A blog reader who flies a Citation XL is going to be in the next town over, and we've made a date for me to meet him at the FBO there at 10:30. As soon as that was confirmed, I received an e-mail asking me if I'm available for an interview, at the same airport, "late morning." The request acknowledges that it's short notice and assures me another time would be fine, but I figure a job interview is a chance for me to show my willingness and flexibility as well as my knowledge and personality. Yet I spend so much of my life ditching my friends for work that I don't want to just cancel the other meeting so I suggest earlier.
"Would nine a.m. be alright? That's late morning for a pilot," I joke.
Nine it is. I'll spare my mainly male audience the "what do I wear to a casual interview for what will be a fairly casual job just before going out to meet a friend?" agonizing and affirm that I put on clothes and drove out there. This is the "Facebook job."
The working conditions are good, the pay okay, the company small but professional, the aircraft well-serviced and the work within my capabilities. I think I will be offered the job. And I think I would take it. But I have to check out the other possibility, too.
I head over to the FBO. I'm a bit early, and I know my friend has to land, clear customs, look after the passengers, and complete all his postflight duties. An FBO is like an airport terminal, but for private aircraft, so (so far, thankfully) there's no security screening or ticket counters, just a lounge with big windows and a counter behind which sit people who will sell you fuel, rent you a car or help you provide services to your passengers. I walk up to the counter and talk to the guy there. He's a retired flight engineer, doing fuelling, towing airplanes and chatting to people like me. I tell him I'm waiting for someone, and recite the tail number. He looks the flight up on Flight Aware and notes that it's just a few minutes away. He laughs that I know the aircraft ident. He says a lot of people show up here to meet a flight not knowing even the aircraft type or point of origin.
We see my friend's airplane (of course it's my friend's boss's airplane) land and then it taxies past to go to customs. They get held up at customs for a while but eventually come back to the FBO and after my friend sorts out an appropriate rental vehicle (a Canadian "full-sized" car isn't big enough for four men and bags) for his passengers. I get a quick tour of the airplane then help him and his FO put in brand new engine plugs. Brand new. The pilots have no more experience using these things than I do. I did had this exact same experience last winter when the boss bought shiny new monogrammed (okay not technically monogrammed, but with the aircraft ident on, just like these) wing covers and engine plugs. These ones fit oddly. The FO announces he's done the other side, then realizes that the ribbon streamer on his is marked "LEFT". We're on the left side. And ours is marked RIGHT. We just assumed the streamer said REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT. We swap sides and they fit better.
Someday I'll stop being amused by the way aviation experiences are more the same than different despite radically different operations. They have the same plastic bin in the rear cargo space I had on my last job, and the same products in it: leather wipes, Mr. Clean Eraser, Febreeze and other products for keeping the airplane shipshape. Before we leave, the captain disconnects the aircraft battery. The airplane is only going to be parked for four days. I've left an airplane for months before with the battery connected, but not this sort. Apparently it's a weakness of this type: so many services on the hot battery bus that parking it for a few days can drain the battery.
This is the point at which I should have a fabulous restaurant recommendation, stuff the three of us into my definitely not full-sized car and go find it. But I'm uninspired so we just walk to one on the airport. It's more about people than food, anyway.
I enjoyed meaning the captain reader friend. He too was recently unemployed, when his previous jet charter company stopped operating. He was assigned to take a company jet to Wichita for refurbishing by Cessna for its new owner, and ended up working for the new owner.
He's actualy originally from Canada, with more northern piston time than I have. He tells me that when his first American co-workers found out how much time he had, they thought he must be an idiot. U.S. career progression is different. The newly PPCed copilot on this jet, for example went straight from flight instruction to jets. He knows how lucky he is, though.
My new friend gave me a book, which I'll read and report on later. It's a novel and he says it was a favourite of his years ago, but he hasn't reread it lately. It's foolproof though, he tell me, because either I will read it and enjoy it or I will read it and say "I could write a better aviation novel than this!" and then I will.
The end of the day brings encouraging e-mail from both potential employers. Even after all the times employers have led me on, I feel like two-timing scum talking to both of them.