Occasionally, a reader will complain that our Sim Challenges are too difficult. Really? That’s the point. Some pilots, a group that I reluctantly admit occasionally includes me, prefer to keep their exercises within their capabilities. Going well outside those capabilities is intimidating and, presumably, we don’t want to reveal our limitations, especially if we’re working with an instructor or another pilot with whom we want to save face. So, we keep our training within our comfort zone so we do well.
Somebody once said, “You can’t expand your comfort zone from inside it.” (Actually, I said that in my May 2021 Remarks.) Imagine a seasoned runner who’s competitive in the 10K, but has ambitions of being a competitive marathon runner. But that runner always stops at 10K because he knows he’s good at that distance and doesn’t want to face the possibility of appearing weak at longer distances. That runner will never reach the over 40K required of a marathon.
It’s similar in instrument flying. If you always practice the same familiar, easy procedures, you might not be ready for something different and more difficult on that bad-weather day when it’s your only option.
Yes, our Sim Challenges are difficult exercises. Should you be able to handle them on the first attempt? Certainly not. Even the authors stumble with them until getting them right and documenting them—and they know what’s coming because they designed them.
Our Sim Challenges are difficult in two different ways. First is actually flying the things as they’ve been laid out. Sometimes the flying, while difficult, is manageable. Other times though, well, let’s just say that it might take a few passes in the sim before you avoid that simulated crash and burn. Fly enough of these and the crash-and-burn outcome becomes less common and, yes, you become a more skillful stick jockey, able to handle more and more flying challenges.
The second aspect, though, is knowledge with a thorough briefing and understanding of procedures to identify the gotchas before they getcha. I find it odd and a disservice that most instrument instruction isn’t well preceded by a review of what’s to be accomplished. After all, few of us launch on a trip in IMC without at least a review of the procedures we might get. So, why should training lack that preview? Of course, not everything in real life is planned, so we need room for some surprises in our training.
But, we should still brief things ahead of time as much as practical, and that’s especially true of these Sim Challenges. With that done, you might already know how you could transition from one procedure to a different one, or any of the myriad other curve balls these Sim Challenges—and indeed, real flying—can and will throw at us. And that can easily be done in your recliner; no sim required.
So, besides simple skill building, which is incredibly valuable, these Sim Challenges also teach us to expect the unexpected and be prepared as much as possible to have answers in advance. Isn’t that worth a little time—if necessary, in a darkened sim room or arm chair with nobody watching—to expand your comfort zone?