Pilots love to fly new equipment, and I’m no different. Back when I was able fly GA all the time, I was the first one on the ramp asking for a ride in whatever new piece of metal or plastic would show up. It didn’t matter if it was a homebuilt or factory-made, because I just wanted to fly it. I would beg and plead—usually to no avail, but I occasionally got lucky and got try out a new—to me, anyway—kind of airplane.
When I went to the airlines, I had no idea just how different learning a new airplane really was when it came to the heavier iron. “Here’s the key, there’s the fuel selector, and don’t forget to turn of the master switch” was the philosophy of the past. Airliners and corporate aircraft are a whole different breed when it comes to learning the airplane.
A typical jet has up to 18 different systems. Some are very elaborate and complex (electrics), and others are very simple (lights). In between is the gamut of hydraulics, flight controls, the autopilot and pressurization, and a dozen more. Buried within those systems are details and numbers and pressures and volumes and degrees and more details. Nobody can just remember it all, and some pilots have certain systems in which they excel.
I learned a long-time ago that every memory aide I can use will come in handy. In addition to the standard flash cards and notes from class, it’s easy to come up with memory joggers and acronyms to help you out. Multiengine pilots are familiar with the “dead foot, dead engine,” or “working foot, working engine” to recognize which engine has failed. On the CRJ, I struggle at first to differentiate between the number of leak detectors on the 10th and 14th stage bleeds. One bleed system had two, and the other had one…and then it hit me: a Cessna “2-10” and a Commander “1-14.” The 10th stage had 2 and the 14th had 1. Piece of cake!
Some airplanes have odd numbers on the left and even numbers on the right. An easy way to remember is that “the captains are odd.” The ERJ has a rudder over-boost protection system. One hydraulic system is supposed to stop contributing to rudder control over 135 knots, and that system happens to be the number one system. To help me remember it, I just say that the number one would be the captain, and after 135 knots, he takes a nap.
Electrics can be a challenge as well, especially if you have to remember which busses power what equipment. Often there is a central bus, and it isn’t so much that the central bus powers much of anything as it is between two different sides of an electrical system. It helps me think of it as a train station: It controls the flow of electricity based on the demands of the system.
It doesn’t much matter how you finally imprint certain things in your head, so long as you do it. I’ve used baseball and football analogies, dirty jokes, you name it. Whatever works, works. And when a good one comes along, it usually catches on. My 2-10/1-14 aide was one a number of pilots thanked me for many times over the years.
Learning new equipment is a challenge, and you need to use all the resources at your disposal. Just hope that you can remember them all!—Chip Wright