PILOT TRAINING WITH RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT CHARLIE PRECOURT
Preparing for the Biggest Challenge
Charlie Precourt has piloted more aircraft than most people have seen. There were planes when he was in grade school and a teenager, F-15s in the Air Force and business jets for the past 30 years.
And, of course, there’s the big one that only a handful of people have ever taken control of – the Space Shuttle. He piloted and commanded multiple NASA Shuttle missions, including the final one that docked with the space station Mir.
Even with all of that experience, Precourt keeps training at the top of flight priorities.
“FlightSafety’s training is always a challenge. You know I think I’ve got 12,000 hours in 90 different aircraft, but you’re never done learning,” Precourt said. FlightSafety instructors “see how you’re performing in the sim and they see where you could be challenged.
“It’s a focus on scenarios that you might confront. There is more than just being proficient. There’s understanding those things that can go wrong and how to recognize them quickly so that you can deal with them. That’s what the beauty of simulation is and FlightSafety does that wonderfully.”
Philosophy of Training
As a civilian pilot, Precourt has vast experience with the Cessna Citation jets, focusing on the 510 and 525. He began training with FlightSafety more than 25 years ago, training on a Cessna 340 and kept coming back for one major reason – the philosophy of training.
“It’s the same that we saw at NASA, which is let’s make sure we train the fundamentals, but then go deeper and look at the things that either have happened in our experience in real operational flying, or could happen because of the way we understand systems can fail,” he said.
At NASA, where he flew four Shuttle missions and then was the Chief Astronaut, Precourt was extensively trained on their simulators for an obvious reason – flying to space is challenging. It was also rare during the Space Shuttle days, which only flew 135 times during 30 years. In each mission, pilots needed to have full command of every possible scenario they were likely, or even unlikely, to encounter.
That carries over to FlightSafety and how its instructors use advanced-technology reality replication. There are many scenarios where simulation is the best way to expose pilots to things too risky to encounter in-flight. Whether that’s overcoming an engine failure or preventing controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), FlightSafety has methods to prepare pilots.
“The thoroughness and diligence at the end of the mission that both NASA looks at and FlightSafety has looked at with the way they prepare us in simulators is really the key,” he said. “There’s a knowledge and experience and exposure to the unexpected only the simulator can provide you.”
Confidence of Flight
Precourt’s NASA experience makes him a member of a very exclusive club. Few people have had the opportunity to float in zero-G or see the Earth from beyond its atmosphere. Even with that unique perspective he sees commonality in the community of FlightSafety-trained pilots.
“The instructors are really good at knowing what the common errors are and how they help all of us handle that,” he said. FlightSafety empowers pilots to make the correct response in what could have been a serious problem. “That confidence comes from experience from knowing you’ve seen it before.”
The pilots gain the experience they need in FlightSafety simulators and classrooms, and that produces an unwavering calmness and composure for all situations.
Training for spaceflight and military aircraft gave Precourt an appreciation for the value of unmatched instruction delivered by experts in the field. FlightSafety, through more than 70 years of instruction, practices that in every class and simulator.
FlightSafety instructors raise the bar on training because unshakeable confidence and preparation mitigate risk and save lives. It’s a lesson that Precourt carries with each flight he makes.
“After all the airplanes I’ve flown both in the Air Force and NASA and now privately, I’ve just learned how important safety is and what’s required to achieve that. FlightSafety certainly provides that.”