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The "Anal" airline check captain/instructor

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The "Anal" airline check captain/instructor

Old 8th Jul 2012, 14:06
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The "Anal" airline check captain/instructor

Simulator training and subsequent testing has been a fact of life in the airline industry for decades. Someone has to do the job and it is probably fair to say that seniority generally dictates who gets `promoted`into the instructor seat. During initial pilot recruiting, many airlines choose their new hire pilots via batteries of psychological tests, culminating in a simulator assessment ride and finally interviews. In other words they want the Right Stuff. But guess what? Once the person eventually reaches enough seniority in the system to warrant joining the management team as a check captain, there is a mysterious absence of psychological testing for the job. Yet these people are responsible for flight standards and may even hold the office of a civil aviation Delegate.

Some airlines make a show of democracy and call for `expressions of interest` for vacancies in the instructor team. Often, management may already know the person they would like to have the next vacancy; nevertheless, those with the minimum qualifications can apply. The job attracts various personality types. Some will prove to be natural teachers. On the other side of the coin are ego-driven personalities attracted by perceived higher status and the extra pay. Management positions attract this sort and it is a known that mixing with the higher up's on over-nights, or inveigling oneself into the social life of senior captains helps the climb up the greasy pole. It happens everywhere, not only in the airline industry.

Once ensconced safely in the job of check captain, it is all too easy to become power-hungry. And it doesn't take too long before the check pilot or instructor may become what is known derisively as "Anal".

One Google definition fits the bill succintly.

Quote: .

1. The Anal-Righteous Personality: Very rule-oriented, righteous people. Preachers, politicians, lawyers, some teachers, accountants, bookkeepers, some management people, protesters, social activists...

A few weeks ago, this scribe was chatting with a pilot scheduled to undergo his cyclic flight simulator test. I had the pleasure of flying with him on many occasions and assessed him as an exceptional pilot of the transport jet he flew. Nevertheless he was in a gloomy mood at the prospect of being rostered in the simulator with a check captain well known in the airline as being Anal.

Events proved my gloomy friend was right. The simulator session was chock full of multiple emergencies along with an impossibly coincidental combination of varying weather conditions, passenger problems, radio failures and of course diversions to ill-lit runways with no standby power.

In fact the first officer concerned was almost overwhelmed with constant checklist reading, MEL searching; all in the first hour. His turn came later after the tea break and the checkie got stuck into him too. Nothing was learned of any future use since the chances of all these combinations coming together on the one flight were zero - zip.

This scenario is certainly repeated in all airlines around the world. The Anal check captain that is. Despite pilots required by law to undertake countless courses on Human factors, CRM, TEM or whatever is the latest buzz-word to come out of some university in USA, the lessons learned, if any, are lost on management pilots - and of course on many ordinary pilots, too.

Faced with Anal Retentive personalities in the instructor seat, crews become a captive audience. But where on earth is the quality assurance programme that is supposed to be in place to ensure check pilots are of high standard professionally? Of course they will pass their own cyclic simulator check flights since that must be by definition a buddy-buddy check. Management check pilots checking management check pilots.

But the quality assurance is non-existent unless regular supervision of the instructor at his job is maintained. One instrument rating test is not necessarily quality assurance on the skill of a check captain to teach or train. It is useless to have a CAA flight operations inspector watching the check captain run a training session. The instructor will be on his best behaviour as we all would in the same position.

The solution is not simple, once the check pilot is confirmed in the job. While rumours of the personality trait of a particular check captain may reach the ears up the line to senior management, rarely is the offender pulled in for tea and bikkies. After all, he now one of them. Certainly never disciplined by demotion to mere line captain or even first officer. Is it possible someone with that `Anal` personality would have been picked up through pre-check captain employment psychological testing? Who knows.

But these people are a cancer in any airline and believe me they exist out there. I fully expect a storm of protests to this contribution by those that claim it never happens in their airline. Maybe they are right, although I doubt it.

Many years ago I visited my old Commanding Officer of the Air Force flying school where I did my pilot training. By now he was was going on ninety years old when we talked about the old days. He had flown Catalina flying boats against the Japanese in the South-West Pacific war and for his trouble was shot down and became a POW in notorious Changi prison on Singapore Island. After the war he was repatriated and became a flying instructor. Eventually as a Wing Commander, he commanded an Advanced Flying Training School. He was the consummate flying instructor and highly regarded by all who had the privilege of serving under him. . At that flying school were 20 experienced instructors as well as a large administrative staff. All the instructors had served in WW2 and after the war were posted to CFS as trainee instructors. After the six-month course they were sent to the AFTS.

When I arrived there as a trainee pilot, other trainees on the senior course warned us of three NCO (Warrant Officer) flying instructors who were sadists in the cockpit. These three were known as `screaming skulls` and had scrubbed many young students. I had the misfortune to have one of these characters as my instructor but fortunately I survived the ordeal and graduated with my `Wings. Others were not as fortunate and were scrubbed. Some eventually became airline pilots.

Over coffee I asked my former CO if he was ever aware of the reputation of these three instructors under his command? He was astonished over this news from over sixty years ago. He said he had interviewed each instructor under his command and told them their students would see their instructor as God Himself and in turn the instructor should always show respect and good manners to their students.

Clearly his advice had fallen on deaf ears as far as the three NCO instructors were concerned and the old CO was mortified to be told of this after all these years. I admit to feeling a bit of a rat telling him about those times but it proved to me that often management have no real idea of what goes on under their nose and the injustices that are allowed to prevail. As a postscript to this story, two of the sadistic instructors eventually joined the airlines and the third joined the Regulator as an Examiner. His reputation was fearsome but that is another story.

To maintain any credibility and respect from its complement of line pilots, airline management need to guard against the hidden risk of placing unsuitable pilots into instructor positions. Within the inner-circle may be fine check captains. But the bigger the airline the greater the chance of the anal retentive slipping past scrutiny. One solution to ensure quality assurance among instructors is to have a senior management person drop in to listen to briefings and observe a simulator session run by the check pilot. Rather like the old days where a school inspector would arrive at a school unannounced to observe a class lesson. It would be better than nothing at all, which is the current state of affairs in many airlines

Last edited by Tee Emm; 8th Jul 2012 at 14:29.
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Old 8th Jul 2012, 19:39
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Once the person eventually reaches enough seniority in the system to warrant joining the management team as a check captain, there is a mysterious absence of psychological testing for the job. Yet these people are responsible for flight standards and may even hold the office of a civil aviation Delegate.
First of all, training is not management. It is training. Of course the postholder training and the fleet training managers are management position, normal trainers are not. Besides, who says there is no psychological assessment? Or stuff like classroom presentations of training courses before a panel of senior traning staff? All done in the companies i worked for, the assessment is not held inhouse but by external psychological asssessors who specialize in aviation and indeed work for the same company that does entry pilot selection for our cadets or direct entry pilots.

Yes, some of the old style trainers are still there, and they used to be the disciplinary arm of the management in the olden days, but those times are long gone and the last ones will retire soon. Since nobody can get checked out of the job anymore they have a surprisingly changed attitude nowadays too.
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Old 9th Jul 2012, 03:27
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but those times are long gone and the last ones will retire soon
I admire optimism but ask any line pilot and you will get the good news that occasional anal check pilots will always be a fact of life. In all countries.
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Old 11th Jul 2012, 12:22
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Tee Emm.

I would just like to pass on "My compliments" regarding your very objective article.

It should be required reading for every Training Captain, Instructor and Examiner.

The number of times we have been reduced to the mediocre by some self-important incumbent of the "Sweat Box" is never forgotten.
We all know that we can load anybody to the extent that they will foul up on some aspect of a check ride and we know that this ploy was often used to get rid of someone who perhaps upset management by daring to have an independent point of view.
It was ever thus in certain airlines and I doubt that it will change much. Personality profiles will not always sort out the power-hungry.

Many good, sound but maybe a touche slow, student pilots were scrubbed when I went through training and we all knew that in a lot of ways they were far better operators than we were.
Their sensitivity during training would have translated to empathy later in their careers had they been allowed just a little more time.
I have known a number who became exceptional airline pilots and are now the good guys in the sim. because they UNDERSTAND the frailties. Their candidates are therefore more at ease and produce better results than the subjects of some anal, self-engrossed check pilot with a superiority complex.

Me? I'm just coming to the end of a fantastic military, airline and now instructional and examining career after more than 50 years.
I've seen the best and the worst.

Why is it that I'll never be able to fly as well as some of my students ??
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Old 17th Jul 2012, 23:16
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Hello All,

This is very dissapointinting to read. Why do I write this? Simple. I am a checkpilot at my company and my job is very simple.... I verify that professional pilots understand procedures, policy, and SOP's. I watch as they apply the skill and knowledge towards normal and "realistic" abnormal events. Why someone who is a subject matter expert... the "checkpilot".... feels they have to flex their knowledge is just fatiguing.

The job of the checkpilot is to ensure that knowledge has been transferred from the training enviorment to the line enviorment.

All I can recommend is that, you as the pilot, take control of your training enviorment and ask the simple question...why are we doing this and how does this apply to the real world. Union pilots can push this through their traing committees and non-union will have to be just as assertive but with absolute respect. The latter sucks but is required to hold the title professional pilot.

Just a thought.
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Old 20th Jul 2012, 13:10
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Well take a look at these threads; they make for interesting reads and thoughts.


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