Thursday, February 28, 2019

Back in the Box

Done with the sim observation week, and it went a bit better than pretty well. I started this with a tendency to look at Sim instruction as just one of those things one had to put up with for the chance to get back into a classroom setting. All of the hours spent in the front seats of Sims over the years had dulled any enthusiasm for working in the box. These last few days have eased that feeling somewhat. The Sim is a unique training environment; a multi-million dollar, full-motion chalkboard used to study and master some pretty complex challenges. At the start of the week the crew I was with was tentatively poking at switches just to get the flight deck powered up and the engines running. Today nothing—not badly degraded flight controls, one engine gone, or 3 of their 4 instrument screens dead in the panel—kept them from flying near perfect night instrument approaches to absolute minimums, usually ending with a gentle touchdown and the airplane coming to a stop with the nose gear on the center line. This is training the way training ought to be, and is pretty close to as much fun as a person can have while, at the same time, just working for a living. (No, we didn’t do any single-engine dump truck jumping. It turns out I’m not the only one who thinks such things are a waste of training time.) Meeting with them after their successful check rides was cool, and they were even kind enough to say that what little input I offered over our week together in the sim was helpful.

Photo courtesy of
My next task is to “teach” the Initial Pilot sim sessions to two Flight Safety Instructors pretending to be clients, while a third Instructor teaches me the simulator ropes. And that has led to one of the cooler things that has happened to me lately. (Though the idea of four Flight Instructors in the same Sim provokes images of four doctors in a Bonanza. Its an insider joke, don't worry if you don't get it.)

Years ago, I had a chance to teach a class on high altitude/turbine flight operations at St. Louis University, something that lasted nearly eight years. After that job faded away, there was some time spent as an Airline Captain. Fun job, but the pay was hard to live on. (Regional pilot pay back in those days was another inside joke.) I left that job to fly a corporate jet around the country for about a decade and, when the ax fell on that gig, Deb and I headed out on Kintala.

Now, something near 20 years later, one of the pilots I will be practicing on will be someone who sat in one of those classes at St. Louis University. He is a fully qualified Sim and ground school instructor for the Legacy, and it is likely he will have much of value to share about teaching others to fly this thing.

I have stumbled across several students from those SLU days: a young lady flying Apache Helicopters for the Army, several who are now wearing 4 stripes and flogging airlines around the world, one who flies B2 stealth bombers…I don’t claim to have had anything at all to do with their success, though it was kind of fun that such meetings always included smiles, laughter, and good stories. But to be working with one of them, having him show me the way around this high-tech wonder jet? That’s enough to make an old flight instructor feel pretty good about the paths life has taken; enough to have me truly looking forward to being “back in the box.”


Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

I remember the shock I felt when a new teacher at my school introduced herself, and reminded me I had taught her earth science in seventh grade. Time flies.

Stephanie said...

Well done story! Look forward to your adventures on a boat.