Category: Flying

MCC – Simulator Session 4

I was lucky enough to have a go at this session twice!  We practiced a normal departure followed by VOR to VOR navigation where some emergency was given to us, including pilot incapacitation.  The school has given me a couple of free sessions, which means I have time to do some general handling and flying on raw data (i.e. without the flight director or autopilot) as well.

At a critical moment such as take off or a few hundred feet from touchdown, the instructor cunningly asked the pilot monitoring to act incapacitated – i.e. not to respond at all.  This was done without the pilot flying knowing or realising to simulate pilot incapacitation.  In my case, the PNF was incapacitated during take off.  As soon as this happens, the workload is significantly increased for the pilot flying, and so priorities had to be given to tasks – aviate, navigate, communicate.  The first task was to fly the aircraft and set up the configuration correctly and engage the autopilot to reduce the workload and then navigate and maintain situational awareness.  The next action was to call ATC and advise them of the situation and then call the cabin crew member to secure the incapacitated pilot, and so on.  Incapacitation that takes over slowly is most dangerous, as it is not always easy to notice.

We were then given a set of engine failures, fires and generator failures…!  In all of these, the pilot flying continued to fly the aircraft whilst the pilot not flying or pilot monitoring, investigated the problem and then went through the appropriate memory drills or checklists, confirming actions with the other pilot before doing them.  This is especially important with items such shutting down the engine.  Shutting down the wrong engine could end with disastrous results, as it did with the Kegworth air crash.  These drills were never done in a rushed or hasty manner with hands flying around the flight-deck, but rather in a calm, controlled and careful fashion.  Initially, when time permitted, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, <callsign> engine fire, standby” was transmitted, and after having dealt with the emergency, ATC were then updated and we requested radar vectors for an ILS approach.  Tasks are divided and clearly defined between the two pilots during emergencies and each task has a priority and is done accordingly.  A “NITS” brief is given to the cabin crew, passengers, ATC and company.  This is a briefing in which the Nature of the problem is described followed by the pilot’s Intentions on dealing with the problem, then the Time frame in which the actions will take and any Special requirements such as asking the cabin crew to secure the cabin or medical assisstance required on landing.  Another procedure we used was DODAR (something British Airways makes use of):

Diagnose – what is the problem?
Options – what are our options or solutions to the problem?
Decide – make a decision on what option or solution to take.
Assign – tasks are assigned to crew members, cabin crew, ATC, etc.
Review – make an evaluation of the situation, decision and tasks and make any changes that are necessary.

MCC – Simulator Session 3

This session involved dealing with cabin depressurisation and served as an introduction to dealing with emergencies as a crew.  Everything happens so quickly.. especially if it’s an explosive decompression!  In the briefing, our instructor mentioned that in reality, during an explosive decompression, at 35,000 feet, we’d be in intense pain and would not be able to see much in the flight deck due to the mist and nor would we be able to hear each other due to the noise.  Thus, emergencies such as this must be practiced to ensure that the correct drills are followed and in time to ensure the emergency is dealt with.  At 35,000 feet, a pilot has around 20 seconds of time of useful consciousness to recognise the failure and put an oxygen mask on.

We practiced this a couple of times – on depressurisation, we immediately put our masks on and then established communications between each other.  The pilot-flying monitored the aircraft whilst the other went through the emergency drills and then the pilot-flying initiated the emergency descent.  During this time the other pilot liaised with ATC and cabin crew.  I can imagine a real depressurisation to be much more difficult to deal with, as the effects of depressurisation could not be simulated in the simulator.

MCC – Simulator Session 2

This session involved flying a standard instrument departure (SID) from Edinburgh and then vectors back to the airport for an ILS approach followed by a go-around and then an NDB approach.  The go-around was one of the new elements that we focused on.  This was a time of very high work-load and tasks had to be prioritised and clearly defined in terms of who was responsible for particular tasks.  There is a high workload due to having to re-configure the aircraft, fly the missed approach profile, communicate with ATC, alert cabin crew, etc.  During this stage the pilot flying concentrating on carrying out with missed approach procedure and flying the aircraft whilst the other pilot was responsible for all communications and monitoring the aircraft and the pilot flying.  It’s very easy to bust altitudes/levels when going around if the aircraft and autopilot is not correctly setup..!

The ILS approach was simple enough, especially since it was asissted by the autopilot.  The pilot flying set the autopilot up and monitored it whilst the other pilot dealt with communications, cabin crew, checklists and monitoring the aircraft.  The first NDB approach we didn’t go particularly smoothly due to bad prioritisation of tasks amongst other things, however we had another couple of goes and got there!  The NDB approach really highlighted how important it is to prioritise and share tasks to get to a common goal, which in this case was to complete a safe and stable approach to a safe landing.  The pilot that’s monitoring takes on a really important role.

I’m looking forward to the next simulator session, where there’ll be failures to deal with such as generator failure and cabin pressurisation malfunction/failure.  Unfortunately I’ve not got any photos of us in the simulator yet… however there are videos… which may be put up!

MCC – Simulator Session 1

We had been in the simulator before, but that was for familiarisation so we only got as far as doing the initial checks and taxying the aircraft.  This session, we were going to depart as per the departure clearance and then do some manual flying.  This included steep turns, 30 degree bank turns, climbing and descending, configuring the aircraft, stalls and recoveries.  Then we were going to finish the session off with an autopilot assissted ILS approach and landing.  The use of autopilot was a luxury, since before now we had done all instrument approaches manually.

The simulator sessions are 4 hours in total and split into half with a 30 minute break in between.  We decided that for the first two hours I would be the pilot-not-flying (PNF), and so the Captain, and my partner would be the pilot-flying (PF), the First Officer.  This worked out well since my partner had one session already and this was an extra one for her, which gave me a chance to observe her flying before I had a go.  My task for the first two hours was to monitor the PF and make the appropriate calls, assisst when asked and handle liason with ATC, ground crew, dispatch and cabin crew.  Whenever there were times one of us missed something, the other gave a prompt, so things flowed a lot more smoothly with both of us helping each other out at the right time.  Surprisingly, the 2 hours went by really quickly and before we knew it, it was time for a break and my turn at the controls!

I got the opportunity to fly everything manually with “raw data” up to the ILS approach, which was facilitated by use of the autopilot.  The jet required smooth inputs and a high scan rate of the IVSI, which is now an accurate instrument compared to the normal barometric VSI found in most general aviation aircraft.  I really enjoyed flying manually and reluctantly gave control over to the autopilot!  We’re going to have another session towards the end of the MCC to have a go at flying manually, so I’m looking forward to that.

This was my first taste of multi-crew flying and found it vastly different to single pilot operation.  Everything must be co-ordinated, the other pilot must be kept in the loop whenever you’re doing something, and use of standard calls such as “1000 to go” carry a lot of significance.

The Instrument Rating Skills Test

I had passed the 170A, which is a test similar to the instrument rating skills test (IRT) – a bit like a mock skills test to show that you’re ready to take the IRT yesterday.  I meticulously prepared for the IRT – I prepared the basic items such as the plog and performance calculations and then studied my route in detail.

The examiner had brief us to take him to Seville and divert to Jerez on a simulated passenger, instrument flight.  The most likely runway to be in use was 27 at LEZL, so I chose the Alcol 2L departure, taking us to Moron VOR, and then I would request radar vectors for an ILS approach, from which I would go around.  On going around, I would route direct to the JER NDB at Jerez and carry out an asymmetric (an engine failure simulated after the ILS approach go-around) NDB approach, followed by an asymmetric go around and visual circuit to land. I studied the CAA CAP 413 document again to ensure my radio calls would be correct on the flight and even wrote some out and practiced them to myself whilst I mentally flew the route in my head.

I nervously walked over to the examiner’s office to allow him to examine the route I prepared, the flight plan, plog and performance calculations.  After a few questions on each, I was asked to meet him at the aircraft, to take-off at the scheduled time.  The entire flight went smoothly and found myself just getting on with the flying, as most of the thinking had been done on the ground during preparation.  The conditions were not easy though – it was very hot outside and turbulent.  However, I have flown in these conditions many times, so I have grown used to it and just learnt to deal with it.  Once I had shut the engine down and completed all the checks, the examiner told me that it was a pleasant flight and congratulated me on my first time instrument rating pass!

We then went to fill out the paperwork and debrief on the flight.  I’ve got a few days free now, so I’ve booked a flight to go home for the weekend and be back in time for the MCC Course.

LEGR, IFR Landaway

This time I got the chance to relax in the back-seat and observe on the way to Granada, and enjoy the view.  My flying partner flew us out via the Martin 2K SID initially and we were soon given an instruction to route direct to the Malaga beacon and then to the Granada VOR.  This was most likely to avoid the dense traffic area around the Martin VOR, where aircraft bound for runway 13 into Malaga were approaching.  The trip took around an hour, and we had enough time to take a quick break and then it was my turn to fly the leg back.

Views on the way:

Just before touch-down at LEGR, with the displaced threshold of runway 09 in sight:

After a quick break I set the avionics up on the ground for the flight back:

Once we were in the cruise and settled, I put the screens up to simulate IMC conditions or “entry into cloud”:

Initially we were cleared on the Martin 1V SID out of Granada however, as soon as we were on the Malaga approach frequency, we were instructed to route direct to the GM NDB and then direct to the JRZ VOR – again to possibly avoid the dense area of traffic coming into Malaga.  I was planning on practicing an ILS approach followed by an engine failure after take-off (EFATO) drill and the an asymmetric NDB approach to land, however, the controller advised us that only one approach to land was possible.  So, I opted to do the NDB approach since I’ve had plenty of practice with ILS approaches recently, and so requested to route direct to the JER NDB.  We were given permission to proceed and so completed the procedure to land.

I thought this trip was good practice for unexpected ATC routing, especially to beacons that are nowhere to be found on the relevant approach plates that I had to hand!  When requested to route direct to GM, which is a beacon on the Malaga approach plates, I promptly requested an initial vector from ATC to start heading in the correct direction.

Malaga IFR Landaway

I flew to Malaga for a second time, this time in the Seneca… so we were there in only an hour!

Lined up on runway 20 at Jerez, ready for departure:

I chose the Martin Two Kilo departure, since it routed us directly to the initial approach fix for runway 13, which was most likely in use and also gave better terrain clearance compared to the departure that took us to the Malaga VOR.  We climbed enroute at the best rate of climb, which gave us the performance to satisfy the minimum gradient requirements to clear terrain.

Once out of Jerez and settled in cruise, I listened to the Malaga ATIS and noted down the details.  As expected, runway 13 was in use and the weather was well above minimum requirements, so things were looking good.  Soon we were handed off to Malaga approach, from Seville approach.  There was a lot of traffic coming in, so they asked us to maintain altitude flight level 90 (9000 feet on 1013mb altimeter setting) and then vectored us around to fit us into the stream of traffic coming into Malaga to land.  We were eventually given a final vector of heading south and were given clearance to descend and complete the ILS approach, and we were 30 miles from the runway threshold.  Since approach asked us to maintain as high speed as possible, I kept my indicated speed up at 150 knots to fit in with the other traffic – the highest speed I’ve done an ILS at, yet!  Then 5 miles from the threshold, I began slowing down, deploying the flaps under the limiting speeds and the gear, eventually I settled at 100 knots a few miles from the threshold and reached the reference threshold speed just as I crossed over and then touched down.  We exited at one of the high speed taxiways and were then asked to contact the ground frequency, who gave us clearance to taxi, to park.

We had lunch and then it was my flying partner’s turn to fly us back, and my turn to relax and observe in the back seat.  The view, as expected, was amazing:

My flying partner’s approach plates – he was following a standard instrument departure out of Malaga:

CPL Bars

We got our CPL bars about a week ago.. and now finally used to having them on!  After 13 months of intensive training, Course 68 are now Commercial Pilots.  I eventually got around to taking a couple of photos with my new bars by the Seneca.. so here they are!

We’re all now working towards the instrument rating and the skills tests for our course will commence next week..!  The IFR flights and simulator sessions have been challenging.  There are 18 simulator sessions and 9 flights before the skills test.  I found the first two sessions a little difficult to get into since we hadn’t done any instrument flying for a while, since the CPL is all VFR apart from the instrument air-work.  So after a couple of sessions, things flowed a bit more smoothly.  I find that IFR flying is much more about getting organised and prioritising tasks to free up capacity in the air so that the high workload during approaches can be handled well.  In addition, I find that I’m having to do far more preparation than I ever had to do for any of my VFR flights!  I fly the route in my head and try to think of things ATC may throw at me and how I could handle it.  I find that this really lends me more capacity in the air, as a lot of the thinking has been done on the ground and I can set the aircraft up and its avionics effectively.  IFR is certainly a challenge, but I am really enjoying it.  The only misfortune is that I cannot enjoy the beautiful views as I would do when VFR!

I’ve been really busy since the past week… I hope all this hard work will pay off with a first time Instrument Rating pass!

CPL Skills Test Passed!

I passed my commercial pilot’s license skills test, yesterday!

Since my circuits flight, we practiced some instrument flying in the Seneca and the last flight before the test was a CPL profile, which is very similar to the skills test itself, but done with my instructor.  The purpose of that flight was to see if I was ready for the test and highlight any weaknesses so I could at least be aware of them or take some extra flights to polish off any rough areas.

I was quite nervous for the CPL skills test since it is the main license that issued – and the first one by the CAA.  Also we take the test after around 18 simulator sessions and 12 hours in the Seneca.  Most people feel that they won’t be ready in time, but things do click towards the end!  I found the profile a good confidence booster and quite useful in highlighting weak areas just before the test.  Before being put up on the board (names go on a white board in college operations, where an examiner will allocate himself to you), a multi-engine test has to be taken and a 170A form signed.  Many questions on UK airspace and other aircraft technical questions are asked before the form is signed.  Although I have flown in the UK, I still found the airspace there much more complex than Spain.  So with the help of my instructor, we took a look at a UK VFR chart and went through an imaginary route and discussed the many aspects of the airspace the route would go through.  I found it really helpful and things that I had learnt before did come flooding back to me.

I decided to do all the performance calculations the night before my test to save me time the next day.  On the day, my examiner gave me a route and after planning it, I checked the notams, weather and filed a flight plan.  It was a perfect day – no cloud and very little wind, much luckier than I had been with my previous tests with the weather!  I then met the examiner in his office for a briefing, one hour before the flight.  The examiner went through what was expected in the flight, checked my planning and gave me the opportunity to ask any questions.  The flight was originally scheduled for 09:30 UTC, however the aircraft landed late, required the engineers attention for a few minutes to replace a valve on a tyre and needed to be refueled.  This did make me a little nervous… but with my previous experience I had already prepared myself to deal with the unexpected!  I delayed the flight by 30 minutes to allow time for all of this and let the examiner know. In the end, the flight commenced on the new time of 10:00 UTC and there were no further delays, so I just got on with it and tried my best to relax.

We started off with the navigation element of the test and routed out to the east.  I checked in on the Seville ATIS to get an updated QNH setting and noted down the rest of the information so I knew early on what to expect when I got to Seville.  I was then asked to divert to a town north-west of Seville, the diversion leg being almost as long as my planned route.  This is where I had to prioritise tasks and ensure the flight was commercially expiditious.  So, as soon as the examiner told me where he wanted me to divert to, I worked out the heading and altitude and set the aircraft to head in the right direction as soon as possible.  Since the diversion headed in a north-westerly direction, I had to be on even altitudes (semi-circular VFR rule for Spain), so descended to 4500 feet.  I chose to descend since I noticed the air was not turbulent as I was climbing through it earlier and that I would be descending to a 1000 feet after my diversion when inbound to Seville anyway.  Since we were in Class D airspace, I let the controller know of my intentions before proceeding with the diversion.  Once I was established on the diversion, I worked out the time it would take me on the diversion and any check-points I could use.  On the whole, I felt the navigation went well, and soon I was tracking towards LEZL, inbound to do circuits.

At Seville, we did a normal and flapless circuit followed by an engine failure after take off, an asymmetric (i.e on one engine) circuit for a low-approach go around and an asymmetric circuit to land. We ended up holding for quite a while due to the many commercial departures and traffic inbound as well.  Once we were done with the circuits, I was asked to demonstrate use of the autopilot, so I engaged it in heading and altitude hold modes and then put the screens up to simulate IMC conditions for the next section of the test.  In that section, I was asked to fly solely with reference to instruments – flying straight and level, climbing/descending, turning, etc.  We also did some limited panel work, where failure of the attitude indicator, HSI and RMI were simulated by covering them up.  This involved compass turns, flying straight and level and climbing/descending again, but with recovery from unusual attitudes as well.  The rest of the airwork involved steep turns, stall recovery, radio-aids fixing and recovery from a spiral dive.

As the test went on I was more and more fatigued and unfortunately got a bit more nervous as well!  I was delighted to hear, from the examiner, that I had passed the skills test!  There’s plenty of work to do yet, the next test is the instrument rating..!  I’ve decided to give myself a day off and then start practicing my instrument procedures tomorrow, on RANT (a computer-aid) and flight simulator.

Seneca Circuits

Did my first circuits flight in the Seneca in 40C today, despite it being reported as 36C!  I’m happy (and relieved) to say that my landings have transformed from controlled crashes to smoother landings that leave the gear in a happier mood!  Once I was up in the air, the temperature didn’t bother me too much, as I was too busy to think about it!  We started off with two normal touch and gos, then a flap-less and then an asymmetric (i.e. on one engine only) go-around followed by an asymmetric landing.  I’ve now got 4 more flights before my CPL skills test!