Bob Barnes used to fly T-38s for the Air Force so the guy’s already one of my heroes. Turns out he and I served in the USAF around the same time during another war when we were both kids.
Today, Barnes focuses his love of flying on VLJs and how we’re going to be certain low-time, or low-turbine experience pilots don’t hurt themselves in these new birds … nor hurt anyone else for that matter.
He runs Robert B. Barnes, Aviation Safety and Training Specialists in Phoenix. A driving concern for Bob and other industry experts is that there are no succinct standards VLJ training suppliers must meet for new customers of the Cessna Mustang or the Eclipse 500. While both aircraft fall under the Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) label, training is covered right now by essentially no more than the FAA’s Practical Test Standards (PTS). That’s where Barnes comes in.
A recent survey he posted to his VLJ Training Stakeholders discussion group brought 389 responses from people around the globe who also believe the current system of VLJ training needs tweaking. A few of the gray training areas include who is PIC during training, whether or not a mentor must be rated in the aircraft or should or should not be a certified flight instructor. Some also think a mentor should function as no more than a coach while others think an instructor is a necessity.
One of the requirements that quickly caught my attention appeared on the mentor application from Eclipse. The bare minimums to work as a mentor from the right seat of an Eclipse was 5000 PIC time in a turbine aircraft which seems something less than silly for someone who has spent time instructing in jets that were of considerably higher performing than an Eclipse
“Who developed the minimums Eclipse uses to choose a mentor and what was the basis they used for this number?” Barnes asked. “Was this an airline pilot who simply tossed out a number because it sounded good? And how does this help us produce a better pilot?”
Barnes mentioned that the aircraft manufacturers are taking somewhat of a back seat role in the discussion group although the discussions he’s leading at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London next month and at the upcoming World Aviation Training conference in April should be of supreme interest to all. He says, “no one is really talking much about how they are training their new VLJ pilots,” he added. “But training in a VLJ is a safety issue. It should not be a competitive marketing focus.”
If you have an interest in helping to develop the new best practices for VLJ training, stick around. Barnes has a next-generation VLJ training survey do out soon. We’ll be posting the link here at Jetwhine.