Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Well, the firehose has been turned on high. In the last week and a half we have gone through how to do all the performance and weight and balance by hand, assuming there was a major computer failure. Normally these numbers come from dispatch via ACARS (a very cool system that works much like text messaging on a cell phone). We also covered weather radar and had someone who was a military pilot in another life come in and teach us about aerodynamics unique to high altitude flight, swept wing aircraft, and how do recover from unusual attitudes.

This week we have started systems. Yesterday and today was the start of this portion of the training where we covered EFIS (Electronic Flight Information System) which basically means "glass cockpit." I now realize that being an instructor on the G1000 glass cockpit was great experience and will help me immensely. The CRJ even uses a similar way of getting its air data as the G1000 - a solid state AHRS unit. We have also delved deep into how the AFCS (Automatic Flight Control System) works operationally and integerates into the other systems. This is a long way to say "autopilot/flight director". Today was hydraulics and the landing gear system.

Along with all this material, we have started learning the FMS. The airline uses a computer simulator that shows the FMS, the PFD/MFD screens (the main flight instruments), and the autopilot. You can program the FMS like you would in real life based on the flight release, and have the autopilot fly it. The guy who teaches it is a real character that isn't afraid to say anything he wants. This is a good thing, because we need something to wake us up every morning.

Along with all this, has been the self study of flight profiles in the cockpit procedure trainer, the memory items from the checklists, and a whole slew of limitations. Tonight my sim partner and I were in the CPT (see above) and felt like we had just started the morning flight after a continuous duty overnight. For those that don't know the lingo, this is where your duty day starts the preceding night and you do not get a normal rest period between that night flight and the early morning one the next day. Also called a highspeed, this kind of trip is notorious for fatigue. After I finish this sentence, I'm going to sleep!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Day 4:
Today was mostly spent reviewing rules for IFR flight, limitations for approaches, etc. What was a real exercise was figuring out duty time limitations given different scenarios. It can really make your headspin with all the exceptions and rules for "Duty Periods" vs. sliding 24-hour limitations, reduced rest and compensatory rest, etc. We haven't even learned our contract rules yet that will change some of those figures. We also went through exercises involving company alternate minimums, the People's Express exemption, etc. Fun stuff!

Day 5:
Passed my first test written test... Indoc! Most of the ground school today involved weather and weight and balance. It was interesting to hear about the different weather patterns at the domociles during different seasons. I think we may have gone through more than a thousand slides over this past week. One thing that I have come to grips with is that much of my learning is going to be self study. They are about to change the whole training program and we are the last class that is using the old slides. I get this feeling that they don't like that they have to do one more class with these and they tend to go through many of them without saying much. That is ok though, because I'm learning a lot more than I expected by having to dig up most of the information myself.

Today we got to see the actual aircraft for the first time as well. It was very cool to walk around it, knowing that it won't be long before I will be at the control of this sexy jet. We learned a lot about different exterior items and got to stick our heads into the compartment where the APU is, as well the the avionics bay. The cockpit was exactly as I expected. It was pretty cool to realize that I already knew where the majority of switches were from studying flows in the CPT (Cockpit Procedures Trainer).

This weekend was mostly spent sleeping in, getting exercise, watching football, studying, and going into the CPT with my sim partner at least once a day. We have finally got through the profiles for a normal takeoff, rejected takeoff, and engine failures/fires after V1. We also had a Starbucks study group going today for limitations and memory items.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I finally got to the hard part. Training for a part 121 airline. I am a first officer candidate for the Canadair CRJ-200 in a class totalling 27. I will not be able to post every day due to the busy schedule but I will try to update when I can.

Day #1:
Two days ago I drove from Dallas to Memphis and checked in to my hotel. It isn't too bad as it has a kitchenette so I can save a lot of money by getting food at the grocery store and eating it. The downside is that we have two to a room. I am pumped up and ready for the biggest challenge of my life. Now its Monday and we walk into the training room where there are several binders and papers over a small desk, each with a name tag. I take my spot and we all start putting together our flight manuals, operating manuals, and systems manuals. Most of the day is spent learning about the airline. It was pretty much a parade of people coming in and telling us who they are and what they did in the company. It was pretty cool in that we got to meet the COO, VP of Flight Ops, and several other big wigs. It also turns out that of all the memory items I had been studying, they now only have 1/3 of them. Oh well. :-) I also picked out a sim partner. We both have the same study habits, so it will work out very well I think.

Day 2:
This was primarily an HR day. Those who hadn't been drug tested before arriving at training did so, we watched some videos on culture, etc., and filled out a multitude of forms for benefits. We also put in our bids for our base preferences (which we should find out about in a week) and learned about our travel and jumpseat benefits. In the evening, a group of us studied our memory items, limitations, and some cockpit flows. Group study is very helpful and I think will be a major part of my successful completion of training here. There is something about hearing someone else say something that makes you learn it better. We also spent time figuring out the locations of some of the cockpit switches that are part of our memory checklist, even though we haven't covered this yet in training.

Day 3:
Today we reviewed some of the basic FAR's that apply to IFR flight, ATC communications, and how our op-specs relate. Much of it was a review of stuff we should already know from the ATP written, but some was also company specific. Another theme of the day was how dispatch and the crew communicate and the responsibilities of both parties. This is an aspect of the 121 world that will be completely new to me. We also had our first experience doing revisions. What you would think would be a simple task turned into a circus of 27 students and an instuctor going crazy trying to figure out pages to remove, replace, etc. I thought it was quite amusing how a room of us "accomplished" pilots had so much difficulty in putting papers in 3-ring binders.