Friday, December 14, 2007

So, You Want To Be A Pilot, Eh?

Reader James Ball sent me his recently-published guide to Canadian aviation careers, So, You Want to be a Pilot, Eh? to see if I would review it for you guys. After reading it I'm happy not only to review it but to recommend it. Judging from my own experience and the e-mail I receive, there is certainly a need for such a book, and I can't think of a comparable career guide for prospective Canadian pilots. The closest might be Landing the Big Job, but back when I bought that one, So, You Want to be a Pilot, Eh? would have been a much better choice, had it existed.

James starts where the student pilot should start, with the question "do you really want to be a pilot?" He honestly explains the parts of the career that are tough, holding out no false hope to the waverer, while maintaining a sense of humour. "It's difficult to keep track of all the different licences and ratings that are available to pilots. It can be even more difficult to pay for them all." He gives an excellent jargon-free and Canada-wide overview of the industry, from dollar-a-jumper paradropping jobs up to major airline captains drawing six figure salaries. As he discusses different hiring policies and corporate histories he refers obliquely to companies as, for example, "one operator based in Norman Wells, NWT." Those made me laugh as James and everyone else who has been around the circuit a few times can recognize the operator just by the base.

I liked the good Canada-specific advice he gives regarding joining the military to learn to fly, working the ramp and working the dock. Those are areas in which Canada is quite different from the US, and their airline job-hunting or career guides don't apply. James also gives many useful website URLs. These will unfortunately change in less time than it take to read the book, but James is providing updates and errata on his blog. Perhaps he will group all the recommended URLs on one page there, to spare readers from having to type them in.

James gives good guidance, much of it straight from the Transport Canada website, without trying to take the place of more comprehensive guides on topics like passing written examinations and flight tests.

The resume guide is very worthwhile, as aviation resumes are different than those in other industries. It is vital that your hours be clearly visible and reference contact information be actually given. James says this, but I'm going to underline it here so that anyone hunting around the net for pilot resume advice finds it and buys the book.

There were a few things I didn't like, such as James' advice to student pilots out on a solo, "After you've completed the checklist, take some time to explore your local area." Flight instructors recommending this book should censor that part. Also one of the books he recommends is of such poor quality that my local aviation store has dropped it (but they do carry So, You Want to be a Pilot, Eh?).

There are items I wanted to add, such as the possibility of other more stable and lucrative careers in aviation, but that would make it a different book. There's nothing missing within the scope of the book and I was frequently surprised to see excellent but not widely-known tips. And there was even one that I had never heard of, "abstain from sexual activity for a few days" before an aviation medical. Is this folklore or based on some kind of fact? Unless it gets you pregnant, I don't know of any physical changes as the result of sex that persist long enough to drive to the doctor's office. Perhaps this is a male thing, and one of my readers will enlighten me.

I caught a few editing glitches, the military requirement for Basic Officer Training and Foreign Language Training mentioned twice in consecutive paragraphs in the same section, but there is no fluff here. James has a concise style and still fills over two hundred pages with useful information.

This would be a great purchase for the family of a prospective pilot. Amend the cover with a sticker to make the title read "So, Your Kid Wants to be a Pilot, Eh?" and give it to your mom. I would recommend this book not only for Canadians thinking about a flying career, but to student pilots, pilots looking for their first job, and instructors looking to move on. Also if you're a foreign commercial pilot interested in working in Canada, this book contains what you should know about the Canadian industry and process. It's also written simply enough for ESL students, and laid out so you can refer to one part or another, but it's readable and interesting enough to go right through, as I did.

The list price is $24.95 and there's a Buy It Now link on James' website but it seems that the publisher and distributor have changed their links, so go straight to Chapters to buy it online. It's even on sale at $16.46 which equates to about eight minutes of dual instruction time, converted to student pilot dollars.


Blake said...

I *just* picked up this book a few days ago - haven't got past the first 10 pages though. Only due to lack of time though.

I'm curious though... why do you feel strongly about not letting a student on a solo to "explore your local area"?

Aviatrix said...

It's spelled CADOR. If a student does anything on solo that I haven't tasked him to do, then he is no longer soloing under my supervision, but I'm still the one who gets the phone call from Transport Canada when the area he chooses to explore intersects an ILS approach.

James said...

Hi Aviatrix,

Thanks for the review and I'm glad that you enjoyed the book! I also like your idea of keeping track of the current URLs on the blog, I will start doing that.

I definitely respect your opinions and comments. With regards to the advising students to explore the local area, I admit, I probably wasn't thinking like a flight instructor when I wrote that and realise that students can do some pretty silly things.

The reason I wrote that however, was that at the time I was doing my training, instructors would simply say "go do a local north and practice some airwork". I would hear of students(myself included) who would go 'local north' where they were supposed to be(not near any major airports), but not really be productive. It would have been better to get some airwork done prior to just flying around the area we were supposed to be in.

That being said, good students should always do exactly what their instructors tell them ... or at least not do anything stupid. :)

As for the no sex before the medical thing. It is not a common occurence but I have heard one instance of there being left over semen that changed the ph or sugar value of the urine test. It ended up not being a big deal as the person simply submitted a test a day or two later, but it was still an inconvenience. I'm not sure if this would also affect women, but especially for the first medical, it's probably easier to abstain for a day or two and then 'celebrate' once you've had a good visit.


Aviatrix said...

I am so asking the MD about that on my next medical. I will report back!

My students got specific instructions on what to practice and where to practice it, and were expected to fill out their PTRs and tell me how they did.

nec Timide said...

As for the no sex before the medical thing. It is not a common occurence but I have heard one instance of there being left over semen that changed the ph or sugar value of the urine test.

I was also told this can lead to a high result on a protein test. This website doesn't mention that, but does give a female equivalent issue under "how to prepare for the test". The same conversation included an admonition that following the instructions while collecting the sample can prevent those false indications. Unfortunately this, for guys at least, involves some complex endurance calculations, since one often doesn't know at what stage in the medical they will ask for the sample.

nec Timide said...

I also found this study which recommends 12 hours abstinence for men.

Blake said...

Aviatrix. You're right.

I made the assumption that the author meant to explore in the area that you were allowed to go.

Ie, your allowed to Solo to the north practice area. So explore that area. Heck, I did the first time I was solo. Screw upper airwork! I'm flying by my self.

By the way.. This has to be the best CADORs entry ever: 2002Q0757

Aviatrix said...

I know students do it, but no, disregarding your instructions and doing something else is not how to learn to fly. I know it happens. That's why when I send students to practise stalls I also suggest that they practice steep turns or forced approaches, so that if they chicken out of solo stalls they still have something to do.

So when you return from the practice area after not following the directions that your instructor formulated for your stage of training, do you lie and say, "my steep turns were +/- 75' and my slow flight was good except some yaw in the recovery" or do you say, "I didn't feel like doing upper air work so I flew around and looked at cows"?

Blake said...

I still ended up doing upper airwork, but 0.3 of the 0.9 of the flight was airwork.. while the rest was "checking out the cows".

Now that I think about it. I only think I did that once.

My PTR would usually say something similar, but I would neglect to mention the cow spying.

"Steep turns to left better than to right. Will practice right hand turns more often. 2x power off stalls, 3x power on stalls."

Aviatrix said...

Cows look pretty cool from the top, eh?

nec Timide said...

Goofing off upper air work to look at cows is only a teaser. To really check out cows you need a ragwing taildragger. 50kts with the window open you can smell the grass and almost hear the moos.

As I remember, training to PPL is a lot of hard work. Some times you just have to look at the cows.

Dave Starr said...

I certainly enjoyed this post, since it covers two of my fav "hot buttons" about flying.

First, I am delighted at the news of james' book and wish him and anyone else writing in this vien the greatest success. Nearly 60 years ago when I first became interested in flying "pilot" was a popular and reespected career path ... and little boys like me were fequent sights at any airport .. especially grass strips with yellow Cubs in the circuit. Today we have (in my view) all too little enthusiasm or recognition of professional avaiators ... airline pilots or not in the areas of North America that I have frequented. There are groups that promote flying and flying-related careers, but we certainly can do more. Books that lay out the process in easy to understand and useful ways are very much important to the overall effort.

The second related item is the issue of what students (and for that matter, instructors at times) do when unsupervised. I once made a living out of selling commercial GPS tracking systems for ground-based business vehicles. If I were to reneter the world of w*o*r*k (sorry for the unseemly four-letter word) I would definitely consider this market niche instead:
Most accident reports today are hardly less guesswork than hey were 40 years ago ... especially whne thy involve non-air carrier aircraft. In addition to the easy to see safey aspects, look at the efficiency to be gained by not only knowing the the aircraft was not only being operated in a safe manner, but the precise level of airmanship being displayed by the pilot ... student or 'elder eagle". I have no connection or interest in this company, other than I think they are offering one of the most significant improvements in flight instruction tools since dual controls became popular.

MarkT said...

One must descend low enough when looking at cows to determine wind direction properly. However, I wouldn't recommend landing in the same field though... :-)

Aviatrix said...

Following up on my post now, three years later, it's now common for flying schools to have real time GPS data on all their aircraft.