Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ramp to Flight Line

I'm currently helping a friend of mine make the move from the ramp to flight line. It's been a rocky start as he's out of his element and hasn't flown in three years. I'd like to shade some light on what really matters when making a move to a new plane.

Numbers, numbers, numbers. I don't know if I came through clearly with that statement but knowing your numbers is number one! It's really irrelevant what you're flying because every aircraft is still just an aircraft. Now that I'm done repeating myself over and over, here are a few things you should be reviewing.

Engine temps, power settings, and time limitations are vitality important. Don't get me wrong, when flying a C-172 around this may seem like a waste of time but forming these habits early on in your career will allow you to excel later on.

You will find that flying singles, right up to the heavies, that engine temperatures become a primary instrument you will monitor in your scan. I'll throw a few examples out from both ends of the spectrum. In any piston engine a loss of oil pressure and a rising temperature is an indication of what? Wait for it...... yes, an engine failure. I don't know about you but when I'm flying a piston, my eyes are glued to those instruments. A good ear for the engine will typically give you a heads up that something is wrong.

When looking at a turbine powered aircraft, during engine start, a rapid rise in ITT (inter turbine temperature) is a possible "hot start." Now a hot start is when the temperature inside the turbine exceeds allowable limits and essentially you fried the engine. When one engine costs more than an average home, it's important to keep on top of it.

With having operated out of many bush strips, I've made knowing my power settings a top priority. Most pavement to pavement guys think they know the importance of this one, but unless you've skimmed the trees as you prayed to god to save your butt this one last time, then I don't think the real reason has sunk in. In a piston you're limited to the firewall, which in all my experience is a standard practice. I can't think of a time other than training where I took off without full power. In the turbine world, it's a whole new set of rules. You can actually go past full power into the "transient" region. Most turbines have been de-regulated to provide better fuel burn and increase the life of the engine. When things go bad though, you can exceed the red line for short periods of time without damaging the engine.

By now if you haven't noticed a trend; I'm continually discussing limitations. I've discussed the turbine to the extent that I'm going too but I wanted to mention that even in a C-206 you will have time limitations. On departure you can fly at max power for up to five minutes. At that point, your manifold must be reduced in order to prevent engine damage.

As I've said, an aircraft is an aircraft. Take a systematic approach to each one and you'll be miles ahead. As a recap, flip to the limitation section and start there. Knowing speeds and aircraft limitation along with good hands and feet will excel you through training and will allow more time to study emergencies. I didn't touch on emergencies as depending on the aircraft and company SOP (standard operating procedures) these techniques may differ.

This may seem like common sense but when something's new, you sometimes need a little direction. I hope this has helped. Fly safe and keep it rubber side down.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Management vs Crew

Learning about your profession is a must no matter what you do. As you progress through the different categories of flying, be sure to know the rules and regulations associated with that level. With regards to management, you may find it challenging at times handling the additional pressure during the busy season. In an ideal world, aviation would much more profitable and everyone would do well. Due to the high level of competition and competitive pricing, carriers must maximize productivity of their employees.

Taking a step back and looking at it from both sides, you will find more creative ways of completing each task. I find it too often that the pilots are only thinking about it from a single point of view. Management needs to make money in order to provide you with employment. Instead of creating a challenge for them, focus on what you can do to make the operation run as smooth as possible. People make mistakes and it's important to know the regulations in order to prevent any challenges from arising. Informing dispatch the "day of" isn't acceptable and being proactive by keeping eye on your time is much more appropriate. If you see a day that won't work, due to duty time or any other snag, be sure to speak up and prevent the company from looking bad.

Fly safe and keep it rubber side down.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Moving forward

I know it's been a month since my last post. I'm in the process of transitioning into a multi IFR position and will be adjusting the content on this blog. As I move through my career, this is a reflection of what I've learned and accomplished.

Even though I know most of the pilots at the new company, I feel it as a major change in my life. Upon returning from sim training, I've entered into a new world of flying. The new working environment has been a challenge as it's much slower paced and I'm not liked by everyone. If you ever move to another company and jump ahead of people waiting in line, you will experience the same emotions.

Coming from a single pilot background, it has been a change in mindset and procedure. The operation is much more regulated and responsibilities have been divided. Since I'm new to this type of flying, I've become a first officer. During sim training, I was fortunate enough to work with an excellent captain who was patient with me. At the same time, we still had our discussions with regards to my responsibilities. Single pilot ops, you obviously do everything associated with the aircraft. Becoming a first officer is a challenge because you now have to listen to someone else, as they are the pilot in command. I feel with my background that my ability to make decisions allows me to bring valuable experience to the table. I have felt resistance from captains as they feel that my decision making is more of a conflict than a benefit. I'm not looking for any special treatment yet I'm not going to response well to captains with attitude. Two crew flying is a team effort with each pilot having his own way of doing things. Working together may not always be a smooth operation yet I hope I can pull my weight and provide excellent service.

This was a heads up to those who may transition soon. You will find it's best to remain quiet and keep your opinion to yourself. Fly safe and keep it rubber side down.


Friday, September 18, 2009


As I open with another story, I want you to see the importance behind this topic. Last week I had a trip which took me from our base to a remote strip to pick up eight guys. With them and their gear I was to fly them south approximately three hours. The strip is 4000ft long and 100ft wide. The challenge at hand was a heavy load out of a sand box. I have flown eight guys and gear out of this strip before but I didn't take into account the extra 1000lbs of fuel. I figured that since it was the end of their holiday that the food and drinks would be done and maybe a few fish for another day. Well to my surprize they had more than what they went in with. Also I didn't check with the boss to see if we did a station stop back to base to re-fuel, avoiding the issue initially. When you get into a busy operation, these details will slip your mind. You will haul some big loads out of these little strips and your confidence of doing it again will be high.

As we went down the runway, I knew it wasn't going to work. I aborted half way down and we bounced our way along the sandy roller coaster. It was my first time this year getting stuck as I tried to turn around in the sand. After booting everyone off and getting the plane out under its own power, I re-loaded them and gaver another try. This time I was starting from the soft end but I had a slight head wind in my favor. As we neared the end of the runway at 70kts, the last bump we took got us airborne but we weren't going to clear the trees. At this point your heart is racing and your mind is screaming at you to stop. I threw it into reverse and hammered on the brakes. This was a no go! Booting four guys off and calling for a C-206 to pick them up seemed to be the most viable option as they didn't want to leave any fish behind. Even on the take-off with less passengers I got my right main into some sand and it dragged me in. With the required correction which increased the drag on the aircraft, it was a tight finish to say the least. Having the stall horn screaming at you and a minor heart attack as you just clear the trees really makes you think twice about your choice of profession.
This is the actual strip.

This could have all been avoided if I asked some important questions prior to my departure. Lack of planning and preparation made this trip a learning experience that I will never forget. You don't forget these days as you work your way through your nine lives. Fly safe and keep it rubber side down.


Monday, September 7, 2009


This topic came to me and I felt I should write about it. I've noticed that some people in general have a poor attitude. I'm not sure why they remain negative, but it seems to just happen. With how small the aviation industry is, it's extremely important to remain positive no matter what the circumstances. The way in which you react to passengers, co-workers and management will determine how well you fit into the organization. I use to become very irritated with my flying gig as I wasn't progressing as quickly as I wanted too. As I built my experience and moved up the latter, I found myself becoming more content. Most people want to make it to the top right off the bat. They lose site of what really matter: flying. We fly with passion and do what we love. It doesn't necessary matter what you are flying as long as you can find some joy in the activity. I know guys who were planning on leaving the company with a definite plan to make the airlines and end up finding themselves in a slow down. You have to be happy with today as tomorrow will be now then. If you are unhappy, people notice and with that said, if you can't find some happiness in what you are doing, STOP. It won't be any different tomorrow as it is today. It was just a thought that I wanted to expand on. Fly safe my friends and keep it rubber side down.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Job hunt

Many pilots are currently unemployed. I feel for those who are, as I understand the challenges at hand in today's job market. Getting out there meeting people and networking through my flying friends has kept me flying through the ups and downs. Here are a few things I do to stay in the loop:

1) Email - I email my resume on a monthly basis to company I have a strong interest in. Don't waste time emailing every company if you don't actually want to work there. There is nothing more frustrating than finding a pilot with the qualifications, to find out they aren't interested. Why did they apply in the first place?

2) Facebook - I use this tool to my advantage. I have hundreds of pilot friends who use facebook and it's a fantastic way of keeping in touch. On many occasions, I have found work through this network. If someone new comes into your organization, get their email and see if they are on facebook. You never know when you may find work and besides its FREE.

3) Road Trips - I have done three road trips in my time flying. It has been great for building a network and getting your name out there. Get a business card from the chief pilot and follow up. Even if they shut the door on your face, if you get the card, you have an in.

These are just a few different ways to find work. If you want to be a professional pilot, look the part and be organized. I like to put my resume in a file folder with my cover letter on one side and the resume on the other. Also, when you purchase business cards, put one in there too. This will show your level of professionalism.

Dress appropriately. If you are looking for a bush flying job, DO NOT show up dressed in your whites. Everyone there will look at you funny and will have a good laugh. If you are looking for a co-pilot or captain position with a larger company, you may want to wear a shirt and tie. Dressing the part will allow to potential employer to imagine what you will look like in their uniforms. Ensure you have taken the time to freshen up and smell nice.

Every time you meet someone new, they will evaluate you within the first thirty seconds. Take the time to ensure you come off as a positive and responsible pilot. Smiling and having a pleasant personality will put you on top of all those who put in minimal efforts.

As I said before, these are just a few ideas which will better aid you in your hunt. Good luck, fly safe and keep the rubber side down.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Keeping Current

To start off this story, I had just been upgraded and was flying all three types that our operation ran. I was in the in between stage as I transitioned onto our largest aircraft. The one aircraft I flew the least was the C-206. I learned a lot flying that aircraft as I had the best of times and the worst. The aircraft was always requiring attention and really flew like a big truck. It's acquired an unpleasant name, the "crowd killer." It seats six: one crew and five passengers. If you ever fly one, it drops like a rock if you lose the cooling fan out front.

This particular day, I was flying into the worst strip we go into. It's 2000ft long and 75ft wide. It has a drainage ditch at the West end and is always saturated. With obstacles at each end, it's a lot of fun. I had just got back from a trip and another came up in the C-206. It would be an easy flight, two passengers out to the lodge. We jumped in and away we went. I had flown the aircraft enough to be comfortable into all the strips but it had been a few weeks since I had flown it. On our way out, the sun was shinning and we were cruising right along. As we approached, I could see a rain shower moving in. As I paralleled the runway I could see it was going to be a wet one. Since I hadn't flown the aircraft in some time I wasn't properly set up on the approach and to top it off, it was raining. Bad idea from the get go but I knew this guy tipped and I figured it would be no sweat getting the job done. As I came in, I floated half the runway before touching down. I immediately applied full power and went for the overshoot. I then yanked the aircraft out of the mud and back into the air. At that point I was out of room. I banked the aircraft to the right to miss on coming trees. Fortunately I was able to build speed over a swamp off the end of the strip. I should never have attempted to land the C-206 in those conditions. Being unprepared can cost you. I was lucky, so take note, not all are so lucky. Everyone who gets into this type of flying will experience these situations. I don't care who you are, you will at some point put yourself into a very troubling situation.

Set high standards for your profession. When you're low time you will have the tendency to do what the other pilots are doing. If they are flying in poor conditions, then you will as well. I feel it's important for senior pilots to step up to the plate and set appropriate standards. What you do influences all those who are of lower time and of less experience. I'm very verbal about my view on the weather and I will question those who push themselves into poor conditions. Work as a team, as we are all in this together. Safe fly and keep it rubber side down.