My Truth About Sim Training

*This post was originally written on 8/17/2015 after training on the CRJ at a regional airline. I will say, my sim experiences have been so much better after getting hired at a major airline- maybe because I've flown more sims so I'm more comfortable with it, or maybe because the sim instructors are more laid back here so I don't feel as much pressure? Whatever the reason, I am glad that I don't detest the sim as much as I used to. Either way, I still wanted to publish this post so if there are those of you struggling with the sim, you will know that you are not alone.

Maybe I've been procrastinating this post... okay, I have definitely been putting this off.  Not just for days or weeks, but for months.  I just wasn't sure how to write it.  Be honest about how it really is for me, or only tell the good stuff so I can seem macho like I'm sure all of the guys are?  Being one of the few females in aviation, sometimes it is hard to let my guard down and admit something is tough for me.  I don't want to seem like a wimpy girl trying to fit in in a man's world.  But when it comes down to it, I want to be me.  I want to be honest.  So here it is- I detest simulator training!  I said it... it feels weird to finally admit that.  And a little scary, but that's the truth.

I love the ground portion of training.  All the book work, the studying, learning all that cool stuff about the systems, acing the test at the end.  Love love love!  The simulator, on the other hand, not so much.  In fact, I dread it.  I've never enjoyed the sim.  I always get so nervous and worked up and screw up on things I wouldn't normally screw up on.  They never fly like the actual plane, and the motion thing always throws me off- I get spatial disorientation, which is never a good thing when flying and in a stressful environment.

I started my simulator training on May 8th and finished on May 31st (though it felt like I was there for my entire life).  I was hoping to get simulator training in Salt Lake, since I have family close, and it's an easy commute home to then Palm Springs, but I was awarded training in Atlanta.  Yep, humid, super far away from home, HotLanta.

The first few days of training were super fun, actually.  We had 4 days to learn and master all of the checklists and flows.  That I can do!  If at the end of each lesson we had extra time, we would practice an approach or something equally fun.  I had an awesome sim instructor (technically it was FTD... but it was in the sim, so call it what you want) who made the experience very rewarding.  On day 5 we had our Procedures Validation and I think I did the entire thing in less than 30 minutes.  You essentially go out to a cold dark plane, get it started, get all the paperwork done, do all the checklists, taxi out to the runway, get cleared for takeoff, abort the takeoff, and then do all the checklists back to the gate and shut 'er down.  I was nervous, but I passed no problem.

I had 3 days off after that, which wasn't enough time to go home to Palm Springs.  A few of the others stayed in Atlanta on these days off, so we de-stressed by exploring a bit and going downtown.  We went to the aquarium and found a delicious BBQ to eat at.  It was the best way to spend some time off without my hubs.

After the 3 days, sim started again.  This was the beginning of the real meaty stuff- approaches, balked landings, emergencies, crosswind takeoffs and landings, etc.  I did well during this section, but I did have a pretty discouraging day on day 2.  I got cleared for a back course approach and instead of hitting B/C on the FCP (flight control panel... the buttons that tell the autopilot what to do), I hit APPR (approach) mode instead.  When the needle became 'alive' the airplane began a turn in the wrong direction because I had put it in the wrong mode.  On no!  I realized it pretty quickly, but the needle went full scale, and now I was high, not quite on course yet, and getting behind; in a new airplane, these were not mistakes I could afford to make.  I asked my captain to request vectors from ATC so I could try the approach again.

I was so embarrassed!  The sim instructor then made me fly the entire missed approach, which took forever, before I could try the approach again.  I finally got vectored back around and mastered it the second time, but I had wasted a lot of time on this one approach; so much time that I wasn't able to complete all the maneuvers that day.  Maybe I just need to be less hard on myself, but it sucks messing up on something when I actually do know what I'm doing. *In hindsight, this particular sim instructor was an a-hole.