Reviewed by Staff Reviewer Marlon Carter
So what exactly is UTEM? Well UTEM is the University of Temecula Press Inc. And they specialize in Aviation procedure manuals for aircraft such as the 747,757/767, A320 and 737 Classic. UTEM is operated by Capt Mike Ray who was an airline pilot for many years. If you would like to know more about him and the manuals he provides, you might find this brief interview quite interesting.
Question - Who is Capt. Ray?
Mike Ray as a kid was totally fascinated with aviation and airplanes. I grew up lusting after the time when I could crawl into a cockpit and fly a real airplane. It was a lot like most flight simmers who just plain loves airplanes. I loved to look at them, listen to them, smell them, and feel them. After I graduating from Cal Berkley, within three days I was in the US Navy, marching on the quay wall at Pensacola. I eventually completed flight training and went on to join my squadron aboard the USS Hornet. We were an ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) outfit that flew the Grumman S2 Tracker. 5 Years later, I got a slot with United Airlines and after 32 years with them, I retired in 1999.
Question - When did you come up with the idea of creating training manuals and why?
During my idyllic existence as an airline pilot, the requirement for proficiency checking (twice a year in those days) involved an evolution known to pilots as “You Bet Your Job!” You would be subjected to a four day ordeal that culminated in a 4 hour check-ride and an equally grueling oral exam. I can only describe the situation as dreaded and hate by the pilots. I personally didn’t know anybody that enjoyed the process.
The problem was, there was no access to the simulators, training materials, or equipment that was a part of the training center. There was actually no way to pursue the “excellence” that was desired. There were no simulations or apparatus available. Even while operating the airplanes during routine line operations, “practicing” emergency procedures and other required activities were … well, shall we say, frowned on? The only available documentation were the piles of verbose manuals that were generated for the FAA and the lawyers … nothing was printed that was meaningfully directed towards the pilots. The only materials you could use were those documents. So what pilots are left with is whatever materials they could accumulate on their own.
I was pretty handy with a pencil and when I discovered the computer and learned how to make books, I simply started “writing” stuff that gradually developed in the set of manuals that I have on my website today. Initially, I was selling the simple books to the other guys and a person at the LAX flight Office helped me by keeping the stuff and selling it “under-the-table”. The Chief pilot at the LAX Flight Office allowed the activity … and word got around and so when the other pilots would fly through LAX they would stop by … and as they say, the rest is history.
Question - Who are these training manuals aimed at?
Initially, the target market for the books was the Professional Airline Pilots at United Airlines. And that proved to be a hungry market. Eventually, the materials spilled over to other airline guys and soon I was shipping books to “dealers” such as Sporty’s Aviation who was one of my first distributors.
The material became less focused on UAL procedures and I fleshed it out to a more general audience.
Then, one day, I was chatting with Rob Randazzo (PMDG guy) and he asked me to write a little guide for his girlfriend so she could fly the MSF 2000. She liked it and suddenly, I became enchanted with the idea that the flight simulation product could actually be used for flight training professional. Hardy Heinlin over at Aerowinx released his 747-400 sim and I got really hooked in the idea that there was a fusion of two cultures … Flight Simulation and Professional flight training.
The AVSIM convention in San Diego was one my first and I met some great guys there. One of them was Daryl Shuttleworth from LevelD, They had just released their Boeing 767 … I had a 767 manual and we began communicating. I even had some input to their manual. Then I heard from Fred Goldman over at Wilco (in Belgium). We chatted on Skype and he had some ideas about developing a Boeing 737. I met with Vic Racz who was doing the actual computer work for him. His company is Feelthere. I really got to like Vic and I talked to him during the development of the B737PIC and the Airbus A320 projects.
Speaking of Airbus, I hooked up with some training people there. I won’t mention names, but they were pretty high up in the company, so I wrote the Airbus A320 manual, thinking that they would be interested enough to help out with the project once it was completed. They never did, but at a Seattle Flight Sim convention, I met Zoya Spivakovsky from Airsimmers. She and her programmers were creating what would be the most complete A320 ever (still in process of development).
It became obvious to me that the market for quality “pilot” material was there and so I began to consider the Flight Simulation guys when I wrote my stuff. I started submitting articles to the “Computer Pilot” magazine and got some exposure there.
Question - How "Realistic" are these manuals?
How realistic? Since I have actually been a crew member (Both First Officer and then Captain) on these airplanes, I can vouch that they are ACTUAL flight material from the professional side of aviation.
Question - Can we expect more training manuals in the future?
Yes, as a matter of fact I am in the middle of my brand new Boeing 737 NG manual. It will be about 400 pages and available as coil bound black and white as well as full color PDF for use in an i-Pad style tablet. The material will be professional in every respect … except that I am directing the content specifically for the Flight Simmer. I won’t be “talking down” to the reader, but I will consider the point of view of the person not familiar with aviation nomenclature and dialog.
I am also about to release my second “Airplane Stuff Book” with about 200 pages of articles written by me and published in magazines, etc. A collection of colorful and (hopefully) informative babbling.
Question - Would you say that these manuals are essential to simmers who want to be truly professional in their use of the Flight Simulator?
I am so thrilled at the capabilities of the new flight simulations (PMDG 737NGX, i-Fly 737NG, etc) that I think the flight simmers would be remiss in passing up the pure enjoyment factor that I personally derive from operating the simulation the way they were intended to be operated. Regarding “my specific” manuals, I think they are special because they represent the opinion of someone coming over to the Flight Simulation side from the Professional Airline Pilot side. I think I can speak to both communities and bring a sense of reality to what otherwise is “just another game experience”.
I don’t know of any other set of books that have the particular flavor and genuine concern for revealing the realistic flight experience for the flight simmer.
Question - How would you recommend we use these manuals to gain the most from them? Is it all just straight forward reading or is there a recommended way of going through these manuals?
Good Question. I have to admit that I was attempting to find the level of experience that would be the Goldilocks (not too hot, not too cold) for the Ab Initio as well as the experienced simmer. I wrote two “entry level” manuals specifically for the simmers that helps them get their feet wet without talking down to them.
But to stop there with those books is to miss the point. There can be no question that at some point the Flight Simmer should progress to the “professional level” documents that I have prepared. They are simplified and readable and … dare I say … entertaining. Treat it like a natural progression from the initial books to professional material. All my manuals have a complete flight sequence from cold-dark start to shutdown and are written as if the student is preparing for a checkride.
End of Interview
A big thank you goes out to Mike Ray for participating in this brief interview. I was fortunate enough to review 5 manuals which were created by Mike in both hardcopy and in PDF format. Let’s have a look at them and example what they entail and how practical they may be to the flightsim community.
Flying the Boeing 700 Series (COIL BLACK/WHITE) for Home PC Flight Simulators
We’ll start our review by taking a look at the Boeing 700 Series. This book is a bit different to the others so we will be handling this one first. This Book is primarily for beginners or new comers to the world of flight simulators and it focuses on bridging the gap between flying default aircraft and the more in-depth and hands on add-on aircraft such as the PMDG 747 and 737, Level D 767 and Wilco 737 PIC.
It starts off with a discussion on what exactly is a flight simulator? Is it just a game? While this may seem to be a trivial question, you may be surprised to know that your view on the matter will greatly affect your experience using MSFS (Microsoft Flight Simulator). MSFS is described as a “Reality Based Simulation” which is an attempt to as accurately as possible; create a virtual environment patterned after a real world situation. Viewing MSFS in this way will help you to realize that your only limitations to your experience using a simulator whether it be FS9 or FSX is YOU. What does that mean? Well if you choose to only use default aircraft you will be missing out on the “reality” of MSFS.
Following this interesting introduction, new pilots are introduced to the Boeing glass cockpit. This chapter focuses on what a glass cockpit is, different cockpit layouts and fleet commonalities. This nicely leads into a discussion on the Next Generation (NG) cockpit displays and the essential “Tools” used by simpilots. This includes the PFD (Primary Flight Display), ND (Navigation Display), FMC, MCP, Keyboard, Mouse and of course your Joystick or Yoke.
From this point, things get a lot more interesting as we enter Level One. Level One focuses on the essential things that everyone who is a beginner to MSFS should know or become better acquainted with such as Pre Flight Setup, Loading the FMC, Configuring Flight Controls and Setting up the MCP. Apart from giving you the general “Know How” on these topics, Captain Mike also throws in some very helpful tips that only an experienced airline captain can give you.
The last section of Level One focuses on Climb, In Flight and Descent Techniques and the various memory items you will be performing time and time again via a short flight tutorial.
Now it’s time for Level Two. What can you expect? Well Level Two basically covers all the areas touched on in Level One in far more detail without being repetitive. Level Two is written in a way that provides a smooth transition, that is (in my opinion) sufficient for any learning curve.
It doesn’t go into systems of Boeing aircraft per say, but it focuses on a more complex approach to the tutorials found in Level One that give you ( the simmer ) more confidence in using and finding your way around a Boeing cockpit. After Level Two is covered, there is some added information on charts that takes an in depth look at Airport Diagrams, SIDs, STARs and Approach plates.
Another area of interest is the section that covers Non Precision Approaches which in my opinion was well illustrated and easy to follow. I won’t go into too much detail on Level Two and the closing pages of this book, but what I can say is that the level of teaching is very easy to understand. Capt Mike uses many well illustrated diagrams and a conversation style of writing that makes you feel like you and Capt Mike are sitting in the crew room having a friendly chat. His humorous but serious approach makes this publication a pleasure to read.
Over all, I would highly recommended this book to anyone who is a beginner to the world of MSFS or if you are on your way to making your first purchase of a high end add-on from PMDG or Level D and FINALLY moving away from the default aircraft.
747-400 Pilot Handbook (Coil black/white version)
The 747 Manual is tailored more for real pilots or serious simmers whose goal is to achieve the highest level of professionalism that a simulator will allow. It starts off with an introduction to the flight deck with many illustrations of the layout of the cockpit. From there, the manual touches on topics such as glass displays and the MCP control panel.
Before delving into the “meat” of the discussion, Capt Mike talks about the romance of aviation and offers some practical advice on cherishing the memories of your airline career which I thought was quite touching. Mike also sings high praises about MSFS and the PMDG 747 which, as he claims, made him an even better pilot. This from a retired United Airlines 747 Captain means a lot as it shows that MSFS is not just a “game”.
The next section of the manual takes us to the preflight flows which cover some of the most important things a 747 captain MUST verify as he enters the aircraft. Following the Preflight, we take an in-depth look at the flight deck flows for the Captain which must be recalled from memory! The remaining topics covered in this section of the manual include First Officer FMCS verification, Cockpit Setup, Final Cockpit Preparation and Fuel Panel Setup procedures which I think everyone will find very informative.
One of the things I enjoyed about this manual is that there is never a dull moment when you feel like putting it down. Capt Mike has a very entertaining and captivating way of bringing these important bits of information across that everyone will find enjoyable.
The final section of the manual focuses on some very heavy topics that are extremely important if you want to fly like a pro and pass your checkride. One of the highlights I enjoyed the most was the thorough discussion on CDAP and the AIRBAG checklist. Mike goes into great detail on these topics and after reading it, I was instantly convinced that no serious simmer can enjoy a truly professional experience without being fully aware of these topics.
Finally, the closing of the manual is filled with invaluable information and diagrams that effectively illustrate the Non Precision Approach, ILS App (CAT I II and III), Emergency Procedures, Limitations and Specifications as well as a handy step by step guide on how to land the 747 the way Mr. Boeing designed it to land.
Overall, my opinion of this handbook/manual is that if you are the owner of the PMDG747 or a real world pilot, you can’t go wrong from purchasing this handbook. It teaches you valuable skills that only a real airline pilot of 30 years can teach you in order to fly the queen of the skies.
757-767 Pilot Handbook (Coil Black/white Version)
The 757/767 Pilot Handbook, more or less follows the pattern of the 747 Handbook. The initial chapters of the manual cover topics such as the cockpit layout of the 757, Initial Cockpit Preparation, FMS Initialization and Final Cockpit Preparation. Among the topics touched on in this section that I found most beneficial, was the detailed discussion on the FMS and the seven steps the captain has to take in order to initialize it.
The second section of the manual that I found practical, was the very thorough explanation of various Critical Maneuvers such as Abort Below 80 kts, V1 cut, V2 cut and missed approach procedures that every 757/767 pilot should know. The chapter which covers CDAP with respect to the 757/767 was also equally captivating as it shows you how the CDAP is calculated and the techniques needed to carry out this procedure properly.
The final chapters of the manual focus on various approaches both precision and non precision which are illustrated and very easy to understand. These diagrams allow you to visualize each step of the approach and tell you what you should be doing during various points in the approach. If you are not familiar on how the autopilot is setup for these approaches, you will be happy to note that following each diagram, there is an extensive explanation of how each approach is setup from the cockpit.
Other important topics covered include a handy Quick Reference Checklist for an assortment of emergencies, aircraft limitations and specifications and an important discussion on cold weather operations as it relates to the 757/767.
So what is the verdict? Well if you own the Level D 767 or Captain Sim 757, I would definitely recommend that you check out this handbook. The information contained therein is invaluable and it gives you a full appreciation of how the 757/767 is operated.
To give you an idea of how extensive this handbook really is, there are a few sections that touch on aspects of the 757 that are not modeled in MSFS but are essential to your knowledge as a pilot and simmer in order to gain insight on how your aircraft really works.
The Unofficial Airbus A320 Series Simulator and Checkride Procedures Manual (COLOR Wire-O lay flat version)
This is by far my favorite manual. The A320 manual is laid out in two parts. First we have the Setup, Systems Description and Knowledge items that prepare the reader for the Oral part of his checkride. The second part deals with the operation of the systems (actual manipulation of aircraft controls) in preparation for the actual sim checkride.
Part 1 of the manual starts with a review of the systems, layout of the cockpit and the general principles that govern various controls and indications of Airbus aircraft. Of particular interest was the discussion on the light switch technology which was very informative, especially if you have been a Boeing fan for many years and you are having a hard time adjusting to Airbus systems. Other sections of Part 1 which stood out were the detailed explanations of the PFD, FMA, ND, ECAM panel & Display and the Thrust Lever control pedestal with its various engagement zones. You will find these sections very helpful if you are new to Airbus and you will have no problem understanding the format in which these systems are illustrated.
Following these systems, we jump into the flows for the captain and first officer along with perhaps one of the best MCDU tutorials you will ever find for an Airbus aircraft. There is quite an extensive overview of the MCDU unit which not only gives you helpful tips but also tells you of the many screw-ups pilots commonly make and how they can be avoided!
The final section of Part 1 focuses on a few more important flows such as start up procedures and the various ways in which the engines can be started. It also touches EOSID (Engine Out SID) and the “LAWS” that govern the automation of the aircraft helping readers to learn what it’s all about and how it really works.
Overall, I was amazed to learn just how complex the A320 really is and that the captain must remember some 57 steps from memory in order to pass his checkride! This section of the manual does a good job of helping serious simmers and real pilots comprehend the mammoth undertaking of learning to fly the A320.
Part II of the manual (as we mentioned before) focuses on the actual checkride and psychomotor skills. This part of the manual is very detailed but I will focus on some of the things that stood out to me during my review. One of the things I found most interesting was the section that covered flying techniques such as “How to Take off”. While this may sound simple and almost unessential, I was amazed to learn how many errors I have made in the past when flying an A320.
You will also be surprised to know that real A320 pilots make these errors too.
Under the Takeoff section, you will learn in-depth details on how to handle a Low Speed Abort, High Speed Abort between 80kts and V1, V2 cut and the common mistakes that are made in performing these procedures. Next it covers the AIRBAG checklist for the A320 in a step by step tutorial that is arguably the best I have seen out of all the manuals Capt Mike has written. The final sections of the manual consider how to fly ILS, Non Precision and CDAP non precision approaches Airbus style.
It all comes to an end with a breakdown of the flows done by the Captain and First Officer from clearing the runway all the way to engine shutdown. As a bonus, Captain Mike adds a list of 10 screw-ups most Airbus pilots make which I thought was a fitting conclusion.
My overall view of this manual is that if you are new to Airbus aircraft or even a long time fan or real pilot, there is a great deal that you can learn from this manual. I think this manual can bridge the gap on a lot of gray areas we may all have when it comes to Airbus systems and this manual is an essential tool in helping you achieve the ultimate goal of mastering the A320.
With the upcoming release of A320 aircraft from FlightsimLabs and Airsimmer, I would strongly recommend that you look into this manual.
737 Classic Pilot Handbook (B/W COIL BOUND VERSION)
The 737 Pilot Handbook follows a similar patter to the 747 manual. It starts off with a detailed illustration and explanation of the cockpit layout which then branches off into the topic of Flows. Some of the areas covered in the flows section are the first 4 steps that must be taken in flight deck preparation as well as how to start the APU and a detailed overview of the FMC initialization and how it is operated.
Another topic of interest is the section that talks extensively on Takeoff scenarios such as Low speed abort, High speed abort, V1 cut and V2 cut. Following this section we jump right into the Advanced Glass section which goes into more detail on FMS operation, holds, how to build an approach and how to use the fix page of the FMS.
At this point I think it’s important to note that this handbook from a simmers view point, focuses on the Wilco 737. The writing style is very easy to comprehend and there are no instances where topics seem “over your head”. This is partly because Capt Mike went to great lengths in order to make all of the complex procedures and fancy terminologies more palatable to the average pilot.
The next highlight of the manual that comes to mind is the Appendix Material. This basically covers many essential details that can’t be placed specifically in any other section of the book. It covers Limitations and Specifications along with a Quick Response Checklist for various emergencies.
One of my favorite topics was the extensive discussion on CDAP (Constant Descent and Approach Procedure). Within this topic you will learn a great deal on how this procedure is carried out and suggested techniques that will improve your ability to get a handle on this type of approach. While on the topic of Approaches, you will also learn how to fly the CAT I, II and III approaches as well as how each of these are setup in the cockpit. Finally, the book ends with a discussion on cold weather operations for the 737 classic.
Overall, I thought this was quite an essential tool in aiding serious simmers or training 737 pilots to come to grips with the task of flying the 737. While this does not substitute for any manual, nor does it go in-depth on various systems, it is effective in bridging the gap between what you know and what you do in the cockpit.
If you are interested in becoming a more proficient 737 pilot then I think this handbook is definitely worth your while.
After reviewing these manuals I have to say that I was very impressed with the knowledge and guidance found therein. It is definitely a tool that will enhance and enrich your flight sim experience and I found it both pleasurable and humorous to read.
What about the price? Well these manuals will cost you between 29.95 all the way up to 89.95 depending on the format you prefer. Is it worth it? Well, based on the level of research and professional approach taken on each of these manuals, I would say that the information itself is invaluable.
I have also noticed that the quality of these books was very good and I expect them to last a very long time. If you prefer reading these manuals on a tablet then perhaps the PDF versions may appeal to you more. However, if you are like me and you prefer to have hardcopies then I would strongly suggest the Coil bound version as it makes it very easy to find and hold your place at a particular chapter or page.
If you are interested in having any of these manuals you can find them either at www.utem.com or www.wilcopub.com
What I like about these Manuals
• Durable construction
• Very helpful in understanding the 747, 757, 737 and A320
• Information adds a high level of professionalism to MSFS
• Picture illustrations along with a humorous and down to earth instructional style helps learning these complex systems easier
What I don't like about these Manuals
• This isn’t really something I don’t like, but I thought I should mention that these manuals are lengthy so be prepared to dedicate some time to reading them thoroughly.