Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sunset over Dubbo, central New South Wales.

Checked to line for a week, and flown a total of 2 sectors! I was meant to be doing an overnight tomorrow night to Armidale, however i'm now operating as the safety first officer for a new hire doing their first flight. So the jumpseat it is!

I did however have my first cyclic in the simulator, which straight after my check was an intense week. It involved an engine failure at v1 on a pretty average night weatherwise out of Townsville. The take-off to the south has some pretty high terrain and therefore there is a company procedure, which was at 1DME TL, turn 100 till 6DME or 2000ft, whichever comes first and then track outbound on track 030 till lowest safe altitude or radar assigned level. I requested 3600ft which was the 10nm minimum safe altitude and in the northeastern sector it was 3000ft.

Once we did our checklists and secured the dead engine, i requested direct tracking to NIKKY waypoint which is the inital fix on the VOR 19 approach. Normally i would do an RNAV however there was a RAIM outage for the time that we were departing. (Means that using the FMS for an approach would have produced flags, resulting in a one engine missed approach)

We did 3 holding patterns at NIKKY, to confirm the approach checklists were done, the cabin was secured, the briefings complete and that both pilots were satisfied that we were in a safe configuration and understanding to commence the approach. The VOR to TL must be handflown once the gear is put down, as per company SOP's. I configured at 11DME to be configured an stable by 8DME which is the final approach fix. From there is was a matter of crew co-ordination and flying to get the plane down. We landed safely and the exercise was over.

The next event was by the captain into Cairns, doing an 15nm DME arc arrival 15 ILS. Handflown with a pressurisation fault and roll control fault. All handled well. After our break it was time to get back into it.

Next was an uncontrolled engine fire on descent into Tamworth. Again the associated drills and checklists were done, it was time to get the plane on the ground and simulate a mock evacuation. Shortly after we had to do some bad weather circling approaches at night, which are always challenging. My excercise was all engines operation, so i could use the autopilot. The captain on one engine had to handfly his, not easy, and his involved a missed approach from 300ft.

So 4 hours later we emerged absolutely tired and mentally exhausted, but good to fly the line for another 3 months till the next check. It was a good experience and despite it being stressful and hard, you have to consider the sim as a day at work with abnormal operations and just deal with the problems that occur, as you would the real aeroplane if you were flying on the line. It was good to see that my procedures and drills for abnormal operations were better and more understood than when i was doing endorsement training in the sim nearly 3 months ago.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hello, hi, welcome, ahoy - i am still alive. I do apologise for a severe lack of posting of recent times, but it was due a few reasons, one massive problem, which i would rather not delve into on the online community, but overall, its been a fairly stressful few months, and finally, after almost 5 months since my induction, ground school, simulator training, i am finally - CHECKED TO LINE! (watch out unsuspecting captains)

So yeh, i haven't actually flown the line yet, had my first day of reserve and didn't get called in, which was a little weird as i was fully expecting it. It's been really nice weather in Sydney at the moment, CAVOK days, so i guess people aren't really dreading flying in challenging conditions and therefore don't mind working. It seems that everyone gets called off reserve when there are challenging conditions and delays at Sydney airport.

Although that brings me to an interesting point which airline flying has kinda challenged me in. And that is, the visual circuit into an uncontrolled aerodrome. It is probably the most dangerous thing we do, and that is decending through 10,000ft and entering the realm of VFR piston drivers, lots who don't tune up CTAF frequencies or have transponders. I actually had a TCAS RA on a line training flight. It's hard to know who was at fault, or whether our TCAS was faulty, or the pilot didn't turn is transponder on till the last minute, but all of a sudden we had traffic 1000ft below us, on our track, climbing through our level. Naturally, we turned out of the way and followed the TCAS instructions, and thankfully nothing came of it. But talk to nearly any captain on the line and they have all nearly had some incident involving traffic.

However apart from all the traffic we encounter, which just adds to the workload and maintain a vigilant visual look out for traffic, when its instrument procedures, it is often easier to plan a flight and manage the workload. What i mean by this, is when you have an ILS or an RNAV approach in marginal conditions, you have a defined set of rules and flight profile to follow.

For example, when we do an RNAV approach, there are defined altitudes to be at the final approach fix, the intermediate approach fix and the initial approach fix. At the initial approach fix, there is a set of speeds we also need to adhere to. So from top of decent we can plan in the FMS to be at a height and a speed at a certain space in time, and then commence the approach. By the final approach fix (usually a five mile final to the runway), we need to be configured for landing and speeds below 130kts. From there is it usually a decent to the minimum altitude and we decide whether we will land or do a missed approach for whatever reason.

I bring this up because when you brief plan for instrument procedures it somehow ended up being easier, having a set of rules and decent steps, with known speeds and 'gates' (aim points) to configure and carry out the approach. Most of my training had been in instrument procedures, partly due to training and partly due to the actual weather at the destinations, so all of a sudden we have really good weather and we were doing visual circuits and visual approaches, i was actually a little lost in what to do. Remember apart from circuit training, you actually practise very little visual procedures in the sim.

So anyway, training is complete, and i'm looking forward to flying the line. It's been a massive learning curve. I can't stress the difference in flying between my general aviation days and flying in a multi crew airliner environment.

Anyway i'll try to get posts a big more regular now with more photos. I have my first sim check as well in the next week, just in case i wasn't done with everything!