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FlightSafety Dash 8 training page 6

report by neil macdougall

Peter Stolz, one of my partners and a former Hercules pilot now in de Havilland’s customer engineering group, said, “I hate simulators, but I love them.”

Roch Gagnon, a genial instructor who gives the two-day Crew Resource Management course, asked me, grinning, “Have you been humiliated yet?” He knew the answer would be yes.

On one occasion, for example, after takeoff in VFR conditions, we encountered heavy sink. “Max power!” I cried. Although I’d been warned to pull the control column back until I got the stick shaker (warning of a stall) and then ease back pressure slightly, I didn’t pull fast enough. A loud bang and a vivid red flash that filled the windscreen made the consequences clear. Half the pilots fail this exercise on their first attempt.

The final exercise involved two hours’ flying in each seat. Each pilot did stalls, steep turns and five approaches, at least one with an engine out, and handled three engine fires or failures, a couple of emergencies and wind shear.

This was followed by line-oriented training–a 1.25-hour IFR cross-country, which exposed the pilots to lifelike decision-making provoked by system or weather problems.

Only the Saudi pilot in our class took a type-rating examination. Although he feared the FAA inspector’s oral exam, which sometimes lasts half a day, he passed. Transport Canada’s check is more like an instrument ride.

Any GA pilot would find the Dash 8 course fascinating. The simulator’s realism and capabilities were remarkable. (Every pilot should have one in their basement.) And the course revealed why airlines have a superior accident record: redundant systems, excellent training and standardized procedures.

General aviation’s safety record won’t improve much until we learn from the airlines.

I found that 5,000 hours of single-pilot flying are poor preparation for being a pilot-cum-manager and team player. During emergencies, I found myself distracted instead of delegating. The errors that seem so obvious in accident reports are easy to duplicate when you’re under pressure.

An engine failure on takeoff in the Dash 8, with its autofeather and good single-engine performance, doesn’t demand the quick, life-or-death action you must take in an Apache. Yet self-imposed pressure caused me to rush things when many non-normal events require calm and deliberation, rather than speedy action.

The same pressure, aided by those ever-flashing caution lights, caused me to forget SOPs and checklists that I had cold the night before. “Maybe your studying skills have atrophied,” a friend helpfully suggested.

Nevertheless, my performance improved; I learned a lot about the Dash 8, airline equipment and procedures, and myself; I met interesting people; and I had fun. If a Dash 8 flight attendant ever calls for a passenger to take over because the pilots are incapacitated–every private pilot’s dream–I might just save the day.

In the U.S., many commercial schools, some run by airlines, offer type ratings for US$10,000 to $18,000. Pilots dislike paying for their training, but many who have paid have gone on to the major airlines after a few years with a regional carrier.

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