Equipping pilots with the necessary practical skills to fly an actual aircraft, flight simulators play an integral part in honing their skills to fly passengers safely. Capt. Lim Khoy Hing explains the importance of training with this ‘magic box’.
I remember the first time I flew with a young female pilot. I learnt she had just graduated from a flying academy and showed some apprehension at being assigned to handle one of the most sophisticated cockpits – the Airbus A320.
She told me, “Captain, I am not sure if I can handle a plane with 180 passengers behind when I become a commander one day!” I told her not to underestimate her own capability but to think positively and learn as much as she can.
Several years down the line, I met her again. She was beaming with confidence, equipped with good technical knowledge and flying experience. About to become a commander, she was fully prepared to fly hundreds of passengers without any apprehension.
Makings of a Captain
What are the makings of a potential captain? Extensive training in the flight simulator is one of the steps to that goal. Through rigorous training and checks inside this ‘box’, pilots are continuously honing and improving their handling skills to cope with all kinds of emergencies that can arise in the course of their flying.
Advancements in technology mean that planes are continuously being improved and are becoming safer. Nevertheless, though the hardware is getting better, humans are unable to keep on par with the progress achieved by the machines. As such, trainers have been doing their utmost in inculcating the CRM (Crew Resource Management) mentality in aircrew to improve the human factor aspect, whilst they undergo all sorts of challenging exercises in the simulators.
The Flight Simulator
Good flying skills are developed by extensive use of flight simulators that can ‘create’ a myriad of scenarios, some of which a pilot will never encounter in his or her career. This, however, is necessary because misfortune can strike at anytime and comes without warning.
A flight simulator creates artificial scenarios of an aircraft in different phases of a flight or on the ground and, can be used to simulate any number of crises for the pilot to deal with. When I started flying many years ago, there were no flight simulators, and simulating engine failures were done on real planes. It was a highly dangerous environment and as a result, more accidents were attributed to training than actual failures. Today, such practices are prohibited but are ‘created’ in flight simulators.
Training in a flight simulator also saves costs, time and reduces risks significantly. For example, conducting various instrument approaches with different emergencies may require significant time spent repositioning the plane. However, in a simulator, as soon as one exercise
is completed, the instructor can immediately reposition the plane to begin the next exercise with just a touch on the screen.