You know the drill. If it's Tuesday, it must be hydraulic failures and hot-and-high takeoffs. Break out the manuals Monday night, study the systems and plan for the predictable emergency to be encountered some time after takeoff during tomorrow's sim session.
Later, we'll depart out of Colorado Springs on a 32C/90F day, lose an engine at V1, rotate, retract the gear with a positive climb rate and peg the airspeed at V2 until we reach 400 ft. Accelerate, retract the flaps and fly the departure at the best en route OEI climb speed. Declare the emergency and fly an OEI approach to an uneventful landing at a tower controlled airport.
Same training center, same sim instructor, same scenario. See you next year. That's the all too typical recurrent training model for “Bored Bob” pilots, according to some flight department managers and simulator training centers.
“They want to check the box and get out of there just as fast as they can,” said Richard Walsh, chairman of NBAA's Safety Committee and Hewlett-Packard's director of aviation. “It's a really huge issue.”
Just meeting minimum requirements also is a concern fortraining centers, according to Leon Botteron, general manager aircraft training. He says it's up to customers to determine how much additional training they receive beyond basic statutory requirements. Sim training centers can't mandate what's not in their -approved recurrent training curriculums.
“One real impediment to training is the pilots themselves. Many say if it's not required, they don't want to do it. If the sim sessions are too hard, they'll look for another training facility,” said Robert Agostino, former head of Bombardier Flight Operations and founder of the firm's acclaimed Safety Standdown program.
“I think sim training ought to be mandated. There are some maneuvers, such as V1 [engine] cuts on takeoff that involve a risk factor. It's just not wise to do them in aircraft,” said Agostino. “The goal should be to train as you fly and fly as you train. But that's not necessarily what happens during some sim training. Some pilots don't treat the sim as vital education for their survival. And while it's a vital part of training, it must be augmented with good academics. It's great to understand systems, but that's not necessarily looking at the root causes of accidents.”
Robert E. Breiling, head of an eponymous consultancy based in Boca Raton, Fla., is recognized as one of the top business aircraft accident analysists extant. He says that rote sim training, for instance, usually involves coping with multiple engine failures during various phases of flight. That's because the FAA's practical test standards require those maneuvers in accordance with FAR 61.58(d). But Breiling's accident statistics indicate that blown tires, bird or other wildlife strikes or loss of directional control are considerably more likely causes of accidents than simple engine failures.
Breiling also said that 11% of business aircraft mishaps occur at uncontrolled airports, ones that may not have weather report broadcasts, and may not be used for sim sessions. In addition, his analysis shows that three out of four landing accidents involved runway contamination and that light jets are more likely to be involved in runway overrun mishaps than larger aircraft, indicating that airspeed control or other critical landing technique elements played a factor. “Smaller airplanes appear to be harder to stop,” Breiling observed.
A sizable portion of large cabin aircraft landing incidents occur with crosswind conditions, a problem exacerbated by runway contamination. Notably, more than three-quarters of all landing accidents occur on runways longer than 5,000 ft.
The need to review accident forensics notwithstanding, FAA's requirements for recurrent training specify a litany of tasks that must be completed each 12 calendar months to meet the recurrent proficiency requirements for pilots of aircraft that require more than one crew member. Among those requirements are the demonstration of systems and components knowledge, accurate and effective use of performance tables and charts, weight and balance computations, effects of icing and knowledge of stabilized approach procedures.
Some flight department managers claim that the comprehensive list of pilot proficiency tasks that are mandated by FAA squeezes out training time that could be devoted to accident analysis and prevention along with realistic line oriented flight training (LOFT) sim missions. But complying with the published requirements and spending more learning time in the sim aren't mutually exclusive.
Long before showing up for sim training, it's advisable to contact the training provider's aircraft model manager for the type of aircraft you're flying, in order to fine tune the training program to meet your requirements.
“Simulator training is expensive. We want to make the most of it,” said Chuck Reeves, Qualcomm's chief pilot. “We call the training manager at the sim center to coordinate our training. We treat the training manager as a partner. We ask what other flight departments are doing at the training center. We ask about best practices. After the sim sessions, we ask about what we could do better. We also provide feedback about instructor performance.”
Reeves said that most recurrent training requires a warm-up or practice sim ride followed by a proficiency check ride. After the mandatory requirements have been completed, he requests additional sim sessions to ensure pilots are up to speed on procedures specifically used by the company.
Qualcomm, for instance, occasionally flies its long-range business aircraft to Russia. Most instrument approach procedures in the CIS usually are based upon setting altimeters to QFE so that they indicate height above airport. Most western nations specify QNH altimeter settings for instrument procedures so that they read barometric altitude. Reeves wants his pilots to demonstrate proficiency while flying approaches using either QFE or QNH.
Reeves also uses the sim to practice edge-of-the-envelope performance maneuvers that are too dangerous to practice in actual aircraft. This “extreme exposure” helps build both crew proficiency and pilot confidence in the aircraft's maximum capabilities. Engine failures on takeoff are practiced on relatively short runways on which accelerate/stop and accelerate/ go performance is critical. He also wants crew to experience the effects of runway contamination on braking performance. Any average pilot can stop a business jet on a 10,000-ft. dry runway. His crews train to a higher level of proficiency.
Inflight engine failures in the sim often are flown into or out of landing facilities in mountainous terrain and in low visibility. These exercises demonstrate the need to extract the best possible OEI performance from the aircraft while precisely complying with missed approach procedures or departure routes to avoid CFIT.
Right-seat landings are another sim training requirement. This helps the crew prepare for a left-side EFIS failure, a delaminated and crazed left windshield or left-pilot incapacitation.
Qualcomm's Gulfstream G550 now have Certification Foxtrot upgrades that enable the crews to fly RNP authorization required and WAAS GPS LPV approaches. Cert Foxtrot also provides transoceanic Controller to Pilot Data Link (CPDL) Communications, enhanced synthetic vision and XM radio weather. Reeves coordinates with FlightSafety G550 model managers to ensure his pilots undergo comprehensive advanced avionics training. They must demonstrate proficiency in the sim before they are allowed to use these capabilities with passengers aboard.
Conversely, sim training centers also have recommendations for clients. The time to bone up on systems is before you show up for recurrent sim training, says Greg McGowan, FlightSafety International's vice president-Operations. FlightSafety now uses “operational day flow” training programs that teach systems in the context of checklist use, knowledge-based decision making and risk management. Virtually all of FlightSafety's ground school course materials are available on line in PDF form. McGowan recommends that clients take full advantage of those resources.
If clients study systems in depth, it accelerates the learning process. Otherwise, the entire class has to wait for the instructor to explain system basics to pilots who haven't done their homework.
McGowan said it's essential that clients understand their specific operations for risk areas where they need improvement. They should identify risks and then request training to mitigate the problems.
It's essential for the client and sim training center to agree on the use of a flight department's standard operating procedures. That enables pilots to train as the fly and fly as they train.
And finally, clients should come to sim training with a positive attitude that compels them to seek the most learning with challenging scenarios to boost proficiency rather than just passing a minimum requirements checkride.
FAR Part 142 simulator training facilities are looking for ways to make recurrent training more valuable for pilots. Now some are starting to embrace concepts pioneered by the airlines about two decades ago. At that time, the airlines began to use FAA's Advanced Qualification Program, a pilot proficiency system that encourages innovative recurrent training methods and data-driven processes for creating and maintaining an effective training curriculum. About ten years ago, the airlines started to use computer-based distance learning in lieu of some ground school sessions to reduce the number of hours pilots spend out of the cockpit and in ground school classrooms.
The business aircraft community has been slow to embrace distance learning. Many pilots still enjoy sitting in the classroom for several days during which they share in detail their operational problems with instructors and classmates. Now, though, the concept of the virtual ground school is gaining popularity with some pilots.
“Ten years ago, we couldn't give away our virtual ground school program,” says Robert Tyler, CAE's chief learning officer. “Then about three years ago, we saw a change the NBAA convention. Some of our bigger customers signed on last year and now we're experiencing a ground swell.”
The 16-hr. Gulfstream G550 recurrent training syllabus features what CAE's touts as the first FAA approved, Web-based “Virtual Ground School.” It covers all the course topics presented in CAE's legacy ground school classes in interactive, self-paced, learning modules. Quizzes are given at the end of each training module, thus clients can track progress and review or repeat topics as needed to boost proficiency. When the client arrives for sim training, the required ground school time can be reduced by as much as half.
The remote training may be started months in advance of recurrent training. But to ensure that the client is up to date in preparation for sim training, the quiz modules must be completed no earlier than 60 days prior to arrival.
Not all flight departments and sim training centers have embraced Web-based training as a replacement for ground school. Reeves, for example, noted that sim centers don't provide discounts for spending less time in their classrooms. Moreover, he believes the cross pollination of ideas and exchange of operational problems between students provides an enriched learning experience.
Bombardier Aerospace's business aircraft recurrent pilot training programs do not use virtual ground school as a replacement for classroom instruction in large part because their customers don't want it, says Botteron. However, he sees a trend toward distance learning, so he expects the firm to start offering such programs in the next 12 months. Meanwhile, Bombardier Aerospace aircraft training continues to offer a large variety of non-model specific enrichment courses at its website.
SimCom training centers also plan on introducing at least six web-based recurrent ground school programs for business jets in 2012. FlightSafety, in contrast, is taking a go-slow approach to offering distance learning systems, according to McGowan.
“Five to seven years ago, we started a distance learning program for Gulfstream GIV,” he recalled. “We had mixed results. Most clients still wanted the interaction of the ground school environment.”
McGowan said that FlightSafety is taking a market driven approach to web-based virtual ground schools. While the firm offers many enrichment courses on line, it doesn't offer model specific distance learning courses.
“The airlines use these systems, but they have a controlled group of pilots, all the same aircraft configurations and time proven AQP systems,” he said. “General aviation Part 91 and 135 operators are heterogeneous groups that operate different aircraft configurations within the same make and model. It's much tougher for us to get our arms around this challenge.”
Feedback from Accidents/Incidents/Events
CAE is one of the first sim training firms to use actual accident or incident histories for scenario-based classroom training. The program is called RealCase and it uses recent mishaps experienced by crews operating the same model aircraft as students fly.
One RealCase involves an Citation X crew that had to cope with a partial delamination of the left windshield. CAE and operators tell BCA that this is not an uncommon occurrence in the Mach 0.92 aircraft.
When the event happened, the crew immediately declared an emergency and commenced an emergency descent. But CAE maintains that the Citation X flight manual allows the aircraft to continue the flight because only one of the two windshield plies is needed for structural integrity.
The instructor then asks the Citation X recurrent training class, “What would you do?”
The students' answers necessarily are complex. Some students ask if the airplane with the windshield problem is being operating on a long transoceanic leg where max range performance is critical. They favor continuing the flight at altitude in accordance with the flight manual.
Over land, others say they also would declare an emergency and execute an emergency descent because they consider it prudent to land as soon as practicable at a suitable divert airport. Even thought this contravenes the flight manual recommendation, many pilots say they wouldn't risk having a sudden decompression caused by failure of the remaining windshield panel.
FlightSafety offers similar scenario-based training and risk analysis with its operational day flow system. Clients are taught how to use checklists and make decisions based upon real-life situations that pilots of the same make and model or type of aircraft have encountered. McGowan also says that feedback from clients enables FlightSafety to tailor its ground training syllabus to reflect real-life events that pilots relate during classroom training.
Real-life events also are included in sim training, depending upon an individual client's requirements. For example, pilots may want to practice a circling approach to a particularly challenging landing facility because it poses risk factors they want to mitigate.
However, sim databases contain a limited number of airports that are certified for circling approaches. Thus, it may not be possible to offer a circling approach at the operator's first choice of airports.
If enough operators request a circling approach at a specific airport, FlightSafety may upgrade the sim database with the specific airport and circling approach procedure. Some clients also may elect to pay the outfit to update the sim with the specific airport and procedure. McGowan said the process of adding new landing facilities to the sim and earning certification is getting easier.
The most successful sim training, as with flying actual aircraft, heavily depends upon the quality of pre-flight planning for all contingencies.
Experienced flight departments say that boils down to basics. Flight crews must study systems at home base using books, virtual ground schools and/or on-line reference materials. Chief pilots must identify specific operational risks they want to mitigate and plan to practice those skills in the sim. Managers need to coordinate their individual training requirements with sim training centers. Pilots need to use all available sim time for proficiency training and not just quit when FAA required checks are complete. BCA