Aug 11, 2015 – First Experience – Annual Recurrent Training

In the aviation profession, or any profession for that matter, properly and professionally accepting constructive criticism and learning from your mistakes is a fundamental skill. This is a skill that I am sometimes not very good at. Exploring this further with other aviators, I am apparently not the only one….

Recurrent Training for me was scheduled for August 10th through the 12th. The first day was to be a written exam, and a requisite number of hours were to be spent in classroom instruction over the three day period.

On Day Two, we were to have simulator time flying emergency procedures known as Maneuvers Validation (MV). Day Three included simulator time for Line Oriented Evaluation (LOE).

My understanding was that this was a train to proficiency learning experience. Passing the written knowledge test was paramount, followed by an oral discussion of systems, procedures and anything else that came up. Study the questions in the CQ manual, watch the emergency procedures videos provided by the training department, and you should be fine.

Written Test:  This is open book and I scored a 98%. Most folks do well on this with plenty of time to prepare and the insights of those that have gone before on what to really pay attention to. I had studied all of the questions and answers, and was able to do the entire exam without looking anything up on the first pass. As I went through it, I noted which answers I wasn’t 100% sure of, and looked those up on the second pass to be sure.  The rest of the day was spent in class going over hazardous materials and other content.

Maneuvers Validation (emergency and other procedures) – MV: After some class room time on the second day, we reported to the briefing room very late in the afternoon. The Captain that I was paired with and I were asked questions about systems as part of an oral exam, and I don’t remember not being able to answer any of them right off the bat. This was going well – I knew this stuff cold.

In the simulator now, the flying was smooth – both of us can fly the airplane well. . The Captain and I felt solid with what was going on, and felt as if we were working together to create a safe flight. The Smoke before V1 emergency procedure requires me to communicate clearly to ATC and to the Cabin, and I fumbled that one several times until I got it right. No excuses – just blanked on that one.

During one event where we had both engines going and needed maximum power, I got creative. Read that non-standard. I thought it was reasonable and even laudable move to turn off the bleeds during the recovery from a microburst event. Doing so increases the available power to fly, but it is non-standard. The only comment I heard during the ride was the examiners distain for my taking this non-standard action. I gave him my seemingly reasonable argument, but I think that only made it worse. From then on, I listened and didn’t offer any rebuttals.

‘What if you’d turned off the AC Generators? (switches in close proximity to the bleeds)’ he said. I replied that I hadn’t and gave him my rationale for turning off the bleeds. Lesson learned is to keep my actions to the standard and trained responses, and don’t freelance.  I believe this set a negative tone to the remainder of the ride.

Train to proficiency does not apply to MV.  This is check-ride – pure and simple. Very little communication on performance occurred during the ride, and even the debrief was short.  The message was that we’d both be coming back within 6 months for another shot at it to clear up deficiencies.  I felt deflated, we were both surprised, and I felt I’d let the Captain down.

I certainly could have done better, and certainly will do that when I go back.  I own this and find that the more time that passes, the more excuses I find for it. Time to suck it up and work harder everyday at being standard; reading checklists all the way through; and doing what I need to do.

Pressing on even after this bad news, as we still had more classroom training to go through. The Line Oriented Evaluation was scheduled for the next day, so you can bet I’d be treating that one as a check-ride and not a learning experience.

Out on the curb now at 11pm – we had the late night shift. We stood there for an hour and a half waiting for the hotel van, which drove us to the airport to pick up more people before going to the hotel. Two hours later we were in our hotel rooms, needing to be in class at 9am the next morning. All we had to do now was try to sleep.

Line Oriented Evaluation: This was to be a simulated flight with two legs and some minor emergencies. The Captain and I worked very well together and our flying was spot on. This session was simulating what we do everyday, so I wasn’t surprised. It was nice to hear that the examiner on this ride stopped to talk with our first examiner right after the LOFT ended. He felt compelled to let him know he saw no issues, and that the surfaced concerns of the previous day must have been an anomaly.

It was very good ending on a high note. It took a week to salve my ego, but I’m back on the horse and dissecting this experience for whatever I might learn.

Here are the details on things I was found deficient in – man that’s hard to say:

  • Use of normal checklists: I had gotten into the habit of holding the checklist for some items and not reading it point to point. You can miss things this way. This is a bad habit they all know you pick up flying the line. I have demonstrated I need to work on this.
  • Use of Non-Normal checklists: See above. Also noted that I was found to read the entire emergency checklist, but routinely didn’t read aloud that the checklist was completed. This is the last line of our non-normal checklist, and part of our procedure. I read it each tine, but didn’t say it aloud.
  • Communication with F/A and Passengers: My smoke before  V1 procedure sucked. I fumbled the button pushing trying to communicate and evacuate. I didn’t drill this before-hand, and it showed.  It took me four times to get the flow and process right to properly respond to a smoke light before V1.
  • V Flap retract speeds on go-around:. Don’t necessarily agree here that this needed to be called out. Yes I did read off the wrong number on one go-around, but it was not a lack of understanding and it only happened once. 
  • V Climb 1 speeds on engine failure after V1:  No excuses – haven’t though about this since last year, so I grid-locked on finding the reference speed.
  • ATC Notification of emergency: See Communication complaint. Same circumstances.
  • AC Configuration at the FAF: Don’t necessarily agree here that this needed to be called out either. I’ll add some context. After a lightning strike and resulting electric system failure, the Captain and I together took the right actions and made the entire episode manageable. So manageable, in fact, that the Captain I was flying with did not declare an emergency. I flew the approach by hand, and we were given a go-around for traffic. I recognized that the expectation was to declare an emergency, and told the captain about it. After declaring an emergency, I flew a successful go-around and then successfully flew another approach by hand. During all this I was late getting the flaps out, and the examiner noticed. He is right and I’ll do better. 

What I’m doing now is breaking down the list of deficient items and ensuring I study the CQ again; the FOM procedures; as well as a deep dive into the POH Chapter 9.