Month: October 2009

Line Training – Week 2

This week saw me going to destinations other than Murcia and Dublin!  I went to Porto (Portugal), Torp (Norway), Nimes & Carcassonne (France) and Alicante (Spain).

I was on earlies this week, so I was flying in daylight, which made the approaches easier.  I’m getting a bit more confident and accustomed to the fast pace of turn-arounds and have been fine tuning my organisational skills!  I was allowed to do more manual flying as well to get a better feel for the aircraft and did some of my approaches manually, which helped with improving my handling skills.

The Captain demonstrated a visual approach into Nimes, and it was especially difficult because of the turbulence on the approach, which suddenly kicked in below 4000ft.  The approach for Carcassonne was also interesting because it was a circling approach, and the PAPIs were set for a 4 degree glideslope.  This made the approach path much more steeper than usual and we were aware of the different aspect of the runway due to the steeper approach.  The approach into Alicante gave amazing views.  We were landing on the northerly facing runway, which meant we had to fly out over the mediterranean sea and make are approach from there.  On the way down to Alicante, we passed over the Pyrenees, and the view was amazing.

Flying over the Pyrenees.
Flying over the Pyrenees.

I didn’t find the earlies as difficult as I thought they would be since I managed getting in bed early, to get enough sleep.  I had to wake up pretty early – around 3am since I need 30 minutes to get ready and it takes just under an hour to get to the airport.  I enjoy the drive in the morning – the roads are nice and quiet and it helps me to wake up!

I’ve really enjoyed this week and have gotten to see a few more destinations and different types of approaches. Looking forward to next week!

Line Training – Week 1

Line training is flying with a training captain and a safety pilot in the jumpseat behind, on a scheduled passenger flight.  I was quite nervous on day one of line training – luckily, I had been doing my supernumeraries out of the same base, so I had figured out my way around the airport/base – which gave me less to worry about!  This was my first time flying passengers to their destination.

The jumpseating had given me a good idea of how the process works and what I’m expected to do, so I got out my roster to double check my times and destinations.  I was still a little unsure of how to complete the paperwork, as I hadn’t done most of it myself from scratch, so I started with what I knew – which was to print out the weather and flight plans.  Soon after I had done that, the safety pilot walked in and introduced himself and began guiding me through the paperwork. We usually sign in and check-in first, which gives us an idea of who we’ll be working with on the day – so the names of the cabin crew, the captain and a safety pilot.  The weather, flight plans & NOTAMS are then printed, which we read and highlight as we need.  The instrument plates needed throughout the day are collected.  Once all the bits of paperwork were complete, and discussed with the Captain and the rest of the crew, we were ready to walk out to the aircraft.

Since it was my first day, the safety pilot elected to complete most of the paperwork in-flight for me, so that I could concentrate on settling in and flying the aircraft.  Before I knew it, we were strapped in and ready for push-back! I was both nervous and excited. The first day was quite a blur and there was a lot to take in and everything happened at a phenomenal pace. In the type rating we had plenty of time to pause and for the instructor to guide us through procedures.  I still had both the Captain and the safety pilot to guide me, but with the addition of time pressure.  On top of that, I was unfortunate enough to experience last-minute runway and approach changes which I had to very quickly adapt to, on the first day!  Nonetheless, I enjoyed my experience and thought it was good to have some exposure to these situations early on and just got on with it, without hesitation.

I flew for 3 days this week, and I had the same flights each day – which was to Dublin and back first and then Murcia and back. I enjoyed the consistency in the schedule, as it made it easier for me to get settled and pick up the pace. I found the short flights to Dublin and back quite challenging because there was no time to relax and very little time to brief the approach, so everything had to be done efficiently to get things done in time. The longer sectors (a sector is a flight from A to B) to Murcia and back felt much more relaxed and there was time to relax and enjoy the view!  During these longer sectors, we covered some discussion topics such as pilot incapacitation and tail-strikes.  I found the environment to be very dynamic and that you have to be really flexible and efficient.  For example, in the type rating, we had a set sequence of tasks in pre-flight preparation, however on the line, I found that I had to be flexible since there will be changes and interruptions such as the loadsheet requiring changes due to passengers not turning up, or deal with delays due to various reasons.

I think what I’ve found most challenging over this week’s of flying is dealing with the paperwork and time pressure.  Other challenges was getting used to the radio and listening out for our callsign – I found it easy to miss.  In addition, the night landings were more difficult to do than the ones we did at base training during the day.  Despite these challenges, I felt that I was quickly progressing with each flight.

On top of all the excitement, I’ve seen some of the most amazing views.  I saw thunderstorms as we were approaching and climbing out of Murcia.  They look amazing and quite dramatic at night – the lightning strikes from within suddenly make them come alive and almost look like flickering light bulbs.  I also saw a moon-rise, and the most dramatic effect that I’ve only heard of before – St Elmo’s fire. The effect was really pretty and it was quite tempting to take a photograph of it!

I have a few days off now, and looking forward to some more flying next week!

Supernumeraries

I was lucky to have gotten my first choice out of my 3 given for the base to do my supernumerary flights out of.  This was less than an hour away from home, and so it was very convenient.  These flights also gave me a good opportunity to get to know the base and the people that work there.

I have sat on the jumpseat previously, when I was following my friends at Luton and Stansted, and those were early morning flights.  However, this was the first time I got the opportunity to see some night flying.  We were all rostered for a minimum of 12 sectors and I went to Alicante, Bergamo, Murcia and some shorter sectors to Ireland.  I carefully observed how the first officer organised himself with the paperwork, as this was in particular, a new element to line flying and was interesting to see how it was put into the flow to ensure a quick and efficient turn around.  I also got some advice on the essential items to carry in the flight bag – such as a torch to use during the night time when doing the walk-around, a print-out of useful volmet/ATIS frequencies we use to get the weather, a map of Ryanair destinations & bases and “The Pilots’ Atlas”.  I also bought myself a Sennheiser headset which has active noise-reduction (HMEC 25-KA), which made the environment much more comfortable.

I enjoyed the night flying – the flight deck had a very relaxed atmosphere at night.  The lighting was dim to ensure good night vision and it almost felt like mood lighting!  The flight deck really does look pretty at night.

I helped out with the paperwork to gain further practice at completing it, and also followed the first officer around on the walk-around to get a better insight into it.  I tried to absorb as much information and gain as much advice as I could, as I will be flying next week.