Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My First Week as a Major Airline Pilot!

Well, I've finally made it! Last week I finished my check ride on the Boeing 737 and am now out flying "the line". It almost seems unreal; this is what I've been working toward for years. I'm actually a major airline pilot!

My first couple trips are with instructors to make sure I can fly the airplane to company standards. The two instructors I've had so far have been great! I've been learning a lot and having fun at the same time. My first trip started in Houston, followed by a trip to Cozumel, Mexico and back and then an overnight in Phoenix, AZ. Cozumel was fun, but we were only there for about 45 minutes so I didn't get to see much. It sure looked like a place I wouldn't mind coming back to sometime though. The flight to Phoenix was on the biggest 737 we have, a B737-900. We left with 160 passengers on board. When we got off the plane and were walking to catch the hotel van, I was a little confused. I didn’t even recognize half the flight attendants we had! I got on the plane after they had started boarding and 3 of the flight attendants were already in the back of the plane so I didn’t have time to meet them. It felt a little weird meeting them for the first time after we had worked a flight together. After a short night at the hotel, we flew back to Houston the next day. My next trip started a few days later in Newark, NJ.

My second trip didn’t start out not quite how I expected it to. I walked on the airplane and one of the flight attendants said, “There’s a pigeon back here.” Now, I’m not exactly the crocodile hunter. To say the least, dealing with wild animals is not my forte. I tried to put on a brave face but to myself I was thinking, “I don’t want anything to do with that pigeon.” The captain got on and went to the back to try and scare it out of the plane. I was standing in the front galley making small talk with the other two flight attendants when I heard my captain say, “Look out! The pigeon is flying up your way!” I turned to look toward the rear of the airplane and all I heard was, “flap, flap, flap, flap” and all I saw was a lot of wings very close to my face! This pigeon just about landed on my head…..just about! I let out a little scream and dropped to the floor! I had my full uniform, hat, coat, and everything on and I’m lying on the galley floor! Meanwhile, the two petite flight attendants are staring at me lying on the floor wondering why a 6’2”, 230 lb man is so scared of a little pigeon. Well, let me tell you, pigeons aren’t so little when their wings are flapping and they’re 6 inches from your face! This whole event certainly loosened things up for the rest of the trip.

We flew to Indianapolis, IN where I had what I thought was my best landing so far (because I’ve made all of 4 landings at this point). Then it was on to Houston where my landing was so good that it was similar to some of my best landings in the CRJ. I was even thinking to myself, “Don’t get too cocky, you’re really not that good, mostly just lucky.” Well, that was proven when we arrived in McAllen, TX tonight. If our passengers weren’t aware that we had arrived, they were well aware now. Probably my worst landing yet! Of course, I’ve only got 6 landings in the B737 under my belt and I’ve got 32 years to practice so I’m sure I’ll see some more good ones, and I know I’ll see some more bad ones. My captain had a salad sitting by his bag in the cockpit and told me, “Well, thanks for tossing my salad tonight, that’s one less thing for me to do at the hotel.” “Sure, no problem, glad to help”, I thought to myself.

We all know an airline pilot or a flight attendant, and as you know they’re a very dynamic bunch. I have no doubt that it’s going to be a fun 32 years. As much as I’ve enjoyed my first week as a major airline pilot, another one of our more senior pilots recently passed away while working a flight. As it turns out, I had met him just two weeks ago at the training center. It makes me realize that we never know how much time we have on this planet and I thank God that I get to go to work everyday loving what I do.

Blue skies and tailwinds!

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