I found this on another website, and is a great read. I wish I read before I started.
Playing the Game
Your guide to successful completion of airline simulator training
By Captain Kurt R. Selbert
Reprinted with permission.
Why do we do this to ourselves? What could possibly possess someone to willfully enter the world of the training department? Why do we put our jobs, our reputations, and our self-esteem at risk? Is it for status? Money? Personal growth? Why?
The answer is probably different for each individual. We desire a bigger paycheck or a change in scenery, or a change in job description. We put our lives on hold for two to three months and spend 12 – 16 hours a day immersed in books, manuals, checklists, procedures trainers and simulators. Usually we come out ahead, having mastered the new aircraft and emerge looking forward to a few years of peaceful line flying, interrupted only by the requisite recurrent trip back to "the box."
Every once in a while however, even the best of us stumble. The result is the dreaded Pink Slip. Was it your fault? Maybe, and then again, maybe not. Regardless, the personnel in the training department are rarely compassionate or understanding of your reasoning and excuses. After all, they have their type rating! If only somewhere along the line you’d been given a few tools with which to prepare yourself for a training event. Well, here are some for you.
After spending the last thirteen years flying for the same airline, having spent years in the training department as an instructor and check airman, and after having successfully added five type ratings to my ticket, I finally get the strong feeling that I "get it".
It’s a game, pure and simple, a matching of wits, a battle of man over machine.
I’ve seen many pilots go through training. Most emerge successfully, but more than a few bright, sharp, skilled, talented pilots do not. While there are pilots out there that really should have picked a different profession, far too many training event failures are the result of but a few simple, fixable problems.
So hear me and reflect. The light bulb has been turned on and your future looks bright. Allow me to share with you my observations about what we call the Training Event.
It's all about attitude! Having the proper attitude is probably one of the most important things when you approach a training event. Of course a positive attitude is better than a negative one, but there’s more to it than just that. Approach the new airplane with your hat in your hands and a humble look on your face. In other words, check your ego at the door. I know that’s hard for pilots because we have chosen a profession that not everyone can do and it takes a certain type of person with certain skills to master an aircraft. But swallow your pride and remember that no one was born an expert.
It doesn’t matter what aircraft you’ve flown previously, what company you were with, or what type of aviation you were previously involved with. When it comes time to start learning a new aircraft, we all start at ground zero again. Your background and skills will aid you for sure, but just because you recently were flying the Techno-Wizard 9000 for Yeager Airways doesn’t mean you’ll be able to breeze through training on a new piece of equipment.
Attitude is everything. Listen to the instructors who teach you and ask them questions. Remember, they already know how to fly the airplane and young or old, junior or senior, current or not, they are the ones who will be teaching you and they were chosen for that job because they know what they’re doing. If you become a thorn in their side because of a bad attitude, don’t expect their undivided attention when you need assistance. It just might not be there for you.
First things first. You have to attend ground school. You need to be told how the company operates, how to figure alternates, when you can turn off the "fasten seatbelt" sign, and how many passengers you can take when it’s 95 degrees outside. That’s the easy part. Oh yeah, you also have to know all the airplane’s procedures and systems too: wingspan, max takeoff weight, how many generators, how to run the pressurization how to program the FMS and so on.
Maybe this is your first airline training event. Maybe you don’t know what you’re in store for. Or maybe you’re the grizzled old veteran who has been there and done that many, many times. Either way, chances are, you’re a bit apprehensive.
The best thing you can do for yourself, is to study in advance. Assuming you don’t get thrown to the wolves, er, I mean sent to training with no notice, you probably will have several weeks or even more with which to spend countless hours pawing through the books. Important things to read are the Operations Manual, the Flight Standards Manual, the FAR/AIM, the Aircraft’s systems books, and last but not least, the Jeppesen Charts, over which all of us could use a little review I’m sure.
If management won't give you the systems book or the Airplane Flight Standards Manual, pressure them, borrow a copy from another pilot, beg, plead, cry- do whatever it takes. But get the books. Study. Prepare. Learn. Show up for the first day of class knowing at least the following - Limitations, Memory Items, and Profiles.
A brief word about memory items. If you are lucky enough to be training for an airplane which utilizes something called a QRC (quick reference checklist), then you will have few or no memory items to learn. Studies have shown that relying on your memory in an emergency situation, while quick, lacks accuracy. When all the emergency checklists are printed out on one page and placed in the aircraft within easy reach of the pilots, checklist accuracy increases dramatically. The only thing that is affected is the speed at which the checklist is performed. That is not necessarily a bad thing. More on checklist speed later.
As a side comment, ever wonder why we are required to pick up a checklist six times a day to perform a two item landing check and yet are required to memorize 25 different memory items, each with four to eight items for instant regurgitation that if you’re lucky you will have to perform or recite maybe once a year? Kinda makes you go, Hmmmmmm….
To study memory items, most people use a stack of 3 x 5 cards. They write down the name of the checklist on one side and then each operation of the checklist on the other. They spend hours holding a card against their chest, looking at the ceiling and saying, "affected fire switch push, affected thrust lever idle and confirm, affected thrust lever confirm and shutoff" etc… This is the way it’s done. It seems tedious, which it is, and overwhelming, which it’s not. You’ll be surprised how little time it takes to place all the memory items in your head well enough so that you can regurgitate them on command. However, here’s a little advice:
Practice the memory items while doing something else.
Since the time a memory item will be used is a time of emergency, urgency, and excitement, what normally happens is that we find ourselves so caught up in the fact that the red engine fire light on the glareshield in front of us is ON, that we forget what we’re supposed to do about it. Practice reciting the memory items while watching TV, while driving your car, or while walking through the park (not out loud in public, people will stare). If you can recite a long complex memory item with lightning speed while say, watching "Baywatch", then you should be able to handle doing so in the simulator.
Prior to ground school you should know all sections of the Ops Manual and pertinent FARs. Since much of the ground school will be spent on these subjects, it will be to your benefit to know as much as possible beforehand. Think you already know these subjects? Been tested on them for years? Study anyway. You’ll be surprised how much you don’t remember.
As you spend your time in class, make sure you fully understand everything that is being covered. Nothing is worse than showing up at the oral and not know some vital aspect of say, the aircraft’s weight and balance procedures.
If you don’t understand something, ask. Instructors are there to teach you whether they believe that to be the case or not. Most of them do, some of them don’t. Some ground instructors only go through the motions, while some actually put their heart into the class and want you not only to learn, but to enjoy it in the process. If you get one of the latter, you’re in luck. If you get the former, well, I hope you like reading on your own.
Regardless of what kind of instructor happens to be teaching your class, it is your responsibility to ensure that you know the material. Remember, this is not Spoon Feeding 101. If you have questions, ask the instructor, or another instructor. Ask pilots who fly the airplane, or other members of the class. Remember, the only stupid questions are those that aren’t asked.
Remember that the end result of ground school must be the successful completion of the oral exam. Over-prepare yourself for this and don’t simply hope that the examiner won’t ask a question in an area you are weak on. Be prepared!
As you get closer and closer to the oral, it is natural to wonder what will be asked. Do your homework. Talk to others who have been through training to see what they were asked. All orals have some common subject areas. Memory Items, Limitations, Performance and Weight and Balance, 121 regulations, and of course, Aircraft Systems.
Search around for that list or lists of oral questions that floats around every airline. Some enterprising individual before you has put together a list of hundreds of previously asked questions and that list is undoubtedly available if you look for it. Don’t assume those are the only questions that will be asked, but they will give you a good idea as to the scope and depth of the material you need to learn.
Along with the oral question lists you’ll undoubtedly find a plethora of "cheat sheets" that people have put together to aid themselves in the learning process. Thanks to the advent of the personal computer, every pilot it seems has become a publishing wizard, eager to provide question cards, cheat sheets and other study aids to his fellow pilots. I suppose I’m no exception since I’m writing this for the same purpose.
Regardless, take all cheat sheets with a grain of salt. The only truly accurate
information (supposedly anyway) comes from the official documents of the airline and the FAA. What ever you do, don’t for example ignore the Limitations section of the Flight Standards Manual and study only off of some stranger’s cheat sheet. Not only may the numbers you learn be flat out wrong, but outdated, and incomplete as well. A word to the wise is sufficient.
With any luck, your airline’s training department has realistic expectations of you and doesn’t turn the oral into a cruel game of aviation "Trivial Pursuit" with each pilot. Hopefully, the days of asking, "What is the tire pressure of the nosewheel tire?" or, "How many watts is the taxi light?" are over. Remember, there’s need to know, nice to know, and trivia. Hopefully you will be asked little trivia.
When it comes time to take the oral, don’t fall into one of two dangerous traps:
First, don’t nominate yourself for the "Golden Shovel Award". In other words, don’t keep babbling on and on when answering a question. You may say something incorrect which will cause the examiner’s eyebrow to be raised and more probing questions to be asked. Don’t dig yourself a hole in the ground when answering a question. Answer it with a short but complete answer. Don’t offer opinions, or speculate on the intent of a policy, or say what you’d "really" do. Just say the right thing and stop. Don’t give the examiner any reason to probe the question further.
On the other hand, don’t answer every question with a short, one-word answer. If the examiner has to ask four questions just to find the answer to the first one, chances are he’ll get irritated and start finding harder and harder questions to ask. Don’t ask me how I know this one. Just trust me.
No oral would be complete without a few questions that you just don’t know the answer to. You are playing a game with the examiner and he has to prove to you somehow that he (or she) is the "man". Expect a few questions that you can’t answer. With some examiners, they’ll keep asking you questions until they find something you don’t know. Why? Because they want to feel like they’ve taught you something. Let them. Don’t argue with an examiner!
When you do come to a question that you don’t know the answer to, don’t try to BS your way through it. Most examiners will allow you to use the books and references that you’d normally have with you when on the line to look up answers if you need to. If told that this is acceptable, don’t hesitate to look things up. No one, unless they are in possession of a photographic memory, can remember everything.
If you do plan on looking up an answer, make sure you know where to find it! Few thing are more irritating when giving an oral than having the student take 20 minutes trying to find the answer to a question. If you don’t know the answer and don’t know where to find it, say so. Examiners would much rather hear "I don’t know" than have their time and yours wasted by fruitless searching through your manuals.
On the flip side of that, don’t look up the answer to every question. The examiner has to see that you know something!
TRAINING PARTNER SELECTION
If you are lucky enough to be employed by an airline that allows you to choose your training partner, you must at some point look around your cadre of classmates and start lining up suitable candidates. The selection of training partners however is rarely done like this. Usually, it falls to the seniority system to make the choice for you. Regardless of how it is done, this is one of the most important factors in your training. A good partner can make a tough airplane seem like a breeze while a weak partner can turn a simple airplane into a single-pilot nightmare.
Regardless of whom you get as a partner, you will find that you have just entered into a month or two long relationship with this person. You will find out about their childhood, their home life, their eating and sleeping habits, and many, many other items, some of which you’d probably rather not know.
Tip – Your only goal during training is to get your training partner through
I can see you now. You probably re-read the above tip twice to make sure you read that right. Yes, I’m correct. You are not the most important person in your crew. Your training partner is. Remember though, he or she should be reading this too so you’re safe!
While a strong partner can sail you through training, a weak one can sink you. If you find yourself with a strong partner, you’ll rejoice in the way checklists get completed quickly and accurately. You’ll find joy in shooting ten approaches in a two-hour sim session. You’ll come out of each sim session with ever increasing knowledge and confidence. If this is the case, thank your lucky stars.
If however, you find yourself with a weak partner, or one who just learns at a different pace than you do, your training will be a bit more difficult.
Everyone learns at a different pace. Some of us can pick up on things right away and don’t need to be told over and over to arm the approach mode prior to intercepting the ILS. Others however need constant hand holding and reminding about what to do and how to do it. Some might take to the airplane in five sim sessions while others might need eight to achieve the same level of competence. Unfortunately, you have a limited number of sim sessions with which to achieve the required level of competence.
If you find yourself with a partner who is slow and who seems to need extra help, you have no choice but to spend time with them. Remember the tip. However, all is not lost. It’s just going to require more effort on your part. While going through sim training, it is highly recommended that for every hour you spend in the sim, you spend another hour with your partner, chair flying.
Sitting in chairs side by side going over calls and profiles and checklists needs to be done over and over. Better yet, if you have access to a CPT during your simulator training, by all means, use it. Work with your partner over and over and over. Work over any problem areas until you make sure that both of you can do any maneuver or approach in the book. Perfectly, without fail. With each required call. In the proper order.
If you mess up, go back to the beginning and start again. It’s kind of like being in grade school and having the teacher catch you running in the halls. You have to go back to the beginning and do it over, the correct way. If aren’t willing to spend this extra time with your partner during simulator training, you may as well just stop the training and go home. You obviously aren’t taking the whole event as seriously as you need to.
Consider this. More than a few checkrides have been failed because the person who was not getting the checkride but merely riding in the other seat, screwed up.
Remember, the key to passing your checkride is to have a good PNF (pilot not flying). If your training partner can’t program the FMS or is always hitting the wrong button on the Autopilot panel, you might suddenly find yourself in the middle of a type ride, off course, off altitude, or worse, completely and utterly FUBAR. (messed up beyond all recognition).
Too bad you’re the one being checked at the moment and not your partner. Your training partner can’t fail your checkride. If your partner can’t pass the checkride, chances are YOU won’t be able to either.
CPT (COCKPIT PROCEDURE TRAINIER)
Otherwise known as the "paper tiger"
Somewhere in your training, after the ground school and prior to the simulator, you will probably find yourself in the CPT. The CPT is used for learning and practicing flows, checklists, calls, and procedures, as well as where every switch and gauge and panel in the cockpit is located.
While some approach this phase of their training with boredom and disgust, other find it useful, apply themselves, take it seriously, and can’t seem to get enough. Guess which attitude points at a greater chance of successfully completing the training event?
Your time in the CPT is your chance to practice procedures over and over until you get them right and to learn which procedures you will be expected to use.
Even something, which sounds as easy as a normal takeoff, can be a problem in a complex airplane that has both pilots very busy. In the simulator, since things are happening in real time, at first you’ll find yourself feeling like you’re just along for the ride, playing catch-up to an airplane you are not yet familiar with. In the CPT however, the profiles and calls and procedures of a normal takeoff can be practiced and honed at your own speed. Make a wrong call? Go back and start at the beginning and do it again. Over and over with each maneuver until it flows forth from your brain with smooth efficiency.
As you spend time in the CPT, don’t sit there with a pained look on your face, slouching in your chair, haphazardly holding the checklist, and giving all the impression that you’d rather be anywhere else. That may be the case, but it is to your benefit to make the most of this time. Not only is CPT time cheap and plentiful, but you will also find that once you advance to the simulator you may return to the CPT to work through any problem areas.
One of the most important things you can do at this stage of the game is to go jumpseat in the airplane you’re about to start learning how to fly. I cannot stress this enough. Do as much of it as you possibly can, time permitting. Some companies even require it. Jumpseating will allow you to watch the procedures you just learned in the CPT be put into action in the hands of pilots who fly the airplane day in and day out. Watch them, see how they budget their time, learn how they put those procedures to use. Ask questions. If you have ever flight instructed, you know that one of the best ways to learn something is to see it demonstrated before you attempt it yourself and jumpseating accomplishes this.
Probably the most critical part of this game you’ve chosen to play, is the simulator training itself. The simulator is one big video game and there are several players involved- you, your partner, the instructor(s) and the examiner.
Hopefully, you will be lucky enough to have people from you own company’s training department for instructors. These people have your best interests in mind as well as their own. No one knows your airplane and how the company wants it flown better than your own instructors. Your chances of passing are much higher if you have a company instructor versus one from an outside source like the aircraft’s manufacturer or an outside training company. And, contrary to what many pilots seem to think, the training department is not out to fail everybody. If they did fail everybody, the airline would become understaffed, flights would get cancelled, the airline would lose revenue as a result. No one would be happy with that. The training department is out to ensure that you meet the standards that your airline and the FAA require.
With an outside training source, your chances of receiving quality instruction diminish somewhat. There are admittedly some very good instructors out there that do a very fine job. However the reverse is all too often true. You might find a low time pilot with no practical experience as your instructor. You might find a bitter instructor who maybe got turned down for a pilot job by your very company. Either way, the outside training source is paid to train you.
Notice I didn’t say to train you successfully. They go through the motions, collect their checks, and sign you off for checkrides whether you can pass them or not. This opinion was finely honed during two training events of my own over the past ten years. One with a dedicated simulator training company and the other with the training department of the aircraft manufacturer. Neither was what one could remotely call a satisfactory experience.
When you first meet your simulator instructor, it will be easy to tell if this person has your best interests in mind. A good instructor will ask your background and will take it into consideration as he explains maneuvers and teaches them. He should approach the training like you three are a team. Remember, it’s a game. Your opponent however, is not the instructor, but the examiner. This is not you against the instructor and then you again against the examiner. The instructor’s job is to teach you, not simply evaluate you. If he can’t do this, then he has no business doing what he or she is doing.
Every simulator session should start out with a thorough pre-brief. All maneuvers should be covered in great detail. It is not enough to say that steep turns are to be done at 250 knots and 45 degrees of bank. The instructor should tell you exactly how to make the maneuver successful. Such as: 68 to 70% thrust, 2.5 to 3 degrees nose up – use the IVSI as a trend indicator for your altitude, put the armrests down, put your elbows against them and use just your fingers to control the yolk pressure. Details are important. The instructor knows, or should know what parameters the sim requires to make the maneuver work. If he doesn’t tell you, ask!
All too often however we are left to the wolves. The briefing is short and once in the sim the instructor just evaluates. "Do this" "No, that’s not right, do it again" "No that‘s still not right - I don’t know if you’re going to be able to pass this". Sounds too incredible to believe? I’ve got news for you my friend. It’s not.
Be a Pessimist
Do you know the difference between a pessimist and an optimist? An optimist always hopes for the best and is disappointed when things don’t turn out. A pessimist always expects the worst and is pleasantly surprised when things turn out ok.
As you go through the simulator, be a pessimist. Expect the worst. Every low visibility takeoff has an abort. If you successfully make it through the takeoff roll to V1, you’ll get a V1 cut. Every V1 cut has a failure of the most critical engine. Every approach is to a missed. Every two engine approach ends in a single-engine missed, with a fire, with a turn at 500 feet, with the most critical engine failed and so on. Never should you be caught off guard. Always expect the worst and if it doesn’t happen, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Simulators do not fly like the real airplane, no matter how hard anyone tries to make you believe that they do. Usually the pitch is overly sensitive and quite often they react totally unlike the airplane when flaps are selected. I recall a simulator a few years back that if left alone, would gain over 1000 feet and slow to the stick pusher in a steep nose-up attitude, just from extending the flaps to 8 degrees at proper flap extension speed. This required a strong arm on the yolk to overcome or, as another technique, about five seconds worth of down elevator trim starting about three seconds prior to calling for the flap extension! And they called this realistic???
As you go through sim training, you may experience times of frustration with yourself, the simulator, your partner, and yes, even your wonderful instructor! Whatever you do, do not take your frustrations out on the simulator. Yanking and stomping and rowing a boat with the thrust levers will only get you in trouble.
You and your training partner should make ever effort to assist each other as much as possible. Now there are several schools of thought on this but think of it this way. If the instructor thinks you’re helping too much, let him tell you. Otherwise, go for broke and help out. If a checklist needs to be called for but it hasn’t been done, don’t sit there as PNF and stare straight ahead in silence while your partner bungles his checkride. Get out the checklist and hold it on your leg closest to your partner. Drop the checklist and say loudly something like, "sorry, I dropped the CHECKLIST". If they aren't flying coordinated during single engine operations, discreetly tap the rudder pedals. You and your training partner can discuss secret "key words" to use to help each other during your training and checkride.
Remember this whole thing is a game. If the person is really engrossed in what they’re doing, and doesn’t pick up on your signals, just come right out and ask if they want the checklist read. While the instructor and later on, the examiner, needs to see the Pilot Flying (PF) perform duties and tasks, it’s still a two pilot airplane. Don’t let any instructor tell you that as PNF you have to just sit there, only doing something when asked. That’s BS.
Every training department has a syllabus on what and how and when you’re taught a particular task or maneuver. Often this syllabus is very good and gives the instructor the exact technique to teach or method for you to use in order to complete the maneuver to company satisfaction. Get a copy of it! You need to know what is going to be taught and how. Study the following day’s lesson, read the profiles, read any malfunctions in the QRH, and go over these items with your training partner before you set foot in the simulator.
Hopefully your instructor teaches from that syllabus so that there are no surprises in order for you down the road. This not only ensures that you perform a maneuver the way the training department wants it performed, but also should ensure that come the checkride you are well prepared and have been trained in each required task to be evaluated.
On the other hand, good simulator training requires an instructor who can think outside the box so to speak. It is good for the instructor to be standard and to follow the syllabus but there are times when creativity is required in order to reach a student. If you are one of these students that has been shown the "right" way to perform a task but still can’t get it, you’ll be far better off if your instructor is able to show you a different means to the same end. In other words, there is more than one way to do just about everything. It’s his job to get you ready for the checkride and if that means teaching you a different technique, one that you DO understand, then he’s doing his job properly and should be commended for it.
As I was told 20 years ago when I first started taking flying lessons, take every technique you are taught and put them together into one package that works for you and is safe. It’s as easy as that. There are few absolutes.
When it comes time for the checkride, make sure you get a good night’s sleep, make sure you have all required items with you before you leave for the simulator, and above all, relax. Think of this as just another flight in the sim, this time with someone else watching. Inhale, breathe, and do what’s required and what you’ve been trained. Don’t become a mental basket case and don’t succumb to "checkride-itis".
I know this is easier said than done. You’re putting your license, your job and maybe your career on the line each time you step up to the plate for a checkride. See what power the check airman has over you? See what power you’re giving him? Just relax.
Often times a quick talk with your training partner prior to a checkride is beneficial. Maybe it’s just a pep talk or maybe it’s a stern plea to the PNF not push that wrong button just this once! Regardless, if you think it’s required, by all means, do it.
Again remember that your training partner cannot fail your checkride.
Another word of advice: at my airline we have callouts to make if the PNF is deviating from where the airplane is supposed to be. For deviations on the LOC or GS, or Altitude, Speed, Heading, etc, the PNF is supposed to call out the item and the PF is to respond with "Correcting". This is a good policy, but if you’re the PF, don't call out "Correcting" if the PNF hasn’t said anything. The examiner might be sitting back there writing on a form or programming the simulator and not paying total attention to you. If he hears you say Correcting without the PNF having said anything, all you’re doing is calling needless attention to the fact that you’re doing something you’re not supposed to be doing. Get it?
When you first meet the person giving you the checkride, be it a company check airman or someone from the FAA, you can usually tell right away what kind of day you’re in for.
The classic story is one where the examiner walked in, sat down and made two nice little piles on the table, right in front of two would-be Captains and said, "Now the FAA gave me four packs of pink slips and only one stack of white slips, what do you think they’re trying to tell me?"
I don’t know what they’re trying to tell him, but what that should be telling you is that you suddenly got sick and will need to reschedule your ride at another time, with a less pompous ass!
Seriously, the above was actually said to two hopeful Captains. Many hours and two pink slips later, two pilots learned that not all checkrides are fair.
Unfortunately, fair or not, your fault or not, if the outcome of your checkride is less than successful, usually no one really wants to hear about it from you. It is assumed that you’re complaining simply because you failed. This is a fact of life and you can’t change it. If you’re really worried about a fair ride, get a union member (if you have one) to observe. Otherwise, I’m afraid you’re at the mercy of the examiner and fair or not, his word stands. Ain’t life grand?
Most checkrides however, do go successfully. Most examiners are truly interested in seeing you pass and good ones even make the ride almost pleasant! They’ll ask to see maneuvers and tasks you’ve been trained on and will not get creative or sadistic or cruel. Of all the examiners I’ve seen, only a very few have been anything less than professional.
It is my sincere hope that this helps you get through your next training event with less anxiety. During my tenure in the training department I saw many more successes than failures. The successes all demonstrated their ability to follow items I’ve discussed and in fact, many of the ideas I’ve written about have came from students and fellow pilots as they talked about their training events. Likewise, the failures I saw mostly resulted from a lack of proper attitude or dedication while in the training environment.
Since training, both initial and recurrent is a part of this career we’ve chosen, it makes sense to make these events as painless as possible.