Skybird: Dale Brown’s Ops Report LOGO

Dale Brown’s Ops Report
November 2002
Copyright © 2002, HDM Inc.

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Done with Cessna 421C training for 2002—18 hours of classroom instruction, 6 hours in the left seat of Simcom’s very realistic (but not full-motion) simulator, and 6 hours in the right seat (with my wife Diane in the left seat as pilot-in-command). I satisfied the insurance company’s requirement for approved annual training and received my flight review (required every 2 years for private pilots) and my instrument competency check (required by instrument pilots who don’t accomplish the proper number of hours and approaches in an airplane). Skybird: Dale Brown’s Cameo ShotWhat did I learn?

Being a gadget guy and knowing how to use all the equipment there at your fingertips is good, but not at the expense of maintaining and sharpening basic flying skills.

A common instructor technique in flight training is to spend the first simulator session letting the student fly with all systems running normally, in good weather conditions. This does two things: it lets the student get comfortable flying the simulator, and it also gives the instructor an opportunity to see how the student flies. Does the student scan his instruments, or does he focus on one or two gauges? Does the student know how to use the autopilot? Can the student fly a coupled approach? Does the student use all available instruments and systems as a backup, even in clear weather, or does the student forget about all his gadgets when the weather’s good?

As a gadget guy myself, I know how to use the autopilot, GPS navigation systems, flight directors, etc., so I use them. For the first one to two hours, I cruised effortlessly around with all systems running normally…

I own a 1976 Cessna 421C, which is currently undergoing some avionics upgrades and repairs by Tom Rogers at Avionics West at Santa Maria, CA. You can watch the progress at Skybird: Dale's Cessna
The C-421’s old instrument panel. and then, the NEW! Watch future newsletters-- it’ll change BIG TIME! Skybird: Dale's Cessna Skybird: Dale's Cessna

… long enough for my instructor to see all the “comfort gadgets”—all the things I rely on to feel at ease in the cockpit. Naturally, what does he do in the next session? You guessed it—fail these “comfort” systems one by one.

The most basic rule of handling emergencies and malfunctions: FLY THE AIRPLANE. It’s more important than navigating, talking on the radios, or doing checklists. How quickly you remember that rule usually determines how well you can deal with the situation.

When an emergency or malfunction hits, I tend to do two things: I get ham-handed—I grab the controls tightly—and I focus on the artificial horizon, instead of keeping a scan of all the flight instruments going. A smart instructor will exploit that too—he’ll slowly fail the artificial horizon, or add in a little turbulence to see if I’ll chase every burble in the controls.

A smart instructor will also not let you get in trouble to the point of catastrophe—after all, this is supposed to be training. Good instructors will prompt the student to set up a scan, to relax, to not try to muscle the plane around the sky. He or she will put in the emergency or malfunction, watch how the student handles it, take notes, then take the malfunction or emergency out and move on to the next exercise. Letting inattention or indecision build to the point of confusion, exasperation, and even resignation is negative training.

My wife and I are fortunate in that we can take these refresher classes together, and it sure builds confidence watching your partner handle emergencies well. Although Diane is not yet instrument rated, she can handle the big Cessna twin well enough to bring the plane home in any emergency situation and in almost any weather condition. She is not just a passenger—she has the knowledge and skill to contribute to the fun and safety of every flight by being able to activate and manipulate controls without asking; by anticipating what comes next in the flight and get out the right charts, dial in frequencies, or initiate a checklist; and recognizing when something’s not right and directing my attention to it. Although the Cessna 421 is a single-pilot airplane, having an extra set of eyes and hands up front is always welcome.

Robert Gottlieb
Trident Media Group
(212) 262-4810

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