I've never failed a checkride in my life, and I still don't like them. I know that if I fail, the retraining and rechecking is going to be a pain, plus there'd be the stigma and self-doubt that accompanies a failed checkride, so there's a fair amount of pressure. The added stress actually improves my performance, I think, but it doesn't make me like the experience any better. Fortunately, first officers only have to take proficiency checks once every two years. It'd normally be every year, but the FAA lets us substitute training for pro checks every other checkride. The actual flying involved is actually much harder than a procheck (see my last example), but the atmosphere is much more relaxed and the emphasis is on learning.
Shortly before my recent training-in-lieu session, the company issued a bulletin titled "Training-in-lieu Completion Standards," which made it clear that TIL was no longer the non-jeopardy event it had traditionally been:
"Although a Training in Lieu (T/I/L) event is not considered a formal evaluation, the completion standards for the event are the same as for a Proficiency Check. A pilot must demonstrate the same level of performance in each maneuver that is expected on a Proficiency Check in order to complete the session with a MEETSThe bulletin caused a stir among the pilot group, especially those of us scheduled for TIL in the near future. What did it mean? Would the instructors really be holding us to ATP standards on outlandish scenarios like the ones we'd faced on previous training sessions? And why the change?
STANDARDS grade...At the end of the T/I/L session, each pilot must have demonstrated the same level of performance/judgment required on a Proficiency Check."
The backstory leaked out. Apparently a crew had showed up for a training-in-lieu session completely unprepared - no studying, flying skills rusty. Because training-in-lieu had a reputation as a "free pass," they essentially blew it off. The instructor was incensed and graded them "Does Not Meet Standards;" the crew protested that it was training, not checking, and therefore they couldn't fail. The company issued the bulletin to clarify the matter and to warn crews to take the TIL sessions seriously. Really, most of us already were; you don't want to make yourself look like an incompetent boob in the sim even if your career isn't on the line. It only took one lazy crew to screw things up for the rest of us - and I'd be one of the first guinea pigs for the "new" training-in-lieu.
It turns out that I had nothing to worry about. The session was just like my last TIL, except the scenarios weren't quite as outlandishly complicated as last time. The flying was a little harder than your standard proficiency check, but the instructor made it clear that we weren't expected to fly perfect on the advanced scenarios; these really were for the purpose of learning. The captain and I both flew fine and I came out of it feeling like I'd added something to my proverbial bag of tricks. With another pass, I'm still employed for another year. Yay! :)