Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I guess my passengers are safer now?

I'm back.

I've had a really good career until this month. I passed every check ride the FIRST time.

I've now been humbled.

As a pilot I like being in control. I always want to succeed. It's hard to throw my hands in the air and say "I can't do it."

I should have.

Earlier this month the air conditioner in our house went out. Hot house....while in training for my ATP.

I bought a portable unit which kept one room cool...but it was fatiguing. Trying to study while dealing with repairmen and worrying about the cost was stressful.

On a Friday night I had my final training in the simulator. The next day I was to have my oral. I walked out of the sim at 2:25AM (Saturday morning). I got home and tried to go to sleep. Woke up around 8AM. Not a lot of sleep. Oral was at 4PM.

I was tired....I was exhausted. My mentality was "I have to get this done so I can do my ride before vacation!"

The oral went bad quick. I was fatigued. Busted....for the first time in my life.

Sunday I was "retrained".

I slept and relaxed. Passed the oral no problem Monday. My check ride was set for Tuesday morning...early....6AM show time. Slept decently...but not great...again the house was warm except for the bedroom. All of us (Wife, daughter, dogs and me) in one room overnight.

I arrived and began the paperwork. Problem....I forgot my logbook.

Thankfully I live 5 miles from the training center. My wife saved the day by rushing the logbook up. My daughter wasn't too happy.


The ride began ok. Departed LGA and enroute to JGK.

Low vis takeoff. Did a SID. Then my air work. Clean stall, departure stall and approach stall done fine. My steep turns were decent.


I did a 2 engine ILS to a missed. Perfect.

Then it happened.

I was north east of the JFK VOR. I was cleared direct to the JFK VOR and told to hold NORTH EAST on the 040 radial.

This is where it went bad.

Rather than use CRM I tried to do it on my own. I was stressed and nervous.

I tuned in the VOR and headed toward it. The heading was 225. I then drew out the hold on a piece of paper.

I drew it wrong. I drew it to hold on the 225 radial....holding southwest.

You can guess what happened next. I crossed the VOR....tried to make a parallel entry....and the sim stopped.

My world just turned upside down. I felt like I was in a flat spin. Two bust....in one week. I'd gone 5 years with zero bust.

It was a very rough morning.

Stressed beyond belief. I checked my blood pressure....I was in the pre-hypertension range.

I called my union rep in charge of training. He helped calm me down.

My airline uses a point system. Anything more than 3 points and you could be let go. An oral bust was .5 points. A sim bust was 1 point. I was now at 1.5 points.

I needed to clear my head.

AC was fixed for good that day.....$3200 for a new compressor and coil. Ouch.

Left for vacation on Thursday (separate write up soon) not knowing if I would have a job much longer.

Arrived back on Saturday. Retraining set for Monday. Jet lagged but free of stress.

Thankfully the training was early in the morning. This was good as Germany is UTC +5 so I was used to being awake when I am normally used to being sleep.

Training went very well. The instructor was wondering why I failed in the first place.

This morning I showed up for my check ride. Because I had 2 bust on the same event the FAA was there to monitor.

I am happy to say it went very well.

Started at JFK. Normal takeoff. I then did the GPS 31L approach from CHANT. No runway. Missed Approach. The missed is a little tricky as it's 2000 to a fix then 3000 for a final altitude. Then did ILS 4R. No runway. Missed approach. On climb out the left engine failed. Back around for a single engine ILS 4R. Landed.

Lined up for 22L. At 81 knots my PFD failed. I commanded the abort. Done.

Took off 4R. Lost an engine at V1. Ran the profile and thankfully it restarted. Back around for LOC 31R approach. This one was a little tricky as the Missed Approach Point is based on time. Landed. Done.

Another takeoff. On climb out the flaps jammed. Came back around for a no flap landing on 31R. Easy...and done.

Check ride passed. I guess my passengers are safer now that I have an ATP?

The only debrief items were I was a little slow on the single engine missed. Not out of range as I climbed at V2, but I should have asked for a different speed.

Additionally for the single engine ILS I should have been a little more pro-active in the my approach briefing. I simply stated "It's the same approach but just reduced flaps". Eh.

I am happy to be done. I have a LOFT (Line Oriented Flight Training) tomorrow morning (4:30AM!!!) and then I'm back to the line Thursday.

It really sucks that I will have to explain why I failed my ATP check ride for every airline interview for the rest of my life. I should have realized I was not fit to fly and called in fatigued. It's a lesson I will have to own up to for the rest of my life.



  1. " I should have realized I was not fit to fly and called in fatigued.
    It’s a lesson I will have to own up to for the rest of my life."

    And one to remember the rest of your life. I know the "can do" attitude is prevalent throughout your industry (as well as mine), but these episodes underline the role human factors have in safety. Factors best not ignored.

    Welcome back.

  2. It's insane how much pressure is on you guys for 15 - 30k a year.. Hell anything under 100k a year for that kinda pressure is unwarranted. Those holds can be confusing to visualize, especially when you are tired and/or stressed... Much of the stress came from not having enough money to fix an air-conditioner. The airlines ought to be ashamed. Instead, they pin it on the pilots, and management keeps the change. That's one thing I hate about this industry - the permanent record. Everyone has bad days. They should not define your entire career. I can't think of too many careers out there that can be ended by 1 minor test failure (not even a real life mistake). People like me are very nervous during testing, and I know for a fact that I perform much worse than I do in real life. If they want to place us under the microscope, then they should pay us for the stress level involved in that. They certainly do not, and it has to change. I hope this "pilot shortage" sends management and the CEO's packing, because they created it themselves.


If you are a spammer....your post will never show up. Move along.