Day 2 began with my required dose of morning caffeine. Today is Super Bowl Sunday (American football championship game) so we decided to start at 8 AM to ensure we got out of class in time to watch the game. For me, this wasn’t that big of a deal because I am not a huge football fan to begin with, but Dave is a die hard Philadelphia Eagles fan so we were somewhat obligated to make haste.
We met Wayne in the hallway as we entered the building. I was playing a balancing act with a small cup of coffee on top of a large Styrofoam cup of water in one hand and my flight bag in the other. Wayne looked at my circus act and asked, “got enough shit?”
Dave, Wayne, and I started down a long hallway to a different training room than yesterday. About halfway to the new room, Wayne realized he forgot some material in his office and told us to continue to the room. His directions went something like this… “go down that hallway, turn left, go down the next hallway, turn right, it will be on your right….. oh and don’t touch anything!”
To my surprise the room we arrived at had a fully functioning FTD/IPT in it. I had assumed that they were going to teach us in a glorified paper tiger today, but instead we conducted a majority of our training in this replica of the B757 cockpit (see the cover image). All of the switches worked, the PFDs and MFDs worked, and the FMCs worked… it was actually pretty cool. We conducted the first flight of the day power up procedure and loaded the FMCs for a flight from KSFO to KEGE. We worked on checklists and flows and also were introduced to various systems such as electrical and hydraulic.
“Don’t put any money in that box!”
After our FTD/IPT work, it was decided that everyone needed another cup of coffee, naturally. Wayne told us that there was “free” coffee in the instructor office on the second floor of the training center. That sounded great! Everyone likes free coffee right? The whole walk up to the office, Wayne kept mumbling/complaining under his breath about how, “… they don’t need to be charging for that shit… etc. etc.” I honestly couldn’t understand what the heck he was saying half the time due to his rambling southern draw. When we got up to the office, I helped myself to a small cup and started to follow Wayne out of the room, when all of a sudden he turned around and yelled, “…and don’t put any money in that box!” I jumped back a bit with complete confusion. He was pointing to a box next to the coffee maker which read, “please chip in for your coffee.” Clearly there is a little bit of a disagreement in the instructor office about the use of their Folgers coffee grounds!
Drinking From the Fire Hose
Airline training programs are built for safety, speed, and efficiency. They have to be designed that way because airlines spend more money than almost any other business that I know of on training. Forget for a second about all the training that is required to get to a major airline… when you get to the airline, the training literally never ends until you retire. Most airlines consider training a fixed cost.
Let’s look at airline from the perspective of a new hire. Training starts with Indoctrination training (aka “Indoc”) which is when they teach you about the airline’s policies and procedures along with FAA regulations for airline operation. This course is only taken once in your career, when you get hired, and then you never have to take it again unless move to a different airline or you medical out for an extended period of time. After Indoc, pilots are sent to their first aircraft “Initial” training. When that is complete, and you pass your check-ride in the full motion simulator, you receive your FAA “type rating”. Congratulations, you are now a pilot for a major airline… but wait… there is more.
Initial training is not officially over until you prove to a check-airman, through Initial Operating Experience (IOE), that you can land the plane you were just certified for. That is right, since you haven’t actually flown the real airplane up until this point, they want you to fly a few passenger flights with an instructor before they officially release you to the flight line. On the final leg of the last trip of IOE, the check-airmen will administer your first “line check” which is basically a test of your SOP knowledge. When you pass that, then you are finally a real airline pilot. Phew! That was a lot!
Ha ha, you actually thought all the tests were over right? Fooled ya.
Over the next few months you are line checked regularly by line check-airmen to prove competency. After about a year of that crap, they finally ease off the line checks. Now, you have to look forward to Continuing Qualifications Training (CQT) every 9 or 12 months, depending on the airline you work for. Each CQT is basically a shortened version of the Initial training course for the aircraft you are certified for followed by another test which determines whether you “still have the right stuff” to work at the company. Bottom line, if you don’t like to be tested and you are thinking about becoming an airline pilot, you may want to re-evaluate your career objectives.
Usually the whole training process is fairly well organized at airlines. At the end of the 1980s, the FAA realized that standardization in airline training programs was a real issue, especially the way airlines tested their pilots. The FAA’s solution to this problem was their Advanced Qualifications Program or “AQP”. Before AQP, airlines were requiring pilots to know very useless information about the systems of an airplane such as proper landing gear strut inflation (in inches). This is something that really only a mechanic needs to know. In today’s AQP world, airlines have realized that there is a big difference between what maintenance technicians need to know and what pilots need to know. Pilots only need to know what we can fix from the cockpit. If we can’t fix it, we don’t need to know it… at least that is what I thought.
What I learned today is that there still are some remnants of the “old way” of doing things in the B757/B767 training program. Because it is such a complicated and old aircraft, it is almost impossible to completely eliminate this “build the aircraft” mentality from the program. So while it makes things difficult for me as a student, it is somewhat understandable. Below is a good example of what I am talking about. This is a Quick Reference Handbook (QRH) procedure for the EICAS message “STANDBY OFF BUS”. The procedure is 38 steps long.
So today was a lesson in “drinking water from the fire hose” because I am truly starting to realize that I need to study… a LOT for this aircraft. With that dear friends, it is time for me to get to work.
Speak to you tomorrow.