Flight plan

My flight plan....

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Getting checked

This drawing was sent in from whywhyzed. The same cartoon has been posted in Air Canada's training centre for years. I wonder if someone rehung it in our new training centre because it speaks volumes? Much talk has been on computer resets and automation. Captain Ian (Flying Scotsman) recently posted on the B777 wizardry. I swallowed the huge Airbus pill 14 years ago, but lately it's been giving some indigestion. 

Day one went okay on my annual route check. Luckily the weather was good due to a big fat high pressure system dominating the eastern continent. Last year I had to contend with a raging snowstorm.

The first leg is to YHZ (Halifax) and the ramp checks are going well. So far the “checker” seems like a good guy but in the back of my mind I’m saying, “never let your guard down.” These guys have the capability of ripping up your license right in front of your eyes.

I must admit I have been a little slack in reviewing the mandatory emergency drills with my F/Os so I had to rattle them off to appease the checker. I hardly stuttered.

The first one is for a “reject.”

…in the advent of an abnormality prior to V1 I will call “continue” or “reject.” If the decision is to reject I will…

The second is for an engine fire or failure after V1.

Third is for a rapid depressurization.

Plus, for the first briefing of the pairing we must review our go-around procedures. True this can be done while flying, but I thought I would woo him on the ground.

Everyone wants an on-time push back. The time is automatically datalinked when the captain releases the park brake. We are not allowed to do this prematurely (cough, cough). So with a checker on board I had to exercise diligence with the lead rampie asking for an early park brake release. Things are very busy prior to closing. The Emergency drills take five minutes alone. Then a pilot from another airline is asking for a jumpseat reciprocal form so he can travel free. More paperwork.

I calm down enroute to YHZ. The runway in use is the backcourse 32 and the localizer only on 05. Neither is my runway of choice especially when it’s 900 feet overcast. I tell the checker to set me up for the ILS 23 approach. Keep it nice and easy. Why rock the boat by upping the workload on a check ride? We descend at a docile 250 knots. Air Canada and many other airlines are using low performance factors into the flight plan to reduce fuel costs. (We program the flight management system as to what the flight plan states.) Meaning it’s better to arrive late than burn extra fuel.

At 14,000 feet with me in a nice comatose state ATC says,  "unable ILS 23 cleared to the ODKAS fix for the LOC approach to 05 maintain 4000 feet." Holy shi...(expletive). Capt. Doug is now 4500 feet high on the approach. I’ve got the speed brakes to full and the speed dialled up to 320 knots to get down. The checker is busy changing runways and I’m hoping he doesn’t notice I may bust the mandatory speed limit of 250 knots passing through 10,000 feet. Everything is now in the “box” i.e the Airbus is programmed. I give him control to check his work and to give him a long winded briefing. He (like most pilots in this fast action scenario) hears nothing because he is too focused flying but it’s got to be done for the lawyers and the CVR (cockpit voice recorder). The approach turns out well and by the book. I thank my lucky stars.

Now it’s to YUL (Montreal). The captain greases it on. Not bad for being recently checked out to fly in the right seat. Actually, he was a training first officer in the simulator and during his upgrade he also took on supervisor status. He is 800 numbers junior to me and is very close to the bottom of the 320 captain list. In order to get a better schedule and more pay many pilots become checkers. Smart move on their part.

Our third leg is YUL to YYT (the rock) arriving at 1:00 am local, three legs and three aircraft switches. We realize our database is going to expire in three hours. We call maintenance and dispatch under MEL (minimum equipment list).

I do a fully managed ILS 29 approach. Heck the winds are only 15 knots. I set the park brake. Here ends day one.


Rick Grant said...

I am a little puzzled by the Check Captain function.

I would have thought that someone who had the power to ground a pilot would be very senior and highly experienced. Yet, the one you are writing about appears to be very junior.

What are the qualifications for a Check Pilot?

I also wonder about the social pressure that they must be under. Surely they are avoided in social settings and I would imagine that even professional interactions must be strained.

Is it like having a police officer in the back seat of your car all the time or am I reading way too much into all this?

From the Flight Deck said...

Rick. Any captain can become a "check captain." Some companies call them "check airman."
From the words of my checker, he said there are "climbers" and "hiders" in the checking department.

You would think only the chief pilot could ground a pilot. In a way, it's true. The checkers would take you off the line and file your case.
These checkers are Transport Canada approved. They have "A" authority and they too get checked out from Transport to keep their
check captain status. Yes, they can be very junior. Checkers make their own schedule.

Speaking of social pressure, I asked if the checker wanted to meet up for dinner today. He was taken aback. I guess not everyone wants to socialize with a checker. Most of them are great people, but it's like most other companies, the peons don't mix with management.

Yes, it's like having the police trail you. It's difficult to relax.

Thanks for the questions.


arf said...

Fascinating post!

From the Flight Deck said...

Thanks Arf. It's 3:30 a.m Newfoundland time (2:00 a.m Toronto time) and it's time for some more checking with a 6:00 a.m departure to YHZ and then to YYZ.

Capt. Doug

whywhyzed said...

Sounds tense. More questions!

Is the checker union or management? If he's '800 numbers junior' then he must be union, no? (By the way it always puzzles me that you guys seem to know everyone else's seniority number right off the top of your head -- I know it's a 'religion', and I guess there's a published list, but how did you know who the checker was? Do you know in advance who it's going to be?)

Is this different from 'Line Check'? Does it always last several legs or even days?

You have to get 'checked out' to fly in the right seat?

I fly a lot (almost every week) and the odd time I have seen two 4-stripers up there in the pointy end -- is this what's going on?

Is checking a full-time effort for these guys?

Do the F/Os also get checked like this, or is this just a command thing?