Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Here We Go

Yesterday at home the weather was perfect. What a shame to have to go to work on such a nice day. But the bills have to be paid!

We are required to be at the airport and signed in to the computer no less than one hour before scheduled departure time. If we are over five minutes late the crew schedulers are alerted and they have to make a phone call to the late pilot. If they can't locate the pilot they have to begin a search for a replacement. There are always pilots available at home and they are on call and have to be available for just such circumstances. They are called "Reserve Pilots". Luckily I have never been late enough for a trip where they had to find a reserve pilot. If I had, that would have meant a nasty phone call from the flight office and a bad report in my file!

Yesterday's flight sequence was from DFW to IAD (Washington Dulles), back to DFW and then on to TUL (Tulsa, Oklahoma). Not only was the weather perfect in Texas but the flying conditions were perfect as well. No tailwinds to IAD so we were a few minutes late arriving. The prevailing winds are generally from West to East and the flight schedules (timetables) are planned with this in mind. So when there are no winds aloft like yesterday, the schedules can be difficult to keep. While boarding, a lady passenger stuck her head in the cockpit and asked if her dog was on board. She was taking her champion Australian Shepherd to a dog show in Washington. (My favorite breed). I joked with her that he was indeed on board but I hoped that he wouldn't mysteriously disappear and end up being adopted my me! She didn't appreciate my humor....

On the return to DFW, still no winds aloft so we arrived about ten minutes early. A change of gates and a different airplane and then off to Tulsa. Pretty much a routine day with no issues. Made it to my hotel room just after midnight.

Thanks for reading.....Len

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Basics

OK.....Just the facts.

My name is Len. I came to the airlines via the General Aviation world. I started as an A&P (Airframe & Powerplant) mechanic and worked for a couple of years at various FBO's (Fixed Based Operation) in the greater Phoenix area. I already had a pilots license and owned a 1940 Taylorcraft at the time. I subsequently bought a 1947 Stinson Voyager and sold the T-Craft. The Stinson was sold about a year later.

While working as an A&P, I was building flying time any way I could and soon I had progressed up to the rank of CFI (Certified Flight Instructor). Then along came a job offer in West Texas working for a small FBO. While teaching student pilots there I was offered a job by a local company with roots in St Louis. This company distributed beer!! You can probably guess who they were. I became one of their full time pilots and progressed from a Cessna 421(Golden Eagle) to a Cessna 441 (Conquest), then on up to a Learjet 24. I worked for this company for 4 years and then hired on with the airline I'm employed by now.

Times were good back then in the airline world. I started as an FE (Flight Engineer) on the Boeing 727. In a few short months I advanced to FO (First Officer) on the McDonnell Douglas MD-80. Three years later I was flying international routes in the right seat of the Boeing 767 and 757. Five years after getting hired I found myself in training for the Captain's seat of the Boeing 727. One year later I moved over to the MD-80 again. I've been there ever since.

For those folks wondering how the seniority system works in the airline world, it's quite simple. For every senior pilot that retires, the junior pilot moves up one number. Now when there are few retirements, there is very slow progression for any line pilot. But when the airline is expanding routes and buying new airplanes and so forth, times are good and more pilots are needed to cover all the new routes and fill the pilot seats. Conversely, when an airline is downsizing and selling off airplanes, many of the junior pilots are not needed and unfortunately end up getting furloughed. That is the current situation at my airline. We still have over 2400 pilots furloughed however, the recalls have begun and many of them are starting to return to their old jobs here.

So that is how I progressed so quickly up to the left seat. It was purely good timing and luck. We have many FO's that have been here for up to twenty years and still don't know when they will make it to the Captain's seat. That is the nature of the airline world for a pilot.

Along the way, I was lucky enough to fly multiple varieties of aircraft during my position as an A&P and Flight Instructor. I also obtained Seaplane and Glider ratings as well. Then in the late 90's I decided to build an experimental aircraft. I chose a Kitfox. I kept it for a couple of years and then sold it. The very next day after I sold it, the buyer crashed and totaled it!! He didn't get hurt too bad but the plane was nearly destroyed. I was all set to build another one but the manufacturer went bankrupt so I ended up buying an already built Kitfox. Those are photos of it you see on my site. That plane was sold and I am now without an airplane. Someday I plan to build another experimental.

So that's about it. Come back soon as I begin to post my day to day experiences and photos from my life in the cockpit.

Thanks for reading.....Len

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Welcome Aboard

Welcome to my site "Views From The Left Seat".

As you may have guessed, I am a pilot. I work for one of the larger air carriers in this country. I have worked there for well over 20 years. I am currently a captain on the MD-80 or Super 80 as many people call it. (We pilots have a few different names for it...more about that later) My routes take me all over the United States, Mexico, and Canada. A typical work week will have me away from my home base of Dallas/Ft Worth for a three day trip followed by a three or four day break. Many trips are only two days and occasionally there will be a trip we call a turnaround or "turn" which consists of a single day trip with a flight to a given city and return all on the same day. And then there is the rare four day trip which I try to avoid at all costs....My suitcase isn't big enough to carry four days worth of clothes, a laptop computer, camera, flight gear etc...

As you read along, I will describe the goings on of the airline world as viewed from my perspective in the front end of the airplane. You will get to see many photos and videos of all the cities, landscapes, airplanes, airports, and any other interesting things I can upload onto the site.

I'm sure many of you have wondered what exactly is going on in the cockpit as you are droning along at 35,000 ft wishing that you were there already. Many of you also may have an interest in the airline life in general and what exactly goes on behind the scenes when you arrive at the airport for your flight. Keep on visiting my site and you'll get a firsthand description and look at what it's really like to pilot a big jet and live the airline life as maybe you never knew before.

Thanks again for visiting