Wednesday, 30 November 2011

B737NG Type Rating - Simulator Phase (2)

Learn it the hard way, make the mistakes!

That's what the Fixed Base part of the simulator training is all about. 

The first 5 sessions were designed to learn and practice normal SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) on A to B flights. All the rest of the training is focused on systems failures, emergencies or non-normal situations, different types of approaches and decision making, on top of the usual SOPs work. The Full Flight sessions will bring the opportunity to practice again some of the situations we've been through before, but it adds the motion, more realistic airline environment (talking to Ops for example) and our required self-performance is set much higher. Yet the fixed base part feels really tough as every session brings more new stuff. The instructors let us make the mistakes and we learn from them.
It is undoubtedly much more intense than the Instrument Rating (IR) of the initial airline pilot training (which wasn't easy either).

Some of the failures and situations covered in the last five fixed base sessions include:
- APU (Auxiliary Power Unit, used to provide power and bleed air mainly when the engines are not running) Fault, i.e. not working,
- Bleed trip off (bleed air is compressed air taken from the engine compressor stages or from the APU, and is used to provide pressurisation, air conditionning and equipement cooling),
- Soure off (when a power source is no longer supplying energy as it should),
- Aborted engine starts for all kind of reasons (wet start, hot start, hung start, ...),
- Landing gear stuck in the up or in the down position,
- Loss of System A and Loss of System B (those are 2 of the 3 hydraulic systems (the third one is the standby system), driving flight control surfaces but not only, thrust reversers, landing gear, flaps and slats, brakes, spoilers, etc...),
- EEC Alternate mode (Engine control),
- Engine failure, Engine shutdown in flight,
- Engine Overheat,
- Engine Fire,
- Engine severe damage,
- Auto Speedbrake failure,
- Double FMC failure (resuming conventional navigation, manual calculation of speed references),
- Rapid depressurisation followed by:
- Emergency descent,
- Flight deck Window overheat,
- Rejected take-off,
- Passenger evacuation,
- Display failure,
- Stabiliser out of trim,
- ... and a few more.

There is a course of action for each of them, almost all systems are redundant and none of those conditions should develop in an uncontrolled situation. That's if we apply the correct procedure, and those simulator sessions are here to train to do exactly that.
Some of those situations require memory actions (Boeing refer to these as memory items) and a lot of decisions are to be made.

During Full Flight simulator sessions, some of those failures will be practiced again and lots of new failures will be introduced. There will be occasions when several failures will happen at the same time with procedures requiring to do opposite actions, resulting in the crew having to make a (correct) decision.

But the training is not only about failures and emergencies. We have to practice all kind of approaches on each flight, as well as go-arounds, take-off and approach briefings, and all normal checklists.
Amongst approaches we've been flying so far, other than the usual ILS Cat I, we did a few non-precision approaches (NPAs) such as LOC (Localizer only) approach, VOR-DME approach, NDB-DMEs, and circle-to-land (visual circuit after breaking off from the approach on one runway, to land on the same runway in the opposite direction, probably the most interesting type of approach).
There are two ways to fly NPAs, using VNAV (the FMC creates a vertical guidance based on DME, GPS and IRS position) or VS (Vertical Speed) as we would fly an approach on a Cessna.

Airborne life continues...

Monday, 21 November 2011

B737NG Type Rating - Simulator Phase

Final straight line to the right hand seat: the simulator phase.

It starts off with the fixed base part, a dozen sessions as pilot flying and pilot monitoring, before getting onto the full flight training.
It is called "fixed base" as the motion is not used on those simulator sessions. For this reason, we don't hand fly the plane a lot.
This part is typically designed to help us get to know all the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), do-lists / checklists, the flows, standard calls and the Pilot Flying / Pilot Monitoring tasks.

The first five sessions are focused on normal operations. Basically, we enter the plane configured in the nightover/secure setup. The Pilot Flying (alternatively Captain and First Officer) completes the preliminary and setup flows while the Pilot Monitoring does the walkaround (checks the aircraft externally). This includes FMC basic setup (route planning, departure and arrival, speeds and altitudes restrictions, weather (temperature, winds) in the climb, cruize and descent segments, ...). This can take up to 10 - 15 minutes and those first simulator sessions are there to practice what we've been doing in the Procedure trainer (cockpit mock-up) and FMS trainer.

When both pilots are in the flickdeck and the final loadsheet has received, we complete the final FMC setup, make the take-off performance calculations (and decide of an appropriate thrust setting, e.g. derate thrust, assumed temperature), do the checklists and get started with the briefing. This would normally take another 10 to 15 minutes.
Then comes the pushback and startup sequences, taxi-out and take-off. For each of those phases, and for each pilot, there is a number of procedures, calls (out loud) and things we have to do. This is what SOPs are all about and it does take a while to remember them all and do it quickly enough. Everything is done from memory and then only we read the checklists, as opposed to do-list only, or checklist only, in general aviation.

Fixed base session 4 was a complete flight from A to B, ILS approach at B, go-around as a result of not being visual by the decision altitude, come back for another approach and land with weather merely above minima.

The next fixed base sessions introduce all kinds of emergencies and failures, I'll come to that in the next post.

Airborne life continues...

Saturday, 12 November 2011

From the jumpseat

Thrilling reward after four weeks of intense studies, I got to jumpseat a few flights, enjoy the incredible view and do some of the work (walkaround, PA - Passenger Announcements, and ATC communications).

This is not the average day at the office for a huge proportion of people on this planet.
Yet the job of an airline pilot comes with drawbacks, but some of its aspects like the view and the flying in itself are simply extraordinary.

Waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning doesn't look very attractive in the first place, now when it comes to relishing the sunrise over the Alps, this is worth living for.

Airborne life continues...

Sunday, 6 November 2011

B737NG Type Rating - Part 2.2 (CBT, SOP, Perf)

After a second week of CBT (Computer Based Training) we're now done with the Technical training, assessed with a final exam.
We then had different lectures to attend on topics not covered in the CBT, more related with actual airline operations.
I'm impressed by the consistency and quality of the training provided.

We've started practicing the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) in the Procedure Trainer, which in fact is a cockpit mock-up. My sim partner is a well rounded guy who worked in the Army as a pilot. Different experience means great conversations, there are so many different paths that lead to the right hand seat of an airliner that in the end, no two pilots share the same story.
Along with the proceduring training, we have had a few lectures on SOPs, and I backseated a simulator session, useful to see all this in action.
We still have to do the Performance and Mass & Balance calculations training (and the related exam).

Finally, we spent a couple of hours in the Control Tower (ATC) and the Approach room, talking with air traffic controlers about procedures we, as pilots, might not understand or find necessary in the first place but which are there for a reason. Those guys are doing an amazing job and are there to help us, it's always useful to see both sides of the headset microphone.

Airborne life continues...