07 March 2009

How a Prince Should Employ his Annual Flight Evaluation

(Don't you love my incessant ripping off of Machiavelli in post titles)

Anyway, about a month or two ago, I promised a treatise on the annual check ride.  To be certain, I despise check rides.  Everyone does to a certain extent, but I really hate the (metaphorical) feeling of someone looking over my shoulder.  Good thing I don't fly a tandem-seat aircraft like an Apache, otherwise my metaphorical uneasiness would become real uneasiness.  And nothing bothers me more than metaphors suddenly coming to life.  

One of the things that's amused me recently about flying in a combat zone is that, indeed, there's a bit of normalcy in that we still do our annual flying evluations.  Complete with all the hilarity that ensues.  

1.) Yes, it is possible to get a question about metaphors on your check ride.  Back in flight school, flying the TH-67 Creek (an off-the-shelf Bell 206B JetRanger), I would get questions about the engine oil in the aircraft (more on this in the next bullet).  Of course, the learning objective was to determine how the oil lubrication system worked in the engine.  But instead of asking point-blank questions, I got questions out of the dating game.

"If I were a drop of oil, where would I start out?"
"I'm a drop of oil?"
"But that's silly.  I'm not a drop of oil."
"I'm just saying that if you were a drop of oil, where would you start out?"
"That just sounds like the bachelorette asking the three dudes what type of food she'd be.  Can we just talk about the oil pressure?"
"No, I'm a drop of oil!"


2.) The amount of trivial nonsense to know about the aircraft is inversely proportional to the complexity of the aircraft.  What that means is that on more complex aircraft (the Black Hawk), there's less complex nonsense to know.  In that aircraft, engine oil is simply a function of having it or not having it.  You can even cheat and pull out the checklist if you're ever out of engine oil,as the emergency procedure doesn't have any underlined steps (ones to memorize).  You always have another engine that's usually working fine, so there's no need to panic.  Plus, much of the engine oil system is completely irrelevant when flying the aircraft, since you can't check the oil without landing the aircraft, shutting down the engines and climbing up on top of the aircraft, so there's no need to cry over spilled, erm, oil if there is a leak.  

On less complex aircraft, engine oil becomes a nightmare in minutia.  I figure that there's so less real stuff to learn on the Bell 206, that they need to fill up a flight school student's day with the numbering system for the lubricating bearings in the engine.  If I remember correctly, there were eight lubricating bearings in the engine.  They had names, too!  The good news was that the bearings' names were based on numbers, so that seemed simple.  The bad news was that the bearings weren't named simply "1, 2, 3".  Nay, they were the "Number 1 bearing, Number 2 bearing, Number 2 1/2 bearing, Number 8 bearing".  I think the number five was inexplicably missing from that list.  Seriously, WTF Bell Helicopter-Textron?

3.) Every aviator can quote entire passages from the operator's manual from memory.  What's amusing is that, after meeting the people that produce operators' manuals, you'll find that the authors for these books come in one of two varieties:  engineers who can't write English to save their life or writers who aren't engineers.  Let's take a look at some of the hilarity that ensues in operators' manuals.

3a.) Every pilot has to learn the limitations of the aircraft, especially since these aircraft are often flown at exactly their limitations.  I suspect a non-engineer writer writes this portion, as, when read, they make common sense.  But when analyzed, they reveal some flaws.  For example, every flight school student needs to learn the limitations on each gauge.  As written, you might get limits written like "20-30 PSI Precautionary, 30PSI to 60 PSI Continuous Operation, 61-130 Precautionary".  So what happens at 60.5 PSI?  What if the pressure is exactly 30 PSI?  Does a wormhole open?  I don't know!  And guess what questions people like to ask?  These types of questions!

3b.) From the Black Hawk manual:  When you shut down the engines, in order to prevent a flame-up from leftover fuel (extremely rare), you monitor the Turbine Gas Temperature (TGT) gauge to make sure that everything is cooling down as usual.  As written in the checklist, this says "TGT TEMP-Monitor".  So that's the Turbine Gas Temperature Temperature?  Is this brought to us by the same Department of Redundancy Department that gives us such phrases like "ATM Machine"?  (The question is whether it's an engineer that doesn't understand redundancy or a writer that doesn't understand the meaning of "TGT" that wrote this line)

3c.) When you do a "Thru-flight", a second flight in a day on the same aircraft, you don't have to go through all of the cockpit equipment checks that you did on the first startup.  It's assumed that this is the second (or more) flight of the day.  What baffles me is that the Black Hawk checklist also includes the step in the "Thru-flight" portion of the checklist that says "Engine Fuel System selectors as desired--Crossfeed for first flight of the day".  We've already established, by the fact we're in the Thru Flight checklist, that it's not!  My head hurts!

3d.) "Autorotate" is defined as "establishing the flight controls as necessary to establish an autorotational descent and landing" in the emergency procedures portion of the manual of nearly every helicopter.  An engineer must be writing this, because the rest of us know that you can't define a word by using it in the definition.  (e.g., The definition of "run":  To partake in running.  See, it doesn't work!  And guess which question I'm probably going to get.  You guessed it.)

Focus:  More "check ride" hijinks.  Come on, I know someone has them.  



Anonymous said...

"If I were a drop of oil, where would I start out?"

I think that depends on whether you're a Creationist or not. If you are, God placed you in the earth as one of the bounties for mankind to enjoy. If not, you started out as probably a dinosaur a long, long time ago. And why are you questioning me about my religious beliefs, anyway?

Tim said...

I spent six years as a UH-1H Crew Chief. do you know how hard it is to sit in the back seat and keep a straight face when your pilot is having his check ride. After about six months of really working closely with 2 warrants, some of the strangest check ride story's can be heard. like the one where right in between a control change: for now flight folks procedure is 1.I have the controls 2.you have the controls 3.I have the controls. here is what happened 1. I have the controls 2. you ha. (master alarm sounds as engine windes down to 0) when you are sitting in the middle seat and watch 2 grown men one a wo1 the other a w03 check pilot trying to figure out right then who had control of the aircraft When it was happening and you knew they were really in control of the problem it was just funny to see.