Flight checks and sim rides are considered the necessary evils of aviation.
At opposing ends of the scale, complacency and lack of currency are lurking threats to safe flight. We can all appreciate ‘being rusty’ when we haven’t flown for a short while, but complacency can be a more subtle beast. There is the obvious example that stems from over-confidence, but this is relatively rare. The more common examples grow out of familiarity with an aircraft type or a network.
Operating the same type of aircraft over a period of years can yield a deeper knowledge of the aircraft and systems, however, it can also lead to a potential decreased level of vigilance. This is not necessarily intentional, but can creep in as a by-product of repetition. Similarly, Operating over the same route repeatedly or even multiple times on the same day can lead to a type of ‘Ground Hog Day’ syndrome. You can find yourself asking, “Did we do this checklist, or was that the previous sector?” Repetition can nurture insidious threats, so if in doubt, do it again. As always, Standard Operating Procedures, or 'SOPs', can provide a great line of defence.
Sim rides and check flights are a means for the operator or licensing body to monitor the standard of their pilots, but in the correct environment, they are a tremendous opportunity for training. They offer the chance for the exchange of the latest information and procedures, while a third party on the flight deck can highlight any bad habits creeping in. They also provide the chance to fly emergencies that hopefully one will never encounter in flight. In this way, the training element can provide a great deal of insight into operations beyond the day-to-day realm.
No-one particularly ‘enjoys’ coming under scrutiny, but this is often bred out of a bad past experience, or certain check pilots with less-than-desirable reputations. This can lead to stress and anxiety even before the check occurs and unfortunately these counter-productive emotions can prevent putting our best performance forward. In fact, it can induce the dreaded ‘check-it is’, that leads pilots to make silly procedural errors that they never usually do.
The best advice is to be well prepared and stay relaxed, although that can be far more easily said than done. With the exception of the rare instance, check captains and test officers don’t want to fail a pilot and for most, their training background is more inclined towards improving standards than demoralising individuals.
So how is the best way to prepare for the scrutiny of a flight test? Well, that sounds like the topic for another blog post!