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Air Engineers Course Blog 5

29 February 2016
As always after a period off work, returning can be a bit of a shock to the system. Luckily for me and my classmates we had a relatively gentle re-introduction to Sultan life with a week of hands-on aircraft repair; preparing a patch of aluminium skin and riveting it to a damaged panel of an actual retired Sea King helicopter.

This has given us a much greater appreciation of the work and skill set that needs to go into every repair job on the aircraft.  I think it is safe to say that within our group there is a wide range of hand skill ability! 

As part of the course we spend a week away from Sultan taking part in adventurous training or sport; designed to encourage the class to take part in challenging activities in the future, as well as build teamwork skills.  

So, after a week back in Gosport we boarded a coach and travelled to Tignes in the French Alps for the Royal Navy Alpine Ski Championships. This is a week on the slopes including lessons, races and some time to ‘free ski’ and explore the mountains. 

There are varying levels of skiing ability in the class from a qualified instructor right the way down to, well, me!  Having not skied before I spent the first day doing my very best Bambi impression, although with the lessons over the next few days I thankfully improved enough to take part in a race towards the end of the week.  

There are many different races for people of different experience and mine was a novice time trial down the 1992 winter Olympics slope. Unfortunately for me, but much to the delight and amusement of the spectators; my Bambi impression returned for one last time and I took the quickest route down the slope (“on his derrière”, as the race commentator put it).

Returning to Sultan it was quickly back to reality as the class were straight into our Technical Competency Boards (TCBs). This is an hour long individual board where each member of the class stands in front of three qualified AEOs and is invited to describe the functionality of aircraft systems.  

The hour is split into two 30 minute segments, one to describe a mechanical aircraft system and one to describe an avionics system; the specific aircraft systems being given to you at the start of the board. The whole experience can be a daunting one, as this is the first major assessment of the knowledge we have gained since joining.  

Unlike a conventional written exam, the board members can question your answers and descriptions to really grasp the extent of your understanding.  Saying that, the staff are not there to catch you out, but steer you on the right path and try to pull as much detail as they can from you as you frantically scribble down system diagrams on a whiteboard!  

As I walked into my board I was given my systems, Gas Turbine Engines and Automatic Flying Control Systems (Autopilot). After the hour was up I felt I had put across all of the relevant knowledge that I had with regards to the systems and the subsequent questions and after a short wait outside of the board room I was called back in and told I had passed.

Now that the boards are over, we are moving on to Aircraft Support Management, leaving behind (for now) the technical side of the course.  

This new subject will look at the policy behind operating aircraft safely and the responsibility that we, as future AEOs, will have towards the safety of the aircraft, its crew and passengers, and the wider public!

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