Saturday, May 25, 2024

Thinking in Blog

Here I am again, closer to the tropopause than to the surface of the Earth, somewhere between the Rocky Mountains and the Canadian Shield, where I have spent so many hours of my life. I don’t remember precisely why, for this particular mission. I’m not even sure how I got here from where I started this blog. It’s always alike, but never the same. Sometimes the heater works and only our toes are cold, because the frigid air of the flight levels blasts in through the gaps in the unpressurized airplane. Sometimes the heater refuses to work at all, and the cold seeps slowly  through the layers of coats and long johns into our flesh. 

The engines stay warm. The original manufacturer’s engine gauges wore out years ago, and have been replaced with what looks like an iPad fused to the dashboard, sparkling with digital readouts about our fuel, our oil, our cylinders and our exhaust gas temperatures. They’re only as good as the sensors and the software, which means that most of the time when the screen flashes an urgent warning, it means that some sensor has slipped out of alignment.

 I’ve found myself “thinking in blog” a lot lately. I reduce power for descent into a familiar or unfamiliar airport, on the way to supper on the way to bed on the way to getting up in the morning and flying some more, and I see it as I would describe it to you. This day it’s a familiar place, although there are more hotels and strip malls than there used to be. It’s a stop on the highway, the westbound and eastbound lanes separated by a couple of blocks, and most of the town along and between them. As I wait for the light to cross the highway, I notice a jewellery store on the corner of the main street, founded there so long ago that if a couple bought their wedding rings there the day it opened, and they and each successive generation had kids at twenty, their great-great-grandchild could be there shopping for a wedding ring today. I know that’s nothing in some countries. There’s probably a reader who lives down the street from the goldsmith who made the crowns for the kings of Saxony, but here on the edge of the Canadian prairies it is a long time. The whole street has a time stood still kind of feeling. There’s a stationery store that is also a Radio Shack, or at least that’s what the sign says. Kids are hawking free hot dogs outside The Brick, a furniture store. A drugstore, now part of a chain, still has its antique sign up. We go to a sushi restaurant, because our first choice restaurant is closed: too late for lunch, too early for dinner. That’s the way it often is in our trade. 

I didn’t blog that day, because once I had done the post flight paperwork, caught up on all the email, and prepared for the next day, I was consumed with management duties until bedtime. I thought wistfully of the blog as I have on so many days, and took a few notes, so I could share with you later. It took me a week of stolen moments, moments when I could have been mentoring pilots, updating training records, revising checklists, or writing policies to get this much written. I'll keep trying.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Pilot Job Hunting Advice

I didn't send this, because it might be kind of inappropriate, and on closer inspection someone else on my team had followed up, and the candidate either ghosted us or turned out to be unsuitable after all. But someone needs to hear it.

Dear Pilot Whose Application I Just Found Unread In My Old E-Mail,

It’s unlikely that you’re still looking for a pilot position with us, but I thought I’d follow up, as you are qualified.  We currently have all the pilots we think we need, but that can change rapidly. If you are still interested in the position let me know and I will keep your resume to call when we need someone.

 A tip for the success of your career going forward: when a company is advertising for pilots, they are busy with flying and inundated with resumes from 200h pilots.  Stand out by including your TT or possession of a relevant PPC on the subject line, or at least in the email body. When you know you are qualified for a position, and hear nothing, it’s worth a follow up.  I completely missed seeing your resume six months ago when I needed to meet you, and I expect I missed out on a couple of jobs in my own career by not following up. No answer can mean no time and not no interest.

I’m writing this knowing there is a decent chance you’re currently flying for Air Canada, and need no career advice of this sort, but it’s likely it would have got you this job six months ago.

The email subject of his application was the title of the job posting, and the body merely:

Dear Madam or Sir,

My name is [redacted]. I found your job advert on the [website] for [position]. Enclosed you will find my resume for the position. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

Thank you for your time and consideration

Best Regards

Don't be this bland.  At the time I was working 14-hour days, doing the work of the two pilots I needed to hire, and skimming my email in cabs. I honestly don't know if I saw it at all, but nothing about this e-mail suggested that he was experienced and fully qualified.

Saturday, September 02, 2023

Am I Breathing?

We work in unpressurized aircraft, often at high altitude, wearing oxygen masks.  Hypoxia is a risk, and one of the symptoms of hypoxia is euphoria, the feeling that everything is fantastic. To mitigate this, crew members test O2 levels regularly and report them to each other as a sanity check. The saturation, given as a percentage should be enough to get an A on a test, so 87 and up. If someone gets a B, they have to check their equipment and retest in a few minutes.

Before the pandemic, I stocked the planes with pulse oximeters, within reach of each crewmember, and then had to test them monthly and change batteries, because apparently that's something pilots can't do at the end of their flight. After a few years, a couple of them were held together with duct tape because the battery covers wouldn't stay on. So I ordered some more. And they were terrible. I have a box on my desk labelled "pulse oximeter graveyard" where I toss the ones with dead displays, broken springs, pilot-reported terribly inaccurate readings and the like. 

During the pandemic, everyone around the world wanted a pulse oximeter and manufacturers churned out millions of barely functional ones with no durability.  Or expensive hospital grade ones with bluetooth and recording functions I don't need or want.  So I keep ordering a few of a new kind, hoping they will be better.  I laugh because some of them advertise, "no struggling to change batteries, easy-open battery compartment." Documenting those battery covers that won't stay on to make them into a feature. (That's the difference, my programmer friends tell me, between a bug and a feature. The latter is documented in the user manual).

This baffled me, though:

I understand that trade regulations and taxation policies might forbid shipping some things, but what could be MORE digital than an electronic device that has a digital read out, and into which you insert a digit of your hand?  Also, I logged into the company account, which is on the Canadian site, so how did I even get here.  And it's 29 degrees in the office, so I'm going home before I melt into a puddle.