initial operating experience

Here I am. Flying the line. Finally.

I have completed my IOE(initial operating experience) training, and I’m now in the shark infested waters of line flying.

I’m now a fully fledged reserve pilot, to be used and abused at the whim of crew scheduling. Which so far, has meant flying every day I’m scheduled. I’ve flown almost 60 hours now and I’m almost getting the hang of things. Almost.

I spent about 30 hours of flying with my IOE instructor. His job was to primarily not let me kill anyone, while not bending any airplane metal. Throughout that time he also taught me quite a bit about flying an airplane. He bridged the gap between the simulator and the real world. Meshing my training with real world experience and know how that is required to make everything come together.

I started like a blind folded child. I had all the training, and no clue how to use it or where to start. My first day felt like a dream. I had all the pieces of the puzzle, I just didn’t know how to put the puzzle together. That’s where my instructor came in. A captain that had been flying with the airline for over 20 years, he got paid extra to babysit me. Which is good, because I needed a little babysitting at first.

It felt like I never had enough time when I first started. We get to the airplane 45 minutes before we’re supposed to leave and before you know it passengers are loading, the doors are closing and I’m going a million miles an hour in my head. The wheels are spinning but we’re not going anywhere. It seems there will never be enough time to get everything done. Surely they know it is impossible to complete this much work in such a short amount of time. It can’t possibly be done by a human!

Day two comes around. Somehow I have found a few extra minutes of time and I’m completing work quicker. Pretty soon I have a lot of extra time. I stop rushing. I start enjoying the work. My sense of humor returns. Life is good again. I’m not stressed.

I’m still making mistakes though. That’s making me angry. I’m trying really hard not to get frustrated at myself or at my captain. It’s a very hard transition to go from being the ‘know it all’ to being the new guy. I don’t have all the answers anymore. I don’t have my confidence yet, I don’t know what to do sometimes. I hate this feeling of being lost.

Most of all I hate that I can’t land the damn plane. My first landing was bad. Children cried, women scorned, men cursed. Cities burned and the sky was blood red. It wasn’t pretty, I’ll admit it. In my defense it was my first landing ever in the plane. It’s not really fair to have 50 people on board to witness that mess. Luckily I haven’t had any landings as bad since. I’m hoping that I will never have landings that bad ever again.

Since I finished IOE the landings have been improving a lot. Which is good for me, and the general flying public.

Yesterday I left Corpus Christi Texas at 6 in the morning. It was my leg to fly and I chose to fly the aircraft manually to about 10 thousand feet. The air was clear and smooth and the sun was just cresting the top of some storm clouds off in the distance. It was calm and quiet, the scenery was incredible, and I was flying. These are the moments that make it all worth it.

I love my job. I love flying airplanes. They even pay me to do it.

Go beyond all the bureaucracy and drama, complaining and bickering, and you have the most amazing job in the world. I look forward to what the future brings to me every day.