Yesterday, we had an AMA “Ask Me Anything” with RAH, where the members in our community got a chance to ask him questions.
RAH is the Technical writer at Infinite Flight and author of the ATC Manual. He is also an IFATC Supervisor and real-world First Officer at a UK airline flying short/medium haul; serving Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East. He has been flying professionally for 5 years but started flying with the Air Cadets at the age of 15.
How long did it take to build the user guide?
Difficult to say as the User Guide is still in development and loads more to follow, but up until now, lots of months!
What is your favourite route to fly in the real world and why?
I love flying to Innsbruck (LOWI) as you have to be specially trained to go there and it is nice to do something a bit different. The procedures and terrain are challenging but fun too!
Don’t you think the manual should be available to pilots outside the IFATC too so that they can learn our new procedures and also the new ways we are going to be handling them? As far as I know, the manual is going to be hidden from the public.
The manual is public but once the 20.1 release is out, the User Guides will be more accessible with links within the app too. The ATC Manual does have some restricted sections but these are only because they are do with things like Slack, but the rest is always available!
Will SIDs and STARs be based off of waypoints or something else?
They will be based off the real world procedure, so usually a GPS waypoint or a conventional navaid like a VOR.
What’s the favorite part about your job as a FO?
I get to see so much of the world and get paid to do it!
Where do you find the time for all that manual writing?
Luckily you get quite a lot of time off as a pilot, but I also try and manage my time as effectively as possible. Plus the lockdown has helped in the last few months to really focus on this work!
What is something you’d love to see in Infinite Flight one day?
I would love to see Clearance Delivery eventually as that will improve the experience for both pilots and controllers alike.
How can one get such a great British accent?
I’m not quite sure, but I think 20 years in the UK has helped!
You are a First Officer. How has Covid-19 affected you and have you achieved something during this time that you wouldn’t normally be able to do?
It has meant that I have not really flown much since the end of March, and it will mean I won’t be doing much flying for the rest of the year by the looks of it. But it has meant I can do other things like focus on my work at Infinite Flight. I’ve also decided to try and improve my French, do house renovations and get the garden back to its former glory!
What is your favourite new (publicly known) feature coming with V20.1?
Probably the introduction of SIDs/STARs. I think it is a great step forward in providing pilots and controllers a more realistic experience.
In real life during the climb is it true that the power stays at 80% during the whole climb and the autopilot changes the VS automatically? If not how does it work?
Normally the FADEC will manage the output, therefore as pilots we simply put the thrust levers in the climb detent and the FADEC does the rest. In terms of what vertical modes you use to climb, that varies, but in general Climb or Open Climb modes will give you the maximum climb thrust available and the aircraft will climb at whatever V/S is required to maintain the selected speed. In V/S mode, the aircraft will target V/S but it may mean it is unable to maintain speed if the V/S is too high. The actual thrust settings vary so much on weight and environmental conditions so I can’t give you a figure I’m afraid!
What is the limit for the VS during the climb and descent on the A320? If there isn’t a specific limit, would 4000 fpm work on both the climb and descent for example?
There isn’t a limit but I think on the Airbus when it gets to about 6000fpm it turns amber so ideally stay out of that! 4000fpm would work on some days, other days not so much, your weight and the environment affect all of this
What countries in the Middle East have you flown too?
I normally fly to Jordan, Lebanon and Israel in that region.
Do you have a least favorite airline that always cause issues?
I luckily haven’t had too many awful experiences, although Air Zimbabwe wasn’t great!
What was your training like (small school or college or sorts or a military of some sorts)?
I started at CTC Aviation, also known as L3 Airline Academy now (well I think so, they keep changing their name!). It is quite a big school and trains for most of the big airlines in the UK. The training was mixed between the UK (groundschool, IR rating, Simulator Training) to the USA for most of the Single Engine Piston flying.
If you can, what are all the aircraft you have flown, from day one to now?
Grob 109B (Vigilant) Motor Glider, various conventional gliders, PA28, DA40 NG, DA42 NG, A319, A320 and A321. Hopefully I haven’t missed any!
What was the hardest part about writing the manual?
Probably making sure that it is easy to understand and covers absolutely every scenario, but still concise! It is still a WIP!
What was your favorite part of the manual to write?
Not sure if I have a favorite part but maybe the Radar section, before the ATC Manual, it was just the Radar Manual and was the first iteration of what you see today!
What’s the best city you’ve ever had an overnighter at while on an IRL trip?
There are too many to list! But I tend to enjoy lots of France because I’m trying to improve my French!
Is your role as the Technical writer at Infinite Flight a paid role or do you just volunteer your time?
I am a full member of staff, but this announcement will be made official once 20.1 is with us!
Do you have any real world experience creating manuals/written instructional content that lead you to be a good candidate to write the Infinite Flight material?
I have written quite a lot of documentation in my time, and I worked for some companies before I became a pilot where my role was writing company policy.
Any advice on how to fund pilot training? I don’t have 100K in my back pocket.
It is such a tough industry to get into and the financial side is often the worse bit. I would suggest going to some of the open days that flight schools hold and talk to the different people about how they funded it and sometimes banks are present at these events too. I was luckily enough to get a bank business loan for it but the various ways to fund often change all the time.
With flight training what is your advice on getting in?
Again, I would go to the open days, you find out so much info about how people got in. I would say try and do as much as you can before you apply to make yourself employable. Often the interviews are competency based (‘describe a time when you demonstrated …’). So it requires a bit of life experience to answer those questions.
And what is the best way to become a pilot?
What I have mentioned above will help, and if they ask you a question that you don’t know the answer to, then be honest and say ‘I haven’t experienced that, but if I were to, I would do this…’
How on earth do you manage to get work done with your cracked laptop screen?
With great difficulty, can I have a new one please?
How did you get into Infinite Flight?
I just stumbled upon it during Groundschool when I was bored!
Have you ever had a landing that’s made you go ‘ahhhhh darn that was bad’? I assume yes. Does that make pilots embarrassed when this happens? Does the captain comment?
Yes I definitely have, we all have! And if anyone says they haven’t, they are lying! I just giggle normally and the Captain normally laughs too, professional I know! Never embarrassed though, as long as the touchdown is in the ‘touchdown zone’, on the centre line, then it is happy days! And we prefer positive touchdowns to ‘butter’ landings or whatever you cool folk call it, they are the correct technique.
How many years did it take for you to get to where you are now, as a pilot?
I joined the Air Cadets when I was 15 and that is where it all started, I’m 27 now.
If you could fly one commercial plane IRL that you haven’t already, what would it be?
Definitely the 747! Sadly I don’t think that is likely anymore after this pandemic!
What was your dream job growing up?
I’ve always wanted to be a pilot, and I feel so lucky that I have been able to have that as a career.
What was the most difficult thing in flight school?
Probably the groundschool, it is 6 months of constant study and 14 exams to get through. The content isn’t particularly challenging but the sheer volume of information to take in is just endless!
What was your most frustrating moment with ATC?
ATC in real world aviation was probably when a controller cleared an aircraft to cross the runway at Barcelona with us on short final, Go-Around time! ATC on Infinite Flight, not one particular scenario but in general, usually when pilots continuously send us messages, and it takes up more of our time when we are busy.
What was your most frustrating moment with passengers?
I had one scenario where we were stuck in Milan because of thunderstorms, unfortunately nothing we could do until the storm passed, but a lot of the passengers were not as forgiving!
Does your airline mandate that you say “just another 10-15 mins” repeatedly each time you have an indefinite ground delay?
I don’t know about all the other pilots, but I’m always brutally honest, if it’s going to be an hour, I’ll tell you that. Although in all seriousness, the biggest frustration as pilots is that we rely on so many other people; ATC, ground staff, engineers, and it’s amazing how quickly time gets chewed up when you’re waiting for them!
What are the qualities you most admire in the Infinite Flight community? What drew you to interact with our members in the first place? Has the support and interactions on their part been what you imagined they would be?
I love everyone’s enthusiasm, its infectious and so great to see how willing everyone is to help eachother out! I’ve always been interested in aviation and I loved the idea of being able to take part, and hopefully provide a little of my own experience in return. Often I find everyone is always respectful, when I have found someone to be a little heated in the debate, I find talking to them calmly, and with empathy often does the trick. Kill them with kindness.
Do you speak French?
I attempt to! But in all seriousness, I am trying to do some lessons and take advantage of this lockdown as I did a lot in school. Plus, with my job, we fly to sooo many French speaking countries and I would love to be fluent!
Any interest in adding a glider rating to your ticket one day?
I started off Gliding! And I was a Gliding Instructor for quite a few years before I started commercial pilot training. But I haven’t flown in a while, would love to start again but just haven’t had the time yet!