Month: September 2009

Irish License

We had to convert our UK CAA licenses to the ones issued by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) for administration purposes, and I had started that process earlier in the year, just before I began the type rating.  My license had been ready the day after I did my LST, but without the 737 rating on it, since I still had base training to do at the time.  I decided it would be more convenient to wait to get base training done and then pick up the license with the rating on it, so I delayed the pick-up till today.

Last week, we got all the necessary paperwork for rating issue completed and we were given original documents to present to the IAA in Dublin.  This meant that we had to take great care not to lose theses very important pieces of paperwork, otherwise our line training (when you first start flying passengers) could be delayed for months!  I did intend on going to Dublin right away, however I was really exhausted from all the travelling and early mornings with little sleep in between, so decided to get rest on the weekend.  I flew out from Liverpool John Lennon Airport on a very short flight to Dublin, to meet up with a friend of mine who was also there to pick up his license.  We had the privilege of travelling on the jumpseat without charge, as it was work related.  We are allowed to use these privileges provided it is for work, and we follow the guidelines that are set out for us.

We both took the early flight out to Dublin, and so met up around 7.45am.  It felt a bit like deja vu, since only a few months ago we were at the same place & time, meeting up just before the type rating to go to a conference our accountants had set up for us, except this time we were here to pick up our licenses.  We had breakfast and had a nostalgic look back at our experiences during the type rating and what was to lie ahead of us.  We’ve been to Dublin once before, so we knew our way around, so it didn’t feel as daunting to be there this time around.  I was glad that it wasn’t dull and raining this time!  We reached the IAA office in the centre of Dublin, and within 20 minutes, my license was issued! I was excited to see the 737-300 to 900 rating on my license after all the hard work put in the type rating.

Still surreal!

We took the opportunity to meet up with our accountants again, and then I went to meet up with a friend of mine before flying back.  I’ve been rostered for supernumerary flights over the next 3 days – to learn and observe before I’m on the line myself!

Base Training!

We had a refresher session in the simulator on Sunday, and it went well, and everything came back to me very quickly, so I left the simulator feeling confident.  Everyone had kept reassuring me that the real aircraft is easier to fly than the simulator, which put me at ease further.

The day for base training was approaching fast! I drove down to Stansted airport to stay over at the Radisson hotel, next to the terminal building, the night before, and also picked up some friends on the way.  There were 4 others that were also doing base training with me.  For those of you unfamiliar with Base Training, this is when we get into a real aircraft to fly it for the first time after the simulator training and passing the skills test.  We all felt nervous and excited about the next day.  We couldn’t quite believe that we were finally getting to fly the real aircraft!  We got an early night and woke up early to meet the Captain and our safety pilot in the Stansted crew room, in the morning.

The Captain immediately put us at ease and after introducing ourselves to each other, he briefed us on how the day will progress, weather conditions and anything else we needed to know for the day.  The order in which we were going to fly was decided, and I was going to fly second, which I was happy with.  Soon we were out of the crew room and walking towards the aircraft on a clear and sunny morning, in the fresh air.

After boarding the aircraft and leaving our cases inside, we joined the Captain on the walkaround whilst the safety pilot set the aircraft up.  This was the first time some of us were doing the walk around, whilst others, had been shown how to do it during one of the jumpseating sessions we had organised ourselves.  The Captain proceeded with the walkaround at a slower pace to allow us to keep up with him whilst he explained to us what he was doing and what he was looking for on the walkaround.  The walkaround is when we literally walk around the aircraft and check various parts of it to ensure there’s no damage and everything is in good working order and safe for dispatch.  This is a bit like checking your car tyres, engine oil, etc before going on a long car journey.  We repeat this on every turnaround (so between every landing and take-off).

Stood in front of the aircraft I was about to fly - a windy day!
Stood in front of the aircraft I was about to fly - a windy day!

The day went as planned, which was to fly from Stansted airport to East Midlands Airport, where we would do the circuits, and then return to Stansted Airport.  I was second to go, so a friend of mine on the course, who was first, flew the aircraft to East Midlands Airport and completed his circuits.  I made myself comfortable in the right-hand seat, still not quite believing that I was about to fly the real aircraft, for the first time.

The experience was surreal.

The Captain lined the aircraft up and once we got clearance to take-off, I advanced the thrust levers to 40%, and once I got the “stabilised” call from the Captain, take-off power was set!

80 knots…V1….Rotate…  and so the first circuit began!  I found the aircraft smoother and more stable to fly than the simulator – albeit there wasn’t a huge difference, but enough for me to notice and appreciate.  I also found it easier to fly the real aircraft since we had visual reference points which aided in navigation, and also a full-viewing angle, which also made the landings far easier.  I found it much easier to track the centre line and judge the flare.  The circuits went really quickly and after 6 landings, I was done!

Tomorrow, we have further day of training, which will introduce us to the paperwork and how to complete it and will also be shown the crewroom and its layout.  We will also have our files processed so that we have the necessary paperwork to present to the IAA to receive our 737 300-900 rating on our license.

The next step is now to get my Irish license with the 737 rating on it, and then we’ll be rostered for jumpseats to observe the line flights before we get to do them ourselves.  We did get to express our choices for base preferences at this stage, and we will all find out soon where we’ll be based – at least for line training!

Jumpseating!

We now have a few weeks between the LST and base check, and so in addition to spending the time to relax, I’m also going to make good use of it by sitting in the jumpseat!  Though, it has been simulated, we haven’t actually seen a real operation from A to B, so I think observing a few will really consolidate and review what we’ve done on the type rating.  In addition, I’ve been continuing to study to keep current, by practicing my memory flows, checklist responses by recording myself reading a checklist and responding, then checking, reading the FCOM and other documents such as the operations manual.

Descent into London Stansted.
Descent into London Stansted.

A couple of weeks ago, I was jumpseating my friend’s flights out of Stansted.  We went to Skavsta (Sweden), Pisa (Italy) and Sevilla (Spain).  There’s a lot more management required in line flying, and of course the paperwork!  I got to do the walk-around with my friend and was shown what to look for and check, to ensure the aircraft is in a safe condition to fly.  This was quite useful since we’ve not yet been shown the walk-around and though we will be soon, it was nice to get a heads up on it.  I also got to help with the paperwork, and other operations.  In the simulator, we mostly concentrated on the SOPs and handling, with some, limited simulation of talking on the radio, working with cabin crew, dispatcher, etc.  Jumpseating really gave me a good opportunity to see how the whole team works to get a flight from A to B smoothly.

The day started by checking in and printing out the necessary information such as the flight plan, weather and other bits of paperwork.  We read through all this and highlighted certain areas and made the required calculations and filled in the paperwork.  This took up to an hour (especially since I was being explained how it all worked!).  Once the Captain arrives, the crew brief together and go through all the paperwork.  Once this is done, the cabin crew and flight crew have a briefing, and when ready, the flight crew walk to the aircraft and start working in the flight deck.  Meanwhile, the cabin crew prepare the cabin and when ready board the passengers.  The dispatcher hands the Captain the loadsheet, which are the mass and balance calculations for the aircraft and includes passenger numbers.  If the aircraft is being fuelled, the fueler will come aboard to give the receipt to be signed off.  If we had any issues prior to dispatch, we also have the engineers at hand for help.  Once the doors are closed, and clearance is received from ATC, the Captain asks the ground crew to start the push-back and then when cleared, the engines are started, and off we go!  There’s a real time pressure, so everything must be slick and efficient, but above all, safe.  Nonetheless, we found that we arrived ahead of schedule or on time, so things seemed pretty relaxed.

The jumpseating will ease the transition into line flying!

Yesterday, I took the opportunity to jumpseat out of Luton as well.  It was nice to see another base and see how it was like at a smaller base.  I’ll get plenty more opportunity to do some jumpseating after my base check, which will be soon!