Most people bring home a My Best Friend Frolicked on A Phuket Beach and All I Get is This Lousy T-Shirt pullover. Jo? She brought me a jumping dick. (Check out the action in video above!)
Her sun-kissed nose against my pontianak-white own, we shovel down bacon and eggs at Crave Cafe, Oasis Square with a healthy dose of coffee. (Me, the coffee part. Because, quote “I don’t drink coffee on weekends”)
T minus 22 hours
Chomp chomp chomp chomp chomp. Mr Dick sync his hops to my thumping heart. I’m a solid package of jitters. With THE simulator session creeping nearer by the minute, the butterflies in my stomach stomp with purpose.
As of recent times, every company commander under training is required to undergo an evaluation simulator check. If the twice annually base checks were not enough, these sessions are like Chili’s nachos: bottomless. Anything and everything could be hurled your way at the pleasure of the CPTS (Chief Pilot Training and Standards).
CLEAR. Clarify problem. Look for options. Evaluate the situation. Actions. Review. The airline lay down helpful guidelines to aid our decision making. I gauge the problem: my wrecked nerves. Clarification not required.
I mentally run through the unreliable airspeed procedure for the 104th time. The examiners have an acute liking for this particular failure. It’s popularity lead an instructor (like my Form 5 physics teacher about formulas) to jokingly suggest I burn a written copy of the procedure, mix the ashes in water, and channel it down my digestive track in one huge gulp.
But the only drink I’ve indulged is wine. (A glass of wine a day, keeps the doctor away. What? You’ve never heard that saying?)
T minus 48 hours
I drown my stress in a cross-city culinary odyssey.
What began as a stand alone dim sum brunch (so much pork) graduate into a full blown food expedition.
“You MUST try this siew yuk,” my friend says.
Oxygen mask on, seat belts sign on, emergency descent initiate, speed brakes full… I silently revise the emergency descend memory items.
Yikes. What if both engines fail during the emergency descent. I’m doing my usual visualise-the-worst-case-scenario ritual. On good days, I emerge with confidence one notch up. Otherwise, hello throbbing headache.
“This siew yuk,” he pause for emphasis, “will change your perspective of life.”
“Fine, I’ll go.” My consciousness still present in that cockpit plunging down at 6000ft per minute, the cabin pressure blinking in scarlet red (when a decompression happens, the cabin pressure rises, and oxygen masks fall from the compartments overhead the passengers, and we dive down for our lives).
Which is how I end up in Pudu, waiting 45 minutes for RM75 siew yuk. Every table is occupied, a waiting line has developed, and not a single table has been served yet.
But for me, a 45 minutes wait equals 45 minutes of jabbing at my Use Before Flight app. In my previous post, I’ve got engine failures coming out of my ears…, I humoured myself with a game of kiss, marry, kill the hydraulics. My verdict was to kiss yellow, marry green, and kill blue.
Then comes the perverted version of kill, kill, marry. And the choice is easy: I’ll kill blue, kill yellow, marry green. That way, I maintain normal law and control over my landing gear, flaps and slats. Not to mention the normal braking system.
I’m burried deep in the app recycling hydraulic pumps when my friend leaves the growing line, plastic bag in hand, grinning like a victor at the Olympic Games.
He opens the box, and every eye is glued to the pieces of skin-meat-fats combo.
Granted, you pay for quality. Each bite melts in the warmth of my amylase, the thick flavour omnipresent across my tongue. The crispy skin snaps under my bite. I sigh.
But did my perspective of life change? Well, I’m still shitting my panties over the evaluation sim.
A few slices of molten swine is inadequate (the box above was split between 7 mouths), so we adjourn for more pork.
I find it fitting to mention that my family has little regard for pork. No, we don’t abstain from pork. We simply opt for choices more inline with health as our best interest (withstanding the exceptions. Pork is not unnecessarily unhealthy).
At this point, I start to develop excessive-pork-syndrome. My armpits stink but I’m distracted by the master warning blaring my iPad off.
Emergency electrical configuration. Now, that’s a failure I do NOT want a first hand taste of.
And speaking of taste, the eating never stops.
T minus 2 hours
I tame my frizzy hair with an extra dose of oil.
Not. Nervous. At. All.
On an unrelated note, I need to pee.
moment of truth
I anticipate a failure at every bent. Literally.
I’m on high alert, constantly scanning my instruments and the System Display Unit. But nada. Big fat zero. Did I miss something?
The takeoff is uneventful, to my pleasant surprise. Awww.. you shouldn’t have.
I rotate into blue yonder. Just as I transfer from visual to instruments, I spot the downward speed trend arrow before it smacks me in the face.
“WINDSHEAR, WINDSHEAR” cries the aural synthetic voice.
“Windshear, TOGA,” I spit and shove the thrust levers into the TOGA detent. The FD bars dance around like fireflies in Kuala Selangor. I maintain the runway heading and persevere till the speed trend hakuna their tatas.
One down, how many to go?
The remaining climb is peaceful, not. I spot 2 diamonds on my navigational display (traffic). I try to out climb them at first. But although I can run, I can’t hide. Soon, I’m cornered. My pleas for an escape heading are denied by ATC (the examiner), so I draw a deep breath and ready myself.
“Descend, descend…” screams the synthetic voice again. I clicked my autopilot off and prod the side stick forward to chase the green column on my vertical speed indicator.
Two down, wipe that frown. Three four, knock that door.
Before I recollect, an ECAM caution wrestles my attention. Engine E.I.U. fault, it says. Bye, bye, auto-thrust, I murmur under my breath.
But the worst is yet to come. During the days leading up to this moment, I figured an ADR fault is well within the realm of possibilities. Two ADRs fault? We’ll be in alternate law without automation, but I’ll survive.
Nah, I won’t lose all 3 ADRs, I said.
And then I lost all 3 ADRs.
The ECAM actions take us on a merry-go-round ride, as predicted. The computers registers the failures in pairs: 1 and 2, 2 and 3, 1 and 3.
“Ask your daddy,” says mummy; “ask mummy,” says daddy. Ever get caught in that loop?
My airspeed indicator and altimeter are replaced by blank grey strips while the standby mocks me with error.
The standby gives me enough to guess my altitude, but not the speed and our supposing saving grace- the pitch and power tables are helpless. No surprise though, since the simulator and QRH (quick reference handbook) are based on a different engine configuration.
My support FO reads quotes me an attitude and thrust setting that’s supposed to keep me in level flight at a given speed. Instead, the aircraft spring upwards in a steady climb. Doesn’t take long before I realise baby, you’re on your own. I figure out a pitch and thrust setting that seems to work.
Hallelujah! Except I need to decelerate now.
I somehow figure my way through, but keep my N1 planted firmly above 50%. Without my indicated airspeed, I don’t want to risk a stall. Better fast than stall, I reason.
The (virtual) landing gear locks down, and the aircraft goes into direct law. It takes me a few tries, but I finally plant this baby onto the runway.
But the party isn’t over. My brakes fail me. I run through the motions. Reversers max, anti-skid nosewheel steering off…
… The simulations creaks to a standstill …
… and I released a gasp of breath.
I survived the ordeal
And lived to tell the tale.
So I celebrate…
With more pork.