the life of a co pilot

It’s the little things. How you talk on the radio, using airspeed or vertical speed or flight level change to climb, the way you program the flight management, where you write the clearance. It’s the little things you do as the ‘co pilot’ that can aggravate captains.

I’ve found that none seem to have any issue with me. I’ve been far from perfect. I’ve felt more like a student pilot in last 3 months than ever before. I’m an infant in a big world. I’m bright-eyed-bushy-tailed and I feel dumb as a new puppy. I hate being new at things. I hate not being proficient and efficient.

It’s frustrating at times, yet I know it’s a learning curve that will slowly start to fade. However most of what frustrates me isn’t myself, it’s trying to appease the other crew member. Trying to adapt to the ‘right’ way and decipher what is good advice and what is not.

I’ve flown with super relaxed guys that are quiet and reserved, won’t interfere unless something catches fire. They help where they think I need it, and otherwise they just let me fly. These are the guys that are a pleasure to fly with. You don’t feel any pressure to perform or to be perfect, and when you do make a mistake(and I do) they don’t set YOU on fire for it.

There are the guys in the middle that don’t really tell you how to fly, yet they often give you ‘advice’. “Ya know, if you did it this way, I would like it better.” It’s like that moment in Office Space where he wants her to wear more flair. “So I should do it that way?” “Well if you want to do it that way, it would be better. You want to be better right?”

Except it’s not better. It’s just different. Or maybe I just think it’s different and not better. What do I know anyways? What I’ve learned about aviation is everyone has their way. Every single thing you can do with an airplane you can do a million ways. 99% of those different ways are just as efficient and effective. Unfortunately they only teach you one way. Who’s to say it’s the right way, or the best way, but it’s the way they teach you. Yet everyone has their opinion on what is better, so they feel obligated to ‘teach’ me.

Now I’m the kind of guy who wants to know the million different ways so I can choose which is my favorite or preferred, and I’m still figuring out ‘my way’. Yet it still creates this stigma that I can’t do it ‘right’. Everyone is always telling me to do it differently, and I don’t know if that’s because they don’t like the way I do things or because they know I’m new. It has quickly become the most frustrating part of my job.

Then there are the ‘other’ captains. The ones that flat out tell you to do it this way, or don’t do that. My favorite is when I’m flying and they change something and don’t tell me what. Like I get to just figure it out on my own what they changed, and why. Or they will correct my work, or just plain DO my work. Nothing makes you feel like less of an efficient worker than when somebody does your work for you. Did he think I wasn’t capable of doing it myself? Did he think I would do it wrong? Was he being nice and helping me get my stuff done? I wish he wouldn’t do that, I still need to get practice with this stuff!

I got nearly an hour long lecture on why I shouldn’t try to tell the captain where to taxi. It wasn’t my job to set the tone of the cockpit, it was merely my job to shut up and run checklists. Apparently. I was told that captains know where to taxi and they don’t need any help. Granted I wasn’t trying to imply he didn’t know where to taxi. I confirmed our route and made sure he know which way it was. I have lots of work during the taxi that sometimes requires my head to be inside while he’s driving around the airport. Guess where the most doled out violations are given? During taxi. We both get nailed with a runway incursion or deviation because he made a wrong turn. In my short time here I’ve already stopped one guy from taxiing on a closed taxi-way, a crew from crossing a hold short line while on the jump seat, and one guy from getting completely lost.

Regardless of these first world issues, I’ve been enjoying the new job and the benefits. I have traveled a ton the last few months and been able to see friends that I don’t get to see often enough. It has allowed me to make a long distance relationship feel like it isn’t long distance. It allowed me to be with my mom on her birthday for the first time in many years. I have more days off now than I’ve ever had before. I’m getting use to having days off in the middle of the week.