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interview sim ride

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that #@$!% red baron!
Apr 1, 2002
Hi All,

I was curious about the simulators that are used when interviewing. I have very little time in a sim -- the PCATD variety. When I flew it I found it very sensitive. It was very easy to induce pilot oscillation. The trim was also a little weird. I trimmed the pressure out, but then instead of the yoke staying at that position, I had to let go and let it center.

Are the simulators for the interview this way or do they have real instruments (instead of on a computer screen) like the pictures of the frasca?
Do they fly more like small ga aircraft or are they really sensitive? Should I spend more time in the PCATD or try to find a frasca or other sort to help get the hang of it before reaching the stage to go to an interview?

Thanks everybody in advance.

--- Snoopy
As I used to tell my students who asked your question, if I had an airplane that flew like a Frasca 142, I'd have it fixed!

This isn't a slap at Frasca. The instability will make you work harder. An hour flying one of their sims will sharpen you right up, and will show you any weakness in your instrument skills. No one should approach an interview where a sim ride is expected, IMHO, without seeking out a 142 or similar device, such as an AST or an ATC 710 for some practice. Your basic FTD is more unstable than an aircraft, in my experience. This varies both by manufacturer and wind/turbulence settings.

You might prepare for the FTD experience by cranking up the settings on your PCATD before paying out the $50 to $130 per hour for the FTD.

It's a worthwhile experience.
I agree

Get some time in a sim before you go to an interview. I went to an interview once and had to fly a frasca sim. I had never seen one let alone flown one. I got a rude awakening. Doesn't even come close to flying like a real plane. Agian get some time in one before you go.
I had never flown a Frasca before when I went to my last interview. And I got hired! The way I figure it, if your IFR scan is good then you dont have anything to worry about.
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Simulator Prep. has many benefits

First, what you noticed about the ATD you were playing with is the single most important thing you can notice about simulators. This next thought may seem obvious but here goes - simulators DON'T really fly!!! That's an important fact to understand the significance of anytime a simulator becomes involved in an evaluation of your skills. The reason it's significant is because if you try to fly a simulator like it's a real airplane you're going to disappoint both yourself and the evaluator.

To keep this simple just think about what a simulator or ATD of any kind really is; It's a computer with outputs to flight instruments. What you do with the controls determines what shows up on the instruments but even that's not real - it's just a computer input.

You noted that the trim on the ATD was strange. That's because it's not a real trim per se. The controls on the ATD are spring loaded to a neutral position so when you trim what' you're really doing is electronically resetting the neutral default position of the elevators that the computer uses to present instrument indications. However, this is accomplished WITHOUT changing the position of the flight control mechanism that you hold in your hand.

It's little subtleties like this that make flying a simulator an art in and of itself. Moreover it's an art form that must be mastered for EACH simulator you fly because each one has peculiarities unique to that one machine. Even big full-motion simulators at airlines and places like Flight Safety all require development of a specific knowledge base by pilots who use them in order to really make them sing.

What I'm hoping all this points to is the notion that practicing on a simulator of ANY kind is better than no practice at all. Practicing on the same kind of simulator as you'll be flying in an interview evaluation is better yet. And flying the very same box as will be used for the actual simulator evaluation is best of all. No matter how you do it getting experience in simulators is the key to doing well in all the evaluations you will face for the rest of your career.

There are other benefits to getting some simulator time before an interview. I delineate them in my book on interviewing. Read the other post entitled, "Why Practice On a Simulator?" to read more about the benefits of simulator preparation.

Hope this helps!

Why Practice On a Simulator? - Part I

This is Part I of an excerpt from my book on aviation interviews. Hope this finds a useful place for someone.


Why Practice On A Simulator?

There are five very good reasons for taking the time and spending the money to prepare for your simulator evaluation at your interview. First, if you have any contacts within the company or any way of doing research on the nature of the simulator evaluation you can practice the company's simulator profile before you get to the interview. Second, you may not be as good a pilot as they want you to be and a little brushing up will help correct this. Third, If you haven't flown a simulator recently you'll want to refamiliarize yourself with their potentially unstable characteristics. Fourth, you might be asked to fly a simulator that requires more than one pilot and what is being evaluated is not only your flying skills but your ability to work in a crew environment. Lastly, since many airlines will have you fly a simulator that emulates an airplane in their fleet, you may be faced with instruments and navigation systems that you've never had the opportunity to use before. The simulator evaluation is NOT the appropriate time to learn how to use a costly instrument like an RMI. Let's take a look at each one of these issues in turn.

Practicing the Company Profile

This is one of the most obvious benefits of using a simulator prior to going to your interview. This type of preparation is most effective if it is as close to what will occur in the interview as possible. This requires that you find out such things as what airport and approach(es) you will be working with, how you will be observed dealing with a holding clearance, and whether you will be expected to cope with any malfunctions.

You will also want to find out what kind of simulator the company plans to use and get some time in one if at all practical. Find out too if you will be operating as a crew with either a company pilot or another interviewee. Even if you can't use an identical simulator simply being familiar with the profile used on the evaluation will help tremendously in relieving your workload during the actual interview check.

The benefit of practicing what will happen in the interview should be self evident. This is one of the key areas in which an inside contact at the company is practically essential. For one thing, such a person can tell you directly what they were asked to do during their interview. Even if the profile has changed since your contact was hired they can still find out what the new evaluation is like from people who would know best; the new hires. The point is that an inside contact can get you information about this portion of the interview that you can't really get any other way. If you have contacts within the company, use them!

Improve Your Performance

The importance of doing well on the simulator evaluation varies widely from company to company but it could be said that if they didn't think is was a legitimate area of inquiry they wouldn't be spending the money to do it. At some companies you may not even be allowed to proceed with the rest of the interview if you do not perform well in the simulator while at other companies the exercise is evaluated in the context of the overall impression you make in the interview. You can be sure , however, that if it didn't have some impact on the selection process, the company you are interviewing with would not go to the time and expense of including it as part of the application evaluation process.

Generally, an airline or corporate flight department will not expect you to fly the simulator perfectly. They expect that you'll be unfamiliar with the simulator, their company procedures, and the approaches they want you to fly. Rather, they are looking for evidence that you have sound instrument flying skills combined with a solid working knowledge of FARs and the IFR procedures published in the AIM.

They will also look at whether you settle down after a few minutes of getting used to the machine. This will demonstrate that you learn quickly and apply what you learn to improve your performance -- a valuable indicator of your trainability.

Get Used To Flying a Computer

Simulators are terrific devices. They can be as simple as the desktop model you see at flying clubs to machines that are more complicated than the airplanes they are designed to emulate but they all have one thing in common: they don't really fly. What this means is that nothing short of a very sophisticated computer must be employed to make all the instruments and controls do what they're supposed to in order to make you believe that's what you're doing.

In the real world, when you move a control in an airplane the desired response is instant because the device you're attempting to control is actually being moved and from there physics takes over. In a simulator the process is very different in that your control input is translated into an input into a computer. The computer analyzes what the effect of the input should be and then sends an output to the appropriate display in the simulator to let you know that you have made some sort of change to the simulation. All of that occurs very quickly but not as quickly as in a real airplane. The lag that is created by the fact that a signal goes into the computer, it thinks about it, and then produces an output signal is usually about 1/4 to 1/2 second; definitely a perceptible period of time.

What all this means is that your timing will be just a little off in just about any simulator. You will make control inputs and because of the lag between input and output time you may be fooled into believing that your input did not have the desired effect.

Probably the hardest thing to do in a simulator is maintain one's altitude properly. There are two reasons why this is so. The first is that in a simulator, no matter how hard the manufacturer may try, they cannot create real acceleration forces like the ones that give you a shove in the rear end when you start a climb. In a non-motion simulator there are no tactile cues whatsoever. The bottom line is that you do not have the usual set of non-instrument cues to tell you that the airplane is wandering.

The second reason that altitude is difficult to maintain in a simulator is that the way the machine figures out what the altimeter should read is by combining the pitch attitude, the power setting and the speed at which the simulation is running (IAS) to come up with not only the altitude to display but also the altitude trend (VSI, IAS, and rate of altimeter needle movement).

What this means is that assuming the most sensitive parameter is pitch (and it usually is), any variation in the pitch attitude of the simulator will cause the computer to rethink where to put the altimeter. Consequently, the instrument that you need to pay the most attention to in a simulator is one that you probably have learned to do just as well without as with: the attitude indicator.

In smaller airplanes the attitude indicator is really too small to be read accurately for precise pitch information but in larger aircraft this changes dramatically. The small instruments that you find in light planes give way to instruments that can be as much as six inches in diameter. This kind of size makes an attitude indicator not only easier to see and read, but useful as a way to point the nose precisely where you want it.
Why Practice On a Simulator? - Part II

Here is Part II from my book on interviewing of why you should practice on a simulator prior to an insterview. Hope this helps!


Learn To Function In a Crew Environment

When flying an airliner simulator you will be demonstrating your ability to function in a crew environment -- one of the most difficult aspects of transitioning to a large, multi-pilot airplane.

When you fly by yourself you do everything yourself: tune radios and talk on them; read charts; perform navigation tasks; and fly the airplane. In a crew environment, if you're the person flying the plane, that's all you do! That and tell your co-pilot what you need or want done to support your flying. That means you don't tune radios or identify navigation frequencies. You don't read charts once you've had a chance to familiarize yourself with them. You don't even necessarily set the power yourself as long as you can tell the other pilot exactly how you want it set!

Initially, you will be tempted to do everything yourself, just as you did when flying single pilot. You'll need to learn quickly not to do that. Flight instructors have a bit of an advantage in this area, having learned to talk about what they are doing as they do it. They have also learned to direct someone else how to manipulate the controls in a timely way while keeping their priorities in order. These are both valuable skills in the multi-pilot cockpit because the art of talking someone else through precisely what you want them to do takes time to develop. The better you are at it, the better cockpit crew member you make.

So how does flying a simulator help in this area? It helps because you can enlist the help of a friend to be your first officer and practice being the pilot flying, doing nothing but flying the plane and directing the non-flying pilot’s actions. You might even have a friend who is already flying as a crew member, perhaps for your target airline. If you could get such a person to help you, you would also have a coach who could guide you and help you become a crew member more quickly. Try it. You'll see how different and challenging it is!

If you know that the simulator you will be expected to fly is an airliner, don't fail to prepare for the demands of performing in a multi-pilot cockpit. A relatively small investment of time and money will help you begin to develop the discipline required to perform well as the flying pilot in a crew.

Use Instruments You've Never Used Before

For those pilots coming from the general aviation arena, the simple prospect of flying an airplane equipped with an HSI can be a real thrill. There are a great many very costly avionics packages available for aircraft these days, many of which are too expensive, too large, too heavy, or any combination of these, to install in light aircraft. Some examples include such items as weather radar, flight director, TCAS, HSI, RMI, and FMS, just to name a few. By contrast to light airplanes, airliners will have most if not all of these features installed and you will need to learn to use them at some point.

At a bare minimum, the simulator you will fly will probably have an HSI and an RMI. If you have never used or are unfamiliar with the function and use of either of these two instruments you should probably consider getting some exposure to them.

Some position locating tasks in simulator evaluations are designed to see if you understand and know how to use the RMI well. Certain course interception and holding scenarios require advanced knowledge of the HSI to be executed smoothly and accurately. Although it's not likely that you'll have to use one, it sometimes is expected that you be able to demonstrate the use of a flight director.

All of this points out two things. First, getting advance information from an inside contact on the evaluation itself will give you a clear indication of the instrument preparation you need. Second, getting some practice using the equipment on which you will be evaluated could elevate your performance considerably and make you a better applicant than your competition. All it takes to make this happen is a little instruction and some practice doing what you've learned.

Simulator Practice: Final Thoughts

As we have seen, there are some very compelling reasons to take the time to get some practice in a simulator. Does the one you choose have to be the latest and greatest simulator available? No, it doesn't. It just has to get you scanning the instruments. Having that second person there will help you with the crew aspect of you preparation and if you are nervous about the instrumentation you'll face in the interview, find a simulator that has what you're anxious about so you can learn to use it.

Whatever you do, don't hesitate to spend a little money on some quality practice. Before you decide that it doesn't fit in your budget ask yourself if flying that Duchess or Seminole did. Then consider that performing poorly on the simulator evaluation might result in not getting the job you really want. All that multi-engine time you paid for will hardly seem worth it.
Thanks to everyone for the responses! I was hoping to see that as these got more expensive, the more they felt like airplanes. Alas, I guess not. Since there is probably not any interviews on the horizon, I'm going to start with the PCATD that I have access to free. Then, when I get used to the delay and sensitivity, I know of a frasca that I can use fairly cheap to see a different type. I think that I will take the opportunity to fly any of these I can, like I take opportunities to fly different airplanes. Again, thanks everyone for the input!

And TIS, I was curious as to the name of the book?

--- Snoopy
Sim Rides

I had five commuter interviews and three sim rides. All this happened from mid 1990 through early 1991, so some things may be different - but, maybe not.

I should mention at the outset that I became a confirmed sim "junkie" long before any of my interviews. TIS is correct; you can't think of it as flying an airplane. You have to think of it as flying a "simulator."

I think it was an ATC 710 that I "flew" for my WestAir/United Express interview. It was unstable. I thought I did alright on my ride.

I had an American Eagle interview in Dallas. They used a Citation sim in those days. I knew that long before my interview, which was one reason why I bought a Citation type. Well, guess what? That machine flew nothing like the airplane. What you've heard about the airplane is true; the Citation is very friendly and flies like a 172 on steroids. Maybe easier. I was familiar with crew coordination and callouts from my own study and through a crew coordination course we taught at Riddle.

My last airline interview with a sim check was at Comair. I interviewed in Sanford at its school. The sim was an AST-300, with which I was familiar, but, looking back, I wasn't that well prepared.

Before I interviewed with Mesa Airlines Pilot Development, I attended an interview prep session with Capt. Bob Norris at his facility near San Francisco. I hadn't flown in two months, and that was money well spent. Not to mention that Capt. Norris gave me some excellent prep and was good just to talk to. I recommend him highly. I bought the book he wrote with Danny Mortensen and recommend it highly as well.

DO practice "flying" a sim regularly. DO practice setting the parameters to the extremes and challanging yourself. My favorite was to fly DME arcs as fast as the sim could go, at 200 kts. Try the same thing with ILS approaches and holding. DO get ahold of the profiles that your interviewing airline uses and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

I wouldn't mine reading TIS' book myself, although I'll never have any airline interview again.
AST-300 sim

Upcoming interview with ACA, looking for a place that has an AST-300 simulator so I can prepare. I live in the north east. Any ideals?

or will any sim do the job.

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