Posted by: Korry | December 12, 2011

Recurrent Training

Ahhhh December. The cooler weather. The shorter days. And of course, the perfect time to make an annual pilgrimage to…recurrent flight training. (Thought I was going to say something else?) I’m not sure how I got so lucky, but ever since I was a new hire with my company I have enjoyed flight training during December which adds one more stressor to what usually turns out to be an already busy and stressful month.

So what is recurrent flight training? Well, the FAA dictates that a pilot must accomplish several types of training and checking each year to maintain qualified on a particular aircraft. Chief among these are computer based training modules that review aircraft systems and limitations and then two or three days of training and evaluations in incredibly realistic, full-motion flight simulators (Be sure to check back tomorrow for more detailed information on the flight simulators themselves. They really are technological marvels).

The simulator sessions are where the rubber really meets the road in training because they offer pilots an opportunity to practice the worst case scenarios that may arise during a flight while allowing them to do so in a safe environment. There are always a slew of items that are practiced year in and year out such as extremely low visibility takeoffs, approaches and landings as well as more critical items such as V1 cuts (engine failures right at the point of rotation during takeoff–the most critical and least desirable time an engine could possibly fail).

Additionally, there are some items that the company has determined require additional practice and emphasis. If you remember from a while back, I wrote in The Moneyball Way about how the company uses sophisticated onboard computers to gather data about how pilots actually fly the company’s planes. They analyze this data, identify trends, and adapt training programs to include these areas.

Training has changed a lot over the years. It used to be viewed as a “career day” where if you didn’t do well you might find yourself on the street and out of a job. Thankfully, it’s not that way anymore. Today, training is all about making pilots safer aviators. It’s about teaching and learning almost more than it is about evaluating. For example, the company publicizes the topics that will be covered. They don’t totally tip their hand as to exactly what is going to happen, but they provide a broad overview so that pilots can study and come prepared.

Even so, training is still stressful. This year, I will have two sessions. Day one covers most of the flight maneuvers we need to do. Day two is set up as a real-time flight on which we will face some sort of issue. In the business, we call this our “Line Oriented Evaluation” because it is modeled after a real flight on the line. Both days start with a two-hour briefing with a flight instructor. Then we get in “the box” (aka the simulator) for four hours, which is split between the captain flying for two hours and then the first officer flying for two hours. Finally, we have a one hour debrief to discuss the “ride” and evaluate our performance. At the end of the 7 hours, almost anyone is drained…mentally and maybe even physically. Unlike most of my flights where there are often many hours of really slow times, the four hours in the simulator are four fast-paced and super-intense hours that tend to wipe me out.

Tomorrow for Techie Tuesday I’ll talk more about the flight simulators themselves. Then on Thursday, I’ll do my best to bring you inside one of the emergency situations we will cover during one of my two simulator sessions. For now, I think it’s time to get some good rest. Something tells me I’m going to need it!

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  1. We’d all rather you figure out how to deal with this:

    while in the simulator, and not while we’re on the plane with you!

    Good Luck!

  2. […] training in incredibly advanced, unbelievably realistic flight simulators…and as I mentioned yesterday the quality of training those pilots receive is infinitely better, safer and more cost-effective […]

  3. […] whole week I’m focusing on training, so I found this quote to be particularly appropriate since repetition and habit formation is at […]

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