Checkride Realism

By lex, on November 18th, 2010

Nothing was simpler than doing a check ride while forward deployed to Japan: There were no simulators at Naval Air Facility Atsugi at the time, so everything had to be done in actual airplane, in actual flight, with your check airman in his own machine. This 1) kept the failures “simulated” to a manageable minimum (Ops expected you to return the jet), and 2) You were pretty much free to do whatever you wanted to make the simulated emergency go away, so long as you paid lip service to the emergency procedures on the radio. At least in a single-seat airplane, with no one looking over your shoulder. (During an annual check ride in a two-seat Scooter down in Key West once the cockpit went suddenly dark just after take-off as my check pilot – a good friend – simulated a total generator failure. I found myself wondering how he had done that, since I couldn’t remember a way to simulate a total generator failure from the back seat. Turns out he was wondering much the same thing: We’d actually lost the generator, I deployed the ram air turbine to restore partial power and flew the jet into the arresting gear at the airfield, since the spoilers wouldn’t work. Ten minutes in the air: Shortest check ride ever.)

It was in a simulator that a ruthless check pilot could really wring you out, and it was not uncommon for seemingly innocuous emergencies to multiply over time until you were left with something unflyable – the expectation was that when you reached your threshold of pain tolerance, you’d pull the yellow and black ejection handle there between your legs and “stop the ride.” Much hilarity was to be had in those who either jumped the gun and punched out of a flyable machine, or waited too long and experienced simulated death.

Two weeks after the engine on a QuantasQANTAS (thanga, ozzies) A380 out of Singapore burst its casing, it has become clear that Captain Richard de Crespigny – who was undergoing a check ride of his own – had an awful lot on his hands, to go with the 450 pax back in the main cabin:

Engine pieces sliced electric cables and hydraulic lines in the wing. Would the pilots still be able to fly the seven-story-tall plane?

The wing’s forward spar — one of the beams that attaches it to the plane — was damaged as well. And the wing’s two fuel tanks were punctured. As fuel leaked out, a growing imbalance was created between the left and right sides of the plane, Woodward said.

The electrical power problems prevented the pilots from pumping fuel forward from tanks in the tail. The plane became tail heavy.

That may have posed the greatest risk, safety experts said. If the plane got too far out of balance, the Singapore-to-Sydney jetliner would lose lift, stall and crash.

And then there was that incredible stream of computer messages, 54 in all, alerting the pilots to system failures or warning of impending failures…

The pilots watched as computer screens filled, only to be replaced by new screenfuls of warnings, he said.

Fortunately the captain had four other rated pilots along for the ride, including his line check airman, who at least theoretically has exceptional mastery of the aircraft and its systems.

As for Captain de Crespigny, I certainly hope he got his up.


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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Flying, Lex

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