Wednesday, December 29, 2010

oy. what a week.


One of the reasons I love being an airline pilot is that work is never the same. Even if you're flying the same route for a whole month, the weather is always changing, you have mechanical issues or the occasional medical emergency.

I don't think I've ever worked such a long week with so little flying!! I was "late-called" at 3m Xmas Eve (without even a "hey, sorry about this," from scheduling, blah). They needed to send me to Detroit that night for a 3 day trip. Unfortunately during the winter we don't have direct flights to DTW from Atlantic City, so I had to deadhead through West Palm Beach.

Thank goodness my parents gave me a Kindle as an early Xmas present. <-- I've been thinking this repeatedly over this week.

Xmas eve in DTW is bad enough but I was extra-cranky because I did not have time to pack food before running out the door. I think I had pop tarts for dinner (so healthy!).

Xmas we were scheduled to fly from DTW to Ft. Myers and up to Chicago. The day went easily and the crew was all pretty cheerful. Nothing makes you feel better about working on a holiday like realizing how many people are in the same boat!! The whole crew tried their best to be un-cranky. Our captain was pretty hilarious and kept us laughing most of the trip.

Sunday we were supposed to fly to Ft. Lauderdale and on to LaGuardia. Remember what was happening on Sunday in the Northeast? As we flew to FLL I picked up the LGA weather via ACARS. I believe it was along the lines of 35 to 45 knot winds out of the northwest with visibility anywhere from 1/2 mile to 4 miles and blowing snow. We knew we weren't going!

Unfortunately it took a few hours for dispatch to agree with us, untilthey finally cancelled the flight and sent us to the hotel. The best part of that day was calling scheduling after we saw "cancelled" on the flight board for our flight. Their answer? "It's not OFFICIALLY cancelled yet." But you're telling the passengers it is. "Right, but we're not ready to release you yet." Read: we're trying to figure out where else we can send you. We're finally told that the next morning they're going to deadhead us on a 5:10am flight to LGA, after which we'd fly to DTW. We were scheduled to also fly a RSW turn after this, but due to the long duty day, they dropped the turn and assigned it to another DTW crew.

Granted, the forecast for LGA at 7am the next morning is the same as it is now. And the news is forecasting over a foot of snow. Everyone else has already cancelled their flights for the next day. But not us, nonono. Neither rain nor sleet nor blizzard of the year will prevent us from going to LGA.

We dragged ourselves to the airport at 4am Monday morning. LGA is closed. JFK and Newark are also closed. It seems nothing north of Norfolk is open. But we haven't cancelled the flight yet. Commence the eye-rolling. Eventually the flight in cancelled, of course. But we're rescheduled to deadhead on the next flight. Which is scheduled to leave at 7am...but has been delayed until 9:30am.

By checking the FAA website, we're able to see that LGA isn't going to open until at least 4pm. JFK and Newark later than that. Here's the thing -- LGA is the redheaded stepchild of the unholy trifecta that is JFK-EWR-LGA. Hell will freeze over before LGA opens before the other two, much larger airports.

Of course, the 2nd flight is cancelled. Dispatch has also cancelled the LGA-DTW flight because even if we were to get into LGA, there wouldn't be an airplane for us to fly. They tell the captain they're deadheading him back to DTW on the next flight and sending me back to ACY. Woo! I get to go home a day early!

Except that ACY is closed. Until at least 12pm.

The 7am ACY flight is, like the just-cancelled LGA flight, delayed until 9:30. I get on the airplane anyways to get out of the terminal and hang out with the crews (there was another pilot and 2 flight attendants trying to get home as well). Our terminal, as one of the FAs so "delicately" put it, was starting to resemble a UN refugee camp. The empty A320 is much more hospitable.

They don't cancel the flight until 11:30am, which is becomes apparently that ACY won't open until that night, if at all. And since I reported for duty at 0425, my 16 hour duty day would be up at 2025. If we weren't scheduled to land before 8:25pm, I couldn't even go on the flight. The next available flight would end up leaving about that time. After 12 hours in the airport I got the phone call to head back to the crew hotel. I'd fly the flight back to ACY at 7am Tuesday.

At 6:45am Tuesday, as I'm checking over our flight plan, I get a phone call from scheduling. "We need you to fly the airplane back from ACY. We'll send you home tomorrow night." Well, crap. I'm a reserve pilot so I didn't have much choice in the matter. The ACY turn was uneventful, the weather was beautiful except for the crazy surface winds at ACY and the conditions of the airport.

KUDOS to the ground crew at ACY. That place looked like Canada they got so much snow! We could barely see the runway surface when we arrived. I doubt it will look much better tonight when I get there (although the winds have died down significantly).

This is day 6, so thankfully I know I'll be home tonight as long as the flight goes alright. I've never had such a long trip with so little flying! After tonight's flight I'll have another 17 hours for my logbook. Oy.

I'm just happy I wasn't a passenger during this blizzard. I feel so bad for the people stuck in airports. At least I knew I had a free hotel room waiting for me every night. This IS my job so I didn't have to worry about missing work (or vacation for that matter). I hope everyone gets to where they're going very soon!

Monday, November 1, 2010

An interesting flight!

99% of the time my flights are really uneventful. But the other 1% of the time? Boy oh boy.

Last week I flew one of our most annoying pairings. Out of ACY we fly a Boston turn back-to-back with a Myrtle Beach turn. I usually love short hops. Unfortunately with 3 quick turns, if something goes wrong at any point in the day, you end up running behind the whole time! Additionally you rarely end up finishing this pairing before midnight.

Unfortunately, this was during that nasty weather system last week that resulted in so many headaches for pilots all around the country. Our flight, which is supposed to depart at 1608 local, was already delayed until 1700 by the time I checked in for the flight. After doing my walk-around I called up clearance to get our route clearance and estimated departure time. Now we'd been delayed to 1740! Ouch. On a day with 3 30-minute turns, we're already running seriously late.

The problem was, of course, the weather. Low ceilings in Boston had caused a ground delay program to be issued. This happens whenever an airport cannot handle its normal amount of traffic. By delaying aircraft departures they can meter the amount of traffic inbound, reducing holding times and possible diversions.

We finally departed for Boston at 1750 and were pleased to fly without speed restrictions (our normal cruise is Mach 0.78). I picked up the weather en route to find out the bad news: the fog had arrived. Calm winds, a temperature/dewpoint spread of 1 degree, visibility of 1 1/4 mile and 100 foot overcast ceilings. Uh oh!

We approach Boston and ask the approach controller if they've opened up runway 33L for approaches, which has a CAT II approach (enabling us to fly to lower minimums). Apparently they had not, which was fairly reassuring. If no one was getting in to land, they would've opened up 33L. Instead traffic was landing 22L. We continued taking vectors from approach and realized, after being turned north, then south, then north again, that we were following the conga line of airplanes onto the final approach course. All the while burning straight through our 1000 extra pounds of fuel (Since fuel is still expensive (and it costs fuel to carry fuel), we're typically dispatched with our enroute fuel, reserve fuel as per the FAA regulations, taxi fuel and normally about 1000 pounds extra.). You can view our course on

The captain decided that if we weren't cleared for the approach with 6500 lbs of fuel remaining that we would have to go to our alternate (in this case, Manchester). We wanted to have enough fuel to reach Manchester and shoot two approaches. Aircraft ahead of us were landing, but as anyone who's been in fog can tell you, you never know when it's going to suddenly thicken. Fortunately we were cleared for the approach with 6900 pounds of fuel on board. Now all we have to do is see the runway lights at 216' and the runway at 116'! At this point the captain says to me, "I can't stress enough the importance of you seeing those runway lights." No pressure!!

We saw the runway lights at, I'm not kidding, 280'. Another second and we would've had to go around and proceed to our alternate. Visibility at the time was, in RVR, 6000 TDZ, 1800 midpoint, 5000 rollout. Definitely the lowest I've flown in so far!

We proceeded to the gate and turned the airplane in record time! As we taxied out and waited in line for our departure off 22R, we heard 3 or 4 airplanes go around. It's all luck when you're flying into a fogged-in airport!

To make matters worse: we still had 3 legs to go!! The weather back in ACY was super-windy, which is typical for this time of year. I got to land in a 20-knot crosswind, which is not-so-much-fun but I'm getting better at it. Our Myrtle turn, which is usually uneventful, was full of thunderstorms and speed restrictions (into Myrtle!! unheard of). We were so beat on our last leg that we were happy to find out that the winds had calmed and our flight, after dodging a few thunderstorms, was easy. While driving to the hotel (which I got so I wouldn't have to make the 2 hour drive home) I was struck by how fatigued I was. On a day that was perfectly legal, only about 7 hours on duty, done by 1am, 5 hours of flight time, I had never EVER been so fatigued. Goes to show how an 8 hour day, with a low workload, can be easier than a shorter workday with a higher workload.

Thanks for reading :) This is day 7 of 13 for me on reserve (I had my one day off yesterday, I used it to sleep!). I'm looking forward to the end of the week and a few days off!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The slow season on reserve

The weeks in between Labor Day and Thanksgiving are historically low travel periods for airlines. Kids are back in school and not many people are taking vacations. Flying for an airline that mainly caters to vacationers, September and October are very slow months. In fact, in 2008, my furlough occurred immediately after Labor Day. Basically, right now I'm just happy that I'm not back in that same spot.

I only flew 30 hours in September, way down from the 80 hours a month I've been flying since June. To be honest, it was a relief! I was exhausted. I didn't want to see an airplane ever again! I felt like I hadn't slept in my own bed in 3 months. I'm pretty sure in August I actually slept more in our crew hotel in Ft. Lauderdale than I did in my own bed.

Unfortunately as a result of the busy schedule I had to drop my graduate class. The first 3 weeks of the class I flew so much that I could not keep up with the coursework. The transition (the period of time when one month is ending and another begins, and is typically a hectic period for scheduling; I flew 10 days with only 2 days off in the middle) really did me in. I hope to pick back up with classes soon.

While my days off have been pretty chock full of fun activities (visiting family, exploring Pennsylvania) my reserve days haven't been. When I'm on reserve I really can't venture too far from the house. Our airline rules stipulate that I must be in the cockpit ready to go w/in 3 hours of a phone call from scheduling, if that flight is scheduled to leave by then. Typically I get an assignment the day before but you never know when someone will call out sick for their trip at the last minute. It takes me 2 hours and 10 minutes, on average, to drive to the airport, which luckily is plenty of time to park, get through security and get to the airplane (gotta love working at a small airport!). The captain will typically do the walk around and other checks normally left for the first officer if he knows he or she is coming in on a late call out.

In short, I'm basically stuck to an area that includes my apartment, the airport my boyfriend flies out of, and the grocery store.

I've always been interested in cooking and baking. Living with someone who will literally eat ANYTHING really helps; I can make anything I can think of and I know David will eat it. And being on reserve gives me the time and opportunity to stay at home and explore dishes that I would typically never dream of making.

Here's most of my cookbook collection:

I'm completely obsessed with Irma Rombauer's "Joy of Cooking." Every recipe I've made out of this has been perfect. Many of the recipes date from pre-WWII. I'm not sure why this is, but I love the idea that I'm making something that a woman in the 1930s was making.

Another incredible success was the chocolate babka from Gourmet. Babka is a traditionally Eastern European dessert, a sort of sweet bread loaf with chocolate filling. I've grown up on babka's brought back by my Bubbe from NYC.

After being inspired by Mrs. Wheelbarrow on a recent NPR episode, I tried my hand at canning. I made her Apple Pie Jam, which tasted delicious but unfortunately did not set up as firmly as jam should be. It's more of a marmalade. Not bad for a first try, though!

The weather has been cold and rainy all week, so I've been inspired to make stews and soups. I don't have pictures of my butternut squash and chicken soup or yesterday's ratatouille, but here's the beef and barley stew I made last night. I made it from a Weight Watchers recipe, which uses parsnips and celery root to replace the potato. They're starchy enough that you don't even miss it!

In the future you can expect a nice mix of flying, cooking and knitting, which are swiftly becoming my top 3 hobbies. I joke around and tell people that "inside this airline pilot is a 1950s housewife screaming to get out." Maybe a girl will read this and see that you CAN be kick-ass and girly. It's not hard, all you need is a little cabin fever.

Blue Skies!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A320 parking brake incident

The NTSB released a preliminary report on the tire blowout incident on an August 26th JetBlue flight. Thanks to Airline Pilot Central for the article.

The NTSB decided that the A320's parking brake was on when the aircraft landed, resulting in the main landing gear tires blowing out and a small fire. Thankfully all the passengers and crew evacuated safety.

I went straight to my manuals to determine whether or not the pilots should have received any indication that their parking brake was on in flight. Here are two screen shots from my manual so you can see for yourself. I won't go into the specifics of which computers monitor the parking brake or anything heavy like that because I want this to be a quick and dirty post. Please post or tweet me questions and I will write a more detailed description tomorrow (when there aren't fall premiers on TV distracting me).

This page illustrates the 10 different phases of flight that the computer's logic uses to decide when to display messages or when to inhibit them. This says that if the parking brake is one during phases of flight 6 and 7, a single chime and master caution will be generated. This would present as a amber memo on one of the center display units, an aural DING!! and the master caution lights will illuminate. This is any time after the plane has climbed through 1500 feet until it touches down.

On the next page we see that when the parking brake is on during all other phases of operation, which are considered normal times to have the brake on, the crew will get a normal green annunciation.

It will be interesting to watch the investigation progress to see if the crew did receive the caution from the airplane's computers. There is a tendency among A320 pilots to label some cautions erroneous. I've had plenty of cautions that we investigated only to find that there wasn't a problem in the first place, a downside to flying such a computer-reliant machine.

EDIT: Thanks to Tweep @thermalhound for the following reminder: "Just read your blog on PARK BRK on. FYI not all a320s on same s/ware so some only display PARK BRK ON on ECAM but no "DING!""

He makes a very good point. These logics are out of my airline's manuals, and JetBlue's software on their A320s very likely differs in many ways from ours. So take what I'm saying with a grain of salt.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Line checks, SOPs and reserve, oh my!

Greetings! I have great news! As of May 29th I’m a full-fledged first officer once again! I passed my proficiency check in the full-flight simulator and flew 15 hours on the line. After those 15 hours I had to take a line check, as specified by the new “pro pilot guidelines.” As a result of the Colgan crash in Buffalo, the FAA instituted new rules for airlines with low-time pilots. I already meet the “time in type” requirement but since I have not flown with the airline for 13 months I’m still part of the program.

Just mention “line check” to most pilots and they break out into a cold sweat. But if you’re proficient in the aircraft, always abide by your standard operation procedures (SOPs) and keep your charts and manuals updated, a line check won’t be so stressful. The problem lies when pilots suffer a “brain dump” after their yearly training. They forget their limitations, have a tendency to not follow SOPs and will have a stack of chart revisions in the bottom of their flight back. There’s a simple solution: don’t dump all that useful knowledge the day after your proficiency check!
My personal flying philosophy is “fly like you’ve trained. Fly the same way every day, and when something goes wrong, you’ll perform how you’ve been trained to perform.” The best pilots I’ve flown with are the ones that follow their SOPs. There shouldn’t be any surprises in the cockpit, at least within the crew. SOPs are designed so that, even if you just met your captain five minutes ago, you can still safely operate a flight.

Enough soap box!

Currently I’m sitting at TPA, my home airport (for now!). Tomorrow is June 1st and I have a reserve line this month. When you’re on reserve you are on call during a certain time period (this month it’s 0200-1600) and the company will assign you flights that have not been covered. Most of the time you’re assigned flights that weren’t covered by scheduling during the initial bid period and sometimes you are filling in for a pilot that’s called in sick. Since I have to work in the morning I’m taking a flight this afternoon to ACY.

I was scheduled to be on reserve the 1st and 2nd, but have already been assigned a trip for those two days. I called crew scheduling this morning just to make sure my line check/training paperwork had been put through (making me available to fly the line). They said it had and that they already had a trip for me! Technically they can’t call me on my day off. They would have called at 2am tomorrow morning, though! So I’m glad it worked out.

Tomorrow I will be flying ACY-BOS-FLL-DTW, starting at 0930 and getting into DTW around 1930. I overnight in DTW then fly one early-morning leg back to ACY at 0600. I can even get back to Tampa the same day! I’m so happy to be back flying. Hopefully the trip goes smoothly! Details at 11 ;)

Sunday, May 16, 2010


We've been very busy for the past week, so I apologize for not updating! Today was my first procedures training FTD after three wonderful days off.

Unlike in the systems integrated training from last week, this week's FTDs place emphasis on flows, checklists, call outs and approach procedures. Today my partner and I each performed an emergency descent, a RNAV approach and a NDB approach. RNAV and NDB approaches are flown almost exactly the same in the A320, using what's called the APP NAV strategy.

With the APP NAV strategy the aircraft actually uses raw data (i.e. the NDB signal) as a backup to GPS waypoints. Basically, the NBD final approach fix is treated the same as the GPS waypoint FAF on the RNAV approach. You monitor raw data while performing the NBD approach but rely on the airplane's GPS and IRS navigation to shoot the approach. Just follow the flight directors and VOILA, you're there.

Actually, we're taught the fly the whole thing on autopilot until the runway environment is in sight! Then you can click off the autopilot and land the airplane. If you don't see the necessary requirement to land before reaching the approach minimums, you initiate a go-around by moving the thrust levers to the TOGA detent. The A320 will do the entire go-around without any additional pilot input. If you wish to fly the published missed approach you press the heading bug to tell the autopilot you wish it to fly the missed and it will fly to the altitude, fix and hold right there until you tell it otherwise. Lazy? yes. Neat? TOTALLY.

Tomorrow we'll be concentrating more on the correct call outs and practicing the approach briefing. Call outs are crucial to following standard operating procedures (SOPs) and help with situational awareness for both crew members. The newest and most critical is the "stable/unstable" call out. More about that tomorrow!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I owe you a post!

I'm sorry that I haven't been updating daily, but even ground school is exhausting! I have a day off today, however! Today's agenda is to take advantage of the great weather and study by the hotel pool.

Tomorrow I start SITs. In the SIT we practice operating the aircraft systems in situations more like what we'll be seeing on the line. I hope I do well! It's been 18 months since I've been in the cockpit so I feel out of practice. After I've gotten enough UV rays today I'll come back inside to practice my flows on the cockpit posters I have in my room.

I'm going to avoid discussing our union issues in the blog, as I'd rather keep my mind on training. I will say, however, that I truly hope the union and the company come to an agreement before a strike -- striking keeps us out of the cockpit and keeps the company from making money; it's not good for either party. At the same time, however, we won't sacrifice our quality of life. You can read the Airline Pilots Association's press release here.

The other day in class we discussed landing distance multipliers and factors that necessitate an increase in approach speed. After the Southwest Airlines runway overrun at Midway airlines have focused on ensuring adequate runway distance available.

We spent a decent chunk of time on a new flow chart that we can use to decide how many knots we need to add to our approach speed, as well as any increases in runway distance (called multipliers). A small change in aircraft configuration due to a malfunction or even a strong crosswind can increase landing distance by 10% to 35%.

Our normal Vapp in the A320 is around 123-126 knots. Some malfunctions such as inoperative flaps will significantly increase Vapp. Approach speed sometimes must be increased up to 20 knots.

The procedure keeps you aware of how the malfunction (or weather) can affect your landing speed and distance, something that pilots flying any type of airplane, from a C150 to an A380, could definitely apply.

Another major safety initiative highlighted in our training is stabilize approaches - but I'll save that for another blog post!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ground school, day 1

Today was our first day of ground school! We received new manuals, Jeppesen charts and IDs (we had to turn these in when we were furloughed).

The purpose of ground school is to bring us back up to speed on aircraft systems and company procedures. Today we spent about 9 hours on systems, and still didn't finish the whole review! It's assumed that, since this is recurrent, that you have a basic grasp on the A320 systems so most of the information involved non-obvious facts.

The first thing pilots perform when entering the cockpit for the day is to perform a cockpit preparation and preflight. We used this as the backbone for our systems study. The pilots check the various systems to make sure nothing is broken. The logbook gets reviewed for any inoperative items, and we look up any procedures that we need to perform as a result.

Flows are an important part of airline training. A flow is basically a checklist that you perform from memory - it tends to move in an easy-to-remember pattern that "flows" around the cockpit. The cockpit preparation flow moves up and down the overhead panel, across the instrument panel, and down the center pedestal. We check to make sure all the systems that should be on are active, make sure our emergency oxygen system is functioning correctly and ensure that required items (such as landing gear pins and windshield rain repellent) are in the airplane and filled.

While discussing the flows in class today we stopped and discussed the corresponding systems. It's a nice way to review aircraft systems while covering a little bit of procedures training.

In other news, it's so nice to be back. I feel like I can finally believe that I've been recalled and am going back to work! I'm waiting for my boyfriend to get done flying for the day so I can tell him all about it. :) Until then, perhaps some dinner and studying with my classmates!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Turn on the fire hose!

Well I am in Ft. Lauderdale, ready to start training! This week is all ground school, starting at 0800. I did a bit of studying tonight but I am so exhausted from driving that I'm choosing to go to bed early instead! I want to be refreshed and ready for class tomorrow.

I will try my best to update every day!

Starting tomorrow I will definitely feel as if I'm drinking from a fire hose! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I'm about a quarter of a way through my Computer Based Training, and I'm getting more and more excited. I can't believe that in 6 weeks I'm going to be back flying the line. I haven't forgotten as much as I was afraid of and as little things come back to me I get this thrill of "oh yeah! I remember this! I can't wait to do this with the real airplane again!"

Last night I studied the Electronic Information System (EIS) and the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). The EIS contains all the screens in the cockpit that we receive information on. In the A320 there are 4 screens.


The pair on the left are the captain's PFD (primary flight display) and ND (navigation display). On the right side are the first officer's PFD and ND. The two screens in the middle are the engine and warning display (E/WD) and the systems display (SD). Almost all the information we need in flight are on these 6 screens. You can use a control panel to change the system you view on the SD. It's one of the reasons I love the Airbus -- everything is presented in such a clear fashion.

The APU is what normally provides power and air conditioning when the engines aren't running. More commonly now we use external power and air for these functions as the APU burns fuel. It's basically a small jet engine mounted in the tail. It's geared into a generator that provides enough power for important systems while on the ground. It also provides the electricity and air needed to start the first engine. If you've ever been on a flight where the crew had to start an engine at the gate, this was probably because the APU was inoperative. I have had this happen a few times. I don't like flying without one because you've effectively lost a backup generator in case you have an engine failure. However, a broken APU isn't a good enough reason to cancel a flight!

Tonight's topics: the electrical, fire detection and GPS navigation systems. I'm so happy that I may do another section tonight. I love learning aircraft systems and I love this airplane! I can't wait to fly one again.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Getting rolling...

I finished all my requirements for my graduate class just before the weekend. The information I've learned in air transportation management are things I can apply in real life, while analyzing my airline and others.

However, now that that's over it's time to start studying in earnest for recurrent. There's a lot to relearn -- with the exception of a few systems such as autoflight, I haven't really looked at most of the information since I was furlough. My game plan consists of the follow:

CBT - This is Computer Based Training. All the systems are presented through the CBT. It's semi-interactive and I've found it's one of the best ways for me to learn. I'll be going through this first.

AOM - Aircraft Operating Manual. There are 2 AOM volumes. VOL 1 is concerned with checklists and flows, which I need to get down before my first sim. AOM VOL 2 talks in-depth about the aircraft systems; it has some information that is not covered on the CBTs. However, it's about 1000 pages. Not exactly light reading! I like to actually read a chapter or two every trip since it's "company approved" reading material. It also helps you keep up with information you don't use every day.

Limitations - Luckily I never threw out my flashcards describing the limitations of the aircraft and systems. These are things like the highest airspeed you can have the windshield wipers on at, the speeds at which you can lower and retract the landing gear, etc. These are critical speeds you MUST have memorized. I hope to give myself a head start and know them before I show up to training May 3rd.

Ok, enough blogging. Time to get to work!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I decided to stay another week while my boyfriend hopefully finishes up his captain upgrade. It's taken over a week to just finish up one flight. Why is flying always like that? The weather on the Cape is fascinating. It can go from VFR to solid IFR in (quite literally) the blink of an eye. And no where else have I seen, on such a regular basis, 70 kt winds at 3000 feet. It's a demanding environment!

As for my training, that officially starts May 3rd. I'm currently trying to wrap up my grad school class ASAP so that I can concentrate on studying for recurrent. I have one more small paper to write, then our final exam, then two large papers. I have to see if I can finish up the small paper early and somehow work on the large papers while I'm studying up for the final.

AND in the middle of this I have to somehow fit a ton of A320 studying. EEK!

The important thing to do? Stay calm, make a list. First things first! I need to stop writing here and start writing this paper!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Good news!

So I think that light out there may actually be the light at the end of the tunnel! Earlier this week, after dropping David off at the airport for a training flight (he's doing his Captain upgrade!) I checked my phone and saw 3 emails under the subject "I got just a RECALL phone call!" Needless to say I nearly crashed the car. The 3 emails were from fellow classmates at my airline that had just gotten THE phone call.

Commence the LONGEST hour of my life. And then, FINALLY, the phone rang and the caller ID was Spirit Airlines. Thank you G-d!!!

So, while it's not official-official, I should be back at work May 3rd!

I say it's "not official-official" because I still haven't gotten it in writing. Plus, in typical airline fashion, I never trust anything until it actually happens.

I'm pretty bummed that one of my best friends in the class didn't make the cut. Recall is in order of seniority, and it seems that I was the last one to get a call. Rumor has it that 4 people are still on the fence, so if two of those people bypass my friend will be in, as well.

Bypassing: telling an airline "thanks but not yet." A lot of people do this if they don't want to resign but they'd rather wait until they have a bit more seniority before they go back to flying. For example, if I'm the last person on the list I'm definitely going to be on reserve. Some people would rather wait until they can hold a line.

There are a lot of things I have to work out, but in general I'm very excited! It will be really nice to be flying again. David and I can afford an apartment closer to Baltimore to make his commute easier (although we don't know where he's based just yet). And I don't have to feel guilty about moving to Maryland as I'll be able to jumpseat home to visit my parents now!

And last but not least - I can actually do something with this blog again! I'm going to be writing much more, taking you through my preps for training, training and then the line. I'm hoping this blog will be a (hopefully not boring) insight into the average airline pilot's life.

Be back soon!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Filing Taxes, Aviation Style

I have an accountant. I know it sounds silly for someone who doesn’t belong in a high-income bracket to have an accountant. The $100 I pay him, however, usually results in a beautiful tax refund. Most people can easily file their taxes themselves and get a great refund. Pilots, on the other hand, should consider getting some extra help.

Airline and corporate pilots have a lot of business expenses that can add up over time. Obviously expenses such as hotel rooms the night before a trip (or crashpad rent) can be written off as a business expense, but have you thought about all the other incidentals that add up over time? Here’s a short list of the things I’ve learned over time I should keep receipts and records of. It’s not all-inclusive, obviously, but maybe it will get you some extra money back on your taxes this year!

- Uniforms: all those pilot shirts, metal shank-less shoes, trenchcoats, etc. can amount to a huge deduction.
- Van driver tips: on an average 4 day trip you could pay $7-10 to the driver taking you to the hotel and airport. 4 or 5 trips a month starts to add up! You don’t need a receipt from the van driver. I have a flight crew log (seen here) that I use to write down my OOOI (out-off-on-in, or your block/flight times) and also has spots for recording tips/meals.
- Speaking of meals: eating on the road is EXPENSIVE. You’re basically going to drop $20-30 on food every night, depending on where you’re staying that night. Keep those receipts, plus the ones from buying soda and snacks at the airport.
- Those Rx Serengeti’s? They’re expensive. And you probably wouldn’t have them if you weren’t flying 80 hours a month.
- Checkrides. My CFI checkride cost $300. CFII: $400. Get a receipt from your designated examiner.
- Last but not least – mileage. All those miles you spend driving to the airport add up to wear and tear on your car, not to mention gas. Keep track of those trips to and from the airport. Also if you’re paying for employee parking at the airport, keep the receipts from buying your parking passes. I have paid anywhere from $35-50 a month for employee parking.

I hope this gives you some ideas on getting the most back on your taxes. Just stay organized, I keep my receipts in a small file folder until tax time. Pilots spend a lot of time away from home and a lot of their own money in that time. There’s no reason to sacrifice more than you have to.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


So I had an interview with a flight school today! It went very well, I went flying with the boss and he liked me. I have the job if I want it, which is great news!

I have to decide whether or not I can afford to move out of state to take the job. Apartment hunting will commence, but as well as trying to find a cheap place, the boyfriend and I have to figure out WHERE. That will depend on where he's based as a captain, which we won't know for about a month. If he gets either HGR or LNS we'll have to live close to one of those airports. If he's based somewhere like ALB, it won't matter because he'll just commute.

I like the flight school; they have nice, new airplanes and keep up on their maintenance. Every airplane's book has a sheet w/ the due dates for its annual, 100-hr, transponder and VOR checks. They should have lots of business in a few months -- I just have to figure out how to afford to eat until then.

Tomorrow would've started my 3rd year with Spirit. *sigh* It stinks being furloughed but I've kind of reached a happy medium, finally. I'm in a zen state, you could say. I can't just sit and wait to be recalled - I need to be productive and forget about them until I get that phone call.

On a funny note: today is my bear's 2nd birthday. Dave Bear -- he was a present from my boyfriend, David, the day I left for Spirit new hire training. I love this bear. It seems silly to be in my 20s and have a stuffed animal that I take on all my trips, but I like to say that he's a well traveled bear. He was there when I was practicing my flows, he helped keep me company when I was lonely. So I don't care if anyone thinks I'm silly; they're just jealous. :)