Sunday, October 21, 2007

Catchup Time

Yikes. This is my second post of the month and it's the 21st. I've been slacking. I had thought that with all the exciting life/career changes I'd have lots to blog about, but it turns out I've been fairly preoccupied with said life/career changes.

And the short trip I mentioned in my last post. My buddy and I did make it to Frankfurt on the flight we were trying for (90+ open seats!) and had a good time spending a few days around Bacharach. The weather was pretty typical for Europe in the fall - overcast, a little chilly, some rain, some fog, some sun - but it rained in Portland the whole time so I figure I came out ahead. Besides - gloomy, misty weather is better for exploring ruined castles, at least from an atmospheric standpoint.

We had some excitement getting home. Because NewCo is so new, we don't have many reciprocal jumpseat agreements yet. My buddy had lots of options - United, Delta, USAir, Continental - that I didn't have. For me, it had to be RedCo or Air Canada, and RedCo only has one flight a day from Frankfurt - which was full on the day we were coming home. Air Canada has several flights, including one to Toronto that was wide open, so I decided to try for that.

International jumpseating always involves the risk of running into gate agents who don't know the procedures, and in this case the fact that Air Canada's reciprocal jumpseat program is fairly new made it virtually certain that we'd run into problems. Sure enough, the gate agent had no clue about jumpseating and told us in no uncertain terms that we could not sit in the cabin without a paper ticket of some sort (nonrev pass). We tried to explain the procedures relayed to us by Air Canada's jumpseat coordinator, but she was adamant that we were wrong and told us to get lost while she closed the flight. I stepped back from the gate, intending to speak to her after the flight left in hopes of clearing things up so I could catch the next Air Canada flight. She tapped away on her computer for a while and then abruptly said, "OK, I'm putting you on. Do not come back here without a paper ticket, ever." My buddy and I couldn't believe our ears. We grabbed the boarding passes, thanking the gate agent profusely, and raced down the jetway. We didn't breathe again until the 777 pushed back from the gate.

The same day I got back from Germany, the HR department at NewCo called me and asked if they could move my week of classroom training up one week, to 15 Oct. At that point I was already three quarters of the way through the CBT training, so I readily agreed - especially since that meant I'd be getting paid full-time a week sooner!

I didn't have any luck selling the house. There are no two ways about it: the housing market sucks for sellers right now, and the early onset of poor weather in the Pacific Northwest didn't help matters at all. We got a few nibbles but nobody is in much of a hurry to buy...the few buyers out there are just laying back, waiting for the perfect house at the perfect price to come along. They'll get it, too - there's a ton of inventory and prices are starting to come down. We listed with a real estate agent shortly before I left Portland. Trying to sell by owner was basically a waste of six weeks time. Live and learn, I guess.

The Computer Based Training was all pretty easy. I feel like I still have a lot to learn on the JungleBus, especially concerning the FMS and autoflight systems, but I understand they cover it pretty thoroughly in Montreal, and there's a lot of down time to study on your own. The JungleBus is a very different airplane from the Q400, and the systems should provide some good fodder for future blog posts.

I just finished the week of training in Minneapolis. It was a combination of CBT review, subjects that the FAA requires extra emphasis in (CFIT, runway incursion avoidance, HAZMAT), sensitive material they don't want floating around (security), and hands-on training that can't be accomplished via distance learning (emergency equipment). There were five other guys in my class; because I was moved up, I hadn't met any of them before. All have significant flying experience. In fact, I'm the only person without turbine PIC time. Four of us have flown for another regional airline, and five of us are former freight dogs. The other one flew F-15s for the Air Force for 12 years. It's good to hear NewCo is attracting experienced pilots, because we're not going to have much time to get up to speed with the airplane before we're upgraded to Captain.

We bid for IPT/sim schedules in Montreal based on seniority. Because I was moved up a week, I was junior except for the Air Force guy, who was moved up two weeks. The four senior people bid together, so there was one line left over for the Air Force guy and I, making us sim partners. He has actually been away from flying for several years but seems like a very sharp guy. He told me he'd be picking my brain on FMS/autoflight stuff, which is fine by me - he's now my go-to guy on high altitude/high speed aerodynamics! Interestingly, he already "knew" me - he and his wife read this blog, and he also recognized me from an aviation message board. Small world indeed.

I'll be heading to Montreal tomorrow. If the schedule is correct, I'll be there until just after Thanksgiving. I found out that my first flights in the airplane (IOE) will be in the left seat, acting as Captain. That should happen sometime in early December.

I'll be studying plenty in Montreal but I should have enough down time to explore the city. I've never been there but I hear it's beautiful - and a good time, too. I'll hopefully find some time to blog, too. My next post will be about airline training in general, since I've been using a lot of terms and acronyms that may not be familiar to the general aviation pilot.


the other sam said...

Finally an update! I was hankering for one. Good luck in Montreal, can't wait to hear about it.

Tim said...

i can't wait until i'm in regional groundschool to fly the junglejet or a crj!!

this is an awesome "inside scoop" of the whole process, thanks!

less than 1 year at indiana state

Fred said...

Great to have you back blogging, Sam. Hope the missus is doing well.

Real Estate is a persnickety area these days, but had you the time, you'd have been able to go the sale by owner route, no doubt. As in all aspects of life, it's all about time.

Looking forward to hearing more.

Matt said...

Sorry to hear about your experience with our "national" airline. I'm sure that the people of YUL treat you much better.

Good luck with your training.

Anonymous said...

What the heck is a JungleJet?

the other sam said...

An aircraft built by Embraer, a company based in Brazil.

Sam said...

The JungleJet is the smaller/older sibling to the airplane I'll be flying. I call mine the JungleBus because it's made by the same company but looks like a minature airbus.

Tom said...

I read an article today that SAS is permanently grounding their entire fleet of Q400's after the third gear collapse in recent months occurred yesterday. This sounds like an unprecedented decision in the airline industry - to completely ground and remove your entire fleet of 27 aircraft of the same type. The article states that they will never fly them again and are immediately removing them rather than phasing them out. I'm wondering, won't this be a logistical nightmare for SAS? I understand phasing a type out slowly, but removing an entire fleet raises questions about where you'll find substitute aircraft and substitute crew who are trained for that type in such short notice. Amazing! The article is at:

Tom said...

Rather, the link is: