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Jumpseat: Flight Training for Clients
Smiles from employees were numerous. A relaxed atmosphere prevailed. As part of the daily routine, Andy conducted informal “preflight” briefings with most of the staff in the lobby area just outside his office. The briefing included a status report and current issues. In addition, recognition was given to any employee exhibiting outstanding performance. Sure, it’s a pep talk, but the briefing is a reflection of company culture. Unfortunately, I’ve never witnessed any such presentation at my airline.
Seven clients, including me, were part of the Mustang ground school. I parked myself in the front row next to a young Brazilian pilot employed by a private owner based south of São Paulo, Brazil. Three pilots with corporate experience were scattered in other rows. A young woman from Cessna’s sales department monitored the class.
And finally, Brad Yeager Smith (yes, he was named for exactly who you think) was my 26-year-old sim partner. Brad had accumulated fewer than 500 hours of total time and had flown as a copilot for about 25 hours on a Mustang utilized in a Part 135 operation. By day Brad was an engineer. The Mustang was owned by his employer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Because of his experience level, Brad was in training for a crew type rating, as opposed to the single-pilot C510S that the rest of us hoped to attain. He was enthusiastically naive, intelligent, had great judgment skills, and flew an incredible airplane. The backpack he carried made a quiet statement about our age difference and the new generation of professional pilots. I wanted to hate him.
That being said, Brad and I complemented each other. He had limited exposure to cockpit resource management. And I had limited exposure to single-pilot operations. Brad helped with Mustang nuances. I helped with copilot duties. Brad found it difficult to sit on his hands while I made mistakes. I found it difficult not to assist in the decision-making process.
Dave Larson, our simulator instructor, immediately recognized the synergy of our relationship. Sharing the same age, Dave and I wasted no time in targeting Brad with a program of abuse. Toward the end of our training, in conjunction with Prince Harry’s U.S. visit, I bestowed upon Brad the title of Sir Royal Awesomeness. He cringed.
Single-pilot operation being unfamiliar territory, I resorted to a familiar tool: checklists. Whether the procedure was normal or an emergency, I read both the challenge and the response. I was both the captain and the copilot, talking to myself as if I were in need of therapy. The autopilot was my friend. And if all else failed, I prioritized the tasks and flew the airplane.
Part 135 companies, corporate flight departments and owner/operators in command of their own businesses brought a level of challenge to the training that was unique to the Mustang. As discussed with program manager Robert Aliaga, the Mustang required a higher grasp of people skills from its instructors.
Armed with the background of quality training and overstuffed with preparation, my solo check ride was a nonevent — as my instructors had promised. Even with almost 23,000 hours in my logbook, it was still gratifying to be presented with a temporary certificate and a shiny, new type rating.
FlightSafety versus airline training? My experience found virtually no professional difference. My airline colleagues in the training department strive for a great learning environment, but FlightSafety seems to have set a new standard. Perhaps when I see a fruit bowl and pastries instead of the vending machines that have been anchored to our submarine-like break room for almost 40 years, I’ll feel like a client. But I’m thinking it just might take more than that.