Throughout your career as a pilot you will be asked to do performance checks. At Cathay, pilots must complete a flight simulator test every six months and a route check once a year to make sure they’re meeting standards. Failures do occur, so pilots need to keep their skills up to scratch at all times to pass with confidence.
Flight Simulator Tests
You will be accompanied by a partner captain and a check captain when you do your flight simulator tests. It is normal to be asked to do more than one simulation so that your ability to follow different procedures can be appraised.
The checks are conducted just as if you’re flying in a real airplane. The captains will throw problems at you all the time and you’ll need to respond swiftly and accurately in order to meet the standard. The questions they ask will often be phrased like, “What would you do if x, y, or z happens?”
Checks Improve Safety
Apart from appraising performance, these checks help pilots sharpen their instincts and prepare to manage during a crisis. Take an outstanding pilot like Captain Richard de Crespigny, who safely landed Qantas flight QF32 following an explosion in one of the Airbus A380’s engines.
He had confidence in his ability to fly the plane safely and had spent plenty of time studying the aircraft prior to the flight. As the captain has highlighted previously, Qantas gets their pilots to do four simulator tests a year. Checks keep knowledge of emergency procedures fresh in your mind.
A pilot will be asked about three major emergencies in their checks:
- Engine Failure
- Cabin Depressurisation
As you cross the ocean, you could be asked “what would you do now if you had an engine fire?” Or “what would you do if one of the engines failed?” There are procedures to follow, which you will be expected to recall right away.
These procedures are detailed. They are not only dependent on the cause of the crisis, but on things like how much fuel is on board, how far away you are from the nearest airport and what your destination is.
Preparing for the Unexpected
The answer always needs to be in the back of the pilot’s mind, because emergencies don’t occur when people expect them to. In fact they can often happen at the worst possible time and for that reason simulator tests are conducted regularly so you can practise and see for yourself how you are affected on different occasions depending on how well you’ve prepared and other performance variables.
One of the best ways to prepare for the checks conducted by the airlines is to self-assess. Testing your knowledge of what to do in an emergency is a good place to start, because it’s not something that you get to develop in your normal flying routine –– thankfully!
A big part of being able to self-assess is putting lots of reading hours in, so that when you test your knowledge (of an aircraft for example) you’re simply confirming that the information has sunk in.
Investing your time in these small extra steps when you’re a student can set you up to have a much more rewarding career and an easier time upholding high performance standards.
Stay tuned for more blogs and of course help and advice for future pilots! If you’re interested in flight simulation you can learn all about how it works at Learn to Fly here.