Recently, during my fourth initial type rating, I arrived at the hotel (my new home for 23 days) and started into my type rating routine. The very first thing I did was to set up the hotel address in my Amazon Prime account, so I could receive all the comforts of home directly to room 1013 at the Embassy Suites. A nice treat that didn’t exist when I completed my first type rating near the turn of the century. Then, I started doing all the other things that directly contribute to my success at initial training. I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I actually have a type rating routine. Perhaps I gleaned some insight during the previous three extended vacations to the Part 142 training center.
If you’re reading this and preparing for your first type rating, perhaps you know what this all means. However, if you’re unfamiliar, a type rating is a certification beyond the basic pilot certification and class rating. Pilots typically require a type rating when they fly turbine aircraft or aircraft over 12,500 pounds. A type rating is basically certification to fly a specific “type” of aircraft.
The type rating requirements are prescribed by the FAA. However, another stakeholder in this process is typically a Part 142 training center. This vendor provides both the simulator training and ground school instruction necessary to meet the FAA’s guidelines. Finally, the manufacturer is often involved or consulted as the experts who engineered and built the aircraft. All of these parties work together to ensure that you are safe to fly the jet you are training on.
Another stakeholder in this whole process is YOU! You are the person who has the most impact on your success. While instructors and examiners can certainly affect the outcome, you cannot control those aspects of your training. You can control, however, what actions you take to be successful. Here is what works for me.
- Study before you go
You may remember the four levels of learning: rote, understanding, application, and correlation. During initial training, you are living in the land of understanding, and hopefully, application as you demonstrate your new skills in the checkride. Correlation will likely come after you gain some real experience in the aircraft and return for recurrent training. My recommendation is to have the rote knowledge down cold. Fortunately, training materials are typically available in advance through technology. All manuals, slides, and flashcards will be unlocked a few months in advance in an app or online portal. Make use of them! If not, talk to other members of your flight department or industry colleagues and borrow training materials from them. Either way, start memorizing memory items and limitations well in advance. Also, some training centers are spelling out exactly what knowledge is required to pass. One center names these “Required Knowledge Areas,” or RKAs. Even if you don’t know exactly what everything means, just plow through and memorize this information rote. This will be a good foundation upon which your instructor can connect the dots and create some understanding – the next phase of learning.
- Make your own note cards
At my third type rating, the training center started supplying very slick, manufactured plastic flash-cards. These babies were gorgeous! They were exactly what customers had asked for, and I thought they would be great. Turns out, they were very pretty, but not the best for learning. During this training, I realized I wasn’t retaining the information. Was I losing it? Getting old and forgetful? Was I just full to the brim with knowledge? I got through the training, but I realized something was different. I later realized that making my own note cards was where the learning was happening. My ugly old chicken scratch note cards were actually doing the trick.
Psychology seems to confirm my anecdotal story. Perhaps this is only true for the approximately 70% of the population that are visual learners, but physically writing information down helps the learner retain it. The physical act of making the note cards seems to be as important as studying them.
- Make acronyms
Using nmemonic devices is also a trick that will help you retain enormous amounts of data. Perhaps if asked to recite the colors of the visual spectrum of light from 8th grade science class, you could quickly rattle off “ROY G BIV.” (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.) Or perhaps you will always remember “PEMDAS” as the memory trick for the order of operations in Algebra. These little tools can also help you memorizing information for your type rating. Sometimes, savvy instructors will include these in your ground school lessons. In the Hawker, I was taught “BT-FANGS” to memorize which items in the airplane were operated hydraulically (Rudder Bias, Thrust Reversers, Flaps, Airbrakes, Nose steering, Gear, Spoilers if you’re interested.) Otherwise, you may need to make a mnemonic device yourself. Considering using the website:
Use the first letters of your listed items and plug them into the anagram solver. Search through the results to find a memorable word or words. Recently, at initial, I found the list of required emergency equipment to be long and nondescript. I was having difficulty memorizing the items partly because they were so common. Here was the list that I was required to know:
First Aid Kit
Portable Breathing Equipment (PBE)
Here’s the anagram I created:
Keep in mind that you often need more vowels. In this case, I used the “A” in Crash Axe instead of the “C.” Also know that if you use duplicate letters, they might be dropped. For instance, the result for initially was “SAFEFLOP,” and I had to add the extra “F” and “L.” Remember that the anagram solver is trying to create words, so it may drop superfluous letters. Also notice that the word I ended up choosing has “SAFE” in it, so I mentally associate it with the required safety equipment. Mnemonic devices are an excellent was to retain enormous amounts of information.
- Customize your checklist
Particularly if you’re coming from smaller aircraft, the checklist for a jet aircraft may more closely resemble a book. It may go by different names depending on the manufacturer, but one name is a “Quick Reference Handbook,” or QRH. This reference material does indeed contain more information than a checklist. It may contain the normal, abnormal, and emergency checklists as well as performance tables and even schematics. It is a formidable document to thumb through particularly when your engine is on fire. For that reason, customizing your checklist will set you up for success. Now, rules and policies may change from time to time allowing or disallowing your personal “training” checklist during a practical test. However, this exercise is much like making your note cards: this physical act of tabbing, highlighting, circling, and taking notes in the margins of your checklist will help you learn to navigate it better even if the examiner won’t allow it in the checkride.
Not all checklists are created equal. Some are better than others, but even the best checklists may need some clarification. And let’s not forget they are just BIG.
Here are some recommendations:
Tab or paper clip commonly used procedures. Engine failure checklist comes to mind.
Direct yourself to the next procedure. After the engine failure checklist, you know that you will either go to the “engine restart” checklist or the “One engine inoperative” or “single-engine” landing checklist. Make a note of the next page number you need. Some checklists do this, but some do not.
Make notes for clarification. Even the best checklists can be confusing, especially in the heat of battle. While I can’t offer any definitive guidance, just help yourself as much as possible. Here is an example:
At my most recent initial, the instructors kept seeing clients make the same error over and over in the simulator. During an engine restart, several bleed sources on the checklist read “push in.” This direction was a little unclear since the normal position of those buttons is in. So, while adrenaline was high, pilots were reaching up and inadvertently pushing the buttons out: exactly the wrong position. While technically in line with the manufacturer verbiage indicating status, pilots were interpreting this checklist item as a command. I simply notated “verify” next to these items. Problem solved. Do yourself a favor and solve similar problems in your checklist while you’re still “on the ground.”
While there are countless techniques, tips, and tricks to earn that initial type rating, I have found these to be a few helpful methods. If you’re on your way to earn your first type-rating best of luck! If this isn’t your first rodeo, what do you do to earn your type ratings?
Thanks for reading and GoEightOh!