Tuesday, April 9, 2024

What's next?

 So what's next?

While I would love to start flying again I have a few more classrooms sessions AND another sim session.

On the 777 on 3+ pilot trips there will be times I sit in the Captain seat while the Captain is resting. Because of this the FAA is concerned about Widebody First Officers and new Captains making critical decisions in flight. I have a 8 hour classroom course to meet this requirement.

Then there's preparing to fly to Hawaii, over the Atlantic and to Far East Asia.

To prepare to fly to Hawaii I have 4 1/2 hour classroom course. For Atlantic crossings....just 2 hours. Why shorter? No idea. Far East Asia flying has a 6 1/2 hour course......classroom....inside a building. My least favorite place to be.

Once ALL that is done...I have a disgraceful 5:30 AM showtime for an Atlantic and Far East Asia sim session. This is a "no jeopardy" sim meaning it's just training for me to experience.

Then...and only then....and I free from the schoolhouse until a year from now for recurrent....I upgrade to Captain on the Airbus or the most likely event....I have to return because I didn't get my 100 hours of flight time in the 777 in time.

I miss airports.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Check Ride Day

 I've lost count on how many check ride events I have had in my career. I'm at the point now where check rides do not stress me out. 

Today is my MV....Maneuvers Validation day. 

Here's what must be accomplished...it is in my Sim Training Guide.

  • Takeoff
    • Rejected Takeoff (as a crew)
    • Engine Failure (1 per pilot)
  • Cat II/III Approach - One Per Crew
    • Cat II or III using the lowest approach minimums for the airplane. Can be to landing or missed.
  • Cat I Approach
    • ILS - 2 per crew. One as Pilot Flying and One Pilot monitoring to lowest minimums. Landing or missed.
      • at least one approach per CREW must be manually flown to lowest minimums
  • Non-ILS (2 per crew 1 Pilot Flying, 1 Pilot Monitoring)
  • Go Around/Missed Approach (1 per pilot at Pilot Flying)
  • Landing
    • At least 2 visual landings per pilot as Pilot Flying
  • System Emergency/Abnormal/Non-Normal 2 per crew
    • Flight Controls at least one of the following
    • Hydraulics (at least one of the following)
That's it. That's all I will be evaluated on today. 

I started preparing for this two months ago.

Yesterday was our second day in the sim with a Check Pilot (used to be Check Airman....ok now called Check Pilot).

Was I perfect? No. I made one error. 

During an ILS approach when I am not flying I am looking outside to see either the approach lights or runway. I am only supposed to saw these words; Approach Lights, Runway, No Contact. 

In the real world....for the average Cat I ILS we go as low as 200 feet and I've always seen the approach lights or runway. There's expectation bias.

We were in the sim and the reported weather was 1/2 mile and 200 foot ceilings. I was expecting to see something. My eyes were laser focused. I heard "100 above" and man I was looking. At minimums....I didn't say "No Contact!" The Captain still went around. There are safe guards in place thankfully.

Beyond that we had a great sim event. 

Though this portion of training is much better than classroom....I do miss airports. 

Unlike check rides for my first ratings...there is no oral exam. The system test takes place of the oral. I find that odd. I appreciate not having that extra layer of stress but....I dunno....I think it makes for a higher level of pilot knowing they have to prepare to answer system questions verbally.

I have a LOFT flight tomorrow which is a semi training flight in real time then a LOE flight on Sunday which is a checking flight in real time. 

Once done I have a bunch more classroom stuff to prepare me to fly overseas. and then another sim. Final day in the school house is right before taxes are due....which I still need to finish. 

Thursday, April 4, 2024

That was sporty

 There are no real surprises in training. All my training events are scripted. I get an outline of what the objectives are for each training event. 

Day 6 was the first simulator event with a Check Airman. Previously all events were with a Simulator Pilot. To review Simulator Pilots are trained on the plane but may have never actually flown it. Check Airman know the plane inside and out.

Part of long term training is resetting my dates for certain airline required training....such as security. So my day began with a 12:15 PM show time for an hour long security training course. 

Once done I had a quick bite in the Cafe and headed to my debrief at 2:00PM. 

Every briefing room has flight deck
posters used during briefings

Normally these last 90 minutes. The Check Airman stated we were the last to use the simulator for the day so there was no hurry. This briefing was over 2 hours. It was helpful. 

In the simulator the Captain was flying first today (we swap who flies first each event). All flying was out of Seattle. 

Takeoff on Runway 16C...10 knot crosswind. Normal RNAV departure then given vectors off the departure and some FMS work with reroutes. I will say putting in a reroute is easier than the Airbus. 

He then did Localizer approach to 16C to a missed approach. 

Taken when sim was paused.

Reset. Takeoff. Engine failure. Back around to land runway 16C ILS Cat 1 hand flown. In reality we would do an auto land. In the sim we have to check boxes. 

We were then repositioned to a 3 mile final with various wind conditions. First was 25 knot crosswind from right, then 25 knot crosswind from the left, a 25 gusting 38 knot crosswind from the right and finally a 15 knot tailwind. All crosswinds were from exactly 90 degrees off. 

Landing in a crosswind in every one of my previous aircraft (I have 5 type ratings) was similar. My preference is to land on the upwind (side where the wind is coming from) wheel then use the rudder to straighten the nose and land on the downwind wheel. 

That is not recommended in the 777....reason? There's more many more wheels involved and doing so can cause a lot of shudder. No more landing in a crab.

Wing low is the way. 

Once the Captain was done it was my turn. I still paused on the turning a radial around. I got it. Bleh.

I did more or less the same maneuvers. The Check Airman appreciated how prepared both of us were and how we worked as a crew backing each other up. Both the Captain and I have a habit of saying the wrong word during rollout on landing. 

Taken when sim was paused. 

When autobrakes are on the Pilot Flying is supposed to announce "Manual Braking" when they apply the brakes...well manually. The Pilot Monitoring is supposed to announce "Autobrakes off". There were many times we get the callouts backwards. We laugh and say hey we got all the words just the wrong order. 

We then had a 15 minute debrief. The Check Airman stated we are both ahead of where most pilots are in this stage. 

One more ride today and then the next 3 are more checking than training events. 

Ready to be done. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Fish and Chips....then Sushi

 London and Narita...those are my first two trips on the 777. 

I only need 15 hours of actual aircraft training and 4 cycles/flights. That's it. When I was new to the AIRLINE I needed 25 hours of flight time in the real plane and 4 flight cycles along with landings. Because I'm "old"....just 15 hours.

The first trip I will operate will be London.

Flight 50 DFW-LHR

Report 2:15 PM

Depart 3:15 PM

9 hour 10 minute block time

Arrive 6:25 AM (12:25AM DFW time)

24 Hours 45 Minutes Rest

Flight 51 LHR-DFW

Report 7:40 AM (1:40 AM DFW time)

Depart 8:40 AM

10 hour 15 minute block time

Arrive 12:55 PM

Total Flight Time 19H25M Time away: 47H10M

Not a bad trip overall. Starts in the afternoon....arrives late for my body clock time but similar to my old Bogota flights. I expect I will nap for a bit then explore London and try and stay awake until 8PM to go to bed to rest for the next day.

I will NOT be qualified for the flight. That flight is normally crewed by 3 pilots. There's a rule (I can't reference it) that for augmented flights there must be 3+ qualified crew on board. Because of this there will be 4 pilots on this flight. I suspect I will get a 3 hour break at some point, thus only operating the first 3 hours and last 3 hours. Not too shabby.

The next flight will be to Narita....not Tokyo...but close. My wife and I went to Narita in 2008. We stayed the first night in Narita before going to Tokyo and loved it! 

Flight 61 DFW-NRT

Report 10:45AM

Depart 11:45 AM

13 hour 15 minute block time

Arrive 3:00 PM (1:00 AM DFW time)

26 Hour rest 

Flight 60 NRT-DFW

Report 5:30 PM (3:30 AM DFW time)

Depart 6:30 PM

11 hour 45 minute block time

Arrive 4:15 PM

Total Flight Time 25H0M Time away: 54H0M

This will also have 4 total pilots on board as I will not be qualified. Much longer flight. This arrives at a similar time to London but leaves much later on the return. I have never had a flight leave at 3:30 AM Dallas time. This will be interesting. I suspect I will stay in Narita and explore the temples. 

Both of these trips a 3 day trips. On the Airbus an average 3 day paid 15H45M. A really good 3 day was 20 hours with 6 legs total. The LHR trip is fairly average while the NRT trip is very good and normally goes very senior. 

I finish training after bidding closes for May. This means scheduling will build a schedule for me....much less than ideal. I will have to dig and see if I have any choice. There is a six day London trip that does DFW LHR BOS LHR DFW. I know I will one day do it...but would prefer to not be on reserve 6 days in a row. 

The first time I will bid will be May 8-13 for June. 

On the Airbus I was in the top 11% in my status. For the 777 I will be in the bottom 2%. Time will tell if I made a bad choice.

Thank you for following along and have an absolutely wonderful day. 

Monday, April 1, 2024

Signed off the for the final stage

One thing about training...it is mentally draining. Let me explain.

Most of my flights are boring. This is a good thing. I fly point A to point B without any issues. If there is an issue, normally it is incredibly minor and is rectified in minutes.

In the simulator it is non-stop chaos. On the takeoff roll there's a cargo fire...reject. Run through the steps....ok great reset...you're back at the end of the runway, cleared for takeoff. On the next takeoff right when the wheels leave the ground...engine failure. Climb out..declare an emergency...run check list....no time to dump fuel....over weight landing checklist....single engine approach to minimums......no contact..go around. Stop. Back at a 6 mile final same condition...do it again....land. 

It can be confusing what state the plane is in and sometimes where you are. Rarely are you at the local (DFW in my case) airport. 

Day 5.

Started at the gate in LAX in a 777-300. First time in the 300 sim in training. There's a new button...external cameras. The plane is so long, there is a concern about taxiing. The camera can only be used on the ground during taxi. 

Max weight takeoff to London. Reject. Reset. Takeoff. Avionics failure...fixed. TCAS escape. Upset recovery, engine failure at high altitude, drift down....all in the first 30 minutes of flight.

We then diverted back to Lax and jettisoned fuel over southern California. 

Single engine auto land on 25L.

Reset. My turn. Heavy takeoff....once the wheels leave the ground...engine failure. Climb out, clean up, reset.

Captain does the same. Reset.

Zapped up to 35000 feet and given a climb to 39000 feet. All 3 airspeed indicators go out. We revert to the charts for pitch and power. Descend and land using only charts. Break.

We then did terrain (GPWS) escapes, flight control issues and more NON-ILS approaches. 

I was mentally drained. This was the 5th day in a row of 4 hours in the simulator. 

We passed this stage.

Next up is 2 sim sessions with a Check Airman then 3 checking events. Happy to have a few days off. 

I am having an easier time with training as I have done this so many times before...I know what to study and how to prepare. My first type rating was extreme stress, confusion and concern. This time around....it's completing the task and looking forward to the end. No real stress. No real concern....just being tired of being in training.

Being home so long...is odd. Not just on me...my family notices it as well. My suitcase is just sitting in the corner confused. I haven't been to the airport in almost a month. 

I'll post about my first two trips tomorrow. 

Thank you for following along. I am working on a way to get back to live videos again. They will almost certainly not be on Tiktok. I am thinking Instragram or Youtube or Twitch.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Almost done with training....checking is next


At my airline there are several types of instructors. The initial instructors are all trained on the airplane...but may have never actually flown it. 

My current instructor is a pilot...but has never flown the 777. He knows the simulator and then systems of the airplane, but no real world experience. He trains us only on the lessons at hand. As long as we meet the standard...we move on. 

Day 4 was a nice 2 PM start. Normally great but remember day 3 ended at midnight. That's 14 hours between events. I am not a robot. Falling asleep takes time and I naturally wake up around 6AM. I did take a nap before the event. Felt better than a 6:15 PM start. 

Most of training is preparing for things we will likely never do. Engine fires, rejected take offs, engine failures, NON-ILS approaches and....auto lands. 

The event started as a DFW-Tokyo flight. My leg. Heavy load takeoff, storm avoidance, ATC reroutes, conflicting air traffic avoidance followed by upset recovery, depressurization, emergency descent, fuel jettison and diversion to Denver.

In the training world many things are scripted. In emergencies there's only one or sometimes 2 airports we can opt to divert to. It's playing the game.

In my 17 years of being an Airline Pilot, 6 1/2 of those years were at mainline with auto land capable aircraft. In those years I have only used auto land in ACTUAL conditions 4 times. It's rare. People think we auto land all the time. Not the case.

Auto lands are a Captain ONLY procedure. Why? Because. I am still very much involved. On the 777 we can land without having to see anything outside as long as the runway and approach support it. 

Why does the runway and approach matter? Because of safety. The runway needs the appropriate lighting systems. The approach needs highly accurate localizer (lateral) and glideslope (vertical) radios. The airplane needs highly fault tolerant systems as well. The crew must be trained to monitor and be ready to respond to deviations. 

The airplane is traveling 160 MPH into blinding conditions...if things aren't perfect, disaster can easily occur.

For the 777 the auto land is similar to the Airbus and MD80. As a First Officer my eyes are inside for the entire approach, landing and rollout. 

During the approach I watch and scan my Primary Flight Display for airspeed, altitude, localizer and glideslope issues. Once below 300 feet if anything looks off....I just say, "go around!" without explanation. Once on the ground I verify and announce the speed brakes extended. I verify BOTH thrust reversers deployed, I watch and callout the deceleration as 80 (begin thrust reverser reduction) and 60 (thrust reverse at idle). All this time the autopilot is still on....I am watching for ANY deviation on the localizer. If something looks off...I call out centerline and have the Captain takeover using the high intensity centerline runway lights. 

Once at a taxi speed, low visibility operations take over.

That's what we did for the first 90 minutes...various kinds of auto lands.....go arounds....single engine auto land....auto lands. Kinda boring for me. 

Finally it was my turn. Visual approach to landing (I kept waiting for something bad to happen), Takeoff with an engine compressor stalling, single engine localizer approach, lots of flight control issues, hydraulic issues, fires,  raw data (no autopilot, flight director ) approach and of course evacuations after landing. 

There is a lot going on. On the final event we were in the air and just needed to land. My leg and the flaps were jammed between 5 and 20. We were being vectored for runway 16C in Seattle. The Captain joked "we should just land at Boeing Field and return the plane as it's broken (because the flaps broke). The instructor said "I don't care...just land somewhere". 

I turned the autopilot and flight directors off. It was fun to just land a plane. I was high so I put out the speed brakes and dropped the gear. I made the smoothest landing to date on 14R. Now I was really fast (because of the reduced flaps)....and it's only a simulator...but we couldn't feel the wheels touch. 

Landing a sim smooth is liking kissing your sibling on the cheek...it's nothing exciting or to gloat over.

I have one more training simulator event then my next 5 are with a Check Airman. The first 2 are training/verifying while the last 3 are checking only events. 

Almost done. 

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Training is always being tired

 Day 3 sim. Another 6:15PM show time for a 7:45PM-11:45PM simulator and a debrief that could end as late as 12:15AM.

This being my 3rd one...lack of quality sleep is setting in. This all started day one. Let's rewind for a second to that day.

I took a nap in the middle of the day to prepare for my sim session that day. I arrived back home after the session just past midnight. We debriefed quickly. I live just a few miles from the training facility. My head hit the pillow around 12:20PM. Since I was hopped up on caffeine it took a bit to fall asleep.

A few hours later it was 6AM and that was my normal wake up time. I couldn't sleep anymore. Breakfast, morning activities and I went back to bed at 10AM and woke up again just prior to 12:30PM. 

Lunch, treadmill, and study. Quick dinner with the family and I left home at 5:50PM arriving at 6:00PM. 

Another sim session.

Arrived home again just prior to Midnight and did the same thing again. 

I was a little more groggy the morning after the second sim session. I tried to stay awake longer but went to bed at 10 AM and slept until 1PM. Tired. 

This being the third sim session it was leg day.....AKA V1 Cut day.

For those that don't know, a V1 cut is the most over taught maneuver in aviation. The set up is to have an engine fail at the worst possible time....and survive. The worst possible time is the speed so high you can't stop on the runway anymore. 

So there you are at 170 MPH in a giant jet with one engine failed and you have to get airborne. The one remaining engine is pushing that wing forward yawing the plane to the opposite side. If you don't correct the yaw you will crash. Once you leave the earth that friction of the tires goes away requiring even more of a corrective action. Mess it up....crash. 

Your leg on the good engine side is pushing forward to keep the nose straight. Failure to do so adds a lot of drag...and you will crash. The bigger the engines generally the more force is needed.

My first aircraft type rating was a CL-65 for the CRJ-700. That plane is over powered. The V1 cut in that plane was busy. From what I recall I had to do several things when the engine failed like adding rudder trim to take pressure off my leg,  watch my altitude and call for a level off once clear of danger, watch my airspeed to know when to start retracting flaps and then keep climbing once clean. If a turn was needed I might need to press a button for a half banked turn. That's from memory.

Still here? 

If taking off from an airport with high terrain, buildings or other obstacles in the way there is a special engine out procedure we must follow. This is airline designed and ATC likely has no idea. In order to fly this special engine out procedure, while doing all the above, I have to tell the flight computer to execute that procedure. It's a few extra key stokes in every other plane I have flown...until now.

So...here I am in a 777.....I have a failed  engine. There are GIANT engines under the wings producing massive amounts of thrust. You would think I would need to really push hard with my leg to keep the plane straight...and not crash. Nope.

The 777 has a feature called Thrust Asymmetry Compensation. 

This TAC saw the engine failure before me....it started adding rudder pressure right away. If on the ground I have to add a little...but just enough to keep my head in the game. Once in the air.....I add nothing. I can easily turn the autopilot on at 200 feet. From there the plane will automatically level off and start accelerating. I just call for flap retraction on schedule....once clean I press one more button and away we go. 

There's almost no stress. This is the easiest V1 cut across my 5 other type ratings.  

That was what day 3 mostly involved. Having engine failures on takeoff, climb out and even on final. We then would practice landing the plane and going around on just one engine. The 777 has so much available power.....so much AUTOMATION......it's easy. All of my pilot skills and knowledge are cross checking and verifying everything is going as I expect....and it is. 

I feel guilty this is so easy. A good thing as I was tired...exhausted. I kept eyeing my EFB for the time. 

Finished at 11:35PM. We debriefed in the sim and I headed home. 

Today....2PM show for a 3:45PM-7:45PM sim. Earlier. 

After sim 5....2 days off. I then have just 2 more sim events until check ride. 

Friday, March 29, 2024

Dusting off the blog

 Taking a video production break. 

Currently the morning of day 3 of the 777 simulator. 

For those that have never experienced airline training...flying a simulator is similar to learning to fly any plane. 

Day 1 sim was a "get to know the simulator" sim. We did a normal preflight. I went through all the buttons while the Captain loaded the FMS. This was a flight from JFK to BOS. Not realistic in a 777 but it's VERY rare to sit straight and level in a simulator. Simulator time is expensive. Straight and level teaches you nothing thus....it's rare. 

Normal pushback, start, taxi and takeoff. We did some basic FMS changes (direct to, intercept a route, and holding). 

There were some examples of high speed and low speed protections, bank angle protection and throttle wake up. Those are all ways the airplane protects the flight in case things aren't going normally.

We then did a little hand flying. Another about a simulator...it's just a computer. I have never flown a simulator that was exactly like the actual airplane. They are close...but it's just a computer.

Things like winds are almost always constant. In the real world winds can change drastically during an approach as topography changes which changes the velocity of wind. Anyways we did a few visual approaches. I took my Airbus 321 landing technique and used it for the 777. At 50 feet I thought about flaring...but didn't flare.....at 40 feet I thought "hmmm....sure looks like maybe I should flare....No!" When 30 feet came my brain told my right hand to get ready to flare.....at 20 feet it was a gentle flare....at 10 feet...a little more....then hold it....contact. Smoother than I expected...again...it's a computer.

All of that took 4 hours. 

Day 2 was more training based and less situation based.

We started in BOS with engines running already pushed back in snowy conditions. We did a few rejected takeoffs. The Captain is a former 737 Captain. He knows Boeing but also has muscle memory from the last 11 years as a 737 Captain. The reject on a 777 is different than the 737. The procedure we use here is to idle the thrust levers, disconnect auto throttles, full reverse, pull speed brake handle and stop the plane. We did both high speed and low speed rejects. 

Once off the ground we did NON-ILS approaches. In the real world almost every approach is an ILS. In the training environment we do a lot of NON-ILS. This can be a VOR, RNP, LOC, GPS etc...anything without a traditional land based glideslope. 

The way a NON-ILS is done in a 777 is nothing like an Airbus. Way more work to get the same result. It's not hard....just different. The Airbus seems more cohesive while the 777 is more...."hey pilot....figure it out and land". This is not about physically flying but getting the automation to do what is expected. After several types of approaches we each did an approach to landing stall, windshear and missed approaches. 

Going missed in a 777 is stupid easy....even compared to the Airbus. To initiate a go-around I just press TOGA on the thrust levers, pitch up, call "flaps 20"......Captain states positive rate.....I say "gear up!". At 1000 feet I press VNAV or Flight Level Change...that's it. By comparison going around in a CRJ was much more complicated. 

Almost everything in the 777 is easier compared to my previous 5 type ratings. So much of the time I feel like I should be doing something....but there is nothing to do. Some of this comes from experience in knowing what needs to be done regardless of plane but  a good chunk of it is....automation.

We finished the required task early and had time for one V1 Cut each. The V1 cut is the most over taught maneuver in my opinion. 

A V1 Cut is having an engine fail right at the V1 (go/no go speed) and continuing the takeoff. 

The 777 has a TAC....Thrust Asymmetry Compensation. On the ground when the TAC senses an engine failure it quickly adds rudder trim to compensate. The system doesn't fully compensate on the ground just so the pilot can still "feel" the failure...but it makes it very easy. My first V1 cut in most aircraft is a busy and humbling experience. In the 777.....I looked like a pro. 

More on that next time.