Friday, January 27, 2012

Facebook site up and running!

I've set up a Facebook fan page for this blog!

Using the functionality of Facebook, I plan to upload pictures and tweets to give you a "real-time" glimpse of what goes on in the life of an airline pilot.

Did I just tweet that I'm drinking some strange German brew? Facebook will probably have an accompanying pictures that will provide more than Twitter will allow.

On the right side of the page you'll see the Twitter and Facebook icons you need to click. You can also reach me on Twitter by using the name @Flyingtheline and on Facebook by typing in the simple URL

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook for the quickest, most complete updates of the Airline Pilot Stories blog!

UPDATE March 2014: I've migrated this Facebook profile from its previous locations and am starting fresh. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"What's your route?"

Invariably when I'm at a dinner party, restaurant, or nearest strip club and the question, "What do you do for a living?" comes up you get a wide variety of answers.

"I'm a plumber," says one person.

"I do a little freelance consulting," says another guy.

"I'm working my way through college," says the stripper.

It seems that most time, except in the strippers case, the conversation stops there and we move on to other pleasantries. However, I always get asked the same question without fail...

"What's your route?"

I usually want to say something smart like, "I only do Del Rio...I'm the only pilot
trained at my airline to find it."

However, I'll let you in on a little-known aviation secret. Promise not to tell anyone? OK, if we can keep it between you and me, here it goes....

Airline pilots have no set route.

You see, everything in the airline world is based on scheduling demands of the airline itself. Want to go to Chicago next Christmas or Cancun the following Spring Break? The airline already has flights that are scheduled to go there - otherwise, how would you be able to book and pay for your tickets months in advance?

However, the story for individual crew members is quite a different tale.

Pilots don't actually know where they are flying to until the month prior. Usually around the 5th of the month we put our requests in for our next months schedule, with results published about a week later.

The airline uses a system called seniority.

If you have been at the airline longer than any other pilot you have your choice of flights before anyone else. If you were hired just a day after the most senior pilot, you'll be junior to him (or her) and have to select your schedule after he did, leaving you with less and less trips as you work your way down the pilot list. Indeed, nothing in airline scheduling is merit based.

They say seniority is like climbing a ladder naked. You look down and see nothing but smiling faces, yet you look up and see nothing but assholes.

There are a lot of assholes until it's my turn to pick my schedule. Usually by the time everyone else has selected their flights, or schedule, the only thing left over is London or Paris. You see, every time we cross the Atlantic it's a three day trip so you want to ensure you're maximizing the flying for the time you're gone.

A London trip will net you about 15 hours of flight time (also known as pay time, since we are not paid unless the engines are turning) while a Rome trip will bring in a more respectable 19 hours, since it's further away.

As your tenure at the airline increases and more pilots retire, you'll soon be working your way up the seniority ladder. It's not uncommon for a pilot to begin his career flying winter trips in the Ohio Valley and end it, 30 years later, flying 747s to China.

The flip side is true as well. It's not uncommon for a pilot to be flying 747s to China, then as a result of an airline bankruptcy and job loss and he switches airlines, only to end his career flying winter trips in the Ohio Valley.

So what's my route? I don't know, get back to me next month and we'll see what flights I've been assigned. Until then, while I'm at a dinner party, I'll stick to my old stand-by, "Del Rio."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

We push for Paris in two hours

It's 6pm and I can feel my cell phone alarm vibrating in my pocket. Regardless of what I was dreaming of it's all slowing disappearing as the dank smell of the crew room, a room that hasn't seen a furniture upgrade or carpet change in years, makes its way into my nostrils. In fact, one pilot I know says he even saw a mouse in here.

Why is my alarm going off at 6pm? Simple. I commute.

I don't live where I work, like most normal working adults. Instead, I live hundreds of miles away and must fly to work as a passenger before my shift starts. My company allows me to fly for free on the airline and many pilots, including myself, use that to their advantage.

Yes, you can live where you want, but that sometimes means showing up for work hours before you need to, depending on flight schedules. One pilot I know commutes from Hawaii - actually a few do - which is 11 hours away from our East Coast base. No thanks.

As I collect my belongings I glance at my trip information, which I printed out before my nap.  

Tonight I'm heading to Paris, The City of Light.

Not that I would know. With an 8pm departure, we will land in Paris before the sunrise and be at the hotel just as the sun is peaking through the curtains. After waking up from my nap, it's night again. So much for sightseeing.

But I have a fantastic crew and the weather is forecasted to be great for our entire 7 hour flight. As I finish up packing and assemble my flight case I get excited for the adventure that is to come. For every tiring 6pm wakeup on a crew room couch there is a sunrise over the North Atlantic that rivals the most beautiful thing you've ever seen.  

With this blog I will share my adventures with you as they come my way.

Yes, it's now time to go to work.