Airlines all handle their training scheduling differently. In my case, I’ve done the ‘old fashioned’ 12 month cycle, as well as the more modern nine month cycle.
The annual program was predictable, and I was able to use that to my advantage. Under the more modern Advanced Qualification Program (AQP) model, many airlines are using a more compressed nine month cycle. This increases training costs, but it also increases the opportunity for pilots to learn and decreases the window of opportunity to become rusty, or worse.
Our simulator events are two-day events. The first day always consists of practicing certain events and maneuvers. The second day depends on where you are in the cycle. I just finished a cycle we call CQT/CQMV, in which the first day is training and rehearsal of pretty much everything you will do on the second day. I’ve noticed for me that my first day is never as crisp as I’d like it to be. No matter what I do to prepare, I make mistakes that I’d consider uncharacteristic for me. Some of them are physical, but most are mental. Part of it I can try to attribute to the fact that getting in the sim versus the real airplane knocks me out of my rhythm, and there is some truth to that. Some of it might be a combination of nerves and overconfidence. This year, I think it also included some fatigue, since I had to leave the hotel at 3:45 in the morning, and sleep was a challenge.
Fortunately, I had a good sim partner that caught some of my errors; he was also receptive to me pointing out his own, which is not always the case. I also had a patient sim instructor that I had worked with before, though I couldn’t help but feel like my performance was a drop off from my last visit. There are some items I historically do well on, with V1 cuts and single engine work being at the top of the list, and this year I felt pretty solid on those after day one. My single engine go-around, however, was not my finest. It was by no means problematic, but for me, I’ve done much better. It was easy enough to admit that in the debrief.
Day two got off to a better start by virtue of a better night of sleep, even with a wake-up of before 3:00 a.m. We had a very relaxed and easy-going evaluator, and the pre-brief was thorough and well done. We traded stories and experiences, and reviewed some recent events and highlights from the manuals. In the sim, I flew first, and the first takeoff and approach—as they so often do—set the tone. I was on my game, and felt much better than the day before, which made me more aggravated with myself for my performance the day before! Go figure. My mental snafus were of a much lower count, and my V1 cut and my single-engine go-around were near textbook. It was good to feel a bit of the mojo coming back, but experience has taught me to watch my hubris. On the high-speed rejected takeoff I got a bit out of sorts, but handled the situation well and did things in a way that left nobody at a lack of understanding of my goals and thought processes. I was pleased.
It was nice to come out with a bounce in my step and my confidence renewed. In nine months, I will do it again. The second day will be a line flight, but the first day will be similar to what we usually do, but with an emphasis on hand flying. That should be a nice challenge. In the meantime, I will try to incorporate the feedback into my day-to-day flying, and I will work on remaining humble, because the sim has a way of humbling all of us at some point.