Leading the Way in Pilot Simulator Training


Our goal at Air Methods is to provide the highest level of emergency medical services to our patients, and the cornerstone of achieving this goal is a highly trained pilot. The need for continual pilot training and simulation is essential in the aviation industry for safety, accuracy, and compliance. While training on an aircraft is necessary, practicing in a level D simulator is advantageous for our pilots. We’ll explore the advantages of training in simulators and why it’s so critical. 

About Level D Simulators  

In 2015, we began leasing level D simulators from FlightSafety International, a company that offers extensive, full-flight simulators used for training commercial, government, and military organizations. Air Methods employs in-house instructors to conduct pilot training on these 15-million-dollar simulators. Air Methods pilots currently train in them across nearly all major airframes in the fleet. 

Level D simulators are the gold standard of flight training because they provide a realistic training environment. Our pilots get the closest experience to actual flying in the simulator and it’s the only non-aircraft training method accepted by the FAA.  

Advantages of Simulator Training  

There are several advantages for pilots when training in a level D simulator. For starters, pilots can train dangerous scenarios like engine failures and loss of tail rotor thrust without risking lives. They can also train better for emergencies and incidents by repeating certain scenarios and stopping to talk, evaluate, and retrain until they can accomplish them correctly. Using a simulator allows pilots to reset scenarios quickly, providing effective training in less time. An added benefit of utilizing a simulator also means that no air base is taken out of service for training exercises. For Air Methods pilots, most training is now done in a simulator which is also the same standard for commercial airlines.  

“Level D simulators are an especially great training tool to get comfortable with the aircraft instruments for pilots transitioning from fixed wing aircraft to rotor wing and for pilots transitioning to a new aircraft model.”  -LifeNet Pilot Shawn Miller 

What Is Involved in Simulator Training 

Employee simulator training is a significant part of Air Methods’ training requirements. Before pilots can be hired as a HEMS (Helicopter EMS) pilot, they must have logged at least 2000 hours of flight time. This standard is set high to ensure that each Air Methods pilot is not only capable of doing their job, but capable of going above and beyond to provide the highest level of care. In fact, our requirement exceeds the FAA standard by eight hours in the simulator.  

Simulator training involves one to two recurring training events per year for current Air Methods pilots, each lasting three to five hours. Additionally, simulators are used to train maintenance personnel. 

Applying Specific Scenarios During Drills  

In single-engine, VFR helicopters, simulators are crucial for effectively practicing flights where cloud cover is present. Typically, when training without a simulator, pilots will use eye covers for this specific drill which isn’t as effective. But in a simulator, pilots repeatedly practice these challenging scenarios. Since incorporating simulators for practicing a drill in a single-engine, VFR scenarios, no crashes have occurred in this scenario at an Air Methods base. 

During reoccurring annual training, an experienced pilot in Arizona requested additional practice with engine failure and emergency landing scenarios. Less than a month later, the pilot encountered an engine failure incident in the field and successfully performed an emergency landing without any additional damage to the helicopter or its crew. 

What’s Coming Next  

In 2024, a new initiative called “Mission Training” will be implemented for each new hire. Previously, pilots were trained individually on specific aircraft and scenarios. However, with scenario-based immersion training, trainees will go through the entire process of an actual flight, including working with the team and conducting safety risk assessments. This comprehensive training aims to provide a clearer understanding of the day-to-day responsibilities of an EMS pilot, resulting in better preparedness for new pilots. 

Air Methods strives to achieve the highest level of safety, professionalism, and care for each of its patients. Training our pilots using Level D simulators from FlightSafety International is efficient and provides a realistic training environment. It allows us to train and equip the best pilots the industry has to offer. Moving forward, we’ll continue to focus on employee simulator training, and driving the industry forward with the best EMS experience to patients.