Month: July 2009

FFS1 & 2

We had our first full flight simulator sessions with motion on Thursday and Friday.  Both sessions involved lots of manual handling to get the feel of the aircraft.

Sat in the 737NG simulator.
Sat in the 737NG simulator.

In the first session, we got to do steep turns, flight director ILS, visual circuits and climbs/descents with heading changes.  We also went through exercises in stall recovery – first in the clean configuration and then in the landing configuration.  We practiced takeoffs and landings as well.  The next session, we practiced more takeoffs and landings but with the addition or raw-data ILS approaches.

Jumpseating a simulator session.
Jumpseating a simulator session.

The takeoffs are not as simple as it looks on paper!  The technique we were taught was to start pulling back on the control column for rotation and once the nose wheel is in the air, relax the pressure a little to avoid rotating to quickly, and then anticipate the “dead band” at around 10 degrees, which is where we pull back more firmly to continue the rotation.  The “dead band” is where the aircraft starts coming out of ground effect, and so needs further help from the stabiliser to rotate.  We discussed the risk of tail strike at length since the 737-800 is quite prone to this, and a tail strike is possible if rotation is too fast, and it happens at 11 degrees nose up.

The controls can be quite heavy initially, but much better once trimmed.  We have to exercise patience when flying the 737 since changes we make with the power setting or control column won’t take effect immediately due to the inertia and spool up time of the engines.  I’m really enjoying the manual flying, and the 4 hour session does go by really quickly.

FBS9 & 10 and onto full motion!

FBS9 was a really fun simulator session, but also quite difficult since there were a lot of emergencies including rapid depressurisation, which required quick action.  The drill went well since I practiced it over and over so that my actions were almost automatic when it came to doing it in the simulator.  The 10th and final fixed base session was a progress check, which we passed. We were required to complete the preflight setup within 35 minutes and approach briefing in 10 minutes, which put the pressure on.

Now we’re onto the full motion simulator sessions which include a lot of manual handling.  I’m looking forward to finally doing a lot of manual flying!  I’ve got the day off today, which I’m spending on reading through the flight crew training manual (FCTM) and practicing my flows / SOP calls.  The FCTM contains useful information on the manual flying and other handling techniques.

FBS8 – First full flight simulator session

We just had our first full flight simulator session, although without motion for now!  We’ve got two more sessions without motion, and then it they will all be with full motion.  The idea is to allow us a smooth transition from the fixed based procedural trainer.  The full motion simulator is less spacious inside than the procedural trainer and more realistic to the actual aircraft.  The instrumentation is of a much higher quality and realistic.  I also noticed was the perspective of the overhead panel is different since we’re seated further forward so that we can reach the rudder pedals, and it’s quite easy to miss switches if we don’t move our heads and look properly.  Also, the aft overhead panel seems so high and far away!  We were also aware of error of reading certain instruments such as the cabin altitude indicator or the rudder trim, due to parallax.

The session involved a normal take-off and initial climb and then we were given a failure related to the instrument displays.  Once we solved that, we were given some engine related failures in the cruise – overheat, failure and fire, which we had to deal with.  Some of these had memory items which had to be done before looking at the QRH and going through the appropriate checklist.  We then continued on for a non-precision NDB approach, for which we had to go around due to a failure, deal with the failure and then land from the next approach.

I didn’t find the lack of space in comparison to the procedural trainer too disconcerting, especially since I’m not really huge, so I fitted in nicely!  I did find that I needed to fiddle with the seats a little and familiarise myself with the controls since I’ve not been in a 737 simulator before other than at my assessment.  The instructors are now bringing in a more realistic simulation of communication, including ATC, cabin crew and passengers.  This highlighted the importance of prioritising tasks – to fly the aircraft first, then navigation, and then communicate, “aviate, communicate, navigate”.  In addition, we now have visuals, and found transitioning from instruments to the view outside can be a little disorientating if it’s abrupt.  However, I was pilot monitoring in this session, so didn’t fully get to experience that, which I will in tomorrows session. The pilot flying will have split his time between instruments and the outside view and slowly increase the time he’s looking outside as he’s approaching minimums to ease this transition.

I’m pilot flying for the next session, and looking forward to finally being able to do some manual flying, albeit it’ll only be for the take-off, initial climb and go-around if we practice one.

CS4 – CS7

Today was an early session, starting at 5.30am, and surprisingly, I felt quite fresh in the morning.  I think I prefer early mornings, as we finish quite early, have time for a quick nap and time to study also.  We’ve now got Friday & Saturday off, and then Sunday will be our first full flight simulator session, where we move from the fixed base trainer into a full motion simulator.

I’ve not really mentioned OAA itself, so here are a couple of photos:

Oxford Aviation Academy - where we spend many long hours!
Oxford Aviation Academy - where we spend many long hours!
OAA in Stockholm is a very spacious facility with lots of free tea/coffee!
OAA in Stockholm is a very spacious facility with lots of free tea/coffee!

OAA is about a 10 minute drive from or 15 minutes on the bus from where we are staying.  The facility is really well equipped and we all enjoy the free tea/coffee/hot chocolate from the machines that are dispersed around the building!  The building also has a free gym & sauna, which is at our disposal and I’ve also seen a tennis court.  There are classrooms, study rooms and free wi-fi internet and a canteen on the ground floor that is open at lunch time.  The airport is few minutes away by bus and free buses run every 15 minutes to the airport.  A very nice facility to train in!

The 4th session in the fixed base trainer involved a complete flight from A to B again, but introduced icing conditions and how to deal with them – which we may encounter in Winter.  Icing conditions require the use of wing & engine anti-ice and also have performance considerations, as less engine power is available if anti-icing is in use, which in turn limits the weight we can carry.  This session also included practice with go-arounds.  We’re all feeling a bit more confident now with setting up the aircraft and the normal procedures including the briefings.  The main briefings are done before pushback from the stand and another in the air just before descent, which is the approach briefing.  The briefings have a definite structure, which everyone in the airline uses – which makes it quick and easy to understand.

CS5 built on the previous session, and involved further details on using the FMC (flight management computer), which uses the automatic systems to fly the aircraft.  There was also some discussion on approach and reference speed calculations and how to correct for wind in this session.  We did an ILS approach, as we did last time.  This was also a progress check, since the next sessions would introduce non-normal procedures (such as how to deal with system failures) – so it was to ensure we were comfortable with the procedures so far before moving on.  At the end of the session, I felt quite confident and the preparation had paid off.

CS6 then introduced non-precision approaches and the QRH (quick reference handbook).  The QRH contains checklists for non-normal procedures and tells us how to deal with problems such as an engine failure in a structured, easy-to-follow and logical manner.  It also contains performance tables and normal checklists.  CS7 built on this by more practice on how to deal with failures, with an enroute diversion followed by another non-precision approach.

A lot of new material & procedures have been introduced this week, and no doubt, we will have to review it & consolidate it all and practice it before we start again on Sunday – just as I did last week.  I feel quite confident with the normal procedures now, and I will be reviewing the material learnt this week, especially since our timetable has made it so that we’ve not had much time to study in between sessions.

CS2 & CS3

The last few days have been really tiring & challenging – not only due to the early starts, but also because of the amount of new procedures to learn for each simulator session.  We’ve all found that we require a nap as soon as we’ve had lunch and get back!  And then once awake again, there’s plenty of work to do and by the time we’ve managed to finish, it’s late and we’ve just about managed to get enough sleep to function the next day.  It did get easier though, as I got used to waking up early and exercising good time management.

The learning curve does seem to be steep, but we’ve been spending plenty of time in the paper tigers and working together as a crew to progress quickly.  There are quite a few memory items that we’ve had to learn – which are scan flows (memory items which we have to learn to do in a particular order), such as for before engine start, after engine start, before take off, after take off, landing, taxi, shut-down and securing the aircraft.  There will be more to learn for the non-normal procedures such as engine failures and fires.  In addition to using paper mock-ups of the flight deck and touch drills on the procedural trainer, we’ve also employed flight simulator (which my simulator partner has installed on his computer) as a training tool.  We’ve been using the PMDG 737-800 – it’s not a perfect simulation, but it is one of the better ones out there.

CS2 (the second) session involved procedures from preflight & start up to cruise, and we even had time for some descent procedures, which was in addition to the syllabus.  Things move really fast once you’re on your take-off roll, so it’s important to keep ahead of the aircraft and get all the calls in.  We operate a “sterile flight deck” from start to reaching cruise altitude, and then from start of descent to parking at the gate.  This means that only essential language required for the operation of the flight, according to the SOPs, is used. CS3 involved a complete flight to landing.  Every session is allocated 2 hours, however we’re doing more in each session as we progress, which means that we have to become faster and faster with the procedures as we progress.  The next session will involve go-around procedures as well.  This is when the aircraft is set up to climb back up to a missed approach altitude, after an unsuccessful approach, which could be, amongst many factors, due to weather, incorrect configuration or an unstabilised approach.

SOP exam & first simulator session.

We had our SOP day yesterday.  It included a review of the Ryanair procedures from the various sources with a more detailed brief on the SOP manual.  It also gave us an opportunity to ask questions and clear up anything we may have misinterpreted or misunderstood.  The SOP instruction day was presented by a female Ryanair first officer that also flies on the line.  In addition to this day, we also had been studying the SOPs in our own time with contact details given to us by a Captain that had introduced himself to us earlier in the first week of training.  At the end of the day, we all took the SOP exam, which everyone passed.

We set off home as soon as we had finished, since some of us had to wake up around 4.30am to be at OAA by 5.30am for the first simulator exercise.  I spent a couple of hours preparing for the simulator session and then went to bed earlier than usual to get enough sleep in before waking up in the morning.

I was afraid of oversleeping, so set two alarms, but managed to wake up before the alarm even rang!  The briefings usually start 1.5 hours before the session, so we met in time in the briefing room.  Two crews (so in total, 4 people) are briefed together, as we also observe each other’s sessions.  The instructor introduced himself (who’s a Ryanair First Officer) and we then introduced ourselves to him, and then the briefing began.  The briefing included what we were going to do in the simulator and he asked us questions on the procedures that we were going to practice and also covered some areas of technical knowledge.  The briefing was also an opportunity for us to ask any questions.

The simulator session went quite quickly – each crew had 2 hours.  We were observing the other crew for the first two hours, and then were in the simulator for the next two hours.  Whilst I was observing, I took down notes or highlighted certain areas in the SOP manual and wrote down any questions I had, to ask at the end, to avoid interrupting the crew.  The first session involved all the procedures up to and including engine start & taxi.  As we went along, the instructor explained certain details and also asked some questions on our technical knowledge.

The debrief was quite useful, as the instructor summed up our performance in the simulator and gave us some pointers.  I also had the opportunity to ask questions which I had noted down whilst observing.  We were finished by around mid-day and ready for lunch and a short-nap before studying again for the next morning!

The structure of the simulator sessions are quite rigid – usually starting with a briefing 1.5 hours before the session, followed by the session itself.  The first crew goes in for 2 hours, whilst the other two observe, and then after a short break, the next crew goes in for 2 hours.  After another short break, we are de-briefed and then free to go!

I’ve got two more 4 am alarms – tomorrow and Friday and then we should be on ‘lates’ by next week!

Technical Exam

We spent the weekend dividing our time between study for the technical and the SOP exam.  We also spent some time relaxing, and ventured to a nearby town called Signtuna for a meal.  It was a pleasant, but chilly evening.  The weather’s been a little cooler than the last two weeks and it did rain over the weekend.

Sigtuna - a picturesque town by a lake.
Sigtuna - a picturesque town by a lake.

Everyone passed the technical exam today, and it consisted of around 120 questions on the various 737-800 systems.  It took most of us about an hour or so to complete.  We spent the rest of the day relaxing and practicing SOPs in the paper tigers and fixed base trainers.

We have the SOP instruction day tomorrow followed by the SOP exam.  I imagine the SOP day tomorrow will mostly be a review, since we’ve been studying SOPs in parallel to the technical manual over the last two weeks, and some of us in advance also.  Then on Wednesday, I have an early start at 5.30am which will be my first simulator session.

Performance & SOPs

Practicing SOPs with my simulator partner, in the fixed base trainer.
Practicing SOPs with my simulator partner, in the fixed base trainer.

Since the progress test, we’ve been giving more attention to the SOPs and practicing them in the paper tigers or the fixed base simulator.  We’ve made a lot of progress in learning the SOPs over the last few days since we’ve done most of the work on the technical knowledge of the 737-800.  We were practicing rejected take-offs and found that it is one thing briefing for it and knowing the emergency brief, and entirely different thing with actually doing it!  Things do move very quickly and at first it was difficult to keep ahead of the aircraft, but with a few goes we got there.  Chris took a recording of me making a PA, which I may or may not upload!

I took the time on Wednesday to read over the performance preamble in the operations manual, in preparation for the performance lecture which we had on Thursday.  Most of it was familiar from ATPL theory, and the night before, I also looked over my notes that I made from the Boeing performance CBT, again familiar from the ATPL theory.  Thursday was spent in the classroom receiving instruction on the performance on the 737-800 and how to use the performance tables.  All the performance calculations are done by hand including the load sheet, contrary to what most of us were expecting.  Nonetheless, after a couple of goes and examples we were comfortable with the format.  Instruction was fantastic, mixed in with some funny videos clips from the Internet to give us a bit of a break.  We were finished by around 3pm and given some exercises to complete in our own time before the exam.

We took the exam yesterday, and it took most of us 2 – 3 hours to complete.  I was deliberately taking my time and went slower than usual as a result, as I didn’t want to make any mistakes in the exam, and in addition, it had a higher than normal pass mark.  We all happy to have passed, and are now studying for the technical and SOP exams next week.