Wednesday, May 16, 2007

So the Adventure Begins...

Well, started training yesterday in Oklahoma City.

Day 1: Handshakes and Paperwork

It was a long day of paperwork and indoctrination.

The coolest part is that, as of around 11am May 15th, I can say that I am officially both a Federal Employee and an Air Traffic Controller (I'll just leave off the "in training" part for now. :) )

Day 2: Introductions

The first two days have been full lots of administrative stuff that's, well, kind of dry - benefits, life insurance, travel reimbursement, etc.. The best part by far has been meeting new people.

Most of the students are excited and looking forward to getting into the meat of the training. There are, however, a couple students who are very bummed out about being sent to high cost of living areas and are thinking of quitting. One woman was being sent to a Level 7 seasonal terminal in an area where the average home price is in the $ millions. The cheapest place she can find is a $1400/month room in a basement...with no kitchen.

For the Miami Dade folks, I've seen a whole bunch of alumni here for both Terminal and En Route in various stages of training.

Here's a quick list:

* Greg Weinbrum
* David Brookman
* Tuvar Akio
* Michael Shmeisser (sp?)
* Shawna
* Don Ellington
* Shulji (sp?)

There's two more guys that I know by face, but not by name.

Day 3: Tetris With a Career Attached

Today I retook the AT-SAT with my class. It's part of CAMI's research initiative, and only moderately less painful than being hugged by an Iron Maiden. I scored a 91% on, a few points lower than my previous 94% score. Not bad, considering I spent most of the Letter Factory test trying to keep from falling asleep (literally).

For those not in the know, the LF test is similar in concept to Tetris: you have to put the right pieces in the right place. The difference is:
  • The "pieces" in this case are the letters A, B, C and D coming down on four conveyor belts.
  • Each letter is one of three colors, and needs to be placed in a box of the matching color.
  • Only one letter of each time can go in each box.
  • Every once in a while, a letter other than ABCD comes down and you need to push a "Quality Control" button to remove it.
  • When you run out of boxes, you need to order more.
  • After each run-through, the computer asks you a bunch of situational awareness questions. (Ex: What letters would have been needed to fill the boxes you currently had open?)
I remember the first time I took this test, back in Miami. It was like an 8 hour heart attack, plugging through the math, angles, scan test, etc., hoping to come out on the other end with a passing score and a checkmark on my path to ATC.

Day 4: Fun with Weather Products

Today was all about tower equipment and weather products.

Curt, one of our A-leads, gave us a rundown of all the different equipment we'll be using in the tower. Frequency selectors, lighting controls, ILS monitors, wake turbulence timers and other things featured in the lecture. There's a lot of toys up in the tower, and by the time he was done I had a good grasp of how they all worked. Afterwards, we got to go over to the table-top lab and see the different pieces of equipment in person.

Following the Tower Equipment lesson (and lunch) we met our weather instructor, who's a former AFSS-er and doesn't do a very good job of hiding his bitterness towards the FAA over the takeover of Flight Service by Lockheed-Martin. I can't blame him.

The first part of his session involved discussion of numerous weather products. Many of them are familiar from my flying (METARs, TAFs, Area Forecasts, HIWAS) but it was definitely interesting to see the other side of things. I had never given much thought to how these products were generated, but thanks to this class now I know the different requirements for each. It's a lot of info and somewhat tedious, but at the same time it's useful in a "fun fact" sort of way.

The second part of the lesson was a CBI course on the ASOS automated weather reporting system that's used on most airports to determine the weather. Now, I'm big into technology and all that, and it was cool to learn how to generate METARs/SPECIs and transmit them to FSS. The problem was the presentation itself. It was extremely frustrating in that you couldn't skip ahead, and you had to sit there and listen to very repetitive instructions. For instance, whenever you had to actually type in remarks for a particular report (say, RMK TORNADO 3SE MOV NE ) it would launch into a 1.5 minute spiel on how to enter text into the text box. And it would do it for every instance! For instance, the reports for Tornado, Thunderstorms, Hail, Volcanic Ash, and Virga are very similar. And each time, you had sit there while the thing babbled on about how to physically type the remarks.

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