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FlightSafety Dash 8 training page 2

report by neil macdougall

Most Canadian regional airlines require a minimum of 3,000 hours for Dash 8 pilot candidates. The carriers have hired several CFIs from large flying schools, and the decline in pilots leaving the Armed Forces suggests that hiring standards may be slackened.

Meanwhile, British Airways and Lufthansa have discovered that pilots who are trained in crew resource management and airline procedures from scratch do well. Pilot-instructor Dave Roberts said, “Sometimes you spend as much time changing old habits as teaching new ones.”

Our groundschool instructor was Michael “Lopi” Lopianowski, a former CF-5, CF-18 and Aurora pilot. He proved to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Dash 8, as well as test-flying experience with de Havilland. His illustrated lectures were practical and pithy. Few university lecturers choose their words as well. Daydream through one sentence of his and you’ll miss how to handle some critical emergency.

The Pilot Training Manual (6.7 pounds) was our Bible, crammed with circuit diagrams, photos, charts and lists. A colourful tribute to technical writers, you could believe it cost $1,000 a copy.

On Day 1, we plunged into the electrical system. If electricity operates almost everything on the Dash 8, even nose-wheel steering, abbreviations must hold it together. Most pilots have heard of TCAS, EFIS and APU, but the Dash 8 comes with everything but the KGB and LSD: AFCS, AHRS, ARPS, BBPU, ECU, EDP, ESU, GCU, PSEU, PTU, SPU and TRU.

People fearful of flying would be glad to know that most systems are duplicated or even triplicated. Can anything really go wrong? Well, yes, occasionally. Early operators found that the roll spoilers of a Dash 8 disengaged during severe turbulence. Ailerons provided adequate control, but de Havilland promptly issued a fix that required no new parts and, therefore, little expense. An operator who declined to install the modification encountered the same emergency shortly afterward.

To cope with such problems, pilots need a thorough knowledge of aircraft systems. Indeed, systems complexity may be the greatest difference between light twins like the Aztec and the Dash 8.

For two weeks we were drenched in hydraulics, electrics, pneumatics and other -ics, but Lopi was careful to be practical. “When is the most likely time for the low fuel light to come on?” (Answer: When one engine is shut down and you forgot to transfer fuel.)

The low fuel light is only one of 74 caution lights designed to wake pilots up. More serious situations like fires, lack of oil, open doors and hot batteries are signalled by nine warning lights–it’s not like your average Piper Dakota.

“Your passengers are traumatized by smoke from the baggage compartment,” Lopi continued. “What do you do?” (Answer: Set the pressurization altimeter at higher than the cabin altitude so that the rear outflow valve exhausts the smoke.) “When should you activate the de-icing boots?” (Answer: After about half an inch of ice has formed on the wings.)

A little knowledge can reduce embarrassment. One crew used propeller de-icing on the ground longer than the recommended time and melted the boots. Another crew removed the wheel chocks before checking the parking brake pressure, which can decrease to zero if the brake has been on and off several times because of moving the aircraft. Their Dash 8 rolled backwards down a hill and over a river bed.

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