From Sea Level To 737 Captain: Day One.

Day Zero.

Which means tomorrow we start the flight training course to transition from MD-80 captain to 737 captain. Nervous?

No, that’s not the right word. Concerned, maybe, because it’s only your job, right? Career? Paycheck?

That’s all associated with the official stuff–certification, check rides, type rating; none of it actual flying. So it mostly goes into the nuisance category.

But the idea of starting anew, another jet and all that goes with it: that’s a big deal. Basically, in about three weeks you’ll go from never having set foot in the 737 cockpit to performing a Cat III landing from a 50 foot decision height to the FAA examiner’s satisfaction–in the aircraft, with passengers on board. That’s no small challenge, unless you’re just plain stupid. But like the nuisance category of things to accomplish, the pilot in you says yeah, we can handle that, too. Always have, always will.

So with a healthy concern for the job and the paycheck, respectful of the challenge, grateful for the opportunity, and with confidence that we’ll work through the obstacles successfully–let’s get on with it.


Pulling the MD-80 stuff out of my pilot bag, making room for 737 pubs. Of course, the cartoon pad stays.


Day One:

How many times have you made this drive, through those gates, past the guards, and then front and center at the Flight Academy? And how many times for a new jet? Three, maybe four times?

Always aware of and grateful for what an opportunity this is: if you wanted to buy it on your own you’d have to spend $12,000 to $15,000 for the training and the rating you’re about to get. Lucky for you the airline says, “Yes, we’ll get you ready to fly our $50 million dollar jet. And we’ll pay you to train–and then to fly the jet.”

And here’s where it starts:

Basic classroom, schematic on the wall, computer based training front and center. Meet the First Officer who’s going to be paired up with you throughout the course. He’s an ex-Marine (they’re always great to work and fly with) who got bumped off the larger 767 because everything’s based on seniority–and he’s not senior. So he’s assigned this training.

Meet the ground school instructor. She’ll take the two of us through the first ten days of ground school, familiarizing us with the aircraft systems and their basic operation, plus some of the procedures for the various phases of flight. Today, that included the 737 doors in the full scale mock-up.

Practice opening the overwing exits (how smart of Boeing to design an emergency exit that opens outward under its own power?) and all of the cabin doors. Fire extinguishers, life rafts, all the emergency equipment.

More systems introductions in the “Star Wars” trainer which has touch screens to operate all of the flight deck systems for basic familiarity with placement and function.

For now, it’ll help with “switchology:” where are the controls for the myriad systems and how do they respond? How are they actuated? Slow start to a full schedule, but then you’ve already done much of the Computer Based Training (CBT) on your own.

Last thing for the day is the pile of manuals and checklists required to do the job:

Took a while, but they’re all sorted into the correct binders with the dividers where they belong. And you’ve actually started studying.

That’s Day One, and Day Zero, too. The former is much more comfortable than the latter, because at least we’re under way.

One down, twenty to go. And a three hour systems exam. Plus an oral exam, a simulator rating flight with an FAA examiner, then 35 flight hours and another FAA flight examiner.

Soon enough but for now, one day at a time. Stay tuned: regular updates to follow.


13 Responses to “From Sea Level To 737 Captain: Day One.”

  1. When I flew to Boston I saw in the exit row and I too was impressed that they finally made the doors pop open on their own. Makes getting out a lot faster šŸ˜€ I’ll take some of your old S80 manuals hehe

  2. Best of luck with the new ride Cap, Im sure you’ll do fine.


  3. Looks like a lot of study there. Easy does it. I know you’ll do fine.


  4. Great read Captain! I really liked the cartoon.

  5. What a great read and trip down memory lane for an old guy who no longer does this!

    I think I am ready for the oral.

  6. AA Retired Says:

    No more “thuds” as heads that have succumbed to sleep hit the desk in front of the “Plato” computers? No more Ramada or Ball Park? But some other things, like the uneasiness of giving up the familiar for the new never do change.

    • I think today’s CBT students are more advanced: they can prop themselves up on an elbow wedged between the wall and the monitor. Lotsa drool, but it’s fairly quiet.

      Best news is, Jock is still the voice on some of the lessons. Like an old friend.

      • AA Retired Says:

        Just thinking of Jock’s voice makes me a little drowsy, but then Pasquale comes to mind and I awake up again. If everything was new, some guys would just freeze up and come to a complete stop.

  7. […] JetHead's Blog Just another weblog « From Sea Level To 737 Captain: Day One. […]

  8. […] Note: this is part of a series relating firsthand what it’s like to transition to a new jet as an airline captain. If you’d like to start from the beginning, click here. […]

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