Thursday, February 17, 2022

Underlying Factors

I'm re-reading the TSB Report on an air crash at Fond-du-Lac, in preparation for another class I'm teaching. At every step of the recounting, pilots who have never worked in the north will be crying, "What?" and "No!" while pilots who have may nod their heads with understanding. 

When I got to this sentence ...

Early in this investigation, it became clear that more information was needed to determine whether the underlying factors identified in this occurrence were present elsewhere in the Canadian commercial aviation industry.

... I said out loud, "Where have you been?" How can someone be working in accident investigation in Canada and need any more information in order to know that the underlying factors in that accident are omnipresent across the land? 

The summary refers to "the inadequacy of de-icing equipment or services at these locations."  Inadequacy doesn't begin to describe it. You'd be lucky to get potable water at Fond-du-Lac. They say, like it makes any difference:

There are many defences in place to ensure the clean aircraft concept is followed, such as regulations, company operating manuals, and standard operating procedures. However, all of these defences rely singularly on flight crew compliance.
And sure, that captain could have picked up that cell phone and called company to tell them there was too much ice on the plane and he was not departing. How would that have worked out for him? Well, probably better than the serious back injuries he received in the crash. That sentence should finish, "... defences rely singularly on flight crew ability to defy company expectations." No, the company doesn't expect crews to fly with iced up aircraft. They just expect you to fly, and don't want to hear about the difficulties.

I think five to ten percent of my training in anything is assuring pilots that I really want them to follow the regulations, the company operating manual, and the SOPs, that they won't get in trouble for cancelling a flight if the conditions aren't right, or for grounding an airplane with a snag. By the time I get them, and I'm by no means at the top of the aviation food chain, the industry has already taught pilots that there is one set of rules for the classroom and another set for the skies. I have to beat it out of them. And myself.

Saturday, February 05, 2022

Missing? Search Again!

 As well as training pilots, I train flight followers, the people responsible for, in the words of the legislation ...

CARS 722.12 (2) Flight Following

Flight Following for a Type D system is the monitoring of a flight's progress and the notification of appropriate air operator and search and rescue authorities if the flight is overdue or missing.

Naturally if I train people to notify the authorities when a flight is missing, they have to know what that means, so I looked it up. First hit was on Wikipedia ...

According to Annex 13 of the International Civil Aviation Organization, an aircraft is considered to be missing "when the official search has been terminated and the wreckage has not been located"

That doesn't make any sense, but it wouldn't be the first time Wikipedia was wrong or that Canada had a different definition than the international one. I find a Transport Canada source.

Advisory Circular (AC) No. 100-001 Subject: Glossary for Pilots and Air Traffic Services Personnel

An aircraft is considered to be missing when the official search has been terminated and the wreckage has not been located.

So, according to Transport Canada, I am to train the flight followers to report an overdue aircraft promptly to SAR, and then, weeks later when the search and rescue experts have failed to locate the aircraft and advise that they are discontinuing the search, to report the missing aircraft once again to SAR. At least I won't have to look very hard for relevant humour to spice up this part of the instruction.

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Not Always the Best

 I am busy preparing training, as I always seem to be these days, but something in the regs made me giggle:

"A pilot who accepts an aircraft with defects, the repair of which has been deferred in accordance with an approved system, has a good defence against any possible charge of flying an unairworthy aircraft, whereas a pilot who undertakes a flight with an aircraft that is not in compliance with the approved system commits an offence."

So what they are saying is that a good offence is not always the best defence. Or perhaps this would be a bad offence.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

SOP development, COM revision, Training Plan, Filing or Sleep?

I have to do one of the things in the title of this post. Actually all of them, but mostly one at a time, and blogging isn't in that list. But I want you to know that I am well, and think of many of you readers whenever I draw on my years ago experience to make decisions, or just to tell stories. Having told many of them once to you helps me remember them. While I am typing this, someone is trying to discuss an accident report, for a flight that departed an aerodrome where I worked. Maybe things have changed there, but things don't change fast in the north. Probably no one has moved that former crew truck, still rusting on its rims. Maybe the other antler has fallen off the moose rack. I know the utter lack of resources they must have had there, and the pressures they would have been under, and I'm glad I don't work in those conditions.

I had a conversation recently about how people operating single-pilot have to hold themselves accountable. In a two-pilot operation the captain has to set a good example for the FO, so as not to have a witness to poor behaviour, while the FO has to exhibit good behaviour or get backhanded by the captain. Working alone in the cockpit we have to be both the captain and the FO. Evidence shows that a decision made in a team tends to be riskier than one made by an individual, because even though the responsibility rests with the team leader, there is a shared feeling of "If this were really a bad idea, someone would speak up." As pilots we have to let the voice in our heads that wants to speak up for safety overrule the one that wants to get home or keep to the schedule.

I'm glad you have come through the pandemic well enough to read this. I am well and strong, and touched that you still check in now and again. Maybe I'll retire and catch up with the blog.  Do people still blog? And let me know if you know about that moose rack. Going to sleep now.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

How to Get Your Pilot Resume in the Wrong Pile

My company is hiring. Not a lot of aviation companies are right now. I'm seeing a lot of resumes. Far too many to honestly evaluate every individual one.  I understand better than I used to the value of having  a friend walk your resume in.  But I recommend you apply through the regular channel as well. Somewhere in my office there is a pile of walked-in resumes that I'm not looking at, because I'm working from home, and back when I accepted them, the choice of pilots was not so great.

Now, faced with an inbox full of resumes, I am almost looking for a reason to throw yours aside. Here, let me help you find a job, and some other chief pilot not have to look at your terrible application. Here are some reasons I have hit the delete key:

  • not even close to the published job requirements

You're just annoying when you do this. I sometimes want to hit reply and ask the candidate why he is wasting my time. Don't apply blindly to every job.  If there's a job you really want when you have enough time, write that chief pilot a letter when they aren't hiring and tell them that's your ambition, that you don't yet have their requirements, but you're working on it.  If they give you advice, thank them, take it, and write back again later to thank them for how the advice worked out.  I've got a job that way, lacking the required time.

  • misspell the name of the company you're applying to

This one is most amusing when coupled with resume claims about your attention to detail. If you really have attention to detail you'll find out how that company likes its name capitalized, and whether they routinely use the Co. or the Inc. If the name is difficult and you copy paste it into to your cover letter, ensure the font and typeface match, so it doesn't look like a Reader's Digest Sweepstakes mailout from the 1980s.

  • don't include your types flown with your jobs on the resume
Listing all the types you've flown at the top of the resume doesn't do it for me. It's not a minus, but I assume it's a full on listing of everything you have in your logbook, not the aircraft you have worked as a pilot on for six months or more. I don't really care about that one time you ferried a Twin Comanche from Swift Current to Moose Jaw or when your friend gave you some stick time in his Yak-52. Okay, the Yak-52 is pretty cool and I might ask you about it at the interview, but you're unlikely to get the interview if I'm not seeing a progression of aircraft types flown commercially at various companies. Yes, I probably know what aircraft many of those companies operate, but don't make me guess which ones you were flying when.
  • list yourself as 'pilot' on two crew aircraft
I'm left wondering, are you saying 'pilot' the way a first officer does in the bar to try to sound more impressive to a pick-up target, or are you saying it the way a news reporter does, referring to the captain, because they think the first officer is not actually a pilot?  Either way it doesn't speak to CRM or a desire to communicate clearly. If you upgraded during your tenure, list yourself as captain, and if you were simultaneously captain on one type and FO on another, list both positions. If you flew a type normally operated two-crew, note that you were single-pilot.
  • make me hunt for your hours flown

If you're hiding them, they're probably insufficient. If you don't put them on at all why are we here?

  •  include the decimals in your hours

That was adorable when you soloed at 10.3 hours but stops once you're looking for a job.

  • fail to follow the instructions given in the job ad

If I hire you. I will be giving you instructions.  Consider the application to be a short test of whether you are willing and able to follow instructions. 

  • phone me, phone my colleagues, or physically visit the office

Someone did the last, repeatedly, during a pandemic. 

  • omit contact information
It's unfair, perhaps, but while I don't want you to contact me by any means than that specified in the job ad, I want to be able to contact you.  Put your current phone number, a respectable-looking e-mail address you monitor, and at least a city, on your resume and cover letter. Tip: if there is an address in the same area as the employer where you can receive mail, list it on your resume and cover letter. We started our search with candidates with local ties. I probably bypassed local folks because their telephone area codes reflected the province or territory where they last worked and not where they are today.
  • use the same cover letter for all employers

I understand there are employers who don't care about cover letters, but I expect the candidate to do some of the work for me there. Rather than me combing through the resume looking for the bits relevant to me, the competent applicant highlights the aspects of their resume that are most relevant to the job, showing how they match each job requirement. The really savvy applicant matches the tone of the letter to that of the ad, brings in more information that shows they know the company, and persuades me they want this job especially.  A cover letter applying for a job that doesn't match mine tells me the applicant doesn't want the job I'm hiring for.

  • waste any time applying
The first resume into my inbox got an interview. The person did also meet all the criteria, with a fantastic cover letter, so it's possible they would have got the interview anyway. But after three days I had so many applications that I took down the ad and a day or so later started filtering subsequent applications into a Late folder that I'm not sure I've ever opened. This is totally unfair, as I did not put an application deadline on the ad, but I can only look at so many resumes. While many of the points above are somewhat mocking, this one is just a reality of today's pilot job market. 

Not all employers are going to agree with all of these, so if you hire pilots and like what I hate, feel free to say so in the comments. I started off this post blowing off steam, but there are so many really good candidates out there, I don't want them to blow a chance with a poor first impression.

Good luck out there. I might follow up with some strategies I saw on winning resumes and cover letter, or what made us think yes and no during interviews.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

EFB Forever

Nav Canada has just discontinued the issuance of paper approach plates, the little diagrams telling pilots the safe and legal way to arrive at runways in bad weather. They used to come out every 56 days, but the last ones expired about a month ago. You may recall -- if you have a really good memory -- previous posts I have made comparing the utility and reliability of paper and electronic charts. My opinion on this matters no more. Every operator in Canada must convert to an electronic form. I have been wondering every fifty-six days since I started this process how many operators neglected to read the little yellow insert in the Nav Canada publications box warning us of the end, and who are only this month finding out that they have to convert. And no, Transport Canada doesn't let us just pick up an iPad and go. The company operations manual has to give painful detail on how the hardware and software will be administered. My manuals aren't quite as interesting as my blog posts, although these days they are issued far more frequently.

This sentence from my Company Operations Manual perhaps gives you a tiny taste.

While the EFB cannot mimic the ability of paper charts and books to serve as tinder in a remote survival situation, its battery can instead provide ignition for locally sourced kindling.

The section on RNAV operations also contains the phrase "pilots shall not blindly follow the magic pink line" which I put in as a placeholder while writing the manual, but I got busy flying and someone else finished it up, apparently not being able to tell the difference between me putting down random thoughts while thinking of what to write, and me actually writing. Not that surprising, really.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Callout Fee

The following is an e-mail I sent to accounting, with only the obvious redactions:
At Mustelid Falls the last couple of weeks we have been buying fuel at a place that officially closes at 6 p.m. but we kept getting the fueller to stay late or come back and fuel us later.  There was no formal callout  procedure, so she didn’t have a way to add a fee to the fuel bill, so I gave her some cash, the cheapest callout fee ever, really, less than $10 a day but it made the difference between treating someone badly and having them feel respected.
This is only about the third sketchiest receipt I’ve ever submitted at Our Company, and it probably allowed us to bill several more hours to Customer Company than we would otherwise, so well worth it.

You’ll see the expense form on your desk.
Said expense form was accompanied by a receipt handwritten by me with a sharpie, on the back of a company form, and signed by the long-suffering fueller, on top of the pumps. She was a maintenance apprentice who hadn't known that her job was going to involve fuelling airplanes.  When I found out that she wasn't getting paid any extra for it, I peeled off some twenties. This was all in the before-times, pre-COVID-19. I found the e-mail while looking for something else, and decided to share it with you.

The sketchiest ever was either a fuel receipt for over $800 cash, written on a Super-8 scratchpad by the third-in-command of the local flying club, or any of a number totally formal government liquor store receipts for cases of beer that the accountant has to take my word for that I've exchanged for goods or services.