Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The First Day of Ground School

The first day of ground school on February 13, 2017 proved to be an incredibly exciting day.  Interview attire was required, so we all looked the same as the last time we had seen each other.  Most of the other guys in my class I had interviewed with, so it was nice to see them again.  There were a few introductions and then we headed down to the museum to take a class photo with the sexy DC-3 on display there.  I wish every company would do this because I really enjoy having the photo hung on my wall now.  I have great memories with all the guys I went through training with, so it's nice to remember all those good times.

For class, they had us sit in seniority order.  Seniority was based on the last 4 of our SSNs with the first number of 9 the highest seniority and a 0 the lowest seniority.  The last four of my social started with a 2, so I figured from the moment I got hired that I would be one of the most junior pilots in class.  Much to my surprise, however, I was smack dab in the middle.  How did I luck out with that?

As a side not, from the moment I got hired the year before, my husband and I planned on me getting the MD-88 and being based in either Detroit or New York, because my social number was so low.  I'd heard there was going to be a 2-year seat lock, so my husband and I planned on having to move because commuting for 2 years is not our cup of tea.

Right before lunch came the most nerve-racking time of the entire day-- the listing of the airplanes and bases that were available for us to bid on.  For our class drop, there were a few A320 slots [Atlanta or NYC], four 7ERs [Atlanta] (757-200, 757-300, 767-300ER), a few more 717s [Atlanta or NYC], and quite a few MD88s [Atlanta or NYC].  During lunch, I began to get a feel for what some of the guys were going to bid for.  I knew if I could get the 7ER I would be able to eventually get back to Seattle as that plane has a base here, but I had to play it off cool because I didn't want some of the guys senior to me to know how much I wanted that.

The 7ER was my first choice, for obvious reasons stated above.  The A320 was my second choice because I knew I could at least get to SLC with that plane, and we have family there so we could always move.  My third choice was the 717 because I knew I could eventually get to LAX, and I was okay with living in SoCal again.  My fourth choice was the MD88, and I really hoped it wouldn't come to that.

I took this photo from the back seat of the 767ER
After lunch all our nerves were high as the bidding began (except maybe the 4 most senior guys in class who knew what they were going to get).  The A320s were all gone within the first few guys, so my option 2 was gone.  One guy senior to me bid for the 7ER, then another.  There were still more than 2 guys ahead of me at this point, and only 2 7ER slots left, so it wasn't looking very promising for me at this point; I was already telling myself I'd have to go to option #3.  However, none of those guys bid for the 7ER- they bid for the 88s and 717s.  What?? This allowed me to get the 7ER.  Being able to announce my bid out loud, "I'll take the 7ER Atlanta" was a wonderful feeling.  I could not wait to tell my husband the good news.

This doesn't have to do with the first day of class per se, but a few times a year the company will come out with a bid for pilots to change bases, airplanes, and/or seat position.  It just so happened that there was a bid still open for 2 more days, so for those of us that wanted to, we were able to put in bids to change our bases.  I wasn't that confident I would be able to get Seattle from that bid, but I put a bid for #1 Seattle, #2 SLC, and #3 LAX hoping that I would at least be able to get one of those 3 bases.  The results for that bid came out the following week, and I got Seattle!  What?  How could this be?  I was going to be the most junior first officer on that category for who-knows-how-long, but I didn't care.  I wasn't going to have to commute and I was going to be on reserve at home.   I could handle that.

After the bidding was over we were finally able to relax and enjoy the rest of the day.  We learned a bit more about the company, which got us even more excited than ever to work for them.  We all left class feeling motivated and excited about our future careers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Reserve vs. Line Holder

What's the difference between being on Reserve vs. being a Line Holder?  I was pretty confused about these two terms before I got hired at the airlines and I heard many pilots toss those terms around like they were common knowledge.  I was too cool to ask (can't let the guys see me drop my ego... haha), so I just waited until I was at the airlines to learn it all.  But, I don't want you to be in the same boat, so here's your answer.

The CRJ on a stormy day in Seattle
Being on reserve means being 'on call.'  If a pilot calls in sick, or can't get to work because of weather, or has a family emergency, etc, the company needs to have a pilot they can call to get the flight covered.  There are a certain amount of pilots each month that are put on reserve to make sure each flight can still go out as planned even if the original pilot cannot make it to work.

I am currently on reserve, and I have to admit, it isn't so bad.  When I got done with my initial training in May 2017, I was put on reserve.  I was able to bid for the days I wanted to be on reserve  (though there's no guarantee I'd get the days I bid for, I always bid for exactly what I want).  For the most part, I am on reserve on weekends and holidays because I am a bit junior in the Seattle base.

The company I work for has a 12-hour callout, meaning if they call me, they have to give me a 12-hour notice before they expect me to report for work.  As I live in Seattle and am based in Seattle, a 12-hour notice is plenty of time to get my things together and get to work before my report time.  However, I can get shortened down to only a 2-3 hour notice a few times a month (though I would still have to have a 12-hour notice to be shortened down to a 2-3 hour notice).  When this happens, I make sure my bag is packed and ready to go, and I don't stray further than about 20 minutes from my house.  These short call days are not my favorite, but I understand the company needs pilot they can call last minute sometimes.

Some pilots hate being on reserve, and I was that pilot when I worked at the regionals, but I LOVE it now.  The company I work for is great about giving as much heads up as they can, and the trips that depart out of Seattle are usually pretty enjoyable.  I was called with only a 2-hour notice on Thanksgiving night, but it was a flight to Hawaii... it was a bummer to leave at 9:15pm, but being in Hawaii the next day was pretty awesome.  Last summer I got used nearly every day I was on reserve, but 99% of the time I had at least a 30 hour notice, so I had plenty of time to wrap my mind around working instead of enjoying some R&R at home.

I could be a line holder right now if I was willing to work 10-day trips, but I don't want to be gone from my family for that long, and I really enjoy being on reserve.  In fact, I got paid for working the entire month of February without having to step foot onto the airport property.   I was on reserve for 17 days, 6 of those I got shortened to short call, but I never got called out for a trip.  It was a nice unexpected month off.  :)

Being a line holder has its perks too.  A line holder just means that a pilot is senior enough to be able to bid for and have a schedule each month- they know when and where they'll be flying to; no surprises.   Having a schedule or a line is nice if you like to be able to plan things- are you going to be home to go to your neighbor's BBQ or your kid's soccer game?  If you hold a line you are able to drop trips, pick up trips, or exchange trips with other pilots.  There's a lot more flexibility in the days you want to work vs days you want off.  When I can hold 4-day trips or less, I will definitely be bidding for a line.

I hope this clears up some confusion about what being on reserve vs being a line holder is.  But if you  still have questions, feel free to email me at trendypilots@gmail.com.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Getting Hired at a Major Airline: Interview Day 2

Day 2 required us to be there even earlier than on day 1.  Because I wasn't sure how long I would be at the campus for, I had to pack up my stuff and check out of my room before I left the hotel that day.  I left my suitcase with the hotel lobby staff and planned to pick it up later on my way to the airport.

We started with a huge physiology test (over 600 questions but I can't remember the exact amount).  The answers to this test needed to match the answers from the shorter test we took on day 1, which is why it was imperative to answer each questions truthfully- if you find yourself taking this test, make sure you don't answer 'how I think they want me to answer.'  You've got to just be yourself!

After the test we were again divided into two groups- one group met with a psychologist first, and the other group did the administrative stuff first.  I was in the latter group.  It didn't take me too long to get my drug test, fingerprints, and photo ID completed.  There might have been a few more things we had to take care of at this point, but I can't remember all the specifics.  After that came my meeting with the psychologist.  I know a lot of guys were pretty nervous for this portion because it has happened where pilots have gotten the job offer on day 1, but then not on day 2.  I wasn't too nervous, though.  I was truthful on all my test answers, so I knew I wasn't going to have to remember some lie I had put down on my test.

The psychologist was a very nice guy.  He asked me about myself, where I was from, challenges I experienced as a child, how I was raised, things I have done to improve myself and become a better person and pilot, etc.  The interview was about 45 minutes and went by quickly.  After I was done with that I was told that I'd get the official and final job offer in a few hours after the psychologist evaluated everything, and that I was free to go.

My flight back home wasn't for over 5 hours, so I walked back to the hotel, got my suitcase, and changed out of my interview clothes.  I was going to check back into my room, but it had already been cleaned.  What was I going to do for the next 5 hours?  Maybe there was an earlier fight?  I decided to check, and there was!  I immediately got a ride to the airport and asked if I could be put on the standby list for that earlier flight.  The gate agent found my scheduled later flight and my reservation, and added me to the list for the flight.  I lucked out because there was a few seats left and I was able to get on that earlier flight home.

I was so glad I had T-Mobile and an hour of free wifi on that flight.  I was anxious to find out how my day 2 testing had gone, and I needed to see that email with the official job offer.  I refreshed my email every 5 minutes for that entire hour- no joke.  When my hour was almost up, the email finally came through...

Day 2 Testing Successful.  I had officially done it!  I was going to be a major airline pilot.  This was something I'd dreamed about for over 10 years; something I had worked my butt off for.  I had done the most challenging thing ever- interviewed with my dream company- and had passed with flying colors.  I felt on top of the world.  I cannot wait for you all to experience the same feeling.  It's the feeling you get when passing a check ride, but x10.  

If getting to a major airline is your dream, please don't give up on it.  It takes time, boy does it take time, but it is worth it.  You will experience setback after setback, but that's just all part of the experience.  Do you want to spend your entire life doing something you don't really love because it was easier?  Or do you want to spend your life doing something you enjoy even though it might be a challenge to get there?  

This is the end of my series of how I got hired at the major airline of my dreams.  If you have any questions that I didn't answer in these last few blog posts, please email me at trendypilots@gmail.com.  I check that email daily (as long as I'm not doing a 12 hour flight), so you won't have to wait too long for an answer.  

Until next time, and Happy Flying!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Getting Hired at a Major Airline: Interview Day 1

October 17, 2016.  I woke up that morning excited for the day.  There were a few nerves running through me, but mostly I was excited.  I was as ready as I was going to be, and I knew if I didn't get hired, my life would still be amazing- so nothing to stress about.  I got up way too early and was at the campus 45 minutes before the interview (which began at 7:30am Eastern Time... 4:30am Seattle time).  I was glad I had chosen to wear the standard male pilot suit for the interview- black pants and jacket, white button up shirt, and some nice black shoes (I chose heels) to go with the suit.  I know I don't look like the typical pilot, so I wanted to make sure the interviewees could see me as a pilot for their company. Dressing as such gave me the final touch of confidence that I needed.

The interview was divided into two portions- HR and Computer Testing.  We were divided into two groups in the morning and then the process began.  I was in the group with the HR in the morning and the computer testing after lunch.  My interview wasn't for a couple of hours, so I went with some of the guys to the museum and walked around for a bit to kill some time.  I also spent more money than I needed to in the gift shop... but they had so many cute things I just couldn't resist.  :)

I headed back over to the interview area with plenty of time before my scheduled interview incase they called me in early, and I was glad for that decision, because they did.  There were 4 interviewers  there- a current pilot, a retired pilot, a representative from HR, and one more person whom I can't remember what his title was.  They each took their turns asking me questions.  Anything on my application was fair game; actually, anything was fair game.  I just made sure I was detailed in my answers and gave them enough information to get to know me a bit better.  Forty-five minutes is actually a short time to decide if you like somebody, so I wanted to make sure they didn't have to pull answers out of me.  I felt that portion went really well, but I was so glad to have it over with.

At lunch I made sure not to eat something that I might have to wear during the rest of the interview (spaghetti, sauces, etc... you get the point).  Also, as a tip, don't eat anything with onions, garlic, or too much flavor.  You don't want to give your interviewers the wrong impression about your hygiene after lunch.  I settled on a turkey sandwich with minimal dressing, no chips, no cookies, and a glass of water.  Just enough to fill the hole and get me through the rest of the day.

After lunch came the testing- 3 tests total.  I think the order was the knowledge test first, then the cognitive test, then the psych test; but don't quote me on that.  I had studied for more hours than I could count for the knowledge test, and it was still a challenge!  I read through each question carefully and made sure to pick the most correct answer.  The cog test was also challenging, but I'd prepped using lumosity.com, and it helped me out immensely.

After those two tests I began to get a bit nervous about my performance.  Did I answer enough questions correctly?  Did I progress far enough through the cog testing?  Doubt after doubt filled my mind, but I had to push them away and focus on one more test.  Though my brain was fried, I knew I couldn't give up at this point.

I pushed through the psych test and found it to be a nice break from the other two tests.  There were some pretty weird and interesting questions on it, but I answered each question truthfully.

After we were all done with the HR portion and computer testing, we met back up in the common area to find out if any of us would get the job offer.  During this time, I found I was not alone in feeling inadequate during the knowledge portion.   Every guy I talked to said it was the toughest knowledge test he'd ever taken.  This made me feel much better, but if there was a time I was nervous during the interview, it was now.  Had I prepped enough to get the job?  Could they see me as one of their future pilots?  The anticipation was killing me!

While we were waiting (which I'm sure wasn't long at all, but it felt like FOREVER) they pulled one guy aside to have him go through some of his paperwork (I realized later that he was not in the conference room with us and therefore didn't get the job).  During this time, they told us all to file into the conference room.  All of us?  We'd ALL made it?  The waiting was over.  I was going to be a major airline pilot for the company of my dreams.  I'd done it!  I cannot tell you how good that felt.  But I had to play it off cool.  :)

The manager of pilot selection met us all in there (this was the same guy I'd met on my SkyWest flight from SEA-PDX) and gave us the conditional job offer.  When he made eye contact with me he asked me how my son was doing.  How did he even remember I'd had a son, with all the people he meets each day?  I hadn't seen him for months... just another confirmation for me that I had made the right decision in the company I chose to work for.

We were given all of the new hire paperwork, which was to be filled out that night, and then given more details about Day 2 of our interview (drug testing and a much more intense psych test with an evaluation).  I left the campus that day on top of the world.  Sometimes I feel inadequate, working in a mans' world, but not that day.  I realized that I could do anything I put my mind to.  This interview was the hardest thing I'd done in my life, and I'd passed it.  I'd gotten the job that felt so far out of reach for many years.

When I got back to the hotel I called my husband to tell him the good news.  He was excited for me.  It has always felt so good having his support.  I met up with some of the guys for dinner and we all chatted about how our interviews had gone.  It was the perfect way to end the perfect day.

Next week you'll get to hear about Day 2 of testing.  Stay tuned!  Until then, Happy Flying.