Every year, I get to visit Wichita to complete my Recurrent Training at FlightSafety International. For the first time since I've been coming here for training, four years to be exact, I didn't have a gigantic checkride looming at the end of the week! And you know what? I still learned lots and had a blast!
Wichita itself is a neat place to be. So much aviation history lives here, and three major aircraft manufacturers still make airplanes in the town of 300,000 residents. Cessna and Bombardier are located on the western side of town near the main Intercontinental Airport. After landing on my commercial flight, I traveled to the far east of the city in a tiny rental car. My FlightSafety center is located right next to the Hawker Beechcraft Factory, where new airplanes roll off the assembly line every week (back in the hey-day, anyway. It has certainly slowed down the past few years). Just three miles north of the training center on Webb Road was our hotel for the week, Marriott Courtyard. Wichita is a cute place...it has all of the amenities of a big city but still has a lovely small-town feel. People are really friendly, but I think they have to be warm to survive the winters here!
The training fun began Monday morning at 9:00 AM when we met our flight instructor, Nancy Kitchens, in Briefing Room 17. This same sweet lady was my flight instructor when I did my initial training four years ago to become a Captain. I LOVE her. Nancy is such a neat person and knows so much about the Beechjet. The woman just finished her Doctorate, despite working over fifty hours each week as an instructor! She was as excited to see me as I was to see her. Once we got caught up with our lives, Terry and I began our pre-flight discussions with Nancy to brief what was to come during our simulator session.
Soon we were in the simulator for our first flight. Terry sat in the left seat for two hours before we swapped seats for my turn. During this flight I did stalls, steep turns, unusual attitudes, and several emergencies that had to be dealt with pretty quickly to prevent the airplane from bucking around like a wild bronco! It's a neat chance to "practice" things that hopefully never happen in real life. I am so grateful for the opportunity to experience things in a simulator so I know how to best handle it in case it really happens. I found it hard to get out of the simulator because my legs were made of jelly after holding the rudder during so many engine failures!
After a debriefing and a quick run for lunch, it was now time for the longest part of the day. I love school scenarios and always have, but it's tough being a brain sponge in class for four hours after such a physically-demanding day in the simulator! Luckily, we had an awesome ground instructor, Doug Vollmer, who has been teaching this class for twenty-one years. I've had him a few times during my last four visits. He is one of the best! Doug has a story for every system and has a great way of making everything applicable to his students. It was a nice reminder of how some systems can easily kill me! Other systems are redundant, and we only have the Chinese airplane designers to thank for that! By 8:00 PM, we were done with class and headed back to the hotel.
Wake up...repeat...three days in a row.
Our last day brought a different flight instructor because Nancy was so popular and was double-booked. The program manager himself, Randy Siebert, stepped in to finish our last exciting day in the sim. And in ground school on our final night, we had to take a systems test before we were allowed to leave. I got 100% and was tickled to be done for another year! I love coming here, even if we have blizzards and negative temperatures most of the time. Who goes outside? All the fun is inside with simulators trying to kill me!