Archive for May, 2013

What do you bring to the table?

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Every airline pilot can fly—or at least it’s assumed that they can. When you are pursuing a job, the basic assumption is that you can aviate with a certain degree of competency, and that you are trainable. The real question for many interviewers is simple: What else do you bring to the table? What skills do you have? What problems can you help us solve?

Pilots are an amazing bunch of people. The wealth of talent and knowledge in other fields that I have seen in this industry never fails to amaze me. One young lady at Comair was not only going through the stress of new-hire training, but she also took the bar exam during training. I can’t imagine such a divergent set of demands on her time. I’ve known pilots who have been lawyers, pharmacists, insurance agents, and members of all kinds of music bands. Many are mechanics, and a lot own their own businesses outside of flying.

When you are interviewing for any flying job, be it for an airline or a corporation or a sky-diving job, don’t hesitate to mention your other skills and attributes. Often, that kind of flexibility will pay off, and it may be just what the employer is looking for. In fact, the smaller the company, the more important it is for you to be a jack-of-all-trades. A great example is AOPA. Not all of the employees are pilots, but all of the pilots can do more than fly.

If you get hired by a regional but aspire to a major, one of the best things you can do is to get involved in other “stuff.” There are usually all kinds of arenas you can dive into. You might help in the training department with rewriting or doing initial writing of material; safety departments need all kinds of inputs; ASAP and FOQA programs need people to do data analysis, interviews, and interfacing with other airlines. The list goes on. You should fly as much as you can, because if you want to get to a major, you’ll need to average at least 200 to 300 hours a year, but you can still make a meaningful contribution outside of the cockpit.

Another area where you can volunteer is with the pilots’ union. Much of what the union does mirrors the company structure, especially in safety and training, and airlines and the unions often work hand in hand on major initiatives. Depending on the position you volunteer for, the union may pay for advanced training in such areas as accident investigation or aeromedical services. All of these will round you out as an individual and make your resume shine. Further, you will be marketable as more than a pilot. I know of two that were union safety volunteers that went on to work for the NTSB. Another got a prestigious job with Boeing, and yet another went to the MITRE Corporation. And, of course, many realized their dreams and went on to fly at the majors.

Ask yourself what you bring to the table that someone else doesn’t. If the answer is not as fulfilling as you’d like it to be, start working on changing that. You can focus on aviation or non-aviation pursuits and interests, but the big thing is to just get started. To borrow from the old Army ad campaign, you need to be all you can be, and that does not just mean as a pilot.—Chip Wright

Just ahead in the July issue

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

GliderWhat great summer trips are you planning this year? What hot-weather issues confound you as you progress through your flight training? Our July 2013 issue, just off to the printer, touches on weight and balance, density altitude, and nailing your best glide speed in the event of an engine failure.

  • Weigh in: Why You Should Calculate Weight and Balance—Every Time: Your instructor makes you calculate weight and balance, but it shouldn’t become one of those “I’ll never need to do this again” situations once you become a certificated pilot. In fact, it will become even more critical for you to go through the calculations, as you’ll learn in this article.
  • Just Like the Real Thing: Moving Training Toward Reality: When you start training with real-world situations in mind, that simulated short-field landing on a longer runway gets a little more challenging.
  • Glider Pilot for a Day: How Fast to Fly When The Engine Quits. We take some tips from the folks for whom an engine-out is an every-day occurrence—glider pilots.
  • Technique: Short-Field Takeoff: When you absolutely, positively must get off the ground quickly.

There’s a lot more, of course, so keep an eye out for your digital edition–hitting your device May 28–or your paper copy, arriving in your mailbox after June 6. Happy reading and safe flying!—Jill W. Tallman

 To get a free six-month membership to AOPA and receive six free issues of Flight Training magazine, call 800-USA-AOPA or visit our website. To switch your paper subscription to digital, visit our website.

Nana Jean faces a challenge

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

After reading a letter to the editor in the June Flight Training about a lack of women and minorities represented in aviation, Jean Moule sent this previously published blog to Editor Ian Twombly. We post it here with her permission.—Ed.

Jean Moule and her flight instructor, Steve Larsen.

Jean Moule and her flight instructor, Steve Larsen.

“75765, is there an instructor on board?” My erratic taxiing had been noted by the control tower. The basics seemed so difficult. Maybe it was a good thing that the threatening weather kept my instructor and me on the ground in our plane.

I stared through the raindrops on the aircraft windshield. Would I ever learn to fly? I have seen my grandchildren and my students begin a difficult task, become frustrated and put the material or task down with a sigh, lacking the will to continue. I have learned how to help them move past the barriers to try again. Could I do that for myself?

Rarely in my adult life have I faced tasks I found challenging beyond learning a new skill on the computer or how to work a new appliance or gadget. And rarely do these tasks have high emotional impact or the kinds of pressure one may experience when the task is complex, cognitively difficult and watched over intently by a teacher.

Perhaps I needed a reminder of such experiences. Five years ago in “Ask Nana Jean” I wrote about my climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and concluded with my desire to reach more heights. Climb another mountain? Learn to fly? And that is how I found myself behind the controls of an airplane, I in the pilot seat and the instructor on controls on the right. Could I reach high places in a plane?

This was my 3rd lesson; this time with a substitute instructor. The checklist with 120 items and a cockpit with a lot more dials than a car seemed bewildering. Afterwards, as I paid for my half hour on the ground my head filled over and over with “Why am I doing this?” I reminded myself: I want to learn to fly…

  •  Because I like heights.
  • Because I want additional perspectives.
  • Because I need exhilaration and a new challenge.

I drove home feeling dejected, the rain and gray clouds matching my mood. I knew that at some point I would have to find the reserves to try again. I tried to encourage myself by thinking about other challenging things I have accomplished:

  •  Remember learning to drive a car?
  • Remember handling an excavator that one time?
  • Remember learning to ski or pull a sled while on ski patrol?
  • Remember learning to teach!

I made a list of resolutions and requests that I believed would help me continue on:

  •  Get a copy of the preflight checklist and go over it at home
  • Get a life-sized poster of the cockpit and practice touching the right switches
  • Ask my instructor to taxi next time to at least get us off the ground

And finally, I remembered the pleasure I receive when my own students begin to grasp a concept that is hard for them. So my final reason for continuing with my lessons? My instructors may feel blessed when their challenging and challenged student finally makes progress. They, too, will have a student whose success they will remember fondly…when she finally leans to fly solo.

Ten days later:

I flew today. My instructor watched as I turned the plane over our house, circled the small town of Lyons where we used to live, flew over the road I take to work. Up and down. Level flight, smooth turns and a deep satisfaction. Now I need to learn to take off and land!

What a contrast to just a few days ago when I almost put down my pilot log-book for good.

My words for myself and others: when the journey gets tough, be strong and continue on. No matter how long it takes.—Jean Moule 

Jean Moule is an emerita faculty member of Oregon State University, and a published writer and artist. Visit her website.—Ed.

Diversions and aeronautical decision making

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Aeronautical decision making (ADM) first began to appear in the training lexicon in a heavy fashion in the mid-1990s. It was always “there,” but it wasn’t necessarily a separate subject. Instructors were expected to simply incorporate the decision-making process into each lesson whenever and wherever possible. This sounds great on paper, and at times it even seems logical, but the reality is that the old adage that says that the airplane is a terrible classroom exists for a reason.

Dealing with diversions is a subject in the decision-making process for which a formal classroom session has always made sense. Diversions can take two broad forms in flight. The first is a change in the route but with no change in the destination. The second is a change in the final destination. The first is far more common, but the second is usually more significant. After all, if you are flying to Baltimore and have to divert to Frederick  because of weather, you have new set of problems on your hands. Just as with any other aspect of your life, the impact of such a significant change in plans can make you more resistant to executing the change in the first place.

At the airlines, the decision is often a bit easier, because the rules are so cut and dried. But that doesn’t change the fact that pilots generally are can-do people, and when other people are counting on you, you don’t want to disappoint them.
But one area in which diversions at the airlines are so different is the level of communication. I bring all of this up because more airlines are using ADM scenarios as part of the interview process. You are placed in a hypothetical but fairly realistic scenario in which something goes wrong, and you have to make a decision. Sometimes, the basic diversion decision is easy (“the airport is closed, so you will be diverting”) and sometimes it isn’t (“something smells bad in the cabin, but I don’t if it’s burned food or worse”).

The pressure is ratcheted up in some other fashion that will force you to make a decision quickly. Southwest and United airlines both give you a seven-minute window in which to assess the problem, evaluate the options, and come up with a solution. In some of the scenarios, you are short on fuel. In some, weather is a major factor. In others, it’s the ambiguity of the problem. But in all of them, the goal is to see you make a decision and stick with it.

At the airlines, you need to communicate with multiple entities, and this is where the two-person crew comes in handy. Someone needs to talk to air traffic control, while someone else handles everything else. In the real world, the first officer usually handles ATC and the captain does what he gets paid to do. If you are in an interview, make yourself familiar with what airports that airline serves. You don’t need to commit them to memory, but have a general idea, because in the ADM scenario you will likely be using them.

So, who needs your attention? Assuming that you are not given a major catastrophe like a fire or a flight control failure, you need to talk the flight attendant(s) first, if for no other reason to tell them that there has been a change in plans and that you will get back to them shortly. That phone call should take less than 15 seconds.

Next you need to talk to the dispatcher, who is jointly responsible for your airplane and flight. The dispatcher can give you up-to-the-minute weather at your possible alternates as well as any notices to airmen you may need. He or she can also save you a radio call by contacting the two stations involved and letting them know your change in plans (hint: If the person playing the role of the dispatcher doesn’t offer this service, ask for it). If the dispatcher can’t (or won’t) call the station to which you are diverting, then you need to call (this may be thrown at you in one of the timed sequences). Cover your bases as well by telling the dispatcher that you will call once on the ground to clean up any loose ends.
If maintenance needs to be consulted, do it via dispatch, since the dispatcher needs to know of any issues that may affect performance.

Next, you need to advise ATC what you are doing. If critical fuel is going to play a part in the scenario, it will usually be included in the briefing. If it is, you need to remember to declare either minimum fuel or an emergency as the case may be.

Once ATC is in the loop, somebody needs to brief the flight attendants and the passengers. If the diversion point is extremely close, say Miami to Fort Lauderdale, then you may want to ask the flight attendant to notify the passengers, and to tell them you will provide more information on the ground.

Once you have operated in the airlines, and especially as a captain, you realize that the scenarios are really the same thing you do every day. As someone new to the industry, you need to show that you have some idea of how the system works—and it’s very similar from one company to the next.

ADM is a critical part of any pilot’s aviating career, and for those looking to go to the airlines or advance up the ladder, it becomes a bigger and bigger part each step of the way. Start mastering it early, and remember, conservative is always better.—Chip Wright

Photo of the Day: Cherokee Six

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

05-456_Cherokee6

You can see the wing of the photo ship in this air-to-air shot of a Piper Cherokee Six in gorgeous setting sunlight, but that’s OK. To crop out that wing tip would’ve removed the sun from the shot, which is part of the reason why this composition is so nice. It was the jumping-off point to ask our Facebook friends which time of day they most like to fly. Many chose early morning for smooth, cool air; others picked dusk or night for similar reasons. When you get down to it, almost any time is the right time.—Jill W. Tallman