This is the final installment of a three-part series of articles by Textron Aviation’s Mindy Lindheim, following her through a recent Cessna Citation 525S type rating school experience. She offers a candid look at what to expect and how to relieve some of the anxiety around earning a type rating. Read Part 1 & Part 2.
Disclaimer: This series presents Mindy’s perspective. Another individual may have a different experience or outcome.
Finally, with the dreaded but necessary ground school behind us, we could get to the fun part of my Cessna Citation 525S type rating school at FlightSafety International’s Learning Center in Tampa, Florida: the full-motion simulators (sims). The schedule lightened up a bit for me compared to week one, and I only had to show up to school for my sim block, which was 5.5 hours each day, including a briefing before and after the sim session. These bad boys are awesome but also quite intimidating. Sure, they keep the temperatures inside at a cool 68 degrees to keep the computers from overheating, but I can assure you that it doesn’t take long in the left seat to start sweating.
Emergencies, emergencies, emergencies. That’s what it’s all about. Oh, you think you’re taking off? Nope – engine failure on the takeoff roll. Oh, you took off and think you’ll have a nice climb out? Nope – engine fire at 50 feet. Oh, you’re cleared on course to your destination? Nope – severe weather with an electrical failure and need to divert immediately. The name of the game is always searching for what is wrong. There is only one flight where nothing goes wrong, and that feels suspicious to the pilot who has spent the past five days dealing with constant failures.
So how does one master the simulators? You start with accepting that it is a simulator, not an aircraft. It will feel and fly a bit differently by nature, and you will inevitably experience some “sim-isms.” “Sim-isms” are quirky little glitches that the simulator will sometimes experience that you have to deal with. Trust me, your instructor knows, and you won’t be penalized for it. Just call out that something weird is happening with the sim and move on. Also guaranteed are bad landings. Given the absence of your usual depth perception, landing smoothly is difficult, and the instructors typically have you fly at night to make it even harder. You are not rated on the softness of your landings, so just do your best here.
The flows (checklists) are the most important thing to know for your simulator sessions. Some FlightSafety Learning Centers have fixed simulators (not full motion) where you can practice your flows on your own time without the need for an instructor. During your free time, especially within the first few days, I encourage you to take advantage of these fixed simulators to work on your checklists and build some muscle memory. The full-motion simulator time is precious; you don’t get extra time in there, and you have a hard-stop end time on your sessions, so you need to make every minute count. I would much rather have a few extra minutes to practice V1 cuts than to waste that time trying to read my checklist line by line.
The only tricky part about simulator week is your sim partner. You don’t get to choose who your sim partner is and that can be tough sometimes with a clashing matchup. I was lucky enough to have a disciplined sim partner who took the course as seriously as I did and was on the same page as me. We were also in the 525S course, which means that we both were taking the checkride as single-pilot checks without a copilot. That isn’t always an option with bigger planes, though, and even for us, that still meant we had the same sim block and had to interact each day. If you are flying the sim with someone, remember that your time in the left seat is your time. You’re pilot-in-command. Don’t be afraid to manage your expectations of them while you’re the one flying. Unfortunately, even in the real world, we don’t always get to choose who we fly with, so do your best to cooperate.
My preparation for checkride was a bit over the top to most. I decided to make a master study guide of all my learnings from my time at school. But I’ll tell you that my simulator partner was very thankful and future me is also happy that I have a great study guide for my schooling when I go back for currency.
I initially decided to make a typed study guide out of frustration. All the information I needed to know seemed to be in different places. I was flipping between flashcards covered in Part 1 of this article series, various books and handwritten notes to study just one topic. That gave me the idea to type it all into one place.
I went through the coursebook chapter by chapter to make an outline guide. I included all of the “Required Knowledge Areas” or RKAs, anything I had highlighted in my textbook, any relevant flashcard items, and my handwritten notes. It was a way for me to review everything and consolidate information at the same time. I worked on it heavily for about three days, and then on the day before checkride, my sim partner and I sat down with the guide and quizzed each other multiple times. I figured I might as well put the work in while my time was dedicated to the training. Plus, now I have a nice study guide to cut down on workload next time I come to Citation 525 training.
This day was nerve-racking, but I also felt prepared. I couldn’t believe I felt ready for this day after only learning this airplane for the past two weeks, but that was largely in part to all the hard work I put into it and the expertise of some fantastic instructors.
Checkride was everything I expected it to be, and thankfully, nothing I did not expect. The oral exam portion was straightforward and what we prepped for. Most of the questioning was situational based, but the examiner also threw in a few private pilot questions, for example, runway centerline light colors at night.
Once I passed the oral portion, we moved into the sim and flew a profile of nearly exactly what I practiced with my instructor the day before. There were no surprises and no tricks, and the examiner was very clear about his expectations of me before we flew the simulator.
After a two-hour simulator session of – you guessed it – emergencies and instrument procedures, I landed the sim poorly for the last time and earned my 525S type rating! An accomplishment that only a couple of short weeks ago felt impossible. I overcame the difficult task by learning to trust the process, trust the people and trust myself to complete the course successfully. After all, it’s just another plane, right?
Author bio: Mindy Lindheim is the Multimedia Communications Content Producer for Textron Aviation and is a rated factory demonstration pilot. Prior to attending type rating school, Mindy held her commercial single and multi-engine certificates with an instrument rating, as well as Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and Certified Flight Instructor Instrument certificates (CFII).