Due to Covid and schedule conflicts it took me a while to get down to Burnett, Texas, and do my recurrent training at Aircraft Simulator Training. I’ve been overdue for sim training and I was extremely curious to see if AST would live up to the incredible accolades it has received on our Forum. Here is just some of what our members were saying about AST:
“Oh boy! was I in for a life experience. Everything I learned from Rick McGuire and Chick Crisefi has one, and one purpose only … to keep me and my passengers safe. This is a no BS course …”
“… for personal attention and just plain passion for aviation it’ll be hard to beat AST.”
“I have four type ratings, and I feel for me, this is as good a training program as I have had in any other airplane I have trained on.”
“It was a blast. Rick teaches to you and your needs, not some canned program …. the time in the sim is just so much more efficient than the airplane. 10-15 aborts in less than 15 minutes ….. I say all this as a Gold Seal Instructor, with four type ratings, 17,000 plus hours, and having worked for three airlines.”
“The training was on par with my years of airline training… The bottom line: The emergency training was excellent, and the operational knowledge was priceless.”
“I just returned from Rick McGuire’s amazing facility and believe that in nearly 25 years flying simulators there is no better training facility in the country …. This is the best training investment I’ve ever made.”
“It was the best two days of training I have received in 40+ years of flying; and after owning a C340A for 18 years and attending annual recurrent simulator training over 15 times at 3 other facilities across the country.”
And believe it or not, these are just a small sample of favorable quotes. In the 12 years I’ve been running The Twin Cessna Flyer, I have never seen a company receive such superlative recommendations. Prior to my visit, I just didn’t see how AST could live up to all this. I’m a pretty tough customer and have high expectations. Now here is my quote after attending:
“In my 50+ year flying career, this is the simulator training I’ve been waiting for.”
AST was everything people said it was. The customer service is incredible. Prior to the session, communications were crystal-clear. They even hangar your airplane and give you a car to use while there. Lunch is provided and the ground school sessions and breaks are conveniently spaced. But the best thing about AST is they use the simulator for what it does best – teaching pilots how to handle emergencies that would be dangerous to practice in a real airplane. And they get pilots proficient by drilling them over and over until muscle memory develops and proficiency is achieved. That’s the key. In past simulator sessions with other companies precious time is wasted learning how to operate the sim and do routine tasks.
At AST, at least during the two-day Emergency Training course I took, they assume you know how to fly your airplane in routine conditions. So once you’ve successfully handled an emergency they immediately reset the sim for the next one. That’s what I’ve always wanted and needed. You leave AST with the confidence that you can handle an engine-out on takeoff and other emergencies like an emergency decent with an engine on fire. That confidence is priceless.
AST uses a version of the “Push and Hold” method that ABS Safety Director Tom Turner also teaches. It greatly simplifies the standard FAA method and focuses on quickly stabilizing the airplane before feathering the prop, shutting down the dead engine, and flying blue line (which, you’ll learn, is almost never the right speed to fly). This method is so much easier and effective than the traditional five-up, identify, verify, feather … etc. method.
Rick McGuire conducts the ground school portion and he is a character, to put it mildly. He’s got decades or real world flying experience in Twin Cessnas and he is still a 340 owner and an active instructor. He’s sort of like Tony in that his well of practical knowledge is miles deep. Rick also has opinions on flying and maintenance that he freely shares. He knows some of them are controversial and he’s careful to acknowledge that people may disagree with them. He’s fine with that – “take it or leave it;” he says. That’s good by me. He didn’t share anything I disagreed with but apparently a few people don’t prefer his style. One participant described Rick’s ground school as more like hangar flying and that’s accurate. I found it refreshing versus the rote POH/AFM discussions with instructors that haven’t flown a Twin Cessna in years, if ever, that I’ve seen at some other providers.
In summary, this is the best simulator training I’ve ever received. I’m going back. And one final point. EVERY Twin Cessna owner needs simulator training to be a safe pilot. There is just no other way to be prepared to handle engine-outs on takeoff. It’s not fair to your passengers to fly them without being properly trained to handle emergencies. Higher training standards are part of the price we pay to fly twins. Do it and if you can’t, sell your twin and buy a single. I feel that strongly about it.