Flying an airplane you’ve never flown before is a lot like cooking in someone else’s kitchen. Although you know how to work a stove, the microwave can present a challenge and finding the most basic of implements can be time consuming and frustrating.
Now add the dimension of being at 3,000 feet above the earth and hurtling through space at 120 knots. Before you attempt to go it alone, it’s a good idea to get some training in that “kitchen.”
Most pilots — and their insurance companies — recognize the value of transition training when moving from one model of aircraft to another. However, it can be a challenge to find someone who can legally provide that training, especially when you intend to fly an experimental aircraft.
The owners of Bearhawk Aircraft, the four-place backcountry experimental design, now have a person to go to for training. In August Bearhawk builder, owner and CFI Jared Yates of Hickory, N.C., received a Letter of Deviation Authority (LODA) from the FAA allowing him to provide flight instruction in his four-place Bearhawk.
Yates bought his Bearhawk in May 2009 from another builder who decided not the finish the airplane. The Yates Bearhawk first took flight in December 2013. Currently it has about 100 hours on it.
According to Yates, the purpose of transition training is to teach the Bearhawk owner/pilot the characteristics of the aircraft, as well as its systems. The FAA-approved syllabus covers procedures and performance characteristics during takeoffs and landings, climb, cruise, descent, and glide. Training also addresses aircraft limitations, such as weight and balance, speeds, and crosswind limits.
“The subjects are based on the Private Pilot Practical Test Standards, and include maneuvers that will help students develop a feel for the airplane,” he said. “There is certainly a focus on ground handling and takeoffs and landings, but the syllabus also includes topics like stall/spin awareness and emergency procedures. What is notably absent from the program is a requirement for the student to be familiar with our particular avionics installation or cockpit layout, since the student will almost certainly be using a different arrangement in his or her airplane.”
New Bearhawk pilots travel to North Carolina to learn from Yates.
“We have beautiful scenery and access to airports that require a wide variety of pilot skill,” he said.
According to Yates, the FAA does not require a specific amount of hours for the transition training, although often an insurance company will ask for a certain amount of dual instruction to be given before they agree to insure the pilot.
Yates notes the hours of experience required for the completion of the transition training varies based on the pilots’ experience and preparation.
“I would imagine that a well-prepared current tailwheel pilot should be able to complete the lessons in three to five hours,” he said. “The Bearhawk is not a challenging airplane to fly, at least not any more challenging than any other tailwheel airplane. My goal is to encourage students to prepare for the transition training by being comfortable and current with a tailwheel airplane before they start.”