Why Transition Training is a good idea
August 1, 2017
You want to fly a more challenging (up or down) aircraft than the one you currently wear like an old pair of shoes, or you want to fly off to Salt Lake City next month when the highest terrain you have encountered in your flying career thus far is the Buffalo Ridge in western Minnesota.
Where does transition training fit into this? How about on your first flight lesson? The good or bad habits we acquire during our first hours of primary training will carry forward throughout our career unless someone or some-thing intervenes to change our behavior. For example, during your primary training, did your instructor insist on checklist discipline during all phases of flight, including take-off, cruise, descent and landing? Habitually raising flaps, switching switches, or turning knobs on landing rollout has a downside, especially when the gear decides to tuck itself into the wells. There are documented incident reports on Beechcraft piston models that had after-landing gear-up incidents due to flap and landing gear switches that are in opposite locations between pre-and post-1984 models. Our mantra should be, “Don’t touch nothin’ until clear of hold short lines.”
Transition training applies to moving from fixed gear to retractable, Cub to jet, or visa-versa, and also to stepping into technically advanced (glass) cockpits. The features and knowledge requirements related to safe and efficient operation require study and practice. Though it doesn’t require an endorsement, one should not take the complexity that awaits the unwary lightly. A desktop simulator is an excellent complement to dual instruction. Those colorful displays have a way of courting our eyeballs, which can lead to fixation while airborne.
Tailwheel or high performance endorsements do not necessarily mean we’re set to launch into the wild blue. If you received your tailwheel, high performance, and complex endorsements in a Cessna 180, are you ready to solo the T-6 Texan? Safe and legal should always cohabitate with good judgment. A transition as simple as moving from a Cessna to a Piper should also be addressed with care. The flight characteristics might be very similar, but if you forget about Piper’s Left/Right/Off fuel selector and electric fuel pump, you might be surprised when things go quiet.
To address any transition, start with studying information about the aircraft, systems, and “numbers.” Operating Handbooks are an obvious first source. Flight instructors, or Type clubs, are good resources for inside knowledge of flight characteristics and things to be mindful of. If planning a flight involving a geographical area very different from home, find someone who has done it and can give you pointers, preferably an instructor or seasoned pilot. Be curious and fly safe.