Always Learning More

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Hi everyone! Hope all is well with all of you! I have no idea how many people read this regularly, but I know there are a bunch of ya!! Thanks for tuning in… 🙂

I have a new analogy for what it is like to learn Flight Service Specialisting. (See, I don’t get to make up words anymore, and I kind of miss it.) It is like someone – let’s call him Bob – who has never driven before learning how to be a cab driver in Toronto (or another big city – let’s pick New York!!). So, before Bob can be a cab driver, he has to learn how to drive. To make it more realistic, let’s say the car is a standard. So, first he has to learn how to put it into gear, smoothly. That is like us learning the very basics of how to talk on the radio. It’s not easy at first, but later, we can do it without thinking very much. Shortly after Bob learns how to shift gears, he has to learn how to steer (or he wouldn’t drive very well)!! Next, he has to learn how to start the car, accelerate, decelerate, navigate corners, and other basic driving skills. All the while he is learning these things, his heart is pounding, he’s nervous, and might make silly mistakes because of nerves. Think back to when you learned to drive – didn’t your heart pound? Then, Bob will have to learn how to scan the road in front of him. And use his rear-view mirror, and side mirrors, to see and understand what is going on around him. This is VERY important in FSS, and we call it “situational awareness.” All of these basic things are like the basic airport advisory service that we learned in the first 2-3 weeks. Once Bob can basically drive the car, safely, then, he has to learn how to deal with traffic around him. How to change lanes, merge into traffic, guage speeds of other cars, look for traffic and pedestrians when turning left… There are lots of things that he has to master to be safe on the road with other vehicles. This is like us learning how to understand and assist movement of aircraft that we advise.

But this is not all! We haven’t even looked at learning how to work the radio or CD player, the windshield washers, signaller :), headlights, air conditioning or heat. And how to read the dials. Now, these things are easy, but not quite so trivial if you have to do them all at once (especially if you have to change CDs manually the way I do in my car). In FSS, we have to do a LOT of things all at once, and talking all the while, accurately reading info on the dials out to the planes, listening to responses, writing things down… Then, there’s maintenance of the car – putting gas in, changing oil, but also knowing how to respond to noises the car makes or rough handling. What about in bad road conditions? Bob will have to know how this will change the car’s responsiveness and account for this when he brakes or accelerates. In FSS, we monitor and report runway surface conditions and monitor equipment that aircraft use for navigating or landing. If an alarm goes off, we have several steps we have to follow to notify all those concerned about what just broke and how long it will take to fix, including a nifty specialized email system. There is an almost infinte number of combinations of things that can go wrong and what we need to do as a result. This is what we learned about last week – whew! (Now we just have to get good at it.)

While Bob is driving the car, to be an FSS, he’ll also need to check the weather now and then, identify the types and extent of clouds, take the temperature readings, do basic corrections on them, and then take air pressure readings and do multiple corrections on them as well. This will get easier once we use the computer system, but for now, we do it all on paper, and calculate everything manually. 🙂 Now that Bob can safely operate the car, he just needs to learn how to be a cabbie – navigate New York, get people safely from A to B, and make a living at it!

So, suffice it to say that we are part way through the process, and we know how to drive the car, understand traffic, but not how to operate all its systems or how to navigate all the situations that can and will arise. 🙂


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