Monday, 19 November 2012

High pressure slowly building

We are now one month into ground school, veritable old hacks, and staring the first set of tests in the face. Different groups above us are sitting their school final exams, both for the first and second phase of teaching, and their is a noticeable sense of tension in the corridors and lounges of the academy.

Back at the student digs, you can find clutches of cadets furiously revising in the common room at any time of day or night, quizzing each other on some of the more obscure and esoteric information we are expected to remember. "Before 1 April 2008, did all aircraft with a gross weight more than 5700kg require a 2 hour cockpit voice recorder, or was it 30 minutes... it depends if it is a turbine aircraft..." You get the picture.

Remarkably, all written exams in aviation are multiple choice. On the face of it, this would seem to make it laughably easy to pass them, but of course the European Aviation Safety Agency know this and employ techniques to make it more difficult.

Their favourite is wording the question as badly as possible, and an close second is deliberately trying to set verbal traps for the unwary. Understanding the question is generally more difficult than working out the answer, to the extent that some questions seem to make no sense at all. Perhaps this is to level the playing field for non-native English speakers, or perhaps they just don't want smart-arses getting 100%. Who knows?

The school's own question bank aims to be as realistic as possible and hence subscribes to the same philosophy. So even though I am confident of the material I am still a little apprehensive about next week's tests.

The subjects we are being tested on are:
  • Principles of Flight is mostly physics, which I studied at university back in nineteen-ninety-something. There is not much memory work and I'm not expecting any problems here.
  • Airframe Systems an interesting but huge subject and very fact-heavy. Much of it is functional information which is easy recall, but there is quite a lot of detail and numerical data to digest as well. I think that piston engines and DC electrics will be lumped in as well as it is a long exam.
  • Meteorology I have studied this several times before; at A-level, for the gliding bronze badge, for my private pilot exams and just out of interest. Our syllabus extends this only slightly.
  • Instruments again for me this is mostly existing knowledge, but there are plenty of calculations which can be quite error-prone.
  • Human Performance Here may be dragons. A lot of the subject is a combination of simple physiology and common sense, but there are plenty of rather arbitrary numbers and lists they can quiz you on. If you forget them, you can't figure them out. It could go either way.
I can be a bit of a perfectionist but aiming for 100% given this verbal ambiguity would seem over-ambitions. I might regret writing this, but I would like to see an average of at least 95% across the subjects.

New digs and other good tidings

Some of my colleagues and I have been moved to some rather superb accommodation a few miles from the school. The pictures (taken by my gorgeous wife) give you the idea — it is certainly a grand place. Admittedly, we are in a modern block around the back of the main house, but it's in good nick and we get to use the hotel facilities including the pool and gym, so there is no excuse for not staying in shape.

We have also received welcome news about the 'fair-weather' flight training section of our course which is held in Phoenix, Arizona. The school is moving to a different (less busy) airport on the other side of town, called Falcon Field.

The place is steeped in aviation history, and is home to the Arizona wing of the Commemorative Air Force who preserve and fly historic aircraft. It was originally named Thunderbird Field III. This is clearly a far better name, but the RAF decided it wasn't English enough and changed it when they started training pilots there in the second world war.

Again there is some fantastic accommodation lined up for us. I have heard that new training aircraft are expected before we start — probably the — and that there will be investment in new safety equipment and procedures. So Mum, Dad, you have even less to worry about.

It seems like we were at the right place at the right time with our training. I certainly hope this streak of good luck lasts... preferably to the end of our tests on Wednesday!

Back to work...

1 comment:

  1. Great blog, do you have a 'contact me' area anywhere?


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