Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I feel like the poor dumb slob of a pilot in this cartoon, except that my "plane" never leaves the second floor of the training center, the woman with the bullhorn is my instructor (Terry), and all I can hear after the first three hours is wa wa wa wa wa..., like Charlie Brown listening to his teacher. Thanks to T. McCraken for the cartoon. Hope doesn't mind me using it. His great website is:

I'm about to go out for the last day of aircraft systems ground school. There will be a big review. Questions will fly like miniballs at Shilo and I will look dumb and say, "Ahhh..." and shrug. My stick partner, John, will do the same, and after it's over Terry will fold up his teaching guide, look frustrated and say, "You guys will do fine."

He'll be talking about the "SKV." That means Systems Knowledge Validation. It's the 100 question written test you have to pass before they let you fly the big simulators. They used to give that test orally while actually inside the training simulator. The examiner would point at a switch, button, or instrument and ask what it was, what powered it, what it indicated and what you would do under various failure modes. That was good stuff--pilot stuff. But United has replaced it now with a multiple choice test you take on a computer. Why? To save money of course. Any way, I'm scheduled to take the *&$!*^# thing Friday, the day after my days off--of course. Sounds like college, doesn't it.

Reminds me of the call I got from Rusty at Troy a few weeks ago. He said he had a big bad exam next day and was lost in the course and there was no way he would pass. I asked if this call was a course failure warning. He said yeah. Figured he'd get a softer landing if I was forewarned. I told him to cram like he never had in his life and try his best. The boy did, and passed. Guess I've got to take my own advice now.

Yes, Brad this is the place where you turn left. I can see the "Marrow of the Earth" from the training center during those precious few seconds a day I get to look.

T-Boy out.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Day 3 at TK

I've been at the place United pilots dispassionately call "TK" for three days. TK is the inter-company mail address for the Denver flight training center. Down at American they call their Dallas training center the "school house." If it's anything like TK it's a house of horrors.

I'm in the Boeing 757/767 transition course. It's day 3 of 20 and I'm lost already. They turn a fire hose of information on you here and expect you to drink every drop. I'm in a class of four. I'm paired with a first officer trainee who, incredibly, is older than I am by a half year. He started at United rather late and doesn't have the seniority to hold a captain's vacancy. Good guy, though. The other two are a separate crew and we rarely see them.
The first day started with a meeting with a beady-eyed mustachioed guy who told us that we would likely not pass the written test five days hence if we did not bare down with the studying at every opportunity. That was about all there was to our welcome to TK. After that we sat in front of a computer for 6 hours and listened to a guy with a lisp talk about the Boeing 757 and 767. Next day we had a live instructor who is very good. But the info comes too fast. 

Despite the fact that I took a week off without pay to study up at home before coming here, my brain is jumbled beyond salvage.

The days are split between lectures and sessions in the fixed based trainer (FPT). Tt's not a simulator--that comes later--but a cockpit with instruments that work. There are no visual effects and the FBT does not move. The instructor uses it to demonstrate principles he covered in class and directs us through normal and emergency checklists.

I gotta hit the books. Over.