Even though I love flying small GA in and out of grubby little airports in FSX, every now and then I feel the need to shake things up. Maybe it starts with a review, a few tasty screenshots, or some raves from fanboys about this or that new tubeliner. I get to thinking hey, I’ve never really given airliner flying a decent shot–maybe it’s time to give it a try. Then comes the purchase of a shiny new seven-something-seven, the reading of stacks of dense manuals, trying to work the tutorial flights, and finally… frustration. There was a time when I thought maybe my brain just wasn’t wired for learning complex flying like this. But you know what? I’m starting to think it’s not me.
We all have different learning styles. For instance, I find I pick up new skills radically faster if I see them being done than I do by reading about them. Give me a stack of manuals and I’ll be stuck inside them for days. Show me a video of what I’m supposed to do, and I’m doing it like a pro in an hour. It seems that most airliners developers are just the opposite type. They spin out reams of paper about this or that system, when all I really want in the beginning is to get in, familiarize myself with the plane, and get it in the air.
Before you squawk “Airliners are complex! You can’t just expect to hop in and fly!“, let me assure you I understand that. And hey, realism is what the sim game is all about – if I wanted a dumbed-down version of a complex plane, I’d fly the defaults. Surely though, there must be a happy medium. My favorite way to learn something complex is to first learn the bare-bones essentials. Once I’ve mastered them to the point of feeling semi-proficient, I like to add on layers of depth, exploring each new concept until I’ve drilled it permanently into my brain.
Here’s my ideal training curriculum for an airliner: start by telling me (or better yet, showing me in a video) the absolute basics about powering up the plane, programing the FMC, and performing the flight. At this point, it helps to have a little background about what I’m expected to do, a simple systems explanation so that I can logically assert that it’s important to do A because it affects B in such-and-such a way. Then, give me a super simplified checklist for doing what I was just shown, minus the depth of explanation. Let me do it a few times and get comfortable with the procedure. Then, and only then, begin to layer in deeper information such as FMC options, emergency procedures, etc. I guarantee you I’ll be up and running in no time.
Instead, what I’ve been through this week is trying to learn a new 737, reading the manuals, poring over the tutorials, and still not completing a single flight. Something always goes wrong and I wind up back at the manual or visiting the forums, trying to figure out what I did wrong this time. It ain’t much of a way to have fun.
So tell me, does this ring a bell with anyone else? Maybe I’m unique when it comes to my training needs, but I’ll bet I’m not. How do you approach learning a new skill, especially one as potentially daunting as piloting a big metal tube?