Books and Box

The first sub-section of Books, Box, Brief, is called, “Books.” As I mentioned before, we will begin this section off by saying:

“OK Bob, open up the QRH, let’s go through the Status page.”

This statement primes the crew to get ready to do three things:

  1. Review the STATUS page
  2. Refer to the QRH or other documentation
  3. Re-calculate and confirm the performance

Making sure we get the QRH out and on the table is a great way to make sure that we don’t forget to use it! This becomes all the more important nowadays since most of us are dealing with electronic documents. Because they are virtual rather than physical, it’s easy to forget they even exist, especially when your brain is occupied with other stuff.

In the Airbus, the ECAM’s STATUS page displays a wealth of valuable information, such as:

  • Limitations to respect
  • Systems to configure
  • Procedures to apply
  • Inoperative systems

You may remember that we’ve already looked at the Status page during the initial processing of the ECAM. However, now that we’re actively preparing for the approach, it makes sense to review this information once more, to refresh and confirm our understanding. But, unfortunately, the Status page is a bloody hassle to get through. With a crappy layout and a surplus of information barfed onto the screen, most pilots find it cluttered, confusing, and unclear. It’s precisely what you don’t want to deal with while dealing with an emergency, and this causes most pilots to rush through it on their way to the other stuff, without developing nor sharing, a full understanding.

But if you know what to look for, and how to look at it, the STATUS page can help you to better understand the aircraft’s current situation. Once again, what’s needed is a more deliberate, step-by-step manner in which to process the information presented to us.

Let me show you how a professional looks at the STATUS page.

Once you spend enough time on the Airbus, you’ll come to understand that not everything on the STATUS page is of equal importance. What you need is a quick way to extract the most important stuff.

And guess what?

I’ve got one.

FROG BAC is a simple acronym to help you extract the most critical information from the STATUS page. Each letter stands for a particular system and helps you squeeze the STATUS for its most useful information.

F: Flight Controls
  • What Control Law is active?
  • Are there any inoperative flight controls such as spoilers, ailerons, elevators, stabilizer?
R: Reversers:
  • Are the thrust reversers operative?
  • How might this affect our stopping?
O: Overweight
  • Yes or No?
  • What’s required?
  • Checklist, Performance calculations, Non-Standard Missed Approach Procedure, etc.
G: Gear
  • What sort of landing gear extension and retraction are available to us?
  • Normal, gravity extension, no retraction?
  • What are the implications of no retraction?
B: Braking
  • Are the brakes Normal, Alternate or Accumulator pressure only?
  • Does the Anti-skid work?
  • What about the Auto-brake?
A: Automatics
  • What is the current availability of the automatics?
  • Can they be used? Should they be used? When should we stop using them?
  • Do we have the Autopilot?
  • How about the Auto-thrust?
  • Is the Auto-callout function be working?
  • What’s the aircraft’s landing capability (CAT I, II or III)? What does this mean for our choice of airport?
  • Are the FD’s available?
  • Will we be flying this approach in HDG/VS or TRK/FPA?
C: Config
  • What’s the landing configuration?
  • Are the slats or flaps inoperative, jammed or slow?
  • Will the speed be SELECTED or MANAGED?

While there’s a lot of information here, it’s rare that you’ll need to use it all. However, it’s important to understand to know how to use it. Just go through the STATUS page using FROG BAC and you’ll start to see just how to pick out the important stuff.

I recommend using FROG BAC in the following two ways.

  1. The first is optional but useful.
  2. The second is mandatory.
Why not use them both?
  • During either the initial STATUS review or your approach preparations, use FROG BAC to silently take note of and figure out the condition of each of these items. It’s especially useful to understand and confirm the landing capability of the aircraft (CAT I, II, or III).
  • Second, during your actual approach briefing, bring up the STATUS page and quickly go through FROG BAC with the crew, highlighting these most critical elements.

This is an effective way to extract what’s essential and helps to organise your thoughts, all of which makes the creation and sharing of a shared mental model, easier and more natural.

Here’s what it might sound like for an engine failure at a heavyweight.
We’re in Normal Law. All flight controls are operative.
No Reverse on 2.

So remember, in the Books sub-section, we do three things:

  1. Review the STATUS page
  2. Refer to the QRH
  3. Re-calculate and confirm the Performance

The next subsection is titled “Box”, and it’s pretty self-explanatory. Just get the FMS set up correctly!

Now, with the Books and Box sub-sections complete, let’s take a look at how to make an effective Briefing.