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AOPA Online Members Only -- Pilot Skills: Currency vs. Proficiency -- Departments: IFR Reincarnation, Part II


IFR Reincarnation, Part II

BY RALPH L. BUTCHER (From Flight Training, July 1993)

Last month we addressed recurrent instrument training for pilots with whom the instructor is unfamiliar. Now let's look at the coin's other side, recurrent training for pilots who are the instructor's regular customers, pilots who do not need reincarnation - a return to the instrument syllabus's basic training lessons.

Instructors should prepare a recurrent training package that can be given or mailed to the pilot when instrument proficiency training is scheduled. This will save time and put the pilot in the right frame of mind. My package is an open-book examination on current regulations and operating procedures, a summary of recent National Transportation Safety Board accident reviews, and a reminder to bring the standard paperwork: logbook, pilot certificate, medical certificate, and the airplane's pilot's operating handbook (POH).

Recurrent training implies only one thing: Perform every maneuver and emergency procedure that the pilot is likely to encounter. If performance is poor in any area, practice is required in order to restore competence and confidence.

When an instructor and pilot work together on a regular basis, recurrent training can be tailored to the type of instrument flying the pilot performs. The instructor assumes a heavy responsibility, but this is acceptable if the instructor has confidence in the pilot's commitment to operate within self-imposed limitations based on experience and ability. For example, the pilot will not fly instruments unless 1,000 foot ceilings are forecast for the entire route, will not fly in any weather except local stratus conditions, or will not fly beyond a specific area or airport.

For the recurrent training sessions described in the following paragraphs - each of which require 2 hours of flight time - my customer is a full-bore IFR pilot who flys instruments whenever it's safe to do so. When flying light, single-engine airplanes, prudent pilots avoid fast-moving weather systems, convective weather, icing conditions, and widespread low ceilings. An airplane or certain simulators (I'll discuss which ones) can be used for recurrent training, but to obtain the greatest benefit, training should alternate between both environments every six months.

Recurrent Airplane

Taxi And Engine Run-Up
Flight instrument and compass alignment checks, VOR accuracy and sensitivity checks, ADF reception and radio compass checks, alternator load and vacuum pump suction checks, and radio setup for departure and initial climb.

Flight To Practice Area
Steep turns, imminent clean stalls, recovery from unusual attitudes, and then clear the pilot to a charted intersection. When the pilot's eyes are closed prior to the first unusual attitude recovery, rotate heading indicator's compass card 180 degrees, cover the attitude and heading indicators with a "no-peeky," and pull the landing gear circuit breaker (if so equipped). Upon completion of the recoveries, uncover only the heading indicator. If the pilot doesn't remember to reset the heading indicator to the magnetic compass heading, he'll not make it to the charted intersection.

Flight To The Charted Intersection
When established on a published course and flying toward the intersection, give holding instructions for the intersection and fail the VOR receiver that drives the ILS indicator. After completing this intersection hold, hold at VOR and NDB stations. During the holds, simulate an alternator overvoltage light, electrical smoke in the cabin, obstructed static air vent(s), and review the landing gear manual extension procedure.

Instrument Approaches
Obtain clearance for a practice NDB approach. The pilot should discover the pulled landing gear circuit breaker when the gear handle is lowered. After the NDB approach, obtain clearance for a practice VOR approach, but again cover the heading indicator and use the magnetic compass for reference.

If able, fly localizer and localizer back course approaches. Fly one ILS approach, then uncover the attitude indicator and fly another ILS approach to a full stop using the full instrument panel. If the airplane has an autopilot, flight director, DME receiver, or other special equipment, have the pilot use each device.

Remember, this is my program for a full-bore instrument pilot of some experience, and what you just read in minutes takes 2 hours or more to fly. Instructors should modify their procedures to meet - yet still challenge - their customers' abilities and needs.

Recurrent Simulators

The variations for recurrent training are fairly limited in an airplane. But in a simulator, particularly one with the aerodynamic responses of an airplane, such as those made by Aviation Simulation Technology (AST) or Frasca International, recurrent training is only limited by the instructor's imagination.

These devices are officially instrument ground trainers, not simulators. Simulators must imitate a kinesthetic illusion of aircraft motion. But "simulator" and "sim" read better, so when I mention simulators, I'm referring to ground trainers.

Before starting simulator recurrent training, the pilot is given the departure, destination, alternated airports, and the associated weather conditions. The winds aloft are always programmed to be 20 to 30 knots and oriented so that one of the planned holding patterns will have a direct crosswind.

The pilot copies the ATC clearance and departs. The initial assigned altitude will be below the minimum enroute altitude (MEA) for one of the route segments. At the first power reduction after takeoff, the pilot receives a partial power failure, and the engine is limited to 2,000 rpm or 20 inches of manifold pressure. This is always a possibility in older airplanes that have pressure carburetors. The pilot must declare an emergency, and using minimum power, return to the departure airport for a full-panel ILS approach and landing.

The simulator is refueled, repositioned on the runway, and the pilot is again cleared for takeoff using the original clearance. If the pilot did not turn on the pitot heat, the airspeed is slowly increased toward redline during the climb to simulate a blocked pitot tube. When pitot heat is turned on, air speed is restored.

As the pilot approaches cruise altitude, a vector is given for traffic, and the attitude indicator is failed when the turn is established. When that problem is resolved, the pilot is given a new heading and told to reintercept the assigned airway. Leave the attitude indicator failed.

Holding instructions are then issued for the intersection where the MEA changes to an altitude that is higher than the assigned altitude. When the pilot calls to report entering the holding fix, institute communications failure. That's it: ATC's off the air. After completing the loss of communications procedure, the pilot will depart the holding pattern and hopefully comply with the MEA change. Later, if the pilot attempts to contact ATC on the next published sector frequency, restore communications.

Do not compound solvable problems during simulator training, and do not introduce a new problem until the last one has been resolved. Simulators allow a continual chain of meaningful training events to occur, but to do otherwise can harm pilot confidence, a factor that must always be enhanced. Unsolvable problems, like the current attitude indicator failure or an engine failure in a twin, are left in place until the airplane lands. "Think airplane" is a good motto to use during simulator training.

Next up is electrical smoke. When I announce that I smell smoke, the pilot's first action is to turn off all electrical equipment individually. I suggest the master switch in order to quickly kill everything, and the pilot usually complies. Then I ask how long we can continue in that configuration - remember, the attitude indicator is dead and turning off the master switch killed the turn coordinator. "Oh, good grief," says the pilot, "I didn't think about that." There's no substitute for simulator training.

The electrical smoke problem is set up so that the pilot ends up with the No. 2 communications radio, the No 2 VOR receiver (which leaves him without ILS capability because it's on Nav 1), and the ADF receiver. After this problem has been sorted out, give the pilot an intersection hold. I ask for an estimated time of arrival at the new holding fix, and that is easily accomplished if the pilot has mastered the rule-of-60 (See "Instrument Training," Flight Training, March 1993.)

After the hold is established, clearance is given to the destination airport, one that has VOR and NDB approaches. The pilot is informed that the VOR is out of service. ATIS indicated the weather is acceptable for an NDB approach and missed approach, the pilot is advised that the VOR is back in service, and the VOR approach and missed approach are flown. The pilot must now request clearance to the alternate airport, where and ILS approach and landing is performed. (Restore the ILS receiver route).

In closing, I'd like to put initial and recurrent instrument training into the proper perspective. When prospective customers inquire about instrument training, they usually ask if the simulator has a horizontal situation indicator (HIS), distance measuring equipment (DME), area navigation equipment (RNAV), and whatever other gizmos come to mind. The answer is yes, we have all the advanced avionics equipment.

While it's nice to have all the equipment, when it comes to recurrent training, the object is proficiency with minimum equipment - no attitude indicator, one VOR receiver, and the ADF receiver. When pilots can pass and instrument checkride or proficiency check using the absolute minimum equipment, the proper proficiency level has been reached. To accept any other level of skill, particularly during recurrent training, compromises the pilot's safety and fulfills neither the intent nor the spirit of recurrent instrument training.

Ralph Butcher has more that 30 years and 20,000 hours of experience as a pilot and flight instructor. A graduate of the University of Southern California and the U.S. Army Aviation Center (airplanes), he's flown in Vietnam, served as chief flight instructor for four flight schools, and is now a captain and check airman for a major airline.

Posted Wednesday, March 26, 2003 1:30:40 PM