CRJ200 Airline Pilot

The personal experiences, thoughts of an CRJ captain


Archive for the ‘Captain Insights’ Category

Learning from experience is a great way to learn.

Emergencies While Flying Airplanes

Posted by Jeffrey on April 24, 2011

Emergencies happen. How you handle them is up to you. But I will bet that the more prepared you are the more likely you are going to have a favorable outcome. You also have to believe that everything is going to work out great.

Check out this article on Airplane Inflight Emergencies and what happens when they really do happen.

Flight training and execution are everything!

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5 Tips for Making Your Commuting Life Easier

Posted by Jeffrey on November 3, 2008

Pilot Commuting Ideas

If you are an airline pilot, you always get a funny response when you tell someone you “commute” to work. This is because when you say “commute,” you really mean that you drive to the airport, request the jumpseat, and fly from one city (your home most likely) to another city (your base), to go to work, all along hoping and praying that you won’t be bumped out of the jumpseat, that the airplane won’t break, or that weather won’t cancel the flight. It is by no means a “normal” commute, i.e., driving.

The reason I’m talking about this is because the other day I was notified that I was awarded ORD (Chicago O’hare)…AGAIN…which means I will start commuting…AGAIN! The reason I say “again” is because for the first three years of my career at SkyWest, I commuted either from ATL to SLC or I commuted from ATL to ORD.

Now many pilots “commute” to work. I don’t know the exact percentage, but it seems like a lot of pilots do. Being an airline pilot allows you the opportunity to live where you want to live and work from where you want to work even if you have to fly there. It’s a strange combination and a strange way of living…believe me. But there are things you can do to make it more enjoyable and less stressful, but I will get to that in a minute.

I got out of “commuting mode” when I transferred to COS back in April of 2007. It gave me a chance to spend more time with my family and not have to worry about “getting” to work.

But, being based in COS has had its ups and downs. It has been a struggle since the flight schedules have been so inconsistent. One month I was getting 100 hours credit and the next month I’m not even breaking guarantee. What I mean when I say “not breaking guarantee,” I mean that I wasn’t even flying 75 hours a month, hence I didn’t get paid per Diem which translate into less dollars in the paycheck. Since I have been in COS, occasionally I hold a “line” but most the time I don’t. So to help get some “stability” back in my flying career, I put in for ORD where I will most definitely hold a line because I will be number 62 out of about 220 pilots. That is much better than being 40 out of 52 pilots in COS.

What I Have Learned About Commuting

Along the way, I’ve learned a few things about commuting that I want to share with you:

  1. Check the weather at least two days before you commute. A free and very useful website is provided by NOAA called the Aviation Weather Center, Aviation Digitall Data Service (ADDS). This will give you an idea about how early you need to leave to make sure you get to your base. Don’t be like some of these pilots that throw all caution to the wind and take the flight that gets you in 20 minutes before your show time. It’s not the responsible thing to do. At least give yourself two flights to get there if you can. You can use the free Executive Travel SkyGuide ( to get a good list of all the flights available for that day.
  2. Be extremely, even painfully, polite to the gate agent. This usually disgruntled person holds the proverbial key to whether or not you get on the airplane.
  3. Have something to read. The Kindle: Amazon’s Wireless Reading Device is all you will EVER need to keep you busy during those long commutes. You can download newspapers, books, files, and audio. The link above explains it all. It is awesome!
  4. Pack good, healthy, energy food in your eBags Crew Cooler. (Right now eBags is offering 20% off this item through the above link.) I pack an assortment of stuff like oatmeal, tuna packets, rice, apples, bananas, and protein bars, to name a few. Get creative and you will save money and never go hungry.
  5. Find your happy place! Commuting is really a state of mind. In reality it is not very fun but you can make it into something productive if you set your mind to it. If you make it into a horrible experience, that is exactly what it will become, but if you look for the positive  side of it, it will be a much more enjoyable experience.

So I hope this helps. If you have any other ideas about commuting and how to make it a better experience, I would really like to hear about them.

I’ll let you know how my commute goes because I am sure I will have some interesting experiences again over the next couple months that I will be able to share with you.

Till next time…fly safe!

Here are some other useful articles that I have written you might be interested in:

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Wingtip Vortices and Wake Turbulence Explained

Posted by Jeffrey on October 24, 2008

The other night we were flying the CRJ700 into Chicago O’hare (KORD). It was a clear night with a beautiful view of downtown. About 30 miles from final approach, as we were gradually descending to intercept the final approach course, air traffic control advised us that we were 10 miles in trail of a Boeing 777.

“Oh…great!” was my comment.

The whole flight had been relatively smooth, so what was about to happen was going to be a big surprise to me, my crew, and my passengers.

This video shows how wingtip vortices generate. It is simple and to the point:

Now here is a little history about wingtip vortices. If you aren’t familiar with the wake turbulence of a Boeing 777, it generates more wake turbulance than almost all airplanes except for some military airplanes. It is a big, heavy airplane and therefore, generates a lot of lift.

But how is lift generated?

Think about a time when you were taking a shower in a tub with a shower curtain. Has the pesky shower curtain ever kept coming into your leg? You think, “what the heck, is the door open?”

Free Pilots Tip of the Week from

Well that’s not the problem. The problem is that the “pressure” inside the shower curtain is actually lower than the pressure on the outside of the shower curtain. This happens because the water coming out of the showerhead accelerates the air thus decreasing the pressure in the tub. Therefore, it seems like there is something pushing on the shower curtain from the outside, when it is actually the higher pressure air.

In the 1700’s, Daniel Bernoulli formulated the equation that explains how this happens, but that goes way beyond this blog entry. If you would like to read more about the Bernoulli equation, click here.

But that’s only half the story. Have you ever watched water flowing down a stream with a big boulder in the way? If the boulder is perfectly round, the water “splits” when it hits the rock and some of the water goes to the left of the rock and some of the water goes to the right meeting up on the other side. What we don’t see is that the water accelerates for a few seconds as it goes around the rock because it has to meet up with it’s other half on the other side which also accelerated. And when the water accelerates, the pressure per se, decreases.

Now take a wing.

The bottom of a wing, for all practical purposes and for this discussion, we will say it is flat. The top of the wing will have a bend in it or a camber. As the wind hits the wingtip, some of the air goes over the top and some goes underneath. Since the air mass that was split has to meet at the back of the wing at the same time, the airflow over the top has to accelerate to meet up with the same air mass going under the wing. The accelerated air over the top, because it has been accelerated, has to give something up, and that would be pressure. The result is lower pressure over the top of the  wing and higher pressure under the wing, hence lift. Ta Da!

Wingtip Vortices

Wingtip Vortices

Now this explanation is VERY general in nature. And you should get a good book on aviation that discusses all the aspects of wings and lift to have a thorough understanding of these principles.

OK, now back to wingtip vortices. In a perfect wing, the air flows from the front of the wing to the back of the wing. But we now know that there is low pressure air on top of the wing and high pressure air on the bottom. Well the high pressure air needs somewhere to go because it just can’t meet up with the low pressure air and go on it’s way. The high pressure air travels to where the low pressure air is and vice versa and thus creates the (wingtip) vortices.

So back to my flying story.

There were were, flying along minding our own business. The wind was calm and all of a sudden, a little shudder here, then a big upset there and before we knew it the airplane had lurched more than 20° noseup and banked 30° laterally. The autopilot kicked off and as fast as it came it was gone and once the airplane was stabilized we re-engaged the autopilot and I talked to the passengers and let them know what happened. THEN, five minutes later, IT HAPPENED AGAIN! Not my day! I ended up hand-flying the rest of the flight.

Note: One of the most fatal results on record of wake turbulence that resulted in a crash was American Airlines flight 587 on November 12, 2001. To read more about this accident, click on the NTSB report here. See if you can figure out what actually went wrong.

Now, when landing or departing, a similar thing can happen but worse. The airplane in front is slow, heavy, and at a large angle-of-attack and this is when an airplane generates its most lift. It is important to remember that in calm air, vortices tend to move outward from the aircraft. So if you are behind a departing aircraft, the vortex from the right wing will tend to move to the right and the vortex from the left wing will tend to move to the left.

If we have a crosswind, the wind will tend to influence the movement of the vortices. A crosswind of about 3 knots will hold the upwind vortex pretty much in place at the runway where it was created, while the downwind vortex will rapidly move away from the runway. Therefore, light crosswinds require the most caution during takeoff and landing. 

Wingtip Vortices with Crosswind from the right
Wingtip Vortices with Crosswind from the right

However, crosswinds greater than approximately 5 knots will tend to break up the vortices. So stronger crosswinds are a good thing, as far as vortices are concerned.

One Final Note

During landing behind a heavy airplane, a lot of pilots will fly abovethe glideslope in order to avoid any possible wake turbulence created by the preceding airplane. To me, there are two things wrong with this: 1) you may land long, which, in a Land and Hold Short (LAHSO) operation may cause you problems and 2) you are not flying your normal procedure and the possibility of a missed approach is possible. I’ve never seen pilots who fly above the glideslope not fair well during landing.

Consider this, wake turbulence falls typically about 500 feet per minute, so even in ORD on a no wind day with 2.5 miles separation, that wake turbulence is most likely already gone by the time you get to where that airplane was in front of you. Also, if you consider the wind for that day, the wake turbulence has probably blown clear of the runway as well. With that said, there is always the chance it is right along your path of flight.

But, it is your call. Just fly safe and use good judgement and consider all the variables.

Till next time…


Jeffrey is a captain at a regional airline and flies the CRJ200, CRJ700, and the CRJ900. He has over 4000 hrs of flying experience in many different airplanes and is a Gold Seal flight instructor to his credit. He has recently written “The CRJ200 Quicknote Study Guide” that simplifies the systems of the CRJ200 into a downloadable eBook. Click here to get your copy today!

P.S. Encountering wake turbulence should be considered an emergency. Knowing what to do and when to do it is as important as knowing how to avoid it because most in-flight emergencies can be safely resolved if the pilot has the proper training and mental attitude. If you want to brush up on your emergency procedures (and all good pilots should), I want to recommend this book: Handling In-Flight Emergencies or sign-up for a f.r.e.e. audio on “Emergency Landing: In-Flight Engine Failure” and newsletter from .

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Focusing on Your Dream!

Posted by Jeffrey on October 20, 2008

Piper Cub

Piper Cub

Are You Ready to Make Your Flying Dream Come True?

Now I have been an airplane lover since I was eight years old when my grandpa took me up in a Piper Cub. My love affair with aviation started that day and though I have had a lot of detours in my life, as you know, I ended up a captain at a regional airline flying the CRJ200.

Well today I was given I treat that I wouldn’t have expected if you told me it would happen. We landed in LAX on 25R, after nearly taking out a taxi light clearing the runway, which I didn’t, thank you very much, we started our taxi to the south complex. As we are approaching taxiway ‘C,’ we notice a lot of cars, people, and a helicopter hovering overhead. We thought someone had gotten hurt or something of that nature. Well, as we turned the corner, there sits the Quantas Airbus A380 which had just landed. Wow! — What an airplane! — This thing is HUGE! (Oh, and by the way, that is a SkyWest Brasilia in the background.)

We taxi by slowly so that we can get a good look and my first officer makes an announcement of the PA about what is out the left side of the window because you don’t see this airplane everyday.

We continue to the gate and deplane. Several passengers thank us for pointing the airplane out and then they are gone. After our “chores” are done, my first officer and I start talking about how do you get to the point in your life that you are the captain on a such a revolutionary, exciting airplane as the Airbus A380.

Airbus A380 Cockpit

Airbus A380 Cockpit

We basically conclude that it is a little bit of luck but that it is mostly dedication, perseverance, and a desire to achieve that level of flying. No doubt there is a tremendous amount of sacrifice as well.

I have found that people that fly airplanes for a living got there because they focused intently on achieving it. If you read my “About Me” page, you will see that I loved flying for a long time but circumstances pulled me away from it for a long time too. Then one day fate pushed me back into it and I never looked back. Once I made the decision to fly, I was totally focused on achieving that goal. All or nothing as I remember it.

But how do you get there?

Well unless you have a parent or relative that has flown for the airlines, it can be as confusing as any other endeavor. A mentor or someone that has gone through the process is always helpful, but, as in my case, I had to search out the information and then act on it and that is what I did. I bought the book,
Professional Pilot Career Guide, which is a goldmine of practical tips on career opportunities, training, building flight time, and hiring practices. Another great resource, once you have your hours is Job Hunting for Pilots.

But I think the most important ingredient is “desire.” You have to stay focused, like a laser on want you want and then go after it!

So follow your dream and become a pilot, whether it is a recreational pilot or a professional pilot, but don’t stop till you get the certificate that you want. Pick up the books I mentioned then plot your course!

Till next time…

P.S. Visit MyPilotStore for other great deals on aviation products!

Other articles you might be interested in:

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How To Speak on the Radio!

Posted by Jeffrey on October 19, 2008

Learn Good Radio Communications

As I was flying around California today, I cringed listening to some of the radio communications I heard from both general aviation pilots and professional pilots, including my own first officer.

Now I don’t claim to be the end-all-be-all of radio communications but I do strive to communicate properly, as should you. Due to the nature of flying, radio transmissions need to be succinct, precise, and to the point because there are often several pilots trying to communicate with air traffic control (ATC) at any one time and sometimes there is a lot to be said. Furthermore, ATC hates to have to repeat themselves! So you better be sure and listen close the first time.

If you ever listen to ground communications in the busy airports like Chicago O’hare (ORD) or Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) or Los Angeles International (LAX), you will hear some of the most rapid-fire communications in the world. In ORD, you have to pay attention and respond when given an instruction because…if you don’t…you will be singled out…and that is always embarrassing. ORD is a little different too because the “normal” radio communication procedures often go out the window. On occasion I’ve heard Ground give instructions to ten airplanes at once in rapid succession. So forget about giving a read back.

Now today, we departed San Diego (KSAN) and landed on 25L in Los Angeles (KLAX).  Upon landing, we were cleared to cross 25R and turn right on taxi way Bravo. My first officer simply replied, “Cleared to cross, turn right on Bravo.”

What is wrong with this? If you guessed that he didn’t say which runway, i.e., 25R, the runway we were cleared to cross, you are right. Now it was obvious which runway we were cleared to cross but that doesn’t mean it is alright to not include it in the transmission. The FAA’s number one “call to action” right now is to reduce runway incursion.  You can read more about it here.

Here is another example…and I hear this a lot in ORD. ATC will say, “<Airline> 123…fly heading 140, maintain 5000 till established, cleared ILS approach 10, 180 knots to the marker, contact tower 120.75 at the marker.” This is what <airline> 123 says, “We will do all that.” I hear this from major and regional airline pilots all the time. And there are several problems with this kind of response.

  1. Did you really get ALL the instructions? Even though you may have done this thousands of time, can you really be sure that you heard exactly what the controller said.
  2. It lacks professionalism.
  3. It shows a lack of respect for the process which is to ensure a successful arrival.

Here is one more example.

When holding short, a pilot will call tower and say something like, “LAX Tower, <airline> 123, holding short 25R, ready for takeoff.” Now this may seem innocuous enough but it is wrong. When you say “Takeoff,” you are stating a action command. Tower is the only one that can issue a takeoff clearance. By saying “takeoff,” a pilot could basically misunderstand the clearance. Hard to imagine, but it happens. When holding short of a runway, it is important that you say, “LAX Tower, <airline> 123, holding short 25R, ready for departure.” Now this may seem trivial, but as a professional, it is up to you to communicate professionally. It comes with the job.

So what can you do. As a future professional pilot, you can prepare yourself by practicing with your instructor or if you are already a pilot, review your knowledge on proper communication etiquette.

Here are a few options to consider:

So, don’t be one of those pilots with bad radio communication procedures. Pick up one of these tools so that you can communicate like the professional pilot you want to be. 

Till next time…

Here are some related entries you might want to read:

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