So you’ve nailed your interview, conquered the classroom training and exams, and now it’s time to move onto the only thing left between you and your wings: the practical, or mock-up exam.
Your practical exam will be the part where your instructors will watch you on a model aircraft perform your duties during an emergency.
You won’t know when or what kind of emergency you will have until it happens–much like a real emergency–and you have to go through your procedures to get the rest of your classmates off the aircraft within 90 seconds (the allotted time everyone is given to get off an aircraft with half of the emergency doors in use. This is the legal requirement for an aircraft to be allowed to fly).
The obvious preparation advice is to study. Know every inch of your emergency procedures back to front. This includes knowing every command by the words as they are given.
Know your Commands
If your command during a crash is “BEND DOWN” do not say “HEADS DOWN!” It seems obvious, but you can get points docked for using the wrong wording. Practice those in the necessary order until you wake up in the middle of the night saying them aloud.
Similar to learning a new language, once you are saying it in your dreams, you know you will be able to say it in your practical and in a real situation.
Working with your ABPs…
On a similar note, make sure to know all the key points for briefing your Able Bodied Passengers (ABP’s). These are the people you will ask to help you in a planned emergency situation.
This will be different for all aircrafts and depending on your position in the aircraft. For example, I fly 737-800s, so we would have to brief passengers for our four doors as well as for the overwing exits.
The briefing is different for their position as well as the situation. If we were ditching and I was in the back galley, I would find a passenger towards the back who seemed fit to help block the exits and tell people to turn around and move forward.
However, if we were landing on the ground, I would instead inform them on how to operate the door, how to blow the slide, and how to get me out of my seatbelt if necessary.
Each situation and position has different key points and I make sure I know all of them in a sort of checklist, so I know once I have hit every point, my ABP has been properly briefed.
All sorts of Scenarios
Lastly, when you practice before the big day, either alone or with your peers, practice all sorts of different scenarios. Combine a few even. Do a decompression that leads to a ditching. Do a bathroom fire during boarding that leads to a full evacuation. Practice a pilot incapacitation due to an unknown decompression where you have to prepare the cabin for a diversion.
Any scenario that you can think of is also one that your instructor can think of. It is best to over-prepare yourself and breeze through the exam than to get a wrench thrown at you and not know how to react.
Practice until it becomes ridiculous
Sure, you probably won’t ever have a pilot incapacitation while fighting a fire in the ovens that causes a passenger to have an asthma attack so the other pilot decides to divert but can’t find the airport due to fog and ends up landing in the water and you need to initiate a water evacuation…but it will make you feel much better knowing what to do in case that becomes your scenario!
The mock-up is the first time you will really do anything hands on for the job and that can be a scary experience. Just remember that everyone is nervous.
Breathe and focus and you will do fine. You know this because you’ll have been learning it your entire training period. Now is the time to put it all together.
Once it’s over, you’re on your way to receiving your wings!