FlightSafety’s ‘Mustang 101’

 - July 3, 2007, 9:28 AM

Fred Furth has been flying since 1959 and has more than 8,000 hours in jets. But before he could take delivery of his new Citation Mustang in May, he had to get type rated like everyone else. Furth, who owns and pilots a Citation X and a Caravan, has been to FlightSafety International 40 times. You might think that such an experienced pilot would breeze through “Mustang 101.” Not so.

Furth marveled at the simplicity of the Mustang’s Garmin G1000 avionics suite but noted the differences between it and the more complex Collins Pro Line 21 system in his Citation X and was frank about his initial difficulties with the Garmin system. “Midway through this course I was scrambling as hard as anybody else,” he said. “But then you come to a point where you understand it.”

That task was made easier by the new approach to Mustang training Cessna developed with partner FlightSafety International. The integrated approach combines online learning, pre-screening and scoring along a “proficiency index” and remedial training, if needed, before classes begin. It is designed for pilots across a wide continuum of experience and aptitudes.

Once in the program, students apply lessons learned in the classroom the same day in a no-motion flight training device (FTD) and a full-motion level-D simulator. Following the formal course and written exam and simulator check ride, there is a mandatory minimum 25 hours of dedicated flying with a FlightSafety mentor instructor. Mentor flying covers a plethora of scenarios, including emergencies and malfunctions, foul weather, mountain/high/hot, night and high traffic density environments.

This approach contrasts sharply with the more rigid courses FlightSafety developed for other aircraft that imposed immovable prerequisites and front-loaded long consecutive days of classroom-only instruction and written exams followed by a two- or three-day blitz in a simulator. “[The new program is] fantastic,” said Furth. “You can sit in the FTD and get the procedures down and then apply them the same day in the simulator.”

Furth left FlightSafety after two weeks with his Mustang single-pilot type rating, but not everyone will do so.

A Flexible Training Program
Classmate Neal Douglas has been flying for only a year-and-a-half, has 400 hours total time and only six hours of multi-engine turbine time. However, he does have 270 hours in a Beech Baron G58 piston twin equipped with the Garmin 1000 system, and that previous G1000 experience is easing his training strain. He is scheduled to take delivery of his Mustang in October and will leave the FlightSafety program with a second-in-command type rating. He plans to fly his Mustang with his personal instructor, Amos Arbel, who has previous PIC experience in Citation 500s and Excels. Douglas and Arbel are going through Mustang training together as a crew.

“I’m way short on turbine time,” Douglas conceded. “Eventually I want a single-pilot type rating and I want to be insurable. My objective is to get through this course, get in the airplane and build some quality time.”

Before they begin training, candidates are rated on a proficiency index and skills assessment that weighs factors such as overall experience, specific aircraft experience, past training and currency. Those results determine to which of the five ratings candidates are slotted. (See box on page 58 for the five type-rating options offered.)

“When customers see where they rank on the proficiency index, sometimes they are not pleased,” acknowledged Chad Martin, Cessna’s director of pilot and maintenance training. “They can’t just walk into a type-rating course and go out and fly their airplane; they are going to have to make some additional effort to be insurable. But now we have a path to proficiency, which is something we haven’t had before. It used to be that someone who didn’t meet the standard would come to FlightSafety and be told, ‘Sorry, we can’t train you.’ But now we have this high-quality path to do that.”

It is also a flexible path, according to Martin, who points out that one candidate was awarded a multi-engine class rating and a Mustang type rating at the same time. Martin conceded that it “made for a pretty long check ride,” but said this flexibility will appeal to operators of high-performance, single-engine turboprops such as the Pilatus PC-12 or TBM series who are transitioning into the Mustang and may not already have a multi-engine rating.

Furth and Douglas were only the second class of Mustang trainees and the first to use the FTD, which looks, sounds and feels like the real thing minus the motion. FlightSafety is continuing to modify the program, according to Mike Croitoru, manager of the company’s Wichita Cessna Learning Center. “The goal is to enhance training success,” he said.

However, Douglas, who has never been to FlightSafety or “flown” a simulator before, already has a few ideas about how to accomplish that. “I’d like to see more decision-based training in the ground school,” he said. “Like, here is the situation and the best way to get out of it.”

Flying the Simulator
But Douglas and Arbel got plenty of situational opportunity in the simulator–where they spent three hours every day during the course (each student gets 90 minutes, but since they were training together it worked out to three hours). Simulator instructor Ryan Brandt, who logged 2,700 hours flying corporate Cessna Citation CJs before joining FlightSafety last year, is a particularly creative tormentor.

During one abbreviated session toward the end of Douglas and Arbel’s training, Brandt lined them up on Runway 28 at Truckee, Calif., failed the right engine on takeoff, then vectored them to Reno Runway 16R for an emergency landing. At Reno, Brandt hit them with wind shear on final and a go-around.

On the second approach he threw in a fadec warning on the left engine, a primary flight display (PFD) failure, and then flew them through the wake turbulence of a Boeing 757. Douglas and Arbel broke out of the clouds, but they were too steep and had to pull up and add power. Just as they got stabilized the tower asked them to sidestep to the parallel. Douglas complied but forgot to disengage the yaw damper and ran off the runway to the left into a parked GII.

(The simulator still has a few bugs such as overly sensitive rudder controls that enabled me to end my first attempted takeoff in the weeds.)

Brandt was just getting warmed up.

Flight two began at Eagle, Colo. Brandt gave them the Gypsum 3 Departure and cleared them to 14,000. One minute after departure the TAWS alerted and the landing gear would not retract. Douglas and Arbel located an errant circuit breaker, got the gear stowed and then continued up to FL250 direct to Denver International at 230 knots for Runway 26L. Brandt then flew them into a classic Denver summer afternoon thunderstorm and added a CAS warning on the pitot static system.

Arbel took it all in stride and cracked to Douglas, “I don’t think you should buy a Mustang.”

“Yeah,” Douglas shot back. “They keep breaking.”

The levity quickly ended as Brandt piled ice on the wings, flew them again through severe wake turbulence, then put a closing 767 on their tail. Just for fun he threw in some blinding lightning and severe turbulence, then killed the localizer. Douglas and Arbel flew the missed and landed without further surprises.

Rigorous as these flights are, they are not the worst Brandt has to offer. “That comes on the second day,” he said with a grin. As Douglas described that exercise,  “The cockpit fills with smoke from unknown source. You need to put on your [oxygen] mask and goggles and shut down most of the electrical system, including the autopilot. Com 2 and Nav 2 are gone. A lot of things disappear on you. You have to blow down the [landing] gear [with the emergency gear extension system]. The checklist for smoke in the cockpit is two-and-a-half pages long. You have to recalculate Vref, and your landing distances just went up by two-and-a-half lengths.”

“That’s the worst thing I throw at students,” said Brandt. However, the “smoke flight” is not a surprise, according to Douglas and Furth.

“They didn’t run ‘gotcha’ simulations,” said Furth. “Every night we had a briefing that covered the next day’s ‘flights.’ It helps you have a more realistic ride.” Still, Furth conceded, “If you are a serious pilot, an instructor can make you cry.”