Looking back at the last three weeks of Module 2 the amount we've covered is crazy! Whether it be the key performance calculations pilots use to ensure safe operation of an aircraft in every phase of flight, the basic instruments of smaller aircraft or the complicated systems in your typical airliner, there's certainly been lots of it! Although I suppose that's no change from anything else in Ground School really!
As I write this we've now completed the syllabus for Instruments and have a few Performance lessons spread throughout the remaining weeks of Module Two before I can tick that one off the list too. Whilst it feels nice to write that, it also makes me realise finishing a topic means I'm one step closer to the end of module exams. On the plus side, we completed Instruments a day ahead of schedule which means we have a self-study day to try and consolidate all of the content. It also provides me an opportunity to catch up on some content I missed due to being ill one of the days this week.
Performance as a topic exists to help trainee pilots understand the limitations of their aircraft. I found it quite reassuring to learn that when you take-off hurtling down the runway in the direction of a mountain that pilots have calculated the take-off run with such a margin of safety that, should an engine fail on take-off, they could still climb well above the mountain. Such factors exist in all phases of flight and aviation authorities want aircraft manufacturers, airlines and their pilots to always plan for the worst case scenario. I think you can agree that's somewhat a relief to hear from the passenger perspective.
In the trainee pilots' case we have to calculate all of this manually but our instructor, a former easyJet Pilot, decided to show just how easy it is to do using the electronic flight bags they're provided with on the line. The photo above is the standard Airbus software and within a matter of seconds you can program your aircraft for the next flight.
The module covered:
From Cessnas' to the enormous Airbus A380, each share common instruments but it's the way in which they work that sets them apart with the former rather analogue and the latter electronic and complex. In addition, we also delved in to Autopilot, Auto Throttle, Auto Land, Radio Altimeters, Ground Proximity Warning Systems, Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems and much more. I enjoyed learning about instruments having only ever flown once before. Gyroscopes (as in video) were very complex but certainly fascinated most of the class. The thing with instruments is just when you think you've grasped a concept you then get told "and this is how to works in an airliner" and it varies considerably.
I have nothing but respect for the engineers who come up with these systems, they're amazing!
We got to play around with the system that communicates with the aircraft flight management computer in one of our lessons too! On a Boeing this is called the Control Display Unit (as pictured) and allows you to program everything from your Performance calculations to the route you wish to follow. The Autopilot, once enabled, can then take the aircraft from A to B based on your inputted route and parameters. It's quite amazing really! If the destination airport is equipped for it the aircraft can automatically land for you too, although this is apparently restricted to low-visibility conditions.
Instruments covers far too much for me to list here really and is even split across two books! But just think of any instrument a pilot is likely to interact with and we've pretty much looked at it!
On Friday we carry on with a day of Performance before the weekend. It's the Virgin open day this Saturday and i'll be helping out at that so if you're coming along say hello if you spot me! Next week the current plan is to start Flight Planning. I'll write a post update once we've finished that one!
All the best,