Recurrent Training Center: Professional Training
and You Have Money Left to Go Flying!
By Kevin Mackenzie
I bought my first Skymaster, I was looking to refurbish my instrument
skills as part of my initial training for my multi rating. (I had
been an inactive pilot for several years.) The ad at the end of
the 337 ads in Trade-A-Plane had caught my eye: "CESSNA FACTORY
APPROVED initial and recurrent simulator training for C337 Skymaster.
Fully enclosed, Skymaster simulator with full size visual. 3 day
course." Their ad tells only part of the story, and perhaps
not the best part...
Do you like early Mooneys? Say 1968 or so? How about Grumman Tigers?
A strange question to ask on a Skymaster web site I know, but to
me, late sixties Mooneys, and Grumman Tigers, epitomize efficiency.
They are not the most comfortable, they do not have the most interior
room, weight capacity or range, and they have a host of other inadequacies
(not enough engines), but they both do one thing well. They deliver
point to point speed on less horsepower and fuel than most anything
else, and they are a heck of a lot of fun!
RTC is the Mooney or Grumman Tiger of simulator based training.
They offer 2 1/2 days of centerline-thust simulator training
and classroom instruction, your BFR, an instrument comp check, and
FAA Wings credit for the miserly sum of $1085. (4 day initial training
for Skymasters is $1395.) Their offices are not cushy, their instructors
don't wear ties, and lunch is takeout from Subway, but the training
itself is truly excellent.
If you have been to RTC before, but not recently, you should know
that they have a new 337 simulator. This simulator is configurable
to be either a high-performance single or a twin, by changing the
throttle quadrant. The twin can be conventional or centerline thrust.
They can also pop an HSI in or out, depending on how your airplane
is equipped. The simulator RTC used previously for 337 training
was more like a Navaho or similar aircraft. This new one is still
not 100% faithful to the Skymaster in terms of speeds or power settings,
but you quickly learn the different numbers, and this new sim flies
much more like your bird.
337 simulator panel, Click for larger. 337
simulator, external view
The training at RTC follows the LOFT (Line Oriented Flight Training)
concept. Each training module consists of two hours of classroom
study via video tape and computer administered testing, and approximately
2 hours of sim time. Each sim session is one or more "flights".
You get a weather briefing for each flight, and follow all your
normal departure procedures as you set off for what is NEVER an
uneventful flight to destinations such as Chicago Midway and Decatur
in Illinois, or Colorado Springs.
(By the way, another example of how RTC keeps costs and prices
low is the computers they use to do the testing. When they are finished
with them I'm sure their next owner will be the Smithsonian.)
RTC instructors work very hard on realism. One of my instructors
(whose name I am sorry to say I forgot to record) even simulated
radio chatter the controller talking to other aircraft. They do
all the usual things: engine failures, partial panel, changes in
cleared routing that get you behind the eight ball, etc. But more
than that, they show you things that can only be done in a simulator,
and really make you think about potential weaknesses in your daily
Instructor's view of 337 simulator
Just Another Day at the Office...
David Bean, P337 owner/pilot, smiling bravely
before his next sim ride
Here's an example of what might be a typical RTC simulator flight.
You depart Champaigne for Chicago Midway. On the departure an engine
fails before the landing gear is retracted, so you land straight
ahead. The instructor puts you at the end of the runway again, and
on your next departure, everything works. After you get to cruise
altitude, the instructor fast forwards you to a fix that seems
to be fairly far from Midway.
The instructor clears you to cross an intersection, which, when
combined with lack of familiarity with the area, is enough to distract
you into not noticing how close to the airport you are. So the approach
begins earlier than expected. Now you are behind, and busier than
a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.
As you cross the marker on the ILS, the instructor sends you to
tower, but if you are me, you concentrate on flying the ILS (because
you are behind) and forget to call the tower. You remember your
error (again if you are me) at 300 AGL, and call the tower. The
tower (instructor) asks for your position and when you tell him
where you are, he cancels your approach clearance and tells you
to go around because there is a truck on the runway.
So now you fly the missed approach, and and when you are halfway
through the downwind leg, the controller calls and says the truck
hit the ILS/glideslope shack in a mad dash to get off the runway,
so the ILS is out of service. (A sense of humor is apparently standard
equipment on RTC instructors.) Time to change your approach to another
runway, find the plate, fly the airplane, set up the radios and
start the new ILS to Midway again.
On this approach you are starting to feel caught up when you intercept
the glideslope and put the gear down. Uh oh. No greens on the gear.
Break off the approach, declare an emergency and get to a safe altitude.
Pump the gear down.
Now ask to be vectored on to the approach again, intercept the
glidelslope, and motor downwards. When you are about 50' above minimums,
the runway starts to become visible when BANG all the gauges freeze
and the instructor starts pounding loudly on the side of the cockpit
with his fists. You just crashed... (Or at least I did.)
Why? I checked the altimeter against the glideslope intercept altitude
on the chart when I intercepted the glideslope, and it was 400 feet
off, but I thought that was because of a sloppy intercept. Turns
out the altimeter had begun to fail, and was reading 300' high.
A very effective reminder of how important that fancy barometer
is for our approaches.
The Real World ATC Perspective
was founded and is currently owned and operated by John Killeen.
John is an experienced pilot, flight instructor, and owner (with
a partner, I believe) of two Skymasters - a normally aspirated bird
he has had for several years, and '77 P337 he recently purchased.
Until last year when he retired, John was an approach controller
for Champaigne Approach. His strong ATC experience shows through
in the ground training, with module titles like "ATC and Emergencies"
and "The ATC System". In RTC training, you learn about
the real world not only from the cockpit, but from the tower cab
and radar room.
John started RTC with one simulator as a part time venture a number
of years ago (calibrated by the width and flower print on his tie
in one of the videos). If I remember correctly, he now has five
simulators, and offers FAA approved training for all single and
twin engine piston aircraft.
One of RTC's simulator rooms
Cessna 340 simulator
Hangar Flying Included Free
This was my third time at RTC, and once again it afforded me the
opportunity to spend time with other pilots after hours, swap stories,
learn from each other, and in general just enjoy good company. This
year for example, my classmates were:
David Bean from Hurricane, Utah, who is a commuter airline dispatcher
by day, and a P337 owner.
John Dutton, an oil industry engineer and financial analyst who's
company benefits include flying a Cessna 340 (I applied for work).
A owner-pilot transitioning to an Aerostar.
A former corporate Chief Pilot for Upjohn who drove G-IVs and G-V's
for a living (now retired), and owns a Baron and a 182.
Dinner with these folks was a good time, and I thank them again
for their company.
How to Get There
RTC is in Savoy, IL. Their office is a 10 minute drive from the
Champaigne, IL airport. They get you a great room rate at a local
quality hotel (Hilton, I think, but who can remember...). The hotel
picks you up from the airport, and delivers you to class each day,
so you don't need a car. (They have Subway sandwiches brought in
each day for lunch.)
If you are flying in, consider Frasca Field (C16) rather than CMI.
Frasca (where Frasca sims are manufactured, but not used by RTC
ironically) is a smaller airport, with a less corporate atmosphere,
but the fuel is cheaper, and they provided me with guaranteed hangar
space for $25 per night. The FBO at CMI would not commit to hangar
space at any price, and if they did hangar my airplane, it would
be for something approaching $100 per night...
If you are taking a cigar tube instead, flying in to Chicago is
cheaper, and you can rent a car to drive to Champaigne.
Insurance Company "Encouragement"
In recent years, insurance companies have become increasingly insistent
about recurrent training. With AIG, I was using a local flight instructor
for my annual training, but when I switched to USAIG, they required
sim training or they would not insure me. So RTC is providing a
very valuable service: Effective, professional simulator training
at prices that leave you with money to fly the airplane the rest
of the year. Efficiency that would make Al Mooney proud!
For more information on RTC, contact them at:
800-727-1014 or international 01.217.352.2787