I think the "powers that be" are onto me. Two of my last three trips, I've been flying with check airmen. It's a little bit disconcerting to fly with a check airman. You're in a bit of a limbo land. You're not being line checked, at least not officially. I've never heard of a check airman giving demerits to a first officer they were flying a regular trip with. But you're still quite a bit more careful to fly the book when the captain's main job is enforcing that book.
Increasing the uncertainty in my case was the fact that both check airmen were new and without reputations. In fact, I didn't find out one of them was a check airman until day three of the trip! If they'd been check airmen for a while, I'd know whether they were complete Nazis or were laid back about minor stuff. Was I under the microscope? Or were they kicking back and enjoying a regular trip, glad to not be worrying about training and enforcement for once?
I make it sound as if I'm a completely nonstandard pilot when I'm not flying with a check airman. I'm really not. I fly by the spirit of the book and by most of the letter. Many check airmen are satisfied with that. A few, though, feel that they must pick out any small details I'm getting wrong. And most pilots are regularly doing something "wrong." For an example, refer to my last line check.
Here's another example: Our flight standards manual states that whenever you are hand-flying the airplane, you should not make auto flight control system (AFCS) inputs yourself, you should direct the non-flying pilot to do so. The proper execution sounds like this:
ATC: "Megawhacker 347, turn right heading 090, direct to BANDR when able, climb and maintain 6000."
PNF: "Up to 6000, heading 090, direct BANDR, Megawhacker 347."
(PNF sets altitude alerter to 6000 and pushes ALT SEL.)
PF: "Push IAS twice. Select heading 090. Select my nav source to LNAV. Input direct BANDR on my FMS. Push Nav."
That just makes my head hurt. It's far easier to reach up and push a few buttons yourself. The Megawhacker is pretty stable. It's not going to roll over because your attention was diverted for two seconds. And therefore most pilots will do at least a little button pushing while hand flying, except on checkrides and line checks. Cooperate and graduate, as the saying goes. But what about when flying a regular trip with a check airman? I still fly to the very letter of the book, while grating my teeth at some of the asinine procedures written by desk jockies who seldom fly the line.
Of course, I can only escape an anal check airman by knowing every asinine detail in the book. Apparently I do not. Today I was kicking back with my feet on their usual footrest, the bottom of the instrument panel, when the captain told me that "your feet aren't supposed to be there. It's in the book." I was incredulous until he pulled out the flight standards manual. Sure enough, there it was: "The instrument panel and center console are not to be used as footrests." Nevermind that maintenance puts anti-skid material there for that express purpose.
Most of the check airmen on the Megawhacker are nice guys who I'm happy to share a layover beer with. But God Almighty, if I have to fly another four day trip with one, I'm going to reach an absolutely disgusting level of standardization.