Rote Pilot Solution

Rote Pilot Solution

  • January
  • 18
  • 2019
  • Erika Armstrong

The amount of information Business Aviation pilots need to store in their brain would exceed the capacity of most laptop computers. Sure, they fly into the major airports in each state, but they also fly into the 16,000 other airports in the U.S. (about 44,000 worldwide), including private landing strips. There are so many variables of airplanes, systems, weather, pilot personality, mechanical failures, ATC, rules and regulations that pilots are constantly in training. Even constant training can't cover everything, especially when the rules and regulations haven't kept up with reality.

Every few years, the FARs need a review. Sometimes rules are set and pilots are trained to complete the task, but we've forgotten the reason behind it. Why is one pilot required to wear an oxygen mask at all times above FL350 – even on a long-haul flight? Will we have O2 when we need it? What's the purpose of quick-donning masks? Why are we doing this? Simply because that's what we've always done isn't a good answer.

In the simulator, we practice V1 cuts all the time because that would be the worst possible moment, but the reality is that engine failures happen most often during cruise. How different is aircraft performance at FL410? FL510? What are all the other considerations? What are all the other 'what ifs'? What if you're flying over a massive thunderstorm when you have that engine failure? Dual engine failure? Can't happen? Ask the Beechjet crews that once thought that.

The NBAA is proposing that training and checking will be more effective it if is scenario-based. The proposal, for now, is for obtaining ATP and Type Ratings. Instead of a rote response to a predetermined emergency, maybe we should mix it up even further, beyond the NBAA proposal and beyond just the initial ratings. Yes, pilots get offended when their sim instructor gives them multiple emergencies ("Hey, you're not supposed to do that!"), but what better way to train than to let pilots have a deeper understanding of how one system failure affects the other. Don't tell the pilots what you're going to do, and don't ask them if there is anything they want to see; that defeats the purpose. Let it be like life, a surprise around each corner.

Let pilots crash the simulator with multiple emergencies and the first crew that day who gets the airplane safely on the ground doesn't have to buy lunch the next day. Of course, do all the other standard training that we always do every year. But at the end of each session, let's have some "fun" to save some lives. Don't put the results in your instructor notes. Nope, there isn't a checklist for what you're about to do anyways. The real world never goes exactly according to that nice, neat checklist that the simulator conforms to. I think you'll find that most pilots would welcome the challenge. Sure, they'll grumble about it at first-that's what pilots do. But I guarantee it's what they'll remember most about their sim time.

No matter the emergency, the crew that works the best together will be the first to get the airplane on the ground safely. It will also reinforce that single-pilot operations are common and completely doable and safe, but having a second, qualified pilot during an emergency might make the difference between being a story and telling a story.

What's your scenario-based story?

Here's the link to the NBAA Proposal Docket FAA-2018-0811

If you want to share your opinion with Erika about her ridiculous ideas, she can be reached at