Start on the ground. That's the best advice for agricultural pilots who are working to master, or polish, the art of flying turbine spray planes.
"On the ground," refers to the simulator training that pilots can train with to either gain or brush up on necessary skills as they transition from piston-powered aircraft to turbine-powered aircraft.
Rather than make what can be costly or deadly mistakes on the "highway in the sky," at Central Florida Aero AG (CFAA), flight training is conducted on the ground via simulators. CFAA offers a range of training options that are designed to prepare Agricultural, Single Engine Air Tanker (S.E.A.T.), and Special OPS pilots for flying situations that they may encounter in real life without putting pilots, and their trainers at risk, and without causing potentially significant damage to the planes.
"Turbine-powered aircraft represent a large investment, usually in the million dollar range," said Andy Montague, partner, chief instructor, who explained that simple mistakes in the operation of the aircraft can result in significant repair expenses and a great deal of down time while the aircraft is being repaired, which ultimately results in lost revenue.
The CFAA courses incorporate both classroom and simulator training and are conducted by FAA certificated and high time agricultural pilots who understand the particular concerns that turbine pilots contend with, such as unmarked obstructions and towers being erected without notification. "Weather is always a concern," said Montague. In Central Florida, pilots grapple with heavy rains, strong winds and active lightning, in addition to that year-round sunshine Florida is famous for.
CFAA has the only serviceable agricultural airplane simulator in the world and the customer base is international. Classes can be taught in English, Spanish, Portuguese or Italian. There are several courses to choose from, including: 3-Day Initial Course (for pilots who are transitioning from piston to turbine-powered airplanes), 2-Day Recurrent Course (a periodic refresher course for the professional turbine ag-pilot with previous simulator experience), and a Basic GPS Course. However, the standard course syllabus may be modified to meet a company or individual's training needs. The programs cover all makes and models of turbine-powered ag aircraft.
The simulator itself offers full range of emergency situations that a pilot may encounter and that are designed to improve competency and confidence and, ultimately, reduce accidents. Simulator training also reduces operating cost as the cost per hour is markedly less than what it would cost using a real airplane to train. Furthermore, since the training is conducted on a simulator, the lesson time is not dependent on the weather or daylight.
While pilot safety and aircraft integrity are major concerns in choosing simulator training, another concern is the insurance policies that provide coverage for pilots and their aircraft. "Most insurance companies require formal training in the operation of turbine powered aircraft before they will issue a policy," said Montague, who explained that, additionally, most operators will require new hires to have ether previous experience or formal training.
Agricultural aviation plays a vital role in the aviation and agriculture industries. Aerial applicators are used to help protect crops and forestry and also to help combat mosquitoes. And they are quite effective in doing so. According to the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA), "At a minimum, an airplane or helicopter can accomplish three times as much application work as any other form of application can."
Considering that we have 9,548,342 acres of farmland, in a state comprised of 58,560 square miles, the extra coverage provided by the turbine spray planes sure comes in handy.
For More Information:
Central Florida AG Aero LLC
5802 Hoffner Ave, Orlando, FL
National Agricultural Aviation Association
1440 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA