Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A New License To Learn

Advanced training leads to more than just proficiency; it can also save lives

new licenseA few weeks ago, my friend Ray recounted a scary experience he’d had in his high-performance single while on a trip with his wife and daughter in IMC and at night.
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license to learn
Aerobatics and upset recovery training allow a student to take an aircraft to the edge of its performance envelope.
Simulator technology affords another array of options for pilots looking for a challenge or a way to boost their careers. Pilots can choose from type-rating and recurrency programs in just about any popular jet, turboprop or advanced piston single. Simulators are being used more and more in transitioning new or existing pilots to technically advanced aircraft such as the Cirrus and Diamond. Pilots come to these facilities to experience situations that would be difficult or dangerous to practice in the actual aircraft.

Tyler West travels 1,500 miles from his base in New Mexico to SimCom’s facility at Vero Beach, Fla., to receive annual recurrency training in the Piper Mirage. “The true test of effective training came during my last session in our plane,” relates West. “We were climbing out when the distinct smell of electrical smoldering filled the cockpit, accompanied soon after by billowing smoke.” The situation was one West had practiced just days before in the simulator. “The methodical sequence of actions used to deal with the situation seemed almost routine,” he notes. He was able to address the emergency without ever compromising the safety of his mission.

The value of scenario-based training in simulators is obvious. Jim Clutter, president of SimTrain (, a simulator facility that specializes in Cirrus training, says, “With scenario-based training we can introduce multiple failure modes so you can see how you’ll react to emergencies before you face them.” Another advantage of sim training is that time is compressed; you can practice many types of situations in an hour or two. It would take much longer to find and experience those same scenarios in the actual airplane.

Wally David, CEO of SimCom (, jokes that simulator training is the best way to learn advanced procedures because of the ability to repeat emergency exercises. “If you crash in the simulator,” he says, “you get to put in a dollar and go again.”

Aerobatics & Emergency Training
John Mayhew is a retired Northwest captain and check airman with 30,000 hours of flying. “If I could, I would make it a rule that every pilot get aerobatic training and earn their instrument rating,” says Mayhew. “Those two things would reduce GA accidents dramatically.”

Rich Stowell, a nationally recognized CFI and author of books on spin and emergency-maneuver training, also thinks all pilots should receive training in unusual attitudes. “Fear drives too many instructors today,” says Stowell. “You have fearful instructors teaching fearful students—especially in the areas of stall and spin training.” Both Mayhew and Stowell feel that aerobatic training instills confidence by showing pilots how the aircraft behaves on the outside edges of its performance envelope. “It teaches what the airplane can and cannot do,” adds Mayhew.

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