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.

second in command

On April 12th 2010, I began long term training for my first ever 121 airline. Ground school, simulator training, and soon to be aircraft training. I don’t know why, but it feels like I just got here yesterday. I’ve been here almost two months.

We began with basic indoctrination which included all sorts of company rules and regulations as well as government restrictions and policies. This was a little over a week long of everything I needed to know about how not to get fired. I learned how to fight a terrorist. I learned how to use an archaic computer system to read what must be the first form of e-mail. I learned a lot of new terms for harassing women and minorities.

After that we split into our aircraft specific classes. I had chosen the Embraer 145 along with 8 other new hires in my class. We were also joined by a few pilots that had been recalled from furlough. Eventually the recalled pilots would leave the class prior to the completion as they were awarded a different aircraft midway through.

This second portion of the ground training is considered systems training. We learn about each specific system of the aircraft and how they interact with each other and how to control them. Some systems are more complicated than others, some are innately difficult, others are insanely easy. Unfortunately the former outnumbers the latter. However after a while of studying and dissecting and interpreting, they all meshed together and became one.

After completing a final exam, systems class was done. We completed the oral exam portion of our check ride and then on to the simulator training.

It had been almost two months since I’d flown anything resembling an airplane, so I was excited to at least be able to pretend for a while. Pretend to fly a jet even.

In the simulator we got to do some pretty amazing stuff. Things that most pilots would otherwise never get to experience. Rapid decompression, cabin fire, instrumentation failures, engine failures, engine fires, flight control failures, hydraulic failures, electrical failures, landing gear failures, ‘insert random failure here’ failures. The list goes on and on. The first few days of the training never had a quiet moment. Every 5 seconds it seemed like something else had failed, was about to fail, or was in the process of failing. I even said during one session, it felt like I was doing more work reading and completing checklists than the guy that was just flying the airplane was.

After a few days of near complete hysteria in the simulator, I started to feel like I actually knew what I was doing. I never really had a perfect flight, but each session contained less and less mistakes and I began to feel more confident in myself and my knowledge.

A few days ago I took the check ride in the simulator. This was the first check ride I have ever taken that I wasn’t completely stressed out about. I don’t know why. This should have been one of the most difficult ones I’ve taken. Perhaps it was because I took half of this check ride almost two weeks prior to the practical portion? The oral portion was completed at the end of ground school. Maybe it was because it was in a simulator? However, I could screw the simulator up just as much as a real aircraft. I don’t really know.

The check ride was pretty much as advertised. I did however create some difficulty for myself that didn’t need to be there. During the initial portion of my single engine approach, I asked my check airman if he would like me to disconnect the autopilot. I was approaching the point where I needed to start hand flying the approach without the assistance of the autopilot. I knew this only because I knew that the single engine approach was to be hand flown. This began a back and forth discussion between the two of us as I was becoming established on the vertical guidance track to the runway. Not good.

When I finally clicked off the autopilot I was behind the aircraft. I had overshot the glide slope, which meant I was going to be high and fast. Trying to reconfigure the aircraft with gear and flaps, reduction of power to flight idle and slight over controlling induced some self induced oscillations. Affectionately known as S turns across a localizer and being on a roller coaster on the glide slope. This created some problems for me. In order to complete an approach the aircraft must be stabilized by a certain point prior to landing. I had passed that point, and those criteria were far from met. When I arrived at the decision point to land or go around, the choice was clear. If I tried to mend this approach and land, I might have been able to pull it off. There was a greater chance that I would make a mess of it, or crash.

I chose not to be a betting man on game day.

I demonstrated a single engine go-around. A maneuver that isn’t required for me to demonstrate proficiency in but I got to anyways. It was much better to do that than try and force the airplane onto the runway. I came back around for another try. This time I wasn’t distracted or unsure of how I would be flying the approach. That resulted in a much smoother, more stabilized, single engine landing.

That was the only hiccup of my simulator check ride. I felt confident with the rest of my flying, and was happy with the result despite my one mistake.

With the check ride out of the way, the only simulator training that remains is a LOFT scenario. LOFT or line oriented flight training, is designed to move away from the training environment of simulator flying and introduce what actual line flying will be like. The flight is designed to represent a flight from New York to Washington DC. I was scheduled to complete this earlier in the week, however as things go, the simulator broke.

So now I wait. Once the LOFT scenario is complete, I move on to the actual aircraft. Passengers -n- all.

sooner rather than later

When I wrote “soon to be airline pilot”, I really had no idea when or where that would actually happen. It was a distant almost non existent possibility that I would one day become an airline pilot. In a string of events that are as unlikely as they were incredibly lucky, I have landed myself in a training class.

I completed and submitted an application on a whim. I made a bet with myself, or more so a deal. I had plans laid to quit my job and go back to school. I was already accepted and had financial aid lined up to attend Boise State college back home in Idaho. I was a little apprehensive about giving up my dream job that I had worked so hard for, but I was getting burned out and frustrated. I had been running in circles flight instructing. I don’t want to say that I’ve experienced all there is to ever see in the flight instruction world, but I was ready for a change. I had been instructing for 3 years, and had worked nearly every aspect allowable at the company. I had the privilege of teaching many different students, from different countries, in different airplanes with different procedures. I pretty much did it all.

I am very grateful for the experience I gained as a flight instructor, and especially the growth I made on a personal level. I did a lot of growing up there, and I left a completely different person in some ways. I did some pretty crazy, pretty stupid things, but I’ve learned a lot about myself.

After filling out and submitting the application, I pretty much never expected to even hear back from the company. The industry was pretty much at a stand still, and I was sure that it would be months, if not years, before anybody started hiring again.

Well I was wrong.

The day after I submitted my application the company announced thy would be hiring. A lot. I couldn’t believe it. Not only were they hiring, but they want to hire for the rest of the year. For a moment, I got excited. Then I remembered how excited I got when I got hired by multiple airlines and cargo operators in 2008. I tried to stay grounded this time. I was excited still, but I didn’t let it consume me. I tried to stay positive, yet reserved.

I waited a few weeks, and the time ate away at my confidence. I felt qualified and ready for this job, but I started doubting myself. I doubted the quality of my resume in the desperate economy. My positive outlook and upbeat attitude starting to fade and erode. I started thinking more and more about college, and how it wouldn’t be bad for me to go back to school. As much as you try to not think about the possibilities, you can’t help but daydream how your life will change with such decisions and opportunities.

That is at least, until I got the phone call.

Do you remember Christmas morning as a kid? That adrenaline rush that started in your chest, and flowed to your fingers and toes? The pure feeling of joy and fulfillment? It was like that. Multiplied by a bajillion.

I couldn’t feel anything.

Well, here I am. Doing it. Living it. I’m finally here.

Next week we start aircraft specific systems class, where I will learn the ins-and-outs of every nut, bolt and rivet. So far we’ve learned all about company procedures and policies, all the boring stuff. Or as I refer to, the many different ways to lose my job. Lots of phrased that include “must do XXXX” and “shall never do XXXX”. Those precious gems of information will hopefully keep me employed long into the future.

The first flight I ever logged was on July 5th, 2003.
I soloed an aircraft for the first time on August 12th, 2003.
I first flew as the instructor pilot on May 3rd, 2007.
I flew one thousand, eight hundred and fifty one hours as instructor.
I first flew a regional jet on _________________.

So begins the next chapter.


A little less than 5 years ago I took a big step outside my comfort zone. Like so many other students of aviation, I moved a few thousand miles away from home to pursue a dream. A dream I had fostered longer than I can remember of being a pilot. In those nearly 5 years I have transformed from a student of aviation, to a teacher. As an individual I have grown countless milestones.

This chapter in my life comes to a close, and a new opportunity awaits me.

I have been hired by an airline and have been assigned a start date. Of the few times previous that I have interviewed and ‘hired,’ never have I made it this far in the exodus. I have officially provided my supervisor a letter of resignation.

These past few months have been a roller coaster of emotion and fear coupled with excitement. The unknown and waiting during the application process, followed by the stress and pressure of the interview process, followed by more waiting and anticipation waiting to hear from the company. I have finally heard the official word. The emotion has turned towards a nervous excitement. I will miss some things, but look forward to not dealing with other certainties. I’m apprehensive of what awaits me, yet eager to get started.

For what feels like forever I have been where I am, and I find myself facing the same issues of transplantation as when I first came to Florida. Where will I be? Will I like it? Will I succeed? Will I make friends? Will I be able to pay my bills? What if…?

In a little over a week I will be starting my trek across the country again. This time by car. I have a little over 2200 miles to drive to where my parents live. I look forward to the drive, and I will be joined on the trip by my Dad.

Soon you will hear of the trials and tribulations of a teacher turned student yet again. Lets hope I can practice what I have for so long preached.

so you’re getting ready for standardization

This was a post I created on jetcareers about the upcoming standardization events for our new instructor candidates. The purpose of these posts was to ensure that new instructors had some insight on what to expect and what was expected of them. I tried to provide some guidance for the ground briefings as well as flights that are used to standardize the instructor. I think with the realization that I will no longer be around the academy much longer has prompted my desire to help the new comers. I wish I had started this process much sooner.

You’re not quite sure what to expect when you meet that standardization pilot.

Let me give you some guidance.

Show up on time and prepared, with the materials required for a pre-flight briefing. Don’t show up 5 minutes late, with no marker and nothing prepared on your white board.

This means you should probably have something already prepared on the white board that includes things like:

  • Title of discussion or presentation
  • A brief overview or description
  • Listed references for the student to use or refer to
  • A diagram or drawing depicting the maneuver or topic

This discussion should be taught using the guided discussion method.
That means that you treat the standardization pilot as the student, not as a standardization pilot. Don’t refer to the student in third person. “I would tell the student this” or “Now I would ask the student that.”

Ask me those questions, tell me what you want to tell me, as your student. My job as a standardization pilot is to evaluate your ability to lead a discussion or briefing on a maneuver. Show me you have that ability!

Avoid saying things like “bump power” or “pull back”. We are taught to use very specific instructions with the students, and it is heavily emphasized. “Add 100 RPM” or “Increase pitch 1 degree on the horizon” are phrases you need to be comfortable with. Generalized statements tend to lead to students over controlling and making erratic inputs.

Throughout the entire standardization event you should act and conduct yourself as the instructor. If you don’t know things, tell me you can look it up. Admitting errors is OK, but saying “I don’t know” isn’t. The student needs to know it’s OK to not know everything, but should also understand that there is always someplace to find information.

You must have instructional knowledge of the aircraft! We need to ensure you’re going to teach a student the basics of the airframe and systems of the aircraft. These are things we look for on stage checks, and they start with the students primary instructor! Just to name a few:

  • What kind of flaps do we have? What benefit do they provide?
  • What kind of ailerons do we have? What design characteristic do they have that is beneficial?
  • What does the stall strip do?
  • How much fuel is in this fuel tank? How much is unusable? How much fuel is at the tab?
  • Tire inflation numbers, and strut extension tolerance limits.
  • How the Piper External Power plug works
  • Show me the Vacuum pump. How do you know if it stops working? What instruments will stop


  • Be able to identify basic components of the engine, and what their function is
  • The Piper Pitot/Static system is pretty unique; be sure you understand the design of the mast ,
    and what happens when the various ports become blocked.

You will hear a lot, this is not a check ride. It truly isn’t. However, it is an evaluation of your instructional knowledge of the aircraft, and the topics to be covered from pre-solo to single engine commercial applicants. This will probably require some studying and practice on your behalf. Especially the procedures and specific techniques that they require you to use. I’m sure that everything we teach here is taught at least slightly different than what you’re use to.

Lets talk about the flight, shall we?

The flight contains every private and commercial flight maneuver for single engine airplane requirements. All maneuvers are expected to be performed to PTS while simultaneously explaining/teaching. This seems to be the significant pitfall of most instructor candidates.

Remember that throughout the flight you are the instructor, and the stan pilot is to be treated as the student. If you make any mistakes throughout any of the maneuvers, please use them as teaching examples. The students are going to make mistakes when they attempt maneuvers and we want to hear your criticism and analysis of your performance. Do not try to cover up your mistakes, or say that it was PTS when it clearly wasn’t. We are perfectly OK with mistakes, just teach me about it. Always admit your errors to your students. They know you’re not God, don’t act like it.

Do not teach too much. A lot of new instructors sometimes feel the need to narrate and comment on everything that occurs during the flight. Don’t. We want to hear the key instructions, and main points. We don’t need a play by play announcer of every little item. Be careful that you don’t over-instruct the maneuvers. Especially in the traffic pattern, be very cautious of how much instruction you’re giving. If you want the ‘student’ to complete a maneuver, be sure to take the controls before providing your short debrief. The student has little to no ability to listen and perceive your criticism and debrief while flying the aircraft.

Be sure to have a plan of action on how to complete the lesson. You already have a complete list of all maneuvers to be completed, use it. You will be responsible for execution of the lesson with a student, so assume that role for this flight. Tell me which maneuvers we’re going to do, and in what order. Ensure that we remain in the same practice area, or that we don’t stray 10 miles from the airport. Keep an eye on the hobbs time, and ensure that we are not taking too much time between maneuvers. These are essential skills as an active CFI.

Organize your plan of action so it makes sense. Don’t climb to 3500 after departure, then climb to 4500 with chandelles, and go immediately into a steep spiral. That will require us to climb back up to altitude most likely to perform additional maneuvers. This is a waste of time, and waste of the students money. Complete all your altitude maneuvers before descending. Once we’ve descended, lets complete the simulated emergency landing, followed by the ground reference. Once those are completed, we should be done with maneuvers and heading to an airport for landings.

No matter what anyone tells you, the power off 180 approach is not an emergency landing. Do not tell me how you would ‘troubleshoot’ for the failed engine. Do not give an example of us using this technique in an emergency. This is a performance maneuver to demonstrate proficiency and accuracy. We do not need, or want, to see you perform the power off landing checklist/procedure for the power off 180 approach. I see this a lot on stage checks, and even though it is not an unsatisfactory, it is a standardization issue.

Do not be afraid to conduct a go around. During debriefs the candidates will say ‘well I would have had the student go around’. Why didn’t you? Some of the stan pilots will not be satisfied with a go around, as the PTS allows only one attempt for satisfactory, however I personally prefer the go around. I have never, and will never, grade unsatisfactory for a go around. Unless the student is unable to satisfactorily complete the landing from multiple attempts.

Most of all this is a standardization flight, so remember that the procedures and checklists are graded most. We need to see you do the checklists and procedures as listed in the training handbooks. If you have to double check the memory item checklists, do it. Don’t feel that you must do them from memory. Complete what you can from memory, then verify. This is what you should teach your students to do, it is what you should also do.

Ensure to complete your clearing turns, radio call, and pre-maneuver checklist prior to commencing maneuvers. We have and do fail students for this on stage checks, so you better believe that instructor candidates fail stan flights for it. In fact I know of a new instructor that recently failed his stan flight for this very item. It’s crucial for the student to understand the importance of this. Collision avoidance is a special emphasis area of darn near every PTS, and it’s often listed in the specific task of maneuvers.

Contrary to what you may hear about the stan pilots, most of us are more than willing to help you along. We are not looking to fail you, we are looking to ensure you are capable of teaching our students the ‘right’ way. You have the benefit of a wide range of experienced instructors to help you out. I am the least experienced of all the IPs doing stan flights. Regardless of being on the bottom, I’ve been teaching the ‘right’ way for 3 years, doing stage checks for over 2 years, and I have instructed in every current program minus one. I do not know everything, but I sure think I can help y’all out some.