Simulators, SOPs Help Avoid the Nasties


By Bryan Smith, Director of Cirrus Operations

I had the opportunity to fly with one of my first students a few weeks ago in a Cirrus.  Many years ago I was approached by a father inquiring about flight lessons.  He said his son was a natural since he had been flying a desk top simulator before he could walk.  I was skeptical, but you know what, he was exceptional!  I can only assume the simulator was a huge part of his success.  The FAA requires 10 hours before you can solo.  Jeff had 8 hours when he went for his pre-solo check ride, and I had to keep him in the cockpit another hour or so to get enough time to be legal!  Jeff went on to become an Air Force F-15 pilot and then an F-15 Instructor Pilot.  He just signed on with FedEx in the 767!

We have known the advantages of simulators for quite some time now.  We can drill multiple approaches, emergency procedures and even fly in realistic weather.  We do this to add a next level of training while gaining simulated experience and keeping up with currency.  The net result is a huge increase in safety. The FAA thinks it is so important; they let us log real time towards a certification!  But really nothing beats being in the cockpit, or so we thought.

Spring is a perfect time to catch up on currency.  After our unpredictable winter with varying temps, cloud ceilings, and wind, you may feel a little rusty.  The FAA requires pilots to be current on landing in order to take passengers.  Generally 90 days would come to mind, but I have found infrequent flying and lack of landings can start to degrade skills in as little as 30 days, or sooner depending on experience.

I also have to stay current while flying many days each month.  I just returned from several days in Orlando in a simulator for my type rating.  It is required every year.  Did you know, in a Level D sim, you can log simulated landings as real landings, and even night landing currency! Simulators become opportunities to review flows, CRM, limitations, emergency procedures, memory items and follow SOP’s.

Having SOP’s or “standard operating procedures” for a high performance aircraft in a crew situation is critical for safety.  The same may be applied to single pilot operations.  You can dramatically increase your own safety by using SOP’s and flows for your aircraft.  A flow may simplify a “checklist” from a “to do list”.  For example in the Cirrus aircraft, you can start every scenario by flowing from the fuel shut off upwards.  You should know the position of each switch or lever in order to complete that flow efficiently.   Engine start; flow from the fuel selector up the center.  Shut down, engine out, CAPS deployment, pre landing, and clearing the runway all start at the fuel selector moving upwards.  Air conditioning is part of that flow.  Did you remember to shut off the recirculation button before takeoff?  If you do not have a flow, one of the Instructors at Dominion can help you develop yours.

The advantages of using a simulator can be dramatic when coupled with a good instructor.  This saves wear and tear on the actual airplane, while allowing you to safely experience scenarios you may be hesitant to experience.  My upset recover training in the CJ, was based on a recent news story floating around about an Airbus A380 which flew 1000 feet over a Challenger going in the opposite direction.  The result, as the story goes, is that the Challenger was violently rolled over by the wing tip vortices and plummeted some 10,000 feet before a recovery could be controlled.  I recently had two less dramatic roll over events due to wing tip vortices.  Maybe now, I will know where at least one FedEx 767 will be and I can avoid his wake turbulence!


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