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Flying Stories
Hurricane Harvey
August 30, 2017
3

“Captain, we need to change your alternate to Shreveport.  You can’t go to Dallas,” read the ACARS message from the dispatcher.  “It is full.”

We were about halfway into the three and half hour flight from Newark to Houston.  It was day one of a three day trip, but day four for me.  I’d just finished another three day trip on Friday.  Sometimes, I bid back to back trips to cut down on the commuting from Nashville.

Honestly, with Hurricane Harvey approaching the southeast coast of Texas, I expected to be canceled on Saturday and reassigned to a completely different trip.  However, the forecast for the IAH area was reasonable enough for the airline to send the flight.  Winds were not expected to exceed 30 knots at the outer boundaries of the massive storm.

The forecast was wrong.

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Flying Stories
Whoosh! (There It Is)
September 16, 2016
3

Whoosh!

The first officer heard the strange noise and immediately turned towards the pilot-in-command.

He wasn’t surprised to see the captain looking forward seemingly unaware of the loud surge of air.  Over the first few days, the FO noticed the captain was a little hard of hearing.  Earlier, in the hotel van, the skipper did not realize a flight attendant was telling him a story until she politely tapped him on the shoulder.  Sad, because in those days, the captain could not have been more than fifty nine years old.

“Did you hear that?” the FO asked loud enough to avoid having to repeat himself.

“Hear what?”

His response indirectly answered the question.

“It sounded like a loud surge of air… maybe from the air conditioning ducts?”

“I didn’t hear anything,” the captain mumbled as he continued rolling towards the departure runway.

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Pilot Lifestyle
TIME to fly home
June 16, 2016
14

I stood in the gate area with absolutely no expectations of boarding the flight.

What was keeping me there?  The universally understood jump-seating rule that says never walk away until the airplane pushes back with a bottom in every seat.

It was the last flight of the night to Nashville.

Day four of the trip had been long and tiring.  The BNA-EWR-BDA-EWR series of flights would have been fairly routine if it hadn’t included a two and a half hour delay heading outbound to Bermuda.  We had just returned to New Jersey after our third flight of the day and it was time to commute back home.

The flight was oversold by four passengers.  Gate agent pleas for revenue travelers to exchange their seats for compensation had already begun over the loud speaker.

There were also two pilots senior* to me listed for the lone flight deck jump-seat.

Once one of those other guys showed up, I was going to call my favorite cargo carrier and arrange a two-leg ride home in the middle of the night.

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Pilot Lifestyle
Hello again, longevity date…
February 29, 2016
1

Let’s take a quick trip back to 1999.

The day I walked into my airline’s training center became my date of hire.  After two weeks of basic indoctrination, a month off, ground school and simulator training, I was issued my temporary flight engineer certificate and released to Boeing 727 IOE.

That day in early 2000 became my “longevity” date.

The longevity date is very important to an airline pilot.

If you’re unfamiliar with pilot pay, let me explain a few basics.  Most airlines in the United States pay pilots based on equipment, rank/seat and years of service.  The pay scale in the contract is formatted as a big grid.  A brand new first officer is paid at the first year rate.  When reaching his or her first longevity anniversary, the pilot is bumped to second year pay.  On the second anniversary, pay bumps to third year pay.  At my airline, the hourly rate caps out at twelfth year pay.

The longevity date carries over to other equipment and/or seats.  If a 737 first officer on eighth year pay upgrades to captain, he or she is paid at the eighth year captain rate.

I considered it odd that the airline assigned a longevity date different from the date of hire.

Little did I know the adventure my longevity date would take throughout my career.

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Pilot Lifestyle
Vacation
February 15, 2016
10

My parents operated their own business for forty years.

Every year, they shut down “the shop” during the first week of July and took a well deserved vacation.

One week a year.  Except for taking a rare day off here or there, my parents were hard at work five or six days a week… for four decades.

The hard work paid off.  My mom and dad were able to provide a home, meals and college education for my sister and I.  Today, they are enjoying retirement splitting their time between homes in Massachusetts and Florida.  They’ve certainly earned it.

I will be forever grateful for their hard work and sacrifices.

Airline pilots also work hard and deal with problems and stresses completely unique to our industry.  However, at least at the “major airline” level, we are well compensated and provided with a generous amount of time off.

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Pilot Lifestyle
Let’s fly south for the winter
February 4, 2016
0

The captain placed his suitcase on the floor and introduced himself as he shook my hand.  I was already sitting on board the 737-800 completing the initial cockpit setup.  I watched him attempt to stow his rollaboard in the small space above mine.

“Looks like you packed like I did,” I said as he started making groaning noises while he pushed and twisted his overstuffed bag into the opening.

“Yeah, I over-packed because I don’t know what’s going to happen on this trip.  I brought everything… t-shirts, sweatshirts and even a hat and gloves,” he replied.

We were both prepared for the worst.

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Flying Stories Pilot Lifestyle
Wrapping up 2015
December 31, 2015
3

The last trip of 2015 has been entered into the logbook:

Day One:
EWR-AUA (deadhead/not in logbook)
AUA-IAH

Day Two:
IAH-RTB
RTB-IAH
IAH-DFW

Day Three:
DFW-DEN
DEN-EWR

The pairing finished a few days before Christmas.  After a challenging commute home to Nashville, I began a stretch of eighteen days off.  Being a senior first officer after sixteen years has some advantages.

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