Thursday, August 15, 2013

The First Week of Training

Kevin studying for class
Kevin has been hard at work this week with ground school training. Classes begin everyday at 8 AM and end around 5 PM. The only exception is a late start on Wednesday for Chapel, which is from 8 AM - 9 AM. He is allotted a 30 minute break at 12. This is only the first week of training.

MAF has been around since 1946 and has the experience that only comes with years of learning and growing. This week of training is filled with ground school for all pilots. It is one of the most important weeks, building a foundation of information.

Kevin has classes on Aerodynamics; use of flaps at high altitudes; abort procedures; air strip evaluations; emergencies; SOP (standard operating procedures) & checklists; take-offs, landings, and approaches to name about a third. Well, what does this mean in Layman's terms? Let's say you want to be a brain surgeon (yes I am totally comparing ground school to medical school!). You don't just take lessons from some Joe with equipment. You go to school. You learn about anatomy and physiology (aerodynamics). You learn about how the electrical circuits in the brain change with age (use of flaps at high altitudes). You learn about risk factors such as blood clotting and tumors (abort procedures). You learn about the importance of performing a complete medical physical on a patient (air strip evaluations). You learn what to do if a patient experiences a life threatening emergency (emergencies). You learn about how external factors like nutrition and exercise affect your overall health (SOP). You learn you job from the inside out.

In other words, Kevin is "drinking from a fire hose" with information chocked FULL to the brim on how an airplane operates, including the physics behind it. He is learning about how MAF operates, each of their procedures and why they operate that way (based on experiences). He is learning all the parameters needed to know for standard operations, including all the rules and regulations.

For instance, just to take off, he has to calculate many things: the weight and center of gravity of the airplane, passengers and cargo; factor in where all of his stops and navigation checkpoints along the way will be; determine how much fuel he will need to carry everything and everyone; determine how long that fuel supply will last and add at least a one hour reserve; make certain he will have time to return to base by a minimum of one hour before sunset; calculate how long the take off roll will be on that particular day; calculate how far down the runway he will be when he reaches 75% of his takeoff speed; calculate if he will be airborne by 75% of the runways length; determine if the runway is soft, firm, slick, wet or dry and then figure out how far he can go on the takeoff run and then stop without hitting something if there is a problem. THEN, he must complete the pre-flight checklist, tie down his cargo with ratchet straps and netting as appropriate so it doesn't shift in flight, the before entry checklist, greet and brief his passengers ( in French) complete the before start checklist the start checklist (memorized), the after start checklist, the before takeoff checklist, the immediately before takeoff checklist (memorized), start the takeoff and check the power, the speed and turbocharger, check the abort point, decide whether to stop the takeoff or continue before reaching the abort point, then actually take off. Then, starts a whole other slew of checklists and calculations to do. Are you confused yet?

Homework for "Weight & Balance"
And that is what he has learned up to this point. Ground training isn't even half over yet! It is amazing how structured and safety oriented MAF is, and yet, we are still able to very safely fly into some VERY unforgiving areas, with bad weather, heavily loaded and still have plenty of margin of safety. This is yet another purpose of standardized training. The flight instructors here have a combined total of over 100 years of flight experience with MAF. They safely help us learn to have confidence in our aircraft and our ability, first on the ground, then demonstrate it in the air.

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