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!