A 41 year Senior Captain clicks the door behind, entering his Airline’s crew planning area. Meeting him there early and eager is a young fellow, 30 years his younger, the first officer for the day- a lucky guy, having gotten on the heavy aircraft.
As is common in these circles, the FO was at the right place at the right time, knew the right person who knew the right people, nailed the interview, and is now flying international at an age wanna-be-pilots dream of.
In front of the two gentlemen is a stack of paperwork for their journey ahead. You could call it a magical set of documentation. But this paperwork is from a wizard of a different kind.
This Dispatch, as it’s called, was prepared by a highly trained individual. His main goal- calculate the best route, at the lowest cost, with all the correct numbers, and arrive there on time. Passengers happy, and the company packs some coin in the coffers.
Of course this oversimplifies the Dispatcher’s difficult and necessary duties. Without his expertise, the pilots would have a tremendous amount of preflight work to complete on top of their already mission-critical preparation steps.
Instead, the Senior and FO pick up the paperwork, and get familiar with all the data contained. Weight and balance, route, passenger and baggage load, fuel numbers, regulatory needs, weather, NOTAMS, just to name a few.
The flight crew will take as long as they need. It’s much of a conversation, and a collaboration. Both agree on the numbers, as they carefully cross-check the information.
Intermingled data paints a picture for what is ahead on the flight, the pilots have a clear idea of the challenges ahead. Any needed changes can be made with the Dispatcher.
The result is a complete set up paperwork, made by the Dispatcher and approved by the flight crew- a solid plan for the flight ahead.
Would it surprise you to know as simulator pilots, we have an often more difficult duty than these professionals?
Now, I certainly don’t intend to discredit the obvious difference that the pilots have real lives that are being entrusted in their hands. Also, the Dispatchers duties cannot be fully simulated. There will always be major differences, some which we can’t ignore.
Their prowess cannot be understated, or their tools fully simulated.
That being said up front, as simulator pilots, we not only have to plan the entire flight and ensure that all of our data sources are up to date, but we also have to fly that route solo.
It’s a bit crazy, come to think of it. Loading up a complex aircraft and flying basically the exact same machine, only simulated, on the exact same route, airport environments, etc. Even down to the current, ever changing weather- alone.
There is no argument: an upgraded flight simulator is scarily realistic.
How crazy are we to think we can even come remotely close? The crazy thing is, we do come close. Very close to the real thing.
Any number of products can assist us in being a better dispatcher/flight crew combo. But up until recently, the mix of products has fallen painfully short.
What we’re left with are incomplete flight plans, haphazard numbers, and guesses. Lots of guesses.
I will be as bold as to say that the vast majority of flight simmers do not know how to do a half accurate flight plan. Of course, doing a general aviation flight plan is a different story. I’m talking about an airline style dispatch.
Even you ‘experts’ out there in the sim community. I’m not discrediting your thousands of hours of sim time, I’m simply saying the tools aren’t/weren’t there.
Most of us have been around the block a few times with different simulator aircraft. We more or less know how to start-up, taxi, takeoff, operate the autopilot, and even execute something like a CATIII or VOR approach.
The true and real challenge facing us virtual aluminum tube flyers is the preflight. Out of all things. The preflight.
Never have I seen this taught correctly. Not in all my years here at Angle of Attack.
It’s time we got this right. It’s time we know exactly what to do in preflight. Something we can repeat for any airport pair, any route, in the world. A method you can use on any flight you do.
Recently we have recognized this major gap in training. Angle of Attack pioneered the early days of flight simulator training by teaching a great amount on procedures, technique, and systems. This all done through videos- a medium which is incredibly easy to learn from and entertaining to watch.
These days, procedures, technique, and systems is expected. It’s the status quo.
Now is the time we finally get this preflight thing right.
We have a major plague in flight simulation that must be fixed. No longer can we circumnavigate the globe saying we’re doing so realistically, without having that stack of papers by our side- prepared by us, understood by us, and approved by us.
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