Monday, December 10, 2018


It has been several weeks since I put Kintala in the rear view mirror, heading back to St. Louis to work for Flight Safety International as a ground / sim instructor. The job is secure now, with the official start date less than two weeks away. There will be a ton of training / preparation work before I actually stand in front of a class room full of pilots or saddle up in a sim. First there is the required pile of paperwork to complete. There is an old saying in aviation that goes along the lines of - an airplane can’t fly until the weight of the design, test, and certification paperwork is at least equal to the maximum take-off weight of the aircraft. Digital files and computers have reduced that stack somewhat, but it looks like pre-employment paperwork for flight instructors has to equal about half the applicant’s body weight before they can be turned loose.

Once the paperwork is complete and indoc finished, the real training begins. There is computer-aided training on subjects yet to be disclosed. Then there is a new type rating for the aircraft they want me to teach, the Embraer Legacy 500. This will be my fourth type rating, the third I have earned at Flight Safety. A type rating is a month-long training exercise whose intensity is hard to describe. Modern day full-motion simulators are marvels of engineering. It is quite easy to forget that one is attached to Mother Earth, and so no matter how badly a maneuver might get botched, the ground will not rise up and smite thee. The risk might be simulated, but the tension on the flight deck can get very real indeed. There are emergency procedures; engine failures at the most critical moments of a departure roll, wind shear encounters, explosive decompression, flight control anomalies, fire…that must be utterly mastered. Perfect execution, in these cases, is just barely good enough. 

Along with the simulator training are forays deep into the aircraft systems: normal operations, failure modes, redundancies, limits, reversion modes…hydraulics, electrical, flight controls, pressurization, air conditioning, de-ice systems, auto-brakes…  Yes, there will be a test and no, it will not be graded on a curve. Every professional pilot in every airliner cockpit has been through similar training. That is a good part of the reason for it being safer riding along in an airliner that has lost an engine and half of its flight instruments on a dark and stormy Saturday night, than it is driving down the road on that same dark and stormy Saturday night after the bars have closed. On a sunny Sunday morning with all the systems up and running normally, it is safer to be sitting in an airliner than to be sitting in church.

For flight instructors there is another whole area of training required, that of learning how to use the training aids, those being the simulator, graphical flight simulator (GFS - otherwise known as a cockpit procedures trainer to us old pilots) and the myriad training aids used in the classroom. There will also be a week’s worth of instructing on being an instructor, something I am quite curious about and looking forward to doing. It all sounds rather daunting even if I have been through it several times before, and have spent hundreds of hours standing in front of a class room full of students. 

Will the upcoming years be interesting, challenging, and worth while? Yes. Will they be as good as those same years spent on Kintala, wandering hither and yon, being part of the cruising family? I honestly don’t know. My thoughts easily drift back to quiet anchorages, clear waters, and overnight passages; both easy and not so easy. Most of my dreams are of being on the boat, the first waking moments bring a touch of regret as the dreams give way to being back on land. My feeling is this is going to be both better than I had hoped, and harder than I had imagined. Its a bit like that first crossing to the Islands, half way there in the middle of the night, lightning on the horizon, lumpy waves occasionally splashing into the cockpit. One part of the brain says, "Relax, it will be fine. You know what you are doing." But some other part of the brain says, "Are you crazy? What are you doing here?"

For the curious, the link shows the exact place that will be my working "home," and the very sim I am about to learn.


Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

Cool. I've long been interested in commercial passenger aviation, and have read your many references to your flying career with great attention. Good luck!

TJ said...

Thanks Jeff, I am buried pretty deep in prep work for the type rating. They sent me what looks to be about 1000 pages of SOPs, memory items, systems descriptions, minimum equipment lists, emergency procedures... It's all good though.

Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

Better you than me. I sit in the kneecap seats in back.