FAA Guinea Pig


Well sized member
I responded to an ad in Flying over a year ago looking for experimental subjects for research CAMI was doing at FAA headquarters in OKC. Long story short, I got called back and was asked to participate. Benefits of participation were:

1) Free airline ticket to OKC
2) Free hotel
3) $17 p/h from the time I left my house (0730 on Thursday) to to the time I got home (0115 on Saturday)
4) $34 daily per diem
5) Chance to fly a mission in a Piper Malibu simulator
6) Free rental car for 24 hours

So here's how it went down - I was supposed to fly in Thursday afternoon and watch 2 hours of video, plus take a few exam questions. Because I flew AA, however, I got there too late to do anything on Thursday. Had to cram it in on Friday. It was ok, though - met a new ATC from Hopkins at the Chili's bar and shot the poop with him for awhile, and downed a few with some TSA guys in training.

Showed up to FAA headquarters (i.e. Mordor) at 0700. Discovered that it's the most secure place I've ever been to - layers of security were crazy. I asked one guy what they had there that was in need of so much protection - his response - "nothing".

Met the guy who would be helping me at 0730 - immediately asked him if we could track down the people responsible for pulling my medical in '97 and in '05, or just their cars. No luck. Took a short weather quiz, mostly IR questions. Watched 2 hours of instructional video, then took another quiz. On to the sim around 11am.

Mission was to fly a Malibu from Amarillo to Albuquerque, VOR to VOR while remaining VFR. They had set up an NOAA weather site that provided simulated weather for the flight. The catch became readily obvious early into the flight. Overcast layer was a constant 3,000 agl from AMA to ABQ, but the terrain elevation increased the closer you got. Now I'm used to FL flying, so terrain was something completely new. Study administrator worked as ATC and pretty much said fly the route like you would in real life. The other catch was that pressure dropped from 30.10 to 29.89 during the flight. Fortunately I was on the horn with flight watch often as there were few reporting stations out there.

I had pushed up into the overcast layer to spot where it was - which was 8,700 msl. Cruised along at 8,200 until reaching Anton Chico when it became obvious that VOR to VOR as originally planned wasn't going to cut it. I took another victor airway south to avoid a peak at 7400' and to plan my next step. Had considered a deviation but then noticed a pass in the mountains south of ABQ. Plotted a course for there which allowed me to stay VFR and get clear the hills. Then proceeded to bring it in to ABQ - total flight time around 1.5.

Afterwards the study director (very cool but strange mathematician) took me out for Ethiopian which was great. Took my butt to the airport after that to catch my delayed flight home. Missed the connection, but was booked 1st class on a later flight. Rolled home around 1:30am.

And in case anyone was wondering - I asked if any of the 47 other participants in the study (I was the last) had flown into the mountain. One did - a master CFI who was too busy plotting his course to notice the terrain in front of him.

I have to go back for one more sim session in September - but they raise the rate to $21 per hour. Enjoy the few pictures I took. One is of the FAA welcome center (boo!!) and the two others are the Malibu sim.



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That is extremely interesting - thanks for sharing!
Sounds like something I would like to do.