I just read a blog post from my buddy Swayne Martin about a difficult lesson he had this week while preparing for his Private Pilot's License. There were several learning opportunities that occurred during the lesson that caught him by surprise. He expressed more than once that he was "disappointed" with his performance. I can relate to that sentiment. Sometimes the difficult lessons are the most beneficial, but they aren't always the most fun. Today marked the end of the second week of a three week ground school program preparing me for three exams I'll have to take next week. Of course, the end goal is to prepare me to be the best line pilot I can be, but right now, the focus is all on those darn exams...one step at a time.
So far my instruction has been focused on aircraft systems, emergency action items that must be performed from memory and the use of the Flight Management System (FMS) installed on our Boeing 737s. Next week, I'll have one more day of instruction, followed by two days of what we affectionately call "stump the dummy." My instructor will use those two days to ask me everything I need to know to pass the exams. Once the exams are completed, I will be able to focus my attention on simulator training.
I had a few difficult lessons this week as the training schedule seems to close in on me when I most need extra time. Each day, I have around three hours of instruction, two students with one instructor, followed by three to four hours of self-paced computer based training. After I've checked those two items off the to-do list, I spend hours reviewing past lessons and preparing for what will be discussed the next day. There simply isn't enough time to do everything I would like to accomplish.
Another part of my instruction takes place in procedure trainers like the ones I described in my last post. Fortunately, my instructor successfully scheduled a full motion simulator for most of these lessons. The sim is a much more useful instructional tool that accurately represents almost anything we might experience while flying the real airplane. The up-side to using the sim is that I will be much more prepared for the next level of my training. The down-side is that I'm expected to perform far more procedures than I would if we were using one of the paper trainers. I keep reminding myself that the extra work will pay off.
We flew the sim again today...this time with me in the left seat and my sim partner acting as the first officer. We learned all about the HUD today, so I dropped the screen and utilized it for takeoff and landing just to get a feel for how it works. The HUD is only installed on the captain's side of our 737s, so I won't get to use it on the line. One of the bad aspects of training in both seats is that I've gotten a taste for the left seat again. I can't explain it, but the world looks very different from over there...and I like it a lot.
Since I was well prepared for class, the first week of training was relatively low stress. So far the instructor hasn't told me very much that I didn't already know. The stress ramped up this week as my duties in the simulator multiplied, reading assignments got longer and next week's tests got a little closer. I'll spend my weekend seeking out quiet places to study...not an easy task with my wife and two young girls in the house. I think I see a trip to the library in my future.
Enjoying the journey.