As soon as it began, it was over. Now, as much as I wish I was referring to ground school there, I am of course referring to Christmas. However, where my waistline is concerned, Christmas being over is a good thing! Why we always eat so much?! Anyway, I digress. A bit of a long post this one, sorry, but it merges two topics.
Since coming back from some well needed rest we've had a rather full timetable. We've covered radio communication in respect of both visual and instrumental flight in addition to Air Law which well and truly lives up to its name of Air Bore. We also dipped our toes in to Meteorology, for which we will finish next week. For now though, I'll cover the first two topics.
I've always found air traffic control interesting and as you would expect, the topic of communications teaches you all about it. When a pilot goes to work in the morning he will have the lives of a few hundred passengers in his hands at any one time. For air traffic controllers on the other hand, that could be thousands. I certainly take my hat off to them. It must be an incredibly stressful job.
One of the first things you learn in communications is there is a common language created to ease communication between aircraft and controllers worldwide. Particularly more important following the terrible Tenerife disaster. If you don't know what I'm on about it's definitely worth researching it. Despite common belief, I also learnt that English is not the only language of Air Traffic control and in some nations they may use their own language too. I can imagine that gets fairly interesting where spatial awareness is concerned!
The common language itself incorporates the phonetic alphabet (Alpha for A, Bravo for B), changes to some numbers (Niner for 9) and also introduces set phraseology depending on various parts of flight. I've created an example communication between the controller and pilots of easyJet flight 425 from Bristol to Edinburgh to give you an idea as to some of the phraseology used. Note that as i'm still getting use to phraseology myself this may not be 100% accurate.
Bristol Delivery, easy golf-echo-zulu-alpha-charlie with information November requesting clearance to Edinburgh.
Delivery (Tower Controller):
easy golf-alpha-charlie, Good Afternoon. You are cleared to Edinburgh via the Brecon one X-ray departure. Fly runway heading, expect flight level 'one-two-zero', 'one-five' minutes from departure and Cardiff Radar 'one-two-eight-decimal-two-five'. Squawk, 'four-three-five-two'.
easyJet G-EZAC (now shortened to easy G-AC by Air Traffic):
Cleared to Edinburgh via Brecon one X-ray. Fly runway heading, climb to flight level 'one-two-zero' and contact Cardiff Radar on 'one-two-eight-decimal-two-five'. Squawk 'four-three-five-two'. easy golf-alpha-charlie.
easy golf-alpha-charlie, read back correct. Ground on 'one-two-one-decimal-niner-two-five' when ready to taxi. Have a nice flight.
Switching 'one-two-one-decimal-niner-two-five' easy golf-alpha-charlie. Bye bye.
In a nutshell, the above communication was an easyJet aircraft requesting permission from Bristol controllers for departure to Edinburgh. The airlines' operations teams would have already submitted all of the necessary paperwork for this flight, as it's a scheduled service, so Air Traffic are already expecting them. The controller reads the pilots their clearance, which is to fly a route over the Brecon Beacons before continuing with their planned route. The pilots read the important bits back to make sure everyone is on the same page, before the controller confirms it's all correct.
The use of 'information November' means the pilots have listened to weather and airport information marked with 'November'. If the current weather happened to have updated to 'Oscar', the controller would then know that the pilots were not in receipt of the latest weather forecasting and inform them of differences. If you want to know what one of these weather and information broadcasts sounds like, pick up your mobile or your landline and dial Bournemouth Airport Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) on 01202 364 151. It costs the same as a normal UK call and will simply loop the latest weather and airport details, such as taxi way closures etc. It'll be something I'll be listening to quite frequently when I'm in the Bournemouth phases of flight training.
There's not much else to communications really, apart from learning all of the possible phrases and what to say in certain situations such as emergencies etc. On the topic of emergencies, I'll leave you this video of a Thomson aircraft to show you just how calm and collected everyone remains during situations of stress. Worth a watch.
I wholly appreciate the importance of Air Law and how everyone in the industry should both have a strong knowledge of it and abide by them. I do not at any point exclude myself from such responsibility and my comments below are simply related to my experience learning the laws as part of the ATPL topic. This blog is educational.
My god Air Law's a dense topic! I can certainly see why past cadets call it "Air Bore". Whilst important, there isn't really any way to make the facts of law fun and enjoyable in a classroom environment. Out of all the topics of the ATPLs, Air Law is definitely the one which results in death by powerpoint, sadly.
We learnt of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the Chicago Convention of 1944 which formed it. Without ICAO, modern international aviation would not be possible and the conventions' rather large Annexes, for which there are 19, certainly make for thrilling bedtime reading!
Here's the list of annexes:
Some of this I was familiar with having worked at an airport already, but the rest was all new. Perhaps the most interesting content was related to runway lighting, signage etc and the things you will almost certainly use in day to day operations at an airline.
All being well with exams, it's only 47 days to go until I board that British Airways flight bound for Arizona! I honestly can't wait. I'm now so close to the end of this ground school tunnel but whenever I think of that I'm brought back to reality with 6 exams over shadowing the fun. Next week we continue with Meteorology, the week after we learn about Operations and then not too long after that I'll have my mocks and real exams again.
I'll be back with another update either next week after Meteorology, or the following week after Operations.
I hope you enjoyed this post, apologies for the length!