Surviving Your First Year Flying for the Airlines – Part Two

The following is the second part of Justin Kaiser’s story about his first year flying for the airlines:

6. Get to know your contract and your company.
The FAA sets a series of restrictions that airline pilots operate under. The company usually restricts these rules even further in the interest of safety while still trying to make a profit.
All of these regulations can seem rather complicated, especially when compared to one another. But these rules are designed to allow for safety while all the while permitting for a quality of life while working. Some nuances in your company’s regulations will range from bidding a schedule, to rest rules to what you are entitled to do in any given situation. Still, these rules can sometimes be overlooked or misinterpreted by crewmembers, company workers or even the union itself. Knowing these rules yourself allows for you to keep other parties honest, you legal and ultimately in the best position to work properly within the confines of your contract and company regulations.

7. Hear all, trust nothing.
Rumors will be around every corner about the next big thing. Sometimes these rumors are nothing more than idle speculations getting carried away. Take a look at the history of some online airline forums or spend a few minutes in any crew room and you’ll see that everyone has an opinion and they’re not always right. On the other hand, there are time the information is quality information about unannounced changes right around the corner.
Another side effect of listening too much to others in the company is sometimes you come across some nay-sayers. There is little more demoralizing than folks who are fed up with something at their place of employment and share it ad nauseam with anyone who will listen. Should you come across this, take it for what’s worth and don’t let it bring down your experience.

8. When you’ve got time to yourself, enjoy it.
As a new hire you’ll start at the bottom of the seniority list. This means your schedule will likely be less than ideal. Pending on the state of your airline, you may be on minimum days off. If you’re not flying, chances are you’ll be on reserve sitting at an airport. Point is, you stand to be working a lot.
Optimize your off days. Your time at home will become a precious thing, particularly if you have a family. For some, time away from home might be all the better. Having travel benefits can open up the world to you if you enjoy travel. In either case, allowing yourself to decompress while not at work will aid you greatly before you head into your next trip.
When you are on a trip, do what you can to enjoy your time away. Keeping in close contact with family is a necessity for some. With social media, portable technology and travel benefits for family members this can be fairly easy. For that matter there is plenty one can do from their own hotel room (case in point, I am writing this article some 1,200 miles away from my own home!). Some overnights have interesting places to visit, and some crews are eager to go out on the town. Making the best of a trip can be as important as optimizing your days off.

9. Network…this is a career as much as it is a job.
You’ll meet a whole multitude of captains at your own airline, crewmembers from all kinds of flying jobs ranging from charter to legacy, FAA inspectors, and passengers with aviation backgrounds. I have known First Officers who have encountered all walks of life within the industry who have used the opportunity as a recruiting tool.
Should the opportunity strike, strike up a conversation. In a career like this you’ll soon realize just how small a community it can be, and who you know can be as important as what you know. You never know who will be in your jumpseat, and where a simple conversation could lead.

10. Never lose sight of why you are doing what you are doing.
There can be a lot of stress and frustration in this line of work. Being on the road often, unsatisfying schedules or pay in a given month, and the daily grind of flying the line can wear out a new pilot. But the rewards of being in the industry can counter these potential shortcomings.
Never lose sight of why you are flying for a career. It may be simply for the joy of getting paid to do what you love. It may be because you enjoy travel or meeting new people. It may be to have a view or experiences that are out of this world. Sometimes just enjoying the view can be enough to rally one’s spirits. This is an exciting career, with so many possibilities. Whatever has drawn you to get this far, keep it the forefront of your mind as you progress in your aviation career. Let it be a guiding force as your work toward whatever end goal you have in mind. In the meantime sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Stay safe and happy flying.