually three choices when it comes to flight decks: (1) the true legacy, non-integrated packages (2) Rockwell Collins’ ProLine 21 FMS 3000, or (3) Garmin’s G1000 or G3000. Having flown all of the above, I can truthfully say that all are very capable and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. But when it comes to classroom training, I have definite preferences.
No flat screen training devices, please. I am a knob man.
I like the tactile feel of tuning the navs, selecting the altitude, and engaging the autopilot with a real knob. Laugh if you want, but the type of training device can make a real difference in how quickly you learn. Take the Mustang non-motion trainer at Flight Safety, for instance. It is an exact replica of the C-510 cockpit with every knob, switch and button you would find in the real airplane. Even the throttles work. And although it doesn’t move and has no visuals, you can program the FMS, shut down an engine, and “crash”, just like in the multimillion dollar simulator. I can touch a knob and things happen just like they should. Later, I can jump in the full-motion simulator or the real airplane and make an instant transition to reality.
Other training devices are not so friendly to me.
Let’s call them the “flat screen” simulators. That’s what they are. A mass of up to eight giant iPads fastened together in a make-shift horseshoe. Few, if any, knobs exist. You tap on the screen to wake up the computers. Another tap to create green boxes around each simulated knob, like heading, autopilot modes, landing gear, virtually everything. Then you tap on the + or – to change a digit. Then, another tap to exit the green box. Changing the altitude pre-select from 8,000 feet to FL390 might involve 50 taps. I counted them. Unfortunately, by the time I had tapped my way to the new altitude, I stalled.
I forgot to tap the autopilot on.
I did, however, become really good at tapping. At dinner, I found myself tapping on the table. I couldn’t stop. My dinner guests moved to another table. But, there is a bright side to this story.
After all that tapping, I became very proficient at Morse code.