Saturday, November 28, 2015

How to Become an Airline Pilot

My new article on Campus Films Studios is up.  If you are curious about what it takes to finally fly a jet, this article is for you.  Click HERE to be directed to the article.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Prep for your Checkride the Right Way!

Getting ready for a checkride can feel pretty overwhelming- especially once you finally purchase all the study books that your instructor recommends.  How are you going to have time to read all of that in the few short weeks before your checkride?  Are you even ready for your checkride?  What if you can't study it all and then don't pass?  I know those are all thoughts I had in the past before a checkride.  However, prepping for a checkride doesn't need to be stressful, it can be exciting, as long as you follow a few easy steps.  

Create a Study Schedule
I didn't learn this trick until I was prepping for my instrument checkride, but once I did it made my checkrides look like a piece of cake instead of the most intense few hours I would have to endure.  Before I began my final studying, I pulled out my PTS (Practical Test Standards book) and created a list of all the items I needed to study before my checkride.  You can purchase the PTS from your local FBO, online, or you can download it for free from the FAAs website.  Remember, if it is not in the PTS, you can't be tested on it.  It is no surprise what you will be tested on- it is all outlined in detail in the PTS.  Here is the list I made when I created my schedule for the Commercial Checkride:  (yes, I still had a copy of it after all these years... haha).

Commercial PTS Requirements 

  • Certificates and Documents
  • Airworthiness Requirements
  • Weather Information
  • Cross Country Flight Planning
  • National Airspace System
  • Performance and Limitations
  • Operation of Systems
  • Aeromedical Factors
  • Preflight Inspection
  • Cockpit Management
  • Engine Starting
  • Taxiing
  • Before Takeoff Check
  • Radio Communications and Light Signals
  • Traffic Patters
  • Airport Runway/Taxiway Signs/Markings/Lighting
  • Normal Takeoff and Climb
  • Crosswind Takeoff and Climb
  • Normal Approach and Landing
  • Crosswind Approach and Landing
  • Soft Field Takeoff and Climb
  • Soft Field Approach and Landing
  • Short Field Takeoff and Climb
  • Short Field Landing
  • Power-Off 180 Approach and Landing
  • Go-Around
  • Steep Turns
  • Steep Spiral
  • Chandelle
  • Lazy 8
  • Eights On Pylons
  • Pilotage/Dead Reckoning
  • Navigation systems and Radar Services
  • Diversion
  • Lost Procedures
  • Slow Flight
  • Power-Off Stall
  • Power-On Stall
  • Spin Awareness
  • Simulated Emergency Approach and Landing
  • System and Equipment Malfunction
    • Partial or complete power loss
    • Engine roughness
    • Loss of oil pressure
    • Fuel starvation
    • Electrical Malfunction
    • Vacuum/pressure, and associated flight instruments malfunction
    • Pitot/Static
    • Landing gear of flap malfunction
    • Inoperative trim
    • Inadvertent door or window opening
    • Structural icing
    • Smoke/fire/engine compartment fire
  • Emergency Equipment and Survival Gear
  • High altitude operations
  • Pressurization
  • After Landing Parking and Securing
After I typed up every single subject, I printed off the list and wrote the dates I would study each item to the left of the subject area.  I typically liked to give myself Saturdays and Sundays off, so I figured out how many days I had to study and then with some simple math decided how many subjects I would need to study each day to be ready a few days before my checkride.

For example, if I had 10 days to study, I would need to study 5 to 6 subject areas each day.  Most days my schedule required 1-2 hours of studying, give or take.  That may seem like a lot, but studying for just a few hours a hour a day is so much better than cramming for 20 hours the days before the checkride!  Trust me.

Stick to your Study Schedule
Once you have created your study schedule, you need to commit to sticking with it, like your life depends on it!  Look at your free time each day and decide exactly when you will study.  For me, I liked to get up a few hours earlier than normal and study in the quiet hours of the morning.  I was able to study without distraction, and then I didn't have to worry about it for the rest of the day.  Talk about peace of mind.  Find out what works best for you and stick with it, no matter what!  

Last Word of Advice
Do not wait until the last minute and then stay up for days straight trying to prep for your checkride.  Of course you may be able to pass your ride, but how much of that information will you retain after you complete it?  Isn't the whole point of a checkride to make sure you are a safe pilot?  Don't you want to be the best at what you do?  Absolutely!  You are tested on those specific areas because you need to know that stuff to stay alive and be a flying pilot for the rest of your life.  So don't procrastinate, and begin studying for your checkride early so you have time to understand and apply the information.  

If you follow these few easy steps, a checkride will no longer be a stressful event, it will be an exciting event, something you will go into knowing full well you have the knowledge and skill to pass.  I still get nervous before checkrides, but not because I think I won't pass; it's just the typical nerves I feel before I force myself outside of my comfort zone and do something for the first time.  Prepping for a checkride and then passing it is a lot of work, and not something many people do, so make sure you do it the right way.  Have fun studying!    

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Good with the Bad

I know I have talked about aviation as such an amazing career (because it is ) but I would be lying if I said it was 'flowers and bunnies' all of the time, 24/7.  Sometimes being an airline pilot and having somebody else telling me what to do can be a challenge.

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know I got awarded with a lot of Juneau flying this month.  Of course I didn't bid for it, but I also didn't bid avoid it either; which every pilot above me must have done since I got 7 Juneau trips (out of my 9 total trips).  For the most part, the Juneau trips are actually amazing, as far as trips go.  Three of them are one flight to Juneau in the evening, enjoy a 10 hour layover at the hotel, and then fly back to Seattle in the morning and get paid 8:24 hours to do it.  That's as good as it gets in my book!  I also have two Juneau trips that have one Portland turn after returning to Seattle and two that have TWO portland turns after returning to Seattle (which is A LOT of work in a jet in my opinion).  But as a whole, these Juneau trips are pretty good... when the weather is decent there.
I took this pic in September when my husband and I visited Juneau.
It was the most gorgeous weather that day.
This past Friday night I met with the captain before the flight, we looked at the weather, knew it was decent enough to get in that night, and decided to accept the flight to Juneau.  We did, however, notice that the weather for the next morning didn't look good enough for us to get out of the airport.  We brought this to the attention of the company but they said to try it anyways, even though if we got stuck there we wouldn't be able to complete our two Portland turns the next day.

The flight up there was uneventful.  Juneau is a tricky airport to fly into, but the captain and I had studied the briefing guide and then discussed our plan of action together.  The weather held up and we were able to see the airport and all the required lighting just past the Final Approach Fix (FAF).  When it does work out, Juneau is actually quite fun to fly into; it's just all the 'what-ifs' that make regional airline pilots nervous to fly there.  We made it in just fine and were on our way to the hotel.

The wind blew so fiercely that night it woke me up many times.  Each time I would grab my phone and check the METAR and TAF hoping the wind was forecast to die down before we were scheduled to leave, but to no avail.  When I finally got up at 5am it was still gusty and windy outside.  I hoped the company would allow us to stay at the hotel until the winds died down, but they wanted us at the airport.  I guess I should admire their hope, but at the time I found it frustrating.  The TAF didn't show winds dying down for hours!  Now, I know weather forecasts aren't all that accurate, but from what I have seen, Juneau's are usually pretty close.

We met in the hotel lobby at 6am and took a cab to the airport.  The flight was already showing delayed by 30 minutes when we arrived, and we didn't even have a flight release from the company yet (because we couldn't legally takeoff with those winds).  After 30 minutes the captain called the company who then delayed our flight for another 30 minutes, and then another 30 minutes, and then an hour, and another hour, etc.  This went on for nearly 8 hours.  I didn't really mind the first few hours, though.  I made some friends with some of the passengers; which, by the way, Juneau passengers are awesome- they had the mentality of 'we'll get there eventually so it's no big deal.'  They were all so nice and friendly.  I also had some time to get some personal things done and some reading in.  It was all quite relaxing and enjoyable... until it started creeping up on 5 hours and then 6 hours.

Here's our little jet waiting for us to take her flying
Thankfully the company was able to rebook all our passengers so they weren't waiting there with us, but I so desperately wanted to just go back to the hotel and wait there.  It would have been so much more comfortable.  But the company would not release us and wanted us to wait patiently at the airport.  Finally, after 7 hours of waiting (that felt like a lifetime and half), the winds decreased to 10 knots, the maximum tailwind component for us.  As a crew, we got on that plane and completed our responsibilities as quickly as we could before those winds could change their minds.  We had the door closed and were off the ground in the next 30 minutes.  We were exhausted from sitting all day- for some reason it is more tiring to sit all day than to work all day- but we knew we could all safely make it back to Seattle.

Because the double Portland turns (which were originally on the trip) were removed from our schedule, we ended up getting done only 30 minutes later than scheduled, which was pretty great.  So though I did get a bit grumpy having to sit in an airport all day, all in all, it really did turn out pretty well.  Was sitting in a freezing cold airport with only gross airport food all day my favorite thing to do?  Absolutely NOT!  But was getting done only 30 minutes late pretty amazing?  Yes!  So you have to realize that there is some good and bad with everything.  I have had some amazing trips up to Juneau, this one just didn't turn out that way.

I'd still say that being a pilot for the airlines is still a great career choice, just realize that not every trip will go as planned, and sometimes you will have a lot of 'airport appreciation time.'  It's part of the job.  On the other hand, you will have trips that go just as planned,  you will fly with some amazing crews, and you will be able to travel to amazing destinations and get paid to do it!  It doesn't get better than that.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Hmmm...Where Am I?

As I have mentioned earlier, I loved my flight training days.  They were filled with challenges, successes, and many adventures.  Today I thought I’d keep the post light and tell you about my first solo cross country.

Before I begin, though, you must know that I am not the most observant person you will ever meet.  Whenever flight attendants ask me if I just saw that passenger’s hair color or her amazing purse, the answer is probably no.  I tend not to notice those sorts of things.  Maybe I am too busy being productive to notice?  Either way, I am not very observant.

My first solo cross country flight was from Provo, UT (KPVU) to Delta, Utah (KDTA).  I had flown there once with my instructor before he sent me on my own.  The flight was barely over 50 miles, so not far at all, and it is nearly impossible to get lost, might I add.  I had stewed over my flight plan and the weather for hours and was finally ready to depart. 

I had my timer, my charts, my E6B incase I needed it, and every applicable airport tabbed in my A/FD.  I was ready!  About halfway down I got a little confused with which “canyon” I was referring to on my flight plan.  On the map it seemed so simple, but when it came down to it, I wasn’t sure if it was the canyon closer to me or the one further south. 

As I didn’t want to fly the wrong direction or burn unnecessary fuel, I panicked for a second, and then went back to the basics.  I remembered my instructor telling me that if I ever got lost, even if just for a moment, to follow the 5 C’s.  I’m sure you’ve heard of them before, but incase you haven’t, here they are:

CLIMB: climb to a higher altitude so you can see more of the area and get a better perspective- it’s also wise to circle while you climb so you can stay over the same area.

CONSERVE: conserve on fuel- higher altitudes require less fuel, and if you’re circling while you try to figure out where you are, you need to conserve as much fuel as you can.

COMMUNICATE: if you still can’t figure out where you are, try communicating with the nearest airport (as you should have some idea of where you are), FSS, or on 121.5 if you are really lost.

CONFESS: once you communicate, confess that you are lost and need help (I always thought this was a funny step… as a women I would have no problem admitting I was lost, but apparently that is harder for a man to do… LOL).

COMPLY: do what they tell you to.  If you were able to get ahold of an ATC facility, they can give you a squawk code to find you on radar and then let you know where you are and where you need to go.

I climbed a few thousand feet while circling the field I was over.  As I climbed I leaned the mixture out to burn less fuel and then I looked more closely at my sectional chart.  Within minutes I was able to see exactly where I needed to go.  Easy peazy!  Again, I found out my instructor actually was right.  I really do have to find him somebody and say ‘thank you.’

Of course I never told my instructor about this story of mine- in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever told this story.  It’s a bit embarrassing to admit I got lost flying only 52 miles away and that I’m not a very observant person.  If I were, I don’t think I would have gotten ‘temporarily disoriented’ regarding my location on that flight.  But there it is!  Out in the open.  So if you do get lost, even if just for a moment, remember the 5 C’s.