Flight Plan

My flight plan....to encourage, mentor, guide those pining for the sky. I'm also here to virtually open the flight deck door for those who want to take a peek at the many aspects of aviation.....enjoy!

...and welcome aboard!...

Slats and No slats

Slats and no Slats

A Facebook friend sent this pic. These two are lined up on the parallels flying into San Francisco. The parallels are 750 apart. It shows you what the leading edge lift devices (slats) do and how flat the RJ approaches without them. I've been in the RJ jumpseat a couple of times and it certainly "widens your eyes" while on approach. Especially when I flew the big ole A340.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What's in a number?

2011 Seniority List. I blurred everything to protect the innocent. :)

So what's in a number? If you believe we are just a cog in the wheel, a pebble on the beach, or as Pink Floyd's song goes, "another brick in the wall" then we are just that, a number.

But if you are joining an airline which bases everything on seniority, a number is EVERYTHING! It means promotion, if you are number 2000 then you don't move until 1999 decides. It means vacation choice, domicile choice, left seat or right seat, monthly flying preferences, whether you get Christmas off or summer vacation, or your kids birthdays off, anniversaries, or whether you get a flying block or will be on reserve. So how does most companies determine the most important number for your career? Well, it's literally pulled out of a hat. Yes, some companies base it on marks, or age, flight time, but for AC it's like drawing straws.

At one time it was based on fierce competition amongst the class and when I joined, the pilots which came from the connectors received a better number than the ones from off the street. Looking back, it was unfair but you must play by the rules.
Lucky Captain Doug came from the connectors. Those that didn't are 400 numbers junior to me and they started the exact same day. I know, I know.....

I remember reading one writer's words of wisdom in an aviation magazine, "get your butt in ground school Monday morning." Some didn't and lived to regret it. One guy I know delayed the course because his wife was due. Not good enough.!
(I know I will get flak for saying this, but I'm trying to make a point) :)

So what's in a number?

Every year it's a cheap thrill seeing my seniority go up. I went from 1276 to 1171. (105 numbers). It's used to be as equivalent in seeing American money converted to Canadian money. But lately, that thrill is gone. :)
(You're probably thinking Captain Doug needs to get out more) LOL

Presently there is 3077 numbers which means I'm 38 percent from the top.

As you may have heard two pilots who retired at age 60 have been legally reinstated through the courts. What does this mean? There will be more who are due to retire but will stay. Translation...Captain Doug's and everyone else's career goes into a bit of a hold. But not everyone will want to return. I know many pilots counting the days. Yes, they will tell you the exact amount of days before they say "gear up" for the last time.

It doesn't matter whether this is fair. I'm wise enough to realize it's going to happen but things are still stuck in the court for the others wanting to return to the seniority list. Stay tuned.

Here's some numbers:

Presently I am bidding 199/368 55% (from the top) as A320 captain in Toronto.
I can not hold summer or Christmas vacation. I can now barely get Christmas off but
it costs dearly for the rest of the month. I can get most of the specific days off I want and hold most weekends off. Overall I fly 10 to 15 days a month.

I could be....

#2 F/O on the A320 showing top 1% (YYZ) (down bid)
#2 Embraer captain showing top 1% (YYZ)
For bottom B767 captain in YYZ I am 345 numbers away.
For bottom A330 captain in YYZ I am 634 numbers away.
For bottom B777 captain in YYZ I am 900 numbers away.
As B777 F/O (down bid) I would be 80% (barely hold a flying block)

So what's in a number...a lot!

Well seniority #1171 will be commanding an A320 for the next four days.
First stop is PBI (West Palm Beach) and back and then it's off to an exotic cold Canadian city overnight. The third night gets me to Orlando, but I arrive around midnight throwing the beer math way out of kilter. :)


Nathaniel said...

Very interesting!

You've said you'll be moving to the 767 in the future. Even though the A330 is 300 spots higher, is there a reason you're going instead for the 767,(possibly for the beauty of the B777 later on)?

From the Flight Deck said...

Nathaniel. The next aircraft in succession is the B767. As mentioned the B767 is 345 numbers away but the A330 is 634. So I'm going for what I can hold next.

I'm kind of confused as to what you are asking. :)

I will move to the next biggest airplane. For the B767 it's a $25,000 to $30,000 pay raise.
Need I say more? :) :) :)

Captain Doug

Anonymous said...

Captain Doug,

Where is the B787 going to fit into the mix when it arrives? Will the B777 will remain 'top dog' with the B787 above the A330 and B767? Will certainly make for an interesting 'dance' when the B767 and A330s are gradually retired.

Hopefully the three B767s that aren't XM'd are the first to go! Flew on two of them this past month and as a regular customer they were miles away from the current product (which I love).

YYC Dispatcher

From the Flight Deck said...

YYC Dispatcher. Actually, the B787 will be between the B767 and the A330 for pay.

The B767 will gradually be phased out as more 787s arrive.

As far as the "mix" it sure has been a long time coming.

Talk about playing hard to get!!! :)

Nathaniel said...

no, you answered my question lol.
I guess flying the 767 will mean a little more variety in destinations (South America, Europe, etc.)?

Cedarglen said...

As you note, it may not be perfectly fair. However, it is the system in use, the AC driver's union has embraced it and it is what you learn to live with. There are worse systems . My guess is that by the time you get there, the 767 will be getting stale and you will have one more airplane before the clock runs out. Someplace along the line, some captains will opt for larger aircraft - and more money, while others will want their terminal AC to be the newest available, the 787. Have you looked that far ahead? Any thoughts to share? Great Post!!

Anonymous said...

Any reason for not bidding the no. 2 CA spot on the jungle jet?

Besides i'm sure a paycut, think of the lifestyle!

I thought I read/heard somewhere the top Embraer crew only worked under 10 days a month due to bidding long turns like YYZ-YYJ/YEG/YLW?

Intrested to hear your thoughts on that. Thanks

whywhyzed said...

Two questions:

1. What does "down bid" mean? If it means less money, then I'm confused. (I have a friend who is a 777 F/O, and this spring he is going on the 320 as Capt. I would have thought this might be a downward move but he said he would make more money.)

2. Do all pilots in the same position make the same hourly rate? (eg do all 368 320 Capts make the same rate? etc)

Craig said...

Hi Capt. Doug

When you do become eligible to switch to the 767, how long is the training to transition from the A320 series you've been flying? And what would be involved in that, since you're maintaining the same position (Captain) ... I would expect it would be an easier transition than when you transitioned from F/O in the A340 to A320 Captain. So at this stage, is it just a matter of cockpit orientation and a check flight? Or is there more to it?

Interesting post. :-)


getjets said...

Safe flying..Captain 1171

Chris Gardner said...

Ah yes the annual seniority list read out. I hear you buddy sinse I am in a union shop myself I do read the numbers in where I placed on the list. It is good when someone retires above you then you will move up as well but if someone retires below than who cares,lol.

getjets said...

Captain #1171,I just love all these "mini airport history lessons", otherwise would not have known of!! Thanks to all who shared theirs!!!

getjets said...


getjets said...

Seashells scattered along part of runway 13R at JFK, pilots say, pose no threat....i suppose similar situations happen a lot...but so interesting to listen to with "almost real time"...with live ATC . not much air traffic today, as well mmmmmmmmm.....gotta get back to work, somebody has to work for a living...ha

Andrew said...

Hey Doug,

I hope those pilot call for the gear down or they'll never get to enjoy their retirement :P

I've got 2 questions. 1) Why do the people on the left column also have smaller numbers between they're seniority number and their name. 2) What do you mean you "can now barely get Christmas off but it costs dearly for the rest of the month." Is bidding for your schedules like some sort of Currency system, where certain dates are more expensive, and if you bid for christmas off do you end up with a bunch of crappy pairings for other parts of the month because you've run out of money?


From the Flight Deck said...

Cedarglen (Craig)

Sorry for the tardy reply. I'm on a four day mission.

The B767 has been around for over 20 years. As far as stale, it still looks sexy from the outside because all of them are the 300 series.
Big is beautiful. It's true, the innards are getting old. But like I say with golf shots....as long as it looks good! :)

Now, the A330 is sexy inside and out. Just looking at it's curves last night while in a long line up for the deice facility.

I don't even want to think about the B787. It's nothing but a tease. A big tease!

Apologize for the sexual connotations, but sometimes airplanes take precedence. :)

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

Anon. It's true many pilots go for the lifestyle. There's a saying, "stay senior on junior equipment."
But there is a limit. For me going #2 on the Jungle Jet would be TOO radical.

Plus these guys work hard. I knew #1 on the Jungle Jet and all he did was PHX (Phoenix) turns.
True he got summer vacation, Christmas off, worked about nine days, but as they say in life, "variety is a spice of life."

It's not for me. I'm starting to think maybe I should be avoiding all this American flying. You should see the crew line ups in Toronto!
Or I should break down and get a Nexus card. :)

Thanks for the visit.

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

Whywhyzed. A "down bid" is a sort of self demotion. It does mean less money, but some guys are willing to swap lifestyle for money.

Going from B777 F/0 to A320 captain is an "up" bid. The money IS similar but an A320 captain still makes more.

I have a good friend who is a B777 F/O) and we compare T-4 slips. I beat him by about 10 grand. But he works less days.
It's a trade off. :)

Question 2. Yes and No. We have a 12 year pay scale. But generally it's taking about nine to ten years to get A320 captain.

For the B767, A330 and B777 captains. They saw their 12 year scale years ago. We used to have a 14 year scale but those were the good ole days. :)

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Craig. The transition would take about 2 to 3 months. It's true I don't have to jump through the "captain" hoops, but the two airplanes are
like oil and water. It would entail ground school, sims, flight test, line indoctrination and then a "base" release. And because it's overseas
I would have to do ETOPS stuff as well.

You can appreciate, training takes a pilot off line for quite some time. I've been told a course costs about $60 to $80,000.

Captain A320 Doug

whywhyzed said...

re:"Question 2. Yes and No. We have a 12 year pay scale. But generally it's taking about nine to ten years to get A320 captain."

Like you've said before, you gotta be a lawyer to really understand all this stuff.

So, question on the question: you mean after 9-10 years after coming in of the street a pilot can hold 320 Capt? I would have thought that was kinda fast.

From the Flight Deck said...

Chris. Those words are a little harsh but TRUE! :)
One junior pilot used to joke to the captains, "can I fix your car brakes." :)

From the Flight Deck said...

Getjets. Thanks for the feedback. :) Captain #1171 (Sounds cold....#1171)

Seashells in JFK?
I'm telling your boss you are listening to too much ATC stuff. Kidding.

Gotta iron a shirt. It's time for blogger Doug to turn into #1171. :)

Edwin said...

Captain Doug,

$60 to $80,000 sounds like a lot for training. I think an A320 type rating costs about $20 to 30,000 euros now(Including 6 touch & goes). And I think the A320-A330-A340 CCQ must have been a bit cheaper.

I was asked by an A320 FO and share holder in a TRTO if I wanted to sit through the theoretical part of an A320 TR for 5000 SEK which is about 550 EU.

And a question, would you have to redo the full ETOPS cours(es) or just some recurrent training?


From the Flight Deck said...


A simulator costs $800 to $1000 an hour. With a four hour session times 10 is $40,000. Also throw in a ground school of one week, instructors,
plus a pilot's salary for two months. Then if you have to include expenses and hotels, that number easily gets near what I was quoted.

I trained in Miami, Vancouver, Paris, and Zurich.

You're correct, a CCQ is cheaper (that's what makes Airbus attractive) but if a pilot is switching from Airbus to Boeing, this does not apply.
As you well know.

I believe most courses (i.e ETOPS) lasts about two years. No big deal, much of it is done on line.

Just waiting for my inbound flight. It's been delayed 25 minutes.

Captain Doug

Edwin said...

Captain Doug,

When you break it down like that the cost geta up to your number quite easily, but how can it then be possible to sell type ratings for such a "cheap" price and profit from it?

I'm aware of the fact that self sponsored type ratings are not as common in North America as they are here, but can the difference really be that big?

As for hourly simulator cost per hour, as you know there are simulator experience packages in level D simulators costing less than what the hourly operating cost is, again, how can they make a profit?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to proove you wrong or anything, just curious.

I hope there is no further delay. Where are you off to?

Best regards!

getjets said...

first: Apology NOT accepted!!!!
second:Starting to wonder if the the"Dreamliner" will ever show,her lovely face(or backside...lol)and how you say, "climb like a homesick angel"...(god i love that)747-8 seems to be on better track, ...What I do know..is the 747,in all it's glory...is all MAN!!!! ...just giving an opinion no one asked for....

yea "she sells sea shells on the seashorunway......" whatever, went on for hours over there at JFK...can anybody say.'DUSTBUSTER', and if you tell on me....well, you'll be ironing my shirts toooooo!!!

And Captain Doug(#1171), Please NO, NONE, ZILCH...reply, I mean it!!!!!!!!!!tearing you away from your stockpile of Starch...could not live with myself....:) :) :)and like you say, "thank god for plan b" remember no replies!!!!!!!

From the Flight Deck said...

Edwin. Presently in Orlando, Florida.

What I quoted was more of an "equivalent" price tag.

But when we have an equipment bid it costs the company millions in training especially if there is large movement amongst the pilots.

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

Whywhyzed. It was happening faster than that when we were expanding. That's why the minimum for a new hire is 3000 hours because when things "open up"a new hire might see themselves quickly holding left seat (about a year or so) on the Embraer. A few years ago the junior A320 captains were awarded to seniority numbers in the 2800s. Now it's settled back down to guys in the 2200s.

Where's the lawyer when you need one? LOL

Captain Doug in Orlando

From the Flight Deck said...


1. Those other numbers are their employee numbers. That's the main reason why I blurred the list.

2. Our bidding system is a weighted system. For example if I desperately need a day off (wife tells me so), I would weight the request with a 1000 points.
The system will do everything it can to grant that request. The glitch is, you have to watch what you request because it can work against you.
Every month I hear pilot stories on how they "screwed up their bid." A case in point, I thought I would think outside the box for February and now I'm on a four day pairing getting deiced everywhere I go. It's too much work!

Some pilots take hours bidding their monthly blocks. Heck we even have an "award/avoid to fly with." Can you imagine when one wants to avoid flying with a particularpilot but instead of hitting "avoid" they select "award." It could make for a long month! LOL

Captain Doug

Andrew said...

wow, complicated business picking one's schedule. How many different parameters are there for bidding?

From the Flight Deck said...

Andrew. How many parameters? A quick guess would be over 200.

There are so many combinations.

I agree, it's a complicated business. :)

Captain Doug

marty said...

How and what do you do to climb up the seniority list?

From the Flight Deck said...

Marty. (I see you just enlisted in the follower group) Welcome #171.

As far as the seniority list...movement is based on retirements (for now), deaths and attrition.

There are few deaths, no one leaves so we depend heavily on retirement. Again, stay tuned on that front.


marty said...

Ohh okay. That's simple enough! My name is Martin. The person who emailed you about the v-speeds and checklist. Lol :)

From the Flight Deck said...

Marty. Thanks for the heads up. :)
Captain Doug