First off I want to say how hospitable everyone here at VOR Holdings has been. They will answer most of your questions. China Postal accommodations are nice, but the hotel did not have internet wifi, so be sure to bring a wifi adapter or bring your computer. China Postal will provide for your meals and transportation while you are here, and also a translator when necessary, so don’t worry about communication problems. There is no workout facility in this hotel.
Bring something to read or study for the medical day. Some long waiting times between stations. I used this time to prepare for the CAAC written test. Wear comfortable shoes for the treadmill test. Don’t worry it is very easy. You walk for a few minutes and the doctor will incrementally increase speed and elevation of the treadmill. It only lasts for about 20 minutes.
The medical is no big problem if you are already fit. The weight and height is electronic and will display your BMI, so be prepared by being in your best shape possible. I would suggest no salt diet also before you come, and to also check your blood pressure and cholesterol before you come. This way you can fix problems before you come, and you will pass the first time.
The written test was more difficult than I expected, even though I was forewarned. It is difficult to understand their translations even when they are written in English. I suggest you study the two items I was suggested to study. Study the FAA ATP test question bank. I bought an app for my iPhone and iPad, suggested by one of my friends who is now at Tianjin, called Aviation Exam Test Prep app. I think it is worth the money, around $10. It will get you refreshed to think in terms of ATP questions. Also I suggest you definitely do all the questions with the graphs and charts. There were a lot of questions from this section on the CAAC test. There is a book called The Technical Pilot Interview you can buy for your Kindle or iPad, it is a great review. Don’t bother with the regulations, some are similar but many are very different, and everything is in meters. You cannot wag the charts either. Answers will be only .01 different from each other so you neeed to take your time so your answers will be as accurate as possible, and always pay attention to the small print, almost always a correction was needed, like Engine Anti-Ice on, or Bleeds off, etc. So pay attention to details so you get these right. The other sections are on aerodynamics, tons of weather questions, airspace, airport lighting, etc. If you can print the test questions from this website, I highly recommend you highlight the answers and study them.
You will also see some questions and answers with confusing or wrong answers, but this is because of the translations, so study the answers given, not what makes sense to you.
The sim check was like the profile VorHoldings will provide to you. The airline I came from is a read and respond checklist (except for nonnormals then it was read, respond, respond), FO reads, I respond then I would respond. This is not the Chinese way. They want the FO to read and respond, and the Captain repeats the response for all checklists, even the normal checklists. Because I did it my usual way, they believed I did not know the SOPs. FO reads and responds, then Captain responds on all checklists. Also my V1 call outs were different from the Chinese way. V1 cut, at 400 feet, heading select, autopilot off, bank 15 (we never changed bank angles at Delta), 1000 feet, call flaps up speed, clean up, and at clean speed, select Level Change, MCT, Engine Failure checklist, and After Takeoff Checklist, then back to normal 25 bank angle. If there is a need to do memory items, like a fire, instead of a simple engine fail illumination, then the Captain should ask the FO to protect the good throttle, pull bad engine to idle, then direct FO to continue with remaining recall items, start lever cut off, fire handle, etc., but always confirm everything loud and clear. (At Delta the pilot flying did not move anything, his/her priority was to fly while the PM did the recall items. This is not the Chinese way.) They want to see the Captain begin first step then dictate recall items to FO. The depressurization with rapid descent is also different. The Chinese way is to don O2 masks, select boom, check in, attempt to control cabin with outflow valve, no luck, then tell FO to request descent from ATC.
Announce is not necessary because this is cargo (do it any way if you are used to this), and put seatbelt sign on. Do not begin descent on your own. Request lower. They will give you instructions. You must not start down until they say you can!! If they simulate radio failure also, then you should ask your FO to establish a 5.5 mile offset to the right, turn, and start down once you are established on the offset, but not sooner. Once you begin your descent, do not speed up to Vmo/Mmo unless you are sure you do not have structural damage. You can ask them if you have structural damage or suspect it. Consider the nearest airport and request vectors, mine was 180 degree turn, so don’t continue the checklist and speed up going in the wrong direction. Get headed in the correct direction first. Then if no structural damage, accelerate to Vmo. Do the steps in order as in recall actions. They decided to make it even more challenging for me so flamed out both engines on the descent, cockpit went black, and the FO was still trying to catch up with the emergency descent checklist. This is also a recall action. The engines completely flamed out, I reached up and selected start switches (oops I put them in Cont Ignition not in Flight, they should be selected to Flight), and then I took start levers to cutoff, and reselected them to idle detent. They both restarted before the FO could catch up, and I immediately started the APU. On debrief they said I did not do it the SOP way… They wanted to see me wait in cutoff, look for EGT decreasing, duh, it was so obviously decreasing because they were not running and we were desending rapidly, but I did not say it outloud,"Hey guys the EGT is decreasing," so they debriefed me as if I was unsure. I was way ahead, but just say nothing and smile during the debrief. Be open to their critisim and have a warm disposition.
The FO continued with the dual engine failure checklist first, then returned to emergency descent checklist. We leveled off at 10,000 and I called to remove the O2 masks. The FO confirmed we were level at 10,000 and he even pointed at the cabin altitude on the overhead panel, and we removed our masks. We were debriefed that we had cabin pressure was above 10,000 so they said we did not follow SOPS. If it was above 10,000 feet it was only 10,005 or so.
We experienced a rapid depressurization, so does it not make sense to you that the cabin altitude equals actual altitude by the time you reach 10,000, especially if the masks in the rear deployed automatically. (We were in the 800 sim.) Do not argue no matter how right you are.
Just make sure you tell your first officer to ask for lower if the cabin has a tiny bit of residual pressure, then take your masks off.
Next was unreliable airspeed indicator. This event seems impossible to please them. Just try to fly pitch and power settings, and check probe heat on, run checklist. If in the descent, level off to slow down, ask to hold until you feel comfortable with the pitch and power settings. They will have plenty to say. Good luck. Stay open to their comments.
They told me the check was over at one point and started talking to me, so I turned to look at them. They put the sim in an unusual attitude, nose down. Then said to me fly the airplane. I turned and was surprised to see the sim nose down and accelerating. I pulled to idle at first, disconnected autopilot and autothrottles, pulled up, then I got "terrrain terrain, whoop whoop pull up" and the terrain popped up. By then I had changed the vector of descent to climb, fire wall powered, and pulled to eyebrow. We missed the terrain by maybe 100 feet. I am sure this was a set up. Be prepared for the most unusual circumstances.
Next I got windshear on liftoff. It was after I had rotated, so firewall power, disconnect AT. Dictate to your FO to call trends, while you fly guidance. Once you start rapidly climbing, I suggest you pull throttles to straight up position, call for gear up, AT back on, and remember the window opens up in your current speed, so immediately spin the speed back to 230 (flaps are still at 5) or slower, or the throttle will go back to almost full forward and you will overspeed your flaps. You can also elect to control it manually before bringing on your AT. Just know what to expect when turning on your autothrottles, speed window opens up in current speed before you select a mode.
RTO no problem. The other two pilots were told they were way too abrupt with this maneuver. It is a calm maneuver. Do not slam the throttles back and make this an aggressive move. They do not like this. They were pleased that I moved quickly but calmly, and no need to stress out on this one, even if it is right at V1. Remember you have two seconds to make the decision at V1 and be able to stop in the remaining runway. So do not jerk the controls around or you will hear about it in the debrief. The runway was slippery and wet for this so also do not use full reversers or you will have a difficult time staying on the runway. One pilot almost went off.
Second pilot being checked after me forgot to state "Reject Takeoff" during the maneuver and was thoroughly debriefed on the importance of the announcement to the FO.
After I got the speedbrake up, I slowly pulled them to idle reverse. It worked very well for me, and I stayed on centerline. One of the other pilots ordered me to do the steps for severe damage. He was debriefed he did not follow SOPs and he called for the wrong checklist. Be sure to watch for this. Engine Fail will be illuminated for engine failure, and N1 is 0. Severe damage the N1 goes to dashes —- and more violent sounds and vibrations associated with it. At least this is so on the 800 sim. Also if they ask you to clear the runway, this is your call. If you are on fire, don’t. If it is an engine failure do. The captain I was FO for did not know where to stop. We were told to call when clear. So review your airport signs. Hold lines are always dashed on the runway side and solid on the taxiway side. Make sure you go across the hold lines and fully clear before you call clear. The captain I was with tried to stop on the dashed side of the hold lines, the runway side, not good. Be sure to back each other up and make him or you continue taxing until your tail is clear.
My V1 cut was after I had rotated and the ceilings were very low. I had already lost sight of the runway on liftoff when it occurred. Normally I use the runway to set the appropriate rudder, and then rotate. It normally works every time. This time I had to rely only on the hdg bug to keep me within 5 degrees. Bank 15 was the only thing I did not call for. Add this to your mantra.
Also at Delta we did not do any steps until safely away from the ground. This is not the Chinese way. If necessary begin the steps by pulling bad engine to idle (but confirm it first) and call for recall items from FO before 1000. It was not necessary for me, mine was engine failure only.
The other pilots were engine fires, so they were expected to begin the steps immediately.
Check for bottle discharge light on when firing a bottle, and then start timing. If light does not illuminate, don’t forget to press to test before you blow the other bottle.
You will have to do almost every engine out maneuver without guidance, no autopilot, and no FD, raw data only. If you haven’t done this in a while, practice before you come. The single engine go will be last minute. Beijing is very windy in the winter, so they love to give you 30 knot crosswinds for all landings. They liked messing with me, so gave me 30 knots from the left on takeoff, and switched it on landing to 30 knots from the right. All without guidance and down to minimums every time.
We never did a non precision approach, but the other two pilots from Brazil took their CAAC checkride and told me they did a Vor/DME approach. They also said the CAAC check ride was much easier than the company checkride. The CAAC followed the profile, and only gave one failure at a time, not multiples like they gave me.
My impression was that they tried to throw the book at me to see how I would react. The other two pilots were pilots from Shenzhen and have been in China for 6 years already, so their checks were straight forward. Mine, on the other hand, was loaded with multiple failures at once. My philosophy is "Fake it til you make it!" Never give up. Do not react to the amount of stress or pressure. Just keep flying. Don’t change your tone of voice while dealing with the problems, and move methodically and calmly, even with dual flame out.
My fake it til you make it attitude worked because after the sim they asked me if I was nervous, and said they could not tell if I was because of my reactions. This must be why I passed:) They liked that I was calm and smooth with the controls.
Good luck with your interview!