Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Life Update

OK, sorry, I am really bad at writing entries. Actually, a fair bit has happened, but the weather has been terrible (unsurprisingly) so I don't have any nice pictures, and so not much motivation to put anything online. Anyway, what have I been up to recently?

  • I completed and passed (at the first attempt) my Instrument Rating
  • We did some Upset Prevention and Recovery Training
  • I've completed my employer's Jet Orientation Course
  • My licence came in the post!
  • I've done a lot of househunting. This was not fun.

So actually, since I last blogged I've actually turned in to a qualified commercial pilot. But I can currently only really fly the DA42. I guess that's useful if you want to carry two people and a few bags...

Coming up in a few weeks time I start an A320 type rating. After that, base training - which is basically practising landings in an empty jet! - and then, assuming I pass everything, employment. Finally!

I'll post a separate entry about the Instrument Rating because that was a huge event, but otherwise, read below for more.

UPART Training

This part of training was originally just called Upset Training, then Upset and Recovery Training, and now Upset Prevention and Recovery Training. It covers pretty much what it says on the tin - how to prevent aircraft "upsets" (which, in short is when the aircraft is at a very unusual attitude or speed) and how to recover if you get in to one. These events are surprisingly common - several per week in the USA apparently. Sadly, I don't have a source for that, so it might be wrong.

We spent a day in the classroom learning the theory and techniques for UPART, before we got to try them out in the sky over 3 sorties. This exposed us to two new aeroplanes that most of us hadn't flown before. The first and final sortie were flown in a DA40. This is very much like a single-engined DA42, everything was very familiar and it was exceptionally easy to fly. The middle sortie was flown in a Bulldog. This was a bit more interesting to fly, it took me a moment to get used to how precisely it can be controlled.

The first sortie was gentle in terms of attitudes and recoveries, the second less so, and the third was flown on instruments. We practised stall and incipient spin recoveries, as well as various unusual attitudes, both nose-high and nose-low. In the most aggressive one, I think we reached a bank angle of around 100 degrees and maybe 30-40 degrees nose down. That certainly concentrated the mind!

Jet Orientation Course

At this point we've completed all our light aircraft training. If I choose not to, I need never fly a propeller aircraft again (unless my employer decides to buy some for whatever reason!) but I really enjoy the style of flying you get so I imagine I will do my own pleasure flying when I can - the only problem now is having to actually pay for it! The flip side is that, finally, we can train to fly an actual passenger aeroplane - the Boeing 737.

This might seem a bit of an odd choice, given that my day job will be on A320s. However, the course is intended to teach us the principles of flying a multi-crew jet aircraft, not the detail of how to fly a specific multi-crew jet aircraft. With that in mind, we learn on 737s, so as not to "learn" things about the A320 that might not follow absolute best practice or be 100% technically correct. We'll learn that on the type rating course, which comes later. The most important lesson is how to make sure the crew as a whole has situational awareness, which is a major part of how mistakes are prevented, trapped or mitigated.

This course is great fun. It starts with a week of ground school, mostly covering procedural things, but quickly moves on to 11 simulator sessions that cover a huge range of tasks. We started with manual "raw data" flying, with no navigation equipment or autopilot. Suffice to say that a 737 does not handle like a Twinstar. We then move on to flying with the autopilot, then flying commercial routes, then start to build in simple failures and eventually more significant emergencies like engine fires or rapid decompressions. We finished with a "line oriented evaluation" that checked we'd got the right idea, particularly regarding our interaction with the other crew-member.

It was literally awesome to get to fly a jet (albeit simulated) for the first time. I'm very much looking forward to my A320 Type Rating, and then to getting on with the job!

Being Licensed

During the JOC my Commercial Pilot Licence arrived in the post. According to it, I may fly Multi-Engine Piston aircraft by day or night and exercise the privileges of an Instrument Rating. Nice. A lot of people take cheesy pictures of their licence, but I am lazy. Instead, I will direct you to a fellow CTC cadet's blog. Maria does a much more thorough job of explaining each of the steps than I do, so do check out her posts on anything you'd like to read more about!

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