The $500 Saddle on the $100 Horse

The $500 Saddle on the $100 Horse

We are seeing more pilots who are taking their aircraft and installing the most advanced electronics on the market. It is the comparison of what we call in Texas the $500 saddle on the $100 horse. When these people come in for simulator training, they cannot work the equipment and, in our opinion, literally creating a more dangerous situation if problems develop.

Manufacturers are really good about selling high quality avionics products, but not very good at training. You will never see an airline with pilots who cannot operate the avionics to the full extent of the avionics capabilities. We should be no less adept in training in general aviation. I actually train air carrier pilots who buy multi engine aircraft such as a Cessna 421 or 414 and, not only can they handle the equipment, but they also nail the Sims and know everything about glass cockpits. Why? Because the employer – the airline – puts them through their paces. They must know the glass sitting in front of them.

If you remember when you first became involved with the Garmin 530/430 system, the typical reaction was “holy cow, I can fly direct.” That was about all we could do. I was just as guilty. When I started teaching again, especially on the larger aircraft, I had to stop and reacquaint myself to all the abilities of the Garmin equipment. Wow, what a learning curve.

Should we buy first or should we train first? We all know the answer.

Keep it Simple Stupid

Single engine loss training in IFR conditions require the “stabilization” of the aircraft in four simple steps. Once that is established, you have to then become calm (getting over the “pucker factor,” my terminology for “oh crap”) and then move to step two, getting it down. If you cannot work the sophisticated avionics you installed, you may have a problem. I make sure every single pilot knows how to find the closest airport and turn towards the same.

Engine Loss – What do you need?

Glass cockpits are not conducive to handle a single engine flight. Ribbon gauges are harder to fly than the old style six pack. Take for instance the VSI (vertical speed indicator); it is the most valuable instrument on the panel and yet the most unused. Close to the ground, you want to know about what it will take to climb. A ribbon gauge, when you have not trained on it for single engine loss, can be confusing. A standard VSI is easy. The needle points up or down and what you need in most piston twins is to be able to put that needle on 300 feet per minute and hold it. Ribbon gauges are too sensitive. Let me point out a danger that no one has thought of. One particular manufacturer of a glass type instrument only shows a vertical speed when you have a climb or descent otherwise, it is not there. It disappears. No consistency and, again in most piston twins, it is 300 fpm that you must maintain. I had a Southwest captain with a massive amount of general aviation experience take my recurrent course in a Twin Cessna. I showed him my procedure for handling single engine flight and using the vertical speed indicator to determine if the aircraft would maintain altitude. He told me he had never thought about what I showed him and how it was so simple in keeping a piston twin in the air.

The next most important instrument that should be right next to the VSI is the directional gyro (DG). Holding a heading on engine loss and maintaining a climb at 300 fpm is critical. Those two gauges along with a quick glance of the airspeed indicator is what is going to keep you out of trouble. Again, if you have changed to a glass PFD and have not trained on single engine management, you will have a learning curve. No one wants a learning curve with a dead engine.

I ask my staff and clients, “What is the bottom line?”. The bottom line is to seek out training facilities that teach you as much as they can on flying one engine in emergency situations.

Keep it simple and keep it safe.