It is a rare occurrence when I make a public post on this website, I much prefer to remain behind the scenes, but after intense urging by our Publisher Nico Lumermann, I have finally caved. For many months, Nico has requested that I share some “insights” into the world in which many of our readers simulate… airline life. As a pilot for a major airline, I will be able offer a unique perspective into real world operations.
A Little Introduction
The beginning of this year marked my 5th and final year flying the Embraer E190. I spent the past 4 years as a Captain on it. Starting today, I officially began training as a First Officer (the politically correct term for co-pilot) on the Boeing 757/767. My flying background and the path that led me to this day is something that I will discuss in future articles as I know there are many aspiring pilots that would take interest. However, for this “ADX Insight” series I am going to write an article each day about my experiences learning to fly the Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft. I cannot guarantee that every article will be as in-depth as this one, but I hope that generally these articles will be informative and fun to read.
Day 0 (yesterday) began with an evening “deadhead”, which is an airline term for a company paid positive space ticket, from my hub on the east coast of the USA to our company training center (aka “the school house”). I landed around 9:30 PM, picked up my duffel bag containing a month’s worth of dress clothes at baggage claim, and called the hotel for a pick up. As usual, it took a while for the hotel van to arrive. Waiting extended periods of time for hotel shuttles is a pretty common occurrence and that is why most airline crews will say it is the worst part of their job, especially if you have to wait outside in the cold. After it seemed like an eternity, the van finally arrived and I hopped aboard.
On the van, there was an older gentleman sitting in the passenger seat. He had a rather strange demeanor about him. I say this because at some point shortly after I got into the van, he looked back and gave me a long stare. It was very strange. The whole ride to the hotel, he had a conversation with the van driver about things to do around the hotel. The way he talked was extremely relaxed and nonchalant. It was clear that he was a pilot and when we got to the lobby to check-in, he finally broke his silence towards me and asked, “Are you here for flight training?” I told him I was. He then asked, “what equipment are you training on?” I told him I was here for “76” training, which is pilot slang for the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767. He replied, “me too.”
I settled into my surprisingly spacious suite at the Marriott Residence Inn and then headed out for drinks with a pilot buddy from one of our regional carriers who actually happens to be the youngest pilot on property. It is not official until he “flows” to the main airline, but if things continue on their current trajectory, he will hold the number one seniority slot at the company for the last six years of his career. For those of you not familiar with union life, this is a HUGE deal. It means he can hold whatever 4-part bid status he wants (BASE/EQUIPMENT/SEAT/STATUS) and whatever type of schedule he prefers (weekends off, holidays off, etc.) for a very long time!
Today I woke up around 9 AM and headed down to the lobby where they serve complimentary breakfast. Like every career airline pilot, coffee was my only major concern, but I decided to grab a bite to eat too. The pilot from the van ride the night before was sitting at a table across the room enjoying his coffee and eggs. We made eye contact, so I said “hello” and then sat down at another table. Before I had a chance to start eating, he came over and sat down at my table and introduced himself as “David”. We chatted for a bit. It turns out David was a First Officer on the Boeing 777 and is now upgrading to Captain on the 76. He lives close to me back home and will be based in the same hub I am at when we complete training. I learned we are quite similar in the fact that we love our job, but don’t take ourselves too seriously. I like that in a pilot. It was at that point, I knew I liked Dave.
Dave and I headed over to the school house around 1 PM. There was another pilot on the bus who told us that he was on Day 9 of the “76” training. He said the training program was fairly straight forward and we would enjoy it. We asked him how many people were in his class. Typically training classes can range anywhere from two to twenty pilots, depending on the size of the fleet. Since our 76 fleet is rather small, he told us that it was just himself and a First Officer. It became clear that Dave and I would most likely be training partners throughout the process, which I was happy about.
The Training Room
Now, this is not my first time at this particular training facility (we have a few different training center locations), but this will be the longest time I have spent here. All of my training on the E190 was conducted at another facility in a different location, so I am pretty unfamiliar with this place. This training center is our biggest facility and let me tell you, it is absolutely enormous.
After getting a little lost at first, Dave and I finally found our way to the first of many training rooms. Here are some pictures of the “paper tigers” (pilot slang again for paper cockpit procedure trainers) that exist in every briefing room.
“You Can Drop the ‘Sir’ Shit”
Meet Wayne, our FCTI (Flight Crew Training Instructor). This guy is a complete trip… but in a good way. Before I get to detail about Wayne, let me explain what an FCTI actually is.
FCTIs are basically ground school instructors that specialize in teaching aircraft systems and procedures. They are typically old… like REALLY old. Sometimes they are retired pilots, sometimes they have never flown a real airplane in their entire lives. They typically complain a lot. Mostly about the company, or their schedule, but usually they are funny as hell. Wayne fits the profile perfectly.
My first experience with way Wayne went something like this… “Hello sir, my name is Andrew, how are you?” His response in a southern draw, “you can drop the ‘sir’ shit, we don’t do that here.” Some might find that rude, but I found it extremely relieving.
Wayne is about 5’5″, wears dress pants that are too short for him, and generally looks really tired. We learned that he has a daughter with three grandchildren in Arizona and the, “Wicked Witch of the West” (i.e. his ex-wive) took the car and the house a number of years ago. Everything about this guy is a hoot. He has a great sense of humor and I can only imagine what the next few days with Wayne are going to be like.
The training will last 22 days, not including line operating experience (i.e. real aircraft training). The company presents our schedule to us, like everything else in aviation, coded in a bunch of acronyms. Here is a brief legend so you can decipher “The Matrix”:
CBT: Computer Based Training
IPT: Integrated Procedures Trainer (glorified paper tiger)
FTD: Flight Training Device
FFS: Full Flight Simulator
CEET: Cabin Evacuation Equipment Trainer
The quick and dirty summary of this schedule is as follows: we have 12 days of ground school, 10 full motion simulator sessions, and then line operating experience. Fun fact: I will not actually land the Boeing 757/767 for the first time until I have people on board.
The Grand Tour
We ended our day with a tour of the school house. See the captions for more information.