Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Successful Ride

As I mentioned in my last post, I had my annual ride in the simulator on monday. I'm happy to report that the ride was successful and I'm still employed as a pilot.

Part 121.411 of the Federal Aviation Regulations requires that first officers satisfactorily complete a proficiency check every 24 months and complete either a proficiency check or other simulator training every 12 months. I've been flying for my current airline since 2004, so last year I did "other simulator training," which we call "training-in-lieu." This year I was required to do a full-blown proficiency check. These are "pass/fail" events, with continued employment based on "passing," so pro checks are stressful to many pilots.

That said, almost nobody gets fired based on a single failed pro check, and in a certain way they are much easier than training-in-lieu. TIL is done with an instructor whose goal is to teach you, not test you, and therefore you're sure to be subjected to a wide array of surprise equipment failures - often uncommon, sometimes mindbogglingly complex, usually combined with horrible weather. A pro check, however, is very predictable, as it follows a checklist laid out in Appendix F of Part 121. A first officer can expect the following:
  • Normal, Instrument, and Crosswind Takeoffs
  • Rejected Takeoff
  • Takeoff with Engine Failure at V1
  • Holding
  • Normal ILS
  • Single-Engine ILS, hand-flown
  • Two Types of Non-Precision Approaches
  • One Missed Approach
  • Approaches to Stalls
  • Normal Landing
  • Single-Engine Landing
  • Go-Around from 50'
  • Normal, Abnormal, and Emergency Procedures
Most of the stuff, I did pretty well. My V1 cut in particular was a thing of beauty - I don't think my heading varied more than a degree, I held V2 +/- 1 knot, and we did all the clean up callouts and procedures perfectly. I did make a few boneheaded calls, though. We had just entered a holding pattern after a missed approach when the FADEC on our #1 engine failed, shutting down the engine. Rather than stay in the holding pattern - the autopilot was flying the airplane fine, and we were well above Vse so the bank angles while single engine really weren't a problem - I immediately broke out of the holding pattern and requested a vector towards the ILS. It wasn't dangerous, but it was unneccessary.

Then, when we were shooting the ILS, I planned on landing Flaps 35 rather than Flaps 15, which required like 50% torque on the remaining engine. That, in turn, required a lot more rudder and aileron input, which made the approach a lot less stable than I would've liked. At decision altitude I didn't have the runway in sight, but I did have the approach lights, which allows you to descend to 100' above the runway. However, at my airline, First Officers aren't allowed to use that provision unless the approach has been briefed as a "captain monitored approach." Therefore, at DA I went missed approach...on a single Flaps 35. Both the FOM and the regulations give you leeway to ignore them when you need to do so in an emergency situation, which a single-engine landing definately qualifies as, and using the approach lights to descend to 100' would've been a safer option than the single-engine missed approach. For what it matters, I flew a gorgeous missed approach, but it should've been unneccessary.

Most pilots will agree that the best checkrides are the ones where you walk away feeling like you learned something, and this was one of them.


clint said...

nice job, man... i am reading your posts more and more as i start thinking about my next job after instructing...