Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Challenge Yourself!

Comfort zones are slow death and are meant to be challenged

Getting Better By Going Bigger
There are several different sides to the concept of improving as a pilot. On one side is the purely physical part of handling the controls and the situations better. On the other is the largely mental part of running the various systems that are on board a given airplane. As we move up in airplane size, most often, the flying basics still apply, but the load of managing the systems increases to the point that it becomes as much of a challenge as is flying the airplane.

Steam Gauges to Glass
Today, so many training aircraft have glass cockpits that we're seeing brand-new PPLs that can fly newer "spam cans" more comfortably than many super-high-time gray dogs. Plus, younger generations have been brought up with PCs, so they're more comfortable with the concepts represented in glass-cockpit management.

The best advice for those resisting glass cockpits is, "Don't resist." Most systems have been designed to be user friendly, but read the pilot's manual several times before strapping in with a CFI. Note: If your instructor has some gray in his hair, he'll know where you're coming from and will speak English, rather than the digital dialect that's borne of a lifetime playing video games.

The Complex Airplane
The FAA's definition of a "complex" airplane is one that has flaps, a constant- speed propeller and retractable gear. These days, it's the rare student who trains in an airplane that doesn't have flaps (a Cub?), so that's a no-brainer. The constant-speed prop also is essentially a no-brainer, and takes only the briefest checkout to master. Retractable gear is a no-brainer to operate, but it carries with it a level of responsibility students don't normally see. Knowing that simply forgetting to throw a single switch can cause tens of thousands of dollars of damage is a little daunting. This is normally the first time such a severe management load is placed on a student, and they mature, as a pilot, because of it.

Saddling Up A Bigger Twin
Most light twin trainers fly like every trainer ever built, but have one more lever and the possibilities of an asymmetric thrust problem. This isn't true as you move up the multi-scale. As the aircraft get heavier, the need to manage the aircraft's wing loading and its increasingly complex systems become more critical, and airspeed and glideslope control require increased attention. Also, the higher speeds cut down the student's reaction-time window. Although having an extra engine adds safety, it also greatly increases the need for true proficiency in engine-out situations. Without the proficiency, the extra engine becomes a dangerous detriment.

Recip to Turbine
This is where the rubber meets the road in terms of systems management. Suddenly, we're faced with systems and terms we've never seen before. And this is why specialized training is required. This isn't the type of thing your local freelance CFI is likely to be able to offer you. This is also where the availability of simulators not only reduces the cost of training, but greatly increases the efficiency. Jump into this from your Twin Star and you'll have the challenge you're looking for.


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