by Edward Wilkinson Latham

Porter Airlines & Winkreative

re:porter Magazine-Issue 12

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Combine state-of-the-art flight simulators and old-fashioned flying expertise and you’ve got FlightSafety – a world-leading aviation training facility, making sure that Porter pilots are the safest in the skies today.and forward-thinking as Canadian traits.

FlightSafety is the world’s leading aviation training company and has played a pivotal role in instructing pilots and maintenance technicians at Porter Airlines since it first took to the skies in 2006. With over 50 years of experience and learning centres in Asia, Europe, North and South America, the Pacific Rim and South Africa, FlightSafety instructs flight crews, maintenance technicians, flight attendants and other aviation professionals – diligently maintaining its impeccable reputation for customer service and comprehensive training designed to enhance safety.

FlightSafety’s Toronto Learning Centre facility is located alongside the Bombardier Aerospace factory, which manufactures Porter’s fleet of high-performance, Q400 turboprop aircraft. Open 24 hours a day, FlightSafety employs 80 teammates, including 55 instructors. They provide initial and recurrent training to roughly 2,000 students each year on the Beech 1900, Dash 7, Dash 8 100/200/300, the Twin Otter and the Dash 8 Q400 aircraft. Pilots and maintenance technicians initiate their training with a four-week program consisting of ground school and simulator training with further support from a growing library of online e-learning courses that cover a wide variety of aviation topics.

“We have a building-block teaching philosophy at FlightSafety,” says Patrick Coulter, manager of the Toronto Learning Centre. “Students study theory and computer- generated 3D models with engine and system cutaways before they move on to low-level graphic simulators in preparation for their training in the more sophisticated devices. It means that both pilots and mechanics learn extensively the full workings of the aircraft’s systems, investigating and discussing every element and function with their instructors.”

A portion of students who visit FlightSafety are here to recertify, something Porter Airlines pilots must do every six months, while maintenance crews must return every two years. Pilots and maintenance technicians are mentored by a select group of highly experienced former commercial pilots who have completed further courses, exams and testing with FlightSafety to become certified Q400 instructors. Colet Acham and Jeffrey Dusang have the unique experience of having worked as line pilots for Porter and also as FlightSafety instructors. Both Acham and Dusang bring that high level of expertise to assist in the training of Porter crews. “It really takes a lot of focused training to become a pilot for Porter, but the advanced instruction modules and state-of-the-art simulators mean that our pilots graduate straight from FlightSafety to flying Porter routes with a qualified Training Captain.”

The extensive training for Porter pilots covers every Porter destination, and includes becoming proficient in the steep approach at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport: a 4.8-degree descent rather than the standard three degrees at most airports. As Q400 instructor Albert Joseph explains, the sophisticated level of preparation means that Porter pilots soon become comfortable with the specialized procedure. “Such descents may be new for some pilots, but training in the simulator sharpens their skills and abilities and helps them achieve that fine balance between hand and foot coordination. Much of the Q400 training is spent mastering this, whatever the landing conditions and scenario.”

Captain Will Fulcher is new to Porter and has just completed his steep-approach training in the level D Q400 simulator. Previously a First Officer with SkyService, he is thrilled to have passed his final module of training. “The visuals and sheer responsiveness of the simulator mean I know exactly how to overcome the potential challenges and make the right calls. That type of training is just invaluable.”

The interior is a complete replica of the flight deck with observer seats for instructors, Transport Canada inspectors or other students to view or monitor the training and checks. Joseph and Coulter take the controls while Q400 instructor John Lorimer delivers the training schedule. A bank of screens allows him to choose any scenario at any of the locations Porter flies to and recreate any meteorological condition. The advanced visuals replicating the airport and surrounding terrain use Google Earth and satellite imagery to build scenes and environments so pilots may train to the exact specifications of that location. “We can replicate any airport in the world,” says Coulter proudly. “We currently have some 300 database modules that our customers have asked us to create.” The advanced audiovisuals become strikingly evident as Lorimer changes the weather settings and the sound of rain hitting the aircraft fills the flight deck; below, the graphics show trees and the small headlights of vehicles moving along Toronto’s thoroughfares.

Suren Meras is the Director of Training at FlightSafety and explains that the sophistication of the software, the hardware and instruction, coupled with constant communication with Porter, ensures personnel are consistently trained to the highest possible standard that both companies expect, and, as Coulter points out, the relationship has been mutually beneficial. “Porter made it abundantly clear to us from the start that they wanted to create a new class of air travel, so we’ve helped them to build proper infrastructure to support their training program. It’s been great for us at FlightSafety to work with a company that embodies that philosophy.