Around the Pattern

Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Tag: aircraft systems

More CFI Workshop Notes

I attended another CFI workshop session but on by the FAASTeam in the Reno area. This workshop covered two modules, the Sport Pilot rules and the process of submitting certificate online known as IACRA.Preflight Inspections are one of the problem areas seen on Private Pilot checkrides.

Both modules were good overviews of their subjects and we had some nice discussions among the attendees. There was a sparse turnout this night – probably because the weather here in Reno has finally turned good enough to fly. We’ve had a terrible Spring so far – lots of clouds, cold temperatures and wind. I believe  one of the ski hills is still in operation – now mid-June.

As usual, the really interesting part of the evening came at the conclusion of the formal presentation when the three DPE’s (Designated Pilot Examiner) in attendance told us about the ‘problem areas’ that they have seen on check rides since the last workshop. Eye-opening once again.

One area – not teaching students to handle anything other than a total engine failure. Huh? Yes, it’s nice to put some emphasis on what to do if the engine quits – establish that maximum glide, look for a landing site and then, if you have time, troubleshoot the problem. But what if that’s not the problem?

What if the examiner says “You have black smoke and orange flames coming out of the cowling.” Some, but not all, students remembered to turn off the fuel. But then the vast majority followed up with – establish that maximum glide, look for a landing site and then, if you have time, troubleshoot the problem. Sound familiar? Dude! Why are you not pointing the airplane directly at the ground and putting it anywhere on terra firma before the fire burns through the firewall – or an engine mount? Not even a hint from the examiner like “Gee, the floor seems to be getting hot” made a difference.

There are probably a dozen or so emergency procedures in the manufacturer-supplied operating manual. Your student should be intimately familiar with every one of them. Face it – it may be the only time they are and they need to know that those procedures exist and how they work.

While we’re on the topic of finding that landing spot – What happened to the concept of energy management? One of the DPE’s gave a student the engine failure virtually abeam a runway – at altitude – and the student missed the 6000′ runway completely.  After lots and lots of maneuvering he arrived over the numbers at 1000′. Another at a different airport did a little better – he missed a 4000′ runway.

Sounds like these students were being taught to the ROTE level – unable to analyze the situation, adapt procedures to existing conditions and make corrections to ensure a successful outcome.

The DPEs also had a few failures before they even got into the airplane – just on the preflight alone. They attributed it to the instructor telling the student to go out and get the preflight done, he, she would meet them at the plane in a few minutes.  The examiner asked the student random questions during the preflight about what they were looking at and why – simple enough, right?  Many could not identify what a particular antenna did. One thought the aileron counterweights were metal stiffeners. And another identified the nosewheel shimmy dampener as part of the hydraulic system that controlled the nosewheel brakes.

I really don’t understand all this. Did the instructors for these students just not care what they were teaching their students – or did they not even know the material themselves? Yes, students will usually be pretty nervous for their check ride but the examiner will  take that into account. These examples weren’t due to nerves – they were a lack of knowledge and ability.

There’s always an argument about the cost of learning to fly – these students were not getting what they paid for – and that’s the problem with the cost of learning to fly. Quality is not expensive – crap for the same price is.

Airline Flight Training

I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that training on a new aircraft was in my future.  The future is now. I am about to enter my third week of Initial Qualification training for the Airbus A-330.  The decision to switch aircraft was not an easy one to make. I really enjoyed flying the Boeing 747-400. 1943 Link Trainer, Model C-3It is a very comfortable, capable aircraft (even if the cockpit is a bit noisy). However, quality of life is a big factor in a professional pilot’s decision making, especially these days when it is one of the few benefits left to the job. So rather than sit on call and keep flying the Boeing I chose to move to the Airbus where I will be senior enough to bid a schedule each month.

So,  what is involved with learning a new aircraft in the airline world? Believe it or not, the process is pretty much the same as it is in the light aircraft world. First you learn how the airplane works, then you learn how to do the things it takes to make the airplane useful, then you practice the things that you will  do if something fails mechanically.  Obviously, the bigger and more complex the aircraft the more intense the training will be, especially when there is a time limit to the learning process.

The first 6 days of our training  involved classroom instruction in the mechanical systems of the aircraft.  Since the Airbus is an “electric airplane” that is controlled by something over 75 different computers, the systems course is loaded with new acronyms. (My guess is that if you loaded all of the Airbus acronyms in the aft cargo compartment, the plane would rock back onto it’s tail. )Typical fixed-base trainer. During this phase we were also introduced to a fixed-base trainer similar to those you see for light planes. It was used during the systems training to reinforce the lecture information by allowing us to move switches and see their effects on the aircraft operation as well as the indications and effects of partial or complete failure of a particular system

At the end of the systems phase of training our knowledge level was evaluated through a closed-book, timed 100-question computer-generated test. The aircraft’s systems were broken down into ten groups, such as landing gear and brakes, or air conditioning and pressurization and each group was coved by 10 questions. A passing score on the test required 80% correct answers overall and in each individual section.

After successfully passing the systems portion of the training we progressed to the Procedures Phase of the training. This phase covers preflight procedures,  programming of the Flight Management System (FMS), checklist operations, flow patterns that pre-position switches bef0re the checklists are run and in-flight procedures for normal and abnormal aircraft operations – precision and non-precision instrument approaches, FMS flight plan modifications, airway intercepts, etc. Each day another set of operations is covered in a classroom lecture, then practiced on a simulation program using desktop computers, then practiced again during a 4-hour session in the fixed base simulator.

The Procedures Phase lasts 5 days. On the 6th day we will be administered a Procedures Validation. The Validation will test our ability to perform the tasks that were covered in the previous 5 training days. Successful completion of the validation moves us to the Full Flight Simulator phase.  The Procedures Validation for our class is scheduled for next Wednesday.

Everyone in the class had the same work load during the systems phase. We all received the same instruction and were required to take a similar test. However, the procedures phase is geared toward the seat that the pilot will occupy. That’s good news and bad news for me. At the end of this course I will be issued a full type certificate, the same as the captain. My final check ride will be taken in the left seat. However, I will also have to demonstrate proficiency in the performance of all of the duties for the right seat. It’s an added workload, but the reward is the type rating. It’s a challenge, but gladly accepted.

Back to the books.

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