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.


Saturday, August 1, 2009


When should you abort take-off? How far down the runway until you know you aren't going to make it? These are important questions to ask and I'm here to answer them.

I enjoy throwing a story in to illustrate that even with my time, we still can get ourselves into difficult situations. I was flying into a forestry strip which is 2000ft long with obstacles at either end. The strip is located on top of a mountain so density altitude is an important factor to take into account. I was flying a Caravan and hauling five passengers and gear out. Fortunately, it was around 10am and we weren't in the heat of the day. The ground was wet and the west end was soft.
After loading the aircraft, I fired up and started on my first attempt. For some reason, I was unable to produce full power and therefore aborted. Upon inspection, everything seemed to be in order so I tried once more. Again, I was unsuccessful and aborted the take-off. I called via a satellite phone to the office to talk to the boss. He asked if I had the inertial by-pass separator out and to close it. It's a flap that moves into the air intake to help prevent dirt from entering the engine. This adjustment of the airflow reduces the available power. Upon closing the separator I was finally able to get the aircraft to produce full power. On my next take-off run, I had full power but the aircraft wasn't gaining enough speed. Now remember the strip is only 2000ft so your decisions need to be made quickly. At 70kts, which is the rotation speed, I had to abort the take-off as I knew I wouldn't make it. Hammering on the brakes and putting the aircraft into full reverse I was able to stop just in time. I knew I had to do something different if this was going to work. A trick of the trade used often, which isn't in the POH, pilot operating handbook; on the back track, as you turn the aircraft around, apply full power so that the aircraft's engine is at top speed as you finish the turn. Also you will be moving at that point and can sling shot yourself around the turn. Having momentum without using any runway up is a benefit for obvious reasons. On this final run, I hit the corner really moving and gaver the juice. As I built up speed I knew it was going to be close, and it was, as the "oh shit feeling" came on strong. On the caravan, you take-off with 20 degrees flap. On this last run, I left the flaps up until I had built up some speed then deployed them. Another trick I use on occasion is to throw down another 5 degrees before you run out of runway. It will give you a little boost to help you pop over the trees. Now this isn't a recommended procedure, and you should have someone experienced with this procedure to properly demonstrate it. This was an exciting trip and to top it off, on my return I had to file IFR, instrument flight rules, as the weather had moved in and I was unable to fly back visually.

Having so much stacked up against me, it's important to learn something from these situations. My aircraft wasn't overloaded but with the strip condition and the higher altitude, it made the take-off a challenge. With regards to knowing when to abort there are some indications to look for.

1) At the half way point your nose wheel should be off the runway. You want it just off the strip to reduce drag and not to high that the wings are slowing you down.

2) You can feel the aircraft start to lift slightly as it's almost ready to lift off. You want this by the time you are 1/2 to 3/4 of the way down. This should give you enough time to get the aircraft off into ground effect and climb out to avoid the obstacles.

3) Winds are extremely important, take-off into wind whenever able as this will greatly reduce the ground roll.

4) Strip condition - again if there is a soft end, take-off from the hard surface first as there is less resistance and you will be able to gain more speed in less time.

5) If you know it's going to be tight, back track the entire runway and at the end when you turn around, ensure you have full power as you finish the turn. This will sling shot you down the runway as you are carrying momentum around the turn. Take note, if you are flying a single engine Cessna, make a left turn at the end. You will be using the asymmetric thrust to your advantage.

These are just a few strategies that I have used in the past and still use today. Fly safe and keep it rubber side down.