Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Competent or not?

Here's a great question from follower whywhyzed regarding staying current.

At AC is there a minimum number of takeoffs and landings you guys have to do in a month? A guy I know is a long-haul pilot at AC and there are some months where he only does 2 trips (eg YYZ-HKG-YYZ x 2 = approx 66hrs) and since the Capt and F/O take turns on the legs, this means he gets to land the plane twice in a month. In other words ...."we hardly ever get to land this thing".... I was thinking since practice makes perfect, how does this make any sense from a safety point of view? Compare that to the domestic 'shuttle' flying some do where you might do several landings just in one day.

Staying current on the long haul fleet is a work out. Here's the gospel according to our FOM (Flight Operations Manual)

The Fleet Manager, at his discretion, will authorize a pilot to operate a flight, provided the pilot has completed one of the following:

• 3 takeoffs and landings and 1 sector within the previous 90

• 5 sectors, within the previous 90 days; or

Note: Sectors flown by a Captain or First Officer assigned to a
flight as an Operational Relief Pilot or augment pilot do not
count towards the sector requirements stated

• Provided recency had not lapsed when completed, the completion of recurrent/CQ training (i.e. MT/LOFY, MTV/LOE or IPF/PPC) within the previous 90 days

In a nut shell, one has to log three take off and landings each 90 days (three months). Easier said than done. That's one of the discussions the long haul crews talk about when they first meet for the flight. Who needs a "take off and landing?" Sometimes a pilot is reluctant to give up his chance to fly the airplane, because after all, it's what we signed up for.

Things got really complicated when Transport Canada mandated in order to stay qualified on the A340 we also had to fly the A330 within 90 days. But for the YVR (Vancouver) based pilots who saw only the A340 it was a logistic nightmare. One chief pilot mentioned they had at any given time, 40 to 50 pilots on the verge of losing competency.

All Air Canada pilots log into system which tracks take off and landings. It's watched very closely on the long haul. On the domestic side, it's a moot point. In fact, I've been a little lazy logging my take off and landings. Usually the F/O does it for both him and I.

Another problem is the ultra long haul flights (YYZ-HKG, YVR-SYD, YYZ-Shanhai) requires four pilots (One captain, two first officers (F/O1 flies and F/O2 is the augment F/O) and one Cruise (relief) pilot). I have a friend, because of seniority, can only hold Hong Kong flights as the augment F/O. I.E he has to hope for European flying in order to stay current or convince the other F/O to give up a leg.

What happens if it looks like you will turn into a pumpkin? A ride (flight test) will reset the clocks. Sometimes a pilot has to displace another pilot so they can do their flying. If that fails, then it's into the simulator for three take off and landings. Who would of thought staying current would be so technical? I even heard of rumours whereby the pilot did not physically fly the flight but was part of the crew and logged the take off and landing. Just rumours.


Andrew said...

Very interesting/great question...but whats a sector?

From the Flight Deck said...

Andrew. I tried looking up the definition for sector in our flight ops manual and it wasn't there. So, I am assuming the word "sector" is used in congruence with the word "leg." A leg is a flight from one airport to another.
In fact, at one time the word leg was used. Sector also comes into play for minimum sector altitude, ATC sectors, etc. but it looks like they switched "leg" for "sector."

Good question on your part.

Capt. Doug

david said...

Presumably, you also need to meet the Transport Canada recency requirements. Can a long-haul pilot use the sim to get the 5 required night landings in six months, for example, or do you just go out and rent a Cessna 172 (which would be a lot cheaper than sim time)?

whywhyzed said...

At AC my understanding is that new hires (should you be so lucky!) are usually put on the smaller equipment, normally as F/O on the Embraers. Correct me if I'm wrong. Or maybe if there happens to be some openings on the 320, he/she might get put there. These planes are domestic and therefore you would get lots of practice presumably.
Question: is it even possible at AC to start out on long haul equipment (340/777) and stay there for your whole career? After your days as a dozer on the 340 where did you go? If you were F/O on the 340 after that, presumably you could have stayed and built up your seniority there and only done long haul?

From the Flight Deck said...

Whywhyzed. You're right, one tends to start off in junior equipment. But Air Canada was granting positions for direct entry left seat on the Embraer. It's a gutsy move.To learn the left seat and Air Canada's culture in one shot sure takes guts. For one thing, you don't become part of the union until a year after being hired. I.E. there's no one looking after you.

As far as long haul positions for new hires, definitely! But it depends on the class, sometimes they are offered and sometimes they are not. But usually there are positions for "cruisers" on the A330, B777 and B767. And yes, you can stay as a "dozer" for the rest of your career.
A case in point, my initial training partner stayed as a cruiser for the last 15 years.

After I "dozed for dollars" I went right seat on the A320 for 2.5 years. Then seven years right seat on the A340/A330. Now it's been over two years left seat on the small bus.So far the ride has been fantastic.

Ian said...


Yes - Sector is a leg I believe. We call them Sectors.

Interesting comment about the direct entry left hand seat on your Brazilian machines. Did the union agree to this ? Interesting -try that here, and all hell would break loose!

Cheers, Ian

From the Flight Deck said...

Ian. It was always "leg" at Air Canada but it looks like we are swinging to "sector." Hard to keep up with it all. :)

Yes, some new hires were offered direct entry. The workload on the Embraer is horrendous and to take on the task of becoming a demi-god at Air Canada as well - that takes guts. When we had the RJ Challengers, the direct entry position was also offered, but quite a few washed out.

The direct entry thing does raise an eyebrow. I went for an interview with Emirates five years ago. There were many things I could not overlook and one of them was DEC (Direct Entry Captains).


Ian said...


Things in the sandpit are not as bright and cheery - here's a transcript from an Emirates memo...

"Colleagues –

The past financial year has been an incredibly difficult one for the worldwide airline industry and for Emirates this has been no exception. The difference between this last year and the previous one could not be more dramatic. After record profits for us in the Financial Year 2007-2008 we have found the commercial environment in 2008-2009 far more of a challenge.

In an effort to focus on job security and continuance of employment, in January, the company, after much deliberation, took the decision to implement a freeze on all pay reviews across the organisation. This decision has continued to be monitored carefully and is still in place. As such, there will be no change to the current flight crew remuneration package that is usually announced around this time of the year. The 3% step increase to base pay, which we have historically provided pilots, will also not be paid this year. I fully recognize that this will be a disappointment to you, but believe that you understand the rationale behind these difficult decisions"...

Some pilots rave about the UAE - the majority do not - you made the right call in my humble opinion.


From the Flight Deck said...

Ian. I hear the same thing - the tinsel is starting to lose its glitter. I know the word 'union' was not allowed to be mentioned there. It had to be disguised
as the word 'onion'. Maybe the word onion may dwarf into union if things persist. Speaking of set backs, I guess by the time you read this you'll be nestling back into reality.


Alan said...

Hi there Doug:

I'm an Emirates B777 skipper based in Dubai, originally from the UK, and came here following a contract with Qatar. Been here for 8 years now, and you're right about some of the quality of the Direct Entry Commands - as well as some of the more "off the wall" ops procedures.

I was in the RAF for 15 years, and was seconded to Oman training fast jet pilots ( I did 2 operational tours on Tornados out here too) - so ending up in the Sandpit seemed a bit of a natural for me. It is certainly not for everyone.

The base reality for me and the family - finding employment which pays the bills. Things are grim in the UK - the natural place for me would've been Virgin, but they weren't recruiting when I needed them to!

What's the job market like in Canada ? We have a few Canucks on the Airbus and B777 - all of them great guys.

Great blog Doug - enjoy reading it - currently in the UK visiting family before heading back out to the UAE later in the week.


From the Flight Deck said...

Alan. Thanks for going out of your way to post, and thanks for the kind words.

I have some friends at Emirates as well. Derek Irving a.k.a "Spud" is left seat on the A340. We visited Spud and his family about five years ago during my interview.
When Air Canada was taking on water i.e. during the bankruptcy shuffle, many Air Canada types flew over for interviews including moi. My family loved the place, but that was March with pleasant temperatures.

The biggest thing I could not overlook - resigning from Air Canada. The second - direct entry captains. But they say it all works out and it did. (And like you said, "it pays the bills.")
I'm contented to be on Canadian soil. Having said that, Bahrain Air, was looking for 320 drivers for two years and I must admit the family and I thought about it.
But they too cut back their operations and things were put on hold.

Visiting in the U.K? Looks like you picked a "cool" time to visit.

I hope you don't mind me quoting some of your post in my "feedback column." I will keep it anon.

All the best!

Capt. Doug