Credit to the photographs

I would like to thank Brian Losisto (Air Canada's photographer) for always allowing me to post his pictures. (The above thrust lever pic is his). Then there is Kelly Paterson from Calgary and plane spotter "Erik" from Germany. Of course, I have lots myself. On that note, if you feel a photo(s) may be in appropriate or the content I post a bit dubious by all means send me an email. I will ratify it! That's all I ask.

...I hope you enjoy the blog...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Things Not Taught in Flight School

Back from three days of flying. The first leg consisted of a five hour flight to San Diego, California so I decided to do something productive (besides command an airplane hurdling at 470 knots with a near full load of passengers) so I began to create a list. Of course I wrote my ideas on paper because a laptop is forbidden in the flight deck. Did I tell you a laptop is forbidden in my office?

Things they don’t teach you in flight school...

Always greet your co-worker with a good handshake and look them in the eye. During my initial Environment Canada meteorology course an instructor told me I would pass based on my hand shake. He said shaking hands with some were similar to shaking hands with a wet fish. Remember first impression is huge. Eye contact is imperative. After all, you are bestowing huge trust in your co-worker so it's one way to convey it.

Always treat your co-worker the way you would want to be treated. You wouldn’t believe how this simple rule is abused. Task share during flight planning. Don’t tell them to get this or that. A captain during my A340 days threw out my weather information because I wrote on it. Good way to start the pairing. Another didn’t like how I stapled the papers. He said it would snag his sweater because the staple was facing up instead of down. Another (pre-Air Canada) dropped the amended flight plan on the ground and laughed knowing I had to pick it up. This one time scenario almost caused “laid back calm cool collective Doug” to almost drop the captain. Sometimes CRM...Crew Resource Management...breaks down or is not effective. Another place where CRM experiences a test is when a group of type A to A+ pilot personalities play hockey. Not a pretty sight sometimes.

Walk beside your co-worker. I’ve seen some captains bolt and the first time you see them is on the flight deck. The same happens after the pairing...the pilot vanishes. The word “rude” does not come near explaining this scenario. (I guess this even applies to marriage). Although many pilots would never admit it, you become a quasi couple. Yes, a bond develops over the pairing. Think about it, it’s inevitable two people will bond when sitting in a room the size of a closet during hours on end. Here lies the problem, if the chemistry is off, it makes for one heck of a long pairing. Yes, I’ve been there!

Allow the skipper to enter the aircraft first. Some tradition still exists. After all, it is his/her “ship.”

Offer the first officer the first leg. It drove me nuts when the captain started the “ramp checks” indicating he was flying first. How not to bestow confidence.

On the overseas fleet the walk around is done by maintenance so this next rule does not apply (at least at Air Canada). But on the narrow body fleet, or any aircraft for that matter, always offer to do the walk around. Yes, even if it is raining. Well okay, maybe not in heavy rain. :)

Treat others (non-pilots) with respect. This includes fuelers, rampies, maintenance and flight attendants. Over the years I can't believe how many pilots talked down to their so called inferiors. I’ve heard a story where one captain requested a coffee through the first officer. He would not talk to the flight attendant directly behind him.

“Never bite the hand that feeds you!” I’ve seen it where the pilot royally pisssed off the flight attendant. I dare not think what extra ingredients they might find in their food or coffee.

Compliment the other pilot's landing even if it tended to be a bit “snug.” Back in my Air Atlantic days one particular captain did this and I always remembered it. I’m amazed how many pilots can’t give compliments.

After the parking check list is completed on the last leg of the pairing, always reach over to shake your co-worker's hand and say, “pleasure flying with you.” Yes, there were a handful of pilots where I could not do this. I adopted this tradition again back in my Air Atlantic days. Even though this particular captain proved to be “left of centre” I thought this to be very professional gesture.

Always offer to buy the first beer (beverage) when on a “suitable” layover.

Greet them in the morning by saying their name during crew pick up. Again, many would not even acknowledge you. As Dale Carniegie said in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, “everyone likes to hear their name.”

Never board the crew bus or cab without saying hello. I’ve waited for the other pilot only to find him on the bus or in the cab doing their own thing. How rude!

For a multi-crew, offer the cruise pilot to do the ramp checks and to input the flight plan into the FMS. I always did when F/O on the A340.

Try to see things in their shoes.

Offer the choice of meals.

Never take the crossword or Sudoko without asking first if they mind.

When you introduce yourself to the in-charge for the captain briefing (or any other flight attendant for that matter) make sure you introduce the F/O. I always appreciated it when I was an F/O.

Never barge in on their radio work. I’ve had pilots intervene and it makes you look incompetent.

Get the F/O to partake in the P.As. I disliked it when the captain hogged the P.A.

Always mention the other pilot's name over the P.A if you mention yours.

For all those who fly for a living, maybe you can offer some more tips? I know the list can easily be doubled.

While reading this, you probably asked yourself...isn’t this common sense? True, but you will be amazed how uncommon "common sense" does not prevail….even in the professionally conceived flight deck.

After further pondering, I think this topic would make for a great book!This stuff is not written anywhere. Time to start typing.


Daniel said...

I see/hear some of these being abused between the Ex Canadian employees and the Air Canada employees. If a captain is Ex - Canadian, if there is a Ex Canadian ( Now Air Canada ) employee waiting for the Jumpseat and a long time Air Canada pilot also waiting. He/She will choose which for the company that he/she has flown for. Although, with the younger pilots I see, nothing happens, they just roll on through without a problem.

From the Flight Deck said...

Daniel. You must be pre-wired to my blog. I just posted five minutes ago! :)

Yes, a few years ago there were tense moments after the Canadian/Air Canada merger. And yes, it still exists, but less and less. Some even denoted colours to the groups...Red for Air Canada, Blue for Canadian and Green for the pilots hired afterward.

Rambler said...

I always like to call the Captain "Captain" on meeting them - for example "Captain Morris".
It takes a lot to get to be Captain, and there's time when it's a lot of work, calling them Captain at least once a trip might make up for at least a little of it.

Daniel said...

lol , nah , just have it saved at the top of Firefox. I check it every so often to see whats up.

Its good to see that go, doesn't seem fair at all. Its not a excuse to be treated bad for what airline you were hired by. My dad is Ex - Canadian and got along perfect with the Air Canada gate agents except some that were stubborn and thought that only one should exist. It must have been more of a pilot thing when things started to go crazy between the people. Funny though, I don't see this between WestJet because I can go to work with my dad and the gate agents/pilots could care less if I go on the plane and look around... the porter guys have always been kind off " watchy " when I go on theirs. Although the pilots and flight attendants are always nice.

From the Flight Deck said...

Rambler. Good point! I know at many airlines the captain is still deemed a demi-god. And I agree with you wholeheartedly!
This "captain-itis" vision is becoming less and less at Air Canada. Having said that, deep down it is nice to hear "skipper" or "captain" now and again.

When I was a cruise pilot 15 years ago, I had the advantage of watching everything transpire from the jumpseat. Sometimes it tended to be a bit sickening to witness the sucking up the F/O did. But I could tell the captain was eating it up. :)

Proves one thing....everything in moderation. :)

Thanks for your comments!

"Captain" Doug :)

From the Flight Deck said...

Daniel. The resentment went deep within the pilots. Remember seniority is everything! I lost 601 numbers on the seniority list. Yes, our union went to court to fight this, but the only ones that won were the lawyers.

No, you won't see this as much at other airlines, but it's there.

Again, it's water under the bridge...

Tim said...

All great points, Doug! Thanks for sharing 'em!

From the Flight Deck said...

Tim. When I reread this post it brings back the scenarios in which many were based.

There is a saying, "if you are going to be a 'jack ass' pilot you better be a competent one."
If not, you will not pass your recurrent training.

That was the glitch with the "undesirables" over the years. They were good pilots but their
personalities needed tune ups. :)

Thanks for the comment Tim.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree that pilots should try less to bash one another.
There are multiple cases, at least in my own experience, where someone makes a sugestion, and is shot down by his/her collegues. Most pilots would rather make another feel like crap, and try to raise their own status, than actually listen to what is being said, and try to come up with a solution. Unfortunately this attitude can not only be solved through CRM and other modules. I believe this attitude starts to develop right from the first days in the C150.

Awesome RNP video by the way.

Ryan said...

Wow, I just found your blog and am happy to have discovered it. Great post on "Things Not Taught in Flight School." Honestly, I have learned a lot, and have found that most of my Captains fall in this "good" category by about 80 percent. Of course, there's always the 20 percent that have no tact or etiquette whatsover. I will fall back on this post when I upgrade, just to make sure I am living these values!



From the Flight Deck said...

Anon. You will find when working your way up through the aviation ranks many people out there are out to prove themselves.
It's human nature. Less and less of that happens in the big leagues unless you want to move through the ranks of management.
What I mean and checking is a necessity, but the odd person slips through the cracks and tries to climb at the expense of others.
But heck, this happens in any corporation.

As the saying goes, "what goes around, comes around."

I remember the words of one chief pilot, CRM works for those that don't need it. :)

Yes, the "competition" did a great job on the RNP video.

From the Flight Deck said...

Welcome Ryan. When you go captain you will aspire to the qualities of what you admired with other captains.

Unfortunately, for some, when they get in the left seat it goes to their head, do not handle the stress, are intimidated by weather or
carry everything on their shoulders. I've frequently heard the comment..."but he was a really great guy as a first officer."

You'll also encounter the Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome. They are great people outside of the flight deck but when you get them in a
flight deck...a monster materializes. True story.

Have fun flying!

Captain Doug and spread the word!

MikeYYC said...

The Hand shake is one I like. I have a Captain I fly with on the 1900 and on the King Air 90 previously. He always shakes my had after the flight. Now I am always doing the same with my other Captains. Didn't even realize I had picked it up from him. Its funny how it catches on, might be different for you since you fly with many different FO's but I'm only flying with 4 different Captains in YYC. We see each other almost every day.

From the Flight Deck said...

Mike YYC

Yes, when I fly it's usually with a different F/O. If we flew together before I still shake their hands.

For you on the other hand, it might end up being a bit much.

Maybe more of a "high five" would be better. :)

Captain Doug

P.S Thanks for the comments

Lavi said...

I'm no commercial pilot, but I have one for you Doug - it's something you do very well. Being a mentor and giving advice and support to aspiring pilots.

From the Flight Deck said...

Lavi. Compliments like that keep me going. Thanks a million! Captain Doug

Edgard Pacheco said...

Captain Doug,

It's the first time I write here, but not the first time I read your posts, I want to congratulate you for this blog, I'm an aviation enthusiast and luckily one day, a pilot. I want to say thanks! for letting us live (trough reading) the stories and adventures of an airline captain, it really keeps me going towards my (almost) lost dream of becoming a pilot. I've been following your blog for a couple of years now. Please never give up writing here, for me it's like if I almost be seated in the left seat.

Greetings from SPIM!


From the Flight Deck said...

Edgard (SPIM)

Welcome to the blog!

Thanks for the great feedback and don't be shy to comment further!

Captain Doug

Chris said...

Great post Doug! You're on to something here - no one teaches etiquette, and it really is important. Manners cost nothing and yet add so much value.

I regularly read your blog and I always enjoy it. Keep up the great work.

From the Flight Deck said...

Chris. You are absolutely one teaches this stuff. For most, this is common sense, but some of it isn't.

Thanks for the positive feedback and keep in touch!

Captain Doug

Aviatrix said...

I have one, and that's to tell them what they're good at. Captains always have a list of things they want done differently, and some of them think the poor FO won't put her heart into complying if they admit that she has beautiful radio work, did an excellent handover briefing, or simply made the left seat job easier by following the SOPs.

And how about "avoid personal SOPs." I know of a captain who actually asked a new FO to copy down a dictated list of the way he expected his FO to behave.

From the Flight Deck said...

Aviatrix. In a way, that's one of the golden rules in instructing...always start off with something positive.

As far as personal SOPS, I feel sorry for the F/Os because they have to learn to fly the airplane as differently as there are captains.
Yes, even in a highly regulated SOP environment an F/O must cater to the captain. I was F/O for years, so I know.

It got to the point where I preferred the captain to fly first, that way I could determine their idiosyncrasies. But that's human nature. If not, there
would be robots in there. Ooops, I better not too loud. lol

Thanks for your comments!