Welcome to my Blog

I am starting this blog just as I am starting my airline career. Feel free to ask any questions, or if you are in need of any help related to seeking employment with an airline then just let me know. I really enjoy helping others in any way that I can.

This is my blog with a name that stems from a long standing joke. Damnit Bobby was a term thrown out during a fun family sports match. Damnit Bobby Airlines was destined to be a loving name given to any flight I conduct which has passengers on board

I was a flight instructor and a part 91 (private carriage) pilot prior to becoming employed with an airline. Please enjoy the blog, and feel free to comment about anything and everything.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day to Day

I wanted to post this so family members and friends could have an idea of what things are like on a daily basis for a regional airline pilot. Obviously, day to day happenings vary based on location, company, and equipment flown. For the SAAB 340B the days are fun and full. There is only a handful of things that I would like to do, but none more so than to fly. The honeymoon phase of the new job has worn off, and I continue to find myself just living up every moment. At first, having a lot of passengers in the back was new and cool. Now, it is more a realization that those people in the back are counting on my captain and I to be just as skillful as a surgeon. No one gets on an airplane with the impression that the pilots are going to be anything less than at the top of their game. Mistakes happen, yet the goal of any professional pilot should be to never make a mistake. That is what separates professionals from amatures, because amateurs strive to get it right where as professionals strive to never be wrong. There are professional pilots who fly for a hobby and there are amateur airline pilots. Fortunately, the armature airline pilots get weeded out pretty fast.

A day starts out a month in advance when we bid on what schedule we want. Getting a particular schedule may or may not work in your favor. The idea is to go through and pick as many schedules as you would like to possibly fly. If you don't select very many options then you may find yourself getting leftovers as your choices are evaluated and finally selected for you based on your seniority with the company.

A day for us always starts one hour before our scheduled departure time. We must be at the crew room in full regalia ready to step on the aircraft and go. Once we get to the crew room we use one of the company computers to log onto the company website and "check-in" for our day. This notifies the company of our arrival time, and really serves to protect us from schedule issues. Once the entire crew has arrived the Captain gives the flight crew a briefing on the day and upcoming flight. Then we head to the plane, where I, as a First Officer, do the pre-flight walk around. This is the same thing that pilots do from the first day of flight training. It is my responsibility to make sure that the airplane is in airworthy shape and to ensure the accuracy of that last statement... After All, the Captain is final responsibility for the safety of flight and this includes delegating the pre-flight walk-around to me. Some Captains choose to do this themselves later in the day as they may want to stretch their legs some. Once that is finished, I go inside and gather the ATIS (current weather broadcast from a weather data station on the field), and then I get our IFR clearance. Once those two things are done I begin the weight and balance computations along with figuring takeoff and landing performance. The Captain uses the information I provide (or they determine if I'm not up to the point they are) and calculate our center of gravity. Once that is finished we work as a team to record the forward and aft limits (CG stations)along with the required trim settings for our weight. From there we begin out checklists and procedures... Which vary widely between companies, and this includes large variances on the same equipment (aircraft).

After the flight, we do a post-flight walk around and start the cycle of events again. I absolutely love it! There are always two groups of airline pilots... The love it and the hate it groups. The one thing I have quickly learned about those who fall into the "hate it" group is that they have all to quickly and easily forgotten about the most perfect part of the job.... The love of flying. The hate it group tends to have nit-picky things to say about the company, their schedule, the union, the way they are treated.... basically, they talk about everything except flying. For me, at least, it is easy to see those who fall in the "hate it" group have already forgotten about the fundamental part of the job.... FLYING. I think if most of those pilots would take a minute to look out the window their attitude would change. If their attitude doesn't change then that is a sure-fire sign that they are in the wrong profession. You find those people in any profession you ever are a part of... even millionaires can be very unhappy people because they forget about the fundamental parts of their job/company and family.

Some people feel it is their gift to others to be a pilot... I feel it is god's gift to me to allow me to see the things I see, be witness to his majestic work, and the privilege of getting to share my passion with the flying public. I'm not a pilot because I wanted a challenge... I'm a pilot because the lord blessed me with the privilege to dream about what it would be like to one day see the world from 20,000 feet. One day I will have to retire from flying, and I say this with the same conviction my grandfather said "I can't stop working or I will die" (My grandfather died one month after he stopped working), but the day I stop flying is the day my life will effectively end. I may still be on this earth for a while after I stop flying, but I can promise I will spend all of that time wishing I was in heaven flying again!

A few pictures to finish:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Life on the Line

Ever got on board an airline flight and wondered what goes on before the plane gets into the air? Well, one of the common questions I hear is "why are we just sitting here". That is a frustrating issue to the frequent flier who is also in a constant state of rushing around. Typically, passengers can not see into the flight deck and that makes things frustrating... We all want to get on and go, and if we can't see a reason why we are not moving then we all tend to get frustrated. I can't speak of larger planes or aircraft with more advanced avionics and FMS's on board. I can tell you that on our flights with the SAAB 340B we have to do our own weight and balance manually, and we must get our performance numbers from our data sheets (part of our release papers). Sometimes this can take a few minutes as ground service personnel add last minute bags or a late passenger finally arrives just in time to make the flight.

Typically, we try and keep everyone informed of any delays. That is not always possible as we try to resolve problems and just don't have enough time to make a quick update. We try and resolve issues as quickly as we can, but often times it is out of our hands as we have to wait on other service providers to come to us. For example, the longest delay I have seen occurred because the fuel truck did not have enough fuel to refuel us for our flight. The truck had to go back to the fuel farm and get the fuel. Anytime refuelers add gas to their trucks they have to ensure the quality of the fuel (i.e. devoid of any contaminants). This takes several minutes to do. All-in-all the delay was 15 minutes before we started taking on fuel. The total time of the delay was 25 minutes. Thankfully, we were trying to get an early start so by the time all was said and done we actually departed at our scheduled time. The passengers might not have been as polite if we were 25 minutes after our scheduled departure time.

Have you ever wondered what some of the lingo line pilots use means? Well, here are some things that may help with that:

In Range: A required call to company operations to inform them we are within 15 minutes of landing. This is required per the regulations for flight following purposes. Company Dispatchers must maintain flight following on every aircraft they dispatch until all aircraft have completed their flights or until they are relieved. Since our SAABs are not equipped with an FMS with ACARS we have to make this radio call ourselves. For other aircraft, ACARS automatically updates company operations personnel.

Out-Off-On-In times: If you fly with us, you may hear one of the pilots calling ops on the radio after the flight deck door is opened after arriving at the gate. Since we do not have ACARS, we have to report these times to operations. Our pay depends on it, LOL. Just like the terms imply, Out is the time we pushed back from the "Blocks", Off is the time we our wheels were off the ground, on is the time our wheels were back on terra firma, and in is the time we "blocked in" at the gate.

Blocks: This term is in reference to tire chocks. When you here a pilot talking about the time he/she blocked out they are talking about the time that the main cabin door was closed and the plane was pushed back from the "blocks".

Another question I have been asked before is can a passenger ever get to just poke their head in the flight deck and look around? Don't be shy, if you would like to do that just ask the flight attendant at some point during the flight. Don't ask during boarding as that would delay others. Ultimately, each airline varies with this policy, but at our company it can be done on a time permitting basis. The Captain obviously has the final say in the matter.

What is a "line"? Each month pilots and flight attendants get to bid on several choices for the schedule they would like to have for the next month. The likely hood that you get your first, second, third, ect... choice is based on seniority. When you bid on a particular schedule it is called a line. The name comes from the fact that the schedules are displayed vertically showing the flying you do on each day and the days off you have. If you want a particular schedule, you are going to bid on that vertical line... hence the name.

I will continue to update this on a more regular basis now. I hope you have enjoyed reading it, and as always feel free to ask questions or leave comments. Have a wonderful and safe flight weather you are flying on an airline or flying yourself to your destination. Keep the blue side up.