The third week of four is over. I arrived in Mexico City on a saturday, before monday's first day of the conversion course. I've been staying at a house of an elderly lady where she built many rooms so she can rent them. She rents the rooms mainly to people in aviation. It's near the airport so I can hear planes taking off. JT8-Ds, GE90s, GEnx, CF6s... those are the easily recognizable sounds. I normally take the bus to the school, since it's also near the airport.
The first day was an introduction. What we were going to do, why, and what paperwork is needed. On tuesday we had one day of "airline management", learning basic stuff such as a short history of management, scientific administration, services of an airline, legal requirements to open and operate an airline, low cost and legacy models, the structure of an airline, and marketing. We had a test at the end of the day. That's how it works: lessons and a test at the end of the subject. Everything fine with the first formal day of the course. The teacher (not instructors, teachers) was the training chief of the flight school.
On wednesday and thursday we had "ATC". The teacher there, a former air traffic controller, presented the lesson's information and tought us about the mexican ATC system, airspace, clearances, separations, emergency transponder codes, and pre-search-and-rescue phases. I found the class and the information shown very superficial, inaccurate, containing little detail and next to none practical information. The teacher didn't have a prepared test for us, but he gave us one a few days ago, in the communications class, so we could answer the questions at home.
On friday we had the first of two days of the "navigation" lesson, ending on monday of the second week. It was basically navigation terms in spanish, mexican-style radial interceptions, holding pattern speeds, radio frequencies used for navaids and communicationa, ILS categories, and how-simulator-instructors-here-like the way to do DME-arcs. We then had a test at the end.
On tuesday I had the hope we were going to learn about aeronautical information publications, specifically the mexican Aeronautical Information Publication. My hope was short lived. We were shown Jeppesen charts for Mexico and how Jeppesen presented Mexico's airspace structure. Not even the whole introduction for Mexico's procedures and rules from the airway manual. Ok, then, maybe they'll show it to us in the "aeronautical operations" class. As usual, we took a test at the end of the lesson.
Wednesday, thursday, and friday: "aviation medicine", commonly known as the "aeromedical course" in Mexico's pilot training system. We learned about human factor terms in spanish and stuff like medical certification (poorly presented), the aeronautical environment, the atmosphere and gas laws, physiological factors such as: circulation, breathing, orientation, stress and fatigue, and vision. We finished with a test at the end, where I stupidly answered it's 78% oxygen in the atmosphere.
We started this week with aeronautical operations. A friend and I agreed to talk with the training chief about what we had seen in the course and share our opinions. A feedback, more than nothing. I told him the contents of the lessons are very superficial and there's little presentation of subjects and information that is usefull for practical application. I showed him a simple conversion course syllabus I made the night before and told him there are subjects and stuff that should be important to be presented such as the certification process in Mexico, sources of aeronautical and weather information, the AIP, flight plan filing and closing, flight procedures, flight rules, air traffic services and procedures, pilot regulations, aircraft regulations (documents and inspections), test standards, the flight school's flight and simulator standards, practical management of human performance and limitations, etc. He appreciated our concerns and liked my syllabus. He told us he was going to try to teach the subjects we told him were important.
Two days, monday and tuesday, learning about General Operating Manuals, Flight Manuals, filing an ICAO flight plan, transport category takeoff and landing performance and its requirements, and weight and balance for large airplanes. As usual, we took a test at the end of the class.
In the next two days we had the "communications" class with the same teacher that gave us "ATC". We learned about proper communication procedures, techniques, the international and national communications organization, and we practiced comms in spanish, simulating an IFR flight. What about VFR operations? Nada. The test was to write the conversation between the pilot and the controller of an IFR flight from Mexico to Acapulco. What an average class quality.
Today we had "aviation security", learning about international agreements and ICAO standards and recommended procedures on aviation security and safety. The class was mainly hearing the teacher, who is an A320 first officer who hasn't been able to upgrade to captain, bragging about airport security personnel. He'll give us the "professional ethics" class, where we'll discuss about the pilot's professional degree. It'll be an interesting talk, giving I have a lot to ask about.
The lessons are done with power point presentations and teacher's explanations. We take notes during the lessons, we study for the test, and we pass the test. Simple, right? Well, there's a probem: The whole conversion course isn't well organized. They lack of a good structured syllabus, like any other pilot course they offer, and don't present sources and references where we can study further or confirm the information given in the classes. They haven't analyzed what subjects should really be presented to pilots that want to convert their foreign certificates/licenses to a mexican one. Every course should have a syllabus containing references, objectives, academic content, and conclusion standards for every lesson and subject. One problem is the theory curricula is not formed with the practical stuff in mind.
The flight school is supposed to be the most prestigious flight school in Mexico, but it lacks of structure and standards in their courses. They could learn a lot from the Aviation Instructor's Handbook.