Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Editors' Choice: Training
Training. There is no substitute for a well-prepared, well-trained pilot and crew. Our editors looked at, and recommend, some of the best available options currently on the market.
Eurocopter Introduces Full Mission Trainer
American Eurocopter, 1-972-641-0000, www.eurocopterusa.com
FlightSafety International Continues to Offer Inadvertent IMC Training
FligthSafety International is offering “Surviving Inadvertent Instrument Meteorological Conditions,” a course designed to improve the outcomes of inadvertent IMC encounters. More than half of the flights in a recent FAA review of helicopter accidents began as VFR flights and then encountering IMC. This course helps pilots lay a foundation for developing a plan to reduce IIMC encounters and for developing a plan for recovery in case you do go IMC. FSI can custom-tailor instruction to accommodate all sectors of the helicopter industry. Ground school covers a range of topics like human factors, situational awareness, communications and recovery from IIMC. This course is available for the Bell 212, Bell 412 and Bell 430 at several locations, including the Fort Worth Learning Center in Hurst, Texas. The course can be adapted to any helicopter. FSI stresses that it’s critical to have a sound and well-practiced strategy to maintain safety should a pilot encounter weather unexpectedly. Decisions made in the first pivotal moments can decide the outcome. FlightSafety’s course gives pilots the tools needed to react appropriately. The format encourages sharing of procedures and experiences with other pilots and instructors in an interactive environment that thrives on participation. Master best practices for the safest responses to inadvertent IMC. The course teaches successful strategies to ensure that flights conform to plan and doesn’t exceed training or equipment. Instruction stresses human factors such as decision-making and breaking the error chain. Simulator training reinforces ground school and applies the procedures and policies from ground school. There are two levels, basic and advanced. Basic is five hours (four in ground school and one in the sim) and advanced is five-and-a-half hours (four in ground school and one-and-a-half in the sim). FlightSafety Intl, 1-817-785-0800, www.flightsafety.com
ASU’s NVG Training in the Private Sector
One of the sticking points in the incorporation of NVG flying in the civilian world has been the need for standardized training that was, of course, FAA authorized. Other factors have played a role as well. NVG-compatible cockpits, the cost of equipment, and operational paradigms have all played a part in the incorporation of NVG flying in the civil sector.
Several companies in the private sector have become one-stop-shops for civilian night vision needs. One of those companies is Aviation Specialties Unlimited (ASU) in Boise, Idaho. ASU is the sole supplier of ITT Night Vision equipment to non-military customers. ITT Night Vision and Imaging has long been a supplier of night vision equipment to the U.S. military. Allying with ITT, ASU not only handles sales of ITT equipment to domestic and international customers—both civilian and military—the company also provides FAA-approved night vision goggle training, FAA-approved night vision cockpit modifications, and serves as ITT’s maintenance facility for goggles. ASU conducts night vision training at its facilities in Boise or at a customer’s base of operations. Training programs for NVG aircrew include initial NVG pilot, NVG crewmember, instructor CFI NVG and recurrent pilot NVG training.
Military aviators with NVG experience will instantly recognize similarities in their military NVG syllabi and the training program ASU offers. This is not surprising when considering that ASU’s instructors are former military aviators who have been flying using night vision equipment from the earliest days of the technology in both the military and civilian environments. Additionally, the experience of ASU’s pilots allowed it to become the first non-EMS FAA Part 135 NVG commercial operator in the U.S. ASU is also the FAA’s sole instructional facility for NVG certification of FAA safety inspectors.
Like military training programs, the eight-hour ground school portion of the ASU program focuses on the physiology of the eye and night vision, the atmospherics of night flying, goggle limitations and visual illusions, goggle malfunctions and emergency procedures, as well as care and feeding of night vision equipment. There is an emphasis on the latter topic that is sometimes missed by military flight training programs (or forgotten after years of using NVGs). As the sole sales outlet for ITT NVGs, the ASU staff is well aware of the cost of night vision equipment and they spend a lot of time teaching students how to maximize the life of the goggles by taking simple and reasonable steps to reduce wear and tear on the goggles and peripheral components.
In the early days of military flight with NVGs, a huge emphasis was placed on knowing the dynamic night environment. Not only were pilots exposed to lengthy lectures on the lunar cycle, but night flights were designated as “High Light Level” (HLL) or “Low Light Level” (LLL) based on the phase and position of the moon. Some training was required to be conducted in HLL conditions or vice versa. After several years of launching training missions in to HLL nights with overcast skies, the practice of designating the light level and restricting training melted away. Nowadays it is incumbent on the aircrew to be more aware of the night environment and the limitations present due to the lighting and/or weather conditions present while operating in the dark.
It had been over 10 years since I had last flown a Jet Ranger so I was not sure that ASU instructor pilot Kim Harris really wanted me to lift the bird into a hover between ASU’s hangar and that building right in front of the helicopter. “Are you sure you want me to do the takeoff?” I asked. “Yeah,” was the reply and I pulled the collective and tried to remember that the right side would be lifting first and the left pedal would need to be depressed a bit while pulling power opposite of the French helicopter I fly in my day job.
The Jet Ranger jumped off the ground and proceeded to do a bit of a dance over the spot as I immediately became frustrated in how far my Bell 206 flying skills had diminished after a decade of flying multi-engine helicopters with stability augmentation systems. Getting the dancing helicopter under control, we taxied out towards a clear area and took off into the darkness towards a darkened runway while Kim handled the radios for me.
Five minutes into the flight, I was still getting used to the control touch of the Bell and trying to re-learn the cockpit and instrument scan when Kim mentioned something about doing an autorotation under NVGs. “You want me to do what?” I wondered. I had never flown an autorotation on NVGs before and it had been almost four years since I had performed an autorotation outside of a simulator. The aircraft I fly in my day job has a digital engine control system that will not permit training autorotations.
“You better demonstrate one first,” I suggested to Kim as there was no way I was going to re-learn the Jet Ranger auto in one frantic descent to the runway. Kim shot an auto with the ease of parking a car and passed the controls back to me. “Here goes nothing,” I thought as I bottomed the collective and tried to do some sort of decent scan of the instruments in the unfamiliar cockpit as we descended toward the unlit runway. I don’t know how much of the auto was mine and how much was from Kim (most likely shadowing the flight controls), but I survived to write this article and the helicopter was able to continue our training flight following the maneuver.
The training flight was fun as we left the airport and headed up to the hills around Boise. It reminded me of my days at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island when we did some landings on unprepared surfaces in the mountains. The helicopter I fly now has no particle separators for the engines and landing off of a paved surface is one of the fastest ways to owe the maintenance crews a case of beer. Kim used the helicopter’s spotlight almost continuously during the flight; something I was definitely not used to. The flying I do for work is not tactical by any means, but I have found that the search light is not always beneficial in the salt air of the maritime environment when using NVGs. One advantage he showed me in the inland environment was the use of the searchlight as an aid to determine wind direction based on the relative speed and direction of the blowing dust and pollen while approaching an LZ and monitoring airspeed and speed over ground.
After over a decade of flying dual-piloted helicopters, I certainly have become comfortable when it comes to sharing cockpit and flying duties. When Kim gave me a simulated goggle failure, my instincts were to transition to an instrument scan and pass the controls to the other pilot. ASU instructors primarily train aviators who operate in the single-pilot environment and Kim patiently explained to me how to best handle the failure as if a seasoned former-Army aviator was not occupying the other seat. Kim then simulated a tube failure of the NVGs—something I had never tried or trained for in the military. This was surprisingly disorienting and certainly uncomfortable. I feel it would be worthwhile to incorporate this procedure into NVG ops at my unit. Another thing I look forward to trying “at home” is Kim’s use of a laser pointer to illuminate landing zones or points of interest while we flew around the hills in near pitch-black darkness. The laser easily reached out to fairly distant ridgelines and was a great training aid and time saver. Instead of trying to describe the location of an LZ—“the second saddle to the left of the right peak”—all Kim had to do was shine the laser on the spot and I headed towards it. After a decade of flying with NVGs, I was surprised that I was seeing some new things and learning new tricks from Kim as I got some nostalgic flight time wiggling the sticks of a nicely maintained Jet Ranger. I felt that the varied terrain around Boise was perfect for both urban and wilderness NVG operations. While much of the ground school was review for a military NVG operator, I felt like I took a lot of information home from both the classroom instruction and flight with ASU’s team of experienced instructors. —Story and photos by Todd Vorenkamp For the full story, visit www.rotorandwing.com
Aviation Specialties Unlimited, +1-208-426-8117, www.asu-nvg.com
Colorado Heli-Ops Raises the Bar with FITS Designed Scenario-Based Training
CAE’s 3000 Sim Line Adds Artificial Intelligence allowing more scenario-based options
CAE, 1-514-341-6780, www.cae.com
FlightSafety’s Bell 407 FTD Gains Level 7 Approval by FAA
FlightSafety International announced that its Bell 407 advanced flight training device has been qualified to Level 7 by the Federal Aviation Administration. “An increasing number of helicopter operators are recognizing the value, efficiency and effectiveness of training using FlightSafety’s new Level 7 qualified flight training devices as opposed to training in the actual aircraft,” said George Ferito, director of business development, rotorcraft training. “Operators of smaller, turbine powered helicopters can now benefit from the same level of professional training we provide our fixed wing and larger helicopter customers as a result of these new devices.” The new Bell 407 flight training device is located at FlightSafety’s Learning Center in Lafayette, La. It will be used during initial type training, recurrent training, inadvertent IMC training, and a wide variety of mission-specific and scenario-based programs. The device is designed to replicate the unique operational requirements of EMS, offshore, law enforcement, electronic news gathering, paramilitary operations and others. The flight training device allows for emphasis on maneuvers and scenarios not safely or realistically suited for the aircraft. Among these are engine fires, loss of tail rotor effectiveness and starting problems such as hot or hung starts. The new Bell 407 flight training device is equipped with FlightSafety’s advanced Vital X visual system that provides the most realistic and comprehensive training scenarios available for the aircraft. Night vision goggle capability will be added in the near future. FAR Part 135 operators, with their POI’s (principle operations inspector) approval, can meet the requirements of initial and recurrent training and checks with only minimal actual aircraft time. FlightSafety International, 1-337-408-2900, www.flightsafety.com
TrainingPort.net Offers Online Safety Training
Trainingport.net, 1-866-948-7678, www.trainingport.net