CRJ200 Airline Pilot

The personal experiences, thoughts of an CRJ captain

Posts Tagged ‘Airline’

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 (www.eskyguide.com/search) 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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A CRJ700 Windshield Wiper Ruined 136 Passengers Day

Posted by Jeffrey on October 6, 2008

CRJ200 Windshield Wipers and Control Knob

CRJ200 Windshield Wipers and Control Knob

Yesterday there were a series of events that I didn’t expect. Rain in Denver and my windshield wiper broke. In five years of flying the CRJ, I have had many maintenance issues:

  • an air conditioning pack that bellowed smoke
  • lose of nose wheel steering
  • flap failure

to name a few. But I’ve never had a windshield wiper fail and checking the windshield wipers is not one of our “checklist” items.

(Note: The image to the right is of the CRJ200. The CRJ700 is basically the same but it has an INT selection which is sort of like the intermittent setting on your car. It basically doesn’t work to well though.)

 But there we were, taking off from Denver with a little bit of drizzle and I decided to clean off my windshield and lo and behold the co-pilot windshield worked but mine didn’t. No big deal, right? Wrong!

When we got to OKC, I wrote up the anomaly and called maintenance control. We pulled and reset a few circuit breaker and called contract maintenance.

(Another quick note: If contract maintenance comes on your airplane and says they know what they are doing, don’t believe them. Stay with them while they work on your airplane. For instance, he asked if he could shutdown the airplane. I asked him if he knew how. He said “yes.” Well after he left, I flowed the panel and most everything was where it shouldn’t be. So again, watch them, and stay with them and check their work.)

Neither worked. It seems that the wiper motor had faulted and there was no way to fix it without going to a maintenance facility. And it turns out that because we were going back to DEN and it was raining, we couldn’t dispatch the airplane into known rain when the rain was occurring within 5 miles of the airport…and it was. So, subsequently, the flight was cancelled and we ferried the airplane to ORD where we have a maintenance base.

Now to me, the CRJ is a great airplane and our maintenance team does an outstanding job, but the fact is, airplanes break. They are mechanical, moving part machines and parts wear out. This is the first time in a long, long time that I’ve had a maintenance issue that resulted in a cancellation and a ferry flight and I don’t like it. We inconvenienced 136 passengers last night because we were suppose to go back to DEN then on to LNK. We don’t get paid to fly empty airplanes. I want to get the passengers where they are going safely and on time, but, that is the business.

Hopefully, United reaccomodated the passengers and did it in an empathetic way, and I hope that everyone was able to get where they wanted to go. As a captain, I did all I could do in the situation and that was explore every option and then let the passengers know what the decision was. I hope they realized that the action taken was the only action possible considering the maintenance issue. What it all comes down to in the end was that the safe operation of the airplane, however remote, would be compromised if we had continued to DEN, into raining conditions, with my windshield wiper broken.

Till next time…

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The Dreaded Airline Interview

Posted by Jeffrey on September 27, 2008

An aviation acquaintance of mine in Australia, Glen Solly, has written an outstanding ebook called

A Pilot’s Guide to the Successful Interview

that is relavent no matter what country you live it. Once you read his bio, I think you will agree with me that he is more than qualified to give meaningful advice regarding the dreaded airline interview.

So, if you are going to your first interview, or your 10th (hopefully not!), you are going to want to pick up this ebookand study it. I’ve read it and it is packed with super useful and insightful tips about preparing for and going to an interview. He gives you ideas on what to expect and how to handle different situations in the interview. And, he uses a technique called Unique Selling Proposition (USP), which if you have studied marketing at all, is the basis for selling a product. And you can bet, when you go to an interview, you are “selling” yourself. I don’t mean that in a “selling your soul” kind of way but what I do mean is that you are marketing yourself so that they want to hire YOU over the pilot next to you.

Here is an outline of what you will get:

  • Realizing Your Potential
  • The Employment Process
  • Preparing for the Interview
  • The Mechanics of the Interview
  • Positive Attitude, which includes Mental Toughening and Visualization — I loved this section!
  • A Checklist
  • A Quiz
  • Sample Interview Questions
  • And Dealing with Rejection

The “Dealing with Rejection” is a great add-on section because though you always want to be positive and believe that you are going to get the job, the truth is that that is not always the case and what you need is mental ammunition to get you going again after a big let down.

You can see that his ebook covers a wide range of topics, is updated regularly and has acceptable depth to keep you reading. It will help you get your first acceptance letter to the airline of your choice.

Go pick it up now, you will be glad you did. Click Here!

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How To Become An Airline Pilot

Posted by Jeffrey on September 23, 2008

…and that is the question…

Every week, sometimes every day, you fly with a different pilot. And every pilot has a different story about their journey on how they got their first “airline” job.

If you aren’t familiar with the steps required to get a job with an airline, I will briefly outline a few different ways you can go about it. Please, note, there are MANY different ways to get your certificates and ratings, so by no means is this THE way to get to be an airline pilot. Each pilot gets to be an airline pilot through different avenues and all are acceptable. It all depends on the pilot and bascially their time and money constraints, as well as their ultimate objectives.

Quick note: To get some good ideas on how to fund your flying, Click Here! 

And if you are just getting started consider the Jeppesen Guided Flight Discovery (GFD) Private Pilot DVD Video Course – The New GFD Private Pilot Video Series on DVD contains 10 hours of dynamic content.

The first scenario is the way I did it.

Scenario 1:

  1. Private Pilot (Beginner), Single-Engine Land
  2. Private Pilot, Multi-Engine Land
  3. Instrument Rating, Multi-Engine Land which allows me to fly instruments in a single-engine airplane
  4. Commercial Pilot, Multi-Engine Land
  5. Commercial Pilot, Single Engine Land (I added this certificate, because I intended to become a flight instructor.)
  6. Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI)
  7. Certificated Flight Instructor – Instruments (CFI-I)
  8. Multi-Engine Instructor (MEI)
  9. Airline Transport Certificate (ATP)

A school that I taught at before going to ExpressJet charges $45,000 for a complete package like this. Not a bad deal really. You walk out of there with a lot more multi-engine time than most pilots and if you are lucky, they will hire you as instructor once you complete your MEI and then you just build time in a multi-engine airplane as an instructor. 100 hours of multi-engine time and about 1000 hours total time are the basic minimums for most regional airlines these days but it varies.



Here is another scenario.

Scenario 2:

  1. Private Pilot, Single-Engine Land
  2. Instrument Rating, Single-Engine Land
  3. Commercial Pilot, Single-Engine Land

At this point you could go find a pilot job flying pipeline or traffic watch or banner towing to build your hours, but most pilots become CFI’s and build their hours that way. It’s a start. Eventually though, if you plan on going into the airlines or corporate, you are going to need a Commercial Multi-Engine Rating with Instrument Privileges.

If you go this route though, a lot of pilots will skip the Private Pilot, Multi-Engine Rating with Instrument Privileges and go straight to Commercial Pilot, Multi-Engine Rating with Instrument Privileges. It is a little more demanding but it can save you a lot of money.

One of my best friends is doing it this way, which is very similar to the above paragraph.

Scenario 3:

  1. Private Pilot, Single-Engine Land
  2. Instrument Rating, Single-Engine Land
  3. Commercial Pilot, Single-Engine Land
  4. CFI
  5. CFI-I
  6. Commercial Pilot, Multi-Engine Land with Instrument Privileges
  7. MEI
  8. ATP

You can see that it is a little different, but this was the path that fit his financial and personal situation and it worked for him. He is having a tough time getting his multi-engine hours up, but any day now, he should have a corporate job flying a Cessna Citation Bravo.

Flight School or Fixed Base Operator?

This is another highly debated question, but I’ll tell you what no one told me. A Flight School or a FBO is just as good as your flight instructor. You have a bad flight instructor and you will waste really good money. If you have a GREAT flight instructor, you will save lots of money and get a good foundation for future flying. So the question: Flight School or FBO? Well again, what is your ultimate goal, financial constraints, and time requirements? A Flight School will get you through FAST but it’s going to cost you…a lot! An FBO is going to be less expensive in the long run BUT it will probably take you longer to get through the program because of the lack of structure and because, and let’s face it, personal responsibilities. “Life” gets in the way when you aren’t completely able to focus on your objective.

One thing that I would like to suggest is that you seriously consider an FBO before a Flight School like FlightSafety or Embry-Riddle. FlightSafety and Embry-Riddle are ridiculously expensive. They know pilots love to fly and they try to exploit it. I know, I went to FlightSafety and it cost a lot. Second, never, and I mean never believe anyone that tells you that you have to go to a Flight School to get a job at the airlines. It just isn’t true. Much like getting a University Bachelor’s Degree, it doesn’t matter where you get it from, you just have to get it. Your future employer is not going to care whether you went to Harvard or your local community college. What they want to know is that you have the degree. The same goes for your future airline employer. They don’t want to know “where” you earned your ratings and certificates. They just want to know that you have them.

I hope that helps. If you have a question, I’d be glad to try and answer it for you. cospilot @ gmail.com.

Till next time…

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Some Days Are Just Tough

Posted by Jeffrey on July 29, 2008

Some days are just tough.

Today I finish a four-day trip in COS after having flown many miles with lots of passengers and occasional weather problems. Now, if you are thinking that being an airline pilot is glamour, let me tell you it is not, but it is a fun job…most the time.  There are some mitigating circumstances though. A good crew is a must. Nice weather helps. Decent outstations that know how to turn an airplane makes your life easier. And a healthy airplane with an APU, well, that is as good as gold. 

Right now I am sitting in a hotel in Lincoln, Nebraska. In the last four days I have made stops in PDX, SMF, OAK, ABQ, DEN and LAX (many times). For the most part every thing went well. No major mechanical issues or passenger problems, but like I said, a good crew makes all the difference. Now I’m not claiming to have had the busiest schedule this week, there are a lot of pilots out there that have worked harder than me, I’m just saying that sometimes you get tired. Heat takes it’s toll. Not eating right can take it’s toll, too. You just have to be smart about it.

Anyway, I’m rambling. My point about this entry is that yesterday we flew five legs. LAX to OAK to LAX to ABQ to DEN to LNK. The last leg was the one we had to work on. Weather over the midwest turned a 1 hour flight into a 1 hour 35 minute flight. We managed to avoid the worst of the weather but it took a huge diversion south of our route to get there. While we were doing the flight, the contrast between winter and summer flying struck me. With winter flying, most the work is done at the gate and then at the destination. You have to plan for de-icing and holdover times at your departure point and upon arrival, you start to worry about icing, snow on the ground, and the possibility of “going missed” or diverting to an alternate airport because you can’t get into your destination. Summer flying you worry mostly about what is inbetween your departure and destination. Navigating around thunderstorms and fuel management consume most of your time. But, in addition, if a thunderstorm pops-up at your destination, you now have to worry about how long will the thunderstorm stay there, do you have enough fuel to wait the storm out, and where are you going if you get short on fuel or the storm doesn’t leave. The difference is I think you pretty much know when a snow storm or winter weather is going to affect your destination and you can plan for it. Thunderstorms, well you can try and predict them but they can develop very quickly, thus limiting your options.

Yesterday, we just had to concentrate on what was inbetween. It turned out to be a relatively smooth ride, just long. If you ever want to see the route you flew, check out www.flightaware.com. The picture here is from our flight yesterday.

Flight 6704 July 28 2008

Flight 6704 July 28 2008

Till next time…


no one deals like we do!

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