Month: August 2009

License Skills Test (LST)

We had our LST today, and we both passed first time!  The LST profile was similar to what we had done for the last simulator session, except the failures were going to be random – i.e. we would not know what we’d get beforehand, and we also did some extra maneuvers such as TCAS RA.  We were both feeling (naturally) nervous before the session, but as I settled into the session, I felt a bit more relaxed.

The examiner briefed us on the profile, asked us technical questions which involved performance, limitations (aircraft & IR) and general technical knowledge about the aircraft systems including QRH and memory items for in-flight emergencies.

We got the top grade for CRM (crew resource management)!  I was really happy about this since we made an effort to improve this as much as we could.  I found that jumpseating simulator sessions really helped since it allowed me to observe and make notes on CRM, and on how other crews work.  I would really recommend jumpseating to anyone since it not only gives you a heads up on what the next session is going to be like, or a review of the session you’ve just done, but it also will give you pointers on CRM.  CRM is incredibly important in a multi-crew environment.  Good CRM can make a flight incredibly easy, and bad CRM can make a flight a disaster.  We found that polite prompts towards each other made the flow of the flight operation very smooth and promoted a positive & synergistic environment for teamwork, and strictly sticking to the SOPs helped.  Also, using, what may seem as insignificant at first, techniques such as calling out each other’s names to get attention (i.e. the cocktail party effect) to avoid the other becoming fixated on a task really helped.  We also gave each other space in the flight deck by avoiding over-prompting, and also actually watching what the pilot flying was doing, giving useful suggestions/recommendations and providing useful MCP inputs when flying manually.  This made the pilot monitoring’s role critical.

We both now intend to continue to revise the theory and SOPs and jumpseat flights to keep current.  The advice the TRE gave us was to avoid the tendency to let the dust settle on the books after the LST and instead go back into them to revise all the technical details and continue reading the SOPs & QRH to keep current.  We’ve now got just over a month till base training, so I’ll be using the time to revise and jumpseat flights!

FFS8

We just had our final progress check today, and it concludes the training flights that work towards the LST (License Skills Test).  This simulator session was designed to build confidence and also as check to see how we would perform on the LST.  The profile flown is very similar to what would be expected in the LST.

We had a normal take off and then enroute we experienced a couple of failures.  The failures were a source-off light due to a generator malfunction and whilst going through the checklist for this item, we encountered an APU fire, which we had to put out with memory items.  This left us with only one AC electrical source other than the standby power.  We decided to return to Dublin, and so we formed a plan, gave the NITS briefing, and the passenger announcement.  The NITS briefing is a special and structured briefing given to the senior cabin crew member which allows them to prepare the cabin for a non-normal situation.  NITS stands for nature, intention, time and specials.  We returned to Dublin for a non-precision approach with a circle to land, which we had to go around from due to the runway being blocked, and then we returned with vectors for a raw data (i.e. without automation and any flight directors) approach, which we landed from.  We were then given another take-off from which we had an engine fire and had to return for a single engine ILS, the first one which we had to go around from due to an ATC request, and then for the next one, we landed.  The last thing we practiced was a rejected take-off, which went well.

I’m quite happy with how session 8 went, and feel much more confident for the LST.  The LST will include a profile very similar to this session with a few more maneuvers such as TCAS RAs (where we move to avoid collision with another aircraft) and the failures will be quite random, so as it could happen in real-life, we won’t know what we’ll be getting!

FFS7 & Low Visibility Training

Yesterday, we practiced some more single engine flying including failures past V1 and were also introduced to windshear.  We were placed in situations where we encountered windshear on the runway before V1, at or just after VR, on the approach and in other phases of flight.  We found that it’s sometimes a challenge to keep the wings level and it can be quite scary when the airspeed suddenly decreases resulting in a possible altitude loss and stall!

We had some training in low visibility procedures today.  We practiced monitored approaches, including CAT II/IIIA auto-lands and go-arounds.  Various situations were simulated such as the autopilot disconnecting, the autothrottle disconnecting, flare mode (when the aircraft raises the nose slightly to land more softly) not engaging, and glideslope/localiser problems.  The most difficult problem to take care of in time was the flare mode not engaging, since it should engage at 50 feet above the runway, and so it must be detected quickly and the go around executed in a timely fashion.  We found the go arounds less relaxed in low visibility since a decision has to be made even more quickly and executed.  In addition, before now all go arounds were manual and aided by the flight director, and these were flown by the autopilot, and so we had to resist the tendency to put forces on the control column!

We completed the exercises rather quickly, so we had some time to practice other maneuvers.  We practiced more raw data ILS approaches and were then given situations of catastrophic failures to see how we would react and solve the problem.  We were given a rather nasty problem involving an engine overspeed to the limit and the thrust levers had no effect, so eventually we were forced to glide in without engines once we were at a safe altitude.

There’s one more simulator session left, in which we’ll fly a profile similar to the LST (License Skills Test), which is designed to also build our confidence.  Then the LST is on the 11th with circuit training the day after.

FFS3 – 6

The last week has been quite tough, especially with 2 early sims that start with a 5.30am briefing!  I didn’t find them too tiring when we were in the fixed base, since the sessions were only 2 hours long and were mainly procedures.  The full flight sim sessions are now 4 hours long and are far more challenging.  Nonetheless, the time does go by really quickly.  We had our first progress check in the full motion flight simulator and we had a really good flight and passed it!

Reading the flight plan.
Reading the flight plan.

The last few simulator sessions have involved many non-normal situations such as engine failures, fires, rapid depressurisation and other system malfunctions and failures.  We’ve had plenty of practice on solving the problems using the QRH, liasing with ATC and cabin crew, informing passengers (all simulation of course!).  Other maneuvers we’ve been practicing have been single engine flying including approaches and landings on one engine.  We also practiced TCAS (when we are flying clear of other traffic) avoidance maneuvers and terrain clearance maneuvers.  We are using procedures, but the sessions have been concentrating more on manual flying and non-normal procedures and dealing with problems in the air.  We’ve also had some practice at flying raw data (manual flying without flight directors or other form of automation) ILS, which I found difficult at first due to the new scan I had to get used to.  I’ve been used to using the older type of instruments we would use on light aircraft, and the 737NG has the PFD (primary flight display) and ND (navigation display), which are more sophisticated but takes time getting used to.

I’ve also been jump-seating a few simulator sessions, which gives the advantage of getting a heads up on what we’re going to do next.  Also it’s much better to pick up information on flying techniques, CRM, problem solving, etc. when observing that will help for the sim session we’ve done.  I also jump-seated a session I had already done, which made it a nice review.  The next session is on Tuesday, which will involve training to deal with windshear encounters and more single-engine maneuvers.