It is said that the better the training, the better the pilot. In 2000 Brandon Kanning, a student pilot at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood, Wash., realized the value of his training when the throttle cable disconnected in his Cessna 172.
“I was on my third solo flight, at low altitude and too far from the airport to glide in,” he recalled. “My second choice was to land on a city street and that’s what I did. My good training allowed me to keep things together and handle it like any normal aspect of flying.”
Fast forward 10 years. Kanning is now a CFI, as well as a co-pilot on a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 for Horizon Airlines. Recently he and Rod Wetherbee, flight student turned business partner, became the owners of Safety in Motion (SIM) Flight Center, located at Pierce County-Thun Field (PLU) in Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle. The company uses a full-motion Redbird FMX Flight Simulator. It is one of only two full-motions simulators in Washington state, and the only one at a private company.
ka The Red Bird FMX is a moveable cab atop a hydraulic frame. The wrap-around computer screens combined with the movement mimic the sensations of flight, so much so in fact that seat-belts are required.
The pilot receiving training sits in the left seat. The instructor sits to the right and uses a laptop to program training scenarios. The instructor does not have a set of controls, so it is incumbent on the student to fly the “aircraft,” including in emergencies.
“About 30% to 50% of the training pilots do is handling emergencies,” said Kanning. “The Redbird is very well suited for teaching procedures for handling emergencies because you can do things in the simulator, like engine failure for example, and let the student take it all the way to the ground, which you would never do unless you were right over a runway. It can teach them to think outside the box.”
Kanning became interested in the Redbird when Wetherbee was looking for training in G1000 glass cockpit technology. He had flown as a teen, and when he decided to return to flying some 16 years later he discovered that the avionics had changed.
“I wanted experience on Garmin’s new stuff, the G1000, and I had to go to Flight Safety in Wichita for training,” he said. “When I came home I told Brandon I was frustrated because I had to go out of town to get recurrent on advanced avionics.”
The discussions evolved into the creation of the Sim Flight Center. “This facility allows pilots to get in and experience flying situations that they don’t want to experience in real life,” said Wetherbee. “It can make those situations and the responses to them second nature so they know what to do and are not second-guessing themselves. It takes the panic factor out and, best of all, you can pause the sim. There are no do-overs in airplanes, after all.”
The CFI can put the pilot receiving instruction into virtually any scenario from icing conditions, hard IFR, running out of fuel or takeoffs and landings with a tailwind — all things a good CFI would never do to a student pilot.
The simulator can be configured to the G1000 or round gauges by means of an acrylic overlay panel. It can also be set up to be a single or twin engine airplane with the click of a few keys on a computer and two screws on a throttle quadrant. Activation of the sim is easy, pressing four buttons in sequence and plugging in a USB key.
“One of our criteria when we designed these sims was to make it inherently easy to use,” Charlie Gregoire, vice president at Redbird Flight Simulations. “We made it so that you can hop in the sim with a student and you won’t have 15 to 20 minutes of set up time before you begin the session.”
The Redbird is FAA approved, and can be used to meet some of the training and experience requirements as outlined under Part 61 of the FARs.
Another benefit of the Redbird FMX is that it can introduce the world of flight to someone who is apprehensive about getting in a small airplane.
“You never leave the ground, it’s perfectly safe,” said Kanning. “It’s designed to train pilots but that’s not to say that we couldn’t put someone in there and help them take that first step without even leaving the ground.”
The Redbird FMX rents for $85 an hour. Block-time, which has a slightly reduced rate, is also available.
For more information: SimFlightCenter.com