Phase 3: Procedures Training
After the systems portion was complete, I had just over a week to learn all of the procedures in the Flight Training Device, or FTD. The FTD is basically a simulator that doesn't have motion. It's what most pilots are used to using while going through instrument training. At the airlines, most of the checklists need to be memorized, and the easiest way to do that is by having a 'flow' for each checklist. Some airlines have a required flow they want all their pilots to know, others don't care what the flow is, just as long as each required task is completed.
For me, there was a recommended flow, but not a required one, so I was able to use the flows that were given, but change some things around if the order didn't work for me. For example, after landing I always start with the items next to me and move my way up- Transponder to Standby, Flaps Up, Speedbrakes Stowed, Radar Off, Icing Equipment (on or off as required). I complete the checklists tasks in the same order every time, which helps me not to forget an item. After I've completed the items by memory, I pull out the checklist to make sure I have completed all of the required items.
I wish I would have been taught checklist flows from day 1 of my private pilot training because it makes checklist completion that much easier, but I had never used a flow until my first airline job flying the EMB-120 Brasilia.
Memorizing the checklists seems daunting at first, but after a couple of days of practice, it really is no big deal. Also, once you've done it on one airplane, it gets easier each time you have to memorize a new flow on a new airplane; many checklists and flows have similarities from one plane to the next.
Once the checklists were memorized, my sim partner and I were able to move onto some fun stuff in the FTD, like learning how to takeoff and land the airplane and how to fly some approaches. Every maneuver, like the checklists, has items, or callouts, that need to be memorized. For example, on takeoff, the Pilot Monitoring (the pilot that isn't flying) will callout "Positive Rate" once airborne and a positive rate of climb is established, and the Pilot Flying will callout "Gear Up."
Again, memorizing all of the callouts in the beginning seems incredibly daunting, but after doing it a few times, it starts to come naturally. And having the callouts is helpful and keeps both pilots 'on the same page.'
At the end of the procedures training, there will be a Procedures Validation or PV where the FTD instructor will grade how well each and every checklist item is completed. The checklists need to be memorized to near perfection by this point... if an item is missed on the flow, it should be caught when the checklist is reviewed to make sure each item has been completed. This part of training isn't meant to trip anybody up, but if the procedures aren't memorized well, moving onto the next part, simulator training, would be incredibly difficult and stressful.
I always enjoy this phase of training because I can memorize pretty quickly. However, when I went through the procedures training on the Brasilia years ago (my first airline training event), I had no idea we were supposed to have all of this stuff mostly memorized on day 1, and went to the FTD that first day with no clue on the flows or callouts. Let's just say I had a pretty stressful next 24 hours memorizing all of the flows before my next FTD session. I remember the instructor telling me I had until our meeting the next day to get everything memorized, and he doubted that I would be able to do it. I could have given up right then and there, but when somebody doubts me, I must prove them wrong. So for those of you going to your first airline gig, make sure you have all the flows mostly memorized BEFORE your first FTD session- that's world class advice right there. ;)
*Also, I just finished my initial training on the A220 in Spring of 2021. The procedures validation consisted of checklists, flows, callouts, and some instrument approaches. Each airline will have each phase a little different, and it can even vary a little bit from airplane to airplane at the same company. This blog post is just to give you an idea of what the training typically consists of.
Next up? Simulator training! Stay tuned for that and Happy Flying!