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FlightSafety Dash 8 training page 4

report by neil macdougall

On Day 6, we were to study the electronic flight instruments in an avionics trainer, another mock-up but with working switches and screens. Because of FlightSafety’s $40-million expansion, this device had not yet been reinstalled. (Groans from the class.) We had to learn in the new Dash 8 simulator. (Muted cheers.)

For the first time, we could move switches, turn dials and see the electronic attitude and heading indicators change during tests. “A lot of stuff here can kill you if you don’t manage it properly,” Lopi warned. As if to prove him right, I deleted an altitude-hold command by prematurely entering another altitude in the Automatic Flight Control System. Another time, I accidentally disconnected the autopilot when I disengaged the yaw damper.

An FAA study showed that automation often behaves in unexpected ways. Why did it do that? What is it doing now? and What will it do next? were common questions of surprised crews. Moral: Know your aircraft systems.

The Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS, alias Bitching Betty) required less study. After all, “Whoop, whoop, pull up!” should be clear to anyone. But Lopi described it as “the call you’re most likely to ignore.”

As befits a $15-million machine that costs more than a real Dash 8, the simulator was impressive. So was the memory work needed to fly it well. We had to know the Dash 8’s systems, SOPs (e.g., what calls to make for the other pilot), emergency procedures and limitations. A medium twin like the Beech Queen Air has a handful of limitations, which are easily learned. The Dash 8, on the other hand, has 9 limiting weights, 12 limiting airspeeds and 5 more pages of restrictions.

The flight manual warns that the Dash 8’s ice protection systems may not be able to cope with freezing rain and certain other icing conditions. Apparently, the FAA decreed that de Havilland add this note after the American Eagle ATR 42 crash, which occurred after a hold in freezing rain.

If our foreheads carried warning lights like those in the plane, they would have flashed, “Brain Overload” and “Brain Overheat.” The Saudi student said that the Boeing 737 he flew was a simpler aircraft. A pilot from another course said that the Dash 8 program was noted as the most difficult of the regional airliners. (The Dash 8 initial pilot course takes 21 days, compared to 17 days for the ATR 42/72, 12 days each for the Beech 1900 and Shorts 360, and 19 days each for the EMB Brasilia and Saab 340.)

With much groundschool to be covered, Lopi asked us to come in early at 7 a.m. The class compromised on 7:30 a.m., although concerned that the exam was but a week away. A passing mark of 80% was needed to go on to the simulator sessions.

On Day 8 we enjoyed a quick tour of de Havilland’s plant. Lopi’s laser pointer showed us the systems we’d learned, as well as most of the 152-point preflight inspection. Dash 8 No. 500 was nearing its first flight, while Bombardier’s Global Express No. 5 was at the end of another line.

Not even an engine fire is supposed to deter an aircrew from continuing takeoff after reaching V1 (the speed after which takeoffs must be continued no matter the emergency). A Boeing study showed that 58% of rejected takeoffs are made after V1, often resulting in fatal crashes. Just as sobering was a video of tires and brakes on fire after rejected takeoffs. Everyone made resolutions.

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