Thursday, July 14, 2005

Job Satisfaction

I started flying at a young age (13) but didn't decide to make it my career until a few years later. I'd only flown a few times previously, and the unfamiliar beauty and power of flight had a firm grip on me. I knew I had to fly, sooner or later. I chose sooner. That it could turn into a career certainly crossed my mind, but that was secondary at the time.

After flying for a few years and logging some hours, I made the decision to pursue flying as a career. By then, flying was an absolute passion; nothing in my young existence had made me happier, and I could think of nothing I wanted to do more than fly for the rest of my life. If somebody would pay me to do it, then, how could I resist?

I distinctly remember the first time I really did not want to fly. I was at college and was working on the instrument rating. I'd flown three or four times that week and was supposed to do a cross-country that night; however, I was repulsed by the thought of going up again. I wasn't having fun flying so often. I considered calling the flight off. Then I realized that if I was serious about flying for a career, I had to be absolutely committed, flying whether I felt like it or not at the time. I did the flight, and another the next day.

It was then that I realized an unpleasant truth about a flying career: when you fly every day, and it's your job, you won't get the same satisfaction out of it that you did when you flew for pleasure. There's a whole lot of boredom, fatigue, frustration, and hard work. Many days, it's "just a job." Then you see all the turmoil in the industry - bankruptcys, furloughs, paycuts - and you sometimes wonder if getting into a flying career was such a smart choice after all.

But then there are flights where it's just like those first flight lessons. It might be a tough approach flown well, or glimpsing a moment of immense beauty, but you find yourself completely happy and satsified, and you wouldn't trade your job for any other in the world. You have a strangly full, peaceful feeling as you leave the airplane, and you look back at her at least once as you walk away.

I've had a few really memorable flights at my current airline, but most are utterly routine and quickly disappear down the memory hole. Interestingly, I find more satisfaction every time I fly for Ameriflight. I fly the Chieftain too infrequently for it to be routine, and without dispatch, flight attendants, rampers, or another pilot, it's a far more self-reliant kind of flying. The Chieftain lacks FADEC and FMS, which results in a higher workload, but a purring engine and accurate course is far more satisfying when it comes from one's own knowledge and skill.

Truthfully, that's the main reason I fly for AMF on my days off. The extra cash and PIC multi time is fine, I guess, but that's not really why I do it. I do it for that last look: the waning moments of the day, when the engines have fallen silent and I've thrown 1200 lbs of bags out of the plane, and I walk slowly across the ramp, adrenaline slowly dripping back down my veins. That's when I look back at "my" airplane and feel the pride of a job well done, and the satisfaction of a day well spent.


GC said...

Wow. I didn't know you still flew for Amflight in addition to QX. Hurry up and transition into a metro or a 99, will ya? We need to get you that magic 1000 PIC turbine! Every little bit helps!

Sam said...

before...just not much lately.

I'd like nothing better that to be flying turbines, Glenn, but you can generally only do Part Time On Call (PTOC) at AMF if you've flown that particular aircraft for them before. Now, if they develop a need for a Be99 reserve pilot at PDX, that could change. Another option is taking a leave of absence from Horizon to fly turbines for AMF full time. If the ridiculous upgrade time continues, it's an option I may pursue.

GC said...

I just learned to read last week and haven't gotten to your archives yet. Until then, I was just looking at the pretty pictures.

John said...

Nice post, Sam. We are on similar wavelengths ...