Thursday, March 19, 2009

From the Flight Deck

You all know that I am a commercial pilot who would like to be an airline pilot. So, you would probably guess that when an airline in-flight magazine has a column written by one of the pilots, I read it with a mixture of admiration and ambition, imagining that I could be doing that someday. That's half the reason they put that column in there, isn't it? Almost everyone wants to talk to the pilot, to be reassured that he or she seems competent and caring, or just to get a touch of that stardust that makes these huge airplanes fly. For me the column counts double, because not only do I want to be the one flying the plane, I'm already one of those doing the writing. I love to write and to explain my job to people.

On Air Canada, my country's flag carrier, the pilot who writes the From the Flight Deck column is Captain Doug Morris. The other day, completely out of the blue, I received e-mail from Doug Morris. Not just any old e-mail, but e-mail thanking me for the piloting resources I put on the Internet. I was ten feet tall for the rest of the day. It's comparable to a struggling writer getting e-mail from Margaret Atwood. (Or perhaps from John Irving, to put that in American translation). So of course I wrote back, and he wrote back, etcetera. Captain Morris shares my interest not only in flying and in writing about aviation, but about aviation weather. He even has a degree in meteorology. (I'm self-taught). As many of you who have started private e-mail conversations with me know, it ends in us telling each other stories. Doug tells good stories.

He has recently published a book which is a compilation of his From the Flight Deck columns. Sample his style on his blog where he posts some of his magazine columns. It's a real blog though, including not-published-elsewhere original entries such as this detailed account of his latest recurrent sim training. You have to be able to take off in the sim, knowing that all manner of things are going to go wrong and that you will handle them correctly in order to keep your job. That demonstrates your ability to take off in real life, never knowing what might go wrong, and being able to handle that correctly so you and your passengers can stay alive.

En route now uses a question and answer format for the From the Flight Deck column, so Doug is currently soliciting questions to use in a similar context on his blog. I suggest you click over there and ask your airline flying questions now, before he has too many to answer. I expect that fans of my blog or of Dave's Flight Level 390 will make From the Flight Deck a regular read.


Lawrence Musci said...

Thanks for the link... Ill be sure to check it out.
Wanna talk about weather? Id like to hear your side of this story. I was working baggage claim today, and helped this girl who had a damaged bag. She was scheduled to take off form a Texas (IAH) airport yesterday morning at 0600, but her flight was delayed SIX hours because of FOG. She then was rerouted to several different cities, had an unexpected change of airlines, and even had to be rebooked because a mechanical, a hydraulic failure luckley on the ground.. She finally got to her destination eight hours late.
Did you have to deal with this fog?

jinksto said...

I love that blog and have it on my reading list but I find it less involving than some others.

That's not criticism really. He has a different audience and does a truly fantastic job of writing for that audience.

For those of us that know a little something about the topics I'm sometimes surprised by his answers to questions and find myself asking, "why did he answer that question in that way." With a little thought I can usually figure out why he chose to answer something with a particular wording. He has a responsibility to get the information out there correctly while maintaining the safety and security of his airplane... that sometimes translates into less detail in answering a question.

I think you have the harder job, really. Your readers are both pilots and non-pilots so you have to keep it simple enough for the non-pilots and technical enough to keep the pilots interested. And your readers can be grumpy sometimes... and stodgy... and a little nit-picky... don't you just love us?

Anonymous said...

I read his book, funnily enouigh while traveling on a VIA rail train. It's a great read for newbs and experts alike. It does give a good understanding of what goes on behind the bulletproof door. Agreed with the others here though that we like having the nitty gritty details, the stuff that might scare an average passenger away.

Aviatrix said...

No, Lawrence, fortunately I was not working in that fog, but I know how it goes. It's extremely common for a forecast to call for the fog to lift at 8 a.m. but persist all day. I've known fog to close an airport to traffic without advanced landing instrumentation for weeks.

Yes, jinksto, most decidedly, I love you ALL! I wish I could send you all yummy cake through the internet.

dpierce said...

I got started reading your blog with a bunch of USAF friends considering careers beyond the Department of Defense. Thus, the perspective of the "daily life of a pilot" was more interesting than the hands-on knobs and switches stuff (although that's great, too).

Anyway, sitting around on remote and unfamiliar airfields, dealing with broken airplanes, waiting on customers and WX, organizing flight plans to parts unknown, and making the decision to compromise with pizza or seek better food at 0300 is essentially indistinguishable from the life of a tactical airlifter! If you only flew formation, you might as well go ahead and put on the uniform.