Line Training

Time for a long overdue update.  The more I leave it the harder it is to update so I need to crack on.  So much has been happening that I haven’t been writing about so if I get more up-to-date it should be easier to keep current.

Pictures are great.  The only way this picture is related to line training is that it was taken on evening on a walk in Chelmsford.  I stayed in Chelmsford throughout line training at London Stansted.

Pictures are great. The only way this picture is related to line training is that it was taken one evening on a walk in Chelmsford. I stayed in Chelmsford throughout line training at London Stansted. The dust was caused by harvesting in nearby fields.

With simulator and base training complete, the next stage to complete was line training.  Line training is essentially on the job training.  Training is done by a very experienced line training captain and for the first few flights, there is another pilot on the flight deck as safety pilot.  When the criteria to be safety pilot released has been met, flights are then carried out with the line training captain only.  Items that must be covered to be safety pilot released include: pre-flight safety inspections, altimeter setting procedures, low visibility approach and procedures for pilot incapacitation.

Line training continues for approximately 80 sectors (a sector is one flight, from A-B.  Number of sectors varies between operators and level of experience) and covers many procedures and discussion items.  These procedures cover all parts of a flying day: planning, aircraft pre-flight, push back, start and taxi, take-off and climb, cruise, descent and approach, landing and taxi.  Further discussion items include critical safety items such as rapid de-pressurisation, level bust avoidance, winter operations and terrain awareness.

As with all other stages of training, this stage is intense.  Intense for a few reasons.  Reason one: you’re operating with paying passengers.  I was a little nervous the first time I flew passengers but not as nervous as I thought I would be.  I was too busy to be really nervous and what is there to be nervous about?  It’s still an aircraft that you’ve already learned to fly, only it’s just a little heavier!  Reason two: line training is intense because of the long days and the busy schedule.  Never in any stage of training did I do four flights in one day and suddenly here I am doing just that.  It’s all good though, along with the four flights you get four take-offs and four landings which are most certainly the best bits!  Soon you get in to the flow of things and build a routine that works for you.

Reason three: you’re still learning.  Even though flying on scheduled services you’re still learning how to operate safely and efficiently.  The learning continues long after line training too.  One thing that takes a lot of practice is the descent profile.  In a world of clear skies, still air and no air traffic, this would be easy.  Weather, air traffic and winds all affect the descent from cruise altitude to the destination airfield.  If air traffic control keep you high while another aircraft passes below, it’s up to you to then get back on the descent profile so you’re at a suitable airspeed and altitude when it’s time to make an approach.  As with all things that require practice, you improve over time.

Line check.  Checks, checks and more checks.  What stage of training would be complete without a check?  Line training concludes with a line check and then you’re qualified to fly with regular line captains.  The check takes place over two sectors, one as pilot flying and one as pilot monitoring.  Pilot monitoring does radios and paperwork amongst other things while the other pilot flies.  The check is supposed to be just a couple of normal line flights to ensure that you are proficient in safe line operations.  That’s it.  Do what you’ve been taught to do, do it well, and the line check is complete.

There we have it.  A short essay on line training.  I’m sure there is much more to say but I’ll keep it brief for now.  If anything crucial from my line training comes to mind, I’ll pop it in another post.  Overall it was a great experience, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  During the first couple of days I wasn’t sure if I’d chosen the right job but I soon got into it and now, months down the line, I’m absolutely loving it.

Base Training

Once the Licence Skills Test was complete, there was one more hurdle to complete before starting on passenger services – taking the jet into the air for the first time!  It was an absolutely fantastic experience.

Me, in the right hand seat of a Boeing 737. Apologies for the low resolution and the poor lighting, we didn’t have all day!

I changed seats with the previous cadet at the edge of the runway so there was no time for messing about!  Headset on, belt up and adjust seat.  The captain looked over and asked: ‘Ready?’ and then I must have said something that communicated that I was because the safety pilot told the control tower we were ready for departure and before long we were on the runway all ready to go.  I knew the simulators were good but I didn’t realise how good until I was in the aircraft.  The layout and feel is exactly the same.  Everything felt familiar, the only thing that was different was the view.

After confirming runway heading on the instruments and starting the timer, I pushed the thrust levers forward to 40%.  When the engines had spooled up I heard the call from the captain ‘stabilised’ and then I pushed the TO/GA buttons and said ‘set take-off thrust.’  On take-off, pushing the TO/GA buttons activates some servos in the throttle quadrant which drive the thrust levers forward to a pre-set position which was calculated and set earlier.  When the engines have spooled up to this thrust setting, the captain calls ‘take-off thrust set, indications normal’ and then places his hand on the thrust levers.  He does this so that if the take-off needs to be rejected for any reason, he is ready immediately.  The next call I hear is ’80kts’ and I respond ‘check’ as we continue to accelerate down the runway.  Moments later the captain called ‘V1, rotate.’  As he noted V1, he removed his hand from the thrust levers.  At V1, you’re going into the air!  A rejected take-off at or above V1 would see you overrunning the end of the runway.  I applied some pressure on the control column and raised the nose and we became airborne.

Man it was fantastic.  Things happen quickly in a jet!  I had to complete six take-offs and landings for my base training to be complete.  Because East Midlands was fairly busy at the time (including another aircraft in the circuit) it took just over an hour for me to complete the training.  I had no problem with that!  Afterwards it seemed like just a few minutes.  It was just thrilling to be piloting an aircraft with a tailplane larger than the last aircraft that I flew.  There were five of us who needed to complete base training so it took some time, but it was an absolute blast.  Quite possibly the only time I’ll ever experience 30 landings in one day.

So there we have it, base training.  I wish I had written this much sooner afterwards, much of the detail has already been forgotten.

Licence Skills Test

Yesterday afternoon (and on into the evening!) and after almost 4.5 hours in the simulator, I passed my licence skills test.  The test was conducted with my flying buddy, who flew for the first part and then I flew for the second.  What is a licence skills test you ask?  Here’s a quick summary:

The purpose of the LST is to establish:

  • whether you have acquired the standard of proficiency necessary for safe operation in controlled airspace under IFR (instrument flight rules) conditions,
  • are familiar with company SOPs (standard operating procedures) and checklists, both normal and non-normal,
  • are competent to operate the aeroplane accurately in both normal and non-normal operations
  • and whether you are able to use effective Crew Resource Management skills.

The LST contained various instrument approaches throughout and also some failures and emergency procedures.  The most challenging flying is with an engine failure.  We practised an engine failure on take-off which occurred above a speed called V1.  At or above this speed there is no longer enough runway distance to stop on the runway and so the problem needs to be taken into the air.  That’s what we did.  We flew around on one engine while we did some checks on the failed engine and planned a landing with the one remaining engine.  On the first approach the weather was too bad to land and so we went around for another approach – another interesting manoeuvre – a go-around on one engine!  The second approach was successful and then we landed which was just about the end of the test.  I like examiners who don’t keep you in suspense – as we were doing the shut down checks he said something along the lines of: ‘well done lads, you’ve passed the test.’  Off we went for a debrief and then a bite to eat at the local curry restaurant.

How often do we fly single engine?  Not often.  It’s a rare occurrence that needs to be dealt with right and so is practised in the simulator on a regular basis.  Check out this video of an engine problem on take off at Manchester.  The pilots did a great job and sounded far cooler on the radio than I did in the sim.  This video shows almost the same exercise that we did during the test only these guys got to land off the first approach, were in a real aircraft and had a bunch of passengers in the back.

It’s great to have the LST done, as you are probably aware, every step of training has written or practical exams and sometimes both!  The next step now is base training which is going to be next week – it will be the first time I take a jet aircraft into the sky.  I’ll see if I can put on a bit about the simulator sessions, I was incredibly busy and as expected didn’t have the time or energy to write.

Visit to East Midlands ATC

A great shot of East Midlands control tower.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Fletcher Photography.

 A few weeks back I had the amazing opportunity to visit the control tower at East Midlands airport.  Before heading up to the main tower we had a look at the radar room.  This is where the approach controllers handle arriving aircraft before handing them over to tower for landing clearance.  The setup was quite fascinating and the active controller just worked away with a noisy crowd in the background – some serious focus going on.  I wouldn’t be able to do the job even without the noise!  There were too many screens to look at, even after half an hour in the room I didn’t know what they were all for.  While seeing the control room and some controllers in action was very interesting, it gave me no desire to be an air traffic controller.

An even better view of the best overcast sky England can muster. Wish I’d taken a proper camera rather than just my phone!

I was up for the challenge of 248 steps but in the interest of time took the lift with the rest of the group.  Sigh, maybe another day!  The tower controllers have access to pretty much the same information as the approach controllers and then an amazing view to top it off.  It was great watching the arrivals and departures from the tower, a perspective I’ve not had before.  I thought of some intelligent questions to ask our tour guide, one of the few I can remember is ‘how often are the windows cleaned?’  The response was ‘not often.’  They were last cleaned years ago – a combination of sideways rain, the rake of the glass and a special coating make it so that it doesn’t need doing often.  A good job too, I’m sure it wouldn’t be cheap!

Same as the previous picture, just with me blocking the view.

I was reluctant to leave at the end of the tour, it really was quite fascinating seeing how the controllers work to help us pilots out.  I wish I could remember the tour in a bit more detail, it’s my fault for not writing about it weeks ago.

If you get a magnifying glass you’ll be able to see the BMI Baby 737 just touching down on runway 09.

One last photo for good luck.  Training update: Ground school is complete with its various exams passed.  After a couple of weeks off I’m about to start training in the simulator.  I’ll do my best to write a little about what goes on in those training sessions but I know I’ll be busy.

Magnificent Sky

An attempt to capture this evenings sunset.

My study desk is in front of a west facing sliding door and for once I could get a glimpse of the sun as it set.  My phone camera didn’t do a great job of catching the real colour.  Sunsets are one of the best things about the sky – I can’t speak much for sunrises, I’m not often around for them!

A few weeks ago I had a study week to get through as much of the thousands of pages of materials as I could.  That was then followed by a week of computer based training, a study filled weekend (and a 16lb hamburger) and then we get to this week.  The majority of it is also computer based training with a little mix up of things – using the procedure trainer, a flight management computer trainer and an exam to name a few.  On Thursday I have a technical exam which will test the knowledge I have gained in the last few weeks of study through 120 questions.  Little time is available for much else, plus it doesn’t leave much to talk about.

Safety, Safety & Safety

Humans aren’t supposed to fly – we weren’t born with wings.  Well, at least anyone I know wasn’t.  However, for the past century or so, we have been doing our best to fly and to fly safe.  One of the things we have to take into account in modern aviation is the altitude we fly at.  High altitude is great for the aircraft and the airline – the aircraft experiences less drag because the air is less dense and also burns less fuel – good for the airline.  The thing is, humans need oxygen.  That’s why you’ve (hopefully) been breathing since the day you were born!

At 30,000 feet there is a lower concentration of oxygen than at sea level.  So low that, if you take a human from sea level to 30,000 feet in a matter of minutes, they’ll pass out and eventually…well…you know.  To get around this problem, aircraft cabins are pressurised to keep the oxygen levels far closer to what we are used to.  The pressure stays in the cabin throughout the flight until the descent to the destination airport.  During the descent the aircraft systems equalize the pressure inside the cabin to the ambient pressure outside.

As you know, before every flight there is a demonstration by the cabin crew.  They talk about oxygen masks as part of their presentation.  These would be used if there was a decompression in the cabin and the inside pressure becomes equal to the outside pressure.  These oxygen masks provide a limited supply and so the aircraft would descent to a lower altitude where the pressure is back to levels that enable us frail humans to take in enough oxygen.

The following video was referred to in class today.  We didn’t get to see it so I looked it up. It’s both entertaining and informative.  I didn’t have the time to watch it all the way through and so skipped to the part about air pressure which starts at around 13:00.  For a greater insight into what happens during a rapid decompression it’s well worth watching.  For those nervous about flying, go here instead.

Crew Resource Management

Co-pilot Checklist

Ah, if only it was that easy! (Supposedly this belongs to but I don't really know the original source.)

Joining an airline as a cadet involves many things and one of them is a Crew Resource Management course.  The purpose of a CRM course is to improve communication, decision making and safety in the flight deck among other things such as managing stress and fatigue.  I’ve seen the above picture a couple of times during my training now and it’s a dig at how captains supposedly saw co-pilots (in times past).  CRM is aimed at ensuring this is not the case in the modern flight deck.

Despite all the improvements in aircraft, navigation and air traffic control technology, the largest cause of accidents remains human error.  The primary causes of these accidents are inadequate communication, deviation from Standard Operating Procedures and errors in maintenance.  CRM is a vital skill to ensure these causes become less and less frequent.  We discussed a number of incidents throughout the day that displayed how a number of factors had combined to produce a serious incident that could have been avoided had each crew member communicated properly and essentially just watched the other pilots back.

One of the cases I found most interesting was a flight that ended with an emergency landing at Birmingham airport in 2006.  The Boeing 737 departed from Belgium and on arrival at London Stanstead airport was unable to land due to weather conditions deteriorating below minimum requirements.  The crew put the aircraft into a hold for 30 minutes to see if the weather improved and then diverted to East Midlands airport.  The weather conditions in East Midlands required the crew to make a low visibility approach to Runway 27.  At approximately 500 feet above the ground, the crew were passed a message by ATC which stated that the company (operating the aircraft) would like the crew to divert to Liverpool.

The commander of the aircraft accidentally disconnected both autopilots while attempting to reply to the message from air traffic control.  He attempted to re-engage the autopilot in order to continue the approach.  The aircraft diverged to the left of the runway centreline and developed a high rate of descent.  The commander commenced a go-around but was too late to prevent the aircraft contacting the grass which caused the right main landing gear to break off.  Fortunately the aircraft became airborne and diverted to Birmingham where a successful emergency landing was made.  In this case, the chain of events that lead up to the accident did not cause a loss of life but in many cases they do.

It’s incidents like these that cause me to say ‘what if?’  What if ATC had decided not to pass the message?  What if the crew had ignored it, landed and then asked questions?  What if the captain hadn’t hit the disconnect button?  What if the co-pilot had called for a go-around?  An awful lot of trouble could have been avoided.  CRM courses are to try and ensure things like this don’t happen by ensuring each pilot is an active team member.  Things like this really shouldn’t happen but if it can happen to the crew involved, it can happen to anyone.

For a better understanding of this incident see the following reports from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch: here and here.

Chapter 98, Type Rating Training

I don’t really know how many chapters my life covers, honest.  Still, a new chapter started today with the commencement of my type rating training.  It was a fairly long day, I got to the airport at about 08:40 for a 09:00 start and finished just after 18:00.  After an introduction to the airline we went through the vast pile of manuals, booklets and forms that cluttered our desks.  After lunch we went through the various websites and other resources we would be using to access information (up-to-date manuals, roster, briefings, airline news and so on), contact relevant people and track progress.  The day finished up with a bit of paperwork and document checking in order to progress towards the issue of relevant ID.

Aircraft Manuals

Just some of the manuals received today! Wish me luck...

Airline Interview

Before I get into this just a couple of notes: 1. I never gave a follow up post for my IRT.  Looking back now there isn’t much point – the description of the 170A pretty much covers it.  2. I didn’t write about MCC/JOC.  That’s because it was a really really busy couple of weeks.  Now, months later, I probably couldn’t write a great description.  I still have a video of one of my training sessions that I may chop up and put on here with a few words, I can guarantee you won’t want to watch the full two hours.

Right, the interview.  31st January was a beautiful day.  I was watching trees, fields and four legged beast fly past the train windows as I headed into Bradford with a friend.  Not long before we stopped in Shipley I received a call from someone at Oxford asking me about how things had been since I finished the course, including who I had applied for a job with.  After explaining what I had been up to I was informed of an interview opportunity with an airline.  They explained a couple of details and also mentioned that it was the following day, 1st February.  That was a real shocker!

Opportunities like this don’t come along every day.  Although nervous about the short notice, I accepted the invitation.  I got off the train at Bradford and went straight back home.  There was now a pile of paperwork and preparation to do in order to be ready for the interview.  The day ended with a journey to the airport where the interview was to take place and an overnight stay in a nearby hotel.

I slept quite well considering what I would be facing in the morning – I’d been hearing horror stories from interviews ever since starting ground school.  Once at the interview location, I became one of five to be interviewed throughout the day.  We were greeted by some of the airline staff and then given a presentation on how the day would run and also covered some frequently asked questions.  We were then paired up (kind of because of the odd number) with a simulator partner so we could discuss the departure and arrival procedures we would be using.

Hours passed and then I was finally called for interview.  I had spoken to both the interviewers throughout the day and was relieved to see now familiar faces.  We covered many topics during the interview.  Firstly we talked about the airline and then about my experience to date.  Part of my CV highlights my volunteer service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this was even covered during the interview.  We talked about what I did, how I interacted with people and how I dealt with the challenges that come along with such work.  For more information, see here.

The rest of the interview covered my training and also some technical questions relating to aircraft I had already flown and also a little about jet airliners.  These topics included electrical systems, engines, performance and instrumentation.  Overall it was a good experience.  The guys behind the desk were very friendly and made the interview seem more like a normal conversation rather than a grilling.  Once done with the interview, I felt like I could stomach some lunch and so off I went to eat and look over some things before going in the simulator later in the afternoon.

The simulator sessions were brilliant.  The simulators we used were very advanced and made for an enjoyable and challenging experience.  I flew first and flew a simple departure, did some manoeuvres and then on the way back to the airport dealt with an abnormal situation and then flew an ILS approach, had a go around and then a visual approach to land.  Unfortunately I have to say the ground hit us quite fast to make for a less than smooth landing!  I then switched seats with my simulator partner and acted as pilot monitoring for the duration of the flight which followed a similar profile to mine.

And that it, job done.  I made sure the last guy had a flying buddy and headed outside for some fresh air.  Thus commenced the almost three week wait to hear whether I would be offered the position.  I’m very pleased to say that I was offered the position.  Much more paperwork followed and much more hard work is ahead.  The transition to airline operations isn’t going to be easy but I’m looking forward to it after all – it’s what I’ve been aiming for.  For now, I will enjoy a trip to the States for my brother’s wedding and a nice read of the operations manual.

170A Skills Test

All the training I have received up until now has been geared towards preparing for the Instrument Rating Test (IRT).  After my final flight with my instructor I was placed on a waiting list for a test that is referred to as the 170A.  The 170A is a skills test that is carried out before one can be put forward for the IRT and verifies the applicants ability to pass the IRT.  When I was put on the list I was something like #7.  I was still #7 on Monday and Tuesday due to the high winds we were experiencing.  Enough people got done on Wednesday and Thursday for me to be scheduled to do the test on Friday.  I went into a minor panic mode, I originally thought I would have the weekend to prepare myself for the test but there it was, on the schedule, at 13:10z.  I dashed into school on Thursday afternoon to meet my examiner and ensure all the relevant paperwork was done.

Friday 07:00 and the alarm rings.  Naturally, the first thing I thought of was the upcoming 170A.  I slept surprisingly well, I think that’s mostly due to how tired I was when I went to sleep.  I heard my next door neighbour leave for a simulator session somewhere about 05:00 but I quickly went back to sleep.  I got up with plenty of time to get ready for the day, I don’t mind rushing some things, a flying exam is not one of them.  I managed to eat some breakfast, that’s a good sign!  For some of my flying tests in the states I was way too nervous to eat beforehand but today I felt fine.  Yeah, a little nervous twinge here and there but mostly fine.

It got to the airport at about 09:00 and checked the schedule to make sure I was still there.  I was – and I took a look at the arrival/departure slots board which showed I was due at Bristol for 14:00z and that the slot had been approved.  I then went into the crew room to take a look at what the weather was doing.  I was then greeted by the following:

The zone B1 was supposed to be in the shown position at around 12:00z, only a couple of hours before I wanted to be in Bristol.  Looking at the descriptions on the right, the general visibility, weather and cloud for the B zone looked all right but with the additions of B1, they looked rather unfriendly.  +RA/+TSRA and ISOL EMBD CB 015 / XXX.  Heavy rain and thunderstorms accompanied by heavy rain with isolated embedded cumulonimbus clouds.  At the bottom of the chart, TS implies hail, severe icing and severe turbulence.  The Seneca isn’t certified to fly into severe icing conditions.  From that summary it looked as if it wasn’t possible to go.  I looked at the TAF (Terminal Area Forecast) for Bristol and it gave no mention of thunderstorms.  The only thing of concern was winds forecast to be gusting to 25kts but even then they were only 20 degrees off the runway heading.

I decided to crack on with the planning and I’d take another look at the weather later.  I knew the aircraft I was to be flying had inoperative propeller de-icing equipment and so I spoke to ops who put me on another aircraft.  The route was to depart to the north-west to a way-point known as MORTN.  There I was to turn south-west towards BADIM, and intersection on the L9 airway.  Upon reaching BADIM I was to turn towards ALVIN and once there, turn southbound towards the BRI (NDB at Bristol).  This is what the route looked like on my map:

The diversion back to Oxford was planned to take pretty much the same route, leaving tracking away from Bristol 035 degrees.  All the route information on the map is entered into a navigation log which is the route represented in numbers.  This shows the leg (from/to), altitude, MSA (minimum safe altitude), wind velocity and direction, magnetic track, calculated magnetic heading, calculated ground speed, distance, time, ETA, ATA and fuel.  Numbers all over the place.  Having all this info on the PLOG enables you to anticipate the use of navigation aids and when to tune them into the radios.

After submitting my flight plan and getting all the other paperwork necessary (NOTAMS, mass and balance, performance (take-off and landing distances) done, I had a briefing with my examiner.  We went over the route and he asked me various questions about the map, airspace and air traffic procedures.  Nothing too complex fortunately!  We then arranged to meet up again once the aircraft was back so I could inform him whether we were going or not and if we were, go through the aircraft documents.  The aircraft arrived back at about 12:40z and I was supposed to have my engines started at 12:55z.  Not ideal.  I couldn’t get fuel right away and so I went inside for the documents briefing.

That was nice and straightforward.  I just went through the various documents, pointing out how I knew they were valid and applicable to this aircraft.  I then went back outside to get fuel.  All fuelled up and checks done (thanks to my flying buddy) I got in, sat down and there remained for the next two and a half hours.  I didn’t really have time to be nervous, I just got on with what I knew I had to do.  After carrying out all my before take-off checks I received my departure clearance: Brize Radar clears Oxford — standard BADIM departure, hold MORTN, climb 2,500ft, QNH 1009 squawk 5440 and next frequency Brize on 124.275.  I read the back to the tower controller and then she proceeded to give me my airways clearance information.  I was told I was cleared by London instead of Bristol and thought, wait a minute, where am I going?  The controller then corrected the clearance as being issued by Bristol.  Panic over.

At 15:00z we were cleared to take-off, only 35 minutes late!  Fortunately ATC didn’t seem bothered by it.  The tracking towards MORTN went great and before long I was heading south-west towards BADIM.  At the beginning of the leg there was quite a bit of turbulence but that settled down before too long and I was able to keep the aircraft within the altitude holding limit of +/- 100ft.  The radar controller gave me an odd radio call when I was approaching the airway that contained my routing but I never heard him state that I was cleared to enter controlled airspace and so not wanting to bust straight into it I called him up and asked whether I was cleared to enter.  He stated that I was.  Panic over.

I joined the airway, and then left a few minutes later and then headed south towards Bristol, tuning the radios and getting ready for the approach.  Shortly thereafter I began getting radar vectors and descents as the approach controller guided me towards runway 27.

Please note: plate use with permission; neither the CAA or NATS accept any liability or responsibility for the content of the information; plate is for information purposes only and not intended for operational use.

Drawn very roughly on the chart are the radar vectors that were given to me.  I was approaching on a heading of 170 degrees and then was turned onto a heading of 130, then 180 for the base leg and then an intercept heading for the ILS.  The approach was then in my hands as I guided the aircraft towards the runway closely monitoring the HSI, speed, altimeter and my distance from the runway.  The approach was deliciously smooth, those gusts that were forecast were nowhere to be seen.  There was a bit of a crosswind and some correction was required to maintain the centreline but nothing extreme.

I got down to minima, screen still there (still in cloud!) and so initiated a go-around.  Bristol had instructed me to turn right onto 360 degrees and to climb to 3000ft.  While I was climbing out my examiner gave me a simulated engine failure and I carried out the engine failure drills:

With that dealt with I continued the climb and started my diversion back to Oxford.  Before long we did the general handling section where I was to handle the aircraft with several of the instruments failed (covered up!).  I was without my attitude indicator, HSI and RMI so I had to rely on the standby compass for heading information and the turn coordinator to know if I was turning or wings level.  During that time I was required to hold heading/altitude, climb, descend and change to new headings.  After that I did some unusual attitude recoveries (where the aircraft is put in a steep turn climbing/descending and I have to recover back to straight and level).  Once done with that we did some stalls and then once I was orientated with where we were, took us back to Oxford.

Back at Oxford I carried out the NDB 19 procedure (with a simulated failed engine), flew down to minima, saw the runway and continued the approach until ACA (asymmetric committal altitude) at and then carried a go-around on one engine, flew a circuit and then landed on runway 19.  I’ll describe the 19 procedure some other time, this post is already hideously long.

It was so good to be back on the ground.  They were probably the most intense two and a half hours of my life.  Watching everything so closely, talking on the radio and handling the aircraft for during that time while being examined was rather demanding.  My examiner taxied back while I carried out the after landing checks.  After engine shut down he jumped out and went inside while I tied the aircraft down and gathered various items together.  I was hoping he would tell me the result of the exam before he left but he didn’t.  He left me hanging which made me ever so nervous!

Back inside I put the aircraft documents away and then went to meet my examiner for a debrief.  We went over the answers to a couple of questions he had asked me earlier and then he said ‘in order to carry out the debrief appropriately I’ll tell you the result and we’ll go from there.  I have given you a pass.’  My goodness, the relief was immense.  Indescribable actually!  We went over some points that I can improve on for the IRT and then went our separate ways.  Win!

I hope this has given some insight into what trainee pilots have to go through in order to gain an Instrument Rating.  It’s probably way too detailed, sorry about that.  If you’ve stuck with it, you’ve passed – a test of patience.