I recently participated in an extraordinary adventure, a G550 initial type rating course at FlightSafety International’s Long Beach Learning Center. What struck me the most about this nearly month-long experience was the intensity of the training process, the enormous amount of information the FlightSafety instructors have to pour into the students in a relatively short time and how amazing it is that seven scheduled days of full flight simulator instruction is enough to bring pilots up to speed on this capable airplane.
My classmates were a diverse group from all over the world, each super-talented in his or her own way. Our instructors brought their own strong flying backgrounds and excellent teaching skills to bear, and with deep stores of knowledge and infinite patience helped us make sense of the G550’s systems and, more important, its Gulfstream PlaneView (Honeywell Epic-based) avionics.
I honestly had no inkling how challenging this class would be, although I did expect a steep learning curve as I’m not actively flying a business jet like many FlightSafety clients. I do know that business aviation pilots undergo this learning process regularly, either when learning a new airplane in an intensive initial course or for annual recurrency training, which is even more intense because it is necessarily crammed into a much shorter period of a handful of days.
I came away with newfound respect for business jet pilots after having completed the G550 initial course, and I now have a much better understanding of what they go through. I also renewed my respect for FlightSafety and other training organizations and the challenging task they pursue, day after day and month after month. Just scheduling the instructors, making sure their qualifications are up to date, serving the clients’ needs, maintaining the simulators and other equipment and doing all this under the scrutiny of the FAA and other regulators is an enormous logistical undertaking.
While the actual initial course was, for me at least, one of the greatest challenges I have taken on in recent years, FlightSafety does everything it can to make the process enjoyable and to help clients get as much out of the training as possible. At the Long Beach facility, for example, center manager Todd Bitgood and his customer service crew ladle out delicious catered lunches from local restaurants every Monday. The customer service team made every effort to help us with any problem and make us feel welcome. Every instructor was always available to answer questions, and they encouraged us to take advantage of their knowledge at any time. We were invited to use the Long Beach Learning Center’s facilities 24/7, and this proved particularly useful as I was able to spend plenty of extra time practicing flows, FMS setups and flight profiles in the G550 graphical flight simulator.
All in all, the G550 initial course was an amazing experience, and I’m so glad I was able to experience what business jet pilots go through when learning a new airplane. There is a lot more to this story, of course, and my full report will appear in an upcoming issue of AIN.