What to Expect from Airline Pilot Performance Checks

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.

Emergency Scenarios

A pilot will be asked about three major emergencies in their checks:

  • Fire
  • 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.

Self Assessments

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.

5 Ways to Make Flight Training More Efficient

As a flying school, we’re always thinking about ways to help our students get the most out of their flight training course. We believe it’s so important for students to be able to motivate themselves as they work through their training hours, and part of this is applying efficient learning tactics that keep everything progressing at a healthy rate.

Efficient flight training results in less money and time spent, as well as an overall boost in learning gains over a period. So from every angle there’s a benefit to the student who finds ways to learn more efficiently. Here are five to get the ball rolling!

1. Preparation

Make it a goal to come prepared. Student pilots who do preparation before their training get more out of their lessons. It makes sense that you have tried to improve your theoretical understanding of flying in between training sessions, you can more or less just work that into practice when you arrive on your training days.

Preparation can mean:

  • Doing practice radio calls
  • Studying theory
  • Knowing the flying pattern
  • Learning procedures at the training airport

Ask your instructor for details about your next lessons, and for ideas on any extra study that could help you get the most out of it. They will be happy to help!

2. Flight Simulation

Technology has a lot to do with efficiency. If your flying school has a Flight Simulator, you should be making use of it. For the first few lessons of flight training in particular, a Flight Simulator can help you get used to flying procedures. Learning these procedures in the simulated environment first means that time spent in the real cockpit can be used to test this knowledge rather than build its foundation, and it gives you more of an opportunity to hone other aspects of flying.

3. Teamwork

Find a peer to connect with over the course of your flight training. The enthusiasm generated between fellow enthusiasts becomes self-perpetuating and the interaction, both in the air and on the ground, can be highly motivating. If you’re generally quite hard on yourself, this is a great way to get another perspective on the training process, and greater boost from each of your achievements along the way.

4. Reflection

As a student, you should be thinking about the process of flying while on ground. This will help you to focus your mind during flight, and get used what to expect and how the flight should progress. It will also help you to get ahead of the aircraft when transitioning to different stages of the flight, such as from take-off to the climb and then cruise.

5. Look for Schools Offering Value

Look for a good flying school with high standards, and when comparing different schools think about them based on the value they offer you. Value doesn’t just mean finding the cheapest course. It combines quality of instruction, aircraft, facilities and of course, pricing. Find out if the school you’re looking at has instructors with a passion for mentoring others, and are not only accruing their teaching hours in order to get into other jobs. High standard flying schools all have one thing in common: they’re there for you, the student!

Are you thinking about the Flight Simulator we mentioned earlier? We’ve got one! You can read all about how it works here.

Life as a Learn to Fly Student #4 | Simulation Training

With the abundant amount of flight simulator programs for sale or available to download for free on the market, it is a given that any real aviation enthusiast will use such programs to simulate and experience what real flight is actually like. For the most part, and as a flight simulator enthusiast and student pilot, I think flight simulator programs do a relatively good job of portraying the numerous nuances of flying as well as real flight itself.

Do you think flight simulation has been a good addition to your flight training?

It can take a little while to get used to flight simulation, but I think once you do it is a great addition to flight training. Many amateur flight simulation hardware such as joysticks, yokes and rudder pedals have way too little travel and this means many nicely modelled flight simulator aircraft can feel sensitive, twitchy and generally out of whack. This is also the main reason many flight instructors still believe that flight simulators can have detrimental effects on a student’s performance.

However, as a student who has used a flight simulator before actual flight training, I have to say that flight simulation has done more good than harm to my flight training. One must just make sure the hardware gives enough good feedback when flying on flight simulator.

Which flight simulation programs do you use?

I currently use two main flight simulator programs, Microsoft Flight Simulator X and X-Plane 10, each has their own merits and shortfalls but I believe both programs are very good if you are looking for some reasonably realistic flight simulation.

What do you like about Flight Simulator X?

Flight Simulator X has a long history in the flight simulation community. In the past, Microsoft had a flight simulation division composed of real world pilots as well as seasoned programmers and engineers. Their purpose was to develop one of the longest standing and most powerful flight simulator programs for sale. Since the termination of this flight simulator development team, the code has been sold to Dovetail Games and is distributed on Steam® for a reduced price compared to the original with DLC expansion packs to enhance general user experience.

Flight Simulator X is highly flexible and modular due to the nature of aircraft development. Simply put, each aircraft is fully modelled using a 3D modelling program and the flight dynamics are written and contained within coded files, which are written by the developers.

Coded files give programmers and developers more flexibly when simulating some of the aircraft’s systems and particular flying quirks as it allows for a nearly unlimited span of development. Such is evident in the company, A2A Simulations, with their impeccably modelled Cessna 172R trainer and many other training models. They are the pioneers of persistent modelling as well as wear and tear, as they have even modelled a full maintenance hangar and preflight which is not only a gimmick, but required if you do not want to suffer from any catastrophic failure in flight.

On top of that, such simulation even mimics the stick force feedback you have on real aircraft. Although it does have obvious limitations, it does make the feedback and control inputs smoother, more intuitive and more realistic.

It should be noted that I am by no means endorsed by A2A Simulations to say such message, as the simulation has obvious limitations due to the fact that it’s only a simulator. However A2A Simulations and Flight Simulator X has helped me greatly by assisting and speeding up my training.

How much can I do on a flight simulator at home?

You can do a great deal on a simulator at home with a joystick, to improve or speed up the progress of your training. One can follow the syllabus of a typical Recreational Pilot Licence, starting from effects of controls as well as straight and level flight, to slowly study how controls affect an aircraft in flight.

If the correct model is chosen for the flight simulator, aerodynamic modelling shouldn’t be too much of an issue. It is important to select a model with correct modelling of aerodynamic properties such as torque and the slipstream effect as that will allow you to correctly make control inputs.

How do you practice radio calls?

With the advent of VATSIM, which is a network of virtual air traffic controllers and pilots, people who use flight simulators can even practice radio calls with actual “controllers” and learn about airspace rules and regulations. The most important thing about VATSIM is improving radio confidence and discipline, knowing that radio calls can be daunting at first. However, I must thank VATSIM for this, as the first time I keyed the mic and talked to ATC at Moorabbin Airport, it was nearly as smooth as silk and my radio calls are always hailed as “excellent.”

Is the flight simulator as good as flying a real aircraft?

Eventually, one will find that flying in real life is much easier than flying on the simulator due to the abundant amount of control feedback. You will have a direct link to the control surface, which means you can “feel” the air and how firm the controls are so you will know whether or not you’re slow or fast just by control feel alone. With control feedback on a real aircraft, you will find trimming to be much easier and it will actually allow for smoother flying despite possibly turbulent conditions.

But in a nutshell, it comes down to these four things:

Have fun, fly safe, listen to your instructor and enjoy every minute you have in the aircraft!

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