Posts Tagged ‘passengers’

Canceling the first flight

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

I’ve touched on the topic before of cancellations in this blog, but the reality is that there are cancellations…and there are cancellations, and you as a passenger may or may not be victim of one directly…or indirectly.

As an example, I recently had to cancel the first leg of the day at an outstation. In this case, it had been raining fairly hard all night, and when we got to the airplane, it was raining in the cabin almost as much as it was outside; one of the antennas had a bad seal that was allowing water to get past. It isn’t as big of a deal as it sounds, but we could not operate a revenue flight. We needed to get the airplane to a hangar (or an airport where it wasn’t raining) so that it could be resealed, then time allowed for the seal to cure.

From the airline’s point of view, the problems were just beginning. This was a city that has several flights a day, but they all have a very high load factor. Rebooking was going to be tough. Some passengers would be forced to drive, others would have to simply cancel their trip, especially if they were on a time-sensitive schedule (meetings, certain international connections, et cetera).

And then there was the issue of the effect on the schedule. Taking the airplane out of the rotation for the day meant that the potential for the down-line schedule to be hit was high. There would be a domino effect on every flight scheduled on this particular ship. We could end up running hours late all day, as has happened to me in the past. They might be late, or they might cancel. Fortunately, our leg was a short one, so at least we as a crew would be back in position fairly easily, and the repair we needed would take less than a full day in getting the bird back on line. Finding this squawk so early in the day made it more likely that a spare airplane would be available to cover the flying scheduled for the affected ship.

But it doesn’t always work that way. Often, a broken airplane will lead to a series of cancellations, either because there is no aircraft to pick up the slack, or because the crew will be out of position or time out. At times the result is obvious to see (it was scheduled to fly all of “these” flights, so we’ll cancel them), and at other times, it isn’t so obvious as the company will then strategically cancel flights based on a number of factors: loads, connections, scheduled maintenance, crew availability or even flights the next day.

But, the first flight cancelling in the morning always has the potential to cause major headaches that carry through the day. Ironically, it makes it easier to get the crew back on schedule at some point, but if the airplanes aren’t available to cover the flying, things get ugly…fast.

Lucky for me, on the day in question we stayed on schedule, and the only flight affected was the first one…but that didn’t help the passengers who were left behind.—Chip Wright

Your first flight with a passenger

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

If you’re a student pilot reading this, I hope you have not taken your first flight with a passenger–because that would be a violation of the FARs. But we all know that the privilege to take a passenger flying is something we anticipate when we’re in the throes of training, performing our umpteenth power-off stall or plotting yet another flight and squinting over yet another weather forecast. There’s just something special about the prospect of sharing the joy of flight with someone else–hopefully someone who will come to love it as much as we do.

In the March issue of Flight Training, just gone to the printer, we bring you a story of a brand-new pilot who chose his dad and a good friend to be his first passengers. What happened on that flight made it memorable in more ways than one. I’ll say no more, except to tell you to read it when your issue hits your mailbox or your digital device.

And when you’re finished, if you’re a certificated pilot, please share your memories of your first flight with a passenger. Was it everything you thought it would be? Was it scary to have that responsibility–or was it fulfilling–or maybe a little of both? Please share your memories in the Comments section.–Jill Tallman

Start finding passengers… now!

Monday, March 21st, 2011

What’s the first thing you want to do when you get your ticket? In all likelihood, you want to go somewhere…and you want to take a passenger with you.

Sharing the joy of flying is one of the very best parts of learning to fly. It’s why we often ask brand-new pilots, “Who’s your first passenger?” Who gets to share that astounding experience of climbing into an airplane and taking off on an adventure?

Sadly, some folks don’t have anyone to share flying with. In 10 years with AOPA, I’ve read many letters and forum posts, and heard many personal stories from sad pilots who can’t get the important people in their lives to fly with them. I wrote an article several years back suggesting strategies to coax your spouse or significant other into at least climbing into the cockpit with you for one trip around the pattern.

But I often wonder if we’re not missing an opportunity while we’re in training. If we do some advance planning and consult with our flight instructor, we can bring along someone on an instructional flight. Now obviously I’m not talking about subjecting your spouse to stall recovery or a session of engine-out practice. But why shouldn’t he or she ride along in the backseat for a dual cross-country? Or better yet, when it’s time for night flight? (Night time flying is generally smooth, which makes it a nicer experience for the passenger.)

Ad added bonus is that your special someone gets to see you operating the airplane with the added security of a flight instructor on board for his or her first time flying with you. This is a probably more of a psychological plus than anything else, but if it helps to soothe the jangled nerves of a nonpilot, why not?

Passengers can create unnecessary distractions, of course, so plan for that. (Don’t, for example, try to do a preflight with your spouse hanging off your elbow.) And do talk to your flight instructor about whether this is feasible for you. He or she will likely have some good suggestions on flights where this would be a good idea versus flights where this would decidedly not be a good idea (see: my stall recovery reference, above), and he’ll want to check your weight-and-balance calculations.

–Jill Tallman