April 19, 2013

Week two of 737 Ground School.........Check!

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.


  1. Thanks for writing that post Brad and including me in it!

    Yep... flight training isn't all "smooth landings," but that's a good thing! It's all part of an amazing learning journey

    You can find more about what can make flight training challenging by reading this post on my blog: http://martinsaviation.blogspot.com/2013/04/flight-training-isnt-all-smooth-landings.html

    Glad to see that you're enjoying the journey, it's a fun ride!
    -Swayne Martin

  2. It's quite interesting to see how different airlines approach Type Rating courses.

    It seems they tend to include a lot more self-learning material over here in Europe. When I did my 737 300/900 type rating, we had two weeks of CBT (Computer Based Training) with the opportunity to ask questions to a ground instructor at the end of each day.

    We were given question banks and the exams were very close to what we had learnt. To be honest, at some point it was more about learning the answers than thoroughly understanding all the systems. This was done later by going through the FCOM's and other technical books (I strongly recommand The Boeing 737 Technical Guide by Chris Brady).

    We spent hours and hours on cockpit trainers learning the SOP's and memory items. FMC and AFDS logic was taught with a computer software and then only we got to fly the simulator.
    If I remember correctly, the first two sessions (8 hours) were focusing only on safety inspection, rainbow check and initial setup. And about 90% of the time in the sim (70 hours in total) was non-normal events.
    Most of the FMC tricks and the VNAV features were taught during Line Training.

    In total, almost three months of ground school and quite a long Line Training for FO's. But most of them join with under 1500 hours...

    They usually pair two FO's and two Captains together (and this applies to most airlines in Europe) rather than a FO with a Captain. I don't really know the reason behind this choice.

    All the best with the remaining weeks of training,
    The 737 is a fantastic aircraft to fly.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      I'll look for Chris Brady's book. There is definitely a focus here on passing the exam that seems detrimental to actually learning and understanding the aircraft systems. The goal of passing the exam and the goal of understanding the systems aren't always in sync.

      Interesting that your course was so long. Mine is only a 30 day course plus about 15 hours of Line Operating Experience, but I'm already typed in the airplane and I've flown for the airline for many years.

      Happy landings.

  3. B737 has a HUD!!! Didn know that..