Sorry for the lack of updates! Dave and I went on break for two days on the 7th and 8th and then, realizing that I was falling a bit behind in my studies, I decided to start reading the Operating Manual from cover to cover. I am about 300 pages of the way through the Operating Manual and I have completed all the required systems computer-based training modules (CBTs). We are on another break now and I decided to hop on a flight back to the east coast for a needed break. Now that I have some time, I will provide updates on the training process.
Applying System Knowledge
Our B757s have two engine types: RB211-535E-4 and RB211-535E-4B; both models are rated to around 40,100 lbs. of thrust per engine. When I initially came across these figures, just for fun, I decided to compare the B757 to the E190; the results are very interesting indeed! The E190 has two CF34-10E engines rated at 18,500 lbs. maximum thrust with a max gross takeoff weight of 114,000 lbs. If you do the math:
- The B757 has 40,100 lbs. of thrust per engine x 2 = 80,200 lbs. for a max gross takeoff weight of 255,500 lbs.
- The E190 has 18,500 lbs. of thrust per engine x 2 = 37,000 lbs. for a max gross takeoff weight of 114,000 lbs.
The two are virtually the same thrust to weight ratio! I remember back when I first started training on the E190 someone mentioned this fact to me. After flying the E190 for 5 years, I can definitely tell you the airplane can climb like a bat out of hell! Considering this comparison data, it all makes sense now.
The “ER” in B767-300ER
Most of the last few days consisted of studying and not a lot of “fun” but I think the most note worthy thing that happened was that Dave and I were introduced to the B767-300ER simulator (pictures below)! Our new FCTI (Larry) took us into the simulator and we conducted a flight from KLAX to KSFO, again with the motion turned off.
So what makes the B767-300ER an ER opposed to a standard B767-300? That’s a good question and I just learned the answer! Hint: it is not extra fuel tanks… that would be LR or “Long Range”.
So, apparently in order to be classified as an ER or “Extended Range” aircraft, the plane has to be equipped with something called a HDG (no, not heading mode). The HDG or “Hydraulic Driven Generator” is a generator that activates in the event of a loss of both AC buses which would constitute pretty much a total electric failure. The generator is hydraulically driven and powers 7 buses which include the left AC transfer bus, right AC transfer bus, standby AC bus, Captain’s flight instrument transfer bus, the hot battery bus, the battery bus, and the standby DC bus. These buses power enough electrical equipment to safely divert the aircraft to the nearest suitable airport, which could be very far away if flying over the ocean. All of our B757s and B767s have this device and it is a mandatory item to perform ETOPS or “Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards” operations.
The Good, The Bad, and the Really Friggin Ugly
The Good: I Found Flows
If you have kept up with my other blog posts, you will know that I tend to dislike how the training department teaches the B757 and B767, specifically the lack of triggers, flows, and abbreviated checklists (basically, the lack of common sense). Well I am pleased to announce that, while there are only two flows in our entire book, I did finally find some! In all seriousness, this is a huge positive because it means the training department is making a concerted effort to modernize the B757/B767 training program.
The Bad: Stupid Memory Items
Well there cannot be good without bad, and I definitely found bad in my studies. Every airplane has limitations, and these are things that cannot be exceeded such as speeds, temperatures, altitudes, etc. Limitations are manufacturer or company imposed restrictions that pilots are required to follow during normal operations.
A good example of a limitation is the maximum speed at which the landing gear can be extended (270 KIAS or 0.82 Mach, whichever is lower for the B757/B767). This is a limit, that if exceeded, could cause structural damage to the aircraft (e.g. the gear door breaking off the airframe). Most flight simmers tend to ignore these limits, but in the real world they mean the difference between keeping your job or losing it. As a pilot you are required to memorize some of these limitations. Over the years, airlines have decreased the amount of limitations required to be committed to memory, but there are still some key ones that we absolutely have to know.
While I was creating flash cards for these limitations that are required to be committed to memory, I came across the gem below. Don’t ask me what the heck this means or how it has anything to do with my job… it probably is the stupidest limitation I have ever had to memorize.
The Really Friggin Ugly: Mechanical Checklists
As a pilot, I have to end the blog post with a complaint… because that is what pilots are best at! The B757/B767 fleet uses something called a “mechanical checklist” for the takeoff and landing checks. It basically is exactly how it sounds, mechanical. Just prior to takeoff or landing, we turn the mechanical checklist on and as we complete the items on it, we flip the respective switch. A light next to checklist item turns green and the illuminated item disappears indicating the item is done.
Some might ask, well what’s wrong with that? The truth is, nothing! In fact the reason this device exists is because of lessons learned from past accidents or incidents. It is born of “blood” as we would say in the aviation industry. The mechanical checklist is extremely safe, but in my opinion it is band-aide for a problem that has deeper roots… lack of standardization.
Standardization is the key to aviation safety and if your SOPs are not standardized, then they are NOT SOPs! Lets take a look at checklist usage in terms of standardization.
Timing: Checklists should be initiated and completed by specific times during the course of a normal flight; we call those times, triggers. When a checklist is started, it should also be completed in a timely manner. The mechanical checklist actually allows flexibility in timing because when an item is completed, the mechanical checklist indicates that with the illumination of the green light. This, in theory, could encourage a pilot to delay certain items on the checklist purposefully. In the world of paper checklists, if a delay or distraction occurs in the middle of a checklist, SOP states to redo the entire checklist from the top. I would argue that the paper checklist is actually the more standardized way of running the operation.
Order: Paper checklists have a very specific order that they need to be completed in. You start from the top and end at the bottom. The procedure for using the mechanical checklist actually states, “the pilot can complete the checklist in whatever order required, so long as all items on the checklist are completed.” I think this lack of order actually encourages a lack of standardization.
Cadence: In American football, the specific verbiage a quaterback uses to call a play or a hike is very important to his team executing the desired play successfully. Just like the QB, the Pilot Flying should use specific cadence when calling for items to be accomplished by the Pilot Monitoring. The old way of doing things didn’t emphasize a huge importance on this, but the modern way does. The mechanical checklist is a relic of the past and is used to fix poor standardized cadence.
In summary, I really hope that in the next few years we will no longer be using these mechanical checklist.
Anyway, thanks for reading and happy Valentine’s Day.