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 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 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'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. 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 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 much'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'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'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 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 20 feet it was a gentle 10 feet...a little more....then hold Smoother than I'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.