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AIRBUS COMMAND TRAINING

Introduction
These are some of MY thoughts on Command Training in CX, for what they’re worth.
These thoughts are NOT Company policy – they are a combination of my thoughts and other CX
Training Captains (particularly Captain Darryl Hill) and are intended to provoke thought and offer
some guidance and suggested ways to undertake your Command Training (and later to use as a
CX Captain).
Each person will use a different and individual Command and Leadership style which has resulted
from years of osmosis and experience and observing the best and worst of other Captains. Don’t
try and change who you are – pick what works for you from these suggestions and discard the
others.
At the end of the day it’s all up to you anyway!

What Is Expected Of You


High-speed sub-orbital transport of aluminium-canned human organs and “there’s no money in
freight” high value cargo (i.e. Air Transport Operations) can be a risky business.
As a Captain of an Air Transport flight what is your job?
The safe, legal and efficient conduct of a service from Departure to Destination, and if
necessary, a diversion to an Alternate.
What is the relative importance of these aspects?
The flight MUST be SAFE, it SHOULD be LEGAL and it’s NICE if it’s EFFICIENT.
Contravene any of these (especially the first two) SEVERELY and, should it become known, you
can probably kiss those hard-earned Four Bar epaulettes goodbye. Rest assured that in the event
of any intransigence on the part of YOU or YOUR CREW that causes the CX AOC to be
scrutinised by the CAD, then your future is looking a bit bleak.
To that end always ensure that you apply Rule 1:
RULE 1 Avoid situations which require public displays of your superior knowledge and
superior skill!
Note: Any flight in a public transport aeroplane is a “public demonstration” – you may
well have more than 300 pairs of interested eyes and ears down the back.
DECODE: KNOW YOUR OWN LIMITS
Recognise when you are approaching your own personal “skill envelope” (and this
requires Situational Awareness). If you think you may exceed it, do something about it
(be proactive). As you gain more experience your personal “skill envelope” will
increase in volume.
A superior pilot is one who uses his/her superior knowledge to avoid situations that
may require use of his/her superior skills.

The Tactics
No one who starts Command Course knows it all – and (despite some protestations to the
contrary) no Line/C & T/Management Captain in CX knows it all either.
If we don’t know it all, how much do we NEED to know?
You need to know ENOUGH, where enough equals…

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NP’s and items you meet on a daily basis (i.e. Limitations, Recall checklists,
RTOW, Loadsheets, Port/Route specific details, Fuel Policy (in fact any Company
Policy), FCTM, etc) and you need to know THEM INTIMATELY.
Or as an ancient Hindu text put it:
“Learn well all the rules, so as to know how to „break‟ them in the proper manner.”
Know your material so well that you can weave your way around the rules when you need to,
without getting yourself in the shit. Some rules and procedures are black and white and very clear
cut, but others come in varying shades of gray. These “gray”, “pliable” areas are where you can
“mould” the situation to achieve your desired outcome. But you can only successfully do it if you
“know how to „break‟ them in the proper manner”.
To be able to do this you not only must be able to recall the information but more importantly, be
able to practically apply that information to suit the relevant situation. Most people know what to
do but not how to do it.
There should be very few surprises in any of this material – you have the books/e manuals and
have hopefully had time to read and absorb them. If you have already started your Command
Course and you don’t know your stuff really well by now – I’m sorry, but you’ve left it way too late.
You need to know this stuff BEFORE you commence your Command Course.
If you are doing a type conversion AND Command Training, your syllabus will have extra sectors to
cater for this, and your Trainers will help out with the stuff you aren’t familiar with. Don’t fret – lots
of us have had to jump through those particular hoops before.
Regardless of type familiarity you should be familiar with those aspects of the operation that are
common to all types: Loadsheets, Logbooks, CFP’s, Met, NOTAMs, Jepp plates and charts etc.
NOTE: To those of you already Airbus qualified and doing a Right to Left upgrade:
A sweeping generalization: the guys ex-B744 usually do a better job of it than you
(don’t get all shitty now!) because they look at everything as new, and analyse it
accordingly. They try very hard to adopt an “NP” operation, whereas those with some
time on type tend to relax and take the “Airbus Operation” as a given. It isn’t.
You will now be in the LHS setting an example to a (J)F/O, so I suggest a period of
review to ensure you are dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s in your operation.
Any criticism levelled at you by a Trainer in this area does NOT look good when your
Training File is reviewed.
What about all of the stuff you’re NOT sure of and don’t need on a day to day basis?
KNOW WHERE THE INFORMATION IS CONTAINED.
You cannot and are not expected to know everything. But you are expected to know where to find
the answer or solution to problems that will inevitably occur during your Training. Get intimately
familiar with the books, use their indexes/chapters and be able to locate sections quickly.
Practise with real paper books. At the moment paper documents are what are used on the Flight
Deck. When you face a problem on the Line you can’t do a PDF computer search like you can at
home in front of your PC. If you are not familiar with the physical layout of the paper books, it will
be much harder to locate quickly the item that you are after.
I GUARANTEE you will be put in situations (mostly through your own doing, and usually on a
Check if my own performance is anything to go by) where you WON’T know the answer. If you
can solve the problem/locate the answer by using your own resources that MUST be a pass…or
better.
If you know where and how to quickly and efficiently locate the answer or solution to your problem
and practically apply it, your stress levels will barely increase. However, if you don’t know the
answer and are frantically flicking through pages in various random FCOMs/MEL/Ops Manuals,

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your stress levels will rapidly increase towards “freaked out”. This can have the effect of causing
you to become flustered, confused, frustrated and your performance suffers accordingly. This is
not a good thing for a Command Trainee.
If you didn’t get it the first time – know your stuff backwards!!
GUESSING AND HOPING FOR THE BEST IS NOT AND NEVER HAS
BEEN ACCEPTABLE FOR A COMMANDER IN THIS COMPANY.

Resources
What RESOURCES are available to you?
They are usually PAPER or PEOPLE.
Both can be hard to get information out of at times, but I commend you to think NOW about HOW
you conduct yourself with people (Interpersonal Skills), and how you can maximise THEIR output
in YOUR favour.
If you are a “people person” you will have few problems. If you have poor Interpersonal Skills, start
thinking NOW. Leading and managing people is an essential Command skill. It can be difficult at
times and requires continual practise.
As Captain you do not have to do other people’s jobs for them. Don’t let anyone try and transfer
THEIR problem to YOU. If someone attempts to do this one method to deflect it back to them is to
ask “Well what (or how) are you going to…(resolve this)?”
Also remember that as Captain you can delegate jobs or tasks to people under your sphere of
influence. Most of the time this is to your (J)F/O, but you can also use the ISM, Cabin Crew, Traffic
Staff, Ground Engineers or other personnel. However, as the Captain you cannot delegate
jobs/tasks or responsibilities that are yours and yours alone.
Know the LOCATION of information, how to ACCESS it, and the possible LIMITATIONS of the
source.
Some of the resources available to you to extract information or provide solutions to possible
problems (in increasing range from the LHS) are;
On the Aircraft
 Cockpit Crew Use the CLEAR model. Your (J)F/O may have experienced
something before and have a ready made solution available. This is
not “cheating”, it is CRM.
 ECAM & OEB’s…don’t forget them.
 Manuals FCOM’s, QRH, CX Ops Manuals, AERAD, Jeppesen, Logbook,
Notices to Crew, DG Regulations.
 Cabin Crew A valuable asset to have on your side. Cultivate your relationship
with the ISM in particular. Remember your Interpersonal Skills and
never forget their welfare (you’re in charge of them as well).
 Pax Be really careful soliciting information from passengers and be aware
of the possible limitations. However, some pax can provide specialist
knowledge (e.g. doctors/medical).
ATC
 Via VHF, SATCOM, ACARS or HF (phone patch)
 Be nice – ATC will always win any arguments you may start

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 Use “REQUEST…” to nicely ask for something and use “REQUIRE…” to tell them what
you need and want. Use “REQUIRE” very sparingly and only when operationally
necessary.
On the Ground
 Ground Engineer/Mechanics
 “Traffic” Staff
 Other Staff (Pax handling, Security etc)
Home Base
 IOC
 Engineering (MEL/Dispensations/Concessions)
 CX Medical
 Duty Operations Manager
 CX Security
 Via VHF, SATCOM, ACARS or mobile phone
Other Agencies
 EOD advice
 MEDLINK
Other Paperwork (IF you have been smart enough to retain copies)
 Airbus GROUPWISE
 Crews News
 Chief Pilot newsletters
 Line Ops Bulletins etc
 IntraCX

Command – What You Do


The essence of your job as CAPTAIN is to CONTROL & MANIPULATE these resources to get the
OUTCOME YOU DESIRE – whatever that may be.
Your position is a very powerful one. You are a combination of CX Managing Director and DFO’s
man on the spot, SAR Chief Executive, Chief of Police, PR man, Physician, Orville Wright and
Flight Safety and Aviation expert. Your powers are wide-ranging and now carry some “clout”.
When YOU say something, people generally LISTEN.
How you go about the control and manipulation task is what is meant by “your style”. This is a
reflection of your personality (unfortunately for some people!) and can be subtly changed if you
wish. I recommend you stick with what you’ve got for the duration of the Command Course (unless
you’re REALLY obnoxious…if you’ve been punched out in a bar recently that may be a clue?). If
changes are required, make them later.
I personally advocate the BENEVOLENT DICTATORSHIP concept:
All inputs are actively solicited and welcomed, but once MY decision is made, we ALL
bog in and try to achieve that aim.
CRM is a great tool and I encourage you to foster and develop your CRM skills, however, there
may come times where you’ve got to “lay down the law” to achieve your desired outcome. This is

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called LEADERSHIP. “Big” Command and “Little” CRM (within limits). Always remember that you
are the one in charge and ultimately you will be held responsible for your or your crew’s actions (or
inactions).
Some TACTICS which can be useful in various situations:
(J)F/O Your LAST LINE OF DEFENCE.
As a group they are usually keen, although of variable ability (especially the ex-GA
guys without previous airline time). Be wary of isolating him/her – either through
ignorance or stupidity (comments about salary; hanging shit on other nationalities when
he/she is married to one etc). HELP THEM HELP YOU: ENSURE there are NO
BARRIERS to COMMUNICATION on your flight deck.
NOTE: The Airbus has a growing population of (J)F/O’s with limited handling
experience in heavy jets. That said he/she should be able to fly the aeroplane
acceptably and unaided. He/she in concert with the autopilot MAY be the best person
to fly while you attend to other aspects of your airborne problems. There is absolutely
NOTHING WRONG with saying “Confirmed, YOU have control, ECAM actions”.
Ensure though that you keep one eye on the (J)F/O as a back-up. His/her errors can
cost you your Four Bars as well.
Cabin Crew
Keep them on YOUR side. Cultivate them (there are less obvious benefits). Take an
interest in their welfare.
You are the COMMANDER, so you are RESPONSIBLE for them – be a LEADER, not
a MANAGER.
They aren’t just the food and drink dispensers, they are YOUR representative in the
cabin, and YOUR resident safety expert in their respective locations.
An ISM you get on well with will tend to keep all cabin problems AFT of the flight-deck
door. That is a major plus when things get busy.
Route And Port Briefing/Preparation
My personal thoughts on preparation for Command are: you should be extremely
familiar with ALL the information in various Manuals and FCOMs and once the Course
begins the vast majority of your study/preparation should be Route and Port specific.
You will not have enough time to try and learn Vol 1 and Vol 2 Pt 2, NP’s and FCOMs
AND study for your next flight (which is probably to a Regional Port that you haven’t
been to before). Whether you like it or not local knowledge for some of the Regional
Ports that we go to is invaluable and this local knowledge (or lack of) can make you
look good or bad.
Use the Intra CX Route Briefing information (it’s excellent and getting better all the
time), read the Vol 2 Pt 1 (CX Port Pages), grab some used Jepp charts to check out
the route and locate suitable ERAs, view the e Jepp charts, check out the last few days
flights on CFD, check the AERAD if required and most importantly actively seek out
friends/anyone who has been there recently and get the most up to date good gutz
info.
Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance (P7). Don’t over
study, but don’t go into a place under prepared – it reflects very badly on your
competency as a Commander.
By failing to prepare, we prepare to fail
CLEAR

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CLEAR model - It really DOES work!


If you can’t remember what it means, look on the clip boards in the cockpit – it is
printed there for a reason. Use it!
ECAM & “DRAMOC”
If you let it be so, one of the most dangerous bits of equipment on the Airbus is the
ECAM.
As Captain you must be able to manage any potential ECAM problems. This may
require the use of the magic word “Standby”. Discuss ECAM handling with your
Trainer. How you handle ECAM actions can make you either look really good or look
really bad.
As soon as a problem appears, the flight deck is effectively split down the middle, with
little cross-talk between the flying side and the procedural side. YOU have to manage
this to ensure BOTH of you are “in the loop” regarding all factors affecting the
aeroplane. Personally I favour periodic “summaries” of where you are at
(geographically, terrain-wise and emergency procedure-wise). See also SITREPS
below.
If my own experience is anything to go by, what you will experience in the aircraft for
real is nothing like what you will have seen in the Sim. It is generally not as clear and
can be quite confusing.
One of the problems with the ECAM is OEB’s and “other” checklists. HOW do you
remember to do them? I strongly recommend when you are running through ECAM
procedures, when you get to “STATUS”, do the After T/O Checks (if applicable) and
hold the rest of any checks (remember the magic word “Standby”) and think for a
moment to yourself “DRAMOC”:
D Dump fuel? (A340) – or maybe Fuel X feed open? (A330)
R RAT Deploy manually?
A APU Start it? Do I need the BLEED as well?
M MAYDAY Declare one (or a PAN)? Or advise ATC if you haven’t already
done so.
O OEB’s Are there any applicable to this situation?
C Checklists Other checklists? After T/O? Overweight Landing? Emergency
landing etc? Landing?
This may save you a lot of embarrassment one day – the OEB bit especially.
Also on ECAM. ALWAYS respond to ECAM messages EXACTLY the same way you
did in the simulator, even if it is a simple BRAKES HOT after landing. Insist your
(J)F/O does the same. It MAY be a routine message, but there is NO DOUBT who has
control, and you are reinforcing a useful habit pattern that will help in a REAL
emergency.
Remember the Big Picture. There is no point in handling an ECAM extremely well, but
getting an (E)GPWS because you’ve lost your Situational Awareness as you or your
(J)F/O has flown in an unsuitable way. It’s all your responsibility.
SITREPS
SITREPS – Situation Reports; (i.e. Updates) to your crew and pax when things are
busy/abnormal or you feel you are “losing” your (J)F/O.

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These can help a lot with getting your support system “re-slaved” to where you are.
Obviously YOUR Situational Awareness must not be compromised if this is going to
work.
Try and recognise when things are “going off the rails”. If you can learn this valuable
skill you can stop, pause and think about what you want to achieve, give your crew a
SITREP, outline your intentions and then get “back on the rails”.
Competencies (Behavioural attributes) – CX
The following Eight Essential Pilot Competencies are advocated by CX:

 Pre-flight preparation
 Technical knowledge
1. KNOWLEDGE  Operational knowledge
 Operations manuals
 Knowledge and application of NPs, including checklists
 General handling proficiency
 Ground handling
 Instrument flying
 En-route navigation
2. AIRCRAFT HANDLING
 Use of automation
 Approach configuration / properly stabilised
 Landing and roll-out technique
 Active monitoring (as PF and PM)
 Appropriate tone and atmosphere set
 Establishes / maintains appropriate gradient of authority
 Encourages crew cooperation / input
 Utilisation of resources
3. LEADERSHIP AND
 Delegation of tasks
ASSERTIVENESS
 Shows appropriate assertiveness
 Recognition of other participants' roles in decisions
 Active listening to input from others
 Takes decisive action when required
 Relevance, clarity, conciseness and timeliness of briefings
(adherence to CTWO-Plus)
 Intentions and actions communicated to other crew
members
4. COMMUNICATION
 Requests & gives feedback to ensure shared mental
model
 R/T phraseology
 Standard calls
 Recognises risk and time pressures
 Need for decisive action versus considered response
 Situation analysis / establishes priorities
5. DECISION MAKING
 Operational judgment and airmanship
 Structured approach to problem solving (CLEAR model),
when appropriate

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 Monitors aircraft operation


 Monitors geographical and spatial orientation
 Monitors weather situation
 Aware of proximity of other traffic
6. MONITORING
 Aware of other crew and their tasks
 Aware of technical and operational implications
 Resolves conflicts and doubts; cross-checks
 Recognises the consequences of threats and errors
 Organisation and management of workload
 Forward planning, monitoring of developments
 Identifies, prioritises and sequences tasks
 Anticipates situation ahead, especially high workload
 Uses quiet periods to organise less immediate tasks
7. WORKLOAD
MANAGEMENT  Avoids distractions during critical flight phases
 Uses automation sensibly – announces intentions
 Creates time and space as required to avoid workload
bottleneck
 Recognises effects of distractions and increased workload,
on situational awareness
 Anticipates and verbalises specific threats e.g.
 Weather: Low visibility / Crosswind / Strong winds
 Unfamiliar route / airport
 Recency
 High terrain
 ADD / MEL item
8. THREAT AND ERROR
MANAGEMENT  New procedures
 Discusses & implements strategy to reduce any threat
 Not complacent – shows a "healthy skepticism" / asks
pertinent questions
 Discusses any relevant issue that may require the crew to
resist and resolve errors
 Executes good error management resolution

Competencies (Behavioural attributes) – QF


In addition to these CX competencies a survey was done in QF to define what
competencies made some Commanders better than others. The results were:

Efficient decision making and ability to evaluate a decision as


1. DECIDING the correct one; Ability to consider all available options &
remain flexible to fluctuating demands.
How well you manage and encourage people to maintain high
2. COMMANDING work standards; understanding of and application of
regulations to ensure safe compliance.
Keeping a cool head in an emergency; keeping your emotions
3. SELF-CONTROL
in check and getting on with the job calmly and professionally.
Recognition of individuals strengths and limitations; how well
4. TEAM MANAGING you can harness individuals to work together in a co-ordinated
effort.

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Tailoring your message to best fit the audience; using


5. COMMUNICATING standard phraseology; being receptive to what others have to
say.

6. SYSTEMS KNOWLEDGE

Ability to adapt to changing circumstances; demonstrating a


7. FLEXIBILITY willingness to learn from your mistakes and those made by
others.
Being able to see the “Big Picture”; knowing what is going on
8. OVERVIEW around you (situational awareness), not becoming distracted
from your fundamental tasks (aviation and navigation).

Try and incorporate these “competencies” into your Command Style to be a more effective
Commander. There is a lot in there. It takes time and practise. So start now!

Think Like A Commander


As an F/O all you generally think about is what is affecting you on the sector you are currently
doing. You can afford to be a bit slack as there is always the Captain to catch all the things you
may have neglected. As an F/O your “cone of vision” is quite narrow. You generally only interact
with the guy in the LHS. You generally are reactive.
As a Commander this is completely unacceptable. As a Commander you are required to think
“globally”, “big picture” and have a very broad “cone of vision”. You need to interact with everyone
– Crew, Pax, ATC, Engineering, Ground Staff, IOC, Security etc. You need to be proactive. Use
CRM and TEM and try to anticipate problems or solutions as much as possible.
You have got to be assessing the situation continually.
If the aircraft has a defect how will that affect this flight, subsequent sectors,
Engineering/Operations at Destination, MEL consequences, defect rectification? How is your crew
going, do they require more/less rest, Commander’s Discretion, will it affect the integrated pattern
(today/tomorrow), is there an AFTL problem are they happy or pissed off (and why)? How can I
save more fuel, reduce CI, Step Climb, Directs? What is the weather doing, cold weather ops, de-
icing, low temp altimetry, LWMO, contaminated runway, can I let the (J)F/O do this sector/landing,
will it have any implications for later/tomorrow? Is what I am doing (intending to do) safe, legal and
efficient? How is OTP and the schedule going, can I do anything to alleviate or improve the
situation?
The list goes on – it is never-ending. This can be a difficult skill to perfect. Exposure during
training will help but you’ve got to make a conscious decision to:
THINK LIKE A COMMANDER not like an F/O.

4 Things That Will Cost You Your Four Bars


1. Hitting things – Terrain (if you live), Ground obstructions (most hits have been on the
F/O’s side)
2. Ignoring (E)GPWS
3. Flight Time Limitations – Getting the calculations wrong, and ending up doing something
ILLEGAL. Remember CDR’s go to the CAD. I recommend getting a hard copy from IOC
if you believe the decision is contentious. It is only a fax/ACARS away, and it may give
you some top cover.
4. Insufficient fuel.

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Fuel
As the Commander of your flight you’ll be continually evaluating OPTIONS. One of the few
variables you can control which will effect your options is FUEL.
FUEL = TIME and TIME = OPTIONS
You normally want more because it means more options. CX wants you to take less to cut costs.
The Vol 2 Pt 2 gives good guidance on fuel selection criteria, but it can’t make allowance for YOUR
knowledge of a port. Remember, the penalty for landing with not enough is much greater than
landing with too much!
IF YOU NEED MORE FUEL, TAKE IT
In all probability it will be a LOT more i.e. Typhoons, LWMO, Poor Weather. Don’t stuff around and
take 500 Kgs extra – that’s only about 5 minutes extra time. Work out your Min Diversion Fuel (it
may be to a different Alternate than that on the CFP) and assess how much extra you want to have
on arrival at your destination for holding. Share your thoughts with your (J)F/O; don’t leave him/her
in the dark guessing what your intentions are.
IF YOU DON’T NEED IT, LEAVE IT BEHIND
Consider how you can stretch your fuel if you have to: reduced cost index, Optimum Alt cruise,
Step Climb, Inflight Reduction of Normal Fuel Required, descent speed change, don’t extend drag
devices too early etc etc (Don’t overcook this last one: a go around because of an unstable
approach will definitely cost you more fuel than you would otherwise save).
Remember Line Ops has defined the amount of CONT/REC EXTRA you get on your CFP,
assuming a certain proportion of flights WILL get caught out and divert. If the circumstances ARE
unavoidable, you shouldn’t get hung over such a diversion.

General Stuff
Lastly, some admin generalities about the Command Course:
DEBRIEFS Ensure you get one. There are ALWAYS things we can do better.
Having said that, try not to get too tightly focused on trivia. Ensure you step
back periodically and take in the “big picture”. If the entire debrief has been
about minor, trivial points then you must have got all the important stuff right!
Know the important stuff and do it well.
SIGNATURES YOU sign EVERYTHING where it says “Commander”. Your trainer will
countersign where applicable.
TRAINERS All of your trainers are available at ALL times to help you out. If you have a
festering question which is bothering you while working at home, call your
trainer and ask it, or write it down and sort it out on your next trip.
If you do end up with a personality clash, or think you’re not getting what you
should from your trainer, request a change of instructor via the form in your
training file. It is there for a reason – ensure you use it before your
performance suffers. If you feel comfortable enough, discuss it with your FTM.
RTO Discuss Rejected Take Off’s with your Trainers. Ensure there is NO confusion
regarding WHO makes the decision and WHO carries out the abort.

Finally
Manage your stress levels. Don’t get so freaked out while on Course that your Command
performance deteriorates or that you make yourself physically ill (it does happen!)

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Have planned rest breaks within the Command Course. You do not have to study on every single
day! Have a day off and take the wife/mistress/girl friend (husband/gigolo/boy friend) to dinner (not
all at the same time!!), play with the kids, do the chores that your wife/mistress/girl friend
(husband/gigolo/boy friend) is constantly bugging you with, have a social time with friends/mates or
just chill out and do absolutely nothing. It’s up to you.
It is extremely important to keep the wife/mistress/girl friend (husband/gigolo/boy friend) on-side,
so under no circumstances neglect her/him. Your significant other is a huge asset and a
harmonious relationship will make your job during the Course soooo much easier and pleasant.
Remember RED – Rest, Exercise and Diet. Don’t start losing sleep, doing no exercise or eating
crap foods.
Get lots of rest and recovery (mainly good quality sleep) to recharge your brain. Exercise is great
for relieving stress, getting you out of the books, out of the flat and is a good chance to mentally
“switch off”. You are what you eat (literally). Eat a balanced diet to get all the goodies that your
body and brain requires and so that you feel refreshed and recharged. A crap diet can leave you
feeling lethargic and washed out.
Do not under-estimate RED. If you start stressing about the course, start loosing sleep, neglect to
do any exercise and eat junk food you are pretty much setting yourself up for future poor
performances.
Look after your body and your brain (after all this is not a physical job, it is mainly a mental one).
Last, but not least:
Everyone says it, but for most of us it didn’t mean anything. It is in fact important:
Try and enjoy the course (and remember to smile!)

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