* Type Rating LST - Passed *
There's just not enough happy words in the dictionary to describe the emotions I felt on leaving L3 last week. My sim partner and I had done it! We had both demonstrated the required standard for the safe operation of the Airbus A320 and are now signed off as fit to fly the real thing. Wahooooooooo!!!
Due to the sheer volume of content covered in the remainder of the type rating and the lack of time to write any real content, I'll list the items covered in the sim sessions since the last blog post. As you can see we learn to handle quite a lot of items:
With all of the above items ticked off it was time to complete a LOFT exercise. LOFT stands for Line Oriented Flight Training which essentially means the entire sim session was designed to replicate, as best as possible, a traditional flight for easyJet. We turned up to the classroom and were given our flight plans, initial loading information etc and set about preparing for the flight. Once in the sim we had to pretend to interact with cabin crew, dispatchers and ground personnel and ensure all of those interactions occurred at the correct point in the process. The flight was designed to be quite short and was actually quite enjoyable. We were able to pull together our knowledge of the airlines' standard procedures and successfully flew the aircraft from A to B with little input from the instructor. I found the session quite rewarding knowing I was able to do the thing I'd be expected to do for real in as little as a few weeks time.
* Our steed for the LST - CT250 *
February 6th at 10am and February 7th at 6am were the two bookings allocated to our A320 Line Skills Test. You might be wondering why it's split over two days and the main reason for that is simply time. Unlike a CPL or IR test the examiner has two of you to assess during a type rating. They assess our competence in both pilot flying and pilot monitoring capacities. The bookings are split in two and we switch roles halfway through. I was the pilot flying first which made me incredibly nervous. You'd think by now I'd be used to being tested, but sadly not.
Technically we can be assessed on any of the items we have been taught throughout the preceding simulator sessions. However, with the examiner having a rather limited window to assess us both, the CAA have provided a list of mandatory items which must be covered at a minimum. It is down to the examiner as to how they conduct the test itself and with that in mind each of my peers received different routing and scenarios. In the case of my sim partner and I we started our test on the stand at Liverpool.
The flight was a short one from Liverpool to East Midlands with passengers and crew. We were provided a slot time of 30 minutes which a) ensured the examiner would be able to fit as much in as possible and b) made it more life like for me in the hot seat. My sim partner and I managed to prepare the aircraft, complete our briefings and get to the runway holding point within that timeframe which was a great start. It's worth noting that as candidates we had no idea what was coming up and had to treat everything as real unless told otherwise.
I took off from Liverpool runway 27 and flew the Wallasey departure before continuing onwards towards East Midlands. Shortly after the Wallasey departure we were given an Engine Fire. We handled this exactly as we had been doing in the lessons. Once under control, and now single engine, I made the decision to return to Liverpool for a landing asking for fire crews standing by etc. As part of our planning for the return into Liverpool I asked my sim partner to request the weather for Liverpool. It was marginal but within limits so we gave it a shot. We ended up having to conduct a single engine go-around. Once the aircraft was clean (flaps and gear up) we were told by air traffic control (the examiner) that the weather had miraculously improved but the ILS Glideslope was now inoperable. This meant I had to conduct a single engine Non-precision approach. We were able to land off of this one which was great.
After the landing the examiner repositioned the aircraft to the holding point of Liverpool 27, with all failures removed. We conducted a Rejected Takeoff before then having a break, switching seats and repeating the flight with my sim partner as pilot flying and me as pilot monitoring. The second half went well. With time being constrained we were unable to finish the test on Day 1 so had to return on Day 2 to finish the items remaining. During our Day 1 debrief we were unfortunately told we had failed to meet the standard required on fuel management following an engine failure and that I personally had failed the single engine landing. We were both asked to explain why we felt we had fallen short on these items and after explaining to the examiner he was satisfied we knew the stuff and, within the allowances of the LST, would retest us both on those items the next day.
On Day 2 we arrived at the bright and early time of 04:30 in the morning for a briefing prior to going into the sim at 06:00. I was expecting to go second today as that'd had always been the pattern during the type rating although the examiner asked me to go first once more which was a bit of a shock. Once in the sim though it's amazing how quickly you get back into the zone. The examiner had told us the remaining test items during our briefing so we knew what was coming up - just not when. Unlike Day 1 which was flown a bit like a flight, Day 2 was a lot more repositioning. The examiner positioned the aircraft on a long final and then asked for a RAW DATA ILS (no automation at all). I flew that and then he repositioned the aircraft to the same point although this time for a GPS / RNAV approach. The final item was an Engine Failure After Takeoff exercise.
* A320 yawing *
With those items done my sim partner and I were retested on our engine failure and fuel management within a hold above the airfield. The examiner was satisfied with what he had seen and was happy to tick that item off. All that now remained was my Single Engine landing. The examiner retaught this item to me and provided a fair few pointers on how to successfully attain a safe single engine landing. He was satisfied I could fly the aircraft single engine as I had no issues doing so during the approaches he had seen the day previous. However, he had concerns that I was not acting quickly enough to centralise the aircraft on the centreline when removing engine power. It's amazing how much these aircraft yaw and how quickly that yaw goes in the opposite direction on the removal of the single engine's thrust on touchdown. After a few practice attempts I was assessed and passed the single engine aspect - YES!!
We then had another quick break before it was my sim partners time in the spotlight for his remaining items. Of course, I couldn't sit back and just enjoy the show for I was still being assessed on my pilot monitoring abilities. It's amazing how your monitoring pilots inputs, regardless to how small, can have a HUGE positive impact on your flying. For example, during my RAW DATA ILS my sim partner provided occasional pointers to assist me in maintaining profile. This wasn't him cheating or him helping me pass, it was him being a competent and helpful crew member which in turn led to a safe approach.
As soon as my partner had completed all of his items the examiner turned off the motion on the sim, lowered the bridge and said to us both... "Congrats Guys, you've passed. Go grab yourselves a Coffee while I do the paperwork and I'll come and find you shortly". I looked across at my sim partner as he led out a massive sigh of relief and I remember patting him on the back saying "Well done!". The feeling of accomplishment can't even be described. Six weeks of hard work, study and anti-social hours had all been worth it. We would both be starting at easyJet on-time. Whoop!!!
* Low visibility landing *
With the LST out of the way we had one lesson remaining which covered Low Visibility Operations, or LVOs for short. LVOs are the procedures airline pilots must follow in conditions of very low visibility. You can see from the photo above that the pilots can only make out the approach and landing lights a few metres in front of them. What's more is these conditions are not even the worse they can get. Airline pilots can be expected to use aircraft systems to land in zero metres of visibility if we had to.
In the vast majority of cases it will always be the captain that takes off or lands in low visibility - at easyJet at least - although it's paramount that both pilots understand the procedures and would be able to fly the aircraft should the situation arise. For example, if the captain happened to be incapacitated and no better alternative airfield was available or, the captain was unable to complete an approach due to the failure of instruments on his/her side and a go-around in such a situation was not possible.
We practiced taxying, low visibility takeoffs, rejected takeoffs and at least four low visibility landings each to expose us to the low visibility environments we're likely to face during the British Winter. Three of our approaches led to go-arounds allowing the instructor to highlight the importance of criteria which MUST be met for a continued landing. For example, during the first approach the autopilot started a slight climb in the final few miles of the approach. This took us away from the correct approach path and was caused by incorrect glideslope signals. The lesson there was to catch deviations like that early - even if small. The second approach saw a red "AUTOLAND" light illuminate which highlighted a degradation in aircraft automatics and a failure in its ability to continue to a safe automated landing. The third saw a complete and silent loss of the autopilot. Seeing these failures were quite helpful as it took my scan away from simply reviewing the aircrafts trajectory according to instrument indications, towards a conscious thought about their accuracy and how the aircraft is responding.
The fourth approach led to a landing but unlike all landings to date, which have manually flown once visual with the ground, this landing was an autoland. This means the aircrafts automatics bring the aircraft down the entire approach, initiate the flare leading to a landing and even manage the rollout by steering to maintain the centreline and applying brakes to bring us to a stop. It's quite exciting to watch happen, if not nerve wracking at the same time. One things for certain though, autoland loves a firm touchdown!
* A very orange Gatwick Airport *
I've now got some well-earned time off before I move up to Gatwick for the easyJet induction process. My first day at the airline is the 25th February and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited. They provide us with hotel accommodation for the whole three week process - unless you're based at Gatwick when its expected you'll be living there anyway - so thankfully I'll have no more accommodation to pay for until I move into my Liverpool flat.
Our first few weeks at easyJet will consist of things such as:
We'll then conclude our induction training by flying the aircraft for real as part of "Base Training". Based on our rosters this is likely to take place at Newquay airport although dependant on the weather that may well change. I've seen photos of my peers enjoying their base training with beaming smiles on their faces and I can't wait to have a go!
Once base training is out of the way we'll move to each of our bases and shadow two complete days of line-flying from the jump seat. This allows us to witness all of the easyJet procedures being put to use throughout your typical day without having to work as part of the crew ourselves. I shall look forward to them as it's amazing how much you learn by simply watching someone else.
I'm off for a few well earned days of rest and a short holiday to Dublin.
I'll come back with a post or two throughout my first couple of weeks.
All the best,