Month: June 2009

Week 2

We’re into week 2 of the type rating, and we just had our progress test for the groundschool today, which everyone on the course passed!  After a relaxing Friday night out, I spent a few hours on Saturday going through some performance related CBTs & finishing off the technical CBTs at the flight school with my simulator partner and a couple of other friends on the course.  Saturday night was mellow and most of us were quite tired, so relaxed inside.  I spent Sunday reviewing all the material we had gone through for the groundschool and gave particular attention to the the major systems of the 737-800 such as electrics & hydraulics.

Sat on my bed, studying and relaxing, looking out onto the terrace.
Sat on my bed, studying and relaxing, looking out onto the terrace.
Myself and my simulator partner, Chris, studying out on the terrace on a lovely sunny afternoon.
Myself and my simulator partner, Chris, studying out on the terrace on a lovely sunny afternoon.

The magic whiteboard that I had bought came to be really handy, as I could jot down notes & ideas conveniently and also test myself.  In addition to reading FCOM Vol. 2, I also went through all the questions given to us in the file to test myself further and highlight any weak areas that I needed to go through.  This was all in preparation for the progress test today, and ultimately the technical exam we will have to take early next week.

I had already done all the CBTs by Sunday, so spent yesterday completing the video sections.  These were videos on subjects such as de-rotation, wake turbulence, tail strikes and other aviation-related safety issues.  In addition, we also had to go through self-briefs on P-RNAV and VNAV.  These are both subjects on navigation, essential to know before we start flying.  I was done by around 5pm, and so decided to give the SOPs some of my attention.  I spent an hour in the paper tiger (a paper mock-up of the flight deck) going through the safety and pre-flight checks, ensuring I knew where all the switches were and learnt the checks and flows.  Just as I was done, my simulator partner turned up in time to practice together and help each other memorise the checks.

Today was spent reviewing the autoflight systems, with special attention given to the flight mode annunciator (FMA), which is the part of the primary flight display that tells the pilot what the automatic system modes in the aircraft are engaged or armed.  The importance of understanding and using these were stressed, with an example drawn to the recent Turkish airlines crash in Amsterdam Schipol Airport, where the pilots failed to monitor the FMAs.  After, the review we sat the progress test and then after lunch I decided to give the FMS trainer a go.  Later in the day, we decided to go for a bit of plane spotting, and caught a landing jet in trouble.  We weren’t sure precisely what was wrong, but we saw a few fire trucks on standby and escorting the landing aircraft.

Arlanda Airport
Arlanda Airport

I wish I had brought my DSLR with me!  This week will be spent reviewing the groundschool and ensuring we’re slick with our SOPs!

Groundschool

Our off-side accommodation whilst were in Sweden.
Our off-site accommodation whilst we're in Sweden.

The last few days have been incredibly busy for all of us.  We’ve got the mammoth task of studying the technical manual for the 737-800.

We all enthusiastically got up early for breakfast on the first day, which was on Monday this week.  Luckily, there are 3 people with cars on my course, so transport to the Oxford Aviation Academy (OAA) is not a problem.  It took around 5 – 10 minutes to get there, and we gathered in the reception, where we would meet our groundschool instructor and be issued security passes.

Soon we found ourselves sitting in the classroom with a pile of books and manuals (on top of what we were already issued) sitting on our desk!  Once we were introduced to these books and manuals, which would be our closest companions for the next few weeks, we were given a tour of the facility!

Boeing 737-700 Simulator

We were shown simulators – Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier!  I even got the chance to sit inside an A320 simulator, which I’ve never had the chance to do before.  Suffice it to say that I felt like a kid in a fairground – pilot-fairground!  After the tour we were snatched back down to Earth and shown our CBT rooms, where we will be spending 2 weeks studying the aircraft technical manuals.  We each have our own computer stations with a very comfortable chair and good lighting, which is important since a lot of time is spent there.

My computer station & desk.

Each day we are expected to complete certain sections of the computer based training and do the necessary reading.  In addition to that, we have videos to watch and some which we are assessed on.  At the end of these 2 weeks of study, we will have a test on the technical side of things, aircraft performance and on the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of Ryanair.  I’ve been studying the SOPs in parallel to the technical manuals so that by the time I start with the simulators the SOPs would have sunk in.

I almost feel like I’m in the last year of University again.  The day is incredibly busy and hectic.  We’re setting off at 7.50am and then we return home by around 6pm.  However, today was a very long day, and we only just came back at 9pm!

Welcome to Stockholm!

I woke up around 5.30 am yesterday, and got in time to the airport to catch my flight to London Heathrow for another, connecting, flight to Arlanda, Stockholm.  The shuttle flight down to Heathrow didn’t take long, and as I had expected, we ended up in the hold for 10 minutes before landing.  At Heathrow, I had a couple of hours to spare, so I passed my time browsing through the shops and met up with a friend of mine a short while later that was also on the type rating course and traveling with me on the same flight.

Coming into land at Arlanda Airport, Stockholm
Coming into land at Arlanda Airport, Stockholm

The flight to Stockholm passed quickly since I had company and our first impression of Sweden as we were coming into land was that it was full of trees!  Trees, everywhere!  We collected our luggage and met up with another couple of our friends there and made our way to meet a hotel staff member that had come to transport us to the hotel.  After being shown our rooms, we checked in and were given some useful information on the local public transport, amenities and sights of interest.  We were also given a tour of the hotel itself including its kitchens and washing/drying facilities.  The hotel we’re staying at is the BoKloster VillaHotell which is situated in Märsta, which is a suburb just on the outskirts of Stockholm and conveniently located near Arlanda airport.  The hotel itself is located in a quiet corner surrounded by greenery and with the rain I could sense the fresh smell of the greenery around us – very refreshing.

After meeting up with the rest of the course members, we decided to head into the city to explore.  We walked around and absorbed the sights and managed to find an Italian place (by recommendation of an Italian that is on the course) for pizza.  We continued to explore, and found the city unusually quiet for a weekend.  There weren’t many cars on the road or people walking around in the city, as you would expect in the Capital, such as for example, London.  We were, however, told that this was due to the Midsummer’s eve celebrations, so many people that lived in the city go up North to celebrate it.

It was good to walk around and explore and take the chance to do so whilst we have some free time before we started the type rating here.  One thing we’ve all found fascinating here is that the sky is light 24 hours, this time of the year!

Dublin!

I went to Dublin yesterday, which was my first time in Ireland.  We were greeted by the rain and the walk out of the terminal was rather lengthy.  However, I didn’t let that bother me, I was looking forward to the day and meeting up with my friends, and one that I hadn’t seen since we graduated flight school!  I met up with a friend of mine at the airport, where we had breakfast and tested each other on the Ryanair SOPs.  An hour later, we were ready for our bank appointments and when done we headed into the city via bus.  We used a tour guide leaflet and map to find our way around and visited the museum and the zoo.

After lunch, we met up with my other friends for a coffee, after which they showed us around the city and the sights.  Soon it was time to go to a conference that our accountants had set up for us.  The conference was around an hour or so long, and gave us an opportunity to meet face-to-face with the accountants and ask questions.  The day sped by, and we had just enough time to eat out in the evening before rushing back to the airport for the flight back.

I was surprised at how cheap the flight to Dublin was – it only cost me £12 with Ryanair, and it would cost me much more to travel to London, whether by rail, bus, car or air!  The flight itself was only 30 minutes, so was a very fast hop over the Irish Sea.  I’ll be visiting Ireland once more, at least, when I pick up my Irish License!

Induction – Days 4, 5 & 6 – SEP

We spent day 4 going through the cabin safety procedures and dangerous goods.  The safety procedures included items such as how to open/close doors and arm/disarm slides, cabin lights, emergency exits and their operation, location of emergency equipment and how to use them and more.  The dangerous goods theory involved learning all the different classes of dangerous goods – which was revision really since we had covered this at ATPL theory, and then some company procedures in relation to dangerous goods.  Once we had done the theory, and been demonstrated how to use items such as fire extinguishers and protective breathing equipment (PBE), we were then ready for the practical.  This involved going into a simulated environment which required us to fight a small fire in a mock up of an aircraft cabin.  We were shown how to safely fight a fire and the roles to play, which involved CRM & teamwork.  This was the fun part!  We had a go at putting on the PBE and using the fire extinguishers and finding our way around a smokey cabin.

On day 5, we met up at a leisure centre to conduct the practical survival & ditching exercise.  This was the part I was most nervous about, as I’m not a strong swimmer.  Nonetheless, the swimming I had been doing over the previous weeks, along with the support and encouragement from my other course mates, made it easy!  We had to swim unaided and then were asked to rescue one of our course mates – which involved dragging them across the pool whilst keeping their head above the water.  Then another exercise was to go into the pool and get a life jacket, put it on and inflate it, and then gather in a circle and sing a song!  Once we had done the pool exercise, we had an hour or so to get ready and get a snack, and then we met up at the training centre once again to go through some details and information on company security procedures.  Most of it was already covered in a CBT we had to do in order to get our airside pass, however we also covered some company-specific security procedures.  At the end of the day, we drove down to Stansted to stay overnight and meet up at the Ryanair hangar the next day.

Day 6 was the practical cabin training and what all of us had been looking forward to – especially going down the slides!  We met up at the hangar around 8.30am.  The hangar is huge – space for a few 737-800’s and housed a cabin trainer and class rooms.  When we were there, it had one very shiny 737-800, which was ready to be pushed back out of the hangar.  We started out by going through some theory and revising some of the material we had gone through the previous days.  Then each of us had a go at opening/closing the doors and arming/disarming the slides.  Whilst a pair of us were being briefed on how to deal with incapacitation in the flight deck, the rest of us practiced sliding down the slides and inspecting the cabin equipment.  Finally, we received more training in survival theory which involved working in teams to figure out what we’d do in hypothetical situations such as being stranded at sea, looking at ground to air signals, first aid, hypoxia, etc.  The day went rather quickly, and when we were finished, I dropped some of my friends off at the airport and a few of us went out for dinner.

The week ahead will involve plenty of study – going through the SOPs, FCOMs, CBTs, etc.  We then meet up in Sweden by the 22nd, which is when the course starts there.

Induction – Days 2 & 3, CRM

The last two days involved watching videos, lectures on several topics on Crew Resource Management (CRM) and group activities.  We had a surgeon sitting in on our session, as he was interested in applying CRM principles to surgery.  We covered topics such as body language, barriers to communication, past attitudes in the flight deck environment and it’s relation to aviation safety.  I really enjoyed the group activities.  One of the group activities involved prioritizing a list of articles, titled “Lost on the moon”.  We also discussed how difference in culture can be a barrier in communication and several examples (some with comedy value) were discussed.  This was drawn to our attention with special importance, as Ryanair have employees that come from many different backgrounds, cultures and nationalities.

The day usually started with me meeting up for breakfast at around 8.30am with a couple of my friends that were staying at the same hotel as me.  We would then set off to pick up another friend of ours that was staying nearby, to be at the East Midlands Training Centre for a 9.30am start.  By now we were given access to the computers, and so were making ourselves familiar with the system in the morning just before the class started.  The CRM classes went quickly and were given a generous 1.5 hour lunch times.

As expected, CRM is something Ryanair put a lot of stress on, especially since crew & passenger safety is the top priority and good CRM is conducive to that cause.  Tomorrow we’ll begin Safety & Emergency Procedures which will involve security, dangerous goods and cabin safety procedures.

Induction – Day 1

Day 1 has gone really fast, and we were all feeling quite nervous in anticipation and the nerves soon settled as we relaxed into the work we had to do in the day.  I had met up with some of the people on the same type rating course as me the previous day, and the rest I met today, in class.  There was plenty of paperwork to fill in involving security passes, training files and uniform order.  We all met with the tailor today to get the right fit for out uniform and get them ordered, with 20 minutes allocated to each of us for that.  By noon all the paperwork was done and we were given an Introduction to Ryanair presentation.

After lunch we were given more information on our training, and guidance on study. We were given out a booklet on SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), FCOM Volume 1 & 2 (Flight Crew Operating Manual), along with the QRH (Quick Reference Handbook) for the 737-800.  We already had these in electronic format, and suffice it to say they look far more intimidating in hard copy!  There is no doubt that this will be a challenging and intense type rating and that Ryanair do have very high standards in training.

I am looking forward to it even more now, this is what I really have been working towards.

Swimming

I’ve been going swimming a lot lately to improve my fitness and technique, and to also gain more confidence in the pool.  At school, I was never really a quick learner when it came to swimming.  I think the fear of the water was a barrier and impedance towards my progress at the time.  Swimming lessons stopped once I left primary school, as it wasn’t in the curriculum. In hindsight, I wish it was or I wish I continued taking lessons privately, as it’s a very good skill to have and I personally find it very enjoyable.

Between leaving primary school and starting flight school, I hadn’t been to the pool at all or given swimming much thought.  At flight school, I had the opportunity to jump in the pool (and be thrown in).  I remember getting in the pool for the first time – just the height of the water up to my chest made me feel uncomfortable.  I eventually got used to it.  I knew that I could swim, since I managed to swim the width of the pool, unaided at school, so I gave it a go and got back into it.  I didn’t progress much since I still feared the mighty deep end!

Recently, I’ve been visiting my local swimming pool often to gain more confidence and get over the fear of the deep end.  I’ve managed to swim the length of the swimming pool for the first time last week – which is a fantastic achievement for me!  I feel more confident and less anxious about the pool & ditching exercise I’ll be doing in the Ryanair induction week now.  I’m not only wanting to improve my skill at swimming for the pool exercise, but also because I enjoy swimming and have made it my personal goal to improve my technique and fitness.

It really is amazing what you can achieve once you have the motivation though.