Friday, June 4, 2010

Oral Exams and triathlon...hand in hand?

I'm going to do my best Dr. J impression here and try to compare studying for an airline oral exam to training for a triathlon. If I don't get it quite's cause I'm not as awesome as Dr. J! :-)

When you go through initial airline training, there's certain subjects that you have to cover per the FAA. You start off with Indoc. This is learning company procedures, manuals, etc. You also cover some nuance stuff, such as crew resource management, flight time legality, etiquette, weather, and uniform fitting. This generally lasts about a week. Then you take a test on that subject. These tests are almost always open book, open notes. Passing that, you get into the meat of the class: the systems. Systems can last anywhere from 2-4 weeks. You learn about the airplane (or airplanes) that you will be flying. You learn what all the switches do, what speeds make the airplane do what, and what to look for on a walkaround. You also learn how to program the airplane so that it will do what you want it to do (I still haven't figured this one out yet...).

After you take your systems test (I got 100% in like 12 minutes), you prepare for your oral exam. You review what each switch does. You review every system and go over the nuances of it. You refresh yourself on those limitations and emergency memory items. Then you take your oral exam. Demonstrate knowledge of the systems and limitations and you pass. Don't do that, you fail. It's that simple. Or is it?

I've heard horror stories at the airlines of guys answering every question right, but still failing the oral because of something as simple as their haircut wasn't what the examiner wanted. Or their flight bag had a sticker on it that the examiner didn't like. The way I have always looked at an oral exam is that it's beyond your control what happens. You do your best and move on from there, regardless of outcome.

Now, compare that with a triathlon. You start each season like starting Indoc. You get the basics down. You get the mileage under your belt with running, you get your bike in for a tune-up and go cycling to make sure the moving parts are good, and you hit the pool to get back in motion. Then as the season goes on, it's like systems. You hit it hard. You start incorporating two a days into your schedule. You increase your mileage base. And like systems, you do it over, and over, and over again.

The race is the equivalent of the oral exam. You prepare all you can for it, but the outcome can be out of your hands. Race conditions can lead to unfavorable results. All the training in the world can be hampered by a flat tire or a calf muscle pull. But training properly can also lead to happy results. Just like preparing for the oral will pretty much ensure you pass, training properly for triathlon will ensure that your race day goes well and the results will please you.


  1. Thanks for the more than kind mention, Brandon! Glad you did so well! Your future passengers boredom will be your thank you :-)

    I don't know if I ever mentioned this to you, but when I had my last biannual, the last thing my instructor did was an engine failure at 2000 feel all the way to an actual no engine landing on an isolated grass strip that became apparent after I was looking for that place to land. I later thanked him for that exercise when a few months later I had that real experience with the engine problem on takeoff! Practice really does make a difference in flying and tri's!

  2. A lot of things can be out of your control during's like's all in your attitude, sounds like you have a great one!