Saturday, April 21, 2012

Well, here is a discussion i have wanted to have on this blog, but haven't really had the time to write it. I have been very busy with external studying (hopefully good news in the future), going to Europe for 4 weeks on Monday, and finally will be heading to fly the Q400 after July, with a successful bid!

But there have been to times recently where i have basically thought, that some of the flying has been above my skillset. It was brought to my attention by a good friend who flies 737's for a NZ based company, and he said on approach into Wellington he watched a captain land the plane and said he said he wasn't sure if he could actually do it himself.

I was flying the other day coming into Sydney with the wind 180/25 gusting 45 knots. It was a pretty average day due the wind, and the plane was getting absolutely bucketed around the sky. There was overshoot, and undershoot windshear and required a lot of input to keep the plane on track and stable. It was borderline unstable as we continued, and i almost.. almost called "going around." I don't think that has ever crossed my mind flying once, but it was just so over the shop.

Stable approach policy is big in the airlines, below 1000ft gear down, flaps to landing position, flying to Vref +20 on the airspeed, on the PAPI, to touch down on the touchdown zones of the runway. Any deviation of this, and its company policy to perform a go-around.

Anyway, I got on the ground and had the captain looked at me and said "i've never wanted to call 'going around,' but it was close on that one - you earned your money today." I think it was a compliment. The cabin crew told me that they haven't had such a bumpy approach (although - smooth touchdown!) It was something that when i got to the gate, and when the adrenaline finished, it was weird to reflect on. Should i have done a go-around? Was that something that was unsafe? Was it above my ability for that landing? It was obviously a successful outcome, but it made me think.

I had another experience coming into Lord Howe Island, where the captain did basically a phenomenal job in manipulation, and landing in extreme wind and turbulence.. I was gobsmacked because i, although i wasn't in control, i'm not sure whether i could have done the same job, that he did. Granted there are probably 10 - 20 years of experience he has over me, but credit where credit is due!

It was just a few instances that have popped up in my flying career, that no matter how well you know a plane, and an operation, there are always new challenges and experiences that keep you on your toes, and keep learning from.


  1. I am sure the guy in the left seat asked himself the same question 10 or 20 years ago. That's why there are captains and first officers. Hang on in there!

  2. ...and that my friend is why experience in the cockpit is an absolute must when hiring flight crews. You just summed up in this post why there are hiring minimums in place. Experience like this matters and is not something you can simply show someone. Everyone needs to experience this in order to become a more competent pilot. There will come the time where you will find yourself in a hard place and will GO AROUND and try it again or go someplace else. Then you will have certain thresholds in place as to when to make that all mighty decision to continue the approach or leave. Trust your gut, and it looks like you are.