Monday, January 30, 2023

Hiring Again

I've discovered a fantastic interview question.  "Tell me about a time you had to use all your piloting skill to succeed." The answers show me how a pilot thinks about their own limits, what they consider piloting skills to be, what they understand about their aircraft, weather, or whatever the situation was, and a surprising number of times it results in the pilot telling on themselves about how they violated the regulations, and how they feel about that. They just hop into hangar flying mode and pull out a favourite "there I was" story.

There are two things a pilot can learn from making dumb decisions and getting into trouble. Some of them learn that the regulations are there for a reason, and it's better to follow them. And some of them learn that they didn't die the first time, so it's a viable choice. Their stories tell me about that.

And one I interviewed told a marvellous story, that right up until almost the end was almost the same as this joke. (The joke is older than the Internet, but I took this retelling from here).

A bush-pilot drops Bob and Ted, two moose hunters, at a remote lake in Northern Ontario. He tells them that he’ll be back in a week, and warns them that his plane won’t be able to take off with more than one moose.

The next week he returns, and sure enough, the hunters have bagged two moose. The pilot tells them there’s no way they can take off with the two moose. Ted says, “I don’t know, the pilot last year took off with two moose.” To which Bob adds, “Yeah, but maybe he wasn’t a total coward!”

Not wanting to be outdone, the pilot loads up everything and they start to move down the lake. The plane is gathering speed, but the pines on the shore are rapidly approaching. Finally, the plane gets airborne, but one wing clips the top of a tree. The plane spins, crashes into the trees, and breaks apart.

Sometime later Ted regains consciousness and begins searching for his buddy. He finds him, and when he wakes him up Bob asks, “Do you have any idea where we are?” Ted replies, “I think about 200 yards further than last year."

The candidate talked about how insistent the customers were, about how out at the lake there is no actual scale to weigh the cargo. You just have to go by look and feel. He talked about the wind, and the conditions and the geography. I was in suspense. Was he really going to tell me how hard it was to pull that Beaver off the water and then get enough speed in ground effect to clear the trees? Was he going to tell me how many Gs he pulled to avoid the hills, and how he recovered from the ensuing stall?

And then he demonstrated a vastly underrated piloting skill, but one that has kept me alive all these years and that I insist on in my pilots. He said no. The hunting bounty would have to come out in multiple loads. A pilot has to be able to do that.

Friday, January 20, 2023

The Most Jawdropping Resume This Week

Apparently the time when I build up the most blogging manifold pressure is when we're interviewing and training. Because here I am again, with a story I can't not share. It's the worst resume format I have ever seen. 

The resume content itself is, I suppose, not that bad. It conforms to a new trend I am seeing where a pilot with no experience cites their flight training as if it were employment. I received a different resume where a pilot who listed "198.6h" of flight experience (you need 200h even hold a commercial aeroplane licence in Canada) laid claim to "three years of flight training experience."  Yup, it took the guy three years to get his licence, so he listed that in the same words as would someone who had spent three years training other people to fly.  I've seen a candidate's own flight training listed on his resume with little point form duties and responsibilities, like checked NOTAMs and calculated weight and balance.

Pilots, your prospective employer understands the flight training syllabus. Tell us where you learned to fly if you like, but one line will do. We've either heard of it and have an opinion, or haven't and either don't care or can google. (I did that for one candidate and the year he said he got his commercial licence was earlier than the year the school listed him on their site as a PPL alumni. It was fishy. I didn't call that guy). So there was some of that, and perhaps half as much actual flight time as I was asking for, and no operational multi-engine experience, but everyone has to start somewhere.

But what was it that led me back to this resume to stare at it in horror again and again? Was it the font? It wasn't Comic Sans. It was a condensed serif font with a lot of ligatures, not the best for clarity of reading, but I've seen worse. Hmm, sudden thought, it might not be a bad idea to use the font the company uses on the readable parts of their own website. It might make them feel like you're one of them. Or perhaps they have a terrible website, or the flight department hates the website that marketing made. I would not have given a second thought to this candidate's suboptimal font choice had it not been for the standout thing.

Ok, the resume wasn't in concrete poetry, with the text shaped into an airplane or something. I've never seen that. And the actual content formatting was pretty standard, with the flight time summary correctly at the top, and headings for qualifications and work experience and so on. It ran to two pages, which is unnecessary for someone who has only held one aviation job, and the two pages were separate documents.  Usually the two documents attached to the e-mail from an applicant are resume plus cover letter, but whatever. And then as I moved the two pages side by side on my screen I saw that they were jpegs. He sent his resume as two jpegs.  But there's more. The jpegs were named not "resume1" and "resume2."  That would be the ordinary level of poor file naming. Put your own name in the file name, and make it the same name you have on your resume. 

I get that you don't use the entire name your parents gave you every day, and that you may go by a nickname or a name that is easier for English-speakers to spell and pronounce than your passport name. I appreciate that if you have an name that is uncommon in Canada, or was when your prospective employer was learning about the world, that is a move you may feel obliged to make for social and business ease. Just put the same form of name on all your documents and on your e-mail so we can match them up.

When you send anyone a file or e-mail, think about the types of files they receive. If you're e-mailing a company that only installs air conditioners, a subject line of Air Conditioner is kind of useless. How about Request AC Quote for 1000 sq ft home.  A great pilot e-mail subject for a job application is Pilot 2000 TT 1000 ME PIC.  Especially if that meets the requirements of the position. If the chief pilot was going to delete your e-mail unread because the subject line was CPL 204TT, do you think making her open the e-mail and look at your resume to see that you are straight out of flight school will make you more appealing? It does not.

Also don't wait to the end of the resume to put your hours, the way I'm putting the weirdest thing about this resume at the end of this rant. Here it is: the names of the files were similar to Screenshot_20221227-12765_Chrome.jpg. The guy typed in his resume details, made it all nice the way he wanted with his favourite font, then took a screenshot of each page and saved them as jpegs. And sent them to me. I think you'd have had to write your resume on a taco to top that.

I did not follow up.

We all have to learn. I believe the first resume I ever handed in was handwritten on purple notepaper while I was on the bus on the way to the interview.  And I got the job. Those were different times. And it was a non-aviation job that involved wearing a funny hat. I wore it with panache.

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.