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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Monday, September 13, 2021

A330 Training Underway

My Training Schedule has Finally Arrived! 

I was awarded the A330 many months ago and I am finally headed for training, to begin on October 1st! I actually started studying back in May because my original start date was August 1st. Then September. Then one thing lead to another and I have been delayed yet another month. No time is  ever wasted. 

Because most airlines require at-home self-study followed by an electronic evaluation, pilots may not receive as much knowledge as they would from an instructor in a classroom and an aural evaluation. My doctoral research identified that one of the greatest threats to aviation safety is lack of knowledge. Therefore, I've decided to bring to life some of my A330 notes to help all those new-to- Airbus pilots with yet another resource of information to increase knowledge. I want to thank Airbus for providing manuals and photos online, and to all my Airbus friends who share your wisdom and your systems manuals. Today is all about the basics. 

The Brains of the Computerized Airplane:

A330: FMCEG, MCDU, and FCU 

The Flight Management System, FMS, is comprised of 2 FMGEC—Flight Management Guidance Envelope Computers. Inside each of the FMGEC computers are the operating systems that manage our A330. 

FMGEC: Flight Management. Flight Guidance. Flight Envelope Computers.

FM: Flight Management. This is the on-board computerized Dispatcher responsible for flight planning, performance, navigation, and communicating data via the PFDs, NDs, and MCDUs.

FG: Flight Guidance. This is the on-board, computerized pilot responsible for commanding the autopilot, flight directors, and authothrust.

FE: Flight Envelope. This is the on-board, computerized Flight Engineer, responsible for computing the flight envelope, maneuvering speeds, reactive windshear detection, and gross weight and CG computations and warnings.

Under normal operations the two FMGECs work together. Data entered into either MCDU (Multipurpose Control Display Unit) is shared with the other computer. While they work together, just like other glass planes, there is a master. The selection of the A/P or A/T (first on) will determine which FMGEC becomes that master. If one FMGEC has a problem, the other can handle the operation. However, the pilot must switch control on the Switching Panel. There is no automatic switching of an FMGEC computer. 

In the example below, the number 2 FMGEC failed and the pilot selected both on 1, and now the First Officers MCDU interacts with the number one FMGE

The Big Picture

MCDU: Pronounced the McDoo, is your Multipurpose Control Display Unit, which is called a CDU (control display unit) on the Boeing. The long-range goal is to get to the destination, and this computerized airplane can do that itself, with a little help from the pilot. By programming the MCDU, the pilot can set the plane for success to takeoff, climb, manage speed, level off, descend, and fly an arrival to an auto-landing at destination. Flying the plane in this automated manner is all about utilizing Managed Guidance—where the operation is fully automated and the computer is directing the aircraft. Remember, you still have to manage the mass and plan for configuration changes.

(Airbus) MCDU is a CDU (Boeing)

FCU: The Flight Control Unit is nothing more than Boeing’s MCP (mode control panel). This is where the pilot intervenes to deviate from their original programmed plan. ATC requests you slow, turn to a heading, or gives you an unexpected level off, this is how you'll manage the flight. Or, if the pilot just wants to fly the plane. When we intervene, we use Selected Guidance—where the pilots is commanding the aircraft. 

(Airbus) FCU is a MCP (Boeing)

Normal operations you want to fly the plane with a combination of both managed and selected. Many pilots rely on the managed guidance. Smart pilots take control and disengage the autopilot to maintain proficiency with their flying skills. 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 


  1. Love this Karlene, I used to treasure two unofficial quick reference study guides when I was on the 737, the Bill Bulford Cockpit companion, and the Pat Boone MRG. Hats off to you for sharing this resource for other A330 pilots! Well done as usual, you are a legend.
    Best regards as always

    1. Trace, Thank you so much! I will keep them coming! And thanks for sharing your resources.

  2. Karlene, the A330 isn't that far from the ATR -600 series, my "baby". I agree that lack of knowledge is a safety issue. I like to read and have posted some videos about ATR systems. Some time ago, I had a generator control unit failure combined with a bus tie failure. We got a dozen alerts in all, including overspeed alert and loss of the autopilot. No procedure prepares you for that. System knowledge helped me to assess the situation and make the right decisions. After we had landed, my first officer commented that it was like a simulator session, expect that we had more time to go through the checklists!
    Good luck with your training! Correction: You don't need any luck because you are well prepared and have knowledge above average. But good luck anyway!

    1. Thank you so much for the comment. It's great to hear that you understand the power of systems knowledge, and that it helped you. Understanding is very powerful. And... what an experience that must have been. For those who have never experienced such a thing, could not possibly understand the confusion and chaos something like that could bring. Great job! And thanks for the luck in training. I will take it with me.

  3. I like this simple, down to earth explanation. Nicely done

    1. Thank you. And from an A330 Flyboy... that means a lot!


Thank you for your comment! If your comment doesn't appear immediately, it will after I land. Enjoy the journey!