Tom Horne

Two pilots, please!

May 11, 2010 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

In today’s Pilatus PC-12 NG training session I flew three approaches, and actually got to work the Apex avionics while the “airplane” was moving! The procedures are becoming more familiar, but I have a few day-two training observations. One is that the autopilot/flight control system should be made a no-go item. Anyone hoping to successfully fly this airplane in IMC simply cannot afford to be without George. The other is to NEVER try to program the Apex (or any other set of boxes) while flying down a final approach course, lest the avionics sidetrack you. How do I know? At 500 feet agl I realized I forgot to lower the landing gear….arrrgh. Thanks, EGPWS.

Also, I’m thinking that two pilots would be best. One to fly, the other to work the avionics. The more I think about it, the more I wonder what heavy IMC, a missed approach, a re-routing–at night and near high terrain–might be like for a solo newbie Apex driver. If you aren’t really, really good friends with your wonder-boxes they can work against you, in spite of their vast capabilities.

Lastly, I’ve come up with a new angle on the tried-and-true “aviate, navigate, communicate” triumvirate. Let’s change that to “aviate, aviate, aviate.”

5 Responses to “Two pilots, please!”

  1. Richard Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. I’m an ATP, CFII, MEI with over 5800 hours total including more than 1000 turbine and over 3000 multiengine. I’ve flown & taught the GARMIN 430, 530 & G1000, the Collins Pro Line series and others, and the Honeywell is the most counter-intuitive, labor intensive cockpit system I have ever seen. I’ve got about 150 hours flying the NG over Africa to date, & I’m glad we have two pilots at all times. Additionally, the PC-12 cockpit seats are still a tremendous pain in the ass, literally speaking.

  2. Rich Says:

    “Also, I’m thinking that two pilots would be best. One to fly, the other to work the avionics. The more I think about it, the more I wonder what heavy IMC, a missed approach, a re-routing–at night and near high terrain–might be like for a solo newbie”

    Your thoughts above should not be unique to this aircraft/avionics situation or a “newbie”. If you can’t do all of the above by yourself in those conditions, you shouldn’t be doing hard/night IFR by yourself…too few people really self-assess accurately. Throw in fatigue and the fact that some part of the airplane (auto-pilot, “wonder boxes” or just your own buffoonery…and I admit to that myself!) craps out at the worst possible moment and you may not survive the experience. If you do elect to rely on a co-pilot, do yourself a favor and make sure they are a capable and well briefed asset, not just another distraction.

  3. Dave Says:

    Amen to that! As an instructor on the B767, I so frequently see crews (newcomers and veterans alike) wrestling with the avionics – especially the FMS – that I’m reminded daily of a quote from Flight Safety Digest a while back:

    “Unfortunately, automation has neither removed human error nor simplified the pilot’s job. Instead, engineers have used the power of the computer revolution to cram more functions into smaller boxes, more information onto displays, and more options into flight management systems than the average pilot has any hope of mastering.”

    Pros & cons to everything, it seems…

  4. Brian Says:

    Hard work was associated with my initial the transition to the FMS yet 6 months later it was no problem. Why? I came to the conclusion that it was the course structure and instructors. This is a by-product of minimum downtime and the reduced pay packet syndrome in the airline situation.

    Frequently it seems to be case of placing ticks in boxes rather than having a good understanding of a particular course module before moving on to the next course module. This building block approach to acquiring new skills and knowledge is not rocket science. This all points to ensuring you pick an instructor with good track record with his/her students.

  5. Wayne Justinen Says:

    Whether we are talking Honeywell, Smith, Garmin, or whatever it is not possible to place too much emphasis on the best piece of advice I have yet seen. The Garmin G1000 Pilot’s Guide contains the following:

    WARNING: For safety reasons, G1000 operational procedures must be learned on the ground.

    It matters not whether there are 1 or a hundred crewmembers, nor does it matter what equipment is serviceable; If you haven’t learned the procedures, you have no business operating the equipment in the air.

    Let’s stop pretending that a cockpit is an appropriate classroom setting.

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