First Simulator check, LOE

Part of being a commercial airline pilot means that I must be checked every six months on my capability and skill sets to operate the aircraft. Two checks are done, one is done assessing a regular scheduled flight on the aircraft and the other is done in the simulator assessing handling of emergencies and failures.

The LOE, or Line Orientated Evaluation, is the simulator part and is my first time back in the simulator since I did my type-rating. With the LOE there is a high probability that you could be flying with someone that you have never met before until you step into the simulator. The idea of the training involved in flying is that it should not matter who we are flying with and that everything is done in a ‘standard’ way, the same way, every time. Also with the way pilots are selected there should not be any personality clashes due to the way we are psychometrically tested, this come under the umbrella of CRM. The idea of the LOE is to assess our skills and where possible providing training and learning at every possible opportunity, in reality, it is more of an assessment of our abilities to do things in the standard way, make correct decisions during an emergency and to test our CRM skills.

The thing with each of the above parts, standard work, decision making and CRM is that they can only be truly honed by performing them day-in-day-out so that when it comes to the simulator it is a natural thing to do. The simulator will expose many things when a person is placed under pressure including those who normally fly with a few bad habits, or those who actually have a totally different personality to the one that they portray through their behaviours.

Before heading down to Exeter I decided to get my systems ground school books out a week before. This was so that I would not decrease my capacity in trying to figure out any technical problems that may be faced such as certain electrical failures and what the consequences of those failures would be.  It had been nearly six months since I had looked at these books and I simultaneously had my nose buried in the winter operations manuals because the temperature in Aberdeen was plummeting well below freezing and we were starting to have to de-ice the aircraft in the mornings.

I arrived down in Exeter on the same flight as some of the other guys who were going to be in the simulator the next few days and my colleague Tom who I was training with in Spain was also down there. Unfortunately we were on opposite shifts and unable to meet up, but I did meet the captain I was due to fly with and he was very experienced, some 18,000 hours on various aircraft types, mostly regional flying so he must have flown a ridiculous number of sectors.  We agreed to meet for an hour the next afternoon to briefly get to know each other and also what we thought would happen in the simulator and how to prepare for it.  Our shifts were the horrid night shift, the ones that I had most of the way through my type rating. It’s really tough because you are staying in a hotel so you need to be up by 0830 for breakfast, but you are not going into the simulator until 7pm and won’t be walking out of it until midnight. The day is mostly spent either wandering around Exeter city which is actually a very beautiful place and highly recommended for a weekend visit, going to the rather poorly kitted gym (but at least it has a gym this time unlike during my type rating), or having a read of manuals or a fiction book on my kindle and some little dozes in between.  Basically, time killing.

The first day of the LOE is supposed to just be a regular flight. We are given the weather packs, notams, weights etc and we have to give our fuel figures. This was actually really strange because I had just left Aberdeen where it was -6C and here I was for a simulator session looking at a weather pack that said leaving Southampton at 23C, talk about confusing..  Needless to say we decided to take a bit of extra fuel, even though the sim instructor had told us that it was going to be a normal flight, the chances are that it was not going to be at all.  I hadn’t met the instructor before but within 5minutes of him talking I knew that he was a legendary pilot, he had spent years flying in Australia to uranium mines carrying supplies and people using only a compass and a watch, before moving to the up and flying for BA connect where he flew 146s into London City. This might not sound too legendary, but the guy also had only one arm.

We start the flight with myself flying and the captain as pilot monitoring. It was a busy departure climbing out of Southampton and the instructor was trying to throw in lots of ‘gotcha’ air traffic control non-clearances. At the same time I noticed that the hydraulic fluid level was starting to drop and so the ‘normal flight’ was most definitely not going to be normal at all. Then a light came on informing us that a valve had closed and so we were busy with the emergency checklist, I was flying and doing the radio while the captain was running through the checklist. We elected to slow down and stay higher for longer to give us more time to sort out the problem. Then we noticed that the fuel was decreasing at a rate quicker than it should have been, so now we also had a fuel leak which meant slowing down and staying higher was not really an option any longer. We asked atc for the weather at jersey and told them that we might need to go around the procedural hold in order to get ourselves ready for the approach, we were now descending towards the hold quickly and so we would need the time to go once around the procedure in order to slow down and lose the height and get configured to land. As we started the approach I disconnected the autopilot at about 1500ft, this was so that I could get a feel for the simulator after having flown the aircraft for so long. It was like flying a washing machine, tha is the only way I can describe it, the inputs I was placing into the aircraft just did not seem connected to what the aircraft was doing at all, it started swaying and bucking all of which were induced by myself, I really had to fit the aircraft to get it onto the ground and because we had lost hydraulic fluid we also had no brakes. This meant once we landed I had to hand control over to the captain who needed to use the handbrake to bring the aircraft to a halt.After this the instructor had us do a few single engine approaches and single engine go arounds, all of which were fairly standard stuff and we got by this with no problem at all.

The first day felt a bit scrappy to me, but at least we had got it onto the ground in a safe manner and actually the sim instructor was very complimentary although there were a few debrief points which were really useful to remember for the future (I wrote them down so that I wouldn’t forget!), some of which I had only known during my type rating and then had never used since, nor would I be able to find in any of the manuals. They were more points that caught us out that we ‘didn’t know we didn’t know’, apparently most of them catch every sim session out. 

One problem I do have with the simulator is that it gives me a raging headache, the sort that you get when you are coming down with a really bad cold or the flu and you just want to go to bed. I was taking some paracetamol codeine for it and drinking litres of water to help prevent it, but there is just something about the simulator that gives me a bad head which is really not helpful at all. I wonder if anyone else suffers from the same thing, I think it’s a combination between the motion and the screen resolution, the resolution is really poor and it feels like you need to wear a pair of glasses, except I know my eyes are perfect with the glasses I have, so I think the poor focus of the screen causes some sort of eye strain.

The second day was spent working through scenarios focused around electrical failures. At the time it felt like I was being ripped apart by the instructor as he exposed every failure he could that was not fully covered by an emergency checklist. He really turned the screws when he failed all of the power to the aircraft and we had only the standby instrument and had to do timed turns to get ourselves onto the approach. This is something that was quite simple on a small plane like a warrior or a Seneca, but on a q400 it was a bit of a handful, especially because the standby instrument was in a not very useful place, but also because most of the time we fly the aircraft using an autopilot using a display with lots of information, so are not used to level rate one turns at set speeds.

We then moved onto engine failures and fires using many different scenarios. Normally a sim check would require a rejected takeoff and a failure at v1. This is supposedly the worst time an engine failure can happen but the chances of it happening at this exact moment are pretty slim, and so at this LOE we practiced failures at various stages of the flight, including at 200ft where the engine does not feather which was very violent because the aircraft immediately wanted to just roll over, it took full rudder and half of the aileron to keep the aircraft under control.  The same violent reactions happened when we had failures after a go-around.  I would not be surprised in the slightest if there are people who turn up to this simulator session and do not control the aircraft sufficiently, resulting in a roll over.

At the end of the session I had to perform some maximum cross-wind landings, this was in order to remove my half-wind limitation of 16kts. I did 4 landings, one at a regular flap 15 at 20kts, then a flap 15 at 32kts, then a flap 35 at 32kts, and finally a flap 35 icing landing at 32kts.  The last one was the trickiest because the aircraft has an increased vref of 15kts which requires a large nose down attitude and makes flaring the aircraft difficult because it just wants to float down the runway.

I the second day we also had some people from ATC back seating our simulator session, they were doing a lot of work on human factors and wanted to view how our LOE worked and see just how busy the cockpit could get when failures occurred.  They also had a sneaky circuit in the simulator, both of the guys did quite well but it really made me realise just how much training I have had over the last 2years because the aircraft seemed to oscillate to and fro in every direction for the whole circuit while the person wrestled with trying to control the aircraft.

The end of the evening had a quick debrief, I thought I was going to get slated for the session but the instructor was very complimentary and I scored 3s in all sections and a 4 for handling which I was really pleased with.

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~ by globalste on October 26, 2012.

One Response to “First Simulator check, LOE”

  1. Oh, and happy birthday (for last month?) – apologies, I suck πŸ™‚

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