Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A July Surprise

A funny thing happened since I last communicated with you. You will recall how the flight manager, upon finding out that I was a mere reserve pilot, slowly shook his head, shrugged and said, “Sorry I can’t help you set up a retirement flight. You’ll just have to accept what comes—if anything.” I walked out quite disgusted—and still am by the way—over the way the company, with the pilots union’s blessing, treats its reserve pukes. But, low and behold, a few days later I was to discover that I was awarded a “line-of-flying” for July—a real schedule.

This was quite unusual because several pilots senior to me got reserve lines. That’s a head- scratcher. But don’t go thinking somebody in the company got all teary-eyed rigged it that way. I know that didn’t happen. The 4th of July is a big holiday and I’m thinking some pilots who are junior lineholders purposely bid reserve so as to cherry-pick reserve days off and get the holiday. That would leave the line they would have gotten…for me.

So now I’m going to Buenos Aires on the 3rd and Sao Paulo on the 12th. I should be happy with that. I can now reserve seats for up to four family members to go along and dine at Bovinos. But I’m not satisfied. Sao Paulo is an all-nighter both ways, and gets back home at 0500. Everybody’s dragging. No. I want Frankfurt, which is an excellent exit event. It has a 50 hour layover and gets back at 3:30 pm. Perfect. I quickly set to work pouring over the awards list and found six captains that had the Frankfurt trip (on six different days of course).

The admin office wouldn’t give me their phone numbers for privacy reasons but they agreed to dial the numbers and let me talk. I worked down the list. I got three answers and three voice messages. Two of the three I talked with said flat out no. One was retiring at almost the same time and wanted to keep Frankfurt for the same reason I wanted it. The third was a guy I knew—a very nice guy. I thought he would agree, but no. He said, "I hate, hate, hate [I think he said ‘hate’ about 10 times] Sao Paulo." That was weird because this guy was a Latino himself. He said maybe he would think about it if all the other guys refused my request. I thanked him while vowing to never call him back. I walked away thinking, Well, Sao Paulo isn’t so bad. The restaurants are good and my wife and a couple of the sons who want to go will at least enjoy that.

Of the three guys I left voice messages with, I never heard back from two. The third one, though…this guy was a prince. Yes. He would be glad to swap. He would handle the arrangements. So I’m going to Frankfurt at last for the grand finale, but at this writing, it is not yet official. The trade has to be approved.

So then, does it seem my belly-aching in the last post was for naught, and I should be ashamed? Not at all. What transpired was none of the company’s doings. It worked out because of a fluke in the bidding process by other pilots and due to a super kind act by another pilot who wanted to help.

It seems though that all this talk about being on “reserve” is causing confusion. One Decision Height follower e-mailed me and said, “Why are you on reserve? I thought your seniority was high.” Good question, and one many others might be scratching heads over. Here’s the skinny.

At all unionized airlines there are two pilot seniority lists: the company-wide seniority list, and the “relative seniority list.” On the 12,000+/- company pilot list I am in the top 24 percentile. But on my relative list, which is Houston/767/captain, of which there are only 100+/- people, I am near the bottom. Remember, it’s the date you were hired, not your age that counts. I came into the company after a military career at age 40. The guys above me came in at a younger age.

When I came to the 767 left seat I was a mid-level line-holder. Then the company began to shrink. I was pushed downward into reserve territory. My company seniority was still good enough to bid and hold a senior position as an Airbus or 737 captain, or a right seat job on a 777 or 747. I would have been solid senior line-holder in any of those jobs. But I like the 76 and just don’t want to retire as a co-pilot. Just ego at work, I guess. So, there you have it. Should have explained that a long time ago.

On another happy note, I had a London trip last week and met British Decision Height follower, Dave Willis. Dave had invited me a couple of times in his comments to call him when I was over that way and meet up for a couple of pints, and I finally did. I really enjoyed that, Dave. You are a super nice chap.

Next post I’ll tell you about my last domestic trip and last 757 flight.

Me (right) with blog follower Dave Willis in London
                              Two weeks ago at the Shoals Warbird Fly-in. "Squatch" VanStaagen 
                              lent me his  Yak-52 for some very staisfying formation flying. Frankly, 
                              there was a time last year when I didn't think I would ever want to do 
                              that again. I was wrong. George is smiling. Thanks Pete.

Sittin' in the slot, breathing fresh airshow smoke, fat, dumb and happy.

8 comments: said...

Happy that you and the family will most probably get the Feankfurt trip . Would love to be a stowaway on that trip!
Great to hear you were flying a Yak. I'm sure George is tickled pink!,

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update, Alan. I too was wondering why this Senior Captain" was sitting reserve as retirement approaches. I was guessing choices of equipment, base (for QOL issues) and international over domestic. I got most of it right and thank you for filling in the blanks. Frankfurt and with the long layover is a wonderful trip with which to wind up some productive professional years. You've mentioned closing the blog after your retirement flight, but please reconsider. Once free of certain constraints, you probably have at least a half-dozen good posts the should see some light. Thereafter, your writing is more than worthy reading and on a variety of subjects dear to you. You write and I will read. Thanks Alan and I look forward to detailed descriptions of your last few trips. Congratulations, -Craig

Squatch said...


Any time my friend. I would not be the formation pilot I am today if it wasnt for you and the likes of you. Just be glad I can hand prop a M14-P! I think I know what you were thinking as the last blade slowly eased by as the air was expended. But you never said what went through your mind when the beast was propped to life.

Good times!


Giulia said...

Plenty of smiles this morning as I read this post of happy news:

You and Frankfurt, you and the Yak, and you and the yakkity-yak, Dave (Ha ha, love that guy!)

Thank you,

AA278 said...

Glad you got a line! The "holiday thing" works pretty well. My best flying occurred every December. Someone has to walk along Waikiki Beach on Christmas morning :-)

Dave W said...

It was an absolute pleasure to meet with you Alan and I am glad I was able to buy you that beer I promised..

I'm sure a nasty taste will remain as a result of the hassle around your final trip but the important thing is not to let it cloud your enjoyment of the event with your family.

Just make sure you keep writing in retirement, even if it's just about Yaks and Grandkids.

All the best

Dave W from the UK

CaptainVector said...

I'm glad to hear that you won't have to just fade away. While we've never met, there's a fair chance we've spoken during one of your trips through LAX. Best wishes for a long and happy retirement -- you've earned it!

Thanks for all the great reads!

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm double-dipping here. I am thrilled that you you will get your trip of choice - finally. I hope that Mrs. Alan and several of your kids will go with you. If I were in your shoes, and with some warning to all concerned, I'd make that last final Big Bird landing firm and with a max short-stop, just because you already know how to do so, safely. Maximum auto-brake and/or max pedal brake, remind them that you flew for the Air Force for a lot of years and that yes, you DO know how to operate your machine. No hot-dogging, but make it clear that you DO know how to operate your machine. I wish that I could be on both legs of that trip; I'd applaud most of the way.
In advance, congratulations, sir. You've served our nation (and our collective values) well, as well as serving the commercial market for many years. Other then the huge difference in compensation, do you prefer one over the other? I'd guess the AF and USAF reserve, but that's only a guess.
No matter what, I hope that you will continue to express your thoughts via your blog. Your writing is more than good enough that I'd read your work on any subject. Lastly, as I've noted before, once you are free from the employer's constraints, you really should make at least a few comments about your recent years as a captain (reserve). With your time, that just has to be about QOL considerations. When free to do so, please blog post on the subject, write another book - or both. (Tip: If you keep the blog going, a book will likely sell better.) From the heart, sir, best wishes. I hope that you and your family enjoy the Frankfurt trip, the 50-hour layover and your final landing. Plant it, stop it and once you are on the ground, to hell with fuel economy; The FAs will make sure that all are belted in. ~~I know that you will not and cannot do it, but Gawd, it *would* be an interesting landing! Best regards, -Craig