Thursday, 7 February 2013

Exams over II!

This is just a quick progress update...

We have just walked out of the last of our seven phase one written exams - it's all over!

Unfortunately due to some questionable planning on my part I can't head straight for the pub with the others as I have not one but two medicals to endure this afternoon; one for EASA (Europe official aviation bods) and one for the FAA (American equivalent).

Pilots often get stressed about medicals as their jobs and future rely on the outcome, but after a week like this I don't have any capacity to worry left.

The subjects we have been examined on were:
  • Principles of Flight. This is essentially physics and aerodynamics with the focus on aspects that are important to piloting and safety
  • Airframe systems and propulsion. This is a bit of 'dumping ground' of a subject including diverse material such as structures, electrics and engines, but the main bulk is understanding all the systems on a modern passenger jet. A big subject.
  • Instrumentation starts with basic old fashioned pressure instruments and continues right up to the latest flight management computers and electronic displays and autoflight. It is a minefield of acronyms, most of which start with A and many of which actually stand for other acronyms...
  • Meteorology another big subject that goes into surprising detail about local winds and climates as well as the bigger picture of how weather is generated, and how it affects aircraft.
  • Human Performance looks at physiology and psychology and ask what lessons we can learn for better flying and flight safety.
  • Finally VFR and IFR communications. This is radio technique and associated knowledge (VFR is flying when you can see where you are going, IFR is when you may not be able to).
 In total that makes 8.5 hours of exams over four days, pretty exhausting. It represents three solid months of study and revision.

Just over half of ground school is now completed which is a good feeling, and also marks the start of a welcome two-week break.

Some football player or other enduring a similar
medical examination
I think they went pretty well, with only a handful of questions in each subject being unfamiliar or ambiguous. Being multiple choice exams, it's generally possible to have a good guess even if you are not certain by eliminating the incorrect answers; but you do need a bit of luck on your side.

Last week I was fortunate enough to experience a 'familiarisation flight' with a British Airways crew, flying to Milan and back in the cockpit 'jumpseat'. I will write up this fascinating trip very soon, but just now I am off to get drunk poked and prodded by the aviation medical examiner.


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