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As I've mentioned before, I teach the private pilot ground school at Lorain County Community College. Naturally, a chunk of that class is devoted to introducing the parts of an airplane and its systems and how they work together to create the miracle of flight. Everything from the tip to tail is covered over the first three weeks of class.
Three weeks may sound like a lot of time, but keep in mind that this is a class that meets twice a week for just over an hour and a half each session. That means that three weeks of college classes is about 10 hours of contact time. Airline ground school is a 9-5 job, so we cover that much material in about a day, and there's a full week or more of it.
For further comparison, the systems manual alone (which is an entirely different book from the Blue Book of last week's classes) for the Dash-8 is bigger than the entire private pilot textbook my college class uses. The number of slides on just the hydraulic system alone is almost as big as all of the introductory material on airplane systems.
When studying the electrical electrical schematic in the Cessna/Piper/etc. POH you're familiar with, unless you're an engineer you probably looked at it and said, "I'm glad I don't have to have that memorized." When doing the oral part of your private pilot checkride, the questions on the electrical system likely boiled down to "Yep, it has one," with some details like it being a 24-volt system with a 60-amp alternator and a few more basics like what will happen if your one alternator goes offline. You won't be so lucky this time, because not only will you need to have that schematic memorized, you'll have multiple alternators, both DC and AC now, with TRUs thrown in just to make the manufacturer's double-Es feel like they did something to earn that salary. You'll need to know how many of which kind of thing can fail before the system starts load shedding (which small airplanes don't do—their electrical stuff just dies) and what systems get tossed when that shedding starts. And so on. For example, here's one of many possible failure combinations:
|In case you thought I was exaggerating, notice how at the bottom left it says "64 of 103".|
Obviously the planes are different, but they all have the same pieces: spoilers, ailerons, rudder, landing gear, hydraulics, etc. A while back, I picked up a Gulfstream manual from Half-Price Books for $5. During my time off after ground school I leafed through it and it wasn't really all that different from our Dash-8 manual.
Again, here our training department really shined. One of the instructors for systems week is one of the company's more experienced FOs, and he has an incredible knowledge of the DHC-8's innards and a knack for finding ways to help remember and understand concepts.
I noted last time that memorizing flows and rote memorization in general is something I've never been good at. Systems week gets me back into my strengths. I'm great at absorbing large amounts of facts and concepts and sifting through the pile for ideas. That's not to say there isn't more rote memorization, but fortunately those who have come before me have created acronyms to help remember limitations and which systems are connected to which engines, etc.
There's more going on than just slide after slide of diagrams. We got out of the classroom a couple of times. The first time was for the fire department visit where we practiced our fire extinguisher skills against a training device that's basically a propane grill with sensors, while wearing a PBE (Portable Breathing Equipment—a smoke hood with its own oxygen generator):
|Pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep. If you don't sweep, it doesn't go out.|
|Other than the fact that this has 46 more seats, weighs 37,000 more pounds, is turbine powered, and is boarded standing up, it's no different than the Beech Baron I'm used to. Assuming the Baron suddenly became 2 1/2 stories tall, that is.|
|You can actually buy this (and several others) from Sporty's pilot shop by going to their Placards/Decals section under Aircraft Supplies.|
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The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with a DHC-8 type rating, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a FAASafety Team representative and Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.
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