I don’t know who that guy flailing around aimlessly in the cockpit yesterday was, but I’m happy to report someone better showed up today.
There are a few reasons for the improvement. First of all, the sim sessions aren’t evenly split between the two pilots. Whoever starts off in the left seat tends to get more time there. I’d say it ends up being about a 60/40 split. Eventually it all evens out because the person starting out in that seat alternates from day to day. Yesterday it was my sim partner who got more time there, today it was me. Second, the instructor started us out with the engines running and all the pre-takeoff checklists completed. That provided at least another 25 minutes of breathing room.
I flew seven approaches, four landings, and three missed approaches in about two hours and fifteen minutes:
- ILS PRM 27L at SFO
- LDA PRM 28R at SFO
- NDB 24R at CYHU
- LOC BC 6L at CYHU
- ILS 6L at CYUL
- ILS 6L at CYUL again
- LOC 6L at CYUL
It was just what the doctor ordered: repeated opportunities to work on the standard operating procedures for takeoffs, engine failures, single engine and two engine missed approaches. We also saw an engine fire, flameout, APU fire, rejected takeoff, and other abnormalities scheduled for the last session.
Gulfstream claims there are no “memory items” for this airplane. However, I’m starting to wonder if this is more marketing hyperbole than reality. It might better be said that there are few memory items for the G-IV. A memory item is a procedure which must be performed without reference to a checklist or manual, usually because of the severity of the emergency and the need for an immediate response from the flight crew.
A good example would be rapid depressurization of the cabin. Gulfstream jets have these beautiful, large oval windows in the cabin — I think it’s one of the greatest features of the airplane, and much better than the small vertically oriented windows in many other jets. The windows provide a panoramic view of the world outside and reduce the feeling of claustrophobia. They also allow a generous amount of sunlight into the cabin and give jet it’s signature look. I really love those windows!
Well let’s say one of them blows out while you’re flying at 45,000 feet. The pressure vessel would almost instantly depressurize, leaving only a few seconds of useful consciousness for the flight crew before they pass out. There’s no time to be pulling out a checklist or consulting the Quick Reference Handbook. You must immediately put on the oxygen mask and initiate the emergency descent procedure from memory. Eight to 10 degrees pitch down, power idle, deploy the speed brake at Vmo/Mmo, etc.
Gulfstream’s claim of no memory items leaves me confused at times. Perhaps I’m just stuck on a minor semantic point. In ground school, we watched a video of a flight crew responding to an engine fire by running through a QRH checklist. But after landing today, we were given an APU fire and when I called for the checklist, the instructor told us to just shut down the APU (although it should do that on it’s own when a fire is detected), close the APU air inlet door with the master switch, deploy the fire bottle, then switch the cabin outflow valve manually to full open.
I understand his rationale and agree with his reasoning — it’s not the instruction which confused me. It’s the conflict between doing this from memory and the vaunted claim of “no memory items”. Perhaps I take thing too literally.
Today was listed as our “cold weather” day. We didn’t do too much associated with those conditions beyond basic cowl and wing anti-ice. The SAT temperature was -15C, so the engine cowl anti-ice was on the whole time. The Gulfstream IV has a few limitations on the wing anti-icing — basically no takeoff or go-around with the autothrottles engaged when it’s on. Not a big deal, but that limitation does come into play at a very busy time, and we managed to remember it.
In comparing our sim session with that of our classmates, we realized they were given an icy runway. We weren’t. They used the QRH charts for cold weather compensation on their approaches. We didn’t. They ran the engines at 85% LP for one minute prior to takeoff to shed any ice from the fan blades. We didn’t. Okay, that last items is not always required. But it would have been nice to see those things. Alas, with the “to do” list we faced, our cold weather day wasn’t quite as focused on… well, cold weather. I’m sure our sim sessions expose us to things the other crew isn’t seeing.
After the break, I jumped into the right seat and we started over from the beginning. About 40 seconds after takeoff, we heard a loud bang, felt a sharp jolt as the box instantly stopped moving, and the everything went black. My sim partner asked, “What did I do??”. My first thought was mid-air collision or bird strike, but the instructor replied that the simulator had malfunctioned. Just about then, the hydraulics brought the sim back down to level. We were dead in the water.
It took 20 minutes and a tech from Simuflite’s help desk to come out and reboot the thing before we could take off again. I felt bad for the guy. He was already short on time, and now this ate up about 10-15% of what he had left. Once the mysterious black boxes were reset, however, he flew admirably for the rest of the session.
After watching him fly for the next hour, I realized what I like about the way he operates: the more intense things get, the calmer he becomes. Even with an engine on fire and performing a single engine missed approach, he’s very slow and methodical with every move, every word he says. It’s completely counter-intuitive to behave that way. When the fire bell is ringing and the Crew Alert System is filling the screen in front of you with blinking red messages, the natural tendency is to do something now. And he did. But slowly, at a smooth, steady pace with the wheels in his head clearly turning before any buttons were pushed, any commands given, any responses to checklists provided. As a result, he made no mistakes.
Fighting human nature isn’t easy, but I believe in this scenario it’s the key to success. My goal for the next sim session is respond in a similar fashion. We’ll see how it goes.