Maximizing Simulated Training for IRL Flying
Throughout this “Sim City” issue of FAA Safety Briefing, we’ve explored the many ways you can use simulation tools and techniques in certification, aviation, navigation, communication, and mitigation of risk. Discussion of transferring simulated experience to “In Real Life” (IRL) flying is inherent in the treatment of each topic, but here are a few overarching tips for ensuring that you get the greatest benefit.
Bring Your A Game
Professional airline pilots treat flights in the simulator just as if they had a planeload of passengers in the back. Those of us in GA should do no less. Unless you are using a smartphone or tablet flight simulation game for sheer entertainment, always approach your simulated flight activities with the same attitude you apply to flying a real airplane with your family on board.
Set a Goal
Simulation costs a lot less than the real airplane, but if you are using some level of Aviation Training Device (ATD) and working with an instructor, you’ll still need to hand over a credit card when you’re done. Get the most for your money, and from the experience, by knowing what you are trying to accomplish. Greater precision and disciplined adherence to procedures should be a goal on every flight, but take a moment to write down specific goals for each session. To do that, here are two questions you might ask yourself:
(a) What aspect of your flying do you most need to improve?
(b) What do you most want to achieve through your aviation activities?
The answers can guide the development of an ongoing “aeronautical health plan” for pilot proficiency and skill development.
Make a Plan
Next, make a personal piloting proficiency plan that you can use in both “real life” flying and the time you spend in simulated flight. As discussed already, simulation can accelerate your training for a new certificate, rating, or endorsement. If you are looking to improve your proficiency — a goal we all should have — pick up a copy of the applicable Airman Certification Standards (ACS) and make a list of the tasks and maneuvers you most want to improve. Work with your instructor to make a scenario-based plan that might have you simulate the flight to a specific airport you want to visit. If you are an instructor, use some of the task-specific risk management elements to help build or enhance the pilot’s critical thinking skills.
Execute the Plan
We have all heard the “practice makes perfect” cliché. Practice, both IRL and simulated, makes a proficient (if not quite perfect) pilot, but only if you pay attention, learn from your mistakes, and resolve to do better every time you fly. Putting A-game effort into intensive simulator work on the specific “areas for improvement” in your plan will produce demonstrable IRL benefits.
Reflect and Reset
Getting better requires you to understand where you fell short, why it happened, and how you can fix it. Simulation helps by giving you the on-the-spot, in-the-moment ability to pause and ponder those points. For example: (1) Replay the flight in your mind, taking note of what you did well and what you need to improve; (2) Reconstruct the maneuvers where you made mistakes, considering what you could have done differently; (3) Reflect on the most important lesson(s) you just learned; and (4) Reset and redirect those lessons to your next flight.
A final observation: as we head into the winter season, airplanes in the colder parts of the country head for hangar hibernation. Thanks to the wonders of simulation technology, you don’t have to let your piloting skills hibernate as well. Sim City awaits! (FAA Safety Briefing NovDec 2017)