Monday, December 12, 2011

747 Reserve... oh, and the ill-behaved pax on American

I've received many emails lately, the latest from Rob in Oklahoma, asking where I've been. Why aren't you writing? Where are your pictures? Are you still alive? Firstly, thanks very much for your notes and concern for my welfare, it's much appreciated.

Captain Gene Peterson and myself preparing to leave JFK for Narita during my OE training. 

Let me explain my absence. I completed ground-school and simulator training by mid May and then OE with Gene sometime in June and excitedly looked forward to getting out and flying the B-747-400. I could hardly wait! But as most of you know I was awarded this position in the "Reserve" category. As it turns out 747 reserves do very little flying. And I mean VERY LITTLE FLYING, two trips in eight months in my case.

We have only 16 of these aircraft, the airlines smallest fleet and see only two departures a day from DTW, our only 747 domicile. There are of course daily departures from JFK, Narita, Nagoya, Tel Aviv etc, but they're staffed and unlikely to change once the trip has begun. 

I seem to spend most of my time commuting to MSP and visiting the simulator to maintain currency which means three takeoffs and landings every 90 days. These sim sessions of course expose us to much more than just the minimum criteria, such as engine failures, max crosswind landings, instrument takeoffs, aborts and a variety of precision and non precision approaches. But it's still just a simulator. 

Some relish this lack of activity or what some consider "time off" but I'm not part of that group. I miss flying and its associated camaraderie. I miss wandering through Paris, Mainz, or London and enjoying dinner in restaurants that I've frequented for years. So, as soon as my training freeze expires next September I plan to bid the 767-400 in JFK and get back to that which I enjoy.... flying, exploring, eating and writing about it.

Now, before I complain too much, I've re-roofed my garage, painted my house, built an addition, constructed a garden with my wife, waxed my vehicles, built a few pieces of furniture, visited Switzerland and have read to my hearts content. It's been wonderful, but I would like to get out and fly occasionally. I miss the airplanes, the people and the activity.

I've had many offers though from several DC-9 and A-320 captains who would like to change positions! Hmmm....... I think not. As they say, "been there and done that," but thanks for your kind offer.

Hopefully crew sched will assign me a trip sometime soon so I can fire up my camera, activate my word processor and get back at it. Thanks again for your concerns and Merry Christmas. 

But before I go indulge me; I can't help myself but I'll keep it short.

I know many smart people. But how do I know they're smart? It's simple, I determine this from conversation, how they handle themselves, how they relate to others, express their positions and live their lives. Are they loud, flamboyant, and like to be heard? Or do they listen as well as they speak and speak calmly with purpose and authority? I touched upon this in an earlier blog post when I stated, "the minute a captain has to raise his voice and remind someone that he is the captain... he's lost his authority."  

When someone has to tell me that he or she is smart, because they're worried I may not notice it on my own... a red flag goes up. Alec Baldwin thought it was important to tell you and me he's smart because he plays games designed for "smart people." Oh!!

When that same person rants and raves, slams doors, thinks that the rules don't apply to him and resorts to name calling, "retired catholic school gym teachers" I'm unlikely to categorize him as smart as much as I'd label him "needy" of attention. 

He's a celebrity, a movie star and lives in a different world than the rest of us. But it is "us" who give him his importance. Without "us" he'd not enjoy his elevated status. What's difficult for me to grasp though, is why we do.



  1. Hey Rand

    Good to see you posting again!

    Yup, I had heard that 744 flying was a lot of sitting, but didn't know they meant on the ground. I am like you, it would drive me nuts.

    I thought you checked-out on the 767-400 'special class' already. By September you'll be ready to fly the 319, not sure we will have the DC-9s still...

    Have a great Holiday Season...see you down the line-


  2. Rand,

    Love reading all your posts and stories about flying and such.... Are you still planning on putting up your post about your OE training? I was really looking forward to the end of your 747 training story. Hopefully you will get a flight soon and get some more time in the new bird.


  3. Rand,

    Merry Christmas from Edinburgh, Scotland.

  4. Tim,
    Yes, I'm ready to move on and fly. The 767-400 school is a 4 day transition course. It's not that I don't like the 747, it's fabulous, but I have more time in the bunk than the cockpit.

    I've been working on it and will have the OE post up soon... I hope.

    I'm Scottish too and look forward to visiting the International Tattoo in Edinburgh some day. I as well am a Ludwig Von Mises and Friedrich Hayek reader. Let's hear it for the gold standard !


  5. Rand

    Welcome back! Too bad that you haven't been flying much - particularly the Queen! I didn't realize that there was a difference between the 763 and the 764 when it came to flying them - I always thought of the 764 as an extended 763. Having flown on the 764 between Atlanta and Johannesburg when it used to do that route back in 2008, I loved the 764 for having basically the 777 interior - it was a very comfortable ride (for 18 hours that is!! :) ). Good lick on getting that move! It might bring you into MIA once in a while too with the LHR-MIA flight!

    Hope you have a great Christmas!!


  6. Glad to know you're OK Rand. Too bad that a flying machine such as yourself is stuck on the ground. I am sure there are fellows flying regularly who no longer share your enthusiasm for the air but such is life I suppose.

    I pray that American supports the flight attendant in the Baldwin situation. I only fly about 6 times a year but people who act the way he did are becoming more and more prevalent.

    Looking forward to your future posts.


  7. Capt Peck,

    Thanks for your update I have been looking forward it for quite some time. It is obvious to me you have a passion for flying and so I hope more trips will come your way soon! Happy Holidays!

  8. Hey Rand, great to read you again!
    I was wondering about your "2 trips in eight months".
    Isnt it dangerous? I remember The Teneriffe disastre many years ago, the captain of the KLM plane didnt fly real world much, mostly on the simulator.
    He had what I beleive was called the "Simulator Syndrom", meaning he beleived he can make mistakes and after the session, he can just reastart and retry it again.
    Can that still happen today?


  9. when would you use aileron trim? would you first level the wings with the yoke and then apply trim?

  10. I check this blog every couple of days in hopes of a post, so want to thank you for the update. I was in Narita on Sunday and saw the Delta 747 and wondered if you might be there. I was on a different carrier but hope to run into you some day and say hello.

    Take Care,

  11. Rand, your delightful Narita photo deserves a back story. So please tell us how that photo came to be.

    Given your fun aloft and friends below, seems like a pretty nice life to me!

    Ganbatte ne!

    Happy holidays!

  12. Merry Holidays, Rand. Does the new picture suggest that you got a holiay trip to Asia? Away on the Big Holiday is not nice, but at least it is flying! Two trips in eight months, now perhaps three just sucks for one who obviously likes to fly. Finishing your flying years as an 'active' 744 Captain would be great, but -as you note, simulator flying just to maintain the license is NOT flying. Spending most of your time checking your cell phone battery is not the same as that lunch in Mainz! Having to down-bid to the 764 is not great for a 744 driver, but if you want to finish up with a real airplane strapped to your posterior, as opposed to a 'stimulator' I guess it is the only viable option. I'll assume that your adjusted number is low enough to hold a good line on the 764. Like many others, I look forward to reading about the rest of you're 744 transition experience and the OE. So sorry that it did not work out for you. Fussing with that cell phone must be hell for a guy that wants to fly! Best wishes, -Craig

  13. Mark, I think the 764 is pretty much an extended 763 but with a 747-400 panel layout. I'll be sure to call when/if I get on the 764 when flying a London-MIA trip.

    Paul, Thanks for your support; interestingly I've not seen much recently concerning Mr. Baldwin and American.

    simpilotkphx, I do everything I can short of trying to bribe crew sched for a trip. Maybe I shoild try using candy!

    Jordan, You're right, a reserve pilots life is less than optimum considering proficiency. "Let's see... how do I start this thing?" I'm saved, that's the FO's job!

    Tim, aileron trim input is used with the autopilot off and when indications show that the airplane is not flying properly/straight with regard to the ball or yoke position. Anytime that I notice that the airplane is out of lateral trim, the first thing that I look at is main wing fuel loads. Are we within balance?

    Chris, Different carrier?? This is heresy! No wasn't me, I was probably home in NH putting a new roof on something. Keep looking though.

    K1MGY, You're right this is a great life. This shot was taken about a year ago when flying the 757 inter-asia. John and I were sitting at the gate waiting for our aircraft to arrive when some of these kids approached us asking for autographs. Do you believe it? Autographs? Several more came over with camera's so of course John and I obliged. It was fun.

    Craig, I've never used my cell phone so much as when on reserve and it's a pain in the neck to keep it charged. But yes I'm anxious to move to another airplane and do some flying. DAL just announced a few days ago that they plan to ground a couple of 747's this summer which would give me an involuntary bump from the airplane. With an involuntary bump, I can bid into any catagory that I want, even if a slot isn't available. My seniority on the 764 in NY would be very good and fit my criteria nicely.

    Thanks very much to all of you and have a happy new year.


  14. Radn - In regards to the "ill-behaved pax" - Well Said!

  15. "DAL just announced a few days ago that they plan to ground a couple of 747's this summer which would give me an involuntary bump from the airplane. With an involuntary bump, I can bid into any catagory that I want, even if a slot isn't available. My seniority on the 764 in NY would be very good and fit my criteria nicely. "

    Rand, some are suggesting the new FAA rules on rest will eliminate the need for a reserve pilot on some flights. Yours may be a good move indeed.

  16. Capt Rand,we hardly knew ye. Mike V.