Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Simulator Flyin'

Ok, I promised a post on the training I did last week, so here goes...
Having been employed by NetJets for six months (actually, having flown the Citation X for six months), I was scheduled for recurrent training at Flight Safety. Depending on the employer, pilots may have to go to training twice or just once a year to keep their skills up. Trust me, there is so much to know about flying that we need a refresher. There are numerous federal and company regulations, weather that changes seasonally or geographically which impacts your flights, crew resource management classes (always a good thing to brush up on), airplane systems reviews, and maneuver practice, etc., etc. And, after all, isn't it better to practice emergencies such as rapid decompressions, engine fire and/or failures and the like while sitting in front of a large computer screen?

One of the contingencies we plan for is a loss of electrical power. On one of our training days (we spent four days in the simulator total), we lost our generators (one per engine, to include one on the APU). Now, I was just down to the standby instruments (a gyro, airspeed indicator, altimeter, and HSI - or horizontal situation indicator). Imagine going from this:

To this:

And not much else. If you look very closely at the Citation X panel, you can just make out the blue and brown gyro to the left of the captain's PFD or primary flight display. Yes, I know these are the instruments we learned to fly on so long ago, but the point is, that we don't use them anymore. We rely on our Flight Directors, a magenta 'V' bar that gives us guidance (whenever a pilot is slightly disoriented, we tell ourselves to "fly the V bar." Oh, and we use the autopilot a lot.

I actually asked to fly a ILS (instrument landing system) approach with only the standby instruments, and the simulator operator (usually a pilot and instructor) was kind enough to print out my results. The print out is at the top of this post. You can see I had to make major corrections to stay on course (lateral deviations) and glideslope (vertical deviations). Ok, so it wasn't pretty. That's why they call this an "emergency situation."

And there's no fudging on my performance, either. We can go to the debriefing room and see exactly what we did with the power and controls at every phase of the flight, courtesy of a computer monitor.

And yes, everything is topped off with a checkride. A pass/fail, do or die, highly stressful procedure where the check pilot can test you on anything - and since no one is perfect, can fail you at anytime... Luckily I passed, so I can relax - at least until next time!

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