« Back to Full Story

The Limits of Simulator Training

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Back when I was editing IFR magazine, I got myself invited for a two-day sea tour on the U.S.S. Roosevelt, a Nimitz class carrier then doing workups to return to the Persian Gulf. After the fact, the Navy invited me to fly an F-14 simulator at NAS Oceana, for a follow-up story on how landing signal officers are trained.

The plan was to take off from Oceana at night and go land the sim on a simulated carrier steaming offshore. Once I was strapped in, the sim op gave me a takeoff clearance and a heading, after which I advanced the throttles and promptly ran the airplane off the runway into a ditch. This elicited gales of laughter from the control booth. "Sorry," came the explanation over my headset, "we set a 100-knot crosswind for all first takeoffs. It's kind of a tradition."

Maybe the Navy's lucky that its sims will do that kind of silliness. Evidently, airline simulators don't—or at least they didn't used to—and that shortcoming was cited by the NTSB as a factor in the December 20, 2008 crash of Continental Boeing 737 in Denver. The airplane careened of a runway and caught fire, an accident eventually blamed on strong, gusty crosswinds that weren't reported to the pilots and simulator training that didn't address the reality of conditions that challenging.

Last week on AVweb, we quoted a USA Today report whose story hook was that shortcomings in simulator training were linked to nearly half of the 522 airline fatalities in the U.S. during the past 10 years. Could this really be? To me, it just doesn't pass the smell test. Further digging into the story revealed that while the NTSB cited simulator training shortcomings as a factor in the Denver crash, it seemed to concede a certain far-outishness to the finding. It gets down to this: To what degree can you expect to train pilots in weird abnormals? Where do you draw the line and simply decide to take your chances?

The Continental crew probably encountered an unexpected 45-knot direct crosswind on their takeoff roll, an extreme condition the tower didn't advise them of. Had the pilot been properly informed, he would probably have delayed the takeoff or insisted on another runway. To put the need for training to handle those conditions in realistic perspective, the NTSB report said Continental's operations records showed that during 940,000 takeoffs, only 250 (.03 percent) encountered crosswinds of 25 knots or greater and 62 (.01 percent) had crosswinds of 30 knots. Wonder how many had more than 40 knots? (It's above the company limits, by the way.) The probability on that is less than one in 15,000. For that, you're going to re-jigger a sim and introduce new training?

And how about the poor homo the sap who has to digest, process and store response and muscle memory for a one in 15,000 event? I realize we train for engine outs with a lower probability than that, but engine outs aren't predictable or at least observable. Crosswinds are. Aren't there more likely hazards on which to spend limited training time and dollars?

A more recent accident cited in the USA Today article was the Colgan Air crash in Buffalo in February of 2009. Once again, the NTSB found that flaws in simulator training were a factor. What they can't say, however, is that even if sim procedures were focused tightly on exactly the two rarified eventualities described above that the outcomes would have been any different. In one case, the pilot was dealt a bad hand, in the other, maybe the pilot's skills just weren't up to the task no matter how much he trained.

In any case, shouldn't a pilot bring to the table certain basic skills—like knowing a stall when he sees one or noticing that his knuckles are being rapped by a stick shaker? Sometimes there's just not much you can do about ten-to-the-ninth accidents and I'm wondering if these two don't qualify. Which is another way of saying USA Today has again overstated the case and I feel for the hapless reading public unversed in the finer points of aviation risk.

Speaking of overstated cases, even when I knew the 100-knot crosswind was coming, I couldn't keep the Tomcat on the runway. Besides, the Navy has a solution for this. That's why they point the ship into the wind.

Comments (28)

Paul, as a boeing 777 pilot let me just say there are a GREAT deal more things I would like to see and learn about my aircraft in the sim. I have a very good idea of how the military aircraft I flew behaved in an upset. I have absolutely no accurate idea of how much I can or should yank and bank should I happen to encounter a turbulence related upset over the North Pacific. Just because this is viewed by you to be very rare gives the three hundred people sitting behind me little solace. And because the FAA thinks like you there is no requirement for me to know this.

Posted by: Randolph Palma | September 6, 2010 6:29 AM    Report this comment


The NTSB's statement that sims don't do crosswinds doesn't hold water. I've given over 3000 hours dual in Citation sims and have flown DC-9, DC-10, 737, and 777 sims. In fact, the last time I was in the 777 sim, we tackled 50 knot crosswinds. We also did an excercise which included a V1 engine cut and required me to accelerate down the centerline of the runway while keeping the airplane on the ground. As soon as I reached the end of the runway, the sim was repositioned and we did it again -- about 15 or 20 times. About halfway through that exercise, my foot was pushing the rudder before my head knew what was going on. (Before anyone asks, we did it both with and without automatic hydraulic rudder boost.) The procedure for a crosswind on takeoff would be similar, straighten the nose out and stop the airplane, then find out why it wouldn't go straight.

Sims are very good for teaching procedures, but lack in areas where you need realistic movement such as the airplane sucking it's way away from your butt in a windshear, or an upset. Motion bases are pretty useless and NASA did a study where they found that the skills learned in a full-motion sim due only to the motion were transferable only to flying other sims. Handy, huh? But just think about it -- from the very first time some instructor put a hood on your head, you were being told to block out all bodily sensations of motions. The more experienced instrument pilot you are, the better you are at doing that.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | September 6, 2010 8:25 AM    Report this comment

Both points taken. My question is given the low probability of encountering such conditions, is it not better to avoid them by other means in the first place rather than training the skills to overcome them?

In other words, are there are other more high percentage hazards to worry about?

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 6, 2010 8:47 AM    Report this comment

Paul, as a Private Pilot with an seldom used instrument rating, I've had no experience flying full-motion airline sims. The few ATDPC sims I have experience with were sorry disappointments. None of them could be quickly and successfully trimmed to fly hands-off.. a condition I absolutely require in my own Piper Dakota. Consequently, I derived little benefit from sim training as I spent most of my time trying to overcome the limitations and deficiencies of the machines. People say "If you can fly the sim... you will be a better pilot." I rather doubt that learning to fly a sim that forces you expend most of your physical energy to overcome the deficiencies of the machine teaches you anything more than avoiding over-controlling an unstable machine... which I certainly hope my real plane is not.

Posted by: Roger Elowitz | September 6, 2010 11:05 AM    Report this comment

OK, let's blame it all on the sim. Presumably, these professional pilots have handled all kinds of crosswind take-offs and landings throughout their training and career. Yeah, 45kts of direct crosswind actually exceeds the capability of most airplanes. Complicating matters is did one engine lag behind the other on spool up? That would only make it worse if it was the downwind engine that lagged. Would a sim have made the outcome any different. Doing the same scenario over and over is not the answer either as you now know what is coming and can anticipate it. Rather, have that same scenario come at you out of the blue from different directions and intensities. That, however, takes a creative sim instructor who already has his hands full checking a myriad of boxes of required maneuvers.

So, then what is the procedure for aborting a take-off in stronger crosswinds than anticipated? Reverse both engines at the same time? That will not solve your steering problem, maybe even make it worse. Reverse only the upwind engine (downwind engine at idle)? That would be my vote and only while still on the runaway. Purists will howl that we do not practice such stuff and many will get it reversed.

From what I am seeing in the current airline training environment is a move to keep the pilot from having to think. Everything is rote memorization. Do not deviate from procedures. This is a very disturbing trend. This is training aircraft operators, not aviators.

Posted by: David Heberling | September 6, 2010 11:43 AM    Report this comment

From my perspective in the last 43 years of teaching in and flying simulators the progress has been astounding. The early simulators were essentially procedures trainers that could be “flown”. The modern simulators can train a pilot to get his type rating without ever stepping into the cockpit of the aircraft. However, it is also true that simulators are built with one major set of requirement in mind, and that is, what does the FAA require to train pilots to the appropriate standard and then test them to be awarded a type rating?

There is no question that simulators could be built to train pilots more effectively in additional areas operation and emergency. One that has not received the attention it should is how to handle an on board fire. It is an item in FAR 121 Appendix E, but in my experience it receives little attention from the training authorities or FAA. It would seem that such accidents have caused more hull losses, especially among freighters, than is true in previous decades. Certainly the Value Jet and Swissair MD-11 Accident off Nova Scotia resulted in some changes in materials, cargo compartment fire protection and procedures, but is it really sufficient?

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | September 6, 2010 2:01 PM    Report this comment

In the aircraft I flew, I always had a Flight Engineer who, in spite of what the pilots were doing, was available to employ the fire extinguishers and fight the fire, or clear smoke, without being restricted to his seat. I cannot imagine what the two pilots of the UPS 747-400 experienced in those several minutes while they tried to get their aircraft to a safe landing. The fact that they managed to crash the aircraft in an unoccupied area of an Air Base shows them as true heroes.

Two pilots in a highly automated aircraft, trying to get to a safe landing after encountering a fire at or near cruise altitude are likely to be overwhelmed in the simple process of following procedure in a very labor intense environment. Run checklists to get the aircraft back on the ground, maintain communications and stop an electrical fire is evidently a difficult task with only two pilots and an out of control fire and a cockpit filled with smoke. Would it not be useful to train the pilots to work the circumstances of such a situation with maximum efficiency? Certainly realistic training on such circumstances is really an important part of crew awareness and training. The training should never more dangerous than the actual fire. But is one or two “Electrical Smoke and/or Fire Procedures” during initial or transition or upgrade training really enough training in these areas?

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | September 6, 2010 2:02 PM    Report this comment

Paul said...

"My question is given the low probability of encountering such conditions, is it not better to avoid them by other means in the first place rather than training the skills to overcome them?"

Paul, the loss of directional control on the runway could come from any number of things -- crosswind, engine loss, brake grab, thrust reverser deployment -- the initial procedure for all starts with regaining directional control and stopping the airplane. One wonders how this captain does on V1 cuts.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | September 6, 2010 2:04 PM    Report this comment

I would also endorse the idea that simulators should be capable or realistically simulating what the aircraft will act in an actual stall. I have done actual stalls in the DC-8 and the B-747 and you can be assured, the average line pilot has no idea exactly the attitude change and control pressures that a minimum altitude loss recovery will require. I can remember doing an “out of heavy maintenance” functional flight test in a DC-8 with a DC-8 Line Check Airman with 20,000 hours as a line pilot. This pilot told me later that, at the first actual stall and during the recovery, that he was so unnerved by the untrained (for a line pilot) circumstances that he was “out of the loop” and temporarily of no value to the crew. In my experience, the current requirement for “recognition and recovery” of the stall is an important part of the training, but should not be the only area of training that should be included.

When you add the possibility of an Ice Contaminated Tailplane Stall (ICTS), simple “recognition and recovery” in the set piece process usually utilized to train and test pilots in that required training item is not sufficient. It is my opinion that simulators should be modified to effectively train the pilots not only to “recognize and recover” from the “normal” aerodynamic wing stall, but also to the aircraft in a full stall and in the ICTS as well. There should be no question about the differences between them and how to properly handle each of them.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | September 6, 2010 2:04 PM    Report this comment

Another area that is often overlooked is FAR 121, Appendix E. III (b) Tuck and Mach buffet. First of all, many simulators do not simulate those conditions as well as might be possible to provide realistic training, and the second factor is that it is not required on the type rating or the proficiency check, so it often gets less attention than appropriate during training sessions on the assumption that an experienced jet pilot will know what to do to avoid such a condition. However, even experienced jet pilots can find themselves in an upset from Mach Tuck or other high altitude circumstances that can cause upset. While some airlines may properly at least discuss these arenas in concert with the recently produced FAA Presentations on the subject, and carry on with simulator training to enhance student understanding, that is the exception rather than the rule.

As to the crosswind question, I don’t know what wind the Continental Crew was given to cause them to accept their assigned departure runway at the time of taxi, nor do I know what wind was reported to the crew when they were cleared for takeoff.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | September 6, 2010 2:06 PM    Report this comment

What I have learned since 1964 is that the accuracy of any wind reported from the tower, is inversely proportional to the distance of the aircraft from the tower wind sensor. When I was a brand new commercial pilot, I was lining up for takeoff on runway 7 at was at the time an airport with one or two airlines and probably four flights a day. As I lined up, the controller said, “Tower wind 080 at five knots, would you like the departure end wind?” I answered in the affirmative and he said, “Departure end wind 010 at 35 knots, gusts to 45 knots”. I decided that I was neither that young nor that immortal. I taxied back and tied the airplane down securely, because the Santa Ana winds were coming!

There is also the anecdote that I can relate as a first officer on a DC-8, taking off on runway 22R at Kennedy. When we were cleared for takeoff, we were given a wind of 220 at five knots. As we passed runway 13R-31L, the aircraft acceleration just stopped. I saw a lighted windsock, just about straight out and pointing in the same direction. I pointed this out to the Captain, who was the operating pilot, and he, to his credit, rotated the aircraft with 2,000 feet of the runway remaining at just above V1. We got safely airborne (and this was in the days before the industry invested heavily in windshear or aborted takeoff training) and managed to register over the limit at almost every noise monitor in the departure path.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | September 6, 2010 2:08 PM    Report this comment

My point is that the wind given at the tower, when the tower is some distance from the runway, often has no bearing on the actual wind to be encountered at any point on a takeoff roll or upon approach or landing roll. This is especially true where the wind may be variable and gusty.

Even though the simulator, as presently approved may not provide a really perfect simulation of the circumstances, it is important that the procedure for proper crosswind landing technique be reviewed, demonstrated, practiced and according to the procedure adopted by the operator.

Part of the problem is that the operator may not have chosen a technique, or specified a technique for particular aircraft. There are at least two different schools of thought, and it can get confusing for the individual pilot. It has been my experience that crosswind techniques are not well established in those pilots who do not often make crosswind landings or takeoffs. As a line check airman I have seen the confusion that can be created in the mind of a typical pilot, as to the appropriate technique and follow through once on the runway. Some of that could be eliminated by standardization of the technique in concert with manufacturer’s recommendations and practice in the simulator. Since not many simulator training sessions include crosswinds and the variations that can arise from such winds and circumstances, not spending enough time on this item in simulator training is another opportunity lost.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | September 6, 2010 2:11 PM    Report this comment

It also seems that the some pilots have become “autopilot dependent”, usually because of Company and manufacturer policy about how the aircraft should be flown as much as possible by the autopilot. The pilots of modern automated aircraft don’t spend a lot of time hand flying their aircraft, and simulator training and checking generally always emphasizes the operation of the aircraft with the automation, not the development and maintenance of hand flying skills. There is not very many other situations that relies more on visual picture of the runway and hand flying expertise and confidence of the pilot, than a crosswind takeoff or landing.

In any case, trying to prevent such problems presupposes that you can control the situation and the environment that the aircraft operates within. The fact of the matter is that at the current state of technology, we cannot restrict operations to prevent any or all of the situations discussed here without severely restricting operations. Training pilots only takes time and money. We may not be able to train them to handle every encounter with Mother Nature or the problems that engines or technology, but to assume that we can prevent such encounters is just not realistic.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | September 6, 2010 2:17 PM    Report this comment

The NTSB report said the crew's choice of runway was appropriate given the data they were given and the tower did not inform them of any changes that would change that decision. In other words, the 45-knot gust came out of nowhere, almost.

As for wind sensing, the report shows a map of the wind sensors on the field--there are more than a dozen, I think. The NTSB faulted the system--not the controllers--for failing to have means to deliver data that suggested gusts were possible.

As for the skipper's V1 capabilities, the report is silent. But he was fully trained, current and highly regarded. As we all know, it is quite possible for even the best of us to have an off day and end up in smoking rubble, regardless of how well we're trained. This may have been that.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 6, 2010 4:43 PM    Report this comment

Thomas Olsen said:

Another area that is often overlooked is FAR 121, "Appendix E. III (b) Tuck and Mach buffet. First of all, many simulators do not simulate those conditions as well as might be possible to provide realistic training,...

The flight testing that is done for certification is about 30% of that required for simulation. In order to accurately represent Mach tuck, somebody would have to fly a properly instrumented airplane through the manuever. I, for one, will NOT be volunteering for that assignment. Some pilots seem not to believe in Mach tuck, but it's brought more than one jet out of the air.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | September 6, 2010 6:36 PM    Report this comment

It must be a desolate and slow news day if you need to quote a USA Today report in order to come up with a topic for a blog. It would be historic news if USA Today ever accurately and fairly reported a newsworthy aviation event.

Simulators would get more respect if hot shot instructors didn't play absurd games like programming 100 knot crosswinds on a carrier launch. Could the carrier itself stay upright in 100 knot crosswinds, or would it not list heavily leeward?

I'd have thought the Continental crew could have seen sagebrush and assorted FOD (and perhaps even flying cows) going sideways in a 45 knot 90 degree crosswind before advancing the throttles. That should have been all the visual indication I'd have needed to re-think the takeoff. Of course, my PA-12 would always weather-vane uncontrollably in an 18 knot crosswind. That was another highly unmistakable clue that it was too windy to fly safely.

I don't see a simulator being necessary to teach every conceivable scenario. What's needed is more common sense like that expressed here by Thomas Olsen.

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | September 6, 2010 9:19 PM    Report this comment

I regularly conduct weekend Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics around the country for a nationally recognized ground school company based out of SAN. Recently, a CFI who was attending a FIRC I was presenting in LAS, conveyed a situation to the class I think you will find most interesting.

He had the opportunity to fly with a 17 year old kid who had built his very own sim in his parent's basement. He had many hours flying around his Microsoft Flight Simulator program and his father finally decided to buy him his very first airplane ride in a G-1000 equipped C-172.

The CFI wanted to know for himself, how a 1,000 hour SIM PILOT would fly a real airplane. As expected, the "zero time" student had a bit of difficulty taxiing the real aircraft and with power management. His take-off was a constant struggle not to depart the runway to the left, but at 200 feet AGL, the CFI let go of the controls. The kid buried his head in the cockpit and flew up to the altitude the CFI requested, maintained that altitude, made steep turns, rolled out on correct headings, did slow flight and with vectors from the CFI, lined up on a perfect final approach, all without looking outside the airplane and ALL WITHIN PRIVATE PILOT PTS STANDARDS! The only trouble he had maintaining heading and altitude and with the landing flare was when he was only being allowed to look outside, but I think you get the point. He went on to say the kid was probably the best student he ever taught to fly.

Posted by: Kim Barnes | September 7, 2010 11:30 AM    Report this comment

( Continued from above ) I find this amazing. Of course I thought that kid from the Northwest who was stealing airplanes and flying them to the Bahamas without any documented flight time without killing himself was also amazing. But it does show us one thing. We might have to rethink the way in which we approach basic flight training in the future. You are absolutely correct, there comes a time when you have to unplug the box and just go out and fly. I think there are some flight schools out there who depend far too much on "SIM TIME" to build hours. But I do believe the sim is a great way to learn complex TAA systems and safely practice conditions and scenarios that would be far too risky to try in the real airplane. But that's the point you already made. The sim isn't ( and wasn't ) designed to take you from zero time to flight proficient without spending a good deal of that time higher than just a few feet off the floor . . .

Posted by: Kim Barnes | September 7, 2010 11:31 AM    Report this comment

The comments from Kim Barnes regarding the teen with experience in MFS and none in the real thing are similar to my experience with getting an add-on rating for the helicopter. I had one of those computer games simulating modern combat. The game included a helicopter that seemed to have realistic flight characteristics when flown with a joystick. It took me quite some time (and many, many virtual crashes) to get proficient flying it.

A pilot friend and I were discussing how being able to fly the game helicopter might translate into the real world, so I decided to take a demo flight to find out. To my instructor’s amazement and my delight I found I could perform all of the basic flight maneuvers, including hovering, safely and with good control. I signed up for lessons and earned my rotorcraft rating some time later.

Having built some proficiency on the computer before getting into the cockpit saved me about 10 hours of training, with a cost savings of over $2500. While there is legitimate debate regarding what aspects of advanced training should be taught, I am a firm believer in exposing the student to the basics of flight in a cost-effective simulator first.

Posted by: Art Jackson | September 7, 2010 2:25 PM    Report this comment

I work in the simulator engineering world. The saying we go by is that we can make the simulator do anything, given enough time and money. The main point is that all the flight characteristics of a simulator are modeled based on data provide by the aircraft manufacturers, i.e. Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier or whoever. The data packages provided today only include data within the the normal flight envelope of the aircraft. For example, we will have flight data for the aircraft approaching the stall, until stick shaker, but then it stops after that. So there is no data for how the aircraft behaves in a stall. So the simulation is based on an extrapolation of the data before the stall and is not necessarily accurate. Do the aircraft manufacturers have this data? Maybe, some of it. Will they provide what they have? No. I believe that at that point it comes down to an issue of liability. The OEM's are afraid to provide that data in case an accident does occur and it turns out the data are not accurate or complete enough.

Posted by: Mike Jackson | September 7, 2010 2:47 PM    Report this comment

Withholding actual stall and recovery data on the part of manufacturers is pretty much a mistake. Stalling a swept wing jet transport is an interesting experience. In the transport aircraft I have stalled, the shaking of the aircraft as the stall is approached and as the nose falls at the stall, is quite violent. The shaking continues until the flying angle of attack on the wing is regained.

When the FAA requires the simulators to simulate the actual stall, as recommended after the Airborne Express “stall to the crash” in December 1996, and the Colgan 3407 accident, then it would appear that the manufacturers won’t have much of a choice.

Current stall training and testing are not actual stalls, but “approaches to stall”. We now have a universe of pilots trained only in the simulator who have never seen an actual stall in the aircraft or simulator. Are we going to take trainee pilots out in the actual aircraft and provide actual stall training? Good idea, but not likely.

Yes, if the aircraft has any flight control(s) or flaps out of rig, you are not likely to get a conventional stall. Those events can be exciting as well, even though the recovery technique is much the same. You put the nose down and go faster. It is not unusual to have the aircraft roll/yaw against the control input as you approach the stall. It is, after all, one reason why aircraft are stalled after heavy maintenance, and that is to assure that everything is properly rigged.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | September 7, 2010 3:35 PM    Report this comment

I would have to agree with Kim...and did myself belonged to that category 4yrs back ,at the age of 18 used that program to carry out low vis landings in a 737 with a garmin GPS!!! and descended at my discretion ... this impressed my father + pissed my instructor off to an extent that before every sortie he would remind me that this is NOT a simulator... and he was right. During my initial stages had no trouble leveling and rolling out but the yes there is a limit and there is a HUGE difference between a computer based sim and the real thing. But all those hours dedicated to MSFS in schooling days did not go in vain as my sim instructor (retired Hunter/747s..) was totally fun to fly with and he did invite me to be his instructor on MSFS...there comes a time when you have to unplug the box and just go out and fly

Posted by: Avnish Shastry | September 9, 2010 2:29 AM    Report this comment

The only thing that worries me about the extensive use of sims for primary training is that airplanes do not have a reset function. What ever you get yourself into, you've got to fly yourself out of in the real world. Aside from that, they are a marvelous tool to use in any type training.

Every sim I've ever flown has been touchier than the real airplane -- especially in pitch. That's by design to sharpen your scan. If you overcontrol a sim, it gets to be a real job really quick.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | September 9, 2010 7:08 AM    Report this comment

The simulators today, albeit as advanced as you can get for the cost, still teach basically one thing....technique. The realism is as good as its going to get unless the costs skyrocket. That means the client than will only pay that much more.

As far as the Continental accident, what happened to asking for a "wind check" or looking at the sock and thinking that along with the ATIS maybe "this is exceeding our capabilities, let alone the aircraft's"? Simulator training wouldn't have prevented this and many other moments in history...basic airmanship and good judgement might.

Posted by: John K. | September 9, 2010 8:43 AM    Report this comment

I have worked on the opposite end, and don't believe they have it. It's not liability, it's reality of what data is possible to collect.

"I work in the simulator engineering world. The saying we go by is that we can make the simulator do anything, given enough time and money. The main point is that all the flight characteristics of a simulator are modeled based on data provide by the aircraft manufacturers, i.e. Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier or whoever. The data packages provided today only include data within the the normal flight envelope of the aircraft. For example, we will have flight data for the aircraft approaching the stall, until stick shaker, but then it stops after that. So there is no data for how the aircraft behaves in a stall. So the simulation is based on an extrapolation of the data before the stall and is not necessarily accurate. Do the aircraft manufacturers have this data? Maybe, some of it. Will they provide what they have? No. I believe that at that point it comes down to an issue of liability. The OEM's are afraid to provide that data in case an accident does occur and it turns out the data are not accurate or complete enough."

Posted by: B Noel | September 9, 2010 1:20 PM    Report this comment

There is no question that MSFS pilots absolutely need to be dissuaded from thinking that they are really “pilots”.

The point of this discussion, as I understood it, ”What can be eliminated from training practice and testing and still produce a pilot who is competent to handle what aircraft, the weather and Mother Nature throw at him?” Perhaps we should also ask, “What should be added?”

No matter what the level of simulation, it is not possible to simulate “everything”. As some others have noted, there is no RESET button in the actual aircraft.

Years ago, the discussion was, “to spin or not to spin”, for ratings up to ATP. The “not to spin” camp won and we now have created a pilot population that may never have seen a maneuver in an aircraft that “is not necessary for normal flight.” (FAR 91.303) How do we expect pilots with only that experience level to react when they find themselves in a wing tip vortex, or if Mother Nature (as she once did to me) flips the aircraft upside down in normal cruise at 3,500 feet, in much less than a blink.

I don’t think that spins should to be part of pre-solo requirements, or for a private pilot. However, pilots licensed for commercial operations, who encounter unexpected, violent changes in aircraft attitude should have enough training, understanding, knowledge and experience in maneuvers “not necessary for normal flight” to assess the circumstance and recover, even if it may only be a once in a lifetime experience.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | September 9, 2010 3:24 PM    Report this comment

Thom I don't understand how would spin training help a commercial/ATP pilot? In many (most?) cases flying aircraft where the spin characteristics are totally unknown, as they most probably have never have been spun. And might well be unrecoverable from a spin by a test pilot, much less some schlub that did a spin demo 20 years ago in a c-150?

Posted by: B Noel | September 10, 2010 3:51 PM    Report this comment

I only intended the spin as an example of a maneuver that at least some instructors, in the modern era, in aircraft approved for spins, are afraid to tackle or even demonstrate. I read in blogs and other sources that instructor candidates are having the spin demonstration signed off without any actual spin accomplished. A single spin demo is pretty weak training for someone who is supposed to “recognize and recover” from such a situation. What will that instructor do when (not if) a student inadvertently enters a spin?

My point is that people who fly folks around, or instruct, should be prepared for what airport congestion and/or Mother Nature or their students throw at them. While the FAA (through Internet instructional videos) and Air Carriers have made steps to train their pilots in upset recovery, it is not universal.

Unfortunately, there are numerous examples of professional pilots who found themselves in an extreme attitude and did not understand how to recover, or reacted improperly to an upset or turbulence induced event, or in the case of Colgan 3407, did not understand the implications of a stall warning at autopilot disconnect. All of this paints a poor picture of what current training practices provided for professional pilots.

Understanding and being able to properly maneuver and recover after an upset of any kind and remain within the aircraft operating envelope is probably a “basic flying skill” that should be preserved and encouraged.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | September 10, 2010 8:09 PM    Report this comment

Add your comments

Log In

You must be logged in to comment

Forgot password?


Enter your information below to begin your FREE registration

« Back to Full Story