You may recall from my previous blog post that CTC had arranged for Captain Eric Moody of Speedbird 9 to visit and talk to us about his all-engine loss experience. Having now had the opportunity to sit and listen to Eric, I can honestly say that he's a true inspiration. If, like me, you're a fan of the Air Crash Investigation series then Speedbird 9 may well ring a bell or two and having watched the episode I initially thought Eric's speech would simply be a regurgitation of what he said on camera.. I'll tell you what though, that couldn't have been further from the truth.
Nicknaming us 'Embryo Pilots', Eric took us right back to his childhood and slowly led us all through his life's journey including the many setbacks he faced in getting there. I admire him never losing site of his goal to which he eventually ended up training and later flying for the then predecessors to British Airways. The in-detail descriptions of the events of Speedbird 9 made it feel as though we were actually there and his top takeaway for which i'll always remember was, to paraphrase: "in the event of any alarms, warnings or unusual situations, sit on your hands, think for a moment and avoid the alignment of the swiss cheese".
So, Eric, I thank you for such a brilliant end to that week!
After the weekend that followed Captain Moody's inspiration came the final topic of Module Two, Radio Navigation. It's incredibly likely that as a typical passenger you're not too concerned about the operation of the aircraft. In fact, you're probably more concerned about what time you're going to arrive at the hotel on the other end in order to soak up the suns' rays - or hit the slopes if you're more of a ski holiday person. Even if you're interested in flying, like me, or just curious/fascinated as to what goes on onboard, you've probably never stopped to consider the sheer amount of radio technology that's within that flying tube. No matter in to which category you fall, feast your eyes on the above graphic and you'll see a representation of those used within the Boeing 777. It's rather a lot, eh!
As a subject, Radio Navigation started right back at the beginning. We explored the basic radio theory you'd learn in G.C.S.E or A Level Physics before proceeding to go one by one through each of the typical radio systems used in your modern airliner. It has to be said that whilst I find the general ATPL subjects quite challenging in parts, I find some of the topics nothing short of fascinating and radio navigation, whilst quite detailed, is certainly one of those. Let's face it, some brainiacs somewhere invented this technology and without it flight would simply not be possible to the scale it is today.
In addition to the general theory of each radio aid we also learnt how to interpret the various instruments which display their related information. The photo above is of an instrument called the Horizontal Situation Indicator which is saying (in simple terms) we are flying on a heading of 170° and that we should turn right until the two green bars line up in order to fly along our desired route.
The various capabilities of each of the radio aids is vast. Some provide you with a distance (VDF/DME), others provide directions (VOR) and if you take a look at the main photo used for this blog post others even help pilots get down on to the runway in incredibly poor visibility (ILS). Nervous flyers (I know you're reading) may also be pleased to know that others assist pilots in avoiding mid-air collisions. In fact, here's a video of the Traffic Collision system in use:
In case you wanted to know, here's the list of teaching items for Radio Navigation:
Module Two exams seemed to creep up on us all incredibly quickly as it only seems like a week ago we took our last mocks/exams. However, unlike Module One we had a couple more days for revision due to finishing Radio Navigation a little ahead of schedule. That didn't make my nerves any better though! All in all I performed quite well in the mock exams. I can't quite remember the marks as I was simply relieved to pass them but it was above the expected CAA pass mark in all subjects except Performance.
The real exams are towards the end of next week so fingers crossed I pass everything. I've got my work cut out for me over the next few days though that's for sure.
I'll post another update once they're over.