Less than one month left on my probation as a first officer. Looking back I can hardly tell where the year went. It certainly didn’t feel like any year I spent as a flight instructor. This year, pardon the cliche, flew by.

When you think of employment probation, time frames that often come to mind are; 90 days, 6 months maybe. Did you ever think you could be on probation for an entire year? I didn’t. I had never even contemplated that as a possibility. Well that’s how long my probation as an airline pilot has been so far. Considered an industry standard, the year long probation pretty much removes any requirement for the airline to have substantiated reasoning to cut loose a pilot. Although some people will fear this more than others, it’s important to remember that I am an investment to the airline. They spent a fair amount of capital training me and keeping me employed. However I’m sure I’ve earned more for the company than I’ve cost them in terms of revenue service completed.

My probation was just a few different interviews with my chief pilot at 6, 9, and soon to be 12 months. Included in that is a probationary check ride. Part of the glamour and glory of being an airline pilot, is the pleasure of jumping in a simulator every year. That is until I upgrade to captain, then they double the pleasure, double the fun, double the check rides. At that point you go every 6 months.

Anyways, the probie ride was pretty straight forward. Just your regular ‘ol proficiency check. Kind of like what is required for part 91 pilots, known as a flight review. The PC covers all the essentials plus a few. Most flight reviews don’t include instrument approaches however, and since we don’t have to log approaches for our instrument currency, we get to demonstrate some on the PC.

I was extremely nervous and hopefully slightly over prepared. There is so much pressure right now to not fail check rides and PCs and especially at the 121 level. The industry is in reactionary mode right now in the wake of some previous accidents. As such, they are putting a lot of pressure on applicants that basically equates to check ride failures = not getting hired. Certainly there are exceptions to this, however it’s pretty wide spread belief that more than 1 failure, sometimes even just one, can mean the difference between you and other qualified applicants. Now put on top of that, the rumored belief that if you fail your probationary check ride, you could get fired! Not only could I maybe not get another job, but I might get fired from my current job?! Holy Toledo!

Now most of that is just rumored speculation, however, at a stressful time such as in the moment of the PC, it doesn’t matter. It adds to your stress level and it overcomes you. Which was the case with myself. I studied religiously, read endlessly, and prepped relentlessly. In the end it paid off, however my stress level was pretty high for a few days prior to the day.

I got incredibly lucky to have a very cool, calm, and relaxed check airman. He helped me relax, and he showed me some pretty neat insights. I was also lucky to have a cool captain that helped me out a lot too. I think they both understood the pressure level assumed for probationary rides and they both were a huge help.

One interview left, and it’s on to bigger and better things!