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Forever Primate…

April 3rd, 2006 · 3 Comments

Over the last two days, I spent time at my company’s flight operations training center completing my yearly recurrent course. The two-day course involves a day’s worth of ground school relating to aircraft systems, procedures, and company policy. Usually there’s a hefty dose of “rumor-telling” to be accomplished as well. The following day is spent in the simulator. For some, the simulator ride will be a “Proficiency Training” event. For others (like me), it’s called a “Proficiency Check.” The main difference between a PT and a PC is that you can’t fail a PT. The PC is a checkride, therefore your job is on the line.

Now before you all go thinking that an airline PC is an overly stressful, worrisome thing, let me just say that every PC I’ve ever taken (probably about a dozen) has been quite the opposite. Most of the checkairmen understand that there’s a small degree of stress involved in the preparation and execution by the person being checked. Therefore, they usually try to keep things very low-key and mellow. No one’s out to take your job from you. These checks are merely required by the FAA. It’s simply a box to fill on a government form.

For a First Officer, training events occur once in a twelve-month period. My company’s training cycle alternates proficiency checks with proficiency training, so a true “checkride” only occurs once every two years for guys like me. It’s a bit different for Captains, however. Captains are required to have training events every six months, and with the alternating cycle, “checkrides” occur once a year.

During checkrides, the FAA has established a list of certain tasks that are to be performed by each pilot being checked. They normally include a handful of instrument approaches (a few ILS approaches and a couple non-precision approaches such as a VOR approach). Some of these approaches are required to be flown on a single engine. Most of these approaches are flown in (simulated) nasty weather, with low cloud ceilings and degraded visibilities. Interspersed among these instrument approaches, the checkairman usually gives his victims (the two pilots being checked) a few systems abnormalities (fires, failures, etc.) to test their knowledge of the systems and their ability to utilize good crew coordination and the company Quick Reference Handbook (see “How It’s Done (Part 2)” for more information).

In addition to the basic requirements, there are a few other tasks that need to be accomplished regarding company specific procedures. For instance, we need to complete several hand-flown Category III ILS approaches, with the captain utilizing the Head-Up Guidance System (HGS). In addition, we need to show our proficiency at following specific non-standard single engine departure procedures (terrain-avoidance procedures) after having an engine fail (often catastrophically) just as we leave the ground.

My partner for yesterday’s event was a 28-year captain with the airline. It’s kind of strange how these things happen, really. I’m taking my very first PC with the company, and he’s taking his very last. He’s retiring in less than six months after spending 28 years with the company, and when I started last year, I had 28 years almost to-the-day until mandatory retirement. It’s a yin-yang thing I think.

At any rate, I completed all of this yesterday at about 1500 Central Time. How’d I do? I guess the only polite way to describe it is: I’ve had better checkrides, but I passed.

I looked kind of like a primate consummating a long-term relationship with an oblong piece of pigskin-wrapped sporting equipment, but I passed.

I’m now officially “off probation.” Now all I have to do is sit back and wait for another month until the really big paychecks start coming.


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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anonymous // Apr 3, 2006 at 9:02 pm

    Please contact editor@americasflyways.com

  • 2 John // Apr 4, 2006 at 3:18 am


    Few professions require that one be evaluated annually and that your continued livelihood depend on your performance. I head off next Sunday for my sim sessions … oh joy!

    Quick! What’s the wingtip velocity of an unladen sparrow?!

  • 3 GC // May 24, 2006 at 5:57 am

    African or European?

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