The increasing complexity of modern airplanes emphasizes the importance of a thorough checkout for pilots who change from one make or model airplane to another with which they are not familiar. The similarity of the operating controls in most airplanes leads many persons to believe that full pilot competency can be carried from one type of airplane to another, regardless of its weight, speed, performance characteristics and limitations, and operating procedures.
The importance of acquiring a thorough knowledge of an unfamiliar airplane and the inefficiency of trial and error methods of learning to fly that airplane have been well established. It is just as important for pilots who regularly fly transport type airplanes to obtain a checkout in smaller airplanes they propose to fly, as it is for them to have a checkout when advancing to even larger transport airplanes.
Size alone, of course, is not the important consideration. Different airplanes are as different as people, and the only safe and sure way to know them is to be properly introduced. In the case of airplanes, the following are considered the important points of introduction:
1. Before Flight. The transitioning pilot should study and understand the airplane's flight and operation manual. A thorough understanding of the fuel system, electrical and/or hydraulic system, empty and maximum allowable weights, loading schedule, normal and emergency landing gear and flap operations, and preflight inspection procedures, is essential.
2. Learn the Cockpit Arrangement. The transitioning pilot should study the engine and flight controls, engine and flight instruments, fuel management controls, wing flaps and landing gear controls and indicators, and radio equipment until proficient enough to pass a blindfold cockpit check in the airplane in which qualification is sought.
3. Engage a Checkout Pilot. The transitioning pilot should obtain the services of a checkout pilot who is fully qualified in the airplane concerned. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. The checkout pilot not only should be well qualified in the airplane to be used, but also should be capable of communicating effectively to the pilot the techniques essential for the safe operation of the airplane.
4. Learn the Flight and Operating Characteristics. The transitioning pilot should not limit familiarization flights to the practice of normal takeoffs and landings: It is extremely important to learn the "V speeds," and become thoroughly familiar with the stall and minimum controllability characteristics, maximum performance techniques, and all pertinent emergency procedures, as well as all normal operating procedures.
The transition from training type airplanes to larger and faster airplanes may be the pilot's first experience in airplanes equipped with a constant speed propeller, a retractable landing gear, and wing flaps (Fig. 16-1). All airplanes having a constant speed propeller require that the pilot have a thorough understanding of the need for proper combinations of manifold pressure (MP) and engine or propeller RPM which are prescribed in the airplane manufacturer's manuals.
When transitioning to high performance or complex airplanes, the pilot must be cautioned not to exceed the specified combinations of power settings since the engine can be damaged by using excessively high MP with a low engine RPM. If this situation were to occur, the BMEP (Brake Mean Effective Pressure) might be exceeded. BMEP refers to the average internal pressure exerted upon the cylinder walls and pistons in the combustion chamber during the power stroke. To preclude excessive stress on the engine when increasing power, the pilot should first move the propeller control forward (increased engine RPM), and then advance the throttle. When reducing power, the throttle should be retarded first, then the engine RPM reduced.
Before applying full power during takeoff, the propeller control should be placed full forward (high RPM, low pitch) to protect the engine from excessive internal pressures (BMEP). After takeoff the MP should be reduced first and then the RPM reduced to normal climb setting. This procedure should never be performed in the reverse order.
On the approach to a landing when the airplane is committed to a landing, the propeller control should be placed to a high RPM position so that should it be necessary to advance the power for a go-around, the propeller will have the correct pitch for maximum thrust.
5. Learn the Gross Weight and CG Limitations. The transitioning pilot should include in the checkout at least a demonstration of takeoffs, landings, and flight maneuvers with the airplane fully loaded. Most four place and larger airplanes handle quite differently when loaded to near maximum gross weight, as compared with operation with only two occupants in the pilot seats. Weight and balance should be made for various loading conditions.
6. Rely on the Checkout Pilot. The transitioning pilot should accept the checkout pilot's evaluation of performance during the checkout process. It is inadvisable to consider oneself qualified to accept responsibility for the airplane before the checkout is completed - half a checkout may prove more dangerous than none at all.