I’ve often been asked why, since I fly for a living, I spend my “spare” time flying computer flight simulations. The short answer is that I love all things aviation and I’m fortunate that my profession and hobby overlap and compliment each other as well as they do. While computer flight simulations are fun and entertaining, I’m convinced they also have the additional benefit of keeping my real life flying skills sharp. Nowhere does this become more evident than when I attend my required annual simulator training in Dallas.
Since I fly under CFR135 (basically the rules that charter operators are required to abide by) I am required to take a variety of ground school classes and aircraft checkrides each year. Since I’m a Captain on both the King Air and the Citation I have to take a checkride in each. The rides are spaced 6 months apart and the King Air training is done in house with our company Check Airman while the Citation training is contracted out to CAE SimuFlite in Dallas, Texas. Over the past 10 years I’ve attended simulator training at both of the major simulator training providers in the United States: FlightSafety and SimuFlite. In mid-May, I traveled out to Dallas for Citation V recurrent training while the rest of the SimHQ staff were busy running around E3; I would have rather been with them!
SimuFlite has been in the training business since it first opened at DFW in 1984 with a single LearJet 35/36 simulator. Over the years they have expanded in scope and operation and now operate 36 simulators ranging from early model LearJets to modern Falcon and Gulfstreams. SimuFlite is the largest corporate aviation training center in the world.
Courses range from initial aircraft training which can be several weeks long and are exhaustive in scope, to single day refresher classes tailored to client’s specific needs. My company sends us out for a 5-day “recurrent” class which basically provides broad training on the aircraft systems and checks our knowledge with a comprehensive oral exam and a simulator checkride. The training is always interesting and each year I learn new things that I’m able to apply back on the job.
Our training schedule is well structured and all of us have become accustomed to the itinerary over the years. It starts out with a rather long and tiring day on Wednesday where we fly from Charlotte to Dallas on a commercial airliner. After arriving in Dallas we check into our hotel, eat lunch, and then head out to SimuFlite for our first session. Our schedule is a bit different from most recurrent clients in that we do two days of simulator training, two days of ground school, then finish up on the final day with our Part 135 checkride and oral. Normally clients would attend ground school first, then simulator training second. Our company likes to buck the system for some reason.
So already travel weary from the morning flight from Charlotte, we head into the simulator at around 2PM for our first day of training. Prior to stepping into the simulator we meet our simulator instructor and spend about an hour in the briefing room discussing the simulator rules and discuss the maneuvers and profiles we will fly. The instructors at SimuFlite are top notch and this year we were fortunate to get several excellent instructors including two ex-military, retired American Airlines pilots that had a wealth of experience and knowledge to impart to us. During the simulator brief the schedule of events is presented so that all three participants are on the same page. Typically the first day consists of cold weather operations at Kennedy International (JFK) so that icing and contaminated runway performance can be emphasized.