22 September 2012

My last ATC school post

Those of you that have been following my exploits at the Airservices Learning Academy will no doubt be disappointed to find out that I'm no longer an ATC trainee.

No, I haven't qualified and been posted to a tower somewhere. I've left the job and we're heading back to Brisbane.

"Whatever for?" I hear you ask.

The training at the academy is basically in two parts. The first part is all theory and, for the tower stream, goes for about three and a half months. That's the part I finished about three weeks ago. Then you start in the simulators, which takes a further six or seven months. For the toweries you start off in the TMA sim, which is basically approach and departures, using radar. If you've ever seen the movie "Pushing Tin" it's a little like that, but not as full on. You then go into the radar tower sim, which is based on Melbourne's Tullamarine airport, followed by procedural tower, based on Launceston, and finally metro D, which is based on Moorabin. There are practical exams at the end of each of these modules.

If my some miracle you manage to get through all that, then they send you out to the field, where you finally get to control real aircraft. Five or six months later you may manage to get your ATC licence at last.

Well, I fell at the first hurdle. I just couldn't keep up with the pace. I said it wasn't as full on as "Pushing Tin", but it is still full on. By the time I got the hang of certain facets of it, something new would come up and I'd be on the back foot again. The more I got behind the harder it got to make it through a run. So, last weekend, after a couple of sick days, I had a good long think about what I was going to do. I decided I'd play it by ear and see how Monday morning's sim run went. If I hadn't improved after four days R and R, then it was time to call it quits.

I got half way through the first run of the day and was making so many mistakes, I just took off my headset and told my instructor that my decision had been made. I resigned the next day and drove out of the academy carpark for the last time on Wednesday.

We're now three quarters of the way through packing to return to Brisbane next week.

So, what's in the future for me? There are some Simulator Support Officer jobs coming up in Brisbane in the next few weeks, I'll be applying for one of those. Hopefully the training I've already had will help. SSOs, or blippies, are the people who move the aircraft around on the simulator screen and pretend to be the pilots that the trainees talk to.

In the mean time, I'm taking a break to do some fiction writing and a lot of kayaking.

21 September 2012

Another ATC school post

A couple of weeks ago, as part of my ATC training, we had a field trip to Avalon Airport. There's not a lot of air traffic going into Avalon, but it's a great place to visit, especially when you get to check out the fire station and the Qantas maintenance hangar as part of your tour.

The whole idea of the visit was because of one of our theory subject, "aerodromes and other landing surfaces", but the other stuff was what made the day.

Many thanks to the ARFF guys that showed us round the fire station, and the people at Qantas that showed us around the maintenance hangars.

Avalon Tower, probably the cruisiest tower in Australia to be posted to, 11 movements a day

The view from Avalon tower

The fire station at the airport, that's truck 13 on the left

I got to sit in a fire truck, boyhood dream

Next time you're heading off on holidays and feel rumblings under your feet after the plane takes off, this is why.

Naked airliner seats in a 767.

What's under the hood.

That's the black boxes, those orange thingies.

My mate Matt, checking out the crew rest area in a 747.