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.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Getting the call

Today was kinda crazy.

I started in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Last day of a 4 day trip. One leg in.

The van time was a ridiculous 4:50 AM. We get to the airport....to the plane...and that's when the craziness started.

I was going through the flight paperwork and aircraft logbook...and things weren't matching up. I called up operations and they asked what tail number I was sitting in....I said "027"....they replied..."you're supposed to be in 048". I look up and see the other aircraft in front of me. The station pulled the wrong plane to the gate....and boarding had just completed.

Thankfully dispatch fixed the issue...but then weather caused a ground stop. We were supposed to arrive at 8 AM and I had an interview for a Fleet Manager position at 9 AM.

We finally left at 6:55 AM. Landed at 8:55 AM and I texted the person interviewing me (long time friend from flight school) and let him know I was running late.

I rushed over to the interview.

In the parking lot another pilot I knew whom was also a Fleet Manager flagged me down. He said I was the front runner for the job. Nice.

The interview went well. They let me know it would be a pretty hefty pay cut. Odd.

I then went home and began packing for as my wife has her 20 year High School reunion this weekend...in Albany, Oregon...right in the path of the eclipse.

Thankfully my family all has real tickets...except me. Flights are crazy full. My family flies up tomorrow, but I am a cautious non-rever and decided to go tonight. As I was waiting for my flight...the most amazing phone call came though.

I was walking through the terminal and almost didn't answer as the phone number wasn't familiar. When I picked up the voice said , "Hello I'm calling from the Pilot Recruitment Office at American Airlines," The minutes after that are somewhat of a blur.....but I remember one part, "You got the job. Welcome to American Airlines."

Yeah that happened. I interviewed more than 2 months ago.

More to come. I will update more frequently now that things are happening again.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Almost 3 months in

Shelbi is almost three months old. She looks very close to Natali at this age.

Kelli started back at work on Monday. I am taking a month and a half off for FMLA to spend with Shelbi.

So far she's been pretty easy...but it's still harder than Natali. The reason being...I'm 40. I was a spry 33 with Natali. .

Over the last two months Shelbi took her first airline flight. No issues. Then as a family we all took a crazy long 1400 mile adventure to Orlando....we drove. It was interesting driving that far with an electric car...and an infant. It worked.

A few differences I've noticed with Shelbi over Natali.

Shelbi had great head control almost right away.

Shelbi didn't mind putting pressure on her legs (being held while standing her up)

Shelbi can take 6 ounces at 3 months old. Natali NEVER took 6 ounces!

Shelbi is very moody. She will go from happy to demon child in the blink of an eye.

Shelbi found her voice before Natali.

That's it for now. I wish Kelli would blog but she's just not interested.



Saturday, May 6, 2017

Bizzaro trip

I'm on day 3 of a 4 day.

I'm supposed to be a FL 360 headed to the hub. Instead I'm on my couch.

The unraveling of my trip started on day 1. It was supposed to be a quick 2 hour turn and a long flight to Canada.

Weather caused a huge reroute on the first leg. I flew this leg.  On final, about 700 feet AGL, to the out station I encountered a flock of birds. Several birds impacted the windshield. Crap. I glanced over at the engine gauges...all reading normal.

Landed uneventfully. This would normally have been a minimal delay. I called for a bird strike inspection to get the ball rolling. As time went on I could tell something was wrong. Sure enough the contract mechanics at the airport were no longer certified for the Embraer 175. The could take a computer based training course and be certified in 30 minutes. For whatever reason that didn't happen. My airline Maintenance Operations Control was not happy. Being late in the afternoon there wasn't time to fly mechanics down and get the flight out same day. Flight cancelled. 76 passengers would not be getting to where they wanted because of birds...and lack of the local mechanics to maintain their currency.

After about an hour we had hotel for the night.

Mechanics were flying down on the last flight of the night and the aircraft would be ready for the morning.

For reasons beyond me I was scheduled to ferry to plane back to base...without flight attendants or passengers. Bad choice in my opinion...but I don't run the airline.

The mechanics cleaned off the bird residue and the aircraft was ready at 9 AM. One of the two morning kick off flights cancelled. They are flown by a much less reliable feeder that is prone to cancellations. We should have flown the flight as an extra segment...but again I don't run the airline.

It was my First Officers leg. We decided to have fun and did a max power takeoff. The takeoff roll was under 1800 feet. From zero to 126 knots (145 MPH) in 1800 feet. Up, up and away we went. Sustained 5000 feet per minute through 15000 feet.

In and done. My First Officer picked up the first two days of my trip as overtime. It was scheduled for 10 hours but paid 20 (due to a shortage of pilots my airline is paying double for all extra flying!). Due to the cancellation all he did was one leg down and one leg up. He got home 8 hours earlier and only flew 2.4 hours...but paid for 20. He won that day.

I was scheduled to deadhead to my next overnight. I was originally supposed to fly to the overnight late that night on day 2. But the bird strike through everything off.

On the deadhead I caught up with a Flight Attendant I had not seen in two years. We were going to the same hotel.

Long overnight. The rest of my crew (original Flight Attendants and a new First Officer) flew in late on day 2 and were at a different hotel.

The morning of day 3 I woke up and, for reasons I can't explain, didn't check my schedule and just headed to the airport. The weather was nice all over.....why assume there would be an issue.

I was alone in the hotel van as the rest of the crew was at a different hotel. I got to the gate 50 minutes early. I relaxed and caught up on news. I saw my flight number on the departure board at the gate. All was well.

Out of the corner of my eye I see an aircraft approach my gate....but it's not a Embraer 175. Uh oh. I check my schedule. Equipment change. I assume I'm deadheading. Nope. I was reassigned to ferry another 175 to another hub later in the afternoon. Ugh.

I call and get a new hotel as the aircraft was down for maintenance and the flight was 7 hours away. I later learned the new First Officer did the same thing...arrived and saw the change.

At 1:45 PM the First Officer and I boarded the hotel van and headed back to the airport. Ferry was scheduled for 2:$5 PM.

At 2:30 PM we hopped in a rusty 1980s era Ford Van and rode to a hangar.

There was a major flight control computer issue after power up. Mechanics came on board....hit buttons...ran test...and cleared the error.

At 3:40 PM we taxi'd out. Ferry flights rarely go on time.

My leg. Another max power takeoff. Fun.

Landed and pulled into a gate at 5:37 PM. My First Officer (on overtime like the first one) ran to catch a commute flight at 6:10 PM . I had a deadhead back to base.

At the gate I met up with two recruiters for my airline. I got the skinny on just how bad the shortage is. The deadhead left over an hour late.

I walked into my backdoor at 10:45 PM. I have a, hope to be quick, 2 hour turn at noon. Should be home by 4 PM.

So far this is day 4 and I've flown ONE revenue flight...the first leg. If today goes well I will have flown 3.

Bizzaro trip indeed.

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.