Monday, April 10, 2017

One Year as a Captain

I've now been Captain for a year. I've flown roughly 450 hours in the left seat across two different aircraft. 

It's been a learning experience. I've had the opportunity to fly as Captain to Canada, Mexico and of course the United States. I've had the full range of First Officers from pilots right off IOE to pilots with more hours in the aircraft than I had. I've learned something from all of them. 

The biggest change has been of course the paycheck. It's ridiculous how much more Captains are paid versus First Officers. It's only mid-April, but I've earned more than I did my first full year at my airline. 

After 8 1/2 years in the right seat I learned how to be a great Captain and how to be a horrible Captain. It's an ever evolving role. 

I have never marginalized a fellow crew member regardless of how new they are or how wrong their comment/response is. I will offer and opinion and take their input, but never make them feel small. 

More days than not I do at least one pre/post flight. Even in the rain. Even in the snow. I've taken MANY First Officers by surprise when I tell them I will get the pre/post flight while it's heavy rain outside. At the end of the day it's my responsibility. 

I am not Captain because I'm a superior pilot. When I was a First Officer many Captains exhibited this aloofness...as they have been Captain for 20+ years. No, I am Captain because I applied to the airline before my First Officer did and passed training. That's it. No other reason. I never forget that fact. 

So what's next? Well 8 days from now I will welcome in my second (and FINAL!) child. If all goes well in fall 2018 I will start out in the right seat of a mainline aircraft. It might be sooner...I'm working on a way to get in the front door as well. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

A real line...but...well...I don't like it

Last month I held a pieced together line. This month I have a real line. The issue is...I don't like it. I work every weekend except one Saturday. So much for hanging with the family. Last month I had every weekend off except one Saturday.

Last month I flew in and out of Mexico and Canada. This month it's just Canada. It's still winter.

I have overnights on both coast of Canada....Calgary and Montreal. I prefer Montreal.

The term regional pilot is really being abused. Years ago it was a term for a pilot that flew a turboprop and made several stops to and from Hubs. Today it's vastly different.

This week I was sitting the Captain seat of a multi-million dollar airliner taking 76 people on a trip over 1300 Nautical Miles long. I flew across several regions. I began to think hard about the term regional pilot. It's now used as a label to get pilots to accept less compensation for a professional job. I won't get on my soap box....but the term...and the lower compensation need to go away.

Bidding for next month opens in two days. I'm going to bed lines with at least one weekend day off a week....then I'll just go back to reserve lines with weekends off....then any line I guess.

In April I will also pass one year as a Captain....so there's that.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Holding a line again...kinda

I couldn't stand another month of reserve. I could have held a line....kinda...back in December. I bid reserve to have part of Christmas off and New Years eve off. I could have held a line in January...but I bet I'd be better off on reserve...I wasn't.

For February I had enough. I bid almost every possible line including a composite line.

At my gig a composite line is made up of pieces of other lines and reserve days. The pieces come from flying dropped by pilots on vacation, reserve or other leaves.

I emailed scheduling the open sequences I wanted and they honored almost all of my request. I have every Sunday off and all but on Saturday off. Not too bad. That one Saturday is my only reserve day.

The gauranty is only 72 hours vs 75 hours for reserve...but I am able to add on more flying to this composite line much easier than reserve.

For reserve pilots, extra flying can only be done on days off. For line holders (including composite!), extra flying can be on working days as long as it fits in the FARs.

I've built up my line to 78 hours and only working one extra day. I hope to add more.

I will likely bid a composite again next month. I will be 40 next month. Time flies.

Even though I attempt to hide who I am and who I work for...quite a few people have figured it out. Bleh. Still safer to not blatantly post it.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

It's different from the left

The new year has come. I've passed 100 hours in the left seat so I'm no longer a baby Captain. 

Right now I'm flying the "hot" RJ. New hire pilots, and most will deny it, have SJS....Shiny Jet Syndrome. They want to fly the latest, most high tech, regional jet at the airline. Nevermind that the pay is the same regardless of what they fly. I fly the 175 not because it's sexy....or shiny....but because it's all I could hold seniority wise when I bid for my current base. 

Anyway I am flying with a lot of new pilots. When I was a senior First Officer I'd been around a while. Every Captain had been around longer than me. We knew "the game" and "the system".

"The Game" is how various airports work. Each time one flies to ORD and are level at 10,000 feet you are expected to go 300 knots until told otherwise. It's not written anywhere...ya just know it. Also every time one flies to LIT you WILL cross 35 miles (as opposed to the normal 30 miles) outside of LIT at 10,0000 feet. It's not written down...ya just know it...or will be told it. Finally it's useless to carry on a conversation flying east or west above Ohio....the center frequencies changes happen about every 2 minutes (exaggeration but it's way to frequent). It takes time to learn the game a the rules are changing...but having a working knowledge makes things easier.

I forget the new hires often don't know the game. I've had plenty slow to 210 knots 20 miles from the airport in class B airspace. I have to remind them that ATC expects 250 knots and all his planning is based on that unless otherwise told. A few have failed to descend properly when heading towards a class C airport without a formal STAR. Again...it's not a bad thing...I just forget as I'm used to flying with more seasoned pilots. I have to stay on my game more often.

"The System" is how my airline operates. I don't expect new hires to know everything. Things like which frequency to call for catering, which to call for a mechanics, which to call for ramp. Additionally how to deal with gate agents, rampers, fuelers and crew scheduling. The system is pretty rigid and rules rarely change It's very rare I have to look up a frequency for any airport I visit. I've been going to the same airports for 9 years. They are like second homes. 

So flying with new hires is like giving IOE. Which I think I might apply to teach.