My Free Remote Coaching Trial Session from Flight Sim Coach — a Review
- Coaching Session Date: 3/6/2022
- Instructor: Dave Walley
- Simulator: X-Plane 11 / Aircraft: CowanSim Bell 222B
- Focus: Helicopters — General Instrument Familiarization, Navigation, Autopilot, and Pilot Multitasking
A few weeks ago I signed up for a promotional complimentary remote coaching session from Flight Sim Coach after being made aware of it through the helpful folks at the Flight Simulation Association (FSA) and HeliSimmer. Having never had any certified flight instruction before, spending an hour learning new aviation skills from a professional instructor pilot sounded like a no-brainer to me. Full disclosure, I was not asked to write this review and I am not being compensated in any way by Flight Sim Coach or the above-mentioned organizations.
After applying through the Flight Sim Coach website I was contacted by instructor and FSC founder Mark Catalfamo confirming my requested time and letting me know I’d be working with super-qualified helicopter pilot and instructor, Dave Walley. He also let me know that we’d be having the session via Zoom video call, including a few details and tips to make sure everything would work correctly. Dave sent me a meeting invitation later that day along with some questions about what I’d like to learn, what I was interested in, my self-perceived skill level and the model of helicopter I’d like to work with. After a quick few back-and-forth emails, it was sorted out and the date and time were set.
As I would expect from any professional, Dave was right on time, even though it was Sunday morning for him in New Zealand and Saturday afternoon for me in Tennessee. After a few minor hiccups, Zoom started behaving and we discussed a little more about how I’d like to spend the hour. I wanted to be upfront with him that I thought I had just enough skill and information to be dangerous in the virtual cockpit (although not in a good way) and that many of my issues were a result of poor multitasking and feeling like I was juggling several tasks at once.
I enjoy flying helicopters with the Virtual Air Ambulance Service (VAAS), but as a novice pilot, the balance between navigation / communications and normal aircraft handling always seem to elude me. I’d inevitably end up distracted while attempting to locate an accident scene or small hospital helipad, either over or undershoot the site, crash or otherwise botch the landing, and get frustrated enough to stay away from the flight sim for several days. What I really wanted out of this session was a better understanding of how to maintain control of the aircraft while freeing up my virtual hands and physical brain for other tasks.
As I am a major enthusiast of all things Josh Cowan-developed and Dave was (of course) qualified in it anyway, the excellent CowanSim Bell 222B is what we decided to train in. First, while parked on the tarmac for some ground-schooling, Dave gave me a thorough overview of the aircraft instruments that would be relevant for our tasks, focusing on the altimeter, airspeed indicator, vertical speed indicator, artificial horizon and directional gyro / heading indicator and the adjustment knobs/bugs that would help us set up the autopilot. We then went over the 222’s autopilot section discussing what each function would accomplish such as altitude, rate of climb, and heading holds and deciding when to apply them where necessary.
Dave then had me load up an in-the-air 10-mile approach to a local airport and we worked on the crucial piloting skill of constantly scanning the instruments and the horizon. He wanted me darting my eyes quickly down to the appropriate gauges, and then right back up to keep an eye on the horizon. Doing the call over Zoom, Dave could see my face through the camera, and he would comment on whether I was spending too much or too little time focusing on the horizon or instruments. It felt much like learning to drive a car all over again: practicing looking down at the speedometer, up to the rearview mirror, and then back to the traffic ahead. Dave said this skill should be practiced until it becomes reflexive and automatic, and that eventually I wouldn’t even know I was doing it.
An hour went by before I knew it and Dave had some IRL things to get to, so I thanked him and we said our goodbyes. I told him I definitely planned to budget for future lessons, and I meant it. Altogether, our session made a big difference — boosting my self-confidence and helping me break things down from a singular overwhelming chore into several smaller, basic tasks like any other checklist. I feel much better about taking my hands off the cyclic and collective now in order to address other things like verifying my navigation or even just to enjoy the scenery going by. I also now have specific skills to work on and improve that will generally apply across all aircraft, rotary or fixed-wing. Friends, as much I love YouTube for figuring things out, it has rudely never once answered a question I pondered out loud. In direct contrast, Dave was patient and happy to answer my many questions during our session.
This remote coaching session was a great way to spend an hour of a weekend afternoon and I absolutely see the real value in learning the skills you want to learn at a fraction of the cost of IRL aviation instruction. What a great period of aviation history we live in that one can take an affordable flying lesson from an expert halfway around the world! I think Mike, Dave, and all the instructors at Flight Sim Coach have something to offer anyone looking to learn, increase their comfort level, boost their confidence, or just generally get better at flight simming which can be frustrating at the best of times and, let’s face it, soul-crushing at others. I hope they’ll do another promotional weekend like this one and that more of my fellow virtual pilots will be able to take advantage of it.
Shiny Side Up — Greasy Side Down,
Ambo the Fearless Ambassador
- Flight Sim Coach — https://flightsimcoach.com/
- Flight Simulation Association (FSA) — https://flightsimassociation.com/
- HeliSimmer.com — https://www.helisimmer.com/
- The Virtual Air Ambulance Service (VAAS) — https://vaas.crewsystem.net/
- CowanSim — https://cowansim.com/
- X-Plane 11 — https://www.x-plane.com/