Not only to fly, but to bring the world's eyes...skyward.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First Officer, Second Fiddle

I was hired by Air Midwest in June, 1990, and went to SkyWest in February, 1994, having never come even close to Captain upgrade. Back then, three years was a long time to wait for a left seat at a regional airline. At first I had no interest whatsoever in that fourth stripe, because I knew I had no business wearing it with 900 hours in my lone logbook.

But after a couple of years of doing all the paperwork, briefing passengers, cleaning up the cabin, and watching, always watching, the Captain, I began to think maybe I was ready. After another year, I thought I was experiencing a burnout, so I went to SkyWest's far greener pasture.

I had to wait four more years before my number came up there, and please don't ask anyone from there how truly burned out I was by the end of that stint. You could have tried to stick a fork in me, but I was so "done", you just would've bent your fork. Fortunately, I was able to pick and choose my Captains to some degree, and "yanking gear" for pilots like Mike Berry was always something I thought I could do for the rest of my career and still consider myself lucky.

I wish I'd kept those eight San Diego Brasilia Captain bid packets I got. It was everything I knew it'd be, only shorter-lived.

Then I came to American. I knew upgrade would take a while. Really, I did. I figured I'd probably "arrive" sometime around the time my youngest stepson graduated high school, which was unfortunate, because he'd probably never get to enjoy the benefits of having me making that extra loot and always coming home in a great mood from having flown with my favorite Captain. But having never flown a big jet, I figured I still had a lot to learn, and I did.

Justin started college last week, and I'm still in that right seat. Most of the time it's ok, some of the time it's a blast (like on this trip, as I'm with another former commuter dog who also shares my alma mater, CMSU), but occasionally it's an absolute grind. I'm still learning, thank God, but I often find myself accurately predicting exactly what will happen in the next few minutes or hours, and I remember that feeling too well. It's time to move up and, thanks to the increase in the mandatory airline pilot retirement age, there's nowhere to go.

I just wrote a piece I hope to see published called "First Officer, Second Fiddle". It's about the frustration that comes from having seen just about every way possible to skin a cat, being perfectly capable of skinning it whichever way the Captain thinks is best, but, lacking the ability (and, yes, motivation) to telepathically guess which way that is, guessing wrong and then being under-appraised as simply ignorant, owing to my "inexperience."

You can read it, and samples of my other writing, at my website,

An aviation love story...

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