I had my 6 month checkride today. When I was still in the right seat I only had to go the sim once a year where I alternately went through a checkride (called a Proficiency Check or a PC) and a training event (called Proficiency Training, or a PT). The same deal applies now that I have upgraded, but the time frame shrinks to 6 months, so every year I now do both a PC and a PT. Today was my PC.
Because the simulator is in Charlotte, my day started off with a deadhead out of Dayton that got me into Charlotte at 10:30am. My checkride wasn’t until 2pm (with a 1pm show time to do some paperwork and the oral exam portion) so I hung out in the crew room and got some lunch while I waited. At noon I headed outside and caught the shuttle bus over to the training center. Once there I headed upstairs to the briefing room. My sim partner for the day (another captain I went through upgrade training with) was already there and we talked over some stuff until our instructor showed up at 1pm.
By 1:30 we were wrapping up the paperwork and oral exam and another instructor stuck his head in to let us know he was out of the sim. We headed down and through a random process (ok, my sim partner said “pick a number between 1 and 10” and I went with 7 which apparently meant I was going first) I ended up throwing by bag in the left seat and strapping in to get started. The ride started with the aircraft at the gate in Pittsburgh plugged in to ground power. It took about 10 minutes to get stuff set up and run through the checklists before we were ready to push back. After getting cleared for pushedback I had my FO (actually a Captain, which meant at least in theory he knew what he was doing) start the right engine. It hot started (meaning the temperature inside it spiked to about 700 degrees C VERY quickly) so he shut it back down and after I set the parking brake we ran the appropriate checklist. With that taken care of (and a mock call to Maintenance) we moved on and I started the other engine. This time the engine started fine but the starter (think a big leaf blower but in reverse with the air coming in and causing the engine to start spinning) didn’t stop when it was supposed to. A simple button push (back up with a checklist… there’s always a checklist) solved the problem.
After getting two stable running engines we taxied out into a rather nasty day with 1/4 mile visibility and strong, gusty winds. The taxi checklist and before take off checklist got us to the end of the runway where after re briefing the departure to take into account the reported windshear in the area I lined up on Runway 28R. In the sim you pretty much can guarantee something is going break or go wrong, but anticipating it can get you in trouble so often times it’s best to just do what you normally do and react once stuff starts going bad. With that in mind I put up the power and we started rolling down the runway, which in the reduced visibility disappeared about 800 feet in front of me. We made it to V1 (the speed at which you can no longer reject a take off) with out incident and then just as I was about to rotated my FO called out that our airpseed indicators had failed. That was an odd one and I half thought about rejecting the take off even though we were past V1 but after seeing that my airspeed matched the standby airspeed indicator, and it is highly unlikely that both systems would fail at the same time, I kept going.
The plane lifted off just fine and as we climbed through 200 feet and I called for the gear up, the speed jumped up about 60 knots and in order to compensate I had to pitch up so much that we were climbing at almost 8000 feet per minute (normal is 1000 to 2000). Within a few moments everything seemed to settle down and I got the plane cleaned up and the autopilot on. Turns out what had happened was we got a huge windshear (a loss of 60 or so knots) right on the runway which led to what seemed like an airspeed indicator freeze. Then, as we came out of the shear and got the increasing performance on the back side, the airspeed jumped up.
And that was just my first take off.
From there I did some air work. The steep turns were ok and my maneuvering stall, while acceptable was a little ugly. After that it was time for the approaches. To facilitate that one of our emergency window exits popped open. While my FO ran some checklists to deal with that problem I got us headed back to PIT. We got lined up for an ILS and everything went well until about 50 feet off the ground tower (ok, our sim op) called for us to go around. So around we went. As I called for the flaps up they started moving just fine but as they rolled through 3 degrees on the way to 0 they stopped moving. Typical sim world stuff.
The good news was the weather drastically improved to clear and a million so I was able to get vectors back around for a visual approach which I managed to plant pretty well despite a gusty cross wind. Following that we reset at the top of the runway as the weather came back down to 1/2 a mile and fog.
This time on rotation my right engine blew up. Literally. As I started (slowly) climbing out the engine fire bell went off. Not a big deal, we have fire suppression back there and the plane flies just fine on once engine. However before i could actually call for a checklist or anything the left engine fire bell went off as well. We only have two engines on the CRJ, and now both of them were burning although the left one was still generating power but I had no idea for how long. I had my FO get us a tight vector to join an approach back down to the runway. I told him not to even bother with a checklist as we didn’t have time. By the time we had the approach set up and briefed we were joining the final and about a minute later broke out of the clouds where I manged an ok landing. We came to a stop and then I started the evacuation process. Or sim op stopped me before we got to far and reset us 3 miles out with the visibility back up to unlimited.
The winds were now blowing directly across the runway at 26 knots (right below our limit) and gusting to 35. I manged to muscle the plane down to just over the runway were I caught a nice sized gust. Despite that I did get it on the ground but it really wasn’t that pretty. To make a point the sim op spun my nose wheel (think much made fun of Jetblue landing in California) which made the plane start sliding off the runway. Using a whole lot of braking I was able to keep us on the pavement and get the plane stopped. At that point I talked through what I would do (call the fire trucks, get a bus for the people and let maintenance tow the plane away) and then we were done.
After a 15 minute break my sim partner got in the left seat and I went back to my old home on the right. Stuff came back pretty quickly, but it already felt odd sitting over there. He managed to do everything just fine and after an hour and a half we were done for the day.
A quick debrief and I was snagging a ride back to the airport (my first ride in a convertible… and a Porsche Boxter at that) to catch a flight home.
On one hand I’m really glad I only have to do these rides every six months. On the other hand there are 5 fingers. No, really, on the other hand, it’s always a good experience to prove that you do in fact have what it takes to deal with stuff when it starts to go bad.