How and why...

"How did you become a pilot? Did you become an airline pilot via the military?" These are two of the most asked questions that I get when among friends or at the airport in uniform. Since @TimChoi89 asked them a while back via a comment on "4 on, two off, 4 on – part 2 / my printed schedule after the fact" and my response wasn't posted (error maybe or private, bugs, lost on the internet...) I decided that I'd answer them with a brand new post.  It's Friday, the 13th and raining so why not.

The second question is easy; no, I did not have a military background.  I did originally look at the Navy after graduating UCSD but flight slots were too few and in demand making my chances slim to none.  I also wear some thick eye glasses so that was another obstacle in and of itself.  I can't say that I looked into the other military branches as I grew up in San Diego.  My father and uncles too were all in the U.S. Navy so yes, I was blinded and partial in my decision.  It's Top Gun U.S.A.!  That leads me to the first question which is a lot more complicated.

I started flying as a hobby after I graduated college in '03.  It was also a time in my life where I was started to feel compelled to "do something else."  I started taking lessons and thought that I was going to make it a side project, maybe instruct or fly people around for fun.  I started receiving AOPA Flight Training Magazine and in it had ads scattered throughout boasting various flight schools and programs that could lead one to a commercial airline job.  I thought to myself, "Why not?"  I read about a few schools at the same time  deciding if I really wanted to do a post-bac and go to med school.  I ended up choosing an advanced ab-initio program which gave me a jet type rating along with whoever else I needed to get hired.  The program was launched and closely associated with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and called CAPT (Commercial Airline Pilot Training).  Unfortunately, while the program and its vision remained idealistic, fuel costs and enrollment coupled with a downward spiraling economy led the university to sell it off to the private corporation, FTSI, which has since then closed its doors.  (Phases outFTSI New Release)   I was in the middle of the program when they accounted its transition but they promised to make good on their word and see us to the end.

I graduated in May of 2006 after 16 months of training and was offered a job with Focus Airlines.  They operated as an ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance, insurance) 747 cargo carrier and their contract with CAPT was extensive; totaling a five year commitment, the first year one would serve as a "cadet" placed in the office helping with various tasks from scheduling, hotel reservations, tech publications, IT, etc. basically an intern type year learning the ins and out.  The second year would entail upgrading to the second officer / flight engineer position on a classic 747 followed by three years as a first officer.  Unfortunately, this program ended when the first couple of CAPT cadets were not allowed to upgrade to first officers alongside the face that Focus Airlines never had a program in place.  Coincidentally, Atlantic Southeast Airlines (now officially called ExpressJet) was in the beginning stages of a hiring spree and our amazing director helped us get an interview. I scored my first flying job and the rest is history.  Knowing and keeping ties along with timing is key in this industry and it panned out.

It's funny how people end up visiting my site.  Mr. Tim ended up here,"...by searching "the verge vs. gdgt" then I stumbled upon your twitpic and saw that you're a pilot + tech enthusiast..."  Thanks for stopping by Tim and keep the questions coming.

4 on, two off, 4 on – part 2 / my printed schedule after the fact

When I say after the fact, the schedules below depict the times that the aircraft recorded once meeting certain parameters e.g. brakes released or set & passenger door open or close.  These were not the original scheduled departure and arrival times but in fact, the true record of my legs or "flight time."  I guess you can say that the times in bold represent the time that I actually "fly."  The difference between the "Block" and "Credit" is that we get paid for credit while "Block" is the time I'm recorded to be in the aircraft.  It doesn't represent the time I spend in the cockpit in between flights or before flights (which is actually represented in the another bold header "Turn"), or the time I'm at the airport on a layover.  I'll further explain these "pairings" below in this blog post but for now, here is a picture of a 4-day typical schedule.  It's not like there is much to figure out.  It's pretty much cut and dry.  Following along the on the first line: The first line on my pairing "OSA A7470C" is Flight number 5548/ Originating from ATL (Atlanta-Hartsfield) / Destined to DAY (Dayton, Ohio) / Departed at 14:58 local airport time / Arrived at 16:16 local airport time / Tail N761ND <-- which is the registration number of the specific aircraft / A/C type being a CR7 (Canadair Regional Jet 700 Series) / Block 1:18 (1 hour & 18 minutes flight time) / Credited 1:33 (in other words paid for 1 hour & 33 minutes) / Pax(passengers) on board 70 / Miles from ATL-DAY 432 / BurnAv 4423 (average fuel burned enroute measured in pounds / Turn 0:44 (time on ground to have the passengers get off, clean the aircraft, cross seatbelts, stock the galley, clean the bathrooms, refuel, input preflight measures, walk around the aircraft for a visual inspection, remove bags, add bags and passengers and close the door) 42 minutes.  That's line 1 in my pairing.  Pretty much going down through the day, I end up at Little Rock, Arkansas for a layover of 14:26 (14 hours & 26 minutes) where it includes the van ride from the airport to the hotel, the ride back to the airport in the morning, and any sleep that I get in between.

If you take a look on Friday the 18th, I was lucky to actually have a 28 hour overnight in Portland, Maine where I enjoyed some of the world's best known Clam Chowder from Gilbert's Chowder House. (yelp review here)

Everyday, I have a Report time which, and depending on how long the ride is to the airport from the hotel, we leave usually around 15 minutes prior to duty in to ensure ample time to get to the aircraft.  Of course, the means I also usually wake up about 1 hour prior to the Report time giving me enough minutes to accomplish the morning routine, throw the uniform together, pack up, eat breakfast and board the airport shuttle or taxi.

There isn't much more to explain really except for the Totals: line telling me that my initial Report time that I have to duty in at the company computers in Atlanta is at 14:00 on the 17th / and I'm Released at 16:46 on the 20th.  For those three days, I will be able to log 18 hours & 47 minutes of flight time, get paid for 20 hours and 48 minutes plus my per diem which is calculated by the TAFB(Time Away From Base) 74:46 74 hours & 46 minutes multiplied by our current rate of $1.65 / hr.

At my current rate of 3rd year pay $39.55 /hr * 20.8 --> I pull in around $822.64 + my per diem ($123.36) giving me a total of $946 for this entire pairing.  Granted I was away from my family the entire time, it didn't include the time I fly back and forth from San Diego to Atlanta and whatever else you want to add in.  I'm not whining really, but this is a sample of just a week in the life of a pilot.  Now, the missing link in this bigger picture is the amount of duty time that I put in between flights that I didn't get paid for.  In other words, I was actually working or at work whatever, for about 32 hours and 2 minutes total during these three days; in my uniform, and not resting.  Keyword being resting.  That's clearly a deficiency of 12 hours just hanging around the various airports.  <-- Not fun.  (Add up the Duty on the bottom ride side of each day to get the total figure)  Now, why is that pilots are only paid for block / credit time, it started long long ago during the birth of the industry and hasn't changed since.  It's a mixture of corporate greed (if that's what you want to call it) and FAA regulations governing flight time in a given period for pilots.

I usually have 4 of these trips a month, sometimes only 3.  Hope you enjoyed the explanation.  Any questions?  Please leave a comment below.

(if you are interested any further, many if not all US airlines' payscales are available to the public listed under each airline profile at http://www.airlinepilotcentral.com/airlines/)

LogTenProBanner2008

4 on, two off, 4 on - part 1

and "we're back!" All in all, twelve days total of “work” transpire. If you wonder why twelve instead of ten, it’s the added day of commuting and getting reacquainted with Atlanta the days prior to my 4 day trip that kicks things off. This is without mentioning the quick trip to Las Vegas the three days prior which included driving in the rain and snow along the CA 15 Freeway.

Back on December 9th, I boarded a red eye flight from San Diego at 10:50pm to Atlanta, arrived almost an hour early around 5:00am, and was lucky to get to my apartment around 6:30am. I shut my eyes and got as much horizontal rest as possible. During this short journey, I was accompanied by another fellow employee on a similar schedule, who also happens to be my flatmate therefore, I have to admit that my plight is shared amongst others and am in need of no singular sympathy. Just listen, err, “sit back and relax and enjoy the flight”, err, read the blog.

Because of my unfortunate mistake a couple of weeks back (link), I was forced to get a ride back to the Atlanta Airport and pick up my other roommate’s VW Jetta that he so kindly lent me enabling my accomplishing of errands. Once completed, I rested at the apartment in preparation for what would be a freezing schedule.

Back to back overnights in Toronto followed by another in Akron, Ohio, two nights in Atlanta, one in Little Rock, Arkansas and then two more in Portland, Maine was what laid ahead of me and thinking of it all just made me tune out. Sometimes I refer to this as teleporting, but only a handful know what I’m talking about. If you care to chime in, let’s do it over coffee and an open mind. ^_^

I found myself, once again, lost in my mind, so to speak. It’s been a rather difficult last couple of days only because the blur that is my life feels less and less controllable, but then again, I can reason that it is otherwise.

A few of my closest friends recognize the misty eyes or absence of me, but the character that I normally am temporarily disappeared. Slowly drifting back into the calm, I find myself in desperate need of my comfy bed at home in San Diego, the lively bodies that inhabit my house on Classique and the warmth of the season. I can’t wait to get home.

If you can't tell here in this photo, my captain took this of me when I was "chilling" on the ground in Little Rock.

Day In A Life of a Pilot During Irregular Operations

Lets start from the beginning; if you recall, yesterday was a day that originated with me traveling in on a red-eye from San Diego (3 hrs sleep in an upright position), 2 hours sleeping horizontally at the now "old" crashpad, picking up a uhaul, loading up and cleaning, unloading at the new place which happens to be on the 3rd story w/ no elevator, returning the truck, organizing a bit, going shopping at Ikea for a new bed and frame, stuffing it all in a VW Jetta, unloading that up three flights of stairs (again), assemblying and cleaning until 2AM. This is where the fun begins.  The only reason I stayed up till 2AM is because I received a phone call from scheduling telling me that I was to be on short call reserve, which means that if I were to get a call from operations, I would have to be at the airport and in my plane dutied in within 2 hours, at 7:30 with a mandatory duty in at 10:25 for an 11:25AM departure to Omaha, Nebraska.  Instead of 5 legs as originally planned, I was now scheduled to fly one leg to Omaha followed by one leg back tomorrow.  I thought to myself that it shouldn't be that bad, but little did I know.I arrive at the airport a little early (10:10AM) happen to meet up with Kurt, walked to another concourse to pick up my flight bag while grabbing a venti caramel machiatto w/ soy from Starbucks, went to the plane and got it ready to go.  All in all, it didn't seem like it was going to be too harsh, but the weather deteriorated quickly.

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I figured that I should read up on the de-icing procedures in ATL since I've never done it before along with the fact that we were going to be a while until our ticket was up.  We board up, release the parking break and great ready to go.  Once we're on the taxiway, we were told that deicing would take approximately 1 hour from our current spot in line, so we turned off both engines and hung out.  By the time we were number 1 and getting ready to enter the de-ice pad, the forecast and current weather conditions equated heavy snow.  "+SN" limits us by putting a stringent requirement of having to take off within 5 minutes of deicing and the current estimates were about 8-10 minutes.  So, all in all, it wasn't conducive to get deiced with a chance of having to do it all over again.  All the while, we pick up on the radio that the runway was shut down because of poor braking action.  Good thing we just turned back.

Snow AccumulationGetting a parking spot wasn't that much of an issue but since the rampers and gate agents were being overwhelmed with returned aircraft, it was about another 15-20 minutes of sitting waiting with the door open, snow piling up on the stairs and passenger entry way before we started the de-boarding process.  Outside my window, I see this: and record this:

Another two hours pass by, we finally get called back out to the aircraft to continue the flight to Omaha, Nebraska and prepare the aircraft once again. We are notified that it would be another hour till we hear what's going on since the de-ice line is nearing the 2 hour mark, and once again, we sit for about 2 hours in the plane just waiting. Mind you, I've been at work since 10:25AM and I've only been paid for about 1.5 hours and it's already 4:30PM. A ramp agent comes aboard and tell us that we've been Code Sixed - Cancelled and I get a call: Instead of 5 legs today which turned into 1 leg to Omaha, I will be operating a flight to Kileen, Texas departing at 6:55PM. So, I get to sit another 2 hours unitl we depart. To make the story short, I finish the day with a 15 hour duty day, 4.5 hours of block time (hours in the aircraft actually getting paid) and now I sit here blogging in Kileen, Texas and instead of getting back to Atlanta at 8:00AM, I'm not due in till 4:00PM extending my entire schedule! YEA for me!

Here is another video with actual pictures of the snow on the wings of the aircraft.

March and On

Well, for the last year or so, I've been promising a more consistent writing style, reviews and just everyday posts about my random adventures, but lately, I've just been hanging out doing what I do...be a human wasteland until things come up.   In the last month or so, I've had recurrent ground training, a proficiency check (where I test my flight skills and knowledge with a chance of losing my job if I underperform), got my class date for the CRJ700 set for March 23rd, bidded for my March schedule and got the days off that I needed for a friend's bachelor party, looked at a few different apartments in the Atlanta area for possible crashpad solutions and found one with access to the MARTA, and even met one of the three new crashpad roomies and hung out.  

Speaking of which, as an update to the "question of '09", I will be having a residence in Atlanta and the group decided on living at the Uptown Square at Lindbergh. It offers a 30 minute ride on the train system which will save me gas and maybe give me the chance to bring my car back home to San Diego.  I figured that $250 /mo for the peace of mind is a better way of easing myself off of a crashpad.  I just wasn't ready to not have a place at all in Atlanta pending a situation where I would get stuck in a hotel due to weather or training or whatever else.  Uptown Square at Lindbergh received a 12% rating on apartmentratings.com which is a little sketchy, but I'm sure that we can make the best of it.  I'll tell you how it goes as the year progresses.  

As for everything else, there are a few random ideas I have been throwing around lately and we'll see what I end up with.  Hopefully something by the end of March.  *fingers crossed*

if anything, if you're looking for more frequent / daily updates, check out my twitter:eejay and follow me or check out my mobile blog trelijah.

Transitioning...Not Upgrading

Well, I put in a bid (request) knowingly with a chance to get a crappier schedule on a better plane at about $1.70 more an hour and got it!

You have been awarded the following bid from the Standing Bid List:

------------------------------ Aircraft: CR7 Position: FO Domicile: ATL Comments: 09-01 (effective 6/1/09)

ASA CRJ700

Initially when I first submitted it, I was about 11th on the list of first officers, but when the "final" awards came, there was another 16 pilots that ended up in front of me due to their more senior standing on the pilot list. So, if you are wondering the difference between the aircraft that I'm flying now and was awarded, it basically sits 20 more passengers (70 up from 50), has stronger engines, leading edge wing devices that enable a slower approach category, two flight attendants (the federal regulations calls for 1 flight attendant per 50 passengers) and because of all that, the overall takeoff weight and fuel load are increased. The CRJ700 also flies to different places.

ASA was awarded 8-10 CRJ900 (sits up to 88 passengers but the Delta configuration has 76 with a first class section) and since the CRJ700 and 900 are pretty similar, I'll be flying both around the Delta System. It's going to be an interesting next couple of months without a doubt and I can only hope for the best as we also just announced that we will be furloughing (laying off) 80 pilots.

Here is a good link at the differences between the CRJ200 and CRJ700. Flying the CRJ-700 Part 1 - Preflight, Taxi, and Takeoff

January Schedule

It's up and the finals are out. I have two days of recurrent ground and I'm flying Saturday through Tuesday only because with that, I was able to get a bit of days off in a row for a mini vacation. I have no idea where we're going or what I'll be doing, but it'll be something on the low end scale of things. I can't see 2009 being extravagant at all!

question of '09: to crashpad or not to crashpad

So, what do I do? Come this February, the Loxford Lounge / Farm House will end a 2 year lease agreement and all seven of us have already made plans to move out. Well, at least 4 of us have a housing situation already in the works, but that leaves me with the questions of paying rent for an apartment / room in Atlanta or just commuting in and out and maybe using a hotel every now and then. If you take my current situation into account, I pay ~$120 for a loft space per month but then in February, that will most likely end up being ~$300 or more for a room with two other great guys. Of course, that just negated the mediocre pay increase that I will be getting and the fact that I'm hardly here utilizing my living quarters just irritates me. In the month of November, I think that I was in the loft a total of 3-4 times. So with a hotel near the airport at around $50 a night, I'm still doing better with the loft, but then when the rent increases to an amount > $300, it'll take about 6 night stays to make it worthwhile. Do you get it?

Granted the loads on mainline Delta have really taken a dive and sometimes going from San Diego to Atlanta every week can get tiring, but it always ends up working out anyways. So, with this big decision, I have to come to terms with my belongings that I have in Atlanta on whether or not to spend the extra cash to move everything home to San Diego in one big crate, or piece by piece, etc. Obviously if I stay in Atlanta and have a place of residence, then I can keep some of my stuff here and just postpone the inevitable move back to San Diego, but who knows. I have a feeling that I might end up here at ASA a little while longer so I might as well get use to Atlanta? I have no frigging clue. It basically winds down to the want that I have to find a place that is relatively inexpensive to where it'll be less than what I would spend a month on a hotel in Atlanta and still be with people i know. I also want to have the option to actually "live" there for 2-3 days in a row just incase I decided not to fly to San Diego or the mere fact that I might not be able to get on due to full capacity.

This also brings up the other fact that now since I sold the old turbo diesel in San Diego, I am without transportation and am contemplating whether or not I need a car in Atlanta? I have one here, but it doesn't get use that often and the last time I left it alone for more than 11 days, the battery died on me. What the heck people!?

31 Days Until New Years'

Two years ago at this time, I was just settling back in America from my 3 month excursion to Europe, hanging out with friends in San Diego and getting ready to head back to Fort Lauderdale to hear the fate of gamble at a startup cargo carrier. With all the negative news surrounding what regional carrier would have a future, anything really seemed better than what we were faced with: pilots with over $100k in debt, no idea where to go next and what to do. Then, we got a departure stipend from the failed company (a meager amount to just barely cover costs of recurrent training at our previous flight school) and all of a sudden we were preparing for an interview with one airline when another swopped in the to interview us two days earlier. The rest is history as we all started on the 27th of December here at Atlantic Southeast Airlines.

We all couldn't' have been more thankful and gracious to our directors of the program for helping us move on. It was the best Christmas as we virtually never lost any pay moving from one place to the next.

Now, in an industry where furloughs (layoffs) are inevitable, wages barely livable with loan payments and rent taking more than 50%, it's something that we have all come to live with. Having never flown out of the base that I thought I was going to be domiciled at (LAX), I'm also coming to the slow realization that I will be stuck here in Atlanta a little while longer. As more pilots are finding themselves without a job and competing with the rest of us for that next step, it's not necessarily a dire position to be in, but it's not the best to start a new life. 2008 was full of improvements and 2009 should be edge more towards the second step in the changing of guards -- cutting overall costs. Until then, I have a great schedule for December as I have Christmas Eve and New Years' off and will just reflect on the current obstacle: finding a living situation in Atlanta for February 2009; to crashpad or not to crashpad.

The 100 Credit Month!

I'm commuting on Delta Flight 1038 from SAN to ATL trying to get to my last two day trip of the month.  September concludes with my schedule being completed @ 89% on-time arrivals and departures and the awesome fact that I was able to break the 100 hour credit mark!  The Captain was an awesome character to fly with as we always went out and enjoyed the town.  We always had some lunch or dinner with great conversation and even visited some random places like the mall in downtown Stamford, Connecticut or Orange Country Choppers in Newburgh, New York.  It was one of the best months that I have had here at ASA.

100_credit

The paycheck on the 15th of October is something that I'm really looking forward to!  I've been working hard with the commute and all so hopefully it will it will pay off in one way or the other! :)  You have to realize that I usually get credited about 70-80 hours a month and with the extra ~20 hours, it's going to boost my pay about a third of my usual.  I'm young right so I should be trying to do this each month, but it just really depends if you could hack it.  Exhaustion is something that I hate feeling, but when you fly with a good crew and have good trips, it only adds to the pleasure. 

Being back home in San Diego more and more helps out in the "being grounded" feeling department but with the split of our crashpad in February, finding another place in Atlanta is up in the air.  I'll have more on the living situation later but being with friends during the weekend in San Diego helps in recuperating the lost time. 

With the impending launch of a new Macbook Pro, rumored to be announced on the 14th, my paycheck is going to be accounted for.  I've been waiting for almost 7 years now and am in bad shape with my Titanium Powerbook 667.  (I've been mainly using my IBM T43p on trips though so it hasn't been that bad)

Preposterous-ness of My Flight from ATL-MCN

So check this out.  My flight tonight was scheduled from Atlanta to Macon, Georgia: Flight ASQ4222 operating for Delta Connection.  It's a quick 18 minute flight from takeoff to touchdown for a total of 75 miles to the southeast of Atlanta.  Of course, we end up blocking about 40 minutes for total flight.  That time includes the taxi time around Atlanta and Macon thus concluding that the taxi time is longer than the flight by about 2 minutes.  That's normal for some of our quick hops, but now get this. MCN sleepinn_mcn

The van ride from the Middle Georgia Regional / Macon Airport is approximately 24.2 miles back to the north west for a total of 30 minutes in van ride!  Granted it was a nice Honda Odyseey and not a Ford Van that absorbs no shock or bump whatsoever, so it really wasn't that bad but tell me that's just not right!

So, now I have about 8 hours until I have to wake up (aorund 6:15 and be downstairs by 7:15 ready to go in the hotel lobby for a 30 minute van ride back to Macon Airport, followed by 5 legs concluding at 1600 then take a flight back to San Diego.  It's going to be a doozy!

To Commute or Not...Most Likely Will

In the next few months, I will be slowly transitioning to being more of a commuter and force myself to always fly home no matter what.  In other words, even if I have two days off, I will be flying back home to San Diego.  You see, the lease on our awesome Loxford Lounge Crashpad is due this up and coming February which leaves just under 7 months to slowly move.  Being that I haven't been around lately, doesn't really leave me that much time to pack up and go.  As long as I make it a habit to pack at least one box a week or month, I'll be all moved out by year's end making my reliance on the crashpad wither down to zilch. 

It is hard though now that I have been doing it a lot lately, but it really just takes will power.  I'm now able to concentrate on coming home since the fact my parents moved back to San Diego which cuts the drive home by almost 75% and is a lot more convenient all together. 

I was able to catch a flight on Delta Mainline this evening which is actually a rarity since I have been using the competition due to their availability.  Delta has always been full to and from Atlanta so my dependency has risen on Airtran thus enabling my frequent trips back home. 

The necessity for a crashpad in Atlanta would be only for the days that I am stuck in ATL due to weather or the times when I have training, but I guess that doesn't amount to more than what I would ben spending a year of keeping a place within the airport limits. 

I'm going to do it!  I really am and I feel more confident than ever because of my desire to surf a lot more and just swim and get more physically fit.  I have till end of the year to really achieve what I have been aiming for and that is normalcy.