Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Continued from last post (click here to read it). As Garth dressed for his big interview, he thought about his simulator check. It had been a good ride—much improved from his first attempt weeks ago—but he had a funny feeling about what happened at the end of the ride. The evaluator had suddenly turned antagonistic over a seemingly trivial matter that had nothing to do with his (Garth’s) flying skills. Yet the evaluator told him he had not only passed the actual check but excelled.
Garth was troubled but he put the incident behind him and reported to the interview office. After the long painful gauntlet he had run to get to this culminating point, he felt he the goal was in reach. He knew he had good people skills. The interview should be a cinch.
He sat before a uniformed captain and a woman executive who worked in the “New Hire” department. Stacks of paperwork sat in front of them—the annals of his entire life reduced to a simple stack of paper, he reckoned. They opened the interview with the usual pleasantries and asked the questions he expected: Why did he want to fly for their company? What unique factors made him more suited for the job than the others? And how he had resolved conflicts in his past?
At length the captain pulled a piece of paper from the stack and looked at it for too long a while, then looked sternly at Garth. “We have a comment from your simulator evaluator that, although your performance was quite good, you were…” He paused, as if not wanting to say the word. “…temperamental. He wrote here that you got short with him at one point and tried to intimidate him. Can you explain that?”
The loquacious Garth was taken aback. He couldn’t believe this trap had been set for him and he had fallen into it. Seconds ticked by that seemed like eternity while he tried to evaluate that brief verbal exchange with the evaluator in the Frasca. He didn’t feel he had over-reacted. Had the evaluator purposely set him up to test his temperament? Or had he unknowingly affronted the guy?
Was this what it was coming down to? His entire future; his life dream resting on this ridiculous misunderstanding? He took a deep breath and tried to explain that he didn’t think he over-reacted and he certainly did not intend to be bossy or overbearing. They thanked him and dismissed him.
He went home with a nagging feeling that wouldn’t go away. A week later the expected letter came, but it didn’t bear the news he so passionately hoped for. It ended with (something like), “We wish you well in your search for employment in the airline industry.”
Personally, I would have torn the letter up and turned my career aspirations some other direction, but Garth waited a year and re-applied. By that time Herb, the VP of Flight Operations who had helped him earlier, had retired. This time there would be no guardian angel in company headquarters to shepherd his application along. Garth was completely on his own.
They invited him back. They waived the simulator and sent him straight to the interview. A few weeks later he got his letter and the letter told him that a class date would shortly be assigned to him. He was in.
It took several hundred miles of dark South American countryside passing underneath us for Garth to tell me his story, but I was glad to hear it and it inspired me to know how some very special people will persevere as long as it takes to achieve their dreams.
For me, it was easy. I seem to have been at the right place and the right time at every turn in my career. I didn’t have to do go through what Garth did. But after all these years I know now that my best career reward is not the planes, nor the pay, nor the travel. It’s being in the company of people like Garth who just wouldn’t quit.
Now he relaxed his limbs a little, let his neck sink back
into the leather padding and fell into the deeply
meditative mood of flight, mellow with inexplicable hopes.
--St. Expuery, Night Flight
Posted by Alan Cockrell at 3:52 PM
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Continued from last post (click here to read it)
Garth eagerly made the call to the VP of Flight Ops (whom I'll call Herb)—the man who had given him his card. But Herb was a busy man and it took a long time to get the call returned. When finally he called Garth back the conversation was encouraging. “I'll call the training center and ask them to schedule an interview with you ASAP,” Herb said. Garth was ecstatic. He still couldn't believe his luck. The next few weeks he was on cloud nine as he worked the aisles with his flight attendant peers.
But no letter came inviting him to the interview. He waited, growing ever more anxious. Should he call Herb back, or wait longer? Would the busy Herb even remember him. Or, was it all a dream? He paced and fretted. Finally he called Herb. The return call took agonizing days, but finally it came.
Herb was astounded that the “New Hire Department” had not followed his recommendation. He promised Garth he would follow up. Within hours Herb called back. It was done! If Garth didn't get a letter within a week, Herb wanted to know about it. Finally things were looking up. It was no dream.
|The Frasca simulator|
Posted by Alan Cockrell at 6:14 PM
Monday, May 6, 2013
Do you aspire to fly with the big leagues of the airline game? Have you been lucky enough to land an interview, only to get the dreaded letter that says they are so sorry they can’t use you and good luck in your flying career? Or do you just wonder how that whole preposterous convoluted process works? I once blogged on my experience getting hired at my airline. Click here if you wish to read it: How I Tried Not To Get Hired. But now I’m compelled now to tell you what happened to Garth (not his real name).
Garth was one of my first officers on the trip I just finished down to Sao Paulo. It was an excellent trip. Garth is easy to get along with, as was the other F/O and we enjoyed bellying up to the table at one of SP’s delightful sidewalk cafes. Garth knew exactly where to go. The place was right out of Saint Exupery, and not so far removed from it. As he cut into his tender medium-rare grass-fed bovine slab and washed it down with a rich Patagonian Malbec, he casually mentioned his last job. I froze in mid-bite. That job was highly unusual for a pilot, especially one with a military background. I then bade his story to be told, and a bizarre one it was.
Garth was a Navy pilot. He flew hellos and later T-34s as an instructor at that winged squid mecca, Pensacola. It was some of the greatest years of his life, he said. Aspiring to make himself as attractive as possible to a big airline he flew the T-34 mission as much as he could. He volunteered to fly test hops, instruction flights, evaluation flights and cross-countries. He racked up the hours. He fattened his resume, too, with some time in a bigger mount, the DC-9 which the Navy used for hospital patient flights. Then the time came for him to become a civilian airman. He separated from the USN and filed his applications.
Nothing happened. Nothing. The grocery funds got low. He pondered doing something else with his life—the airline business was obviously bypassing him. Then he hit on an idea. “I’m a people person,” he said. “I like to help people, serve them, laugh with them. I thought maybe I should become a flight attendant.” He applied.
Seeing the tall, big-shouldered handsome bronze-skinned and very articulate ex-Navy jock must have reminded the interview panel of Val Kilmer in “Top Gun” and they hired him immediately. He set about plying the skies in the aisles behind the compartment he wish to be in, but he made no complaint about his new station in life and commenced to make many friends, including a flight attendant who was to become Mrs. Garth. Then one day as he was conversing with his fellows in the forward galley, a business-suited passenger in first class overheard him mention that he was a Navy pilot.
The man beckoned him over. “I heard you say you were a Navy pilot,” the fancy-suiter said. “Why are you back here rather than up there?” His finger pointed toward the cockpit. Garth smiled and shrugged. “I couldn’t get an interview.” The man handed him a business card. “Call me later. Let’s talk.”
Being enjoined by his purser to get to work, Garth thanked the man and pocketed the card without looking at it. He would learn later that the bearer of the card was the company vice-president of flight operations.
So, you think Garth’s unbelievable good fortune in meeting this man became his ticket to the front office? Think again. But tune in next blog to find out, because they say you’re not supposed to make blog entries too long ;)Sao Paulo, Brazil was named after the Apostle Paul of Tarsus. These pictures, taken BTW by the jumpseat pilot on approach, show how it is the largest city in the southern hemisphere, and the ninth largest city in the world with over 20 million souls. Incredible. This definitely ain't Kansas.
Posted by Alan Cockrell at 4:46 PM
Sunday, April 21, 2013
It is to be a normal flight tonight—so the dispatcher tells us—from Lima up to Houston, all six and a half hours of it, all unaugmented (just two of us up front), and all dark. The route takes us up the coast to Guayaquil, where we go feet-wet over the Pacific, then coast-in near San Jose, Costa Rica. From there it's up across Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula, and then more blue water over the Gulf. Dispatch says the only problem area should be the Pacific coastal waters—just a few of the regular thunderstorms that hang out there, he says.
Yeah, they hang out there all right, like restless malcontents at a pool hall. Some nights they don't even notice you're in the neighborhood. Other nights...well, this is to be one of those “other” nights.
But it starts off innocently enough. (That's been a pattern in my flying career—“innocent” starts.) The first officer, Perry, notices meteors. A shower seems to be underway to our front right. We dim the cockpit lights and watch for them as the Big Dipper rears up above the northern horizon dragging hundreds of points of light with it. It makes me think of St. Exupery's Fabian leaning out his window and gazing up at the night sky before leaving for his nightly mail route in a biplane across Argentina. St. Exupery writes that Fabian “looked at the moon and reckoned up his riches.” His wife joins him at the window, knowing he was already on his way. She points to the sky and says, “See, your road is paved with stars.”
And for us indeed it is. A feeble moon sinking into the west, to our left, reddens the sky in that direction and soon we pass the first thunderhead—a sentinel posted out to warn the others that we are coming. The cell passes between us and the setting moon. The storm eclipses moon and becomes ablaze around its edges—a colossal anvil silhouetted with shimmering ochre moonbeams. Few human eyes ever feast on such a divine orchestration of cosmic and earthly beauty.
Satisfied that my cup runs over tonight with heavenly vistas, I tend to the normal cockpit duties of long-cruise Mach Rangers: fuel burn analysis, monitoring the auto-flight devices and keeping track of where our best divert airfields are (should the fit suddenly hit the shan). That done for now, I yawn and fire-up my Kindle for a spot of reading.
I'm half way through Huxley's Brave New World, and am trying to be brave enough to finish it. It's a chore. I tire with it quickly, yawn some more and rub my eyes. Brave New World is putting me to sleep. I switch to Horowitz's Inside of a Dog. Now this is much more interesting, as a dog is a big part of my life. Horowitz says dogs don't lick your face when you come home because they love you, rather because their olfactory senses want to see where you've been and what you've eaten. Interesting, but I know Horowitz is full of the stuff that hits the fan. My dog licks me because she adores me.
Neither can Horowitz hold my attention long. My eyelids grow heavier. But this languor is about to change.
Perry, who is flying the jet tonight, is fiddling with the radar. He's painting bright red splotches up ahead, just where Mr. Dispatcher said they would be. We douse the floods and lean forward hoping for Mark-1 Eyeball contact. The horizon ahead and to our right is ablaze with strobes and flashes. As we move northward the perpetrators of the flashes raise their heads above the horizon, a long unbroken line of them. They have tired of waiting for us and have taken to slinging fiery arrows at each other.
We must DV8 (that's ACARS-speak for “deviate”) far left of course. CenAmer control approves and we swing farther out over the Pacific, only to see even more thunderheads blocking our starry path. What would Fabian do?
“I’ve made my plans,” he told his young wife. “I know exactly where to turn.” Perry and I are lacking of Fabian’s cocky assurance. We must place our faith in Mr. Bendix’s X-band wizardry.
Before long we are over a hundred miles off course and getting more off. The FMC—the 767’s brain— gets worried, tells us we have “insufficient fuel.” We know once we turn back toward course the landing fuel projection will return to near normal, but the FMC can't read our minds. It doesn't know when or if we will ever turn back. The jet thinks we are going to miss the North American continent and burn our last gallon somewhere west of California with the wheels still in the wells.
At last we find the storm system's west flank and turn back east. But now we are in the soup—“embedded” with the sparring giants. The depressing murk enshrouding us flashes with sparks flying from their stupendous clashing swords. We begin to weave between the battling giants hoping they don't notice us. Strangely, not a ripple in the air disturbs us.
Headed back north now, the FMC gets happy again as it re-calculates our landing fuel projection. Then we break out of the gloom and feast our eyes on the Big Dipper, dead ahead. I yawn, call back for some strong coffee and reach for my laptop. I ponder a new blog post and a name for it: Night Flight. I hope St. Ex won't mind.
Wondering what happened to Fabian? "Only too well he knew them for a trap. A man sees a few stars...and climbs toward them, and then—never can he get down again but stays up there eternally, chewing the stars….But such was his lust for light that he began to climb."
Perry relaxes. The sun is up.
Unlike Fabian we have gotten through.
Posted by Alan Cockrell at 5:52 PM