What a great training program

Questions and comments about the PE Pilot Training Program

What a great training program

Postby flyerdaviduk » Fri Mar 19, 2021 8:09 am

I've just worked my way through both the CAT and IFR training programs in recent weeks and wanted to say how useful and worthwhile I thought they are. Thanks to all those who've developed and operate such a useful service.

I am a UK based real-world pilot with a US Airman's certificate including IR. I've flown mostly VFR in several US states on holiday including California. My knowledge to date has mainly been from reading various books/guides and the 2 hour Flight Review required before hiring an aircraft. I've flown several of the flights in the series in the real world, such as Camarillo to John Wayne, landing at San Diego, San Luis, Santa Maria, San Bernadino etc. It brought back some great memories of the time spent there, just how supportive ATC and the aviation environment is there.

The features of the system take a little time getting used to, such as the same controller handling multiple airports and frequencies, but does add to the busy nature of many ATC frequencies. The pace of instructions given, delays in getting a word at times etc. do match the real world and increase the stress levels at times. I particularly liked the fact you had thought about being able to bypass real-world weather using Information Zulu and have had to use that several times during these winter months. The web based support is great, including the associated myFlightRoute.com, online ATIS pages and PEaware flight log. The operational support has been consistent, with controllers manning every station 7 days a week. Sometimes they get a bit overloaded, other times it seems very quiet. It must be hard to match capacity with demand, just like the real world.

I will certainly make use of this before my next trip to the US (whenever that might be possible) and recommend to others.

A couple of suggestions to consider made with best intentions:

Replace New Cuyama in CAT-1 and CAT-2 with somewhere that is open and less affected by terrain. For those of us new to the area, I found it really quite hard to figure out a descent plan into San Luis and completely messed up the approach. It was one complication I could have done without during the first time talking to a controller. What about Santa Paula to Camarillo?

Remove the back-course localiser approach in I-10. Do people really still fly these for real outside a test/training environment? We don't have them in Europe and I do wonder if they exist outside the US. Instead replace it with at least one RNAV approach, possibly for the same approach. Maybe have one RNAV that is more proactively vectored onto final by the controller versus one handled more procedurally (eg at a non-towered airport).

Update the video tutorials for the later I ratings. Those in the CAT program and early I series are excellent, but I felt I got much less out of these later ones - couldn't really see the cockpit avionics particularly well.

Now I've just got to make sure I don't start using US phrases here in the UK, such as point (frequency), midpoint, pattern, flight following or start switching from ground to tower without asking first etc.
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Re: What a great training program

Postby Keith Smith » Fri Mar 19, 2021 9:43 am

I'm glad you enjoyed the program. You might enjoy the Sky HIgh Charters program next :)

Thanks for the feedback, too. I'll take a minute to respond to some of the suggestions:
1) SBP was chosen as the arrival field for the CAT-2 because of the simplicity of the airspace. CMA is a triple concentric Delta. I'd argue it's better to have simpler airspace with a little bit of terrain enroute than have the pilot deal with the potential stress caused by 3 deltas smashed together :) Having flown the CAT-2 a few times, I've never really found the terrain to be of much conseqeuence during the arrival phase. It's also not uncommon for the Socal and, indeed, much of the Western US airspace.

2) Fair point on the backcourse. It's up there with ADF approaches in that they exist, and are valid, but certainly aren't growing in popularity. The addition of RNAV has greatly reduced their utility, of course. To that end, the ratings were developed when RNAV approaches were not easily flown in most sims (certainly X-Plane's stock GPS wasn't up to the task at the time, not even close). Now that RNAV is SO prevlaent, I could see an argument for swapping out the back course with an RNAV at some point.

3) I haven't watched the videos in a while, but they were recorded quite a while ago and without the benefit of some of the newer video compression codecs. I agree that a re-shoot would be beneficial in the future. The CAT ratings were recently shot, as you can tell by the use of FS2020 (which was intentional).
Keith Smith
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Location: Pompton Plains, NJ

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