The white-knuckle VOR approach into Butte didn't end the adventures this trip had in store for us. On Sunday we were in Spokane, preparing for leg #4 of 6, when I spied KH, a check airman on the Megawhacker, coming down the jetway. "Crap, we're getting line checked!" I exclaimed. The captain let out an exasperated sigh and pointed to my laptop and speakers on the glareshield. I quickly silenced Bob Marley and stowed them before KH made his way to the flight deck.
Turns out that he was there to line check me. There is no regulatory requirement to line check first officers, but at my airline they choose to do so every twelve months, just like captains. And I was due.
Even a consciencious, standardized pilot tends to have a lot of little habits that technically are at odds with the flight standards manual; you just don't realize it until you fly with a check airman. For example, when hand flying, the pilot not flying (PNF) is supposed to set all flight director modes at the Pilot Flying's command. It's pretty standard practice, though, for the PF to just punch the buttons for themself - at least in good weather. There were a few times where I went to push "VS" or "HDG" or "STBY," stopped my hand halfway there as I realized I wasn't supposed to do that, and told the captain, "Um...push vertical speed...command 1500 feet per minute upwards...."
Other than Seattle Approach vectoring us all over Puget Sound for traffic saturation, it was a pretty easy ride. The check airman said I did a good job, but then asked me when I'm supposed to have landing flaps set. "Um...1000 feet above airport elevation?" He nodded: "The flaps were in transition at 1000', they didn't get to 35 degrees until 980', so you were 20 feet low." He didn't dock any points so I just smiled and nodded. A successful ride is a successful ride - but still, that was pretty anal. The pertinent section of the Megawhacker FSM reads, "Landing flaps must be set...by 1000' above the airport elevation." Hmm. Okay, is "set" a verb or an adjective in that context? We had set the flaps by 1000 feet, but they weren't set yet. Heh, that sounds almost Clintonian.
So, nit-picking aside, we survived the line check just fine. The rest of the trip should be a breeze! Right...?