Do Pilots Still 'Fly' the Plane?

True, these days pilots spend only a short amount of time with their hands on the control column or stick. But that does not mean we aren’t controlling the airplane throughout the entire flight. Our hands might not be steering the airplane directly, as would have been the case in decades past, but almost everything the airplane does is commanded, one way or the other, by the crew. The automation only does what we tell it to do. On the 767 that I fly, there are multiple ways to set up and command any routine climb, descent or change of course. Meanwhile, more than 99 percent of landings, and a full 100 percent of takeoffs, are performed manually.

Exactly what I'd tell you when you ask me, "Isn't it always on autopilot anyways?" Great Op-Ed by Patrick Smith.

Typed: Airbus A320!

Add another aircraft to the list of ratings! Last Friday night, my sim partner Joe and I went into our Maneuvers Validation and killed it! It couldn't have gone any smoother. And just yesterday morning, we finished our Line Orientation Evaluation and passed! As I was making the final landing of the two leg trip, I started getting goosebumps of excitement and then when we set the parking brake and the instructor said we successfully completed our LOE, the relief could have been felt from miles away.

We prepared well throughout the last two weeks. I mean, it was around 4 weeks total after the initial indoc and such. Chair flying each event, going over callouts and non-normal procedures and studying our approaches over and over until we got bored. In the end, I couldn’t have asked for a better sim partner or instructors. Needless to say, I came out of the sim typed in the Airbus A320 Family.

In all honesty, I’ve been lucky throughout my aviation career. At CAPT, I got to meet three guys who would be my best man and groomsman and end up at ASA. At ASA / ExpressJet, I got hired with over a dozen friends and became friends with many more. Our new hire class was pretty awesome. When I transitioned aircraft to the CRJ 700/900, I had another guy from my new hire class during the same period and when I upgraded to Captain years later, I was partnered up with one of my best friends from CAPT.

Now at JetBlue, I was fortunate again to have a Captain going through requalification which allowed me to sit in my First Officer seat the entire time enabling me to really learn my flows and callouts. When you are in a paired setup, I feel like it’s the most productive as long as you keep working through the periods where the captain is getting instruction. When you’re paired with another new hire first officer, you get that seat half of the four hour allotment but then you are able to observe and watch the other guy. It just depends on how you learn I guess. Thanks again Joe for everything! Even though it was albeit on the small size, nine total, everyone in my new hire class has been awesome.

Now with a mandatory four days off, I’ll be released to Initial Operating Experience at JFK! I’ve included a few various pictures throughout the 6 weeks here at jetBlue University. Yea, that’s outgoing CEO Dave Barger, my favorite instructor Bob Stafford and the obligatory PBE picture. There’s also a picture of our raft, the no motion flight training device and of course the simulator.

The last picture in the gallery below is of one of the newest Airbus' in the JetBlue Mint fleet courtesy of Planespotters' Juan Carlos Aponte! The Transcon A321 Mint aircraft holds 159 passengers total with 16 in Mint class and 143 Core Expereince seats while the A321 Core Aircraft holds 190 passengers. Then there's the main A320 that holds 150 seats soon to hold more. Take a peep! It's sweet!

For details on all the aircraft, check out Our Planes!