A few months back, Jeff Van West—previous editor of IFR and respected aviation journalist who still hangs around here, you know, kinda like the brother-in-law who needs to get a real job—and I were brainstorming about using a simulator to maintain instrument proficiency. We continue to stress this topic because it’s an important tool in proficiency. But, as more and more of you are flying simulators—either your own commercial or home-built sims, or one at your FBO or flight school—one common theme is that many of us aren’t sure what to do once we’re “in the box.”
Jeff and I discussed that at length, looking for a practical solution. Now, Jeff is an active instructor as well, plus he has a lot of experience in the simulator world, both having built many of his own and having worked for one of the major manufacturers. Being the opportunistic editor that I am, I decided to exploit leverage Jeff’s unique expertise.
So, as our conversations developed, we decided that the magazine needs a new regular feature and he’d write it: Sim Challenge. This issue holds the first Sim Challenge, appearing on page 12, and—with your support—we’ll run it four times a year, appearing in the second month of each calendar quarter.
As some of you know, Jeff also writes many of our best IFR Clinics, in which he dissects a particular approach in great detail. The value of this is to keep us all thinking and looking for the nuances that are present in almost every approach.
The Sim Challenge will encompass the best aspects of our IFR Clinics and the Killer Quizzes, but rather than dissect the approach, you’ll actually fly it to see if you can first recognize the nuances (as in the Clinic) and, second, deal with those nuances in flight (as in the Quiz). In each Sim Challenge, Jeff will essentially lay out a detailed IFR lesson for you to fly.
You won’t need an instructor for this unless you wish to log the time. (We, too, are looking forward to the new rule announced in the NPRM that removes the requirement for an instructor sign off to log work in a sim.) In fact, you might get more from the exercise if you do fly it alone; perhaps you won’t be as self-conscious about mistakes.
Fly it as expertly as you can, of course, but it’s okay to make mistakes. Many of us will likely even make the same ones. Mistakes made in the safety and security of a simulator are wonderful learning opportunities, without risking the potential terror of making those same mistakes when actually flying.
What if you don’t have a sim? Each Sim Challenge is designed to be actually flown. But, just as you’ve likely used some armchair flying to hone your skills, so also can you mentally fly through this Challenge. Granted, you might not get quite as much out of it, but you’ll still get a significant benefit. So, no sim? Armchair fly it.
Please try this new feature and give it a workout. See how you like it and if it helps your proficiency. The Sim Challenge will certainly evolve over time; please help us refine it to help you be a better, safer, and more confident pilot.