Sim Training


New Member
I’m back!

I finally finished training for the Fairchild Dornier 328 Jet. The entire training period took only 7 weeks from Day 1 to my simulator check-ride. I’ve already written an overview of the ground-school portion of the training, so here is a brief run-down on airline simulator training.

Sim training is a lot like traditional flight training except that it is done in a simulator and in a very compressed period of time. At the beginning of the training, you are paired with a partner. This is done either by seniority, or if the trainees agree, they can pair up and let the most senior crewmember bid. Bidding is done for simulator schedules and time slots. If you are unlucky, you may have a midnight time slot (as I did for initial training on the Jetstream). If you are lucky, you get a schedule like I had for the Dornier, sleep late, show up at 1130, into the sim at 1330, and done by 7 pm.

Our class was somewhat odd in that we didn’t have any captains; we were all First Officers. This made things more difficult because we had to switch seats halfway through the sim session. One of us would play the role of the captain (the Pilot Not Flying) and the other would be the PF. I was paired with a captain for the Jetstream and it makes things much easier to have a real captain.

A typical sim session lasts approximately 8 hours. We had two hours of pre-brief with our instructor. The pre-brief consists of the instructor discussing the maneuvers of the day’s lesson as well as procedures and techniques for flying them. Following this, the actual simulator flight lasts about 4 hours (2 hours of Pilot Flying time for each crewmember), and then a post-brief in which the instructor tells you what you did wrong (or right, if anything).

As I go into the sim, it’s easy for me to forget that I’m not in an airplane. It is an almost exact representation of a cockpit (and since I’m not familiar with the FRJ cockpit at the moment, I can’t tell you what the differences are) and if you look out the windows, you can see vary realistic representations of what you would actually see. We even saw a ramper with wands directing us to taxi into the gate!

The length of the sim course depends on the airplane. For the FRJ, there are twelve modules including the check-ride. I think that the CRJ has about the same number. The Jetstream course, on the other hand, had only about eight modules.

Before we actually got into the sim, we had several CPT (cockpit procedures trainer) modules. In these, we discussed profiles for takeoff, approach, landing, and practiced our flows and checklists. The CPT is a cardboard mockup of the cockpit that allows us to simulate reaching for switches without actually being able to touch them. There is also a Flight Training Device (FTD) that actually allows us to flip the switches and view the computer screens.

Airlines run checklists differently than general aviation pilots. In the airlines, you are expected to memorize a flow. You do your flow, then run the checklist to ensure that the items on the flow have been completed. For example, my after landing flow (the longest flow that I have) is:

· Flaps up
· Gust lock engaged
· Transponder standby
· Standby instruments caged
· Electric fuel pump off
· Ice protection off
· Start selectors off
· DC bus tie closed
· APU on

They are called flows because they flow from one part of the panel to another in a logical order. After completing the flow, I do the after landing checklist, in which most of these items are double checked.

The first three modules are basic airmanship. You learn to fly the airplane and to catch up to it mentally. (My sim partner said after one session: “I think I was in the ballpark today. I wasn’t on the field or in the game, but I was at least in the park!”) Coming from a piston engine or turboprop, the major difficulty with jets is staying ahead of the game mentally. The FRJ climbs so fast that departures are a blur of activity. At altitude, it doesn’t cruise extremely fast (and then you have fifty miles to figure out what you are going to do), but for the first few departures I was definitely not in control. I was along for the ride… hanging onto the tail!

To build proficiency and confidence, the first three sims contain basic air work and takeoffs, approaches, and landings. It was much like being in a private pilot course. We did steep turns and stalls (the main difference being that in our stall recovery, the goal is to maintain altitude within 100 feet and not establish a positive rate of climb).

We also did drills to learn the computers that are the heart of the airplane. The most prominent of these are the FMS (Flight Management System) and the autopilot/flight director. The FMS is a lot like a GPS on steroids. You put flight plans, weight and balance information, performance calculations, holding information, and the price of tea in China into the FMS. If you do it right, it makes your job a lot easier.

The autopilot takes practice to use correctly. There are many different lateral and vertical modes to choose from. Laterally, you can fly a heading, navigate by VOR or FMS, or fly a back course approach. Vertically, you can climb or descend by a constant bugged airspeed, vertical speed, or a speed that is programmed into the FMS. You can also elect to maintain your current altitude.

The autopilot also drives a flight director. This is a set of command bars on the primary flight display (PFD) that direct the airplane in the direction that you have told the autopilot that you want to go. For instance, if you have told the autopilot that you want the airplane to climb to a higher altitude and turn to the right, then the flight director will move upward and bank to the right. You maneuver the airplane to tuck the airplane icon on the PFD into FD bars.

Fortunately, we have computer programs that we use to practice programming the FMS and the autopilot outside the sim. My partner struggled with these two facets of the program.

For sims four through six, the primary focus was single-engine operations. This is very similar to piston engine multi-courses. The same aerodynamics are in effect. You still have to deal with adverse yaw and degraded performance. For me, the single-engine work made managing the airplane easier because the FRJ climbs about as fast on one engine as a Jetstream did on two!

There were several profiles that made up single-engine training. First, we studied the aborted takeoff. We always brief the abort criteria before every takeoff, so we know whether to continue in a given situation. Typically, we abort before V1 for any master warning or master caution lights, fires, smoke, or loss of directional control.

If a problem arises after V1, we continue the takeoff because the speeds involved make it unsafe to attempt to abort. Therefore, the second profile is a V1 Cut. This is the loss of an engine at V1 on the takeoff roll. We maintain control of the aircraft, climb 1000 feet (at V2) to the acceleration height, retract the takeoff flaps, and allow the aircraft to accelerate. Then we continue to climb at Vsec (best single engine climb speed) to a safe altitude. And, oh yeah, we do all of this while adhering to our clearance and/or departure procedure.

Additionally, we also practice single-engine approaches and missed approaches. Unlike piston twins, airliners have power to spare and can safely execute a missed approach on one engine. The procedure for this is much like the V1 cut.

Furthermore, we also practice handling smaller failures. There are very few memory items for our airliners. Instead, we have the QRC (Quick Response Checklist) for major problems like engine failures, fires, smoke, decompression, etc. For more routine problems, we have a QRH (Quick Reference Handbook). This contains more detailed instructions for emergencies as well as for less threatening items such as hydraulic pump failures, flap control failures, screen failures, etc. We don’t rely on memory. The pilot flying just has to instruct the PNF to run the appropriate checklist.

Our next module is a Ground Based LOFT (Line Oriented Flight Training). In this ground-school session, we discuss how the procedures that we are learning will be applied on the line. We review procedures, rules, weight and balance calculations, and things that our training to this point might not have covered (such as how to program the FMS to fly a crossing restriction like “cross TNA VOR at or above FL 250).

Next is the LOFT. In this sim session, we simulate a line flight and go through all the motions of paperwork, pushback, etc. The LOFT is the highlight of training to me. It is more laid back than the other sims. You have failures, but you don’t lose your engine a dozen times in four hours. It is the airline equivalent of the dual cross-country.

It was just prior to the LOFT that my sim partner, another J41 FO, got himself in over his head. He had problems with the FMS and autopilot from the first lesson. As the expectations became greater, he improved, but in spite of some late night study sessions, he didn’t improve enough. He eventually got a Prog Check. He received additional training, but did not improve enough, and eventually was told that he would be returned to the J41. I felt bad for him, but it actually made my life easier because, from that point on, I had seat subs to fly in the left seat. That meant that I had a captain who knew their stuff and no more seat switching. It also meant that I could use the time that was allotted for my partner to enhance my own skills.

After the LOFT, it was just a matter of doing practice checkrides for modules 9, 10, and 11. Check-ride maneuvers include two-engine precision and non-precision approaches, two engine landing and missed approach, holding (with the FMS), stalls, steep turns, two engine no-flap landing without any vertical guidance (tip: have the PNF call out 300:1 altitudes as you pass each mile closer to the runway), aborted takeoff, V1 cut, single-engine precision and non-precision approaches, and a single-engine missed approach.

The check-ride, after all the practice, actually seems easy, even though I was extremely stressed going into it. We had to miss an approach at 50 AGL on one engine for a bus on the runway (danged bus drivers!). The check airman got bored and as I approached the airport for the last single-engine landing (a visual), he had us eat a bird with the good engine. With the last engine failing, I touched down rolled off the runway, and told ground that we need a tow to the gate!

I don’t want to brag, but the check airman said that my ride was almost flawless (with the exception of almost going below 10,000 MSL at 290 KIAS. Oops!) . For once, the debrief consisted mostly of best wishes and instructions on how to locate the crew rooms at CVG and BOS, which are the FRJ bases.

Next comes IOE (Initial Operating Experience). IOE is the first time that I will ever fly the FRJ (and it will be with a load of paying customers in back, just think about that the next time you take an airline trip)! IOE is easy compared to the sim. You just go out and fly the line for a minimum of 25 hours. No (or at least very few) engine failures or V1 cuts. You just settle into the routine. I’m looking forward to it.
Very cool man, glad to hear that you got through things alright. Sorry to hear about your sim partner, though. That'd totally have to suck to be him.

You've gotta change your avatar now! No more twin turbo's for you!

Glad to see you back and posting


John Herreshoff
Excellent report, I am going to share this with some of the 717 & MD11 instructors that I work with, as far as what they instructor said about the flawless sim session, no worries, most of the sim instructors have short term memories. HA!
Thanks for posting your training experience! It is really great to find out what is required for the airlines training programs from someone who has been through it. Best of luck to you in the jet!
Could you expand more on what types of problems the other guy was having, was this a lack of study problem, concept problem, or flying problem???
Dave, congrats! Can you study some of the materials beforehand, such as FMS and autopilot? Like before you even get to training? Do they give you the manuals before you get to training?
No (or at least very few) engine failures or V1 cuts. You just settle into the routine. I’m looking forward to it.

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A possible V1 cut or engine failure with pax?
Enjoy the jet, and congrats!

How long does you ex-partner needs to wait to try again?
Can he get can?
WOW, that was really a nice story there. I am hoping to get into a RJ once I get out of college. Hopefully I might be able to get a chance to get the left seat like you did (chances of that are prolly very slim) Thanks
am hoping to get into a RJ once I get out of college. Hopefully I might be able to get a chance to get the left seat like you did (chances of that are prolly very slim)

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Yup - they "prolly" are.... unless you start spelling gooder.

Was the word you were looking for "Probably"??

Kidding - no harm intended.... college boy.
A possible V1 cut or engine failure with pax? Enjoy the jet, and congrats!

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Maybe I should clarify. Engine failures are now no more likely on my flights than on any other. In the sim, they were a certainty. I blame Pan Am Academy for shoddy sim maintenance.

My partner mainly had problems with programming the FMS and choosing the proper vertical mode for the flight director (since there are several to choose from). It wasn't a matter of not studying. We spent a lot of late nights with the training devices, but once he got behind, it was increasingly difficult to get caught up. I think that a large part of the problem was that is an older gentleman who is almost completely unfamiliar with computers in general.

Normally, if you are already an employee, you can get training materials before beginning training. These include the flight standards manual (our version of the POH), cockpit panel posters, a supplemental book, a button book that tells what each button does, a general operational subjects supplement to the Flight Ops Manual (company procedures), and an FMS trainer CD-ROM. New hires have to wait until beginning training to get their books. In this case, because of the accelerated bidding and class schedule, none of us were able to get our books in advance.


I got to fly the airplane today. My first day of IOE consisted of six legs of flying that amounted to just under 6 hours. I got three landings. I can happily report that the Do Jet is much easier to fly than both the Jetstream and the Do Jet simulator!
All that thrust really gives you a kick in the seat of the pants on takeoff as well.

Thanks for all the good wishes.
One more well wish...WELL WISHES!! Thanks for the effort in the interesting report on life in the sim and training, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Like yourself, it is good to be back(a whole week and half or two,seemed alot longer!) Do you remember the post to the effect of the JC forum is like crack?!'Yep...
I actually believe people effectionally refer to Dornier aircraft like the 328 Jet and it's turbo prop brother as a "DORK". A friend of mine works for PSA ie USAIRWAYS EXP. here at CVG and they have the 328 turbo prop.

There pretty nice aircraft there all nicely EFIS'd out. Anyways what airline are you flying for "Davetheflyer"?
If you are unlucky, you may have a midnight time slot (as I did for initial training on the Jetstream).

Unlucky???? Sign me up. I am a night owl all the way.