AviatorCast Episode 12: Hangar Talk w/ Bruce Williams: Author | CFII MEI | Aerobatics | Simulator Books


Today’s Flight Plan

Now and again you come across a guy that has his stuff together. Bruce Williams is one of those guys. Not only is he an accomplished aviation author, flight simulator professional, Bonanza flyer, and CFI, but he’s also an aerobatics junkie.

Bruce is perfectly fit for this show. He’s a huge believer in TAA, SBT and the overall enlightenment and growth of aviators.

Flight simmers will know Bruce from his ever popular books “Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator” and “Microsoft Flight Simulator as a Training Aid“. These powerful titles have proved to truly bridge the gap between real aviation and flight simulation; something we work hard to do here on AviatorCast.

Through our discussion on this AviatorCast, Bruce and I discuss the following topics and more:

– How Bruce fell in love with Aviation
– His path through his flight hours
– What he’s doing now
– His work at Microsoft Flight Simulator

Flight Training Segment
– Why Aerobatics?
– Gaining new skills (Aerobatics, float rating, skis, and why that’s important)
– Why the Bonanza of all the choices?
– Discussion about the upgrades on his Bonanza.
– Discussion about TAA (Technically Advanced Aircraft)
– Discussion about SBT (Scenario Based Training)

Flight Simulation Segment
– Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator
– Microsoft Flight Simulator as a Training Aid
– Why is a flight simulator such a powerful medium?
– Do all simulator hours need to be loggable?

Useful Links

Bruce’s SUPER Useful Blog (Found this after the show)
Bruce’s Youtube Channel
Microsoft Flight Simulator as a Training Aid
Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator
Bruce’s Sweet Bonanza
Bruce’s Sick Extra 300L


Bruce Williams

This Hangar Talk with Bruce rolled so easily. We had plenty to talk about the entire time. I’m so grateful to have had him on the show, and I know that you the listener feels the same way. Bruce, thanks a million! This was a motivating and inspiring 60 or so minutes that you spent with the AviatorCast audience, and we can’t thank you enough.


Big thanks to Atrasolis for providing the great music for our podcast. Please check them out on their Facebook Page or SoundCloud and get the music you’ve heard for free.


Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.

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This is AviatorCast episode 12. Bug up, clean up, and off to the flight levels.
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.
Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. You caught me just where I love to be, talking about flying. Although the only thing better than talking about flying is actually flying, but as you can tell, it’s not nearly loud enough for me to be actually flying right now, so let’s just talk flying shall we? I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today. AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility and a commitment to excellence. Each episode of AviatorCast will have real flight training and flight simulation topics or an interview with an inspirational and influential aviator. Our desire and mission is not only to create awesome aviators, but also bridge the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
So welcome to this, the 12th episode of AviatorCast. As always, it’s a joy to be with you and boy, do we have an awesome show for you today. So first and foremost, thank you for being here. Thanks for your commitment to the show. Your feedback and your support is what really keeps me going, doing this from week to week, and keeps me reaching out to others and getting you some great interviews as well. Before we get into the great content we have ready for this particular episode which I know you’ll love, I have a review that came to us all the way from the United Kingdom, although I know we have a lot of you listeners out there in the United Kingdom, so perhaps I’m coming to you all the way from Hawaii right now. So this comes from Eski99. He says “Really coming into its own, five stars.” Again, he’s from the United Kingdom. He says “AviatorCast targets both flight simulation enthusiasts and real world pilots with the aim of bringing both groups closer together. There’s a lot of stigma in the aviation community about the use of desktop flight sims, but Chris does a really good job of bridging the gap without being patronizing towards either community. The last two episodes…” at the time he wrote this, those were 8 and 9, “…have really featured interesting interviews covering a range of topics and providing a huge amount of information to prospective and current pilots. As a private pilot who benefited from using SFX as a training aid and who constantly strives to learn more, I’m thoroughly enjoying the AviatorCast podcast, and have found myself relistening to the latest episodes a second and third time. This is a great resource whatever your level of flying or interest in aviation.”
So thank you so much Eski99, much appreciated. And if you want to leave a review on iTunes, please do so. It helps us tell more people about AviatorCast, lets them know what the show is all about, and inspires them to do better and be better aviators. But, thank you so much for your review again Eski99, much appreciated. You know, I randomly put this particular review in this episode without really realizing that it was the perfect review for what we are going to be talking about today. Eski99 says that he is a real world pilot that benefited from using SFX as a training aid, and we just so happen to have a particular individual in the show today that has made a great impact in the aviation community, specifically not in simulation, that has really helped pilots use flight simulators in their training.
So today’s hangar talk is with Bruce Williams. Bruce Williams produced a couple really useful books that you may have heard of before. The first is Microsoft Flight Simulator as a training aid. I know for a fact that many of you listeners have actually used this particular book before, and then he has a newer book that was released in 2012 called Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator. This guy is just a powerhouse of information. He has a very great perspective on aviation and it’s mixed with flight simulation, as he is not only a real world pilot and instructor and aerobatic pilot, he flies a Bonanza as well to commute, but he also spends some time with Microsoft in their simulator department, he is a journalist, and you’ll learn all these things from him. And so I want to get right into this episode. This is a great, great hangar talk with Bruce Williams and I thank him so much for being on the show. So here is hangar talk with Bruce Williams.
Now, a special hangar talk segment…
Chris: Alright everybody, we are very honored to have Bruce Williams with us today. How are you Bruce?
Bruce: I’m fine, how are you?
Chris: Doing fantastic. It’s great to have you on the show. I know that a lot of our people listening to this show will have recognized the work that you’ve done with some of the books that you’ve produced and released, and so we’re going to get to later on the show. But first of all, I just want to learn a little bit more about who you are, how you got started with flying, how you built your hours and kind of where you are today, so why don’t we hit off with that kind of what makes up your body of your work as an aviator?
Bruce: Okay, well. I have a fairly typical story I think. My father was a pilot in the air force, a career pilot in the air force so I grew up all around airplanes, on air force bases, so it’s sort of in my blood. I started formal flight training when I was in high school and got my private pilot certificate right about the same time I got my driver’s license, so I’ve been flying basically since I was in high school, all of my adult life. I did not ever pursue aviation as a full-time career however. I went off to college and because a journalist and have done various jobs for the first 20 or so years after college, but I had over the years gotten additional certificate and ratings, my flight instructor certificate, and started teaching part time. Part of one of my journalism jobs was I was the editor of what’s now the General Aviator News but back in the mid-80s was the Western Flier. Every other week, aviation newspaper aimed for general aviation market, and that really opened a whole bunch of worlds to me. I met a lot of people in the industry. Got to fly a lot of airplanes I probably never would have gotten my hands on otherwise, developed some good relationships with a lot of mentors which have helped me throughout the years.
And then after doing journalism of various stripes for 10 or 12 years, I ended up at Microsoft, first as a technical editor. I worked on a variety of products in the office group word and other products. Did multimedia. Did a product called World of Flight which was released just before the web caught on in the early 90s when we were doing sort of multimedia on a CD. And then I went over to the flight simulator team and served in a variety of roles, working on about six versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator over the course of, well I don’t know, about seven or eight years, and ended up as the business development manager for that product, all the time flying as a flight instructor and personal flying.
And then when I left Microsoft in 2004, I devoted myself more fully to aviation, so I’ve been teaching part time at a flight school and then have my own business where I do specialized flight training and as you mentioned earlier, I’ve done a couple of books about using simulation as a complement to flight training. I gave a lot of presentations. I’m a phase safety team representative in the Seattle area so I gave a lot of talks about various safety-related and flying skills matters at aviation events around this area. I’ve been also some of the national audiences at places like AirVenture Oshkosh and AOPA Summit. So I try to stay active with it and enjoyed it so it’s a great sort of second career for me I guess.
Chris: Yeah. I didn’t realize that you were that involved with Microsoft. I actually have no idea. I don’t know if I just missed those credentials on your website. What was the last version you worked on with them?
Bruce: Well, in my role as a business development manager, the last sort of imprint I left was the basic plan for Flight Simulator X, but I left as that product was just going in to formal development, so I didn’t really work on that product other than laying out the general plan which was then obviously modified and changed as the product continued.
Chris: Gotcha. Just a quick question. Just from your unique perspective. How do you feel with the direction they went from SFX to the transition to Microsoft Flight, their newest version?
Bruce: Well, I think the product showed the lack of wisdom of that move, it didn’t last very long. I think they fundamentally misunderstood the simulation audience. Products like Flight Simulator and other products, although they have an entertainment function, are certainly entertaining and a lot of people all over the world enjoy them, they are not games in the traditional sense. An analogy I often used when I was debating these points with people at Microsoft and elsewhere was takes something like movies. You can have action movies. You can dramas, you can have comedies, you can movies aimed at an adult sort of serious audience and you have movies that are aimed at a younger audience, the sort of summertime, just pure entertainment type movies. You can make really good movies in each of those genres and they can also be very successful in each of those genres and there are some overlapping audiences. I’d like to go to an action movie. But I don’t go only to action movies, I go to see dramas. I like to see a good grownup kind of movie.
But sometimes I think the computer gaming world, people tend to focus on only one of those sorts of genres. And by that I mean they just want an action movie and a lot of people don’t understand the simulation, the appeal, the challenge, the fun of simulation. That’s why I think it was always a battle to be fought. When they made Flight, it was neither fish nor fowl. It didn’t really satisfy the simulation enthusiasts, and it wasn’t going to attract the people who want an action pack game like a first-person shooter.
Chris: Yeah. That’s for sure. They tried to implement the gamification into Microsoft Flight more but really what they misunderstood and that’s exactly what you said, is they just didn’t understand how seriously people take simulation in the background, and we’ve recently actually seen just a glimpse of that, just I guess the public misconception of simulation in general in what has happened with Malaysia Flight 370 where the captain had this full simulator at home, for all intents and purposes from what we understand, he was only using it to better himself as a pilot, but the general public doesn’t understand that, whereas people that have used the flight simulator or even pilots in general understand how useful it is.
Bruce: Well I think, I’ll make a couple of comments. Again, I’ve only seen the pictures that have been on CNN and other places of the setup of the home cockpit that the captain supposedly had. First of all, it wasn’t particularly sophisticated compared to some I’ve seen. He had multiple monitors but that’s no big deal. It’s kind of exotic to have multiple monitors but that’s not a big deal now. It look like he was running it on a laptop and he had just off the shelf you know, yoke and throttles and so forth. It wasn’t particularly a sophisticated setup, and I think the other people misunderstand is that the real challenge and the enjoyable challenge I think for so many people in flight simulation is the intellectual exercise.
To make probably a poor analogy, but you think of the difference between a game like say basketball and golf. Basketball is all about action and athleticism and speed and being able to hit that little basket from a far distance with somebody’s hands in your face. Golf is a much more intellectual challenge. It’s not physically demanding in the same way, it’s a slower pace, but the strategy, the puzzle solving “Okay, where am I going to hit the ball on this hole,” and “How am I going to make up a few strokes with 9 holes to go,” etc. That’s the real challenge. As little as I know about golf, but whenever you hear people talk about it, they always talk about how important the mental game is, that you got to be mentally tough and prepared in order to succeed as a professional golfer. The same thing I think applies to flying. I always use when I’m giving talks about this subject, I like to quote Yogi Bear who allegedly said something like “Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical.” The point of that is in my experience as a flight instructor and certainly as a pilot, the physical skills required to fly an airplane are rather limited and small and most people can learn them in a fairly short period of time at least to be a safe, basic pilot, and as long as you practice reasonably well. Flying an airplane is not… you don’t have to be some kind of superhuman coordinated athlete in order to fly an airplane.
The real challenge is can you solve the puzzle that’s always in front of you, the weather, air traffic control, navigation, the aircraft systems, planning ahead into the traffic pattern and land, avoiding airspace, all that sort of stuff. That’s the real challenge to flying. Even if you’re sitting there with the airplane on autopilot and it’s doing the grunt work of driving the airplane through the sky, you still have a lot of stuff going on, at least you should if you’re a good pilot. And that’s the thing that people don’t understand about simulation as a hobby, as an entertainment, and simulation as a training tool and what it’s like to be a pilot in the real world.
Chris: Right. And you know, people say that flying is a perishable skill too, and I think that more applies to the mental aspects than it does to physical aspects because in a lot of ways, flying is like riding a bike right? If you spend a good time away from it, you’ll get back in. It’s just a matter of hours, a few hours, until you get the hang of controlling the aircraft, but as far as the decision-making process is and the intricate details that goes into instrument flight for example, totally different story. That stuff can be forgotten pretty easily.
Bruce: Well yeah, I find it all the time, when I give an instrument-proficiency check to someone, the issues that come up usually aren’t related to the fact that the pilot can’t keep the airplane reasonably straight and level and fly heading and so forth. I mean, there may be a little slop there because they haven’t been practicing, but they’re not going to spin out of the clouds. But, it’s when they start getting loaded up, trying to brief and approach, do a whole fly in unfamiliar procedure, do something like a DME arc that they are not used to doing, that’s where they get mentally overloaded, and then the flying part gets sloppy because they can’t stay ahead of the game, so you’re absolutely right there. Obviously, there are some skills like aerobatic flying or formation flying or landing in a stiff crosswind, you have to practice those regularly to stay sharp. Those are physical skills, just like practicing dribbling the basketball or practice shots off the tee at the golf driving range. You just have to keep that muscle memory sharp. But the real challenge of day to day flying is mostly mental.
Chris: Right. Great. Well I think we’ve pretty much covered kind of the introduction to who you are, we even touched some more subjects. I want to talk about what I’ve been seeing from your YouTube channel because you actually have one of the most exciting YouTube channels believe or not. It seems like everyday, you’re posing a new video, you’re up doing aerobatics in Nevada I believe it is right? And so I want to talk about that a little bit, kind of your real world flying you’re doing right now. So let’s start with aerobatics. Just from my perspective, I’m ignorant to aerobatics. I’ve read about it. I haven’t done a lot of it. I’ve obviously done some very basic spin training in the 141 program I went through. Why would someone like me, someone seeking to be a better pilot want to do aerobatics, and on top of that, why are you doing aerobatics so much these days?
Bruce: Well. I got into it probably in the mid to late 90s. I did a couple of pilot reports on airplanes like the Extra 300. I’ve flown some other aerobatic airplanes and it just looks like something that would be fun and a little break from the normal routine. I enjoy the challenge for example of instrument flying. There was nothing more satisfying than breaking out of the clouds with the runway is where it isn’t supposed to be and know you’ve done a good job working with ATC and so forth. The aerobatics, for me I’m not particularly interested in things like competition or airshows. I just enjoy the challenge of flying and I especially enjoy the role as an instructor. To answer your first question, most of my customers when I do the stall spin up set training, aerobatic-related training in Seattle during the summers, are people who are either relatively new pilots who want to know a little bit more about stalls and spins and the usual attitudes or they’re pilots that have been flying for a while but because they didn’t get training in the military, they’ve never really been exposed to that type of flying, and maybe they’ve scared themselves or aren’t comfortable with stalls and spins and unusual attitudes and so they want to sort of confront that and learn about it more.
And that’s what I really enjoy, is taking people up in the course of a typical 3 or 4 flight program, watching them get confidence and comfort flying the airplane because again in most of our everyday flying, we don’t use the flight controls to their full extent. We don’t need to. Most flying is pre-routine just as most people when they are driving their cars, they’re not doing hard accelerations and getting out of skids and so forth. But a lot of people, they take one of those driving performance courses that you can take, you know with a NASCAR driver or one of those schools where they put you in a sports car and put you through a series of drills so that you improve your ability to understand how the car handles, how to deal with things like getting into a skid, how to handle emergencies where you really do have to break hard and get maximum performance out of the car and yet retain control. And that’s basically the same thing we’re trying to do here, is just exposure. We’re not trying to teach you how to do aerobatics, we’re not trying to check you out in the Extra. We’re not trying to sign you off so you can go off and do solo aerobatics and become an airshow pilot, but you’re just trying to get comfortable with situations and that you simply can’t practice in a normal category airplane.
Chris: Right. How important is broadening your horizons as a pilot, just in general. So obviously we’re talking about aerobatics here but we can get into taildraggers, we can get into float ratings. There’s all different types of flying. We can even get into skis, aerobatics, multiengine, multiengine isn’t as uncommon but what does that do for a pilot when they’re continually working to add things into their flight bag if you will?
Bruce: Well, you’re absolutely right. I often make, when people ask about why I should do this aerobatic training or upset training, I point out that all training is good. It would be great if every pilot could do their initial training in a taildragger like a Piper Cub or something and do a few hours in a glider just to learn about aerodynamics without a propeller and an engine kind of messing up the experience. That’s not practical for most people but as many people have recommended over the years, if it’s time for your flight review, maybe it would be good instead of going up in a 172 you’ve been flying or renting for years and years, go out and get a tailwheel endorsement. Negotiate with the instructor ahead of time and make that part of your flight review. Go fly a float plane. Maybe you’re never going to fly a float plane, you’re not going to use the rating, but a lot of people go out just for the fun after they’ve been flying for several years to say “that looks like a lot of fun,” and they go get a float plane and rating added to their certificate even though they know they’re probably not going to do that.
Aerobatics is exactly the same thing. Most people are not going out and do aerobatics regularly because to do that, you really have to have access to an aerobatic airplane, and those are pretty hard. There aren’t many places where you can rent them, the only one is an Extravaganza. They’re not particularly practical for anything other than aerobatics. But getting the training is exactly that way. It’s very, very common for my customers at the end of course to say, again, they’re not going to go out and do aerobatics regularly but boy do they feel more comfortable and confident. They’ve had fun. That’s a really key thing. Let’s face it. A lot of people I think drop out of or reduce their activity flying because once they get their pilot certificate or maybe they get an instrument rating, then they end up saying “Well what I am going to do with this?” and they find that for a variety of reasons they really can’t use it practically, regularly or whatever, and they get bored going to the same places all the time. So they’re looking for something to kind of lighten it up. Just like an avid golfer or skier is going to look for a new course of a new mountain to challenge them, or maybe go to snowboarding instead of skiing or vice versa, it’s that kind of thing.
Chris: Right. Yeah, you know. It’s good to just keep things fresh. It broadens our horizons and just makes it so much more enjoyable. Adding aerobatics or gliders or float planes. I actually originally lived in Alaska, I’m in Hawaii right now just temporarily, but there are so many different opportunities in Alaska that I haven’t been taking advantage of and it’s something that’s common up there. Aerobatics aren’t common up there for example.
Bruce: No, a little cold.
Chris: Yeah. But float planes, totally different story. Skis, taildraggers, there are so many taildraggers at my home airport, and just all these different opportunities that, because I was a big concrete slab pilot when I first started, you know, I learned on big runways, I haven’t moved in to that area. I’ve done it a little bit. I’ve gone up and flown with some guys that have some outfits, it’s very enjoyable and it’s different too. Flying a float plane, totally different than just flying a regular 172. If you fly a 172 on wheels, it’s a different airplane on floats. Just changes things, keeps things mixed up.
Bruce: Yeah. And it kept getting back into the challenge and I’m reasonably confident even though I’ve only flown float planes a few times over the years and have never taken formal training, I’m reasonably confident that I can get the plane on and off the water without a disaster as long as it wasn’t rough conditions or anything. But there’s a whole world related to float plane flying that I don’t know about like going into some remote lake and even being able to figure out, “Well, I might be able to land there but can I take off again?” Or back country flying. Again, I know how to do short field landings but there’s a lot more to it when you’re operating off remote strips and things. Yeah, I think that’s all to the good and I really encourage pilots to expand their portfolio as much as possible.
Chris: Awesome. Love that tip. Okay, so we’ve talked about aerobatics a lot, and for those of you listening, I’m going to put Bruce’s YouTube channel in the shownotes and also I’ll get it to you here. It is YouTube.com/BruceAirFlying. He puts up a lot of great videos there with doing aerobatics. Bruce does a great job with different angles with GoPro cameras and one of his recent videos is called “Getting some vitamin G” which I really love that title, is just him going up and practicing. There’s another great one on there, “Introduction to Basic Aerobatics” that I really enjoyed. He took up a CFI that was controlling the aircraft himself and you kind of see the instruction process there. Awesome, really great videos, I’ll put those in the show notes for you to see and that will kind of wrap up our aerobatics discussion.
Now, out of all the airplanes you could choose from in doing your everyday IFR, especially with all the great new TAA aircraft out there and even the retrofits, why would you pick a Bonanza? That’s my first question.
Bruce: Well, the Bonanza has a very well-deserved reputation for being an excellent instrument platform, a good travelling airplane that both pilots and passengers enjoy, and in the realm of airplanes that I can actually afford to operate, it’s sort of you know, the peak. Obviously, if I had my druthers, if I had unlimited funds, I’d love to have something like a Pilatus or the new TBM 900, those are very slick airplanes. But as a practical matter and for the type of flying I do, it’s a good compromise between speed. It’s a great instrument platform, comfortable, fun airplane to fly. It’s a proven platform. I have updated mine obviously with new avionics over the couple of years but the basic airplane still has proven its value unless somebody comes up with a dramatic advance in things like engines, I don’t see a different airplane in my future.
And I’ve flown you know, I pretty much like every airplane I’ve ever flown, but the Bonanza is a travelling machine that people enjoy flying in. My non-pilot friends that I take on flights always come back having enjoyed the experience because you can see out of it, it feels solid, it’s comfortable, it’s roomy as these airplanes go, and it gets you where you’re going reasonably fast so people who aren’t going along just because they like to ride an airplane seem to enjoy that part.
Chris: Right. I think I’m a little bit spoiled in that I got my private pilot, I got a little bit of experience in a 172 and then essentially upgraded to a Bonanza which was an older Bonanza, it’s a 1956 so we’re talking V-tail and not necessarily the throwover yoke, it had a couple of add-ons to it. But from there, we upgraded to a G36 Bonanza and regardless of what Bonanza you have, like you said, it’s a proven platform. If I’m not mistaken, the airfoil hasn’t changed much since the 40s, it’s been the same thing.
Bruce: I’ve been to the factory, I haven’t been there in a while but I’ve been to the Factory and if you go around the factory and you’ll see the jigs that they’re using, the beta plate on the jigs were all from the 40s and 50s and the basic components of the airplane haven’t changed and I have actually been working with the owner of a brand new G36. Mine is a 1989, and so I swapped between the two several times a week and the basic airplane is the same, it’s got the G1000 system and a few other nice addies like the climate control system and the new electrical system with dual batteries and so forth. But the airplane is a Bonanza. Looking out for the outside, except for the shiny new paint, you wouldn’t know the difference. All the core part of it is the same. And yeah, I mean it’s a proven platform. It a great airplane.
Chris: So when did you actually do the upgrade on it and where did you get it done, and what did you add to it and why? So just tell us a bit more about the upgrade.
Brice: Mine’s a 1989 so it had the original King package which was very nice package, a flight director, HSI, KFC 150 autopilot. It originally came with a KNS-80 VOR/DME/RNAV system, but early on after my partners and I bought it, we put a Garmin 530 in it and then upgraded that to Waze and that’s basically where the airplane had stayed for some time, but I was getting concerned about having the maintenance on the mechanical attitude indicator, flight director, HSI, the fact that it was driven by a vacuum pump, pneumatic system I mean. I didn’t have any standby electrical capability so first I put a standby alternator in which is the same one that Beech has been putting on the new Bonanzas for several years but it’s available as a retrofit.
And then last year, I took it to a shop in Oregon and ripped out basically most of the panel and put in a G500, the GDO-88 for ATSB, a GTN-750 for touch screen, the GAD-43E which is interface between G500 and the AHRs and my autopilot’s window have GPS steering and influence the pilot into thinking the gyros and so forth. So now I have an airplane that’s ATSB-compliant. I’ve got the second alternator so I have redundancy. I have the mid-continent standby attitude module, SAM which is the backup attitude indicator altimeter and air speed, so I have a solid state airplane. I’ve got no mechanical gyros, no pneumatic system and state of the art navigation capability which gives me more comfort flying around the IFR which I get to do a fair amount living in Seattle.
Chris: Right, yeah. I was just going to mention that living in that area, you actually use IFR quite a bit whereas in different parts of the country, it may not be as common. When I did my training, I actually flew with my instructor from Utah and we went to the Oregon coast and we just flew actual IFR constantly, and that’s how I learned. I think that’s a great way to learn as well and something we’ve mentioned before in the show is to do it in actual conditions.
Bruce: Yeah. There’s no substitute for that.
Chris: Yeah. So, great platform with the Bonanza you have and you’ve made some really big upgrades that essentially turn this almost, or maybe not really almost, but into a TAA or technically advanced aircraft. Now, this is something that we’ve been talking about a bit more lately in the show. Last show, we had Paul Crain on who is the author of the Killing Zone and we talked a lot about TAA and SBT training. I wanted to get your thoughts on this, especially kind of the reason you upgraded to this, and you’ve mentioned some of them reliability and redundancy, so what is your take on TAA and kind of how things have progressed over the last 10 years and it’s going to be pretty amazing even in the next 10 because we have things now like the G3000. It’s all just becoming very accelerated as far as how fast technology is getting into the smaller general aviation aircraft, so tell us a bit about TAA.
Bruce: Well, I just saw a press release yesterday from the Carbon Cub folks that Garmin just announced a new primary flight display moving map sort of mini G1000 kind of system for, it’s with touch screens and so forth, for the experimental home build market. Carbon Cub, that’s now their sort of standard panel for one model of their Carbon Cub. People say “That’s sacrilege putting that into a cub,” I mean, my goodness. But when you stop and think about it for a minute, why would you put mechanical instruments into a brand new airplane. You’re saving weight. You’re not drawing as much power. You reduce complexity and certainly reliability. Now obviously you don’t need attitude indicators and synthetic vision and all that stuff, you don’t need it in a Cub, presumably you’re going to fly that around VFR, I’m sure it’s only a VFR airplane, but why not take advantage of the new technology and it’s no big deal to put that in the airplane. Nobody is building new airplanes now with mechanical gauges in it except home builders or the very low end of the market, all the light sport airplanes, your some sort of flat panel displays and things. That’s why all our phones and iPads and things have them. The technology is ubiquitous and it has so many advantages. So let’s leave that aside for a moment. That’s just the way it’s going and I can’t imagine why anybody who is upgrading their panel or buying a new airplane would want anything else regardless of the type of airplane or operation.
Now, if you’re really asking about this sort of debate about, you know, is this distracting pilots, is it hurting stick and rudder skills especially in primary training because people are focused on the new screens and everything. That’s not really the technology’s problem, that’s the fact that we are as an industry, as trainers and as regulators, we are not really getting our heads around this technology and how best to use it in training and make sure that we’re training for today’s world. For example, if I had a Carbon Cub and I’m living in the Seattle area underneath all these bravo airspace and restricted areas and things we have around here, I wouldn’t fly without a moving map even if I’m just plodding along in my Carbon Cub because I wouldn’t want to be busting TFRs in prohibited areas and class bravo. Why? It doesn’t make me feel more of a man that I sit there with my thumb on a paper sectional than using a moving map. I always tell people, when I go to the dentist, I tell them “Look, I live in the 21st century, use the lidocaine.” I don’t have to prove I’m a man by having a drill with no anesthetic. I’m going to take advantage of the technology. Now, should I become totally dependent? Of course not. I should know how to read a chart and I should know to figure out where I am by looking out the window if I’m flying a cub. But I’m going to use all the available resources as we say to my advantage, and the reliability and so forth is obviously a huge win there as well.
Chris: Right. I think initially with TAA, we saw that people were relying on it to the point where we are getting a lot of accidents for example with, it seem like it was pretty prevalent with Cirrus to begin with, where a lot of these VFR-only pilots were flying into IFR conditions thinking “I have a parachute. I have a very advanced airplane. I can kind of do this.”
Bruce: Well, that’s the flipside of what I was saying earlier about the Bonanza. Mine’s a 1989 Bonanza with some fancy new stuff in the panel and I’ve been flying this brand new 2014 G36. Those airplanes do not have a fundamental difference in capability in their ability to climb higher, go faster, fly through ice or turbulence despite the more than 20 years that separates them. Pilots need to understand that obviously new pilots who are coming in to the marketplace need to be properly trained and understand that the fact that you’re flying a Cirrus which looks like a fancy BMW or something on the inside, it’s got all these gizmo and a parachute, does not mean you can launch it night from Reno Nevada in bad weather, at 2 in the morning, and turn westbound, and expect to have a good outcome. But that’s not a failure of the technology, that’s a failure of marketing and of training and of entering and any number of things I think.
A part of the problem I think is just that a lot of the aviation’s kind of a traditional conservative community for very good reasons. We’re reluctant to just adopt new technology until we can prove that it’s safe and reliable and so forth, and I’m glad about that and I’m glad that the FAA is conservative about training requirements and so forth. On the other hand, when I look at the syllabuses that we use, the training handbooks and the requirements that we have to meet for things like 141 approval and good lord, when I have to go FIRC every couple of years to renew my flight instructor certificate, I just tear my hair off because we’re missing so much of value by focusing on trivia and stuff that’s completely out of date.
There are some movements to update the knowledge test so that they reflect more about what’s really going on and so forth, but let’s take for example get out of the cockpit for a moment, just talk about flight planning. Certainly, when I started flying in the 70s, you got out a plotter and you drew lines on sectional parts and you figured out when correction angles and ground speeds and all that stuff, and I think anybody who is inspiring to be a pilot should understand that process, but there’s no way that we should be asking people to manually fill out flight logs when they can do the nuts and bolts of the flight planning using an even number of tools, and you save those mental cycles for other things like really thinking about the weather and the fuel requirements and what’s their plan B and C and D going to be if something goes wrong and that sort of thing.
Instead of, what I like about flying behind my new panel is that I don’t have to spend any brain cycles in the airplane figuring out my ground speed or how I’m doing with my fuel bird. I can see that immediately. I know where the wind’s coming from. I can look at the weather up from my ATSB. I can make decisions early about “Well, I think I’m going to need to stop for gas because the headwinds are too strong,” or “Boy, there’s a bunch of gunk in the radar, I’m going to divert now while I have plenty of time to think about it rather than stick my nose in it and then have to deal with it when I’m under stress.” We’re not doing a good job of training that way, I think, taking advantage of the new technology in that respect.
We still need the stick and rudder skills, we still need to emphasize that. There’s a huge movement obviously from some of these airline outfits like Air France and Colgan Air to improve understanding of unusual attitudes, unusual situations, stalls, all that kind of thing. I’m all in favor of that, but let’s not get stuck thinking we should go back everybody, who is wheeling a B6B trying to figure out the density altitude.
Chris: Right, and to be completely honest, I’m not sure it ever worked exactly that way in the real world. I remember with my, I was kind of at a transition, so I got my private pilot in 2003. When I did my private pilot check ride, it was still the time, we were just transitioning to TAA, it was still the time where you did a manual flight plan and that’s how you did your flight plans. There weren’t these websites out there like flightplan.com or some of the many tools, even ForeFlight can do it straight from the app, there weren’t all these tools available so that is how I did it. However, even a year or so later, it was now the point where these tools were coming to fruition and it was so much more efficient to just flight plan in that sense and then go down the road a few years.
I did my instrument check ride and thankfully I had a DME that really understood this process and I told them before, or rather kind of communicated through my instructor to tell them. I tell them “You know, I plan on using my instrument ticket. I’m going to be flying an IMC. I’m not going to be writing out a flight plan. I’m going to be doing efficient things to plan my flights. I took a printed out flight plan to the DME. I said “This is what’s going to happen,” and then we talked about lost comm scenarios and a bunch of different things for that particular flight and all went really well and that’s really how it should be done these days. Again, like you I do believe that initially we should be learning what all those terms mean and how it all comes together and then as far as efficiency, especially when you’re flying so often, there’s no reason not to do those things.
Bruce: Well, I mean as a professional pilot, no airline pilot fills out a flight plan or flight log. They go into a computer and they talk to dispatch and they get a printout before they get in a cockpit and off they go. Even the Puddle Jumper Charter operators who make really short flights and caravans and things, they do all that stuff in the computer. So yeah, I completely agree, and it’s more than just efficiency though, it really is this key point of being able to free up your brain to think about other things other than calculating your wind correction and angle to the next degree which is sort of a false sense of precision anyway. It’s really more thinking about “Okay, I’m going to do this trip from A to B and here’s what the weather is, and here’s what my range is,” and so forth. What happens if the weather, and by weather it could be something like crosswinds. “What if I get to the Oregon coast and the crosswinds are really howling and 90 degrees to the runway. What am I going to do? Do I have enough gas to go to another airport? What is a good alternate airport? How am I going to learn about the weather in route if it’s changing?” you know, those kinds of things.
So that’s really my point, is that obviously if you sit there, punched direct to engage the autopilot to follow the magenta line and then just stop thinking and listen to XM music or whatever, play with your iPad, you’re not doing your job. But that’s again not the fault of the technology itself, it’s the fault of your training or your attitude or your experience, whatever. That’s really my point about it.
Chris: Great, yeah. I really like that freeing of the mental energy, I really like that point. And that brings us perfectly into one last aspect of flight training that I would to get your take on and it’s surprising that this is becoming more common these days as I feel it’s something that should’ve been common all along and that is scenario-based training. How have you dealt with it over the years, how are you dealing with it now? We are seeing a movement finally that is actually supported by the FAA with programs like FITS which isn’t necessarily new but we’re seeing it more and more in the initial stages of training. What’s your take on scenario-based training.
Bruce: Well, I think good instructors always use scenario-based training. They didn’t call that obviously by they put you in situations, “Okay what are you going to do now? Sometimes, they’re as simple as “What if the engine quits, what are you going to do now?” kind of thing. I think the real value of it is this idea that we’re putting the task that we learn especially in basic training or say your initial instrument training into context. Many people have told me over the years, I’m sure you’ve heard this, “Why am I doing slow flight?” “Well, it’s on the practical test, so you have to be able to demonstrate this.” Some people say “Okay whatever” and they kind of mechanically go through the process of flying slow flight, never understanding that that’s a skill that could be useful. No, you don’t necessarily want to fly around with the stall horn going, but say you’re in a traffic pattern and you need to make some space between you and the guy ahead of you, you want to be able comfortably to fly the airplane at a slower speed than you normally use on downwind. You need to understand what’s going on.
You also need to understand why are doing steep turns? Well it’s proficiency maneuver. It’s something like doing your basketball dribbling drills. It’s useful for a pilot when you’re trying to develop your motor skills. But also you need to become aware of “How does the airplane feel when it’s loaded up?” What is overbanking tendency feel like, how can this get me in trouble. Well if I’m trying to show up for my girlfriend down below I’m doing steep turns or trying to take somebody who wants to take pictures, how can that lead to a bad outcome?
Chris: Right.
Bruce: And so that sort of thing is useful. Now like all of these sort of developments, they often become kind of a fad and they go overboard. I remember several years ago, I went to a presentation by some folks in a university in Tennessee that’s one of the pioneers in the FITS and SBT program and they were trying to this, trying to incorporate scenario-based training and see if they could shave time to certificate and so forth, and to their great surprise, they found that when students were in the, just in the pre-solo stage, all the scenario stuff wasn’t really important when they just needed to go up in the pattern and do a whole bunch of tough-and-go’s to hone that skill. And so trying to come up with some scenarios to why you’re doing six landings in 40 minutes in a 172 was just stupid. Sometimes you just need to play, practice your scales. You just need to do these basic drills, whether it’s music or sports of whatever, so let’s not go overboard with it.
But what you can do with it is try to give people realistic scenarios, and in my latest book, the Scenario-Based Training for Flight Simulator X-Plane, that’s what I really tried to do. I put a few sort of emergency, contingency kinds of things, but of the lessons, the scenarios that I try to create or the options for scenarios are more like weather or a passenger issue, somebody doesn’t feel well or maybe there’s some minor problem with the airplane that suggest or maybe I ought to go to plan B rather than press on. It’s not like the engine’s quitting or you have a complete electrical failure or some of the really serious problems. Because these are the things day in and day out that people have to deal with.
Maybe you’re flying into busy airspace you’re not familiar with. Maybe it’s a combination of the weather is getting bad, it’s still legally VFR but maybe the sun’s getting ready to go down and you’re in unfamiliar territory with terrain that’s a little bit rougher than you’re used to, what do you do? So that’s the kind of scenario that I think would be more useful in thinking about how to employ scenarios. It’s not just what if this breaks kind of thing.
And the other key thing that happens is I also try, where I think scenarios are really useful, is in giving you a purpose or a mission for a flight, because most of the time when you go flying, even if it’s just to have a lunch somewhere or breakfast somewhere, you’ve got a goal and a that influences your thinking. “Well, I don’t want to not to show up. I don’t want to disappoint my passengers because I promised to take them to the beach.” And so that influences your decision-making. “Well the airplane isn’t running quite right,” or “I really should’ve done this,” or “there’s this nagging problem here but it’s going to be okay because it’s day VFR flight.” What do you do into the process there?
So that’s where I think scenario-based training comes in and I think like most of these developments and sort of training philosophy and learning and teaching, the pendulum will swing back and forth a little bit and gradually over time as we gain experience with it, we’ll figure out the best mix for the different phases of training. The big problem I think that we face with it is, it’s both the problem and a help, most instructors and it’s not their fault, brand new instructors, they’re in their 20s, they have no formal experience as a teacher. They’re good pilots. They know the FARs, they know how to do the maneuvers on the various practical tests, but they don’t really have a lot of experience to convey this art of flying to people, and they haven’t done the long cross countries and big trips in a variety of airplanes themselves. It’s no fault of theirs, it’s just the way it is.
So in the one hand scenario, we can help them because it gives them some context that they can then, more than just a basic lesson plan, do this maneuver, do that maneuver to help them communicate, but on the other hand, it might be asking a little bit much of them to sort of come up with creative ways to use scenarios and to use them effectively in training, and that’s where mentors, the more experienced instructors I think are critical.
Chris: Right, you know, and I actually experienced that myself because I think about scenarios that would be helpful even to people here at Angle of Attack and it’s hard for me to come up with a bunch of them because I still, as far as my flight experience, I’m still a peewee and I really don’t understand, or have that breath of knowledge.
Bruce: Yeah, but you know, you don’t have. Again, the examples I use. Let’s say for example, you’re a typical, you’re a private pilot, maybe you got an instrument rating, maybe you don’t. You work for a company and need to get a part say for whatever, it doesn’t matter, you need to get a widget, and the best way to do that because of time constraints and everything. It’s 150 miles away, it will be a long drive, it’s not practical to drive, you need it now and you’ve got an access to an airplane, let’s go do that. And now you can spin all signs of basic scenarios around that. What time of day is it, where in the country are you, what’s the weather like, what kind of airplane, etc. And you don’t have to really stretch too much to come up with a useful set of say half a dozen ways to spend a story. The key element in this story though is, now this is a real situation. A pilot is under some pressure either self-imposed or from his boss or something, to complete this flight and maybe he’s not a very experienced pilot. Maybe he’s not familiar with this particular type of airplane, doesn’t have a lot of time in it, maybe he’s never been to that airport before and maybe going there involves crossing some mountains or some other challenging terrain, that gets you in the mode of thinking about “Okay, it’s more than just jumping on flightplan.com, spitting out a flight log and going.” You got to think about this flight. “Am I going to be able to get there, is there fuel at the other airport? If not, where am I going to go to refuel so I have a comfortable reserve coming home. Am I going to be coming home in the dark? Well, I haven’t flown at night very much.”
There’s all kinds of ways you can go with that, but those are real world challenges that in my reading of the accidents and the safety literature is, that’s much more common than having the engine just quit right after takeoff. People are flying into controlled flight into terrain, bad weather, VFR into IMC, night time, minor distractions from some kind of mechanical issue with the airplane, maybe a passenger that doesn’t feel well or whatever, running out of fuel. These are the issues week in and week out that keep coming up and why NTSB and FAA will ring their hands about how we’re going to improve the safety record.
Chris: Right. Yeah. I’ve argued that it shouldn’t be called scenario-based training but rather story-based training.
Bruce: Yeah, exactly. The scenario is kind of a fancy educator kind of word that comes up. But when you do involve these stories in the process, now a whole bunch of effects come up and I think that’s what… I just saw that John and Martha King are going to start writing a column for flying magazine, and they’ve been advocates for many years now about changing what we mean by safety and how we approach this problem of risk management and so forth, and I really like their overall approach because they talk about some accidents and things they have been involved in, and how they get into that fix, what they learned from them. Often, I dislike when I go to safety meetings and I see a presentation about some accident that happened. So I go to a meeting and the FAA will be there and they’ll tell sad stories about some accident. What happens? Everybody in the audience kind of shakes their head because they say “I would never be that stupid. I would never launch in that beat-up airplane that hasn’t had an annual in 20 years, into a thunderstorm at night, right? And so what do we learn from that? Well, I’m not that stupid but that’s not a real lesson.
We need to learn the lesson from the guy… for example, I just read, it was yesterday or the day before, he was a very experienced airshow pilot apparently en route from one show to another, flying a Super Chipmunk, former naval aviator, well-admired, highly respected, admired in his peer group as a real pilot, flew into the side of a mountain in Tennessee apparently. I don’t know the circumstances, I haven’t even seen the preliminary report but it sounds like a control flight to terrain marginal weather kind of situation. And so you wonder “how could that happen to somebody…” Now he’s obviously under pressure, he needs to gets to the show, whatever, but that’s the kind of accident that make me sit up and pay attention because that could be me, if this guy could get into that fix. Again, it may be mechanical, I don’t know. It’s way too early for me start guessing about that.
That’s a lot more useful to me than somebody who willfully is trying aerobatics in a Bonanza to show off, or is so stupid as to fly right into a thunderstorm when there was plenty of warning about that icing or whatever it might be, because that just says “Well I will never be that dumb,” and it’s not useful.
Chris: There are those you can shake your head up but like you, this naval aviator in this Chipmunk, I ask myself why am I any different than this pilot? What makes me so much better than this pilot and I have to realize that one of the best qualities I have just me alone and a quality that a lot of pilots can gain is humility. Just understanding that you actually aren’t invulnerable, that you aren’t as safe as you probably think you are, and you are able to get into those types of traps, everyone is, and it’s proven time and time again with accidents that really good pilots get in traps and an unfortunate part of…
Bruce: Yeah, and we often just toss it off to complacency or some other term of art, but that doesn’t really get us to the issue, so I’m looking forward to what John and Martha are going to have say about this general topic and I hope that as an industry, as instructors, as regulators, we start thinking more about these more subtle difficult problems, and they’re kind of soft. This isn’t Newtonian physics. You can’t calculate the deceleration when you take an airplane going up some speed and bringing it to a stop at a certain distance, it’s not that precise. It’s what Rod Machado does a good job in his columns for AOPA Pilot and his talks. Even through all of his jokes, he’s getting at some fundamental things about human behavior, human perception that I think are very important.
Chris: I think, I didn’t know this article by John and Martha was new, and Martha actually did an article in the most recent Flying Magazine that I read a couple days ago which is the exact scenario that you are talking about. She was talking about her and John were pressing on to this airport and they just needed the airport for a fuel stop, that’s all they needed. It wasn’t their ultimate destination, they didn’t have a pressing matter, but they found that they were pressing themselves towards this airport. Even though the headwind was there and they were lower on fuel than they would have liked, and they realized that they are, this is what she came up with, that they are goal-oriented people, and that’s part of who they are, that’s why their business is so successful, and so they had a goal in mind and they are trying to reach that goal even though it was a goal that didn’t matter necessarily, so it was actually a very good article, and I really like those types of heady topics with aviation.
Bruce: Yeah, and it’s hard because pilots as a group, you have to have a certain amount of confidence and goal orientation, whatever the psychologist call it, in order to get through the college and do it. You have to enjoy the challenge, the puzzle-solving part that we’ve been talking about through this conversation. That’s all part of it and that’s good. One of the old sayings among flight instructors is, I was talking to a woman pilot the other day, she’s just gotten back into flying and she’s clearly not very confident of her skills, so I said “There’s this old saying, the problem with male pilots is getting their skills to match their confidence, and often with women pilots is getting their confidence to match their skills.” I don’t like those sort of generalizations but I think in the broad sense, there was a little bit of truth to that, and you’re absolutely right, trying to figure out the way the brain works and balancing that confidence and aggressiveness and goal orientation with prudence and reason and self-awareness is a tough problem. We certainly haven’t solved it.
Chris: Yeah, definitely. Still so much to learn. Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about actual flight which is obviously useful for anything you do whether that’s in real flight or flight simulation. However, you’ve written a couple very useful books that I know, even within the hobbyist circles of flight simulation are very popular, so I’d to turn the time over to you to talk about these two particular books, talk about what they are, what their purposes, and then we’ll maybe finish off from there, so why don’t you talk about, first the Microsoft Flight Simulator as a training aid, and then second, your most recent book Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Bruce: Well, the first one, Microsoft Flight Simulator is a training aid, was published in 2007 by ASA which everybody will recognize as a publisher of a lot of aviation-related training materials and books, and it really came out of my experience talking to pilots, being on the flight simulator team, dealing with the industry about how best to employ PC-based simulation that I make, the very clear distinction between simulators and simulation which I won’t get into in great detail here. The point being that people, I found in my discussions that a lot of folks were either confused or in my opinion going down the wrong path when trying to use PC-based simulation regardless of which version as a complement to training. They were really focused on things like stick and rudder skills, “what’s the best joystick or yoke and how can I tweak it so it feels more like the airplane that I fly” kind of question, which is relevant.
Obviously, there’s got to be some degree of similarity, but the real value of the simulation comes in a couple of areas. One is being able to break complicated tasks into simpler steps. You don’t know learn how to juggle by starting out with three balls. You start by tossing one up in the air, catching it, and then you add another and so forth. The problem of course is everybody has said since the Wright Brothers, the airplane cockpit is a terrible classroom. It’s noisy, it’s distracting, it’s overwhelming, blah blah blah, we all know what. And so how can we now take this technology which until fairly recently was way to expensive and complicated for anybody except the airlines and military and start applying that to the way we teach flying? And so my approach is to use simulation as kind of a part task trainer which let you focused on specific things and getting back to what we talked about before, these sort of purely mental puzzles or exercises, something like VOR navigation. There is no reason why in today’s world you should learn VOR in an airplane. You should understand it, practice it in a simulation, and then demonstrate it in the airplane.
And it doesn’t matter whether you learn VOR navigation in a 172 and flight simulator and you’re flying a Bonanza, the basic principles are the same. And I even tell people, look, when you’re trying to learn VOR navigation or holding patterns or whatever it might be, put the autopilot on in flight simulator, drive the airplane around with the heading bug. Don’t worry about holding altitude and heading. Just see how the needles move. If I turn 90 degrees left, what happens? How do I intercept this radio? How do I tract inbound if the wind’s blowing from my left or from my right. Those are all skills you can learn. Take the flying part out of it so you can just focus on understanding what’s going on with this particular abstract task you’re trying to understand.
That was really the goal of the first book, is to get people thinking in what I considered to be the appropriate way about using PC-based simulation, and since I was recently from the flight simulator team, I focused on Microsoft Flight Simulator. The other book came out in 2012 and as the title implies, has a slightly different focus. It includes both X-Plane and Flight Simulator because those are the two common popular PC-based simulations, and I wanted to address what we’ve been talking about, this FITS in scenario-based training more explicitly because if you look at the syllabuses that are up on the FITS website and the people are trying to use, from day 1 lesson 1, you’re using simulation in some capacity. And again I wanted to address this misconception about flight simulators and simulation and how best to use it and address some of the common criticisms, and I also wanted to talk about how I think we ought to create scenarios and use them as a practical matter, the things we’re talked about before, these real-world missions, these kinds of problems that anybody’s going to solve even on a routine flight, not necessarily emergencies, abnormals, dramatic problems like thunderstorms and so forth, but these more subtle challenges that everybody faces in a flight.
So that’s really where that came from, and so I took the, that book includes a complete private pilot and instrument syllabus right out of the FITS site, I adopted it, made my own changes to it, put in variations on the scenarios in each case, put in a lot of references to additional information and just tried to make it as a tool so that it would help new instructors who don’t want to go through the, I’m lazy, I don’t want to reinvent the wheel so why should every instructor out there have to come up with a complete set of lesson plans for private and instrument, why not just take something and adapt it as necessary for their students, their situation.
Chris: Yeah, and their area too.
Bruce: Their area. But on the other hand, I set up all my scenarios in my Pacific Northwest just because it’s easy for me, I’m familiar with it. But it’s also useful, if you’re training in Wichita, you’d never get to see mountains, you’d never get to deal with certain kinds of weather. So why not go outside, if you’re going to do all your training in North Dakota or Florida, if you want to improve your skills as a pilot, well maybe flying around the Pacific Northwest would be a good thing.
Chris: Totally.
Bruce: And vice-versa. Somebody who’s never flown over the flat land, thinking “Well Florida is easy, there’s no mountains,” well you haven’t seen the daily afternoon thunderstorms you get in Florida and how do you deal with that? Or the winds, the ever present strong winds in the Midwest or the bitter cold in North Dakota. It’s a great way for people not just to practice and unfamiliar instrument approach but really think about how the flying changes, the problem of flying changes as you go to different places.
Chris: Right.
Bruce: So that was really the goal with that book, is to give flight schools, instructors and people who want to sort of learn on their own or enhance their own training, a really guided process with lots of resources so that you basically have a lesson plan with specific references to the FAA handbooks, to AOPA resources, to other stuff that’s freely available to you on the web, so that you can dig into this subject and really understand it and prepare yourself for a lesson, review a lesson maybe you’re having trouble with or want to practice some more, and just enhance your training. Obviously it’s not a substitute. You can’t do this and then suddenly jumped in an airplane and go, but it’s to just make it easier. Just like in a sense that why should a college professor of chemistry write his own textbook? There are good textbooks out there to give you the general template for okay, this is the sort of the order in which to present the material, here’s the essential material, etc.
Chris: Right, yeah. I totally agree with that. Some of those resources too, you actually have the instillation files for that right? So you can actually load up those flights which are already present and do those flights, is that correct?
Bruce: Yeah, the other idea. We can use them, we have a redbird at the flight school in Seattle where I teach. We put all those flights on a thumb drive and so if you want to do any of those flights, it can save you an immense amount of time because you can be in the air 20 miles from Tillamook, Oregon to practice crosswind landings at Tillamook coming in. Or as student, how am I going to get traffic pattern, how do I get information about what’s going on with the weather etc. So boom, you’re ready to go. They’re not interactive lessons. It’s not grading you, it’s not telling you “Oh you’re banking too steep,” you know, whatever. It just sets you up the initial conditions so that you don’t have to go through that exercise to save time.
Chris: Great. One of the things I notice is that a lot of pilots these days, they want to log every single hour they spend learning. With a simulator, I feel like that’s breaking the norm. We’re stepping outside of this loggable mindset and we’re getting into an area, especially when we’re talking about home-based simulators where, we shouldn’t be thinking about loggable hours. We should be thinking about practicality and increasing our skills, and doing so as much as we need to to become confident. What do you think about the loggable hours of a flight simulator?
Bruce: Yeah, the whole logging time thing is a big red herring, canard, whatever, what term you want to apply to it as far as I’m concerned. I did write some pretty strong comments to the FAA proposal a few months ago that they were going to cut the amount of time allowed. I think that proposal is going to go away because I just think it’s discouraging the use of simulation when we in fact should be encouraging it.
Chris: Exactly, yeah.
Bruce: But you’re absolutely right that whether the FAA allows you to log 10 hours or 20 hours for this or that certificate or rating is king of immaterial. The key point is that the way, unless you are in a professional training program. Unless you’re at UND or Embry Riddle or Air Force or Navy Pilot Training or something where you are living, eating and breathing flying, most of us have a lot of other things we are having to do all day long.
Chris: Lifestyle.
Bruce: Lifestyle. So even if you’re a very conscientious student and you fly two or three times a week at a flight school, there is still a lot of noise, interference and problems with trying to maintain your momentum and keep up and stay ahead and all that. Where it’s going to really save you money is not that necessarily it’s going to take, you can fly these hours in a simulation and save half of what it would cost to fly them in the airplane or more. It’s really, okay, I’m trying learn VOR navigation to go back to that one.
Chris: Right, exactly.
Bruce: If I can learn that with my instructor sitting at a laptop at the flight school and then practice at home on my own computer, understand how that works, than my lesson that I’m spending 200 dollars an hour for, all things added up, goes much more smoothly. And then when I have the inevitable problem that I’m not so good at slow flight and stalls or steep turns, and I need to spend more time on that, then I have a buffer in my budget, both my time and money budget, to spend time on that because really I aced VOR navigation, that’s not an issue for me. There is a whole bunch of subtle ways this goes. The problem though is to, the instructors, they’re trying to build flight time, they get paid for flight time typically, they don’t get paid for sitting in front of a simulator or somebody or a flight training device. The flight school wants it airplanes flying but we have a dismal rate as everyone has been ringing their hands about for several years about dropouts because students get discouraged.
Let’s take for example here in Seattle. There are times of the year, often much of the year, where if you’re a primary student, you need to get your solo cross countries in for your private pilot. Well, I can’t send you out because the weather may be technically VFR but it doesn’t meet either FAA minimums or our own flight school minimums for sending a student on a solo cross country. And this might go on for two or three weeks and now you forget the lesson that you learned, you get discouraged because you haven’t flown. Why not hop in the simulation and fly that, either the whole flight or parts of it, say just the approach to Tillamook so you can practice that if that’s what you’re concerned about, how am I going to recognize the airport, how am I going to enter the traffic pattern, whatever. It keeps you engaged, it helps refresh your memory. It erases questions you might want to talk about with your instructor. It does all these wonderful things to sort of keep you in the groove, and that’s motivating and I think it’s a good business preposition for the flight schools. We don’t know yet what the experiment down at the Redbird Academy in Texas, how that’s really going to play out. I don’t think we have any data yet.
But I’m encouraged by that and when I talk to my friends, I have a friend actually, next month I’m going down to Texas to see him graduate from Air Force UPT. And he was already an instrument instructor when he went in but he spent the last year plus in air force pilot training, starting from the basics, has been flying T-38s now, getting ready to go to fighters. But they used various kinds of simulators at different levels, cockpit procedure trainers, just so they can learn their checklist and their callouts and their procedures. Then they get in a simulation and they practice certain things, and then they go up in the airplane and they bounce back and forth. And if you’re a little weak on a particular skill, you spend more time in that simulator, and it’s not all going to be logged, there’s stuff you might go in with your own and do just because that’s the best way for you to brush up your skills or anticipate a checkride or something.
And that’s the attitude we need to take. It’s not always a substitute for the airplane, it’s just another tool in the toolbox and I often say you know why? No flight school today would have you using those clear plastic transparencies on the overhead projector while the instructor wrote on, you know everybody uses PowerPoint. We use video. We use interactive tools of various kinds to engage the students, to help them understand things. Why in the world do we still draw in whiteboards when we could be putting pictures up, interactive tools. Everybody who’s ever down a FIRC bemoans the fact that they are so dry as dust and boring when they could be much more engaging. Simulation is just another tool. I often tell people, “If you’re thinking about going to the whiteboard to demo how the instruments work or what the site picture should look like on final approach and whether your touchdown point is moving forward or away, fire up a laptop with Flight Simulator X-Plane, put the airplane on final, and fly too low, too high, and right on and let the students see what happens, or if the wind is going to push you off the centerline, how you fix that.” That’s an engaging hands-on experience that’s easy to do in a simulation, it saves you a lot of time, drawing. It’s just a tool, and no, you can’t log that but you can’t log the time you spent sitting in front of the whiteboard either except it’s ground instruction. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable, it’s just using it.
And you see, here in Seattle, we have a medical school at the University of Washington, they have their own TV channel and one of things they’ve done over the years is, talking about how they’re changing the way they train physicians. They’re using simulation. Here I am, a medical student or a resident and I need to understand how to intubate somebody. How many opportunities am I going to get to do that whereas somebody, the senior physician is actually to let me do that on somebody who seriously needs to be intubated right now, when I can go in and there’s a dummy that’s, the head and neck of a person and I can practice intubating until I get it right, and recognize when I put the tube down the wrong tube, that it’s blowing up their stomach, not their lungs, vice-versa. Or they can have, they’ve got one that simulates a newborn. Now they can throw all kinds of problems at you. Why is this baby turning blue, is it because the airway is obstructed, whatever. And if you make the wrong decisions, you can give a drug, you can try this, and if you make the wrong decisions, you have either a good or bad outcome. Well how valuable is that? Otherwise you have to wait for somebody to come in with that particular set of problems for you to learn about it and practice it. And obviously, the physicians and others in the room can let you make mistakes and say “Well, that was dumb,” without any real consequences. They can let you go beyond what they could in the real world.
This is happening in all kinds of fields and aviation sort of used to be the leader. Simulation really started with aviation right, with cameras flying over models. My father, they used link trainers well into the 1950s to teach basic instrument flying skills and the link trainer didn’t model any particular airplane. It looked kind of like the Stearman at the outside. It moved on bellows and it rotated around on a pedestal. He had no flight model. The instrument panel didn’t accurately reproduce any particular airplane but it was invaluable for developing a basic instrument scan and understanding the basics of radio navigation, etc. And why we don’t have the same attitude when it comes to PC-based simulation is kind of a mystery to me and it raises my blood pressure.
Chris: Yeah. I think we just lost it for a while and I think, especially with the addition of SBT and even familiarization with TAA, we’re looking at a situation now where it’s the only way to keep up and it’s the only way to really do things now and I think there’s definitely more of a recognition of that. And you know, another point I wanted to make is a reason why not only having simulator time and simulators as an integral part of your training in general, but also, if you can afford it, having a great simulator at home, is the repetition and the infinite nature of that tool. You talk about VOR navigation. You could go up and you could do eight hours of VOR navigation if you really wanted to on a simulator and even add challenges with winds, all sorts of different kinds of stuff. You can do all of that at home, and you can be honestly in a lot of situations, maybe more proficient that someone that has been learning on an actual airplane that may have limited experience with VOR navigation in their private pilot, but essentially you have more time with those different scenarios.
Bruce: Right, or you can throw yourself, you know, one of my favorite tests to people and myself actually is to go fly some of the standard instrument departures out of the Medford Oregon Airport, look it up, KMFR. They’re called the Brute, I can’t remember what reiteration it is right now, like Brute 5 or Brute 6, whatever it is, but it’s a great SID because you take off in this runway and depending on which runway you use, you got to turn back to an MDB track outbound, hit a DME arc with some cross radios in there, fixes for altitude steps and so forth, fly this big long arc and joint airway. It tests everything.
Chris: Wow.
Bruce: Of course if you do it with the GPS, you just follow the magenta line. But if you really want a sort of just as a fun exercise kind of prove what a master IFR pilot you are, jump in Flight Simulator X-Plane and fly that procedure and see how well you do. It’s a really good, just fun little, going back to what we’re talking about in the beginning, for a pilot, that’s a game, it’s a challenge.
Chris: Exactly.
Bruce: How many point you can look back at your flight track and say “Wow, I tracked that course really well,” or “Boy I was just turning all over the place where I never got centered up in time” or “I busted my altitude” or whatever. Those are always I think that appeal to pilots and keeps you mentally sharp.
Chris: Yeah definitely. Well, do you think we’ve covered enough on this episode? I think we’ve done pretty well.
Bruce: I think we probably have. It’s been an enjoyable experience.
Chris: Yeah. I appreciate you coming on the show. I know that a lot of the topics we touched on and we rolled with it so easy, but a lot of the topics we touched on are going to be extremely valuable to the listeners here on this show. I know our listeners are very passionate about flight simulation and I know that many of them are flying in the real world as well or are planning on getting their training soon, so I think we’ve done a bit to dispel the myth if you will, if there is still a myth that simulators are incredibly useful. We’ve also talked about a lot of fun topics with kind of your background in aerobatics and I just really appreciate you being on the show and let us know if there is anything we can do for you.
Bruce: It was my pleasure. I look forward to talking to you again sometime in the future.
Chris: Appreciate it Bruce. Take care.
Bruce: Okay bye.
Chris: Bye.
You know, coming into this interview, I thought that Bruce and I would talk about his books, talk about a couple interesting topics, maybe a bit of a discussion on his aerobatics and his beautiful Bonanza, but I didn’t realize just how much information we would cover and how great of an interview this would be, so I thank Bruce so much for being on this show. We definitely made an impact and I feel like this is a tremendous resource just standing on its own for those of you out there wondering if a simulator is useful for your training or for those of you that are wondering if a flight simulator in and of itself is realistic. So again, a huge, huge thanks goes out to Bruce for being on this show, it is absolutely much appreciated. And if you want to extend that appreciation to Bruce, feel free to send me a message at me@aviatorcast.com. I can pass that on to him. Any comment you leave anywhere I can pass on to him but you can also reach out to him on his website at BruceAir.com. Really simple URL, again BruceAir.com. If you want to know about anything that we’ve talked about in the show, about Bruce in general, about his history as a pilot or anything that he has going on both in the past and in the present, feel free to go to BruceAir.com. Again, big, big thanks Bruce for coming on the show. I know that our listeners will absolutely enjoy this.
So we’d love to hear your thoughts for AviatorCast. You can truly shape this show and the topics we provide. Take a 2-minute survey at survey.aviatorcast.com. Do you want to be a part of the AviatorCast community or leave a comment, simply go to AviatorCast.com to join in or write me directly at me@aviatorcast.com. Also, if you don’t want to miss any AviatorCast episode, no worries. You can subscribe through email at AviatorCast.com or you can subscribe through iTunes, Stitcher, YouTube or SoundCloud. There is a lot of different locations where you can get AviatorCast. We’d also love to get an honest review from you on iTunes. This is our number one source for helping others learn about AviatorCast. If you don’t share it, others won’t learn about it. If you can, if you enjoyed this episode, we’d love to hear your feedback there. Anyway, that’s on iTunes. You can leave a review, very, very simple.
If you’d like to check out any of our training products, head to flyaoamedia.com. Start with the basics for free with Aviator 90, learn instrument flight and more with AviatorPro or even fly many of the world’s more popular jets virtually with our training products for the 737, 747, 777 and MD-11. Again at flyaoamedia.com. And just as a side note there, all of these products were made mostly with a homebased simulator, so this just goes to show how realistic these simulators can be going back to our discussion here with Bruce. It just goes to show just how great these simulators are.
So last but certainly not least, many thanks go out to the Angle of Attack crew. I just love these guys. They work very, very hard to make sure that each episode of AviatorCast is possible, and they do a lot behind the skills to make sure that Angle of Attack is running well, and so that you and I can spend time together every week, talking about these great and interesting topics, and also bringing in great interviews like Bruce. Also, this show would not be possible without you, so thank you so much for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast. We are truly grateful to have you here part of our community and so engaged in this wonderful passion for flying things.
Until next time, throttle on!


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