Several years ago, the Citation Jet Pilots Association’s safety committee came up with the idea to produce a series of videos depicting challenges that pilots face in the cockpit. Things like engine failures on takeoff in mountainous terrain, circling approaches and landing on contaminated runways. We mused that if we could show less than admirable techniques followed by the “right way” to do things, we could model safer behavior.
For some unexplained reason, I was nominated to be the model for bad decision-making. The vote was unanimous. Go figure.
What was also unanimous was the name of the person to demonstrate “What Good Looks Like.” Meet Neil Singer, CJP safety consultant, Master Instructor, corporate Bombardier Challenger captain, and designated examiner in the Phenom 100/300 and Citation 525 series. He is also a regular contributor to the “Turbine” section of AOPA Pilot magazine.
For the past three years, Neil and I, along with astronaut Charlie Precourt, have produced almost two dozen videos on various topics, all of which are available free of charge. Our goal is to put the average pilot (played by yours truly) in challenging situations followed by Neil, who calmly and professionally shows you a safer alternative, with Charlie relating his NASA experiences.
Neil is one of those pilots you want to be. He takes his profession incredibly seriously. He not only knows the answers to my most trivial questions, he researches the topic and prepares an in-depth analysis for review. I thought you might enjoy some of his wisdom with the interview below.
Tell us about your “for hire” experience.
Several flight schools, including one in Hawaii, which was also a VFR-only Part 135 tour company. Another Part 135 job co-flying Piper Cheyennes for charter, organ flights and air ambulance. Then I joined American Eagle. I flew a Saab 340 prop for two years, but 9/11 hit right when I was supposed to upgrade to Captain, so I switched to the Embraer RJ since I would be right seat for a while. I flew that for 2.5 years then left to teach full time in 2004 and never looked back!
In your role as an examiner and mentor, what are the most common shortcomings you see?
Airspeed management/flying deliberate airspeeds; automation management (especially checking the status bar); knowing all the little gotchas with avionics; having profiles memorized (probably the biggest!); checklist discipline/cutting corners.
For those transitioning to higher performance aircraft, what should they do to become a safer pilot?
Understand there’s no one magic “hard” thing to master, but a thousand “easy” things that can get overwhelming in volume. There’s no shortcutting brute force repetition and studying. Realize you should never stop learning. As one instructor says, “When you think you’ve finished learning, you have.”
Also, be aware that the modern upgrade process is perhaps unrealistically compressed – a high-performance piston into a single-pilot light jet, for example. Twenty years ago, the path would be 172, 182, Bonanza, Baron, King Air, then with thousands of hours, finally a 501/CJ. Now it’s Cirrus SR22 into Citation 510 or M2. While certainly doable with good training, this needs to be approached with caution steps forward in expanding the envelope. Embrace SOPs (like CJP’s). Just because Part 91 says you can doesn’t mean you should.
Any surprises in your training experience?
Yes, often. I tell everyone I cannot forecast how quickly someone will adapt to their first light jet until we’ve flown for a while. I’ve had former fighter pilots who were currently flying heavy biz jets struggle with single-pilot ops. I’ve had high-time commercial pilots struggle with glass cockpits. And on the opposite side, I’ve had 500-hour prodigies master everything on the first try – you just never know. But I am always surprised that no one ever believes me when I say you simply cannot overstudy profiles! No matter how much I emphasize it, pilots always say at the end, “I wish I’d studied profiles more.”
Talk about your involvement with the “What Good Looks Like” video series.
I love the idea of taking lessons learned from my years of teaching, insights from the light jet accident record, and stories of our friends and members, and distilling them into short videos to pass that tribal knowledge along to more people. So much knowledge at the jet level isn’t widely disseminated, and I’d like to change that.
Neil Singer is indeed “What Good Looks Like.” For access to CJP’s free safety content, visit citationjetpilots.com and click on the “Safety” tab.