Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Interview

I still remember the day I interviewed. Nervous doesn't even describe it.

Left my house super early. The drive was only 15 miles...but I wanted to play it safe.

Before I took my Private Pilot check ride I bought a McDonalds Bacon, Egg and Cheese McGriddle. I passed that check ride the first time. Since then I engorged myself with the same breakfast before each and every check ride. Superstitious? Yes. But I passed each check ride the first time.

The days leading up to my interview were spent reviewing Jepp charts, checking my logbook and reading through "Everything Explained for the Professional Pilot" (worth the $60!). I had previously purchased a nice suit and requisite (though I have no idea why) red tie.

Jepp charts are slightly different than FAA charts. Getting your hands on Jepp charts can be a little tricky if you don't know an airline or corporate pilot. AllATPs gave every career pilot Jepps. This is a nice advantage as I was already used to them.

Because I am a geek and love tech, I transferred all my flight time to Logbook Pro prior to my interview. It didn't take too long, and I found some mathematical mistakes in the process. Once transferred, I pony'd up the money for a very nice leather bound binder and program specific paper to print out my logbook pages. When I went to the interview I brought both my original logbook (which had all my endorsements) and the logbook pro logbook.

The morning of my interview I had the same fatty McDonalds breakfast. I sat in the parking lot 20 minutes early. My nerves were so high I didn't want to eat, but not wanting to screw up a good track record of success I finished off the salty/sweet McGriddle.

I walked in and met with security. After getting a badge I made my way to the waiting room which was filled with 15 or so other pilots. The age range was vast. I was 30 at the time. There were pilots as young as 22 and as old as 54.

Not a whole lot of talking at first. Right on time a representative came out and led us to another room....the holding room.

We all loosened up a bit. There were a few other pilots who went to ATP in my group. One was very cocky. He was talking bad about ATP and how they screwed him over (I later looked up his records....he had a lengthy notes section with "bad attitude" and "lack of motivation" scattered about). He continued to say how he was more than qualified for the job (he had 1/2 the time I did!) .

The pilot next to me was in his low 50's. He had been a CFI in Arizona for a few years...flying a King Air on the side. He had just over 5000 hours...almost 10X my time. A bit intimidating.

Shortly after arriving in the room, pilots were being called out for interviews. They had already collected our logbooks and other documents. I sat for about 35 minutes before I was called.

I was lead to a small room with just 3 chairs, a desk and bookcase. Behind the desk was an older gentleman. When I sat down he greeted me and tried to make me feel at ease. Eh. He then opened up a Jepp book to a random airport and asked me to brief the departure procedure. Seemed simple enough.

My adrenaline shot up. I rattled out the procedure at full speed (I can talk VERY fast). When I was done he gave me a blank stare. "I have no idea what you just said," he replied. "Brief the departure as though WE are getting ready to fly it."

My first attempt at briefing the departure was like me telling a student. I was in CFI mode. I took a deep breath and then stated, "OK, this is the Mozie3 departure. ATIS states we will be taking off from runway 23. Our first fix is the OBK VOR. After takeoff we have to climb to 1200 FT before making the initial turn to heading 300 and expect RADAR vectors from there. There is a mountain range to the left of the runway center line that curves around that we need to be mindful of in case we have any problems. The initial altitude is 8000 feet so we should expect that. " He looked down at the chart and said I could have done better and that I talk way too fast. I left that room not feeling so good. "Did I just blow it?" I thought to myself.

Back to the holding room. When I arrived I learned a few pilots had already been sent home. Ugh. There was one pilot about 23 who was already at his second airline.

His first gig was on a Saab 340. He was realized the time to upgrade was too long and jumped ship to a charter company that flew 727's. When he hired on there the time to upgrade was just 2 years. Initially he sat sideways as a Flight Engineer. Upgrades stopped. He wanted out....which is why he was there interviewing.

My next interview was personality. I have loads of personality. This interview went much better. I did have one perplexing question, "Name something about yourself that you could improve on." Hmmm what flaw should I expose? I can be hard that's not a good thing to expose. I went with, "Well I do have the tendency to talk fast." He gave me an odd look and wrapped up the interview.

Once again in the holding room. More pilots gone, including the previously mentioned cocky pilot from ATP. Not surprised. I was happy to still be there.

An airline rep came in with a sheet up paper. She began calling out names. When she was finished, mine wasn't one of them. Was I done? Those who were called were led out of the room. Another rep came in. "You all have a break for lunch. Come back in an hour." I was still in!

I ate lunch with a few pilots around my age. One lady had about 2500 hours. She flew cargo out in Florida. The stories she told made me to never want to fly cargo. Sketchy planes. Demanding schedule. Lots of bad weather. It was kind of odd hearing these stories from this 5 foot 5, slender, redhead  lady. I picture cargo pilots as gruffy men who smoke and have tattoos.

After lunch we were handed back our logbooks and sent to a simulator evaluation.

We were all given the same approach chart and told the brief it. The instructor gave us hints about what many pilots screw up on. I made notes on the approach chart. When it was my turn I put the approach chart on the yoke clip. He took it off. "What do you need this for? You already briefed it right?".

The sim evaluation went fine. My years of playing Microsoft Flight Simulator plus the ATP Regional Jet Course made it easy. We were all sent home and told to expect a phone call or letter.

In the mail came "the letter"...I was hired.

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