Thursday, January 22, 2009

Showing My Stripes

Now that I've done my obligatory take on the news story of the week, I will think about the new year.

Cockpit Conversation was initially supposed to be a blog focused on me learning things that would help me get a job as an airline pilot. I was going to explain things to hypothetical readers, thereby cementing them in my own mind, and forcing myself to research what I didn't know. It's a bit like practicing instruction by teaching things to your dog. (If you want really rapt attention, emphasize your important points by waving a bit of bacon around). I did that for a while, with you, not the dog. And it turned out I had real readers, not hypothetical ones, and I didn't even have to wave bacon. Then I got a really interesting job and the blog turned into an episodic record of that and subsequent jobs that were supposed to lead to the airline career. Two of the jobs were actually at scheduled carriers, so I was an airline pilot, but the most recent airline made me redundant before I ever got in the airplane. Lately this has turned into a blog about me not getting a job as in airline pilot, which really doesn't fit the theory of blogging in order to focus my mind on what I want, does it?

I like blogging. I especially like having my e-mail box full of interesting, clever and friendly comments from all of you. I'm pretty much addicted to it. I like flying airplanes. I like planning and preparing for flights. I like having contingency plans and solving problems. I like briefing passengers. I don't mind delays as long as I have the feeling that I've done what I could to predict, prevent, and work through them. I even get satisfaction out of doing the paperwork that shows what I intend to do, what I have accomplished, and what went wrong each day. And I like flying through the air, the master of the machine. I'm addicted to that, too.

I took down my mammal lists (my record of how recently I had reminded prospective employers of my availability to fly for them), because they were discouraging. They'd pretty much all said no at one point or another, and I felt like I was beating a dead horse. It was better in the short term to stick my head in the sand and be happy where I was, than to be rejected over and over again. But an ostrich isn't a mammal. Here's a clip of a non-burrowing mammal really fighting the odds, so he doesn't become a dead horse.

He's going to be my inspiration this year. If he can half-drown a lioness that has her teeth in his throat, I can get all the way through the airline interview process and into a jet cockpit. Right?

Another zebra video taken at the San Diego zoo illustrates another remarkable length to which the zebra may go, but I'll leave you to find that one on your own. Warning: it may leave human men feeling inadequate.

True to my New Year's resolution, I did not read the YouTube comments.


flightless bird said...

Glad to hear it and best of luck.

nec Timide said...

Wait, there was bacon?

But seriously, keep on keeping on. You have the world on your side.

dpierce said...

A brilliant use of blogspace. My friends & I use each other as a sounding board to explain and re-explain our craft, theories, doctrine, and dogma exactly for that cementing purpose, or perhaps to explore the validity of our assumptions in a sort of self-Socratic debate. And sometimes to cure insomnia.

As a professional pilot, this is surely an invaluable tool whether you're planning for an interview or striving to perfect what you do today.

But I'll remember the bacon ploy when eyes start to glaze ...

Me said...

Now I want bacon. I'm off for breakfast.

zb said...

Sorry I have to disagree on the bacon issue. It's there, very much so.

It's the storytelling. No one would read and enjoy this if it was just some nerd's technical stories. No one would read and enjoy this if it was just some heroic blah-blah about how cool it is to fly planes. The technical and the cool is there, but this is special for other reasons like humor, fun language and the look beyond the main topics of flying. So there is actually plenty of bacon fur us readers. It's even premium grade bacon from sustained and organic farming and everything.

Least I can say in appreciation of getting your stories for free.

(Here's me writing a youtube comment into your very blog: That zebra in San Diego is one happy zebra -- but envy? No. Or maybe, yes, but not because I would enjoy having to drag that biggie around -- only because I finally would have an argument to really shut up every single e-mail spammer forever.)

Daniel Villava von der Heyde said...

Hi Aviatrix, I've read all your blogs. Yep, all of them. As many say, your blog is very good. I specially like your technical details you write in the blog. Like the PT6-A description. If I can learn more things, no doubt I can learn them here. I'm a private pilot (in Mexico) and I'm looking forward to continue my licences in Germany.

Good luck with your future interviews! Hope you'll be flying a nice jet over the canadian skies ;)

Callsign Echo said...

Good for you girl! I used my blog in the exact same way, beginning with the early stages of my flight training. I was actually inspired by the tennis journal my coach made me keep. It helped immensely and still does, especially when I get encouraging and witty commentary from readers.

My aerodynamics professor said, "Never, ever, ever give up. Never let go. Fly that thing all the way to the scene of the crash."

I think that's what it comes down to in the end. That's what really separates pilots from the rest of the world. We saw what we wanted and we refused to give up.

Hang in there. You'll get your airline slot.

Flying Europe said...

Nice entry. You seem to be good on self reflection. The horse comparisan is a bit dramatic though. What do you think is the reason you're not yet in an airliner cockpit? Supply and demand as in too many applicants, too litle jobs? Your network? Or something totally different?

Don't know about Canada but here in Europe networking for the "prime" airlines is useless. You can know the ceo and it won't help you. Passing resumes on and knowing somebody helps at the smaller outfits or at the biz jet operators.

Say you apply for AC or Jazz etc.. would they invite one for their assessment process or is the market that saturated already?

Not knowing you personally I can only tell you that if you fly half as good as you write you will get whatever you want aviation wise at some point, for sure!


Sarah said...

@ nec Timide .. yes, there was bacon. (Six degrees of) Kevin Bacon.

Definitely a new year post! I admire your clear view of what you want and the determination to get there. However, you needn't be as committed as the bacon is to breakfast ( as opposed to the chicken's egg ). I'm trying to say it won't kill you if you don't get in a jet this year, or next, or even next. It sounds like you're having a grand time as it is. But you *will* get there if you keep at it, and like CallsignEcho says, never, ever, ever give up. Hang in there and don't be discouraged. Your vast audience is pulling for you.

I've wondered why people blog. Many reasons, I guess, ranging from saucy anonymous facebook "diaries" to dry professional advertising ala linkedin.... Yours is fun because there are both informative/instructional posts, and "here's the cool place I'm in now" posts. Thanks for writing, whatever the reason. If I had more to say, I'd blog. So I just fill comment boxes.

Best wishes for '09

Aviatrix said...

What do you think is the reason you're not yet in an airliner cockpit? Supply and demand as in too many applicants, too little jobs? Your network? Or something totally different?

Networking is a big reason. Interviewers always ask who I know at the airline. I probably know plenty of people, but I'm not good at keeping track of who I know where. I've noticed that I spend far more energy helping people below me on the aviation food chain than soliciting help from those above me, even though I know from experience that giving that help is not a burden. Westjet requires internal references. Air Canada doesn't overtly, but there has to be a reason why so many AC pilot's kids get jobs there. Most airlines lean pretty heavily on someone vouching for an applicant. Supply and demand plays a part, of course, but there is always some demand. And my timing has been bad: the longer I go without progressing in my career, the more it looks like there must be something wrong with me.