On PV day, you can really feel the tension in the air. There is a mix of euphoria, anxiety, and depression as people wait for their turn. People - both faculty and other classes - will turn up to check on you and make sure your class is doing well. To cut into the tension, we watched DVD's and played games throughout the day. There's nothing else to do but wait, so you may as well be unproductive! :)
The PV Process
The PVs will begin about two hours after you arrive. Prior to the first PV run, you will have time to do at least two or three runs in either the TSS or EDS. Make sure you do at least one local and one ground run. After the PVs begin, you are no longer allowed back into the EDS or TSS.
Each PV session is an hour long, and is broken down like this:
- Preparation: You get 15 minutes to set up your TSS station however you like. The strips will already have been ripped and stuffed in stripholders by the ghost pilots (as I mentioned previously, these guys rock). Take this time to relax, chat with your PV examiner, and setup any last-minute coordination with your PV partner.
- Running the Problem: The problem lasts about 30 minutes. There is no one in the room aside from you, your partner, the two PV examiners, and the ghost pilot. By this point in training, you will have come across everything you will use in the problem multiple times in multiple situations over the course of four weeks of labs. Just make it happen here. The examiner will sit behind you, watch and listen, and take copious notes on their papers. Just put them on ignore and do what you need to do.
- Review Period: After the problem is over, you will be asked to throw away your scratch paper and go wait outside for an undetermined period of time. A photograph of a trainee during this period should be placed in the dictionary next to the phrase "pucker factor". Tears, anger, frustration, self-doubt, confidence, and arrogance were all present. Our instructors, Russ and Curt, were also there, looking like expectant fathers. You could really and truly feel the concern they had for us.
- Revelation: After around ten or fifteen minutes, someone will poke their head out and draw you back into the inner sanctum. You will sit down with your examiner for that run and go over their notes in detail, which of course - depending on how badly you think you did - will build the tension until you're ready to scream, LOL. Both of my examiners took the roundabout way and covered the pros and cons of my runs before telling me I had passed. Some of friends just flat out asked them "Did I pass?" before allowing them to get in.
You will be presented with an OJT form to sign, which will invariably be covered in all kinds of notes. The thing you need to locate is a tiny little check box underneath the "Recommendation:" section on the back that says "Continuation of OJT". If that is checked, it's time to do one of the following:
- "Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight!"
- Run screaming through the streets of the MMAC yelling "I passed, bitches!"
- Curl up into a fetal position and have a good cry.
- Plan what you're going to do with your $18,000 pay raise ("You...you mean I can afford ramen with....with flavor now? Oh thank you baby Jesus...").
PV Problem Overview
The problem is a slow one; you will have maybe 30 airplanes, if that. It's very similar to TSS Problem 44. It is very, very moderately paced. However, it will force you to use all of your tools and your coordination abilities. Also, due to its slow pace, you will have plenty of time to second-guess yourself. Don't! Play it cool and be confident in your abilities. The PV-ers will smell fear, so don't show any.
Items that featured throughout:
- Pattern management (Extend downwind, short approach, enter three mile final, etc.)
- Wake turbulence
- Small behind Heavy
- Small behind Large
- Arrivals and departures behind departing Heavies
- 16 Departures behind departing Heavy on crossing runway
- Traffic Calls
- Vehicle crossing the parallels
- Departure/Tower coordination (IFR releases for 16 departures, rolling calls for all IFR departures)
- Runway Crossing Coordination
- Traffic awareness: When you give your position relief briefing, make sure you know who everybody is, where they're going, and what they're doing.
We had three people not make it on their first try, all on Local. Two were because of a serious incident, the third seemed to be due to a combination of smaller things. The first two failed on Thursday, went through some retraining on Friday morning, and passed successfully on Friday afternoon (to much cheering and fanfare from the rest of us). The third will have to retake on Monday.
The two key issues that caused people to fail were the following:
- Runway 16 Departures: There will be around three aircraft that will request Runway 16, and you will be required to give it to them. While at least one of them is a Cat II which you can have takeoff from the intersection of Runway 16 and taxiway Bravo (in other words, you save them around 3000 feet of rolling time), there is one jet that you will need to take full-length.
It simply boils down to timing. All aircraft on the parallel runways have to be completely across the intersection before the crossing runway's aircraft begins its takeoff roll. For one of my classmates, if he had waited literally 3 seconds for an aircraft to pass the intersection he would have been fine.
Also...while it's tempting to hold the 16 Deps indefinitely until you've got a nice big hole, the PV folks will also frown on that. You cannot delay someone for 15 minutes. You do what you have to, such as extend the downwind for that Cessna on downwind, hold a Heavy an extra 30 seconds on a parallel, or deny a runway crossing. On top of that, do not forget to call traffic. Those 16 departures will make or break your PV, so use all of your tools to get them out of there successfully.
- Coordination Problems: You have to be totally clear on your crossings; there can be no ambiguity. On my Ground PV, I needed to get a vehicle across the parallels at taxiway Echo and advised Local of my intentions. Here's a quickie airfield map so you can see what I'm talking about. Taxiway Echo parallels Runway 16/34 and runs across Runways 28R and 28L.
Local saw a hole in his pattern and prompted with "Cross Runway 28 Left at Echo, Hold Short Runway 28 Left". That of course makes no sense. I quickly corrected him with "Cross Runway 28 Right at Echo, Hold Short Runway 28 Left." He realized his error and repeated it back to me correctly, and I went ahead and crossed the vehicle without an issue. After the PV, my examiner made a huge deal over this, saying that I'd saved Local's butt.
My friend who failed the Local PV apparently had a similar slip-up. However, unlike the guy above who passed his Local PV despite his mistake, my friend was not so lucky. It was one glaring example of the subjectiveness of the PV process. One person gets their ticket, the other gets another try... over the same error.
The voice recognition issues that I mentioned previously are alive and well in the PV. There are two incidents that nearly wrecked a couple of my classmates, and one that happened to me:
- "Turning Right": My friend was working Local and had told an aircraft to hold short of Runway 28R. Apparently, the computer misread her and caused the airplane to turn on to the runway. It snowballed into a bunch of different problems that she corrected, but underneath it all she felt that the original problem was her fault. She kept it together for the remainder of the problem, but when she walked out she burst into tears, thinking it was all over. Thankfully everyone - examiners and ghost pilot - concurred that it was a computer error. She passed and was complemented on how well she did given the situation.
- "Hold Short Runway 28L": Another friend of mine had a vehicle going to the VOR, which is on the opposite side of the parallel runways. Three times he used the correct phraseology: "Proceed to the VOR, hold short Runway 28 Left". Three times the vehicle spat back "Unable". Finally, realizing the computer was fighting him, he resorted to telling it "Taxi to the VOR." As soon as the vehicle crossed Runway 28R, he told it "Hold Short Runway 28L".
Apparently, his examiner was actually going to fail him because of this. My friend used the correct phraseology 3 times and only used incorrect terms because the computer wouldn't do it any other way. Thankfully, reason, logic, and a sympathetic supervisor intervened and that incident was not used against him in any way.
- "Runway 28R at Charlie": I had a Cherokee that was requesting an intersection departure, so I gave him "Runway 28R at Charlie". It took me three times for him to finally give a correct readback. After he got underway, I kept a pretty close eye on him. However, as he was nearing Delta, I got busy with some other things. When I look back at Charlie, expecting the Cherokee to be waiting there, I saw that he was in fact at the full-length threshhold of 28R. This gave me a hell of a scare and put a lot of doubt in my mind, as I had been 100% certain I'd given the correct instruction and received the correct response.
After the problem was over, I talked with the ghost pilot about it. He confirmed that the Cherokee had indeed gone the wrong way and should have gone to the Charlie intersection. There's simply no explanation as to why it did what it did.