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Training


Logically, the best way to offset IIMC incidents by VFR pilots is to train them as IFR pilots. Pilots with this training are then ready to cope whenever they get into IIMC situations. While in theory this approach makes sense, the reality is different. “The trouble with training is that these skills diminish if they are not used,” explains Helweg. “When it comes to IFR-trained pilots, they gradually lose the skills if they are only flying VFR transports on a daily basis. The more they fly VFR, the less they rely on their instruments.”


When a pilot with diminished IFR skills flies into an IIMC, they can experience stress trying to recall the right IFR response to the situation. This stress reaction distracts from the task at hand, which is to keep the helicopter level, on heading, and at the proper altitude until they get back into clear air.


Thus training VFR pilots to IFR doesn’t make sense for HAA, but adding autopilot does. So does improving the quality of simulator training for HAA pilots, as does letting them experience IIMC incidents safely while in VFR mode with autopilot engaged. A case


in point: Air Methods has partnered with FlightSafety International to use the latter’s full-motion Level D simulators to train the HAA operator’s pilots. “That said, we believe in training more and we believe in having the right tools,” says Helweg. “Our HAA pilots need the knowledge and the right equipment to fly safely, rather than one or the other.”


As for Air Evac Lifeteam, they have two Frasca flight training device (FTD) simulators at their headquarters, and six additional FTDs in their 15-state footprint. One of these is a Frasca Level 7 FTD, which was recently FAA certified. The Level 7 FTD includes the Garmin G500H glass cockpit, autopilot, and Frasca high-fidelity night vision goggle simulation. The FTD also comes with Frasca’s TruCue, a simulator cueing and vibration system that provides vestibular feedback (such as balance and spatial orientation information) to the pilot.


In addition, Bonham says, “We will be using FlightSafety for some sim training with different airframes in the very near future. Collectively, we are using these tools to enhance our pilots’ VFR skills, including flying transports using autopilot.”


Modern light helicopter autopilots, like the HeliSAS system shown here, enable pilots to safely take their hands off the controls to perform other cockpit duties.


58 Sept/Oct 2016


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