Month: August 2008


This was the day we’ve all been waiting for since we started the course.  It seemed so distant and out of reach when we started and then finally materialised on the horizon towards the end of Phase 2.  It has only been 14 months, however it has been a long, challenging and though intense at times, an enjoyable journey.

The evening started with drinks at the bar and this was the first time that I got the chance to introduce my family to my friends and instructors.  We soon gathered in the graduation room and the ceremony opened with a speech from the head of the school followed by the head of training giving the guests a description of the course and what each of us had to go through to get to where we are.  The special guests at our graduation were Captain Ian Baston, Captain David Given (from Flybe) and Kevin Kraven from Qatar Airways (pictured below), who presented the Base Trophy to me.

This trophy was awarded to me because I achieved the highest ground-school average score of 99.2% on my course.

In total, all of 12 people on my course graduated:

The graduation ceremony was short and sweet.  When the speeches were done, certificates & wings were presented and then the trophies, after which we all got the chance to take photos with friend and family.  Tapas and sherry was served after the ceremony and soon it was time to walk over to the dining hall at around 7.30pm.

It was hard to believe that the same chefs that cook the canteen food that we all love to complain about so much, cooked such a lovely meal at the graduation!  I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the meal.  At the end of the meal, it was time for light-hearted speeches from a nominated instructor and a couple of my friends from the course.  As usual, the speeches went down really well, with the instructor focusing his speech on us and our speech on the instructors – and I think we surprised some of them!  Each course usually makes a “graduation video”, which is a collection of footage taken during the course, and it is often full of humour!  It is usually shown in the dining hall, however due to constant technical issues experienced in the past, the management suggested that it would be best if it was set up in the bar so that the guests have a chance to stretch their legs and socialise whilst the projector is being set up.  This worked out extremely well.  The graduation video was impressive – a couple of friends on the course worked hard at it and it was a success.

It was a really enjoyable day, however at the same time I was exhausted, as I had been working hard on the MCC and organising myself for the move back home.

Unfortunately I have not got the rest of the graduation photos on me, however I will do soon and I will put them up!

Logbook & Paperwork

There is an immense amount of paperwork to be done at the end of the course…!  Other than the logbook, there were many other forms to fill in and get signed such as the accounts paperwork, FCL forms for the CAA and course critiques.  I’m glad to have gotten all that out of the way,  I just handed in my logbook and completed paperwork to the CFI so that it can be sent to the CAA to have my license issued.  I’ve got one more simulator session tomorrow morning and then it’s the graduation in the evening!

Writing the logbook takes the longest, as every entry must be neatly and carefully written in, ensuring that no errors are made.  In addition to that, we had to go through our logbooks stored on the computer a few times to iron out any errors or investigate any anomalous figures.  Once that was done, only then did I start writing the entries into the logbook.  As I was writing in my logbook, I almost felt as if I was re-living every flight and hour I was up in the air.  I surprised myself with how much I could recall – all the flights that went extremely well, the low points where I felt like things were just not going as well as I wanted them to be and the highs such as my cross country which is the most enjoyable VFR flight I have done.  I felt quite nostalgic as I penned in my last entry.

MCC – Simulator Session 4

I was lucky enough to have a go at this session twice!  We practiced a normal departure followed by VOR to VOR navigation where some emergency was given to us, including pilot incapacitation.  The school has given me a couple of free sessions, which means I have time to do some general handling and flying on raw data (i.e. without the flight director or autopilot) as well.

At a critical moment such as take off or a few hundred feet from touchdown, the instructor cunningly asked the pilot monitoring to act incapacitated – i.e. not to respond at all.  This was done without the pilot flying knowing or realising to simulate pilot incapacitation.  In my case, the PNF was incapacitated during take off.  As soon as this happens, the workload is significantly increased for the pilot flying, and so priorities had to be given to tasks – aviate, navigate, communicate.  The first task was to fly the aircraft and set up the configuration correctly and engage the autopilot to reduce the workload and then navigate and maintain situational awareness.  The next action was to call ATC and advise them of the situation and then call the cabin crew member to secure the incapacitated pilot, and so on.  Incapacitation that takes over slowly is most dangerous, as it is not always easy to notice.

We were then given a set of engine failures, fires and generator failures…!  In all of these, the pilot flying continued to fly the aircraft whilst the pilot not flying or pilot monitoring, investigated the problem and then went through the appropriate memory drills or checklists, confirming actions with the other pilot before doing them.  This is especially important with items such shutting down the engine.  Shutting down the wrong engine could end with disastrous results, as it did with the Kegworth air crash.  These drills were never done in a rushed or hasty manner with hands flying around the flight-deck, but rather in a calm, controlled and careful fashion.  Initially, when time permitted, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, <callsign> engine fire, standby” was transmitted, and after having dealt with the emergency, ATC were then updated and we requested radar vectors for an ILS approach.  Tasks are divided and clearly defined between the two pilots during emergencies and each task has a priority and is done accordingly.  A “NITS” brief is given to the cabin crew, passengers, ATC and company.  This is a briefing in which the Nature of the problem is described followed by the pilot’s Intentions on dealing with the problem, then the Time frame in which the actions will take and any Special requirements such as asking the cabin crew to secure the cabin or medical assisstance required on landing.  Another procedure we used was DODAR (something British Airways makes use of):

Diagnose – what is the problem?
Options – what are our options or solutions to the problem?
Decide – make a decision on what option or solution to take.
Assign – tasks are assigned to crew members, cabin crew, ATC, etc.
Review – make an evaluation of the situation, decision and tasks and make any changes that are necessary.

MCC – Simulator Session 3

This session involved dealing with cabin depressurisation and served as an introduction to dealing with emergencies as a crew.  Everything happens so quickly.. especially if it’s an explosive decompression!  In the briefing, our instructor mentioned that in reality, during an explosive decompression, at 35,000 feet, we’d be in intense pain and would not be able to see much in the flight deck due to the mist and nor would we be able to hear each other due to the noise.  Thus, emergencies such as this must be practiced to ensure that the correct drills are followed and in time to ensure the emergency is dealt with.  At 35,000 feet, a pilot has around 20 seconds of time of useful consciousness to recognise the failure and put an oxygen mask on.

We practiced this a couple of times – on depressurisation, we immediately put our masks on and then established communications between each other.  The pilot-flying monitored the aircraft whilst the other went through the emergency drills and then the pilot-flying initiated the emergency descent.  During this time the other pilot liaised with ATC and cabin crew.  I can imagine a real depressurisation to be much more difficult to deal with, as the effects of depressurisation could not be simulated in the simulator.

MCC – Simulator Session 2

This session involved flying a standard instrument departure (SID) from Edinburgh and then vectors back to the airport for an ILS approach followed by a go-around and then an NDB approach.  The go-around was one of the new elements that we focused on.  This was a time of very high work-load and tasks had to be prioritised and clearly defined in terms of who was responsible for particular tasks.  There is a high workload due to having to re-configure the aircraft, fly the missed approach profile, communicate with ATC, alert cabin crew, etc.  During this stage the pilot flying concentrating on carrying out with missed approach procedure and flying the aircraft whilst the other pilot was responsible for all communications and monitoring the aircraft and the pilot flying.  It’s very easy to bust altitudes/levels when going around if the aircraft and autopilot is not correctly setup..!

The ILS approach was simple enough, especially since it was asissted by the autopilot.  The pilot flying set the autopilot up and monitored it whilst the other pilot dealt with communications, cabin crew, checklists and monitoring the aircraft.  The first NDB approach we didn’t go particularly smoothly due to bad prioritisation of tasks amongst other things, however we had another couple of goes and got there!  The NDB approach really highlighted how important it is to prioritise and share tasks to get to a common goal, which in this case was to complete a safe and stable approach to a safe landing.  The pilot that’s monitoring takes on a really important role.

I’m looking forward to the next simulator session, where there’ll be failures to deal with such as generator failure and cabin pressurisation malfunction/failure.  Unfortunately I’ve not got any photos of us in the simulator yet… however there are videos… which may be put up!

MCC – Simulator Session 1

We had been in the simulator before, but that was for familiarisation so we only got as far as doing the initial checks and taxying the aircraft.  This session, we were going to depart as per the departure clearance and then do some manual flying.  This included steep turns, 30 degree bank turns, climbing and descending, configuring the aircraft, stalls and recoveries.  Then we were going to finish the session off with an autopilot assissted ILS approach and landing.  The use of autopilot was a luxury, since before now we had done all instrument approaches manually.

The simulator sessions are 4 hours in total and split into half with a 30 minute break in between.  We decided that for the first two hours I would be the pilot-not-flying (PNF), and so the Captain, and my partner would be the pilot-flying (PF), the First Officer.  This worked out well since my partner had one session already and this was an extra one for her, which gave me a chance to observe her flying before I had a go.  My task for the first two hours was to monitor the PF and make the appropriate calls, assisst when asked and handle liason with ATC, ground crew, dispatch and cabin crew.  Whenever there were times one of us missed something, the other gave a prompt, so things flowed a lot more smoothly with both of us helping each other out at the right time.  Surprisingly, the 2 hours went by really quickly and before we knew it, it was time for a break and my turn at the controls!

I got the opportunity to fly everything manually with “raw data” up to the ILS approach, which was facilitated by use of the autopilot.  The jet required smooth inputs and a high scan rate of the IVSI, which is now an accurate instrument compared to the normal barometric VSI found in most general aviation aircraft.  I really enjoyed flying manually and reluctantly gave control over to the autopilot!  We’re going to have another session towards the end of the MCC to have a go at flying manually, so I’m looking forward to that.

This was my first taste of multi-crew flying and found it vastly different to single pilot operation.  Everything must be co-ordinated, the other pilot must be kept in the loop whenever you’re doing something, and use of standard calls such as “1000 to go” carry a lot of significance.

MCC Ground School

Much of the ground school was spent on watching videos of aircraft incidents and accidents and discussing them with special focus on crew resource management (CRM) & human factors.  These videos included the Tenerife disaster where a 747 collided with another 747 during its take-off run, the Kegworth air disaster and the “controlled-flight-into-terrain” (CFIT) of a B707 in Tenerife.  The rest of the groundschool focussed on familiarising ourselves with the Hawker 800 flight deck, Auto-flight Control System (AFCS), learning the checks and roles in a two-crew flight deck.  We were given a SID and an NDB instrument approach as examples and were given guidance on where to make configuration & speed changes to correctly set the aircraft up in time for the procedures.  During this week, I’ve spent a lot of time studying the pitch-power couples, speeds, configuration and learning the roles of the Captain/First Officer and pilot-flying/pilot-not-flying.

Also, the dress-code has been business-wear, so a change from the normal school uniform.. so we’ll all have to wait till next week before we can try our new epaulettes out!  I’m programmed in for 3 simulator sessions next week and they’re spaced out so that we have at least day in between to work on any de-brief points from the last simulator and to prepare well to get as much out of the sessions as possible.

MCC Day 1 – Career Preparation

We were given a project ahead of time, which was to research an airline and do a presentation on it.  I was allocated British Airways, so over the weekend, I prepared a PowerPoint presentation on the company.  We were only allocated 5 minutes for the presentation, so I chose to give a brief overview of the company starting with a few facts and figures and then going into a discussion on the fleet, subsidiary companies, airline alliances and a brief note on green policies that the airline adopts.  There were 14 presentations in total on different airlines including a brief discussion on each, led by the chief groundschool instructor.

Once the presentations were done, the head of training came in to briefly give us a heads-up on the recommendations to airlines and how things are looking at the moment, followed by a more detailed presentation by the graduate employment assisstant.

We then practiced some group exercises.  The class was split in two, whilst one was doing the group exercise the other observed and vice versa.  This was quite useful to me, as I’ve never experienced group exercises as a method of selection.  They involved problem solving and discussion on a certain scenario involving strategy.

The day was quite useful, it gave us all something to think about, a taster and further motivation to continue or start preparing for the airline interview.

The Instrument Rating Skills Test

I had passed the 170A, which is a test similar to the instrument rating skills test (IRT) – a bit like a mock skills test to show that you’re ready to take the IRT yesterday.  I meticulously prepared for the IRT – I prepared the basic items such as the plog and performance calculations and then studied my route in detail.

The examiner had brief us to take him to Seville and divert to Jerez on a simulated passenger, instrument flight.  The most likely runway to be in use was 27 at LEZL, so I chose the Alcol 2L departure, taking us to Moron VOR, and then I would request radar vectors for an ILS approach, from which I would go around.  On going around, I would route direct to the JER NDB at Jerez and carry out an asymmetric (an engine failure simulated after the ILS approach go-around) NDB approach, followed by an asymmetric go around and visual circuit to land. I studied the CAA CAP 413 document again to ensure my radio calls would be correct on the flight and even wrote some out and practiced them to myself whilst I mentally flew the route in my head.

I nervously walked over to the examiner’s office to allow him to examine the route I prepared, the flight plan, plog and performance calculations.  After a few questions on each, I was asked to meet him at the aircraft, to take-off at the scheduled time.  The entire flight went smoothly and found myself just getting on with the flying, as most of the thinking had been done on the ground during preparation.  The conditions were not easy though – it was very hot outside and turbulent.  However, I have flown in these conditions many times, so I have grown used to it and just learnt to deal with it.  Once I had shut the engine down and completed all the checks, the examiner told me that it was a pleasant flight and congratulated me on my first time instrument rating pass!

We then went to fill out the paperwork and debrief on the flight.  I’ve got a few days free now, so I’ve booked a flight to go home for the weekend and be back in time for the MCC Course.

LEGR, IFR Landaway

This time I got the chance to relax in the back-seat and observe on the way to Granada, and enjoy the view.  My flying partner flew us out via the Martin 2K SID initially and we were soon given an instruction to route direct to the Malaga beacon and then to the Granada VOR.  This was most likely to avoid the dense traffic area around the Martin VOR, where aircraft bound for runway 13 into Malaga were approaching.  The trip took around an hour, and we had enough time to take a quick break and then it was my turn to fly the leg back.

Views on the way:

Just before touch-down at LEGR, with the displaced threshold of runway 09 in sight:

After a quick break I set the avionics up on the ground for the flight back:

Once we were in the cruise and settled, I put the screens up to simulate IMC conditions or “entry into cloud”:

Initially we were cleared on the Martin 1V SID out of Granada however, as soon as we were on the Malaga approach frequency, we were instructed to route direct to the GM NDB and then direct to the JRZ VOR – again to possibly avoid the dense area of traffic coming into Malaga.  I was planning on practicing an ILS approach followed by an engine failure after take-off (EFATO) drill and the an asymmetric NDB approach to land, however, the controller advised us that only one approach to land was possible.  So, I opted to do the NDB approach since I’ve had plenty of practice with ILS approaches recently, and so requested to route direct to the JER NDB.  We were given permission to proceed and so completed the procedure to land.

I thought this trip was good practice for unexpected ATC routing, especially to beacons that are nowhere to be found on the relevant approach plates that I had to hand!  When requested to route direct to GM, which is a beacon on the Malaga approach plates, I promptly requested an initial vector from ATC to start heading in the correct direction.