OK, I haven't exactly been in ground school at NewCo. They do things kinda different. My first day of class was the Friday after my last flight. Basically, I showed up, filled out a lot of paperwork, listened to the company President dispense some kool-aid, and picked up two training CD-ROMs. Then they said "OK, go home. See you in a month." Yep, the basic indoc is all Computer Based Training (CBT) via distance learning. Many airlines are going to CBT for their ground training, but this is the first one I've heard of that sends you home to do it.
It makes sense - there's no reason you need to be at a training center to use a program that works exactly the same way on your own computer. I like the flexibility it affords: I'm pretty intimately familiar with FAR 121 so I didn't spend much extra time on that, but having never flown a jet I made sure to bone up on high-altitude aerodynamics. Falling asleep to the FAA's ILS-PRM video was much nicer in my own home than in class. And although I doubt they meant it to be humorous, every once in a while there'd be shockwave animation that'd make me laugh out loud. Having an extra month at home is good from the standpoint of trying to sell this darn house, too.
Mind you, the company doesn't do it this way to be nice - they do it to save money. Between not paying for hotel rooms, paying less training pay, and not having to maintain their own CBT facilities, I'm sure this is a ton cheaper. I'm curious to see whether they'll continue to do it, though. All the guys in my class were very experienced; that's not going to last throughout this hiring cycle and I can see people who've never sat through an airline basic indoc before struggling with the CBT.
I soldiered through the General Subjects first, since that's the most boring material, and then plowed through Company Ops. Now I'm well into the JungleJet systems, the stuff I find most interesting. This is a pretty amazing airplane. It's a flying computer - the technology in this makes the Q400 look like a Navajo. Mind you, they have essentially the same mission capabilities - it's just that all the various parts are much more integrated on the JungleBus than on the Q400.
Here's a good example. On the Q400, you could turn the FMS off and pretty much all you'd lose is GPS capability. In the JungleBus, you use the FMS to tune radios, set airspeed bugs, and even command thrust ratings - all separate boxes on the Q400. Things that would've been very simple to integrate on the Q400 - like having the FMS supply landing field elevation to the cabin pressure controller - were not because the airplane wasn't designed around any one FMS unit. Another major factor was that Bombardier tried to maintain commonality with the older Dash 8s so they could all stay on the same type certificate. And finally, avionics weren't quite as advanced during Q400 development; the JungleBus' Primus Epic system wasn't flying until 2001.
The one area in which NewCo's Junglebusses aren't as advanced as Horizon's Q400s is Cat II/III approach capability. The airplane is capable of Cat II but the company is not certified for it yet; they've said that down the road they may look at getting the same Heads-Up Guidance System (HGS) that Horizon uses for Cat III capability. I'd frankly be surprised; the only reason Horizon could afford the expense of Cat III was because Alaska was buying the same HGS for their airplanes. RedCo does not seem similarly inclined to spend money on their regionals. The funny thing is that the PFD (Primary Flight Display) on the JungleBus incorporates some of the same symbology as the HGS on the Q400.
At the rate I've been going, I'd be through the CD-ROMs by the end of this week, so I've decided to take a few days break. A buddy of mine (who flies for another RedCo regional) has never been to Europe and wants me to go with him for his first time and show him the ropes for international jumpseating. I won't make you guess where I'm going this time, because it'd be too easy - I'm going the same place I went last October (Bacharach, Germany). Well, that's if I make my connecting flight this morning. It's pretty oversold. If I don't make it we should still be able to go to Amsterdam. Either one should be seasonably chilly and damp!