Saturday, November 25, 2006

Lots of flying in the coming-up week, but I have the weekend off so I'm enjoying that. I have been fighting a vicious cold over the past week, but I have been sleeping like 12 hours a night and drinking gallons of fruit juice and I have it on the run.

Amongst my upcoming flights, I get to do some training next week, bringing a part-time pilot up to speed on our planes and that's going to be interesting.

It's interesting to watch how people usually react to a new airplane, how tightly they grip the controls and how their scan is essentially based entirely on the attitude indicator, and only gradually widens out to encompass the whole panel and eventually maybe even out the windows. From the way the part-timer talks, it seems like he'll do well, but as we all know it's a crap-shoot until you actually see a person fly.

I have flown with lots of people who are total ozone rangers in 'real life' but manage to be cool, calm and collected in the cockpit in any situation. I have flown with people who ooze competency and charisma on the ground, but when airborne consistently make stupid mistakes, and then either give up entirely or get enraged and focus on the wrong thing, eventually getting completely behind the aircraft and screwing up basic control and situational awareness.

I'm going to enjoy the experiences next week because I am comfortable enough in the airplane that I will have the 'big' picture, and it should be relatively easy to spot areas in the part-timer that might have room for improvement, if any.

I am definitely not a hard-ass training guy; I know that there are lots of minor differences in the way that people like to do things, and if he keeps me in the loop and it doesn't affect safety then I'll be more than happy to let the part-timer show me different techniques for completing the flight successfully, without insisting that he rigidly conform to my way of doing things.

Now I want to be clear; I don't mean that I would do anything that wasn't within our SOP's, which are the Standard Operating Procedures that we learn when flying an aircraft with more than one pilot. SOP's are great and provide a framework for doing things, and they are especially useful in an emergency when you really need to have both crew members on the same page in a hurry, but due to the huge number of variables in any particular trip, SOP's can't encompass every aspect of a flight.

For example, one pilot I fly with likes to do the approach checklist when we are 25 miles out, and another prefers to do it when we descend below 10,000' altitude. It doesn't really matter to me as long as the checklist gets done, and however the part-timer wants to do it, I'm fine with that. Or maybe he will want to use the autopilot more or less than I do (I still really enjoy hand-flying and I generally don't let 'otto' take over until I'm above 25,000', and I usually click it off once I'm below 18,000'). As long as it doesn't affect safety and as long as he tells me his thought process for whatever he's doing, then I'm happily along for the ride.

As a captain I have the luxury of establishing a baseline set of standards, and I get to make the ultimate decision regarding the aircraft. That was one of my only complaints as a first officer on the MU-2; For the first year I had to be a chameleon and adapt to many different captain's versions of how to fly the airplane each one insisting that his way was the only correct way. It was only in my last 8 months there that my captains trusted me enough to let me develop my own flying style, the set of habits and methods that felt most comfortable to me. I want to give the part-timer the benefit of the doubt and give him enough freedom so that he doesn't feel like he's on an IFR checkride each time we fly together. The guy has lots of experience, just not a lot of recent experience on the 550, so I have the benefit of knowing he's got a few thousand hours under his belt and is hopefully unlikely to get us into a spiral dive should we enter cloud. That being said, it's still up to me to make sure we don't break the airplane so I have to be vigilant. I'm up to it, and I'm really looking forward to it.


Anonymous said...

Just curious..does he know about this blog? I'd love to learn from you. Your mentoring style hits all the right buttons: need for competency, safety and communication and value in diversity and individual styles. Keep us posted.

Aviatrix said...

We all wanna work for Sully. :)

Flyin Dutchman said...

I like how you put the "Luxury of being a Captain is to set a baseline of standards".

I always thought that way but every time I would try to explain it I sounded like the guy who thinks his way is the right way.

But now I know how to word it and FO's will know where I am coming from. :)

Have fun training.

jennifer said...

I remember doing training with you. I thought you were mean. :P