Earning their wings.
Bradley Dolynuk keeps things on the level as he looks out on the night sky above Ottawa while piloting a flight simulator at Ottawa Aviation Services. The Canadian-made equipment is used by Algonquin College students in the new professional pilot flight training program. The 18-month course is designed to get graduates jobs right out of school. Nevil Hunt Bradley Dolynuk looks dashing in his pilot’s shirt, gold braid on his shoulders and tie neatly knotted.
Ottawa’s skyline spreads out below as he holds the yoke and keeps his feet on the pedals. Dolynuk watches as lightning flashes outside the cockpit and his Cessna is tossed up, down and side to side like a small boat licked by heavy seas.
The storm gets worse and the accessibility of air sickness bags come to mind, so Frank Brzobohaty suggests that Dolynuk change course to 180 degrees.
As the plane begins to bank to safety, Brzobohaty presses a magic button and as quickly as it appeared the thunderstorm turns into clear blue skies. The simulation comes to an end.
Dolynuk isn’t a pilot just yet. He’s in his first weeks of a new professional pilot flight training program offered through Algonquin College.
Brzobohaty is chief flight instructor at Ottawa Aviation Services (OAS), which has offices – and its intriguing flight simulator – near the Ottawa airport.
If you have $500,000 to spare, you can own a flight simulator like the OAS model. The made-in-Montreal equipment has two seats, all the controls of a real plane and windows that look onto a wrap-around screen the pilots can see in front of them and through the side windows. The view changes with every touch of the simulator’s controls. Like an Imax movie, the effect can be unsettlingly real.
Brzobohaty sits behind the pilot and co-pilot seats at a computer console, playing God. During each student’s flight he manages their experience with the simulator’s software package.
Maybe it will rain. Brzobohaty can whip up fog, clouds or crosswinds with a tap on his keyboard, and if that’s not enough to frazzle you, he can call up a 747 and send it straight at your head.
Before Dolynuk finishes his flight, Brzobohaty turns day to night in an instant, and the headlights of cars on Highway 417 twinkle in the distance. He can also play with time, rewinding a scenario or replaying a flight so students can learn from mistakes.
Maybe Brzobohaty is enjoying this chance to show off the simulator a little too much. In addition to controlling the time and the weather, he can sabotage the plane itself.
“Things can break,” Brzobohaty says of the simulated plane now being landed at Ottawa airport by Dolynuk, who’s probably hoping the wings don’t fall off.
Since Dolynuk is only a few weeks into the program, Brzobohaty considers the thunderstorm enough fun for one flight and the simulated Cessna stays in one piece on approach.
COAST TO COAST
Out of the cockpit, Dolynuk, 23, has time to talk about his first month in Algonquin’s new program for future pilots. His father is a pilot, flying Boeing 777s and Airbuses for Air Canada.
The younger Dolynuk winged his way from his home in Vancouver to attend flight school here in Ottawa, and now lives in Barrhaven.
“I looked from coast to coast, from B.C. to Moncton,” he said of his search for his flying education.
He says Algonquin has a good reputation, but didn’t know how the equipment would be as good as what he’s already tried out. With one month under his belt, he has 17 more months to go before graduation. After that, he just wants to fly.
“Maybe a co-pilot in a turboprop, for Bearskin or Air North,” Dolynuk says of the possibilities. “I might have to work the ramp for a year,” he adds, meaning he could start out as part of a small airline’s ground crew, fueling planes and loading cargo.
“I’m willing to do that and I’m willing to move north,’ he says.
Brzobohaty says the Far North and the bush are where most of Canada’s young pilots gain experience after flight school. After 2,000 or so hours of flying time in the country’s wilds, many will be hired by small regional airlines back in the south. If that works out, and their skills grow with the number of flying hours, a pilot can end up handling commercial jets.
For now, the curriculum ahead of Dolynuk and his classmates includes acquiring a private pilot’s licence in the next four months. Commercial designation comes in a later term, followed by instrument flight training, so the young pilots can operate at night or in thick fog, when the ground is invisible.
The OAS simulator can be configured three different ways, representing three different airplanes. Dolynuk and the other rookies will cut their teeth, flying solo in a simulated Cessna, but by the end of the program will be working in pairs to control the more complex a King Air, a turboprop made by Beechcraft that carries seven or eight passengers.
Algonquin College has offered flight training for years as part of the aviation management program, but teaming up with OAS has allowed the college to offer condensed training. Dolynuk and his classmates will follow six terms of study in just 18 months, compared to many college programs that take the summers off and would need three years to teach six terms.
In addition to the fast-tracking, the new professional pilot flight training program is designed to produce graduates ready to take a seat in Canada’s commercial cockpits.
Cedric Paillard, the CEO and co-owner of OAS, is certified to fly an Airbus and has racked up so many hours in the air that he’s given up counting. He says his favourite flight was in a P-51 Mustang fighter that dates from the Second World War; an opportunity he enjoyed on a trip to California.
OAS puts all students – including those from Algonquin – through an assessment before they even step into the simulator. While every incoming student wants to be a pilot, not every one of them will be cut out for the job.
The testing digs into each applicant’s verbal reasoning, math skills and ability to multi-task. Personality is another key element, with an emphasis on resilience.
“There are 17-hour flights from here to Hong Kong, sitting next to somebody else,” Paillard said. “You can’t have the personality of an amoeba.”
In addition to 225 probing questions, the assessment includes a test of eye-hand co-ordination. If you don’t do well in that part, you might get assigned homework such as hacky sack, video games or rope jumping.
If an incoming student scores poorly in any area, OAS gets them remedial training and assigns a member of the training staff who specialized in the subject.
“We know if they’re going to make it,” Paillard says.
If the assessment works out, it’s on to a familiarization flight with an instructor and then up to 10 hours in the simulator.
Paillard remembers his own flight school experience and says students get a much different start to their careers today.
“At first it was a bit overwhelming,” he says of his first day at flight school, adding there was no simulator. “You went straight into the cockpit with the instructor. It was sink or swim.”
The professional pilot flight training program at Algonquin College accepts new students every September and May. While tuition fees are about $1,200 per term, the cost of flight time is estimated to total $45,000 by the end of the program.
For more information visit www.bit.ly/ACaviationmanagement or email Bruce Dwyer at email@example.com
Sat, Oct 22 2011 12:10 AM
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