LOGAN, Utah — Instructors at Utah State University's School of Applied Sciences, Technology and Education unveiled a new flight simulator earlier this month for students obtaining jet training in preparation for their careers as airline or business-jet pilots.
The Commercial Regional Jet 700 Flight Training Device from Paradigm Shift Solutions — a precise replica of the Bombardier CRJ 700 cockpit — replaces a simulator used by students for several years before it broke during spring semester 2012.
Students within the program will fly the simulator during a three-semester-long series of regional jet courses, including ground school and simulator course work. Students start the program in the spring of their junior year, and then conclude in the spring of their senior year with the simulator class.
Coincidentally, this gave plenty of time for USU flight instructors to set up the simulator in time to be operational in spring 2013.
"It's going to be a great tool here at Utah State University," said Simon Paquet, a senior flight instructor, who will work with students specifically on the simulator. "This really gives us that edge compared to other flight schools."
The installation of a new simulator comes at an interesting time for aviation since President Barack Obama signed the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act in 2010. USU officials and students are anxious for some of the provisions of the law that are about to go into effect.
In part, the law requires the FAA to mandate that airlines cannot hire a freshman pilot with no less than 1,500 hours of pilot experience. They must have "appropriate" operational experience before they can begin piloting commercial passenger flights.
Prior to the law's enactment, pilots needed to complete as few as 250 hours before piloting such flights. This new law essentially matches what it would take for a pilot to become a captain of a commercial airline, according to FAA rules, said Sean Heiner, chief flight instructor for USU aviation.
The changes in requirements came as a result of a fatal Continental Airlines Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 crash that killed all on board when it crashed into a home outside Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009. In its final report on the crash, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board cited that the captain "inappropriately responded" to the plane's stall warnings. In addition, the 24-year-old first officer, Rebecca Lynne Shaw, had little operational experience flying that plane type in inclement weather. Both pilots showed signs of fatigue, according to the report.
Before the law was signed, it was still "pretty common" for new first officers to be hired with 1,500 pilot hours, Heiner said. Becoming a first officer with 250 hours was "uncommon," and 500 was "more likely a low minimum that people would go to," Heiner said.
"Initially, I guess, we were concerned about it, as far as understanding what we needed to do with the (USU) program to satisfy the new experience requirements," Heiner said. "We did regional jet program training in the past, and will continue to do it. However, with this new simulator, the training will be much better, and may help to better satisfy the requirements of the airlines."
The simulator will prepare USU students by offering training features that include more than 24,000 airport scenarios, an accurate navigation database, a fully functional flight management system integrated with autopilot and total control over simulated weather conditions.
"It will help them make the jump from those smaller aircraft into flying a large airliner or jet," said.
The flight simulator will be housed at the ASTE building until May when it will be moved to the Industrial Science Building.
Information from: The Herald Journal, http://www.hjnews.com