Operational Proficiency

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1 year 1 day ago #17596 by Westcoast
Thoughts on Operational ProficiencyBy-in large, we all use this Forum mainly as an arena for discussing organizational issues (e.g., new members) and website issues (e.g., flight numbering requirements).  Nonetheless, while I regard these as important and necessary things, my principal interests involve aviation itself.  While I was in the Air Force, I was not a pilot, but I have known a lot of pilots over the years, and I relentlessly pick their brains.  So, I have used this Forum as a place to share and discuss technical and procedural issues.  That’s why I post information about new flight planning tools (e.g., Sim Brief and Navigraph Charts), tag videos about aircraft accidents and develop projects around airline economics and military aviation (e.g., the 387th Bomb Group project), or discuss different kinds of approaches.  For example, some time ago, I developed an interest in “RNP Approaches” (raise your hand if you know what these are).   At the time, I was flying the PMDG 737 NGX, a very complete add-on aircraft, capable of executing things like auto-landings and RNP approaches.  So, I used that aircraft to fly some specific, newly published RNP approaches and built a fairly complete tutorial on just how to do that, step by step.  I recently searched for this post on our Forum and failed to find it, probably because John had to purge many files in the switch over to our new website.  I was pleased to still be able to find it on my hard disk (It dates to 2014).  If I had known that I would write so many of these, I would have built a book of them.  Perhaps I’ll undertake a project to recollect these and post them again.  Sometimes I wonder why I feel compelled to do all of this, as posting here often feels a little like posting to “write only memory”, as we used to say.   In the meantime, I’ll excuse these kinds of somewhat technical outbursts as part of my duties as the SPA training chairman.  I hope you’ll read, enjoy and benefit from these.  I also hope you will respond to these and I encourage you to share your expertise, which I am sure many of you have, with the rest of us through similar posts.So, after that long preamble, the topic of the day – operational proficiency.  This comes to mind because I have spent the last three months or so flying my personal regional airline”, Alak Air, under our Econ 2018B project.  If you haven’t tried that yet, you should check it out.  Rather than flying a variety of different Cat I- Cat IV aircraft, I have settled on a single Cat II/III aircraft family, the Embraer ERJ-135/145 family. I did this for two reasons. First, routes served by Cat II/III aircraft typically involve intermediate distances (100 nm – 700 nm) and flight times of one or two hours.  These fit into my daily schedule much better than longer flights.  Second, the Feel There ERJ aircraft are exceptional well- built models, intermediate in complexity and rigorously accurate and consistency in performance.  Many payware aircraft are either furiously complex, taking a long time to master, or cartoonishly crude and/or inconsistent in behavior.  Flying these is a waste of time.However, the choice has had an unexpected collateral benefit.  Flying the same aircraft more than 25 times in a row over a two-month interval has made me more proficient on this type than I have ever been on any particular aircraft, save, perhaps the B737-800, more than ten years back.  I suspect that several of our most active pilots, who also seem to favor a single type, have had a similar experience.  I have actually gotten pretty good at it.  I know the detailed flight planning procedure and operation checklists by heart, and can execute them rapidly.  I know the quirks of the aircraft and how to avoid them, I anticipate the responses of my copilot and ATC and am prepared to respond and execute them quickly.  Using the dispatch paperwork generated by Simbrief and the charts provided by Navigaph Charts, I can go from Cold and Dark to boarding through Pushback and Start in about 20 minutes, about the same time I observe among regional jet crews in RW operations.  Now I know how they do it.  On top of that, having the routine aspects of the process down pat, gives me the time and bandwidth to focus on the details:  how much additional fuel should I plan for the winds at altitude, the alternate and possible go-arounds or ATC holds.  How well does the actual aircraft fuel consumption track with the dispatcher’s forecast?  What does the destination TAF suggest for the arrival runway and which transition and approach should I set-up for.  How should I handle the “pilot discretion to ----” part of the descent, what effect will that have on fuel consumption?  What do the forecast weather and visibilities suggest for use of the autopilot vs. hand-flying the approach, etc., etc.  These are considerations that I was never able to make adequately when my level of familiarity with my aircraft left me struggling to just keep up with the task flow.  The ability to do these things actually makes a difference in how well I execute the flight, and, with our Econ model (and feedback from my ATC program), these things count.  Most importantly, this Operational Proficiency ensures that you obey the pilot’s dictum, “never let yourself get behind the aircraft”. Mike

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1 year 21 hours ago - 1 year 21 hours ago #17597 by jer029
Replied by jer029 on topic Operational Proficiency
Thanks Mike,

Just a clarification regarding legacy forum posts and the migration to the new site.  There was no intentional deletion of older forum posts, as I really wanted to keep the history of SPA and carry it forward to our new site.  This became quite complex because the old forum module from the antiquated and no longer supported PostNuke Content Management System (CMS) no longer existed for the new Joomla CMS that we migrated to.  This required me to identify those database tables that contained like-data shared by both the old and new forum databases and write a number of complex (for me anyway) SQL statements to move the various tables into the new forum database tables and link them all together so that they would display - as seamlessly as possible, with the new forum posts being generated with the new forum software.  

For some reason, this only worked for a portion of the forum posts, and I wasn't sure of the ratio of posts that failed to transfer to those that were successfully transferred.  Upon my initial review, it appeared that most of them had transferred, but upon later checking, I found a lot had missing links so that the subject of the forum post would show but the narrative of them were dead links.  I ended up just deleting those I encountered with dead links and didn't want to spend further time on it.

So... unfortunately, some of our historical forum content was lost during migration, but I did save some of the original gallery images of the early members of SPA when they got together for the rare social meetup at an airshow or two, although the descriptions of the photos was also lost because I didn't want to retype it all into the new narrative area (the gallery was also a new module and I had replaced the original gallery even before we left the moribund PostNuke CMS).

The flight-related random quotes on the main page that change with each page refresh also had to be recreated, and I manually typed those into the new Random Quote module.  The website migration was a major undertaking - especially for a hobby programmer and retired law-dog as myself.  While I'm pleased that, for the most part, it appeared to be a seamless transition to most of our pilots, I can assure you that it was not necessarily as it seemed on the surface.

Also, the Active Flights Map was completely redesigned, as the old version was no longer supported by Google Maps.  The new version programmed into the site offers some additional features that the old version didn't offer.  These are just a few of the hurdles that had to be overcome to migrate our site.  

Didn't mean to highjack your thread, but wanted to clarify.  St. Paul Airlines has a long history - perhaps the longest of any virtual airline today, and I really want current and future pilots to appreciate the years of work by the management teams (past and current), and the dedicated pilots who have supported us these 20 past years.

Happy flying,

John

John Rogers
Webmaster
Last edit: 1 year 21 hours ago by jer029.

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1 year 28 minutes ago #17599 by Westcoast
Replied by Westcoast on topic Operational Proficiency
John,

I deeply appreciate the enormous amount of work you have put into our new website and I didn't mean to be critical with the remark about my RNP post. Plus, I have the text of the post anyhow, for whatever that may be worth.

Mike

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11 months 4 weeks ago #17600 by jer029
Replied by jer029 on topic Operational Proficiency
Again, thanks Mike and no offense taken.  My intent was just to clarify for everyone the effort behind the scenes that took place to migrate SPA to the current site platform, and that there was no intentional removal of historical forum posts.  The only intentional deletion I can recall was of terminated pilot's logbook entries, while still keeping their pilot records so that they can be reinstated at the rank and flight hours when they left should they wish to return to fly with us.  This amounted to considerable time and memory saving when transferring files from the old system.

As previously mentioned, there was some additional loss that I had not anticipated, and additional effort on my part might have salvaged some of it, but I had to weigh the benefit against the time spent on recovering that or on other things that seemed to be of higher priority.  Working alone on this project, I struck what I thought to be a reasonable balance between preserving the past while maintaining the present and building the future.  At this point I look forward to that future of SPA, and what we all can do to make St. Paul Airlines the best virtual airline for flight-simulation enthusiasts in the years to come.  

Happy flying,

John

John Rogers
Webmaster

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11 months 3 weeks ago #17603 by Oswald
Replied by Oswald on topic Operational Proficiency
Dear Mike,

thank you for your thoughts and contributions. I do read your informations and find them very interesting. I realize that my operational proficiency is far from yours, as I fly mainly GA aircraft, having fulfilled my "Fleet Captain" rank by hours, not by mastering the whole fleet. The main principle remains the same: When I use the same aircraft for many flights, it is much easier to get decent standard departures and approaches, soft landings etc. I used the Aerostar 700 for the whole KSMP to KSMP tour without GPS equipment, only with VOR and rarely NDB. Though I must admit on the long tours in eastern Russia and northern Canada with hardly any VOR, I did a bit of cheating with the GPS system of the simulator. Currently I train with the Twin Otter on the Germany tour (and love to see my home country from above).

Although I do not take part in the ECON flying, I do use ECON mode for the SOP tours incl. calculation of fuel consumption, I reckon, I can do it fairly well by now. It requires some discipline in flight planning, and I like that. For navigation I use onlineflightplanner, skyvector, opennav mostly, sometimes other open sources of aeronautical charts. I don't care about them often being out of date, because I like to follow the principle. I don't have the time to look very deeply into Navigraph etc., maybe some day I will.

Yours,
Oswald

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11 months 3 weeks ago #17604 by Westcoast
Replied by Westcoast on topic Operational Proficiency
Thanks for your thoughts Oswald. I too like the Twin Otter and used it extensively flying in Alaska. I also remember the long hours over not much when, in my early days with SPA, I flew across the U.S. in the Mooney - the light aircraft with its tail on backwards.. I got really good at routine VFR landings - find the runway, line up on the downwind at the pattern altitude, flaps, base, final, bingo.

I also have used Skyvector for charts, navigation and flight planning and it is certainly adequate. So, while you probably don't really need it (and a subscription is a bit pricey), the new Navigraph suite of tools is at a whole different level, particularly for flying larger aircraft on longer routes. You get the current AIRAC, downloaded to all of your navigation programs and aircraft flight computers, current weather, flight planning, and a moving map displaying your flight plan and all needed charts zoomable from the overview all the way down to the gate level. It's really something.

Mike
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