I was recently going to work, and I had to sit on the jumpseat of an Embraer flown by one of my airline’s express (I hate that term) carriers. The first officer (FO) was brand-new. He was getting the last of his training under the guidance of a check airman. He had completed ground school, simulator training, and his checkride. The last stage was the introduction to the line environment, which means flying revenue passengers on regular flights while being shown “life on the line” by a specially trained captain.
I’ve been the new hire and the check airman, so I could relate to what both fellows were going through. As a teacher in this situation, you are always racing time, because the schedule needs to be maintained. At the same time, safety can never be compromised, and yet you need to teach and show the student as much as you can in a short amount of time.
From the student’s perspective, it can be an overwhelming environment. In the simulator, the “flights” are much more sterile, and there is only one airplane—yours—to worry about. Further, there is no time to throw all of the real-world curve balls in the simulator.
Something as simple as a ground stop—which we had—can become complicated rather quickly. In our case, our release time was moved up, and we had only a few minutes to get to the runway to make our window. The captain could have taken control of much of the process of getting off the gate, but then the student would have learned next to nothing.
Fortunately, the student was not on his first day, and was able to keep up with the pace, though he was clearly struggling to do so and maintain his composure with me there.
In any job, you learn to look ahead to certain events and outcomes based on previous experience and training. In this case, the captain was concerned about flight and duty time limits, which previously had been only academic concerns to the FO. The limits had not been an issue in his previous flying, and he had only been introduced to them in training in the classroom, where there was plenty of time (and help) to figure out what might or might not be legal. Now, he was seeing the real-world time crunch of needing to have more than a passing familiarity with the rules.
En route, I could only chuckle, as the FO was admittedly not used to flying in the higher altitudes or the flight levels. He struggled a bit on the radio, saying “two point eight” when he meant “flight level 280,” or twenty-eight thousand feet. I am often amazed at just how much we take for granted as general knowledge, and how much we pick up just through the osmosis of everyday flying. It’s an affirmation that you simply can’t teach experience, try as you might.
When we landed, the FO asked me—even though we don’t work for the same company—if I had any advice for him. His captain was willing to hear what I had to say, and I offered the same advice to him that I used to offer my own trainees: Don’t forget to look out the window once in a while.—Chip Wright