Back to the Future: From the Ground Up.

Have to warn you: this could be boring.

Because you’re on another journey: forward, which in a way is backward, too.

Been sitting here for twenty-ish years. Thousands–fourteen thousand plus change, actually–of hours of pilot time in this jet. You know where everything is by feel. Could do most functions with your eyes shut. Thousands of approaches and landing and take-offs and cruising.

All that ended Friday.

Buh-BYE, MacDonnell-Douglas, hello Boeing. Nice the way Boeing incorporated the Mac-Doug logo after eating the company whole, don’t you think?

But to get there, to move to the 737-800 captain position from the MD-80 captain’s seat: transition training. And there’s the time machine.

When did you do that last? 1994, for a brief stint on the F-100. And that school, that airplane, was a cake walk.

Back in those days, well, back “then,” new aircraft, new systems and procedures–just a fact of life. Flight engineer school, then  First Officer training, then widebody DC-10 First Officer upgrade, then MD-80 captain, then F-100 Captain and then requal back as MD-80 captain all in the span of 6 years.

That was just the way of the world: just do whatever it takes to fly the latest jet.

And before those days, an even faster whirlwind of flight.

Just a kid, twenty-something with a comparative (at least to today) handful of flight hours blasting around with my hair on fire. It was all just good fun and the training part? Just something you had to do–a nuisance, really–to get to go fly. That was fun, despite the responsibility of study and learning and proficiency.

It was all about the rush of flying, the freedom from the mundane office world, a desk and god forbid, a boss breathing down your throat. In the air, it was all pure exhilaration, freedom, power, and what the hell was I thinking, below, being barely 21 and flying solo with about 8 hours total, with a camera in one hand?


What the HELL was I thinking?


Back in those days, ironically, the buzz phrase was “fly safe.” Not sure we really did, but we said that a lot. Now, it’s a more appropriate “fly smart” in my mind, because that’s safest, really.

No doubt this place on the verge of more flight school and newer, bigger, faster jets is now as it was then a bit of luck: you’re just some guy, nothing special, who’s been lucky enough to be put in the right place, this place, where once again the top of the line jets and equipment at a major airline are there waiting for you to start.

There’s the link with the past: I still marvel at the opportunity, the good fortune, to have another jet waiting, to have a spot on the roster of airline captains flying it, to have a training slot and instructors ready to help me through all the steps and hurdles between now and forty-thousand feet.

And there, too is the connection with the mundane: studying manuals, learning procedures, memorizing technical limits and emergency procedures. Cockpit drills, procedural trainers, simulators, classrooms, evaluations.

I used to do all that as a matter of course?

Of course.

And here we are again. You wanted to stay out of an office, away from a desk, right? Been free of that scourge since college, and that was a different kind of desk. You’ve never had an office or a desk, really.

So here’s the alternative. Starting tomorrow, this blog will go through Boeing 737-800 school from Day One to first flight.

Might be boring. Might not even be able to make a blog of it. But, the connection of past and present, the reentering the past way of life–climbing over hurdles and obstacles–to get back into the air in an even more exciting way.

How’s that going to be, devouring new technical data, mastering maneuvers in a new jet, in full-motion, stage-3 simulators? Out with the old hand-flying feel, in with the new: airfoil’s different, controls all hydraulically boosted, no doubt a Boeing’s going to fly different. State of the art navigation (thank God, at last) to learn, new operating philosophies.

Can you master everything required to be certified as captain in flight with 150+ bods-on-board, never mind the $50 million dollar jet and the responsibility for both? In a few weeks?

That’s going to be past plus future, at least for the present. Interested?

It all starts again tomorrow. Let’s go.


18 Responses to “Back to the Future: From the Ground Up.”

  1. Boring? I’m looking forward to it!!

    • Can you master everything required to be certified as captain in flight with 150+ bods-on-board, never mind the $50 million dollar jet and the responsibility for both? In a few weeks.

      No problem at all. Every day around the world some 250 hour total time cadet of barely 21 years of age gains a type rating in the 737 simulator and other transport jets and within a month or so and 10 simulator sessions on, has a command type rating stamped on his commercial pilots licence. And as you say in the above quote, he has mastered everything to be certified as captain in flight with 150 bods on board etc etc. Of course no airline in its right mind would let this certified captain take the left seat of a real airliner.

      So if a brand new cadet can pass the command type rating it surely is a just a ho-hum exercise for a experienced pilot. The hype therefore is maybe slightly over the top?

      • Yeah, I’m just like the 21 year-old getting a type rating. Well, except for the 17,000+ flight hours in my logbook and 31 years as a pilot, 19 as captain.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ryan and Airplane News, Chris Manno. Chris Manno said: Back to the Future: From the Ground Up.: […]

  3. I’m looking forward to reading all about it and living vicariously through it. This post reminds of your bear story. Seems like they’re saying “bear, you’re needed in training” or “bear, learn that manual” or something like that anyway.



  4. Jock Bethune Says:

    Looking forward to your sharing your 737 training journey!
    I’ve looked at it from the “trainer” side, but its more important to hear from the “trainee” side! Let the journey begin!!!

  5. blackwatertown Says:

    If it’s you, it’s unlikely to be boring.
    As Tony said, looking forward to it.

  6. Boring? Hardly! I can’t wait to read about it. I kind of miss the excitement of it all. Makes me wish I could get my medical back! 🙂

  7. Nothing is more fun than living vicariously through someone else. Reading your stories, watching your progress, seeing life through your eyes now participating in your new “studies” will bring forth new opportunities.

    I can’t wait to see where the road leads next.

    Jeremy in Montreal.

  8. Oh Boy! Oh Boy! Oh Boy!

    What they all said! Who never had pilotenvynis? By reading your blog, we get to live a small portion of “what life could have been if I had pursued the dream”.

    Thanks Chris.

    Luc (In Montreal also)

  9. All the best Chris! Could be boring? I don’t think so!

    Mike in Perth, Australia

  10. […] Just another weblog « Waltz in Blue: Last Dance with the Old Girl. Back to the Future: From the Ground Up. […]

  11. I love it, makes me wish I was back are so good at explaining and putting things into words that we all can get a vicarious feeling of what it is that you are experiencing. I will have to message you to find out which engines are on the — 800. I think they are similar to the ones we had on the arm model

  12. Great stuff, makes me wish I was back in the flying game again. Chris, you have such a talent for putting into words the feelings you are experiencing. And through that talent we can vicariously experience all the wonder and frustration you will go through as you transition to a new aircraft. I will have to message you to see which engines are on the 737 — 800. I think that they are similar to the ones we had on the R model 135(GE-SNECMA CFM-56). Thanks once again for the experience of flying, Skeet

  13. […] to transition to a new airliner. Want to start at the beginning? Click here. […]

  14. […] for an airline pilot to transition to a new aircraft. Want to start at the beginning? Click here. […]

  15. […] for an airline pilot to transition to a new aircraft. Want to start at the beginning? Click here. […]

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