Thursday, September 29, 2011

Career day might be coming up

Oral is getting closer.

Getting past an airline interview is just one of the many steps to getting the job.

The new hires have a wide range of back grounds. Some CFI, some pure general aviation, some military. One is from another regional.

There is an ever growing division visible to myself and the other company pilots who are transitioning. There are those that studied and those that didn't.

In the cockpit training sessions those that didn't are REALLY slowing the rest of us down.

Today we discussed going from a cold and dark airplane and taking off including flows, procedures and checklist.

For me it's not terribly hard as it's similar to what I have been doing for the last 4 years. Today we had a different cockpit trainer instructor, but I have the same partners all week.

"Jeff" the former military guy is progressing well. Jeff was a flight engineer in the military. All his flying hours are from general aviation. Bryan is a former CFI (again like me) but is falling further behind.

Bryan hasn't demonstrated a single flow this week. Today he got hung up on....starting an engine. I tried to explain we were starting the engine via the APU. He asked how was he supposed to know that. I stated it was because I had just finished starting the APU and that's the normal way of starting an engine. Bryan had a confused look on his though this was a new concept. Jeff and I just looked at each other with amazement.

The instructor tried to help Bryan, which really slowed us down. Bryan got hung up on each flow Jeff and I demonstrated.

Orals for the new hires will likely be Wednesday with mine on Thursday. I don't have a warm and fuzzy feeling about Bryan.

After the session I helped Jeff with setting up a nonrev flight for his mom. It 's a bit confusing at first.

I then returned to the classroom and met up with the other transitioning pilots.

We discussed how in all of our trainer sessions many of the new hires just weren't getting it. None of us are "gods gift to aviation" by any means. We think part of it is the computer based training which requires a VERY high level of maturity to stay on task. We think many of them half assed the training.

Tomorrow is another full day. Next week we hit the cabin trainer for more hands on training.

Since I've been home I've dropped a few pounds. I'm on a "no processed food" kick. Low fat, no sugar, low carb thing. Going well. Feel good. I also bought a fancy Keurig coffee maker and a burr coffee grinder. This combo + a reusable K cup yields awesome black coffee.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Moving on

Being a new hire at an airline is hard enough as one has to learn about specific airline operations and a new airplane. There is a clear divide amongst the group. I have a good idea about those who will succeed and those who will have a career day.

In my cockpit trainer session are two new hires. One is older, former him Jeff. The other is young, former him Bryan. Before I go further understand I am a former CFI and went from a Seminole to a RJ.

The military guy I think will do well as he arrives early, takes a short lunch to come back and study and stays late to study. The young guy arrives on time, takes a full lunch and leaves to head to the hotel to "hang out" with other new hires who are on another aircraft at the end of the day.

During our sessions Jeff has the normal new hire learning issues, but I can tell is "getting" it. I was in the trainer room early (I ate a quick lunch) and we went through flows together. Bryan showed up 2 minutes late.

Bryan struggled the entire session. Just as he did yesterday. It's just not clicking. It's not from lack of intelligence as it takes quite a bit to be a pilot. I think it's from lack of studying and preparation. Jeff said he and Bryan live on the same floor, but can never get Bryan to sit down and study much.

This is not to see that I'm Chuck Yeager. I'm having a few problems of my own.

The flight profiles on this plane are different from my last. They are similar, but some of the call outs are very different. For example I used to say after rotation, "Positive rate, gear up, climb mode." Now I need to say, "Positive rate, gear up, select speed." Same result, but different verbage.

That and some of the profiles are just plane odd to me. I'm learning them right along with them.

A week till my oral. I still have about 2 flows and lots of profiles to review.

All of the pilots in the class who, like me, are tranisitioning between planes are at a slight disadvantage as we don't get hotel rooms. Since we live in the area we sleep at home. Home has distractions. Kids, dogs, lawn mowing, spouses...etc. The new hires have a hotel room...and that's it. Life can get in the way of studying. Thankfully my wife is very accommodating at takes care of my daughter while I study 2-3 hours a night.

Oh, a "career day" means bowing out of the airline BEFORE you have a bust on your record.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 6 - How's that fire hose?

The new hires started about a week before me. They spent a week going over basic company operations.

From then out we are in the same boat. The difference is I've been on this cruise before.

My first time through was incredibly confusing. Going from a Piper Seminole to a regional jet is a huge step.

The new hires have a constant look of confusion on their faces. As though they are hoping the fire hose will soon slow down. It will...but not or a while.

Friday was spent working more performance problems. The charts are all familiar to me as I used them often over the last 4 years. They are nothing like general aviation performance charts...for light twins anyway. The afternoon we attended the last, I think, FMS class.

So what's next? Well we hit the "paper tiger."

The "paper tiger" is a mock up of the cockpit. Everything is two dimensional but is size and distance correct. ATP had "paper tigers" for the seminole and CRJ 200.

At first they seem kinda silly. Sitting in a chair next to what amounts to a poster of a plane. It helps.

I sat for hours 4 years ago going over flows.

A flow is simply an efficient way of doing something by memory. Once done all flows are followed by a checklist. Anything missed is completed. After practicing the same flow over and over one get's "muscle memory". The muscles get used to going in a certain order. If something is missed, the muscle knows.

In order to prepare for the paper tiger I've begun memorizing flows with mnemonic devices.

For example the taxi flow, Feel The Boobs Everyone Is Watching. That translates to Flaps, Takeoff Config, Brake Temp, EICAS, Ignition and Windshield Heat. For now they are just words. Tomorrow when I need to do the taxi flow I will recite start with "Feel" then place my hand on the flap handle. I will recite the setting it should be then go from there. If I get stuck I will say the next work and go from there.

Oral is coming up's next week!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 5 - I was told there would be no math

Being an airline pilot is more than firewalling the throttles and flying from point A to point B then heading to the hotel. There's all kinds of performance issues to worry about.

In the old days weight and balance was done by the second officer. Later the first officer. Now more commonly it's done by a computer.

But computers sometimes break. When they do pilots have to know how to manually compute performance and weight and balance information.

There are a lot more variables involved in computing performance and weight and balance for an airliner than a 172.

I have to be concerned with accelerate and stop distances, climb performance on a single engine, landing on a single engine, aircraft mechanical state that might limit performance and so on.

When I was a new hire I was taught how to work a performance problem. My head hurt right away. I was told there would be no math! Well not really, but I didn't expect so much!!!

I learned, did my check ride and have maybe done it twice since. Needless to say I forgot.

Thankfully it's like riding a bike. After a few minutes it came back. The new hires though were just as confused as I was four years ago. It's hard to break away from general aviation/CFI ways of looking at performance.

New terms like V1, V2, First Segment Climb, Second Segment Climb, Climb Limited Weight, Runway Structural Weight and so on come into play.

They will get it. We will work several more performance problems over the next few days.

That was the morning.

Later in the morning we touched a bit on systems. This plane is a bit more automated than my last. Kinda annoys me a bit. Eh.

The afternoon was spent learning the FMS. Different instructor. I could tell the instructor wasn't used to teaching low time pilots as he went a little fast and expected the new hires to know more than they did. They will get it. Lots more FMS work to do.

During lunch I talked with a few of my fellow pilots and was interested to learn the most senior of our little group is just 20 numbers away from upgrading to Captain. In fact 4 of them are very close. I am about 150 numbers away from kinda close.

Late in the afternoon we bid on sim times.

Simulators run 24X7 at some airlines. My airline runs them 18 hours a day starting at 6AM. There is always a pre-brief 90 minutes prior so the first show time is 4:30AM for a 6AM sim that last until 10AM. Ouch.

I bid for, and was awarded, my first choice of a 4:30PM show time for a 6PM sim that last until 10PM. Fits with daycare. The crappiest choice IMHO was the 8:30PM show for a 10PM sim that last until 2AM! I had that last time!

Looking forward to the weekend. This Monday-Friday 7AM-4PM stuff is for "office people". Bleh.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Children of the Magenta

So here is day 4.

This morning we discussed advanced aircraft maneuvering and unusual attitudes. Recovering a swept wing, high performance aircraft is not the same as recovering a Cessna 172. That discussion lasted 4 hours. Same presentation I saw when I was new 4 years ago.

Lunch break. I brought my lunch. Saves money and calories. Nice greek salmon salad. During lunch I sat with the pilots I know who are doing the same transition I am doing. We discussed the pros and cons of the new aircraft versus the old.

After lunch we went to a FMS (Flight Management System) room for a kinda hands on with the FMS. For the new hires it was their first time interacting with an FMS and dealing with "flying" at the same time.

The FMS is the heart of a modern airliner. Knowing how to use it is extremely important, but shouldn't be a crutch.

During the Advanced Aircraft Maneuvering discussion it was brought up that many pilots are becoming "Children of the Magenta" meaning they are too dependent on automation and forget how to "fly the damn plane". There were several examples of accidents caused by pilots (skilled aviators) getting caught up in asking, "What's this thing doing?" versus reverting back to basic flying. I could go on...and might one day. I will say that I found myself becoming a "child of the magenta" shortly after getting on at my airline. I had to start kicking myself to, at least once a trip, turn off all the automation (no flight director/Vnav etc) and just fly the plane. Especially on a departure without a SID or an simple arrival. I would never depart from an airport with an GPS SID and turn off automation. That's asking for, "Advise when ready to copy phone number..." coming over the radio.

Back to the FMS practice.

This new FMS is very different from my last. It took the "veteran" pilots an hour or so to start connecting the dots. An FMS is garbage in/garbage out. A pilot can put in bad information and the plane will take it and fly....right into the ground.

The new hires are still struggling. I struggled a bit when I was new. They will get it in time.

We did a "flight" on the computer and...well for many of them they were confused as all get out.

Tomorrow I think we start systems....I think.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Second day...more of the same

Second day of class was today. I wasn't as productive over the weekend studying as "life" happened.

My wife decided to work the weekend and take Monday and Tuesday off (to save on daycare ). That meant me spending time with my daughter and only being able to study when she napped or my wife was home.

Sunday our refrigerator died. So instead of studying when my wife got home we went shopping for a fridge. The repair cost of the old one exceeded half the cost of a new one. Glad my wife makes good money.

Today we spent zero minutes discussing the airplane. We spent the morning discussing security and the afternoon discussing CRM (Crew Resource Management).

It was interesting hearing the questions from the new hires. I forgot what it was like to be new. For the majority of the new hires in my class this is their first airline and jet.

Tomorrow we are supposed to discuss the FMS.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

First day of class

My first day in the classroom was yesterday. There I met a few other pilots I know who are taking the opportunity to swtich from aircraft. All were on the plane I used to fly and in the same predictament. We lived local but were commuting. Silly.

There were 4 of them. In addition to those 4 there were 6 new hires and one pilot returning from a Military Leave of Absence. Since he was gone his seniority increased enough to hold Captain. He was the lone Captain upgrade in the class.

Him and the new hires spent the first part of the week covering company procedures and doing and the paperwork stuff. Myself and the 4 other "old pilots" joined them on Friday.

I thought we were going to hit systems hard. Nope. We review advanced performance maneuvers. This is important for new hires as this would likely be their first jet. Jets and props handle very differently.

We then spent time on dealing with Fatigue, CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain), ILS PRM and something else I glossed over. All of these topics are covered each year in recurrent. I did this back in January. Bleh.

I did get my new books. I spent time assembling them. The training center simply gives a new binder and a celophane wrapped HUGE stack of pages. We have to assemble and tab them. Not hard once you know how. As a new hire it was very confusing.

While on lunch break (I brown bagged it....well it was a black crew cooler bag...but bleh) I saw a former First Officer, Henry, who was upgrading to Captain on the plane I was training on. He was also switching planes.

For Henry it was a little more difficult as he was combining his first upgrade with a new aircraft. He was two weeks ahead of me.

I'm going to spend the weekend reading my manuals cover to cover. Not required, but recommended. Fun!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Walking" in the resume

Helping others is in my nature. It's part of the reason for this blog.

Only a handful of airlines are currently hiring. Mine is one of them.

The current market is very tight as there are a lot of pilots out of work. Simply applying isn't enough as the resume is just a virtual piece of paper in an inbox.

A few of my friends have applied to my airline recently and heard nothing. I didn't know they applied. Once they told me I asked them to send me their resume and I would attach a letter of recommendation and "walk" it in.

Once I did almost all were called for an interview within a week. It's not that I'm someone special, but it just takes a little something extra to pick up THEIR application before someone else's.  I helped my former boss get an interview, he got the job and is in the middle of IOE. Prior to my airline he worked as a pilot flying traffic watch. He also flew for a group of men who owned a plane and needed a pilot. Basically he worked in aviation for over a year prior to coming to my airline.

A childhood friend of mine is married to a pilot. I haven't seen this friend in 20+ years. She became my "friend" on Facebook about a year ago. I became "friends" with her husband about six months ago.

We talked back and forth a bit about flying now and then. He hasn't had an active flying job in 5+ years. He's been working in other fields, which pay more money.

Recently he decided he wanted to fly for an airline. He has a little over 1000 hours total time.

He applied to my airline and waited. Then I helped out by sending in a letter of recommendation. He was contacted and set up an interview. I told him about all the interview gouges online ( )

His interview was on Tuesday. Monday night my airline flew him over and I met him near his hotel to talk. We discussed the interview, my job, reserve, benefits and commuting.

He was very at ease. I could tell he read the gouges and had all his paperwork in order. I wished him good luck and headed home.

Yesterday he sent me a text....didn't work out. I didn't ask specifics but suspect it was knowledge based. He hasn't been immersed in aviation for 5 years. He can apply again in a few months. I'm sure we will still be hiring.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Same stuff, different plane

Studying is going well...I suppose. I haven't had to study intensely in almost 4 years.

The basics are the same. I have a PFD, MFD and EICAS screen in the middle. If I push on the yoke the things on the ground get bigger. If I pull back on the yoke things get smaller. If I pull WAY back pretty red arrows will appear and point me in the right direction.

There are some things this plane does automatically that my last plane required me to do. Bleh.

Today I'm going to concentrate on Memory Items and Limitations.

Memory Items are things that....must be commited to memory as they are so important that not knowing them could put the safety of flight in jepoardy.

An example of a memory item:




(1) Affected thrust lever- Confirm & Idle
(2) Affected thrust reverser, ---------Emer stow------Select

By knowing this information by heart, the actions can be done immediately without the use of a checklist. Once completed the checklist IS referenced.

Limitations would be something like:

Maximum Altitude, 41,000 ft

Starter limitation: 90 seconds on followed by 30 seconds off


There are lots of memory items and limitations to commit to memory. Hopefully all the old ones will be flushed out.

Oh yeah, don't ever buy ERJ/CRJ/737 whatever flash cards, memory items etc on line. Reason being every airline has their own ways of doing things. I've jump seated on the same plane I used to fly, but flown by a different carrier. They did things entirely differently procedure wise. I bet their memory items and limitations are different as well.

Off to make more flash cards.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cracking the virtual books

The studying has begun. My airline uses home based study for the first portion of training. I log onto a website and click through slides. Mind numbing. Very monotone voice reads text to me. I did a similar course when I first started 4 years ago.

The systems are similar to what my last plane had. Some things appear to be easier, some more complex.

I do have a slight leg up in that I've flown this new plane on Microsoft Flight Simulator a lot. There are very detailed models of planes out there. Some are better than others. The better one's cost money but are worth it.

In order to get the most out of it I will take my daughter to day care on days I need to study. Today is officially my day off. My first scheduled study day isn't until Friday, but I'm getting a head start.

Gonna need to make a LOT more coffee.

Monday, September 5, 2011

One last lap around the pattern

I'm glad I'm not a betting man....well not too much anyway.

With just three days on reserve I figured I wouldn't be used. Nah. I got called for a two day trip. Fine.

It was mostly easy. The Captain I was to fly with couldn't find his kit bag and the spare wasn't available, thus I flew with a reserve Captain.

Commuting pilots rarely take their kit bags home. Reason being it's one more bag to lug and find space for. There are huge rooms full of kits bags at every hub. For some reason he couldn't find his. Normally he would use the spare from the Chief Pilots' office...but it was already being used. Bleh.

I took the leg out. Storms. Delays. Crazy reroute. Delayed. By the time we started to taxi (40 minutes late!) we were rerouted again....but this time for the better. Instead of a 2 hour flight it was now one hour...straight shot!

Only 8 passengers on board...but 9 other crew members who were dead heading. Light airplane. I somehow managed a nice landing.

Outside the airport were two hotel vans waiting. My crew plus the 9 dead headers had to figure out which crews went to which hotels. After much discussion and checking of our schedules we figured it out. Long overnight.

Day 2 was one leg into base and done.

I'm on reserve today...but doubt I will be called which is fine with me. I'm enjoying the day off with my family. Tomorrow I start studying for the next plane.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Three more days

I have three more days of reserve...and then I hit the books.

Yesterday I tried to study a little bit. The path from aircraft A to aircraft B is long.

A question was submitted asking to discuss how I got to where I can switch aircraft. Well it's complicated and detailed...which to maintain my anonymity means I have to water it down.

Airlines change routes/equipment/staffing a few times a year. When staffing is reduced the bottom guys normally get squeezed out. I myself was displaced a few years ago....but only on paper. By the time the date for me to change aircraft came, I was able to stay in my seat.

A few months ago an opportunity arose to allow me to go back to my old base and change aircraft and I took it. It isn't all roses though.

Over the next two months I will:

A. Learn a new aircraft nose to tail

B. Get minimum pay (no per diem)

C. Hop in a simulator for training and a check ride

D. Fly around on IOE again

When I finish I will be in the top 35% of First Officers in my base. I probably won't hold weekends off, but I will be able to easily hold a hard line and likely get something I like.

I have three more reserve days starting tomorrow. To prepare for training I'm going to do the same thing I did when I was hired almost 4 years ago and buy a big ring of note cards and start filling them out.