Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Living Large


Transitioning from a piston to a turbine



Pilatus PC-12
The second way to train is at a simulator-based training center. The quality of the simulator is a function of how faithfully it reproduces the airplane. At the lower end of the spectrum are non-motion simulators with a real aircraft cockpit incorporating fully working instrumentation, and limited field, "cartoon-quality" visuals. At the high end are full-motion, level-D sims that are so realistic you can even feel bumps in the pavement as you taxi to the runway. Visuals (particularly at night) are nearly photo realistic, and include ground and in-flight traffic, realistic clouds and weather viewed with a wide field display. In flight, the feel of these simulators is almost indistinguishable from the real airplane.

Regardless of the simulator you train in, you'll quickly discover that you don't spend much time flying a "normal airplane" in good weather. Think of sim time as "problem time." Systems fail, emergencies pile up, and the ceilings always seem to be at 200 feet with ¾-mile visibility. The goal is to learn to recognize and diagnose problems, manage systems, refer to checklists, make good command decisions, handle emergencies, apply SOPs, fly an approach and get the airplane safety back on the ground. These sessions are challenging, but after being pushed to your limits, you'll come out a better pilot. In the turbine world, most insurance companies encourage (and often require) recurrent annual simulator training.

Your First Type Rating

Remember that all airplanes over 12,500 pounds and all jets require a type rating. Getting typed involves two parts—training and an exam by a qualified examiner. The training typically takes from one to two weeks, and requires commitment and a bit of stamina to complete. You'll learn all of the aircraft systems, the checklist memory items, and the maneuvers needed to pass the flight test.


Piper Meridian
The type exam typically consists of an oral exam that can last from three to five hours, along with a flight test that lasts about 1.5 hours. The oral exam covers pretty much everything, and you're expected to recite the material effortlessly—stammer around too much, and you'll get sent home.

The flight test is done to ATP standards and typically covers steep turns, instrument approaches, single engine operations, emergency procedures, V1 cuts, single-engine missed approach, among other things. You can train and do the checkride in the simulator or the airplane, but if you do either in the simulator and it's your first type rating, the FARs will require 25 hours of logged mentor time before you're issued an unrestricted type rating. One tip: If you meet all the experience requirements for the ATP rating and you pass the ATP written, your checkride completes the rating. By the way, to stay current in a type-rated aircraft, you'll be required to do a 61.58 proficiency check every year, which means doing the checkride annually. If you maintain currency, it's good practice (and even fun).

One last thing to understand: At some training centers, your training may be tailored to a target rating depending on your level of experience. Light jets are approved for both single- pilot and crew operations, which require separate type ratings. Show up with experience mostly in piston airplanes (yes, even twins), and you're likely to wind up with a crew rating. After you've gained some experience flying crew (somewhere between 50 and 100 hours), you can come back and upgrade to the single-pilot rating. The minimum threshold for single-pilot jet training is typically around 1,000 hours PIC, 75 hours instrument time, and about 500 hours PIC/SIC in a turbine-powered airplane with all of the appropriate ratings.

Traveling In The Flight Levels

There are some big issues to consider when you climb into the flight levels. First, there's the weather. As you monitor center frequency, you'll discover that there are two things that airline pilots worry about. The first is the ride. Airliners have attendants walking the aisles so they avoid bumpy air whenever possible. Listen up, and you'll figure out the altitudes with smooth air.



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