Simulators, flight training devices, PCATDs, and personal computer programs are cost effective tools for learning how an aircraft responds or handles in different scenarios, and for learning the correct procedures for flows, checklists, and memory items. It is important when first learning maneuvers and procedures that a flight instructor, or someone with experience, accompanies you while you're trying to learn. This will help prevent learning procedures incorrectly and assist in avoiding a negative transfer of information when you fly the actual aircraft.
Currently, a private pilot applicant may use 2.5 hours of training in a flight simulator, FTD, B-ATD, or A-ATD. An applicant at a Part 142-approved ground school may use up to five hours of training in a flight simulator or an FTD toward the hourly requirements for the private pilot certificate (14 CFR 61.109[k]). An instrument rating applicant may use up to 20 hours of training in a flight simulator, FTD, and A-ATD. Only 10 hours may be used if training is done in a PCATD or a B-ATD. Up to 30 hours of training in a flight simulator or FTD may be used if acquired at a Part 142-approved ground school (14 CFR 61.65[e] and AC 61-126).
There are four major types of ground-based aviation training devices that may be used not only for flight training, but for proficiency as well.
Simulators, flight training devices, PCATDs, and personal computer programs are great tools for learning how an aircraft responds or handles in different scenarios, and for learning the correct procedures for flows, checklists, and memory items. It is important when first learning maneuvers and procedures that a flight instructor, or someone with experience, accompanies you while you're trying to learn. This will help prevent learning procedures incorrectly and assist in avoiding a negative transfer of information when you fly the actual aircraft.
Having a lesson plan that outlines exactly what is to be covered for each training session is important and helpful in ensuring all required areas are covered. The lessons learned in the aviation training device need to reinforce the techniques learned in the real aircraft, not conflict with them. Since an aviation training device can be paused, certain portions of a maneuver can be explained in greater detail, and questions from the student can be answered at that time instead of during a post-flight briefing. This will make the answer more meaningful because the answer can be demonstrated more than once with direct feedback about why it happens.
Pilots can use an aviation training device at any time during their training, both on their own and with an instructor. However, to be counted toward any required times for a certificate, rating, or to maintain currency, an instructor must be present, and an entry in the student's logbook must be made. There are limitations on how many hours may be counted, so please check the current version of FAR Part 61 for your certificate level. Because the PCATD, B-ATD, and A-ATD are not yet included within Part 61, you will want to check the FAA certification of the training device being used to ensure you only use the appropriate amount of time toward the certificate or rating. If a pilot maximized the use of FAA-approved training devices while earning each of the certificates from private pilot to airline transport pilot (ATP), he or she could log 97.5 hours. Let's look at what you can log for each certificate.
Currently, a private pilot applicant may use 2.5 hours of training in a flight simulator, FTD, B-ATD, or A-ATD. An applicant at a Part 142-approved ground school may use up to five hours of training in a flight simulator or an FTD toward the hourly requirements for the private pilot certificate (14 CFR 61.109[k]).
An instrument rating applicant may use up to 20 hours of training in a flight simulator, FTD, and A-ATD. Only 10 hours may be used if training is done in a PCATD or a B-ATD. Up to 30 hours of training in a flight simulator or FTD may be used if acquired at a Part 142-approved ground school (14 CFR 61.65[e] and AC 61-126).
The number of hours commercial pilot applicants can credit toward their certificate depends upon the type of aircraft being flown. Airplane or powered lift rating applicants may credit a maximum of 50 hours toward their total time if the training is completed in a flight simulator, FTD, or A-ATD. If the training is completed at a Part 142 ground school, 100 hours may be credited if training is conducted in a simulator or FTD. A helicopter rating applicant may credit 25 hours toward the commercial certificate and 50 hours if flown at a Part 142-approved ground school (14 CFR 61.129[i]).
ATP applicants can credit up to 25 hours of simulated instrument time in a flight simulator, FTD, or A-ATD toward their certificate, 50 hours if at an approved Part 142 training center (61.159[a]).
The B-ATD and A-ATD can both be used for recency of flight experience. The A-ATD can also be used for a portion or all of the instrument proficiency check and a portion or the entire instrument practical test, depending on FAA certification.
There are numerous vendors that sell ground-based aviation training devices. If you are unable to test fly the system, verify that there is a return policy before you buy it. Except for the personal computer programs, all ground-training devices require FAA evaluation and approval. Many of the systems will have similar capabilities, so personal opinion about how easily one works over another may be a main consideration after cost. If purchasing a unit for a flight school, consult with the flight instructors and students who will be using it most often; if they aren't comfortable with it, they will probably not use it.
Even if your school cannot afford a simulator, FTD, or PCATD, do not overlook the training capabilities of personal computer programs, such as Microsoft Flight Simulator. It can be used to demonstrate many of the flight maneuvers in the Practical Test Standards. To realize the potential of any of these tools, an instructor needs to be supervising to be sure that the correct methods are learned and practiced. Anyone can be flying the aircraft in Microsoft Flight Simulator in just a few minutes without assistance, but those self-taught skills can invite trouble when flying an actual aircraft.
All of the products that are in the marketplace should be used in addition to a flight-training program, not as a substitute. With a little forethought, integrating a ground-based aviation training device into a training syllabus can be done in a way to maximize the lessons learned with a minimum of expense. For students who are trying to expand into a new career in aviation in a short time, this can be a great incentive to join your program.
How do I get one?
AOPA regularly receives calls asking how to find the latest information on simulators, FTDs, and PCATDs. Included below is a list of current manufacturers of these products. For further information on the certification of these devices, go to the FAA National Simulator Program for qualification and Advisory Circular listings.
Currently Approved Manufacturers
Aviation Supplies & Academics, Inc. (ASA) Newcastle, WA 425/235-1500; 800/272-2359 www.asa2fly.com
Elite Simulation Solutions Orlando, FL 407/277-7700; 800/557-7590 www.flyelite.com
Frasca International Urbana, IL 217/344-9207 www.frasca.com
Precision Flight Controls, Inc. Mather, CA 916/414-1310; 888/638-1310 www.flypfc.com
Redbird Flight Simulators 8313 W Highway 71, Suite 300 Austin, TX 78735 (512) 301-0718 http://www.redbirdflightsimulations.com/
License to learn: That's how real it feels. Flight training and simulators At this year’s AirVenture, I had a chance to spend a little time with Jerry Gregoire, chairman of Redbird Flight Simulators. AOPA Pilot, November 2012
Redbird announces integrated simulator training tool Since the company’s inception, Redbird Flight Simulations has striven to provide innovative simulator solutions to the lower end of general aviation. Now the company is taking the technology to the next level by integrating full training scenarios in partnership with King Schools. Sun 'n Fun News, April 2011
New system helps students learn communications Ask new student pilots their biggest fear, and it usually isn’t landings, steep turns, or stalls. It’s talking on the radio. To help students master radio techniques, Redbird Flight Simulators has introduced the Parrot project, an artificial-intelligence-driven radio communications training system. The system connects to Redbird flight simulators and infuses ATC-style communications scenarios into every phase of flight. Flight Training, July 2010
Sim-ple Solution Can low-cost, full-motion simulation revive general aviation? AOPA Pilot, September 2010
Simulation Nation Flight simulator training for general aviation Flight Training, January 2009
A New Approach Arizona school embraces simulation Flight Training, October 2008
Putting on Your Game Face Desktop games in training AOPA Pilot, November 2005
Instructor Report: Readers on FTDs: A Good Training Tool, but Watch that Panel Fixation Flight Training, September 2002
Answers for Pilots: IFR currency Stay proficient and fly safe AOPA Pilot, June 2002
Thinking Inside the Box: Meet the Next Generation of PC Simulators Flight Training, April 2002
Instructor Report: Silicon Fliers: Ground Trainers that Could Make 40 Hours a Possibility Flight Training, April 2002
The Virtual Blue Yonder: Picking the Right Desktop Sim for Instrument Training or Proficiency Flight Training, April 2002
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