Question: With the new Boeing 787 finally being delivered, I was wondering if new commercial aircraft come with a manufacturer's warranty like new cars do.
-- submitted by reader Bo Montgomery, Little Rock
Answer: Yes, there is a warranty period with new aircraft from the manufacturer. Additionally, when a new aircraft type is ordered the manufacturer provides maintenance, training, and certification help to the airline. The relationship between a manufacturer and an airline is a close one, including any issues that might arise during the warranty.
Q: How do pilots train to fly new aircraft, i.e. the Boeing 787? How much simulator time and actual flying time does a captain/copilot get prior to flying passengers? Is there a minimum numbers of required hours to be rated on new aircraft?
-- Name withheld, Nashville
A: The pilot-training curriculum varies depending on the operator, the past experience of the pilots and the requirements of the National Aviation Authority. If a pilot were flying a Boeing (B)777 and upgraded to the B787, the training requirement would be less (a transition course) than if a pilot were upgrading to the 787 from an Airbus A320 (an initial course).
There is an academic portion to the training including systems knowledge, performance, flight-management computer practice, and then a test. This usually takes 10 days to two weeks for an initial course, a transition course is less. After the academic portion, a trainee moves to an advanced training device similar to a flight simulator but with limited capability that does not move. This is where pilots practice procedures and computer entries to get accustomed to the new airplane's flight-management system. This portion of the training can be concurrent with or can follow the academic portion in approximately five sessions. Finally the full flight simulator is where the pilots learn to "fly" the airplane.
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Modern full-flight simulators are extremely good at replicating the flight characteristics of the airplane. Manual flying skills, abnormal situations, emergency situations, and computer entry skills are practiced in the full flight simulator. The number of simulator sessions depends on the type of training (transition or initial). An initial course could include five or six simulator sessions followed by a check ride (test) then a line-oriented fight training (LOFT) session. The LOFT is included to let a pilot fly a couple of "normal" flights to get accustomed to the demands of normal situations. After successful completion of all this training a pilot then is paired with an instructor pilot to fly several days in passenger service. Once the instructor is satisfied with the pilot's skills in the new airplane he or she is certified as qualified.
Professional pilot training is very intense. During a training cycle, pilots are very focused on the training process. The days are long, the pressure is high, and the skill development is carefully documented. The training is very good and effective. There have been cases where pilots who were new to an airplane faced emergency or abnormal situations and handled them successfully.
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John Cox is a retired airline captain with U.S. Airways and runs his own aviation safety consulting company, Safety Operating Systems.