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Phase 4: Simulator Training

This post was written after I finished initial simulator training on the 757/767 at a major airline.

After procedures training comes the full motion simulator training. The full motion simulators are pretty cool, and this phase of training is treated like the real thing- from wearing headsets, to getting clearances, to taxiing to and from the runway, etc. This is the meaty portion of training. From my experience, this phase is usually 2-3 weeks with a few days off somewhere in the middle of it all.

There are two different sets of training and then testing during this phase- the MV (Maneuvers Validation) and the LOE (Line Operational Evaluation). Each simulator session is 6 hours long- 2 hours of briefing, 2 hours of training, a quick break, then 2 more hours of training. By the end of these sessions, some relaxing is definitely needed. When I did the Brasilia training my time slot went from 4-10pm, with the CRJ I had 10am-4pm, and with the 757/767 and A220 my time slots were all over the place... anywhere from 8am to 10pm. I lucked out and never had to do a dreaded 4am or 12am time slots. Those ones are brutal!

This is a what a full motion sim looks like:

The maneuvers training and then testing typically consist of what most pilots are used to in their training and checkrides- stalls, slow flight, crosswind takeoffs and landings, wind shear recovery, TCAS TA/RAs (how to respond when there are aircraft approaching and could impede your flight path), approaches, missed approaches, go arounds, abnormal procedures, engine failures, fires, major emergencies, etc. The Maneuvers Validation feels like in instrument check ride with maybe a few more maneuvers specific to the airline or aircraft. The MV is a company check ride, not an FAA checkride, so if this portion is failed it won't be on the FAA record.

The maneuvers training always seems a bit stressful for me because I feel like I need to perform all the maneuvers perfectly the first time, though I am still learning the feel for the airplane. Stalls and slow flight, for example, are (hopefully) never practiced in the airplane, so I always feel a bit rusty when practicing and performing these maneuvers the first couple of times. I know, I shouldn't be so hard on myself, and I've always flown the maneuvers quite well, but this still isn't my favorite part of sim training.

The LOE training consists of LOFT (Line Oriented Flight Training) scenarios. There are usually between 3-5 LOFT simulator sessions to get pilots prepared for the LOE. These simulator sessions are treated like the real deal. As a crew, we will receive all of the paperwork that we would for a typical flight. We have to get the weather, the clearance, and set the aircraft up like we would while the passengers were boarding. The sim instructor is ATC, dispatch, maintenance, flight attendants, and anybody else we would speak with outside of the flight deck. Instead of flying circles in the air for hours, we fly from point A to point B. There will be minor maintenance issues, but usually nothing major.

This is the phase of the simulator training that I enjoy because it feels like a normal day of flying. One pilot will fly the first leg, then there will be a 15ish minute break, and the other pilot will fly the second leg. At the end of the LOFT scenarios comes the LOE. This is the FAA check ride. The simulator instructor cannot help in anyway- they are just there to run the sim. The LOE is similar to the LOFT scenarios, so it's really nothing to worry about. Work as a team, use the QRH (Quick Reference Handbook) when there are maintenance issues, and treat it like flying an airplane full of passengers.

Once the LOE is completed and passed, the simulator instructor will give the FAA Type Rating certificate. It feels so good to get the tiny piece of paper! I had a few days off after this to relax and rejuvenate before my IOEs (Initial Operating Experience) in the actual airplane. That post is for next time.

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