Jumpseat: Recurrent Training — FlightSafety Versus the Airlines

Fun with progressive proficiency.

I advance the power levers slowly. Once I am satisfied with our tracking on the runway centerline, I push them rapidly forward into the takeoff detent. With the acceleration sinking me back into my seat, I glance at the airspeed tape as it rolls past 70 knots. V1. VR. V2.

I apply increasing back pressure to the control yoke. The nose of the airplane lifts off the ground, with the rest of the airplane soon following. As a positive rate of climb is indicated, I raise the gear handle. A few seconds later, the airplane yaws noticeably to the right. My left leg instinctively stiffens as I begin to push on the left rudder pedal. I scan the N1 display on the MFD. Crap! Just as I suspected, the right engine failed.

I focus for a brief moment on the PFD. Pitch attitude is somewhere near an acceptable deck angle. Airspeed is on the plus side of V2. Tracking is within 5 degrees of runway heading. Altitude is climbing toward the designated safe altitude of 1,500 feet agl.

Without looking, I fumble my right hand down the throttle quadrant and onto the rudder trim switch. I press the switch to the left. The tension in my left quad begins to relax as the rudder trim becomes effective.

A voice from the right seat asks, “Wanna try an inflight restart?” A three-second study of engine parameters indicates nothing unusual other than a failed right engine. I say yes to initiating the inflight restart checklist.

Approaching 1,500 feet agl, I relax the back pressure and raise the flaps. Knowing that less and less left rudder will be required with a reduction in power as we level off, I begin to take out the trim. Distracted by the checklist progression, I lose focus and realize the rudder trim has been reduced too much. The uncoordinated status of the slip/skid indicator confirms this assessment. I press the trim switch back toward the left. The airplane responds with an uncomfortable yaw to the left. To the left? But it should be the other way with the right engine still DOA. I glance at the rudder trim position indication on the bottom of the MFD. It has traveled almost full left. Damn! Runaway rudder trim.

Snapping to attention, I complete the memory items, ending with the task of pulling the rudder trim circuit breaker. My left quad is now in agony. The voice from the right seat chides me, saying that I should be able to handle the workout because of my obsessive regimen at the gym. The voice then volunteers to help by stiffening his leg on the offending rudder pedal.

After announcing to ATC that we wish to return, I am instructed to complete the course reversal of the GPS approach. Really? Well, OK.

Meanwhile, after completing the inflight restart checklist, the right engine has come back to life. I attempt to think through the problem. Even with the left engine at higher power and the right engine still at idle, the airplane has an evil desire to roll left because of the runaway rudder trim. Advancing the power lever on the right engine only adds to the left-rolling tendency. This isn’t good.

I retard the right power lever back toward idle. I can sense the struggle my copilot is experiencing on the rudder pedal. I join him in his quad workout and decide to reduce power on the left engine and thus reduce airspeed. I state that I have the rudder again. I want to feel the effect that the reduction in power and airspeed is having on controllability. It’s working.

A confusing moment passes regarding the entry for the procedure turn. The flight director is commanding a different direction than my head has determined. I stab at the flight director button on the mode control panel and turn the system off. I establish us inbound on the GPS approach. With a more manageable effort applied to the left rudder pedal and some aileron trim, I am able to prevent the airplane from performing a slow roll as we descend on the approach.

Although not graceful, I cross the threshold reasonably stable. Despite the awkward slip, we touchdown within a respectful distance from the runway centerline. I snort out a long sigh of relief.

From behind my seat, I hear, “Nice job.” And then, “Well, since you enjoyed that exercise, let’s try something new.” I cringe with a smile.

My sim partner and friend Tom Torti berates me about my airspeed and altitude control — his admonishment expected. For the last two days, we have been torturing Steve Watkins, our Citation Mustang instructor, with our unorthodox style of crew resource management. Steve indicated initial concern for our unusual cockpit camaraderie, although he was mildly entertained. But our mostly positive performance convinced him that it worked.

Was the scenario described realistic? Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, it was a great training experience. The scenario combined many aspects of systems knowledge and flying skills into one event. The event’s successful completion promoted confidence. FlightSafety’s progressive recurrent training program allowed for this type of simulator opportunity. This philosophy is in contrast to the rigid structure required by an airline’s Part 121 training environment — an environment in which I have spent most of my career.

The FlightSafety recurrent philosophy, at least through FAR 61.58, is such that once a student demonstrates a maneuver to satisfactory FAA standards at any time during the training period, it is considered complete. On our first day, Dave Larson, our other Mustang instructor, took us through the rigors of standard FAA-required maneuvers: stalls, steep turns, unusual attitudes, ILS approaches, non-ILS approaches, circling approaches, V1 cuts, go-arounds.

With the required maneuvers behind us, a lot of the tension involved with a formal check ride disappeared. We moved on to the fun stuff.

Had this been my 777 recurrent, depending upon which nine-month cycle I was in, the simulator portion would have begun with a four-hour training session. (Most U.S. airline recurrent training occurs every nine months.) Within that session, a practice of the maneuvers required on the next day’s check ride is accomplished. In addition, the FAA-required CAT III approaches are also completed. The check ride is either a line oriented flight training scenario involving one abnormal or emergency event or a proficiency demonstration sampling various types of normal and abnormal procedures.

Our opportunity to experience elective maneuvers or procedures occurs only as directed through the airline’s recurrent agenda or if spare time is available. And if multiple malfunctions are given, we can cry foul. Multiple malfunctions, no matter how realistic, are considered off limits for a check ride.

Also in contrast to FlightSafety’s scheduling, the bulk of airplane-related ground school with the airline is always accomplished prior to simulator sessions. The thinking is that refreshing a pilot’s background knowledge of airplane systems in a classroom setting can be helpful later during flight training periods.

FlightSafety varies on the placement of ground school within a client’s schedule. On this particular occasion, the Mustang simulator was first on the daily agenda. Although I would have preferred the opposite — mostly because that’s what I’ve always known — it didn’t seem detrimental to my learning experience.

Although LOFT-style check rides present realistic and mostly real-time scenarios, it seems that more could be accomplished within a typical two-hour time period. Most of us airline types are preconditioned to the pressure of performing to FAA standards during a check ride. But if you have performed to FAA standards during the process of recurrent training, why not be able to check that box for a particular item at any time after its successful completion?

How many people have you known who have demonstrated required standards during training and then developed a case of check ride-itis? With progressive training, the problem is solved.

Although I have accepted check rides as part of my professional life, it was a relaxing pleasure to learn under FlightSafety’s progressive curriculum; granted, my airline career wasn’t in the balance. That being said, no one wants to put forth a marginal performance — especially an airline pilot.

Could this type of training be considered for Part 121 carriers — if not for initial training then perhaps for the recurrent environment? Training and fun together? Who would have thought?

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