Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Co-Pilots May Sim Instead of Fly To Train

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the welcome-to-the-world-of-tomorrow dept.

Education 68

CyberLord Seven writes "The Washington Post has up an article on a proposed new standard that would allow co-pilots, and co-pilots only, to gain most of their flight experience through flight simulators rather than through actual flight on smaller planes." From the article: "The move is designed to allow foreign airlines, especially those in Asia and the Middle East that face shortages of pilots, to more quickly train and hire flight crews. The United States isn't expected to adopt the new rules anytime soon, but international pilots trained under the new standards will be allowed to fly into and out of the country. The change is generating some controversy. Safety experts and pilot groups question whether simulators -- which have long been hailed as an important training tool -- are good enough to replace critical early flight experience." It should be pointed out this isn't just Microsoft Flight Simulator they are playing. These are motion-controlled capsules that simulate the realities of an aircraft's movement.

cancel ×

68 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Speaking of middle eastern pilots (0)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#17288358)

Didn't the 9/11 hijackers get most of their experience on sims? Never figured out how to land, but then again they didin't seem to need it....

Re:Speaking of middle eastern pilots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17289854)

Didn't the 9/11 hijackers get most of their experience on sims?

No, they went to flight schools.

Re:Speaking of middle eastern pilots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17292740)

No, they went to flight school. However, Senator Retard (D-FU) decided that Sims COULD be used to train terrorists, and therefor should be banned. Thank god that one never got off the ground.

Re:Speaking of middle eastern pilots (1)

Kevin DeGraaf (220791) | more than 7 years ago | (#17300096)

Senator Retard (D-FU) decided that Sims COULD be used to train terrorists, and therefor should be banned.

Wouldn't that be "Senator Retard (R-FU)"?

Why not? (4, Insightful)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 6 years ago | (#17288372)

There isn't a great deal in common between a Cesna and an A380. In the latter the computer translates your input into something that is safe for the plane - which it can do just as well with a virtual world and a virtual plane. There is no particular need to have great experience with small planes that, even if you could disconnect all of the fly by wire kit, handle in a matter so different that you might as well suggest that we train for driving big rigs on a bicycle.

It's also worth pointing out that a lot of this technology has been risk reduced on military aircraft programs, and in general it has made things safer by giving pilots more realistic training before they even get into the cockpit of a high energy death machine. If I owned a multi-million dollar super jumbo I know I wouldn't feel too happy whenever a pilot sat at the controls for the first time, but I might be a little bit less concerned if they had already flown several hundred hours in a representative simulation.

Re:Why not? (1, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#17288498)

i see your point but i can think of a couple things that might come into play.
 
the first is, i would want a pilot with experience flying. period. i really don't care what he flew, but good, safe aviation involves a mindset that will not be attained sitting safely on the ground. it is easy to stay calm and collected when you are on the ground.
 
the second is, is it that much cheaper to use a simulator than small craft? i'm not sure what the slowdown is there. unless maybe a single instructor can watch over more than one student at a time in simulators. if the pros think this training is important, i would give that a lot of weight.

Re:Why not? (2, Insightful)

sheetsda (230887) | more than 6 years ago | (#17288670)

the second is, is it that much cheaper to use a simulator than small craft? i'm not sure what the slowdown is there. unless maybe a single instructor can watch over more than one student at a time in simulators.



Where I rent planes the cost of the instructor's time is dwarfed by the cost of renting the plane. $35 per hour for the instructor, $110 per hour for a Cessna 172R. See also $100 Hamburger [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Why not? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289800)

You can find cheaper rates if you look around. I fly a Cessna 150 (fully IFR certified with Dual-VOR and GPS) for $60 per hour; instruction is an extra $25 per hour. Even that could be reduced further. A lot of the new S-LSA aircraft (which can be used for primary training) can run on 3-4 GPH of regular gasoline rather than AVGAS, and some are available brand new for under $60,000 (not a great expense for a an airline that could train hundreds of pilots on that plane).

As to the original question though, while there is a big difference between a small plane like a Cessna and a large multi-engine jet, there's also a huge difference between a simulator and the real thing. Don't get me wrong a simulator can be good for practicing IFR and such, but for actual flying, the simulator just doesn't move naturally. You can't feel the wind bouncing you around. You can't feel the resistance in the stick to know that you must trim the aircraft. You can't look around out of the windows and scan for traffic. Overall, it just isn't the same. IMHO the safest way to train a pilot to fly large planes is the tried and true method of having them start on the smaller stuff, and then work their way up a step at a time to flying the big stuff.

Re:Why not? (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 6 years ago | (#17291718)

"You can't feel the wind bouncing you around"

You can't feel it on a big Airbus or Boing either (not at least on a distinguishable manner from that on the simulator).

"You can't feel the resistance in the stick to know that you must trim the aircraft"

You can't feel it on a big Airbus or Boing either, unless using force-feedback in exactly the same manner a simulator would do.

"You can't look around out of the windows and scan for traffic"

You can hardly do it on a big Airbus or Boing either.

"Overall, it just isn't the same"

Overall, "flying" an Airbus 360 simulator is much much (as in orders of magnitud that much) "the real thing" than flying a real Cessna.

"IMHO the safest way to train a pilot to fly large planes is the tried and true method of having them start on the smaller stuff, and then work their way up a step at a time to flying the big stuff."

I don't think anybody thinks otherwise. Probably hiring the pilot that were through all the process *and* had war-time fighter experience is even better but, you know, not everytime you can get the best you'd ask for. The point is if you can use simulators *more* without critically compromising security and in a more cost-effective fashion.

Re:Why not? (2, Insightful)

Starker_Kull (896770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17297364)

"You can't feel the wind bouncing you around" You can't feel it on a big Airbus or Boing either (not at least on a distinguishable manner from that on the simulator).

This is quite untrue - a real wake encounter or a highly variable crosswind is completely different in the real thing than a simulator. Most simulators are limited by physics to a small fraction of a gee of acceleration, and because of the nature of how they are affixed to the ground, they simulate the sensation of yaw very badly.

"You can't feel the resistance in the stick to know that you must trim the aircraft" You can't feel it on a big Airbus or Boing either, unless using force-feedback in exactly the same manner a simulator would do.
Wrong, at least in the case of a BoEing 737, 757, or 767. They use hydraulic feedback for roll and yaw, and actual control cabling for pitch.
"You can't look around out of the windows and scan for traffic" You can hardly do it on a big Airbus or Boing either.

Yes, but when you do, it's pretty damned important, and scanning for traffic is a skill than is learned over time, and it's one where simulators simply do not have the visual resolution to accurately simulate it.

"Overall, it just isn't the same"
Overall, "flying" an Airbus 360 simulator is much much (as in orders of magnitud that much) "the real thing" than flying a real Cessna.

Since there is no such thing as an Airbus 360 aircraft, I suspect flying a simulator of one would be somewhat useless. And if the real Cessna you refer to is a Citation X, I'd say you really don't know much about aircraft.

"IMHO the safest way to train a pilot to fly large planes is the tried and true method of having them start on the smaller stuff, and then work their way up a step at a time to flying the big stuff."
I don't think anybody thinks otherwise. Probably hiring the pilot that were through all the process *and* had war-time fighter experience is even better but, you know, not everytime you can get the best you'd ask for. The point is if you can use simulators *more* without critically compromising security and in a more cost-effective fashion.

That's not really true - heavy transport mil flyers are considered to have the most relevant and useful experience. And the majority of time in airline training, most of the flight time is already in a sim. Frequently, the first flight in the actual aircraft a new F/O does is with a planeload of paying customers. But it's been found that the more training done in a sim, the longer the new F/O has to be in the IOE process - flying with a 'special' Captain, who is training them at the same time as they are flying the line. There are limits to what simulators can do. Not surprisingly, this process is being championed by third-world airlines who want to cut costs or don't pay good wages so they can't attract enough qualified applicants. They may not be the most impartial judges of what is safe and what is not.

Re:Why not? (1)

iocat (572367) | more than 6 years ago | (#17288694)

I think there's a certain amount of hecticness and pressure that can't be simulated, but the simulators are pretty good for important stuff. I obviously didn't read TFA (I mean... it's slashdot, right?), but my guess is they wouldn't do ALL simulation, and would need to do some shakeout flights before they were flight qualified.

Re:Why not? (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289750)

"the second is, is it that much cheaper to use a simulator than small craft? i'm not sure what the slowdown is there. unless maybe a single instructor can watch over more than one student at a time in simulators. if the pros think this training is important, i would give that a lot of weight."

The good simulators cost far more than a small craft, to the point where I believe many airlines rent sim time from larger airlines because they can't afford to buy their own sims.

The sims are more expensive, but the theory here is most likely a combination of:
1) High-end sims are more representative of a large aircraft than a small aircraft.
2) High-end sims are far safer

Re:Why not? (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 6 years ago | (#17291754)

"The good simulators cost far more than a small craft"

But the operation costs are much much lower and you can "take out" much much more "flying" hours from a given simulator than from a real plane (a simulator can "fly" almost 24x7 while a Cessna is far from it).

Of course your two points are *big* advantages too.

Re:Why not? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17288928)

There isn't a great deal in common between a Cessna and an A380.

It may appear to be that way on the surface, but there's a lot more in common between a C-172 and an A380 than there is between a big rig and a bicycle, as you put it. The four fundamental forces of flight don't change when you fly a different type of airplane. Nor does the relationship between pitch, power, airspeed, and vertical speed; the relationship between stall speed, loading, and bank; the proper procedures for communicating with ATC; the relationship between turn radius, bank, and airspeed; and about a billion other things. It might surprise you to learn that Cessnas and airliners use the same systems to land in bad weather.

Re:Why not? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17288940)

There are many skills essential to flying that are better learned in a small single engine airplane than in a sim. A pilot "learns the ropes" by making real go/no-go decisions based on weather and equipment, dealing with air traffic control in busy airspace, negotiating clearances and routing with ATC, and in general learning how to be the "Pilot in Command".

The pressure involved in doing it "for real" when you and a few passengers (possibly family members) are in the air can't be duplicated in a sim. Simulators are great tools for practicing emergency procedures and systems management on complex jets but I wouldn't rely on them for building the kind of judgment and command experience that a captain of a passenger jet must possess.

Re:Why not? (1)

Bastian (66383) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289086)

I don't believe this new rule would say that copilots don't need any flight experience. You'd still need to have a lot of real cockpit time. It's just that right now you need to have a whole lot of cockpit time, and that's prohibitively expensive even in a wealthy country like the USA. Allowing people to trade some of that for simulators may actually be an improvement - while you can learn all the basics in a single engine plane and that should certainly be done, spending more of your hours getting used to the controls and handling characteristics of a jumbo jet in a simulator might actually make for co-pilots who have a more valuable body of experience when they go on their first real commercial flight.

Re:Why not? (1)

Starker_Kull (896770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17297422)

I don't believe this new rule would say that copilots don't need any flight experience. You'd still need to have a lot of real cockpit time. It's just that right now you need to have a whole lot of cockpit time, and that's prohibitively expensive even in a wealthy country like the USA. Allowing people to trade some of that for simulators may actually be an improvement - while you can learn all the basics in a single engine plane and that should certainly be done, spending more of your hours getting used to the controls and handling characteristics of a jumbo jet in a simulator might actually make for co-pilots who have a more valuable body of experience when they go on their first real commercial flight.

Problem is, the simulators that would have to be used would cost FAR more than renting a single-engine Cessna, and frankly a lot of time would be wasted. Simulators are already used to a very large extent in airline training - what this is proposing is the wholesale replacement of large amounts of actual flight time with much smaller amounts of simulator time - this is to save money, after all.

There are programs now where you can go from 0-time to 'qualified' airline pilot in about 2 years and with 1,500 hours of flight time where every hoop and checkride has been carefully optimized to maximize the passing rate and minimize the cost. These programs have usually been failures, in the sense that the pilots coming out of them have met every technical requirement and yet are terrible in the cockpit, making amateurish mistakes and having very poor judgement. Judgement tends to simply come with time in many different environments and where you are the PIC, with no backup or 'stop motion' button behind you. Let's just view this for what it is - a cost saving measure for airlines who don't want to pay for a qualified pilot - there are lots of unemployed ones in the world.

Oh - as for total cost, it's not much different than what you would pay to go to a good law school or medical school. It's just that most banks have the sense not to lend prospective airline pilots money since only 1 in 10 get to a job position where they would be likely to get the money to pay them back! ;)

Re:Why not? (1)

JoGlo (1000705) | more than 6 years ago | (#17292384)

There are some things that you can do much better (and more safely) in an airline sim than you could on the real thing, such as:

* Simulate in-air emergencies, and practice the measures required to get through them safely (engine out, lost wheels, wheels jammed, that sort of thing) so that if the pilot ever needs to address the emergency, he/she has the knowledge, and the instincts, to tackle it correctly

* Simulate events such as loss of power on take off / aborted take off, without the risk to a real plane

* Encounter wind sheer without dumping a plane on the ground

* Stalls and spins

* Emergency landings

* Bad weather / instrument flying

To name but a few. And I'd rather ride behind a co-pilot who has practised what hhe/she needs to do in an emergency, than behind someone who theoretically knows what to do, but who has never practised the manoeuvre because of air safety issues.

BTW, the silly idea that MS FSX (or earlier) could be used to train a terrorist to be an airline pilot is just that - a silly idea!

Re:Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17293716)

There is one crucial difference between a simulator and an A380 which is not different between a Cesna and an A380. That is that if you mess up you may actually die. We need to have pilots who do not panic in that situation. The simulator can teach you technical things. The Cesna can verify that you will actually use the things you know when you need to. Given that co-pilots are mostly important when either the captain is down or real things are going wrong (otherwise the computer can cope alone) then I'm not convinced that a simulator without a risk of death is the right solution.

Serious Training (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17288392)

It should be pointed out this isn't just Microsoft Flight Simulator they are playing.

The advanced trainee also plays X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter.

Re:Serious Training (1)

7Prime (871679) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289460)

Well, MFS isn't actually that bad, really, at least not for simple, rudimentary procedures. It's more the instruments that count anyway. Once you get into upper level commercial training, you're mostly reading displays only. In fact, quite a few simulators out there don't even have a "window", but simply instruments. Most of the actual control in a commercial plane is done through reading instruments, and as practice, many pilots prefer to train "in the dark". Flying isn't so much about "feel", as people think... hell, it's imposible to tell any kind of subtle movement on a 747, you think the pilots are going on instinct? My uncle logs hundreds of hours on various instrument-only simulators to train in procedures for all kinds of situations. Most of flying is simply knowing "what's going on" and then "what to do about it", and even simple PC simulators can help train quick procedural thinking, and reactions to certain phenominon. Of course, hydraulic, standalone simulators are the best, but they're fairly unnecessary for most training purposes.

Re:Serious Training (1)

huckda (398277) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289666)

I don't even know why this is "news"...
back in 1989 you got credit for hours logged on simulators for private pilot licenses...
who knows how long before that you were REQUIRED to learn in Sims for commercial pilots..

Re:Serious Training (1)

GreatDrok (684119) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289940)

"Well, MFS isn't actually that bad, really, at least not for simple, rudimentary procedures"

Simple is right. It is OK for learning how things look and what to do but it isn't like flying. I know because I am learning to fly and the first time I tried to do a landing in MSFS I put the thing down perfectly. I'm not bad but nowhere near that good. At home I use Xplane which I find more realistic because it is a heck of a lot harder to do a good landing and it flies in a way which is pretty realistic. I also use FlightGear because it has some features (such as mouselook in a 3D cockpit) which make it better for circuit training than Xplane.

The main thing is to treat it as much like the real situation as possible. I have a CH yoke and pedals and I have set up both FG and Xplane to be as close to the Cessna 150 I fly in reality as possible with my limited equipment. When I prepare for takeoff I go through the checklist and do all of them just as I do in the real thing. Practicing stuff like this on even a basic sim is far cheaper than doing it in real life and just as effective.

Of course, it isn't the real thing no matter how good the sim. I have my first solo coming up (instructor said I was up to it) and no amount of sim time will prepare me for the reality of sitting in the cockpit on my own for the first time as I taxi out onto the runway......

Re:Serious Training (1)

Fozzyuw (950608) | more than 6 years ago | (#17291150)

It should be pointed out this isn't just Microsoft Flight Simulator they are playing.
The advanced trainee also plays X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter.

I hear that the pilots like to play Flight Sim and XvTie while flying internationally. Or was that just a dream I had?

well (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#17288396)

i can't figure out how much harder it would be to get them time in smaller aircraft. they don't have to actually go out and practice in a large passenger jet now do they?

Re:well (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 6 years ago | (#17288780)

While the basics of flight are generally the same across most planes, a small cessna is going to handle way differently than a 747, which handles much more differently than a F-15.

The really great thing about simulators is that you can easily practice what to do when things go really wrong, without risking an actual aircraft and endangering people.

Re:well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17289762)

Even the smallest aircraft that would be half appropriate for learning to fly the large jets cost tens of millions to buy and at least 5 million per year to own and operate. Additionally, those aircraft can't be put anywhere at the press of a button, and bad wether and engine or other failures just aren't as easy to get by sitting in a real aircraft.

It might be fine (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 6 years ago | (#17288434)

The training for high-speed train conductors is mostly in simulators as far as I know. And that seems to be alright (though I do think commercial pilots have a tougher job on their hands, skill-wise). Granted, the first couple of *actual* flights might cause more anxiety if the co-pilot hasn't had to fly a real plane until there are passengers on board, but I wouldn't expect anything more serious than that. They're not the only ones in the cockpit anyway.
Though any trainee that breaks his Wiimote strap during simulation, I'd probably kick out of the program. That's simply unacceptable!

Re:It might be fine (1)

nczempin (822340) | more than 7 years ago | (#17298276)

The training for high-speed train conductors is mostly in simulators as far as I know.

Wow, the conductors really have a tough job, so obviously they need simulations before they can be let loose to check real passengers' tickets. They must be using some advanced AI techniques to get "aggravated customer" sim just right.

Re:It might be fine (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#17302172)

Heh my bad thanks for pointing out that I used 'conductor' rather than 'driver.' I don't mind the sarcasm ^_^

Plenty of sim training is already allowed (2, Informative)

pilot-programmer (822406) | more than 6 years ago | (#17288812)

The next time you are on an airline flight, think of this: The first time each of the pilots stepped into the cockpit of the type of jet you are in, they had already completed training for that type of aircraft in simulators.

As long as a pilot has jet experience, their type rating training for other jets will be entirely done in simulators. And most of us agree that the real thing is easier to fly than a simulator.

That being said, a large amount of experience in real world flying is still invaluable. It is true that on most airline flights the autopilot handles more than 90% of the flying, but pilots still need the experience learning weather and the atmosphere. Here in the US a pilot is required to have 1,500 hours of flight time before becoming eligible for their air transport pilot certificate, and I think that number is appropriate.

Re:Plenty of sim training is already allowed (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289468)

It is true that on most airline flights the autopilot handles more than 90% of the flying, but pilots still need the experience learning weather and the atmosphere.
90% of your training is for stuff that happens 1% of the time.

Also, modern autopilots can pretty much take-off and land the plane in good weather. Pilots are kept in the loop because nobody wants a computer glitch to kill several hundred people.

Plenty of grief training is already allowed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17293676)

"Pilots are kept in the loop because nobody wants a computer glitch to kill several hundred people."

Yeah! That's better left to the pilot.

in WoW terms. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17290650)

Here in the US a pilot is required to have 1,500 hours of flight time

1500 hours doing anything is nothing to sneeze at. To put that into perspective for games.slashdot readers, it's the same as typing /played in WoW and getting 62 days, 12 hours, 0 minutes.

Re:in WoW terms. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17301090)

No one is going to fly 24/7 for 62-1/2 days straight.

To put it into more realistic terms, 1500 hours is equivalent to approximately 1 year of flying. YMMV.

It's three(3) 10 hour days per week for 50 weeks. (30*50=1500) 30 hours of actuall flying /per week is a realistic number on many flight plans. It's three(3) twelve(12) hour work days with 4 days off each week. It's similar to what doctors do. 50 weeks of work + 2+ weeks of vacation ~= 1 year.

Bad idea (1)

jfp51 (64421) | more than 6 years ago | (#17288836)

I am not a professional pilot, but I frequent aviation boards and most everyone (except the accountants) are against this training. Just imagine an incapacited captain in a 747, with this co-pilot only trained in a sim having to do a no visibility, one engine out go around in a bad african airport. Long thread but worth reading for those interested at http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?t=2441 14 [pprune.org]

Re:Bad idea (1)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289208)

But doesn't that argue /for/ simulator training? I could be wrong, but I'm guessing they don't do live aircraft training of scenarios like that, whereas it's much easier to simulate such a situation.

Re:Bad idea (1)

AlphaOne (209575) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289670)

But doesn't that argue /for/ simulator training? I could be wrong, but I'm guessing they don't do live aircraft training of scenarios like that, whereas it's much easier to simulate such a situation.

No. Although simulators have become very realistic in recent years, they still don't accurately model how an aircraft will behave in various situations. Simulators represent an idealistic model of a particular airframe, engine, and environment. In the real world, every aircraft behaves slightly differently, even identical models.

Simulators are useful because they train you to react to an emergency with the proper instinctive responses to lead you into a situation to where you can fly the plane. They certainly don't, and aren't expected to, exactly replicate how the aircraft will handle or behave in that particular situation because you're generally simulating things you wouldn't do in a real aircraft anyway.

Only time and experience will give you the "feel" of an aircraft such that you'll immediately know when something's not quite right or when you're pushing the very edge of performance. A simulator certainly helps with some of the sights, sounds, and feels, but again, they're based on an idealistic model and don't necessarily translate into how a real aircraft will behave.

Re:Bad idea (1)

Samedi1971 (194079) | more than 6 years ago | (#17293970)

While you bring up a good point, it's irrelevant in this discussion as the pilot-in-command could be flying the aircraft type for the very first time if he just completed training and checking in a level D certified flight simulator. With the proper starting credentials (multi-engine cert, minimum number of flight hours, etc), you can step into a 747 with hundreds of passengers and fly left seat without ever having flown a real plane that size.

The fidelity of simulators nowadays are excellent, especially the common airliners that keep getting cranked out. Knowing the "feel" of the big jets isn't nearly as important these days as learning proper cockpit managment.

Re:Bad idea (1)

AlphaOne (209575) | more than 7 years ago | (#17297028)

With the proper starting credentials (multi-engine cert, minimum number of flight hours, etc), you can step into a 747 with hundreds of passengers and fly left seat without ever having flown a real plane that size.

I disagree.

While you might think a 747 is similar enough to a CRJ that you could just go from one to the other, they're completely different aircraft with completely different systems, methodology, and handling characteristics.

I've yet to meet a pilot who felt the simulator handled anything like the real aircraft... in fact, most simulators have strange quirks that check pilots simply work around during training.

A notable example is the Cessna Caravan level D simulator... it is nearly impossible to land with ten degrees of flaps yet the real aircraft handles beautifully in that configuration. Is it close? Yeah. Is it spot on? No.

Will a first officer who has done 90% of his training in a simulator be dangerous? No. Will he have the same subconscious awareness of how the aircraft is doing as a first officer who has done 100% of their training in a real aircraft? No.

That same first officer is going to sit right seat for far longer than his real-aircraft trained counterpart because it's not all about learning procedure... there's truly a finesse to flying these machines well.

Re:Bad idea (1)

Samedi1971 (194079) | more than 7 years ago | (#17301286)

With the proper starting credentials (multi-engine cert, minimum number of flight hours, etc), you can step into a 747 with hundreds of passengers and fly left seat without ever having flown a real plane that size.

I disagree.


That wasn't an opinion. It's official FAA policy.

Re:Bad idea (2, Insightful)

Starker_Kull (896770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17297530)

The fidelity of simulators nowadays are excellent, especially the common airliners that keep getting cranked out. Knowing the "feel" of the big jets isn't nearly as important these days as learning proper cockpit managment.

And that is EXACTLY what simulators are the worst at doing. Proper cockpit management is impossible to get in a simulator, because something is always going wrong, because that's what you'll be tested on, and that's what you come to expect in a simulator. You go through engine failures RIGHT at v1, single engine approaches with a missed (because the weather mysteriously just got a little worse than the atis right at mins), etc., etc. In real life, you don't have engine failures every day - you have them once a career, if you are unlucky. These aren't the things killing people any more. Misunderstanding a landing clearance, setting up for the wrong approach, dealing with fast moving line of thunderstorms, and doing all this while you are TIRED or distracted or simply not expecting something does. Look up what the last ten commercial transport accidents have been about.

Just a few weeks ago, a 757 landed in EWR on a taxiway parellel to a runway. It vanished from the news quickly because no other airplanes happened to be on that taxiway. If there was, 200+ people would have been smoked, and you would still be hearing about it, along with all sorts of great ideas how to make sure it never happens again - but the crew happened to be lucky that day. There are actually quite a long list of reasons why it occured, which nobody had ever trained for before, because it was a unlikely set of circumstances. The F/O had been in the aircraft less than a year, and it was the Captain's first flight off IOE. Lack of experience in the aircraft, the REAL aircraft, definitely was a contributing factor there. Proper cockpit management is not an easy, programmatic thing, because it's all about trying to allow not only for the unexpected, but for your own, inevitable mistakes. The only way to get experience in making mistakes is to have lots of time to make them, in an environment where you are not expecting to make them. In other words, in day-to-day flying. I think that the fidelity of the simulators doesn't matter much where this kind of experience is concerned.

*most*, not all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17289304)

If you RTFA (or even TFS) you would see that nobody is talking about copilots having *no* real plane experience, only that a much larger portion of the flight hours could be on sims. TFA says this would work out to "about 70 hours of flight time and 170 hours in simulators".

Also, the odds of winding up in a scenario of the sort you describe are pretty darn slim. Still, given that the co-pilot will have had many hours of actual flight experiences, plus even more training in a sim that could actually give him simulated experience in "no visibility, one engine out go around in a bad african airport" scenarios (no real flight training will hopefully put you in such a situation), I don't think your worst case scenario is actually all that catastrophic.

Re:Bad idea (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 6 years ago | (#17291928)

"Just imagine an incapacited captain in a 747, with this co-pilot only trained in a sim having to do a no visibility, one engine out go around in a bad african airport."

Do you really mind it would be better a rooky co-pilot with only few hours of CAVOK flying in the real thing and no simulator?

It would be a tough situation anyway, but I know for sure that under these circumnstances I'd prefer the simulator-trained guy 100 times out of 100.

Re:Bad idea (1)

jskiff (746548) | more than 6 years ago | (#17292128)

"Just imagine an incapacited captain in a 747, with this co-pilot only trained in a sim having to do a no visibility, one engine out go around in a bad african airport."

I think you'd have a really tough time going around in a 747 with just one engine. 3 yes. Perhaps even 2 (if you hadn't extended the flaps all the way). But 1? No chance.

At any rate, there's nothing wrong with training in the sims. It's not an exact replica of the real thing, but you can go through situations that you wouldn't do in real life (engine out with a heavy crosswind, etc). Also, I hope that all airlines don't go the way of some carriers that choose for their pilots to be autopilot jockeys rather than aviators.

I flew into Sea-Tac Thursday night during the wrath of God storm we had that night (winds 220 at 30 knots, gusting to 47 knots with moderate turbulence ground-3000 ft when we landed), and let me tell you: the captain had two big brass ones. I was very thankful that the people in the pointy end of the airplane knew how to fly the plane, not just manage it.

Re:Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17300356)

He said "one engine out", i.e. three good ones remaining.

Re:Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17296382)

Well, I'd be pissed at the airline for not maintaining the jet, and glad the co-pilot was simulator-trained. It seems likely to me that a far wider variety of failures could be simulated more easily in a simulated 747 compared to flying a real one.

It's good for most things, but NOT landings. (1)

Banner (17158) | more than 6 years ago | (#17288870)

I've used the sims back in my AF days. They're really not that bad and can give you a lot of experience in dealing with the kinds of things you won't usually experience, as well as helping you get used to the more mundane tasks involved with flying. The only major differences are that:
1) Landings in a simulator are not really like real landings. They're close, but not exact. (This is because simulators are limited in the amount of force they can apply).
2) Your sensation of Aircraft motion in certain flight regimes is not the same. This is because a simulator cannot simulate actual centrifical effects (G Forces) or weightlessness which can cause confusion in a pilot.

Of course this is in the better simulators. Cheaper simulators have even more limitations. But even the expensive ones are still cheaper than an actual aircraft for training.

Re:It's good for most things, but NOT landings. (1)

EQ (28372) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289416)

Very true - same goes for turns and such, where your body give you clues that you can take in some situations, and must ignore in others. I don't see how they can reduce the stick time a whole lot in favor of a sim. You can learn to fly th instruments in a sim, but not fly the plane. Especially true in bad situations and in interface situations (takeoff landing) as you point out.

how many drops is this for you lieutenant? (4, Funny)

limber (545551) | more than 6 years ago | (#17288882)

Ripley: How many drops is this for you, Lieutenant?
Gorman: Thirty eight... simulated.
Vasquez: How many *combat* drops?
Gorman: Uh, two. Including this one.
Drake: Shit.
Hudson: Oh, man...

Better than real (4, Insightful)

linuxwrangler (582055) | more than 6 years ago | (#17288982)

I only fly small planes and gliders but I have several friends who are airline pilots/captains and read a lot on the subject. Many think that the simulator is actually better than the real thing for several reasons:

1. Better emergency training. The simulator operator can throw all sorts of things at you that you would never risk in a real airplane like, say, critical engine flameout with full load, gusty crosswinds and high density-altitude. And even if you were willing to take such risks on a real plane, you would have to wait for the right circumstances and would still spend most of your time flying to get ready for the next exercise. In a sim, a push of the button and you're back at the end of the runway waiting for the next disaster to be hurled at you by the torturer, er, instructor.

2. Emphasis on critical phases of flight. You can repeatedly train for tough instrument approaches, difficult holding patterns, etc. without wasting time boring holes in the sky.

3. Fly anywhere. Flying international? How about training for the hellish approach to the Hong Kong airport (well, the old one anyway, should be better now) in the sim?

I remember reading a story about a 747 crew grumbling about the treatment they received in the sim when the instructor threw a series of near-impossible scenarios at them. Shortly thereafter they had something similar to the above happen. Full load, hot day, hill off the departure end of the runway and the gusty crosswinds flamed an engine at rotation. Instantly training kicked in and the engineer threw the dump switches, pilot configured for the situation. They disappeared over the hill and the tower alerted rescue but then they reappeared as they came back for the emergency landing. They missed crashing on the hill by a few feet.

While I think that training in a real aircraft should still be in the curriculum, I would personally step on a plane piloted by a crew with 1500 hours of rigorous sim time before I would get on one piloted by a crew who got the required hours teaching kids in a 152 and then took a type-rating course. I'm not suggesting that the latter are not competant - but the former will be better trained for airline operations.

Re:Better than real (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17297522)

The thing is, there's a big psychological difference between a simulator and real flight. Only actually flying gives you certain kinds of confidence and routine.

Currently, co-pilots need to have lots of actual flight experience in addition to simulator training for the kind of plane they're going to be flying, including extreme situations. I think this is a good thing.

Someone with 1000+ hours of actual flight experience will also be likely to have experienced unusual circumstances (although hopefully not actual emergencies). Preferably experience other than training flights; airlines welcome pilots who have all their ratings and have worked other kinds of flying jobs for a while (e.g. as a flight instructor).

Of course by the time a co-pilot becomes a pilot-in-command, they have lots of actual flight experience regardless of what they did to become a co-pilot.

Re:Better than real (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17301456)

I can see simulator use as a good supplement to train and better prepare for emergencies. Pilots should still learn to land a real airplane. I've played with flight simulators plenty of times and I could probably fly a plane, in fact, someone's let me take over the controls for an hour, but landing a plane is a completely different matter. I could probably get a small plane to take off and fly it around for an hour, but I doubt that I could make a safe landing yet. Even on very realistic flight simulators, landing a plane is the toughest part.

I've also been on flights where I've seen experienced pilots do extaordinary landings, such as a 737-Combo landing on an small 4 mile wide island where half the runway was under repair. He landed on the last third of the runway. That was one hard landing. The 737 and DC-10's were the largest aircrafts certified to land there, but that's when they have a full runway. Most runways are longer than necessary to allow for emergencies.

If they were to allow for simulator training to replace actual flight hours, they should have additional flight categories of number of real take-offs and number of real landings, with the number of real landings being more important. I can see the time in the air as just baby-sitting the auto-pilot, and a simulator can easily reproduce that.

I think not. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#17288992)

My answer would be - No.

Background: I've actually held a job where some training was done in simulators and some was OJT - and simulators, while valuable, simply aren't as good as experience in the real thing.

Didn't Lufthansa Starlines do this before (1)

caseih (160668) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289032)

I remember hearing once that Lufthansa co-pilots are trained in this exact fashion. It's very logical. In fact you can train better in a sim than in real life as you can safely simulate more extreme conditions and practice situations that you just can't create on demand in a real airplane. Flying an airplane isn't that difficult under normal circumstances. But each aircraft has its own subtle nuances that can lead to pilots getting into very dangerous circumstances that are hard to prepare for in any other fashion. Plus the cost of simulators has really dropped. For example, even if pilots were required to make several take-offs and landings in the simulator for every airport they fly in and out of, that would familiarize the pilots with the runways and maybe avoid the kind of accident we saw in Kentucky earlier this year. Even though the taxiways had recently changed, just being familiar with the what the horizon looks like, etc, might have clued them in sooner that they were on the wrong runway.

Ab initio pilot training (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289192)

Commercial pilot training is changing drastically. Traditionally, pilots had to have considerable flying experience before moving into the commercial world. Most airline pilots used to be ex-military, and airlines wouldn't even consider training anyone with less than a thousand hours of flight time.

Now there's "ab initio training" [aopa.org] - no previous flight experience required. This is still rare in the United States, which has a big pool of private and military pilots, but outside the US, it's becoming more common. Even Lufthansa is doing it.

Then there's ab initio first officer training. This trains co-pilots. Since, in larger aircraft, the first officer job involves more talking to the aircraft computers and not much stick and rudder work, there's a trend to "glass cockpit all the way" [cabair.com] flight training. Traditional flight training starts out with aircraft equipped with minimal instruments, and the new pilot is taught to get an intutive, "seat of the pants" sense of flight control. That's changing; today, many of the small trainers have full glass cockpits. Some people think this is bad. Others think it inevitable.

Modern autopilots can manage most of the flight today, including landing. It's common to fly the autopilot, commanding altitudes and headings, rather than the airplane. Most large aircraft landings are still manual, but in low visibility conditions, only the autopilot can land the plane. The day may be coming when, if you're off autopilot on a commercial flight, you declare an emergency.

Re:Ab initio pilot training (1)

iogan (943605) | more than 6 years ago | (#17290218)

Traditional flight training starts out with aircraft equipped with minimal instruments, and the new pilot is taught to get an intutive, "seat of the pants" sense of flight control. That's changing; today, many of the small trainers have full glass cockpits. Some people think this is bad. Others think it inevitable.


I've flown both with the "minimal instruments" you mention and glass cockpits, and at least in my opinion the glass cockpits are a lot more minimal. Everything is in one place, all the information you need is presented as and when you need it. Traditional flight instrumentation is scattered all over the place, and is much harder to incorporate into one coherent picture.

Its been going on for years... (1)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289636)


Since the 1980's and the adevent of decent CGI Graphics (from companies like Evans & Sutherland) and very sophisticated 6 axis motion systems, bodies like the CAA and FAA have regarded hours in the Simulator as Flying Hours.

Sometimes, I refer to proper flight sims as the ultimate games console.

However there is no way that things like Microsoft Flight Simulator can reproduce the experiences of a real moving full size cockpit when you have a sudden decompression.

IMHO, anything less would not get approved.

OT Disclaimer
I first flew a Phantom F4 IN 1969. An F4 Simulator that is... I was 16 years old and an apprentice engineer.
Six years later I got a Degree in Control Engineering.

False sense of security (2, Interesting)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289752)

Based on my own experience, and those of friends who would rather pay $$ for instrument flightsim training rather than $$$ for actual training (for getting your instrument rating, you're already allowed to use some flight sims for accredited training) flightsims are incredibly useful. Even MS Flightsim does a fantastic job of getting you used to using the equipment (*if* they have it simulated: this isn't going to teach you how to use a Garmin 530, frinstance.) You get a feel for technique and can get great at translating radio calls into establishing holding patterns and stuff like that. Even with tricky stuff, like flying ground-reference maneuvers with a strong crosswind, flightsims are an amazing help.

And then you go to land in a real plane, having spent many hours in flightsims, and boy does it show. My instructor said I flew like a professional pilot with 500 hours of time until that last thirty seconds on final, when I flew like I'd just solo'ed. (Well, I *had*, basically.)

The point being: if you use a training aid it could mask real-world inadequacy, and a falsely confident pilot rarely lives to figure out what went hideously awry.

With all that said, if it's the copilot learning this way and the pilot's the PIC on final, or has quick access to the controls, it's probably a great idea, and it's sure way cheaper and way less risk on students (at any level) and their instructors.

Top Ten Reasons For Co-Pilots to Sim Train (3, Funny)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289950)

1. Hot woohoo in the virtual cabin!
2. Avoids those messy in-air collisions
3. Who needs to land anyway, right FAA?
4. Easier to cuss out the trainer
5. HaXX0RZ can upgrade your Piper Cub for Gladiatorial Combat
6. Saves on jet fuel that funds terrorism
7. Prepares you for real-world situations like having Hot Coffee running on your Flight Simulator
8. No distractions from Flight Attendants (see the BBC show ...)
9. The food is better
10. Electrons don't scream when they crash and burn.

Re:Top Ten Reasons For Co-Pilots to Sim Train (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 6 years ago | (#17290826)

When I die, I want to go like my father did. Peacefully, sleeping. Not screaming and panicing like all of the passengers he was flying to Duluth....

Re:Top Ten Reasons For Co-Pilots to Sim Train (1)

Bitsy Boffin (110334) | more than 7 years ago | (#17296286)

I wish I had mod points. You owe me one keyboard.

Nope, not MSFS... (1)

caveat (26803) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289982)

It should be pointed out this isn't just Microsoft Flight Simulator they are playing. These are motion-controlled capsules that simulate the realities of an aircraft's movement.

They're playing X-Plane! Seriously [x-plane.com] - you do need full-motion sim hardware, but the software is $50 OTS.

Disclaimer, yes, I do own a copy.

Cynically Speaking (1)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 6 years ago | (#17289988)

Since all they do is program the autopilot anyways, who cares?

I have very good friends who are airline pilots and they lament the move from stick and rudder to full autopilot. Airbus' are the worst offenders of this, but Boeing is catching up. And Co-Pilot is a dated term, BTW. Its First Officer now and, if the crew is using good Cockpit Resource Management, then the First Officer does a lot more than sit and twiddle their thumbs, like it was 30-40 years ago.

My life is now complete! (1)

CyberLord Seven (525173) | more than 6 years ago | (#17291298)

A submission of mine has been accepted. :)

Thank you, Zonk!

Ummm. Is there any money to be had?

Nothing New... (1)

kstatefan40 (922281) | more than 6 years ago | (#17292466)

My father is an instructor at FlightSafety International - one of the most well-respected flight training centers in the world - and teaches on Piston model Beech / Ratheon aircraft. Pilots in the jet programs are - and have been for years - trained in simulators only. The simulators are so realistic that a corporate jet license does not even require that the pilot have been in a jet, as long as the proper training was conducted in a simulator. I'm not talking about 747s or stuff like that, I am talking about Citations, and King Airs. (small airplanes, in my opinion.)

The reason is: jets are WAY too expensive to operate to have training done in them.

Virtual Mile High Club (1)

SimHacker (180785) | more than 6 years ago | (#17293242)

A friend of mine (who will remain anonymous) works with the flight simulators at NASA Ames, the ones on the big hydraulic arms [nasa.gov] , which are FAA certified for pilots to qualify as 747 flying time.

I asked him if they were also certified to qualify for the Mile High Club (if the simulator's rock'n, don't come a knock'n). He said of course they were, but it was a good idea to turn off all the cameras, because otherwise everything you do in them [nasa.gov] is recorded [nasa.gov] .

They've got all kinds of programs for simulating any kind of air disaster, and there's nothing more exciting than "oh my god we're about to die" sex!

-Don

The Real Choice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17293400)

The people complaining about co-pilots being allowed to gain flight time in the simulator are misunderstanding the alternatives.

The choice isn't between a co-pilot with flight hours in a real plane, and an equal co-pilot with flight hours in a simulator. The choice is between a co-pilot with flight hours in a simulator, working a reasonable schedule, and a co-pilot who has flight hours in a normal plane but is working way too many hours because it is too expensive to train enough co-pilots for all the flights... Or maybe a choice between having co-pilots who trained in a simulator, and co-pilots who are falsifying their number of real flight hours.
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>