Wednesday, July 07, 2010

I had an interesting flight yesterday, but I wasn't sitting in the front. I was in fact squatting in the aisle for most of it. Nope, this wasn't in the simulator either.

Long story long: I'm an ACP (Approved Check Pilot) for the Citation 550, which means I can do checkrides on other pilots in that particular type of aircraft. I wanted to widen my scope a little bit, so I asked Transport Canada if I could get authority to do checkrides on all single-and-multiengine non-high-performance aircraft, which essentially means all non-jet aircraft. They responded with a letter saying that they would like to see me conduct a checkride on a small aircraft first before making up their minds. The letter pointed out that I have only conducted checkrides in the simulator before, and conducting one in an actual aircraft can be a quite different experience (I found out yesterday how very true that is, but I'm getting ahead of myself). Fair enough, that's entirely within their rights. I started looking about for someone who might need a checkride, and I ended up chatting with a friend I have known for a few years, a guy I flew with who later left the Citation 550 and went into management at a different charter company that operates turboprop (jet engines that spin propellors) aircraft. He mentioned that one of his pilots needed a renewal checkride, and the die was cast. I told him that a Transport Canada inspector would be riding along with us, watching me watch the candidate, and to his eternal credit he agreed to that scenario. Perhaps you're thinking "Sure he agreed, it wasn't him that was going to be flying", but that's only partially true. You see, the particular turboprop aircraft we flew on is certified for flight with one or two pilots, depending on the scenario, and my friend would be acting as the copilot on the checkride. The funny thing about being a copilot on a ride is that you don't necessarily get anything renewed at the end of the ordeal, but if you screw up you can have your license suspended. Now that I think about it, I guess that's not actually very funny, but whatever - it's how things are done in Canada.

Anyhoo, I have only flown in this particular turboprop as a passenger before, so I got my grubby paws on some aircraft manuals and did some studying so I'd at least have some decent questions to ask the candidate during the ground briefing. I prefer to ask questions that have an operational slant to them - instead of asking stuff like "draw me a diagram of the fuel pump and explain how it works", I prefer to ask things like "If you land at an airport and they accidentally fuel you up with avgas (for piston-powered aircraft) instead of jet fuel, can you fly the airplane home?" or "You are stuck at an airport overnight in -40 temperatures. The only hangar that's available is 50 feet wide by 50 feet deep by 18 feet high. Will the plane fit?" or "On your walkaround you notice that one of your two aircraft batteries is dead, but the other one is fine. Can you still go flying?" You get the idea. So I cracked open a whole pile of reading material, including their company Ops Manual and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), which provide blueprints about how they operate the airplane and the specific duties and roles of the Captain and First Officer during the flight. For example, the SOP's will list the verbal callouts that each pilot is expected to make during the takeoff roll, like this:

Captain: Full power, engine gauges are green, airspeed is alive
First Officer: 70 knots
Captain: Crosscheck
First Officer: 84 knots, rotate
First Officer: Positive Rate
Captain: Gear up
First Officer: through 400 feet
Captain: Flaps up


That way I'd know what to listen for during the flight, and I'd have a better idea of what was going on. Every company has a slightly different way of operating, and differences in SOP's can be significant even if they are operating exactly the same type of aircraft - when I fly a Citation 550 for a friendly competitor I make different verbal calls and perform different actions than when I fly our Citation 550 - different strokes for different folks I guess.

Now getting back to the checkride - as it was going to be in the actual airplane, we would be departing Toronto Pearson and flying to a nearby airport to conduct our training exercises - Pearson is waaaay too busy for that sort of thing. When I do checkrides I like to make up a script that details the exercises we will be covering, along with the general order. In the simulator you can be totally specific about what's gonna happen, and I detailed a simulator script in a previous post. However in the real airplane, sometimes things happen - other aircraft are flying around the airport and you might not necessarily get the exact approach you were hoping for, or the exact runway, or the exact sequence of events you had planned out, so you have to be flexible and if you get a curveball, you might need to plan something else that covers the required items on the ride but in a different way.

On an IFR PPC checkride there are a number of different requirements, including:

- at least 2 takeoffs and landings
- a non-precision approach, and a precision approach
- a hold
- steep turns
- a rejected landing / missed approach
- at least 2 engine failures
- other emergencies as required (that part is fun because you get to decide what simulated emergencies the candidate has to deal with)
- a landing with at least 50% of the available engines failed (you can simulate the engine failures by pulling the power back on the affected engines, we never actually shut them off in the actual airplane)
- other requirements as dictated by the Company Operations Specifications

In this case, the company that operated the turboprop had a couple of addons - they did GPS approaches, they did circling approaches, and they wanted the pilot certified as a Captain in a multi-crew environment and as a single-pilot Captain.

It was time to earn my outrageous salary. I put on my thinking cap and made up a script that would cover the required items. It took me a few beers and some minor cursing but I managed to make it work in a fairly efficient way, at least on paper.

The script for the ground briefing looked something like this:

1. Explain procedures for Engine Failure in Flight, climbing through 1,000'
2. Explain procedures for Crew Incapacitation
3. Explain procedures for Engine Fire during takeoff roll
4. Discuss realistic scenario (like the questions I asked about the hangar width and aircraft misfuelling etc) and answer 5 questions relating to it.

The script for the flight looked something like this:

1. Engine start with simulated malfunction (Hung Start)
2. Area Departure, track to nearby airport
3. Steep turns
4. Hold at a nearby airport beacon
5. Engine Chip light illumination
6. GPS approach for a runway, circling for a different runway
7. Rejected Landing / Missed Approach
8. Visual circuit back to original runway with engine failure on downwind leg
9. Land
10. Single-pilot flight back to Toronto with ILS approach runway 23
11. Land, kiss the ground and endorse the candidate's license

Oh, here's a pic of a typical interior that this type of airplane might have. Pretty nice, eh. This turboprop is not small.

Now here's a pic of a what this type of aircraft looks like:

You may notice a couple of things. First, whomever painted this particular airplane (not the one we flew) probably needs a seeing-eye dog. Second, it has but a single engine. I haven't flown in a single-engine airplane for years, and as part of our checkride, I was going to ask the pilot to simulate an engine failure. Let's hope this puppy can glide better than a brick...

Oh, one last thing before I continue this post tomorrow...Transport called a few days ago and said that the TC Inspector who was assigned to monitor me was also going to bring a junior inspector along to show him how to monitor people conducting checkrides. That means there would be a guy watching the guy watching me watch the candidates. No pressure.

More tomorrow :)


whywhyzed said...

This is fascinating -- I wonder how many regular Joes out there have any clue about what goes on in the background with pilot certification, etc.
Can hardly wait for how it went!

ATC Happenings said...

I can't wait to hear how the rest of the story goes. That is one thing about our industry - someone is always watching... or listening!

Aviatrix said...

That's the record for the longest chain of people watching each other that I've ever seen on a checkride.

belowthewing said...

That is one god-awful paint scheme on that PC-12.

A very interesting post. Can't wait to read the outcome.

Anonymous said...

The colour scheme is from a previous tie-up with the Red Bull F1 team when it was sponsored by Petronas (thats where the colours come from)
They have removed the decals and just left the colours.

Anonymous said...

So you moonlight, sort test your own skills and ramp them up to create some stimulation in your career? What a creative way to make a little scratch and have an interesting experience as well as a good story.

Anonymous said...

So you moonlight, sort test your own skills and ramp them up to create some stimulation in your career? What a creative way to make a little scratch and have an interesting experience as well as a good story.