Thursday, June 30, 2011

Okay, let's talk more about the hiring process.

For some background, scroll down a couple of posts to the 'everything changes, everything ends' one, then come on back because I need some advice.

The stakes are pretty high for me - whomever gets hired will be working closely with me, and I want to make sure we mesh well. They will also be flying with my boss, who is a great pilot, a smart guy and pretty reasonable to work for, but who also assumes that people will operate at 110% efficiency, so there isn't any room for stupidity or laziness. I like that, because I like the challenge and frankly because I'm up to the challenge - yeah, I certainly have the Captain's ego to go along with my Captain's qualifications and experience, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing in this situation.

Anyway, if I end up hiring someone who turns out to be a dud, it's gonna be an expensive mistake, and my job security is pretty much directly proportional to the number of expensive mistakes I don't make, if you catch my drift.

I don't care nearly as much about flying experience as I do about personality. "Hire for attitude, train for experience" is my mantra in corporate aviation-land, and it has served me well thus far. That being said, if we hire a 200-hour wonder then they will be sitting right-seat for ages and ages until they qualify for their Airline Transport Pilot's License (which they need to fly as Captain), so there are some experience considerations involved.

My plan is to hold the interviews at a nearby restaurant or pub - I think you can learn a lot more about a person during lunch / over beers than you can sitting across from them in a boardroom. Am I wrong?

I looked online and found a valuable post at a blog called 'Pilot Notes', and I think I'll shamelessly steal some of the questions listed, but I think there are some other areas that could be covered - after all, the actual flying part of this job is a relatively small portion of the job itself - we do lots of paperwork, and we will be spending days on the road together, so want to be able to assess that stuff as well.

Now here's the whole point of this post: If you were in my position, what other questions might you be asking the candidates during interviews? Let's assume that the candidates demonstrate good technical knowledge about aviation / airplanes, so that stuff is not in question.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I'm gonna go back in time for a second.

Kitsch and I were at our Toronto Pearson office a few months ago, hanging out and paperworking, when we got a phone call. It went something like this:

"Hey, do you have your plane available?"
"Sure. When? Where?"
"St. Catharines. As soon as you can get here"
"But St. Catharines is only 12 minutes away. Wouldn't it be faster for your clients to drive? Also, we are gonna burn a lot of fuel for a short flight, so it's gonna cost extra."
"We'll pay the extra cost, just get here now. You aren't taking anyone anywhere, we just need the plane. It's for a tv show."
"I love television shows! We'll be right over."

We hauled airplane butt across the lake, and landed. We sat in the airplane for a few hours as they filmed some actors getting in and out of the airplane over and over again. We watched an actor dressed up as a pilot. We ate delicious catering while the pilot-actor got shot, over and over again. They gave us back our airplane, and we flew home. The actual filming process was pretty boring, but the food was delicious and our airplane is immortalized!

Here's a sample of the result :)

For the full experience, watch Covert Affairs Season 2 Episode 4, which came out last night. I imagine the episode is likely available online or on bittorrent, but I wouldn't know for sure :p

That being said, the plane is only in the first few minutes of the show - once the pilot gets shot, it's pretty much over for us.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Everything changes, everything ends.

Kitsch got "The Call" from Air Canada last week, and will be starting with them at the end of July. He is a great pilot and a good person to be in the road with, and I'm really sorry to see him go, but I understand why - he's 30 and will have a 35-year career with them if he starts now. Unfortunately it does involve some sacrifice - the shameful truth about Air Canada is that the initial pay is just a hair over 35k/year and a new hire's schedule is best described as "often, and chaotic". However, after a few years the pay and schedule start getting decent, and after a few years more it gets downright lavish ;) That, along with free travel passes and the opportunity to fly heavy equipment across the planet really makes it a no-brainer for someone interested in those things. More power to him!

Anyway, that means I need to hire a new pilot to replace Kitsch, and I need to do that pretty quickly. The most-trafficked aviation website in Canada is AvCanada, so I put a job ad there. I took it down after a few days and am now starting to go through the 342 resumes I have in my inbox as a result of the ad, electronically sorting a small pile from the large pile. I tried to make the ad realistic and descriptive so that people would have an idea of what is required, and what is offered.

Here's what I wrote - I have edited out the identifying stuff because the application time has elapsed and I have enough resumes already ;)


Position: Citation 550 First Officer
Company Name:
Contact Person: Ops Manager
Street Address:
City: Oakville
Province/Territory or State: Ontario
Web address:
Email address:
Phone number: NO phone calls or drop-ins please.
Apply via: Email or snailmail only.
Aircraft Types: C550 Citation II

Hmm, the airlines are hiring again. That means it looks like we may need to refresh our resume pile for a Citation 550 pilot, specifically an F/o position.

Are you smart? Are you polite when appropriate? Are you willing to live within an hour of CYYZ Toronto Pearson Airport? Are you okay with an F/o position on a light corporate jet? Do you use soap? Do you promise to read the parts below about the extra office duties and especially the part about not offering to pay for your training? Could you stand to work a bunch of long days in a row with a sarcastic bald guy? If your answers are 'Yeah', 'Sure' and 'Yup' so far, then please read on!

Absolute Minimum requirement: Functioning cerebral cortex (preferably with 'sense of humor' addon), current CPL / Multi-IFR with the right to live and work in Canada. Also, a working knowledge of MS Office. As the plane is a 2-crew turbojet, you'll need an ATPL if you ever want to log PIC (we'll discuss that after a year or two). Current C550 PPC/Type Rating an asset, but we will train the right candidate.

About us:

We are a corporate flight department for a publicly-traded renewable energy corporation, based at Pearson Airport in Toronto. We fly 90% corporate, 10% charter. The successful applicant can expect to fly 200-250 hours per year, plus or minus. Please do NOT offer to pay for your training. We will pay all your training costs at Flightsafety and you, being an honorable person, will agree to stay for 2 years. We don't pay per diems, we pay all your meals and hotel bills when on the road, and we stay at decent hotels and have the option to eat at restaurants with actual utensils. We will provide you with a nice laptop, a generous mobile phone allowance and a full benefit plan, 'cause that's how we roll. Heck, we'll even pay for your pilot medicals.

Normal work-week schedule is Monday to Friday, with the occasional weekend trip. Realistically we fly once or twice a week. Most flights are booked well in advance - in the past 6 years we have had a total of 2 same-day trip requests. We mostly fly throughout Eastern Canada and the US, and sometimes down to the Caribbean - 90% of our trips are within a thousand miles of YYZ, with the other 10% of trips being company runs to Arizona.

There's more, and this is important - we are a small flight department (2 Citation 550's) and everyone here pulls their weight on the operational side as well as the flight line.

This means flight planning trips, organizing customs / airport slots, arranging hotels / ground transportation, helping with audit preparation, billing, picking up commissary and the thousand other tiny jobs that make up a corporate flight department. For example: I'm not gonna ask you to wash the boss's car, but I may ask you to help with an Ops Manual update, or to assume some Quality Assurance roles within the flight department. This means less spare time when we're not flying, but on the upside it will certainly keep you mentally active.

Pop quiz: Did you really read the part about not offering to pay for your training and about the extra flight-department-related duties involved in this position? How about the part where you need to have a current CPL / Multi-IFR? And especially the part about no phone calls or unscheduled visits to my office or home? Cool, then let's continue...

We have high standards, and that's a good thing. Our planes are maintained by an Air Canada connector, we don't cut corners, and we expect you to bring your 'A' game. In return, you'll get a good F/o job working with good people on a good-natured corporate jet. For real: You will get treated like a capable human being, with all the respect and expectation that brings. You in?

If so, please send your resume in .pdf or MS Word format to Ops Manager, or mail it to me.

Again, NO phone calls please, and no drop-ins (this is to see if you can follow instructions).

In return, I will do my absolute damnedest to reply to all applicants within a month.

Salary:$ 50k/year + expenses + full benefits
Closing Date: June 20th 2011. Possibly hiring for early July.


Some of the resumes I have gotten are truly spectacular - some in a good way, and some not so much. Can you believe that one guy actually sent me a resume offering to pay for his training and to work for free? I'm not even kidding, but that's for a future post.

What I think I'll blog about next is walking through the hiring process, from resumes to interviews and beyond. Hopefully we will end up with a candidate who can handle the requirements, and who doesn't hate being featured in the occasional blog post :) Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

All Hail Baby Balthor*!! This is his portrait, taken as of yesterday when we found out he is going to be a he. He's still baking, but we have high hopes for midnight on Halloween, when he is scheduled to make his first appearance out in the world.

*Name subject to likely change/veto by Lisa