This weekend my friend Simon and I attended ROCC (Radio Operators Certificate of Competence) training which following a Written and practical exam and approximately 2 days on the job training enables you to operate an Air-Ground Radio station. I don’t have a great desire to provide this service from where I fly from, but I thought it sounded interesting and would serve as a useful RT refresher. When I first saw it advertised on a Facebook Group (see sometimes good things come from FB!) the chap advertising it was offering a familiarisation of ATC including a tour of Humberside’s ATC unit. I responded to Lee Stephenson’s ad and found him to be professional, communicative and helpful the course was also offered at what I thought was a good rate, £150.00 including the exams, so I booked up two places. Lee operates as LAS Aviation Services.
As I had been teaching during the day Simon kindly offered to drive us up to Humberside airport on Saturday evening; Lee had kindly included car parking in the training cost.
On arrival, we were both hungry and so we went from the car park to the hotel (Hampton by Hilton) stopping only to look at Thunderbird 3, yes you read that correctly! Eastern Airways code is T3, so at some point in time the owner has purchased a scale replica of Thunderbird 3 (T3). This became more of an interest for me as I casually snapped a picture and put it on Twitter which has at the time of writing 458 likes and 295 retweets, more than any of my other tweets, odd how some things just take off! 🙂
The lady on reception had recently started work at the hotel, she had previously worked for the now-closed bar restaurant next door, I bet you know where I’m going with this. Around 40% of the hotel’s bar menu was unavailable, so burger and chips it was! later that evening when she was pouring me another G&T from an almost empty bottle, she said “Queens!”, I was taken by surprise by this! She explained if you call “Queens” when a bar person is pouring you a drink from an almost empty bottle they have to pour the remainder into your glass at no extra cost. Well, I had learned something new and beneficial before the training had even started.
Sunday morning, Simon and I walked over to the information desk in the terminal and we announced our arrival. Shortly after a young guy (you reach an age when everyone is a young person!) wander over and introduced himself as Lee, he signed us in and took us up to the training room where he had tea, coffee, biscuits etc waiting for us. A little later the other two people attending the training arrived, Alistair and Danny (who is also a blogger, check out his blog here), we all got on well and with Lee too which made for a fun day.
ROCC AGCS Training
Lee started the day with a recap of the appropriate parts of CAP 413 and CAP 452 (ROCC). He commenced with the abbreviations (phonetic alphabet, numbers etc) and some definitions and when to use them; such as “Confirm” to request verification of Clearances, instructions, actions and information. We continued to run through the basics of the Readability Scale, Transmitting Technique and Time.
After a break, we went on to Aeronautical station callsigns and the type of service provided by each e.g. Tower means they provide an ATC service, Radio an AGCS… Now it was time for some theory, luckily for me I had covered this before when doing an amateur radio exam, this is not as bad as it may sound to some! VHF Propagation and interference, VHF under normal atmospheric conditions travels in a line of sight. To calculate it you use the following formula D = 1.23 √h where D is the distance in Nautical Miles, h is the height in feet above the ground. So for 3,000ft, the transmission will travel 67.3 nm.
Next, we covered QFE, QNH and QNE followed by Aircraft call sign abbreviations, when and how to abbreviate them, category of messages and their priorities, Unit of measurement, emergencies and how to handle them as an AGCS station, the role of D&D and their location.
After all of the above we moved on to RT, when and what an AGCS can say and many examples were given, we covered relaying clearances, aircraft and vehicle messages and examples of handling an emergency call on frequency.
Lee provided lunch which put to shame the many courses I have been on with other much larger companies.
After lunch, it was exam time!
There is a 1hr, 24 question exam, unlike most other aviation exams this is written answers, not multiple guess, sorry choice. I found this very concerning being dyslexic, but it was not as bad as I had feared.
We then watched a video and had to pick up as many mistakes as we could, which was good practice for the last part of the ROCC, the practical exam.
Lee asked who wanted to go first and as I just wanted to get it over and done with I volunteered!
In a room on our own Lee explained how it would be run and checked I was clear on this. To be honest, at this point I was quite nervous, Lee read out a long message and I for the life of me could not write it down in time. Remembering my radio FRTOL training I decided to ask him to repeat the message and to speak slower, It worked and was permissible too. It was then just a case of remembering what we had done and what you hear most of the time when flying. All went well as Lee worked his way through about 5 different scenarios from an aircraft joining a circuit with other traffic, a fire truck crossing, relaying a clearance and checking the read back and lastly handling an emergency.
Yay, I passed and so did everyone else on the training course too, happy days!
ATC Radar and Tower Visit
We now headed over to the control tower and spent some time in both the radar unit and the tower, which was very interest and we were made to feel very welcome, it transpires that controllers are normal people just like you and I, furthermore that they would prefer you talk to them and get the radio wrong than not to talk to them at all, this is something the Norwich ATC had said to Simon and I in the past too.
As we all got on so well we are all planning to fly into Humberside in a few weeks time for a mini-reunion!
In summary, a worthwhile day, where we refreshed our radio calls, gained the ROCC qualification, had an awesome time looking around the ATC Radar and Tower and made some new friends as well!
I also believe that the ROCC may count towards my BMAA Gold wings award, bonus!