Saturday, March 17, 2018

Nothing new...but nothing bad either

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Omaha, Nebraska. I have stayed in Omaha many times before at my old airline....but this hotel is a bit nicer.

Everything is nicer at American versus my last airline. I've flown about 60 hours total...but every airport I've flown to has been one I flew to in the past. Nothing new. The hotels are all better...and I get actual crew meals!

This was a Frankenstein one off MD-80. Digital Gauges from a legacy TWA MD-80, FMS from a legacy AA MD-80 and laser touchscreen ACARS from...some museum. 

I'm still the bottom guy on reserve...but driving to work means there's zero stress. I should have 9 under me by the end of April and 20 by the end of May.

Flying the MD-80 is easier than I thought. Don't get me wrong there's a lot to do. My seat has been often described as the busiest seat in the airline.

I still have many friends at my old gig. News isn't good. There's a severe shortage of Captains. The shortage is so bad that they've halted hiring any new hire that doesn't qualify for an immediate Captain position. They've also sent instructors back to the line to fly as there's such a shortage.

And for those of you wondering....my easy button is still with me.


Monday, February 5, 2018

I think I'm going to like it here....

Just finished my first IOE trip. First...the plane is waaaay easier to land than the simulator. Of my 8 landings, 7 were very smooth. The one that wasn't was just me being new. It wasn't rough, but I flared late and it was a little more wobbly than I would have liked.

My trip was a 3-0-4-3. I overnighted in OKC and PNS. At my last airline I only got a meal if there were leftovers...and since we had no ovens they were always cold. At AA pilots get meals loaded for them. It's a whole new world. Being given a hot meal on the same route I flew at my regional is just weird.

The MD-80 is a very busy plane...especially for the First Officer. Between the gate and runway there's a lot to do and fine tune. I am keeping up though.

I hope to keep the blogging up now that I have something new in my world. I was honestly very burnt out even as Captain at my regional. It wasn't a nice environment for me.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

From State of the Art....to....well it's got a little glass

All was well at FL340 over southern Arkansas. I was flying the leg between MEM and DFW. While talking with the Captain a yellow beam of light interrupted our conversation...the right starter valve was open....and it wasn't supposed to be.

No idea why it was open. I called for the checklist. The end result was the engine had to be run at idle and the auto-throttles had to be disconnected...along with an emergency declared.

We tried to find somewhere to divert to...but wouldn't ya know it...every airport east of DFW was 1/4 SM and fog. DFW it was.

Cleared direct to the airport. I made a very nice single engine approach to runway 17 center. Once on the ground the Airport Fire Department verified all was well with the heat coming off the right engine. We shut it down and headed to the gate.

Once parked the Captain shook my hand...."Great job....definitely above average...welcome aboard." I was officially a DC-9 First Officer for American Airlines. The simulator instructor also shook my hand and welcomed me aboard.

The MD-80 is a DC-9 variant...thus the type rating is for the DC-9. I was VERY nervous selecting the MD-80 over the 737 or E-190 which were also offered. The 737 is more modern while the E-190 is the exact type rating I already have from my last airline. The MD-80 meant no commuting though....thus why I picked it.

The training wasn't easy. For the last 10 years I have flown ONLY fully glass flight decks. Nothing else. The MD-80 at AA has VERY limited glass. The Altimeter, Airspeed, VSI, VOR/ADF are analog dials. The PFD and a Navigation Display are glass...that's it. Every other gauge is analog. There's no EICAS...just a systems panel. Very different. I haven't flown steam gauges in more than 10 years...thankfully I have flown enough that a jet is a jet....it just required me to look in more places for the information.


The last 24 months has been a rollercoaster. January 2016 I upgraded from First Officer of the ERJ-145 to Captain of the CRJ destined to commute to Chicago. February 2016 my wife suffered an Ectopic pregnancy and had one of her two tubes removed. March 2016 I was awarded Captain 175 DFW. Great. June 2016 while on an overnight I was told my father passed away (you didn't miss anything...never made it public). September 2016 when I was getting ready for training on the 175 , my wife called stating her pregnancy might be ectopic again and this pregnancy might be our 4th and final loss. I flew home from St Louis to be with her...and had to go back not knowing the status. I finished training a few weeks later...pregnancy still in limbo. Thankfully in April 2017 we became parents to a healthy baby girl. I interviewed with American Airlines in June 2017..and was given the amazing news in August 2017 that I was hired. Today....January 24, 2018 I passed my 3rd long term training event in 2 years.  I won't get to fly it for long as it leaves service next year...at which time I will likely head to the 737. For now...it will be nice to breathe...and relax. While I was the one sitting in the seat for the check ride...none of this would be possible if not for my wife. She's an amazingly intelligent, strong, determined, sometimes annoying to the point I swear she's crazy, beautiful woman that is always up for the challenge that is being married to me....

Sunday, December 10, 2017

From latest tech....to the dinosaur

Quick update.

I'm in my 2nd week at American Airlines. Amazing experience. I was very lucky and scored the last DFW MD 80 spot. No commuting! It's funny that I'm going from the latest technology aircraft ERJ-175 to the oldest in the fleet the McDonnell Douglas Super 80. It will be VERY interesting as I've had only glass cockpits for 10 years. There's limited glass in the MD-80.

If I didn't score the MD-80 I was going to have to pick between LAX 737 and PHL 190. Tough choice as I'm typed on the 190 as it's the same type rating as the 175.

More to come.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Final Descent

I am sitting in the crew room of another domicile. I have a 3 hour sit. I don't like coming down here as it looks like a homeless shelter. This is a very heavy commuter base so lots of people sleeping...sitting around....laying around.

I am on my last ever 4 day trip at my airline. I took the first leg today. My First Officer is a new hire. Nice guy. Former military.

Normally in my downtime between flights I check out open trips for extra money or look for trips to trade. Right now my schedule is empty. There's nothing. Being the middle of the month I could alternatively look at trips for next month. But....I won't be here. It's a surreal feeling.

My last flight is a 5 AM departure from KICT on Saturday. Really early. Once I park my aircraft for the last time I will join my family for a trip to see extended family over Thanksgiving.

My first day at American is November 28th. My next trip at my current airline is supposed to be on the 24th. I put in my notice for my last day to be the 24th so I can enjoy Thanksgiving with my family. Because of this I had to do something I almost never do. I had to BUY AN AIRLINE TICKET to get back home.

It was a painful experience. I did get my employee discount though...so there's that.

I have just 8 legs left. I will fly 5 of them as the last leg is mine.

Ten years. A little more than 6400 hours of airline flight time. It's been a very interesting experience.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Two more trips

I have just two more trips at my airline.

Last week I passed my 10th anniversary. Crazy how fast the time has gone by. I've flown roughly 6200 hours at my airline. I thought I'd flying closer to 9000. 

It's funny when I was just starting out I figured I'd fly as much as possible. I then learned it's fun to get paid for more than I actually fly. I get paid for 72 hours a month (75 for when I'm on reserve). Over 10 years I've been paid for roughly 8800 hours (73ish average hours a month over 10 years). Not bad eh?

I'm excited and nervous about taking the leap to American.

Right now I'm senior and have job security. Going to American will put me on the BOTTOM of the seniority list . It just takes one hiccup in the economy or security of the world to disrupt the travel industry. Worry not....I'm going.

My last trip at my current airline will be a 5 AM departure from ICT on the 18th of November. I will then land in base and join my family for a flight to visit family for Thanksgiving. My last "day" here will be the 24th. I delay my quitting to have my benefits as long as possible.

I will try and kick myself to blog during the training at American. I've already been very impressed by the onboarding process at American. Everyone has been over the top accommodating and forthcoming with information. I truly feel welcomed and I haven't even started.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Interview and the phone call

Back in June I was invited to interview for a pilot position at American Airlines.

I live just a few miles from the American Airlines headquarters. There were 10 in my group and I was the only "local".

I was told to arrive at noon. I was there at 11:30 AM.

In the recruiting office were 9 other pilots. Six military and 3 civilians.

The recruiting team does everything possible to get the applicants to relax.

Day one was spent on a computer. There was a battery of skill and math test. Some tested your paitience...like one that lasted 20 minutes watching a dot move around a circle...each time it jumped I had to click a button. I assume it was designed to test attention span. There were others that tested memory and pattern recognition.

The hardest test for me were the math questions. The computer showed various numbers like 2 10 4 5. I then had to put math symbols in between to make the numbers make sense...like 2 X 10 ÷ 4 = 5. They were much harder than that.

All the applicants left the first day feeling like they didn't do well. The test were designed to challenge you. The better you did the harder the questions got.

Day 2 was the real interview. Face to Face with American Airlines pilots.

A 787 Captain and a 767 Captain interviewed me. Prior to this day I paid $400 for interview prep...and it really helped.

I was able to keep the interview going and had them laughing all until the last question. It was "Explain a situation where you didn't get along with a co-worker". After my answer they didn't like how I handled it. They felt I should have escalated the issue to a Chief Pilot.

The interview ended abruptly after that. I was handed off to a Human Resources employee who asked a few follow up questions...then that was it. I was free to go.

I left feeling VERY uneasy. Like I just blew my chance to be an American Airlines pilot.

The tension was high. I kept rethinking everything I had done. Things I could have done differently. Better answers. Better math.

I completed one more trip then took off 6 weeks for bonding time with my new daughter.

About 12 days after the interview the military pilots in my group sent out messages to our group text that they had all been hired. The civilians were all quiet.

I checked my email multiple times per day. An email was bad...meaning I didn't get the job. A phone call was preferable.....I did get the job.

A month went by and nothing. I did get a copy of my PRIA paperwork...but that's it.

August started. All the airline pilots in the interview group were still in the dark.

I started back at work and was stress free. I figured there was nothing I could do. They would get back to me when they did.

On August 17th I was at the airport waiting on a jump seat to Oregon when my phone rang. No name on the caller id...just a local phone number.

"Hello this is David Tatum calling from the American Airlines recruiting office...." is how the phone call started. The next three minutes are a blur but I did hear "sorry for taking so long to get back to you but the decision to hire you has been made...and it was unanimous...welcome to American Airlines."

I thanked him several times and told him he has the best job in the world as he gets to change lives with the news he gives.

The next day the emails flooded in from American Airlines. Good ones. Great ones. I had a conditional job offer contingent on passing a background and drug test. I am excited beyond belief.

So how did I get the interview? Volunteering, Networking and Persistence.

I'm passionate about flying. I truly enjoy teaching. I went to college initially to be a teacher. I took a side road into technology and then flying.

I loved being a CFI. Once I started at my regional I continued instructing the RJ transition course at ATP. Aside from that I volunteered for youth camps and at job fairs. I spent 2 years being a volunteer for my union. In short...I went above and beyond.

I'm 40 and will have 24 1/2  years of flying left once I start at AA.

It feels great knowing I have completed the last job interview of my life.