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FlightSafety Dash 8 training page 5

report by neil macdougall

The practical two-hour exam followed a few days later. Everyone passed. Lopi remembered only one pilot ever failing, a tribute to both instructor and students.

Simulators are so expensive that they operate up to 24 hours a day, 363 days a year. At first, my sessions were scheduled from 5 to 9 a.m. Mercifully, they were changed to a more civilized time, although two sessions were on Sundays.

Our instructor was Dave Roberts, a former C-130 Hercules pilot. Knowledgeable and professional, he was looking forward to a temporary stint test-flying Dash 8s.

Pilot-instructor Tyler Philp calls the Dash 8 “a big [Cessna] 172.” A Piper Aztec might be a better comparison, although the Dash 8’s single-engine performance is much superior. Nor can an Aztec match the Dash 8’s 36-knot crosswind capability.

We progressed from slow-speed handling, steep turns and holds to instrument approaches, engine shutdowns and non-normal events.

Several emergencies per flight became common. They included hung starts, generator failures, engine shutdowns and cabin-pressure loss, sometimes accompanied by loss of crew cool. At first, tolerances were 200 feet on altitude, ±20 degrees on heading, ±20 KIAS and ±1.5 dots on the ILS. By the end of the course, these standards had been halved.

The two pilots switched seats in mid-period, so each gained experience in decision-making and carrying out emergency checklists. The “gear up, flaps up, shut up” style of captain is dated. Lopi recalled a crusty captain who upbraided his first officer for doing a preflight inspection without wearing a company cap. Each said little during the flight. The copilot knew that the destination runway was closed, but allowed the captain to land (and crash) on it.

Because two careful pilots in one cockpit may not be a careful team, particularly if they’re used to flying alone or lack formal procedures, the principles of crew resource management were stressed. Not that we always measured up. When two of us were trying (my fault!) to troubleshoot an emergency (a fatal mistake made by the Lockheed L-1011 crew in the Everglades), Dave said, “Who’s flying the airplane?” Always tactful, he’d say, “You should think ahead more” rather than “You’re behind the airplane.”

The one mistake I didn’t make was to whistle. According to legend, cockpit voice recorders show that one pilot is whistling prior to 80% of accidents involving pilot error.

Dave had tricks of his own: Playing a controller, he rushed our approach when we had an emergency (we could have asked for delaying vectors)–an opposite-direction DC-10 at our altitude, which we avoided easily with a steep turn. He countered with another a couple of minutes later, which we were slow to spot. Then, after an ILS to minimums, we faced a 747 on the runway end. It’s not safe to train for such situations without a simulator (but perspiration-absorbing control columns would be nice).

For example, if you mess up an exercise such as an engine failure on takeoff after V1, the simulator can return you to the takeoff point without wasted time. On two such occasions, a crew with over 7,000 hours between them got a takeoff warning horn because the plane wasn’t properly configured.

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