RJ Tutt Aviation

In Aircraft Training vs an FTD

In aircraft, type specific flight training is preferred, verses simulator training, as the pilot experiences flight sensations in their aircraft not otherwise realized.  They also get the opportunity to use the avionics suite installed in that ship.  I have a ground power unit (GPU) that allows us to sit on the ramp (safely), power up the avionics and use the aircraft as a procedures trainer.  

I have significant experience on Garmin G1000, G500/G600 (both Txi & legacy units), GNS530/430W, GTN650/750, S-TEC Meggitt Magic, Avidyne Entegra R7/R8/R9 along with conventional flight instrument panels. 

I'm a career flight instructor training pilots at this level on these aircraft for more than twenty years and have accumulated more than 19,000 flight hours doing so.

The NorCal air traffic controllers are great for flight training.  There is favorable weather, numerous airports within a short radius, reasonable traffic density and all the instrument approach combinations.  This translates to more useful and no wasted flight time.

This is why training out of Stockton, CA (KSCK) is a very wise choice!

Compare this to the cost of Simulator School.  You'll have to travel the day before and after school.  You'll be there for two, three or four days, depending on the course, and have expenses accordingly.  This can be a full week endeavor.

Don’t get me wrong, simulators are great as long as they can exactly replicate your aircraft with visual, sound, motion and feel.  Unfortunately, there are none out there that can accommodate this especially with all of the modifications that have been made to these aircraft.  This is why they are known as 'Flight Training Devices'.  

Afterward, you'll want to get training on the Avionics Suite and Automation Package of your individual aircraft and most likely have to complete an IPC/BFR as most simulators (flight training devices) are not approved for 'landing' and a 'landing' is required for both.

This is why using your aircraft is the best answer.

Additionally, I co-own a 1987 PA46-310P that I've been flying for 20 years.  I have over 6,000 hours in the PA46 series.   

Lastly, annually, I attend three days at Flight Safety International-Wichita, KS.  Annually, I spend three days completing recurrent for the Cessna Citation Mustang (CE510).  It requires a day of travel prior and one to return; a five day commitment.  That simulator exactly replicates the aircraft; exactly.  I endorse simulator training in so much it allows us to create and perform emergencies we would never attempt in the aircraft but does suffer from the afore mentioned limitations.

Thank you for considering RJ Tutt Aviation for your 'Flight Training' needs!!   


By Rick Tutt 

The Great Debate - Initial/Recurrent Flight Training; Simulator vs. In-Aircraft

Owning a flight school, holding a Part 135 Charter certificate and offering corporate pilot services has provided many opportunities that got me checked-out on several makes & models of aircraft.   

This brings up the great debate; train in the aircraft or train on a simulator. 

This subject was debated during a ‘break-out’ session at the 2012 AIA Convention.  Unfortunately, the conversation diverged from the original topic and never got back on track.  It was downhill from there, becoming more of a debate between the two participants, who are competitors, and not on the subject of simulation VS use of the aircraft.  The session could have used a moderator.  

Let me start by saying that I have a unique opportunity to work as both an authorized flight instructor providing Initial & Recurrent Flight Training in a few different makes & models of aircraft as well as working as a corporate pilot two days a week flying both a Piper Malibu and a Citation Mustang.  I fly corporate 200 hours, train 350 hours, and fly myself to work opportunities 50 hours averaging 600 flight hours annually. 

Years ago I operated a small flight school in Stockton, CA where I provided primary flight instruction.  From 1990-1996 I soloed about 100 pilots.  A few of those pilots went on to purchase aircraft that either required a simple check-out or needed further mentoring to satisfy the insurance policy or that pilot’s lack of confidence; sometimes both.   

First things first, I didn’t have experience on many of these aircraft so I had to go to flight school to get checked-out myself.  That was fine.  I soon met a gentleman that I’ve had a long relationship with in the specialty field of Initial/Recurrent Flight Training; Ronald H. Cox. 

Ron would check me out on a new model, and then I’d get listed as a ‘named’ pilot on the policy.  That would allow me to provide further instruction/mentoring to the aircraft owner/policy holder.  Everybody was happy; insurance, owner & me. Shortly thereafter, I realized there was a’ niche’ market as a mentor and an authorized instructor on certain aircraft.  

This played out several times over the subsequent years where I received formal ground school and flight training on a few series of models; PA46, PA31, Twin Cessna, Pressurized Baron, King Air and Cheyenne. 

This became a ‘mainstay’ of work.  I had several customers that had traded up to aircraft they could no longer fly by themselves, didn’t feel confident to so for their own reasons or no longer wanted to sit up front at all. 

Eventually Mr. Cox asked me to work for him as the ‘West Coast’ Representative of his training firm.  I did so and worked for him 1998-2006. 

This provided the opportunity to further my education on those groups of aircraft and get greater exposure to the insurance component of aviation. 

As the years progressed, the Initial/Recurrent training work consumed my schedule, Mr. Cox sold his company, I went out on my own giving back my Part 135 certificate to the FAA and closed my 'primary' instruction flight school.   

Along the line, I was able to acquire a co-ownership position in a Piper Malibu.  Just like all of those I train each year, now I became an aircraft owner/policy holder who was required to attend school each year.  It didn’t matter how many Piper Malibu aircraft I would train other pilots on, the insurance company holding my policy wanted somebody to evaluate me as to how well I could fly a PA46. 

My relationship with Mr. Cox would circle back to a role of the instructor providing me with training each year.

That’s my history.  The main purpose of this article is to really 'dig in' to this subject.

 On one early career occasion, an insurance underwriter insisted I attend simulator school for a model of aircraft I was about to fly on a corporate level.  It was a five day course with a travel day on each end; a full week commitment.  

Afterwards, I was still required to have 10 hours in the aircraft itself.   

When asked about simulator school versus doing all the training in the aircraft during the initial, I was told the increase of a potential accident and/or incident with the plane is more than the insurance company wanted to risk.  Therefore, I went to the simulator school the insurance company directed me to.  But what about the 10 hours I asked?  I was to do that in the aircraft.  What about the risk & exposure?  There was no good explanation.

I first went to that formal simulator flight school in 1996.  The school used the cockpit of an actual aircraft.  However, there were four variants so it wasn’t the exact model I would eventually fly.  I guess that’s close enough in the simulator world.  Then in August 2009, my regular corporate pilot position allowed me the opportunity to train on the Cessna Citation Mustang the company had purchased.  It was my first chance to train on a ‘full motion’ simulator; what a difference from my 1996 experience. 

Upon completion of training and delivery, I got to fly the actual airplane.  The simulator was an exact replica to the aircraft cockpit right down to the cup holders, side pockets, sounds and performance.  Everything was just as it had been for the two weeks at the simulator school. 

In the makes & models for which I provide training, there are few simulators that exactly replicate the aircraft for which they were designed.  The smaller piston and turbo-propeller aircraft have been so widely upgraded & converted over the years with engine modifications, performance enhancements, avionic & radio makeovers, the combinations are near endless.  I don’t know of any full motion simulators for these aircraft that can replicate these significant changes.  At best, the only thing out there is the ‘FTD’ (Flight Training Device). 

In my view point, these are nothing more than procedures trainers.  They do have characteristics that mimic flight but there is no feel or sensation to flight itself! 

I’ve been there and done that.  As earlier mentioned, I attended school in 1996 for a Piper Navajo.  The bad part, I used a FTD for a Chieftain when I was planning to fly a 310 C/R; some significant differences. 

This is how it goes with most all FTD on all lines of small GA aircraft.  The pilot receiving instruction (PRI) is required to use a device that, more often than not, does not even closely resemble his cockpit or avionics/flight display/radio layout. 

The PRI is required to adapt to a layout that they are completely foreign to.  The PRI might operate a Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) and the simulator is configured with conventional instruments.   The FTD could use Avidyne when the PRI operates Garmin, Aspen or something else.  The PRI has upgrades like G500/G600, Aspen or King Primary Flight Display (PFD) and the FTD has all round instruments. 

The PRI struggles during the simulator session simply trying to figure out the layout.  It’s not time well spent.  I make my point.

Afterwards, the PRI has to complete a Biennial Flight Review (BFR) & Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC) in their aircraft as the requirement for both those endorsements requires a landing to a full stop and you cannot land an FTD. 

The PRI must now go home, find an authorized instructor who meets the 'open pilot warranty clause' of the insurance policy (good luck) or finds a local instructor who is pre-approved or attains conditional approval by their underwriter to provide that BFR/IPC checkout in their aircraft.

The harder part of my job is to sort out all the different avionics combinations in the aircraft.  These upgrades now make this aircraft a TAA; Technically Advanced Aircraft.

Even though these components were designed to 'play' with one another, the avionic shops often do not wire them up correctly and they do not work in concert together.  Do not get me wrong!  There are many shops in the avionics industry that do a great job but there are far more that do not.  I've seen this countless times!  

In aircraft having more than one 'roll steering' module, and or more than one GPS navigator, the pilot, and instructor, must determine which one is controlling the autopilot.  Then when an approach mode is selected, the 'roll steering' is to switch 'OFF' automatically.  Some do not switch off properly and the autopilot will not couple on the approach, unless, the pilot flying knows/realizes this in advance and responds accordingly. 

This is very problematic and the pilot flying that aircraft eventually learns the nuances of his or her ship but not until, generally speaking, an instructor sorts this all out with them.

There are too many variables involved and the majority of the simulator/FTD units just can't do the job.

Don’t get me wrong, simulators are great as long as they replicate your aircraft with visual, sound, motion and feel.  Unfortunately, there are only a few out there that accommodate this.  In my viewpoint, this why using your aircraft is the best solution to your training requirement.  

I go to simulator training each fall for the Cessna Citation Mustang (CE510).  It’s an annual event.  It requires a day of travel prior, three days in class, then one to return; a five day commitment.  That simulator exactly replicates the aircraft; exactly.  I endorse simulator training in so much it allows us to create and perform maneuvers we find difficult to attempt in the aircraft but does suffer from the aforementioned limitations.  

Rick Tutt is a 19,000+ ATP rated pilot, career flight instructor & corporate pilot who provides services on the immediate West Coast and operates out of Stockton, CA; KSCK as RJ Tutt Aviation www.rjtuttaviation.com  On average, Rick trains 90 pilots per year on 80 different aircraft.