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FlightSafety Dash 8 training

report by neil macdougall – first published spring 1998

FlightSafety Dash 8 simulator

FlightSafety’s Dash 8 simulator, seen here in Toronto, can mimic Dash 8 models 100, 200 and 300. It is certified by Transport Canada and the FAA as Level D, the highest. Pilots who receive their type rating on it are allowed to fly a revenue flight without previously having flown the real aircraft.

“Any pilot can fly an airliner, but you need a course to turn on the in-flight movies,” according to a retired Air Canada captain. Airlines may disagree, but they do believe that training reduces errors and improves safety. Last year, more than 2,000 pilots and maintenance technicians from over 20 countries took courses at FlightSafety Learning Centres in Toronto and Montréal.

Recently, I took the 21-day initial pilot’s course on the Dash 8 turboprop airliner. Because airlines can’t bear to have aircraft grounded while waiting for pilots to be trained, the course is offered every two weeks.

To start, we were presented with an 8-cm-thick Pilot Training Manual, a poster of the instrument panel, a quick-reference handbook and other booklets on Dash 8 limitations, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and simulator lesson plans. Together, they weighed 9.1 pounds.

Classes usually have 8 to 12 people, and each instructor has only four to six students in the cockpit-procedures mock-ups or trainers and two in the simulators. This concentration of talent, high-tech video trainers, fine visual aids, outstanding manuals and big-money simulators results in a jam-packed, polished and comprehensive course. Also an expensive one, because simulator time costs US$700 per hour. To save money, one Asian carrier expects its students to sleep en route to Toronto and go into the simulator the day they arrive.

Our class included a pilot from Saudi Arabia who had copiloted a Gulfstream G-IV and Boeing 737, a Malaysian who had flown Cessna Caravans and Fairchild Metros, three de Havilland engineers and me.

Students generally have from 250 to 6,000 hours’ experience, sometimes none in turbine aircraft, pressurization, flight directors and de-icing. Many of the low-time pilots need additional training, as do pilots from tropical countries who rarely need to fly in instrument meteorological conditions. These pilots are offered a custom one- or two-week enhanced course, taken before Dash 8 training.

On the other hand, graduates from the Centre québécois de formation aéronautique in Chicoutimi, Quebec, with 250 hours and a multi-engine instrument rating, did well in both flying and procedures. According to an instructor, pilots with over 2,000 hours generally have better judgement during emergencies.

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“Flying,” says FlightSafety pilot-instructor Dave Roberts, “is like baking a cake. If you follow the recipe, you won’t get into trouble.” The approved recipe for airline pilots is called standard operating procedures (SOPs). A typical example of the SOPs taught by FlightSafety to Dash 8 pilots is shown below. Crews are expected to memorize and follow the SOPs during all phases of flight, from normal operations to emergencies.

As a safety precaution, the pilot not flying (PNF) is expected to monitor the pilot flying (PF). If bank exceeds 30 degrees, heading deviates by 10 degrees, speed changes by 10 knots or altitude changes by 100 feet, the non-flying pilot calls, “Bank”, “Heading”, “Speed” or “Altitude”, respectively. The PF is expected to respond, “Correcting.”

If the PF fails to respond to two or more deviation calls, the PNF takes over, saying, “I have control.” Following this procedure might have saved a Douglas DC-8 and its passengers when the captain became incapaci­tated during an instrument approach in Japan. | © 2011. All Rights Reserved