Training in Turbocharged Engines

Twin Engine Aircraft Simulator

Pay Me Now or You Will Pay Later – Promise

There is a reason why pilots of large complicated aircraft are trained in simulators.  First, it is cheaper to operate a simulator.  Second, you can accomplish more in the simulator than you can in the aircraft.  Finally; what you really need to accomplish, such as engine pulls and emergency procedures, are extremely hard on the engine components.

For example, let’s talk about the engines in a turbocharged Twin Cessna.  In a 340 and 414, the engines are a Continental 520 engine. Same for the 421 but it is geared and even more prone to problems. Let’s say the pilot has pushed it to capacity in horsepower output.  The pilot used a turbocharger to maintain the performance to a higher altitude and to maintain that horsepower for high elevation airports.  Again, this is pushing the engine to the maximum amount of power.  This is adding stress to the engine and especially on components, such is the case.  You must remember that a lot of components on most engines have been rebuilt numerous times and even though they may make specifications for re-use, sometimes the envelope is pushed a “little” in the rebuild. I call it “squinting our eyes to get one more use out of the rebuilding process.”

When you train in a Cessna 172 with a normally aspirated engine and you do engine pulls from full power to idle and back to full throttle, you don’t have the back pressure in the engine that you would in a turbocharged engine.  You also don’t have drastic power reductions that would hurt the 172 engine by way of backlash and torque reductions that put pressure on the components such as the crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons and other moving engine components.  For you pilots that were taught smooth and slow power reductions when you started training in a simple single engine aircraft, this carries through to your smooth and steady reduction in the large turbocharged engine.

Why Sims?

Now, again, why sims?  You can push a sim to its max and you will not hurt the engine components.  You can kill engines and feather propellers and not damage the internal workings of that expensive turbocharged engine yet you receive the same benefits.  The catch is, if you do this in the airplane, get your check book warmed up. Major damage to engine components occur because the aircraft was used for training.  It is not that you are going to have engine problems such as cracked cases, it is when will the problem occur because it will happen.  Anyone who has worked with large turbocharged engines in the repair business have seen it.

So if you are going to take your 340, 414, your 421 or any turbocharged engine and train in it and do engine pulls and aggressive descents and climbs,  get your checkbook out.

One particular case I was involved in was a Seneca pilot who wanted to move up to a pressurized aircraft.  He decided to buy a 421C.  He had no experience with either buying the aircraft or maintaining and flying the aircraft. Never the less, he jumped in head first.  He did the pre-buy with an expert twin Cessna shop and the annual.  He then decided to fly the aircraft home.  Four months later, oil was under each engine on the floor of the hangar.  You guessed it, cracked cases.  So, what happened between the pre-buy, annual, and the cracked cases?  He did all his training in the aircraft, single engine work, you name it.  One of the problems with this case was the attitude of the owner.  Full bore, don’t stop, don’t do smooth power reductions just fly it.

What You Should Accomplish

Rule one with regards to flying turbocharged aircraft; treat them like you would treat your wife or girlfriend.  If you push them, they will leave or hit your bank account or both. Second, do your training with instructors who know how to teach the emergency procedures of the aircraft. Knowing the aircraft systems is great and needed, but you also need to understand that when you are in the air, all aircraft have a memorization list for emergency BEFORE you grab the manual.  These memorization items are required to STABILIZE the situation before it gets worse. Finally, do it in the best simulator you can find with an experienced instructor.  Save your aircraft and your engines. You can get more procedure training in a sim than in the aircraft.  If you do not believe it ask the airlines.

Finally, TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN and not the “choo-choo kind.”  Safety is earned and learned and it is not handed out without lots of work.


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