Archive for the flight crew Category

Should My Kid Become An Airline Pilot?

Posted in air travel, airline, airline cartoon, airline pilot, flight attendant, flight crew, military flying, pilot with tags , , , , , , on October 17, 2020 by Chris Manno

I get asked that a lot, especially these days, as people with aircrew dreams worry about the recent implosion of the airline world. The quick answer is “yes and no.” Stay with me.

First, how old is your “kid?” Kids–high school and college–are ten to fifteen years out from being qualified for an airline job anyway. So, here’s the yes: chase that military pilot pipeline–USAF, USN, USMC, and US Army. By the time you’re ready with military flight hours and experience, the airline pendulum will be on the upswing, as it eventually must be.

Yes, military flight training is tough to get into, and, as I discovered firsthand, even harder to get successfully out of:

My flight journey, from “kid” to USAF pilot training to 35 years in the cockpits of the world’s largest airline, most as captain. Read this.

But if the “kid” is thinking of flying for an airline any time soon–think again: this most recent airline meltdown cost the jobs of anyone with less than ten years at a major airline. Anyone hoping to get hired now will have to get in line behind those currently on the street, awaiting recall to their airline job, before any “newhire” sets foot on the property.

I actually told a couple kids that. It is kinda true …

But if you’re the thirty-something considering a career change: I wouldn’t. You’ll be the last one hired and will probably never upgrade to captain, even if you do get hired, because you’ll be too old.

So, tell the kids, “Work hard in school, fight your way into military flight training–preferably with the Air National Guard or reserves–then fight your way back out. DO NOT GIVE UP–before or after. Serve your country, get the best flying experience in the most advanced, coolest jets in the world, then bide your time. The next people hired as airline pilots are kids now. This is your time: focus, dedicate yourself, and do not take no for an answer (see my story above). Be there, ready, when the airline biz recovers, redefines itself, and rebounds.

Trust me: it’s worth the wait.

Freebie Alert

Posted in air travel, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airlines, aviation, flight attendant, flight crew with tags , , , , on October 7, 2020 by Chris Manno

Get your hands on Amazon’s #1 New Release in Commercial Aviation FREE, today only.

Want the inside scoop on airline crew life? Are you a crewmember now, or have you been–or are you planning to join the airline crew profession someday? Here’s the good, the bad, the ugly; the rewarding parts as well as the heartbreak; the extreme behavior, some misbehavior–some extreme misbehavior, in the air and on the ground. It’s the unvarnished reality of aircrew life, hidden by the airlines and mostly untold by the crews … until now.

Get your free Kindle download HERE, today only.

Furloughed? Free Stuff.

Posted in air travel, airline, airline pilot, airlines, aviation, crewlife, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, pilot with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2020 by Chris Manno

My heart goes out to all of my colleagues, pilots and flight attendants, who’ve borne the brunt of the latest travel industry meltdown. There’s not anything much worse or more stressful than losing your job.

So, here’s freebie that will allow you to take a little bit of the airline crewlife with you while you’re temporarily sidelined. It’s the good, the bad, the ugly; the fun and the real-life drudgery of airline crew life, as well as the secret joy, benefits, and one-in-a-million experiences that make up your crew day.

If you are a furloughed airline crewmember, you can download this Kindle book FREE on October 7th:

Simply CLICK HERE on October 7 and follow the Amazon prompts to download your free copy.

Enjoy an exclusive, insider view of airline crewlife while you count the days until you’re back flying the line. Take care, and all the best.

An Aircrew View of 9/11

Posted in 9/11, air travel, airline industry, airline novel, airline passenger, airline pilot, aviation, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, travel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 9, 2020 by Chris Manno

We never forget, those of us who were airline pilots and flight attendants on that awful September day. Since then, we’ve added to our aircrew ranks a whole new generation of pilots and flight attendants who were just kids when the twin towers fell. And yet, they are part of the aircrew tradition, inner circle, and the sacred trust to never, ever forget.

Here’s what that cataclysm looked like from the crew view on that day. Those who were crewmembers will remember, those who are new crew will live it in a way like no others, because this is their realm and their legacy to carry forward. And those who aren’t in the crew ranks, well, here’s what that fateful day was like.

From Air Crew Confidential: The Unauthorized Airline Chronicles, the new release from Dark Horse Books:

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Fallen

            “Why?”

            “Yes, why,” Mandy repeated into the handset. She hoped she didn’t sound peeved, but she was. “Why are we descending?”

            And descending fast, barely fifteen minutes after climbing and leveling off at cruise altitude.

            “Why,” the first officer repeated, then she overheard the captain talking in the background. “We’re not exactly …”

            More garbled cross-cockpit talk that she couldn’t make out. But it sounded urgent. We’re not exactly sure? How are the pilots flying the plane “not sure” why we’re descending?

            Gary poked his head out of the forward galley curtains, hands upraised as if to echo her own what the fuck? Mandy searched his eyes but couldn’t decipher the fine line between annoyed and concerned. But Gary wasn’t smiling.

            “Look,” the first officer said at last. “We’re pretty busy. We’ll call you back when we can.”

            The interphone went dead. The engine roar rumbled back to a whisper and the nose dipped lower. The seatbelt sign chimed on.

            “Your guess is as good as mine,” Gary commented quietly in passing. He checked the seatbelt and passengers in First Class as Mandy made her way down the long aisle to do the same in coach.

            There was at least another two hours of flying time left. Descending? Why? What don’t we know? What don’t they know?

            “Miss,” a passenger held up his hand like a kid in a classroom as she passed. “Why are we going lower?”

            She made her face blank..

“Oh, just routine,” she lied, now wavering herself on the razor’s edge between annoyance and concern. “Fasten your seatbelt, please.”

She scooted aft before he could ask another question. Turbulence rocked the jet. A couple passengers let loose an “oh!” and one cursed.

Darcy met her in the aft galley.

“This is weird,” she said.

Mandy nodded.

“I called up front. He said they’re busy, will call back.”

            The P.A. crackled. Background noise from the cockpit filled the speakers, scratchy, distant.

            “Ah, folks, from the cockpit …”

            Just spit it out, Bill. Or Bob, whatever name applied to the interchangeable pilot man in the left seat. They were terrible at ad-libbing announcements. The P.A. went dead.

            Mandy crossed the line back to annoyance. Come on, guys, give us some idea of what we’re doing. The cabin interphone chimed.

            Darcy grabbed the handset just a nanosecond before Mandy could reach for it. The rudder fishtailed and the rear of the plane swayed.

            The groan of hydraulic motors driving the slats forward and down from the wing leading edge shook the cabin.

            “He says we’re in a holding pattern,” Darcy said at last. “Landing at Billings, Montana.”

            What? Why, Mandy wanted to ask but held her peace. Why Billings, and why holding for Billings? There couldn’t be more than two aircraft inbound to that Podunk in an entire hour. 

            “Okay,” Darcy said. “You’re sure?”

            Sure about what? Mandy sighed. She’d actually dialed Crew Sked that morning, but decided to save the sick call for the baby shower Saturday instead. Now she wished—

            “He says Air Traffic Control has ordered all aircraft to land immediately,” Darcy said quietly. The aircraft slowed and the deck became level again.

            “What? Seriously? Why.”

            “He didn’t say.”

            “Ah folks,” the P. A. rasped from the overhead speakers, “This is the captain again …”

            Just talk, she wanted to scream. And never mind ‘this is the captain;’ don’t you have a name? Aren’t you ‘Captain Smith,’ or Jones or Miller or whatever no-name name pilots always have?

            “We’re diverting into Billings, Montana, because …”

            Now they’d go illegal for sure, run out of crew duty time, and be shipwrecked in Billings-effing-Montana. Should have just stretched the sick call through Saturday and—

            “… because the FAA has ordered all aircraft to land due to some sort of national emergency.”

            What? Call lights began to chime in the cabin.

            “…. Ah, we don’t have any more information than that at this point in time …”

            A hydraulic pump whined again. The aircraft floor seemed to buoy upwards. Flaps. And glancing out the window, ground details spelled out ‘we’re pretty close to landing.’

            “We’ll have more info for you as soon as we get on the ground. Flight attendants, prepare for landing.”

            That’s it? What the actual frig was going on? She turned to Darcy whose eyes were wider than she’d ever seen on a human. The air grew warm and stuffy, probably because the first officer hadn’t pre-cooled the cabin for the unplanned descent.

            “Fourteen-F” Darcy said carefully, her voice quavering. “Got a cellphone signal. He’s says there’s been a terrorist attack on New York City.”

            Two plus two, Mandy thought; national emergency, terrorist attack. But where do airliners fit in? She set the thought aside and did a final cabin walk-through. The scowling air noise doubled in strength, then the main gear thumped into place with a thud that shook the floor beneath her feet. They were very, very low. Her cellphone buzzed in her pocket.

            “At least two flights hijacked. Are you okay? –Dad.”

            The blood drained from her head. Attack? New York? Hijacked? She plopped down on the jumpseat next to Darcy and strapped in. She handed Darcy the cell phone, flipped open like the wide jaws of a faceless joker. A faceless, heartless joker. Darcy covered her mouth and closed her eyes.

            Fight it, Mandy urged herself. You’re looking at this through a straw, seeing only a tiny bit of the picture. Classmates all flying today too—what if? If you’re going to predict the future, at least make it something good. Kerry’s based in New York now; Samantha just transferred to Boston.

            The interphone chimed and Mandy snatched the handset from the cradle.

            “Mandy in back,” the words floated out of her mouth on their own, out of habit only, her mind flying fifty miles ahead of her heart, threatening to implode. What if?

            “My partner says we lost one of ours,” Gary said. “Into the World Trade Center.”

            She dropped the phone. Darcy picked it up and replaced it on the aft console, then stared at Mandy. She shook her head, covered her eyes.

            Rolling, turning, more flaps; tears—no, stop that. Later, maybe later. Avoid the eyes looking backwards, the passengers wired like copper, conducting an electrical current of worry and concern over fragments of details discovered as cell towers answered when the airspeed slowed.

            We lost two of ours. Into the World Trade Center.

            A molten core, boiling tears of fear and knowing sadness, threatened but Mandy kept the lid on. There was a job to do, procedures to walk through, and things to disarm and stow and check and report and not think, please god not think but just do.

            Into the World Trade Center.

            They taxied in forever, it seemed. For heaven’s sake, the airport wasn’t that big! She peered out the round exit porthole and a line of jet tails stretched to the edge of the runway—five, six? He couldn’t count them all.

            “Boston,” Darcy said, holding up her phone. “CNN says it was our Boston flight.

            And Mandy knew, just knew. The she could not forget what she’d learned from Aunt Coreen after her cousin had taken his own life.

            “There’s that second or two,” Aunt Coreen had said, “When I wake up. Just a few heartbeats, really, when I don’t yet remember what happened, that he’s gone.”

            These, Mandy decided, were those seconds, heartbeats. She didn’t quite know yet. And she didn’t want to wake up, not to the loss, the grief, the fear and pain.

            And the certain knowledge that nothing would ever be the same again. More taxiing, turning, creeping, slow. Still moving. The certain knowledge that there was pain and loss, and it wouldn’t go away. Ever.

            Darcy took her hand and squeezed. Mandy squeezed back and savored the last few moments of peace before she’d actually have to know, to own, and never forget.

Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved

From Aircrew Confidential: The Unauthorized Airline Chronicles

Available soon in paperback and Kindle (pre-order HERE).

Do Pilots and Flight Attendants Hook Up?

Posted in air travel, airline, airline cartoon, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, flight attendant, flight crew, pilot with tags , , , , , , on July 2, 2020 by Chris Manno

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The simple answer is, yes … and no. Here’s the full story.

First crewlife is different from the average work life, for a couple reasons. First, when crews show up “at work,” the first thing they do is scatter to the four winds. No boss, no supervision, no oversight–gone. I always liked that aspect of my job as an airline pilot, especially as a captain: there’s no “boss”–except maybe me as captain–but rather, just a job to do. That job is flying, something we like to do.

selfie cockpit 2

When we as crew are out on the road, most of the logistics that the biz or leisure traveler need to worry about are taken care of: transportation, hotels, airport access. So, in theory, there’s the potential for some social interaction.

In “the good old days,” pilots and flight attendants were “paired” for an entire sequence, meaning, the cockpit crew and the cabin crew were scheduled for the same flights and the same layovers, sometimes for the whole month.  If there was time an opportunity–say, the long Cabo layover, with open bar included in the hotel stay–there could be some partying going on.

We used to say on the Fokker, which had a crew consisting of two pilots and two flight attendants, that every trip was a double-date. In fact, on my F-100 captain checkout trip, I met a flight attendant who I dated for much of the next year.

F-100 in flight pic

The F-100: “Every trip was a double-date.”

That ended when I met another flight attendant on another F-100 trip and in less than two weeks, we decided we should be married. And we have been married for the past twenty-five years. I detail this story, plus many other pretty extreme pilot and flight attendant connections, here.

But truth be told, we’re the exception to the rule. While there are many pilot and flight attendant couples, and many flight attendants married or committed to other flight attendants, and many pilots with the same connections with other pilots, several factors have made those connections less likely.

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First, the crewlife workday ain’t what it used to be: work hours are longer, layovers are shorter, and hotels are of lesser quality and the locations seldom in choice areas any more.

Plus, a few years back, the FAA instituted new crew rest requirements for pilots, but there are no such federally mandated rest requirements for flight attendants–a travesty in itself, but that’s another story. The end result has been that often, pilots and flight attendants stay at different hotels or even if they’re at the same property, the flight attendants are headed back to the airport after a shorter–typically inadequate–rest break.

Flight attendants are worn out from such brutal scheduling with too little rest. That kind of kills the social prospects of any layover situation. But there’s more.

Flight attendants tend to be outgoing, confident, adept at handling any situation, self-assured and practiced in the social arts from calming a passenger storm on board to leading their own lives with confidence and independence.

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Pilots tend more towards the nerdish, narrow-thinking, dogmatic way of seeing the world. It’s kind of the opposite pole of the typical flight attendant personality. Pilots land toward the control-freak end of the personality bell curve and many are insecure with a strong-minded, independent partner.

If a pilot can handle the typical flight attendant confidence and grace–and really, who wouldn’t?–the results can be a lifetime partnership:

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But then, there are also so epic train wrecks, and I detail them both, success and spectacular failure, in vivid, real-life case files in An Airline Pilot’s Life. Read it, and you’ll have a pretty clear picture of what exactly goes on between pilots and flight attendants.

From Amazon Books, Kindle ($5.19) or paperback ($17.99).

Just CLICK HERE.

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Freefall and Pictures

Posted in action-adventure, air travel, airline, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, flight training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2020 by Chris Manno

Maybe you’ve heard of Amazon’s #1 New Release in Commercial Aviation, An Airline Pilot’s Life.  The true story starts with a step into nothingness 2,000 feet above the hard-packed clay of Southwest Virginia. Then, the parachute fails. Here’s the pic–and the story–plus a few more photos from this fast-selling new book.

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Last one into the jump plane, because I’m going to be the first one out. Then, all hell breaks loose.

From An Airline Pilot’s Life:

Chapter 1

Nothing but a furious blue sky above, laced on top with a wispy cirrus deck like a delicate veil. Below, the earth screamed up at nearly terminal velocity and the jump plane was nowhere to be seen. Fine.

“Hop and pop,” it’s called: fling yourself out the open aircraft door two thousand, maybe twenty-five hundred feet above the ground if the jump plane pilot’s feeling generous, then plunge. I only paid for two thousand feet, but I’d hoped for a bit more.

One fist on my helmet, drawn in as my ripcord hand goes for the handle, so as not to flip myself over from the imbalance. Grab, pull, wait.

Nada.

The rumply-fluttery sound of the main chute dragged out by the smaller drogue flapping upward in the slipstream, but no reassuring, nut-crunching harness tug of full deployment. Okay, arch your neck, look up.

Shit.

The sleeve’s still on the main chute and it’s wagging like a big streamer yards above my head. The sleeve covers, reefs, the main chute. Ain’t opening. I shake the risers like a stagecoach driver urging on a team of horses, trying to shake loose the sleeve, to let the main parachute blossom full and wide but no.

My frantic attempt to clear the streamer has eaten up precious time, too much time. I’d “cut away,” release my tangled main and go for my reserve chute, but I’ve spent too many valuable seconds trying to clear the tangled main. The reserve chute will need at least five hundred feet to blossom full enough to arrest my plunge. I can see cows below, coming into distinct focus, as the ground rises to meet me. That’s bad.

I’d had no money for flying lessons, paying my own way through college, so that was way out of my budget. But skydiving was a fraction of the cost. Bought a used chute, took a few lessons—just get me into the sky and I’ll find my own way down.

Like right now. The voice of calm logic in my head annoys the panicked side of my brain with the salient fact that well, with a streamer, you won’t achieve terminal velocity because of the tangled chute’s drag, so you’ll only hit the packed dirt at ninety, maybe ninety-five miles an hour.

The mortal side of me, the soft pink flesh and blood humanism that doesn’t want to impact the dirt clod strewn pasture land at ninety miles an hour begins to perceive the red lip of terror, but there’s more to be done. I clutch my reserve chute tight with my left arm, then pull and toss away the reserve ripcord.

Both the relentlessly rational side of me and the human side feeling the growing alarm of near death unite in the methodical, careful last-ditch effort: grab the reserve with both hands and throw it downward as hard as you can. Hope and pray the reserve chute catches air and inflates on the way up rather than tangling with the snagged main chute flapping away above.

I give it a heave downward with all I’ve got. I mash my eyes shut, not wanting to see the results. I’ll know soon enough, whether the chutes tangled together and assured my death within seconds, or if I’d beat the odds and have the reserve chute blossom and displace tangled main. Or not.

The calm, unrelenting voice of reason, always there no matter what, had the last words: you really didn’t have jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

Way to go, dumbass.

Copyright 2020 Chris Manno All Rights Reserved

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The rest of the story? It’s all here:

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For paperback or Kindle, CLICK HERE.

And …. more pictures from the true story.

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USAF Pilot Training in Lubbock Texas. We had a blast–the stories are in the book–and here are the real-life people from the story: me on the left, The Coke standing next to me, and Animal Hauser above us both.

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The Wolfpack, above. That’s me with my flight suit unzipped, Chip leaning on my shoulder, and Animal Hauser leaning in front of me. Lot’s of adventures with this bunch, and the book puts you in the cockpit with us.

Then, I shipped off to Kadena Air Base on the Island of Okinawa as a tanker copilot for two years of flying all over the Pacific, Asia and the Indian Ocean. Below, that’s me and Widetrack, a guy I flew with and shared some pretty wild times–which are also in the book.

Me and Widetrack, waiting on the wing of our jet.

Me and Widetrack, waiting on the wing of our jet.

Those were the early years, my Air Force experience which led me to a career as an airline pilot, which is also covered, putting you in the cockpit of the world’s largest airline. Here’s a sneak peek:

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Animal, Chip, me, and The Coke. The story of our journey from USAF pilot training to captain’s stripes is epic, and the details are what comprises Amazon’s #1 New Release in Commercial Aviation.:

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Kindle ($5.19) or Paperback ($17.99) Just CLICK HERE.

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“The Best Of” Airline Cartoons

Posted in air travel, air travel humor, air traveler, airline, airline cartoon, airline passenger, airline pilot, flight attendant, flight crew, passenger with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2020 by Chris Manno

Are you a pilot, flight attendant or passenger missing the good old air travel world that is only now creeping back from the screeching halt of demand that’s grounded most flights? Looking forward to getting back into the sky? Well, here’s a cartoon glimpse at what we’re all missing. Enjoy.

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Nowadays, people seem to judge others more than ever, questioning why anyone’s flying–ignoring the fact that they are too. And it even looks different today.

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The airport itself is open, but the concessions are mostly a ghost town.

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Crewmembers can expect enhanced security screening.

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Boarding is much less crowded.

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Inflight, it’s much the same as ever.

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The pandemic is a factor, but there are differences.

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After your flight, please remember:

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And know that your crew is waiting to welcome you back aboard.

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Want to get a firsthand, behind the scenes look at crew life? Here’s your chance to live the airline crew life:

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It’s Amazon Books’ #1 new release in Commercial Aviation: an insider, firsthand story of flying from years as an Air Force pilot, then into the cockpits of the world’s largest airline for over three decades of flying, most as captain, around the country and the world. You’ll live the cockpit experience firsthand, fly the trips, the aircraft, the approaches and more.

Get your copy from Amazon Books in Kindle or paperback format.

Just CLICK HERE.

 

 

MD-80 Flashback

Posted in airline, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airlines, airport, aviation, crewlife, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, flight training, pilot, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2020 by Chris Manno

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I flew the American Airlines’ MD-80s for over 20 years and more than 10,000 pilot hours. She was the mainstay of our fleet for a long time and generally speaking, it was a decent jet to fly.

My first actual flight as copilot is recorded in detail below. This is an excerpt from my true-life story, An Airline Pilot’s Life, which is holding at Amazon’s #1 New Release in commercial aviation. In this book I take you along in the cockpits of American Airlines’ DC-10s, MD-80s, F-100s and Boeing 737s. Every training program, every aircraft shakedown flight, and more, including my years as an instructor/evaluator pilot. How do the jet’s controls feel? What are the maneuvering characteristics? How is the engine response? Get firsthand, first-person answers.

Here’s a sample, letting you sit in the copilot’s seat on my first landing in the MD-80, with 142 passengers on board:

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“Localizer capture,” said Charles Clack, a Check Airman, from the left seat. Ahead, the lights of the Los Angeles basin sprawled like diamonds scattered across the blanket of night as we sank lower on our approach to Long Beach Airport.

Technically, I should have made that callout, being the pilot flying, as soon as our flight director system captured the navigational signal leading us to the runway. But that was why there was a Check Airman in the captain’s seat supervising my first landing—with 142 unknowing passengers aboard—in the MD-80.

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As is typically the case, I discovered the real aircraft flew better and different from the simulator, which had been my total experience “flying” the MD-80 up to that point. I had the jet trimmed up nicely and the winds were mild so she flew a steady, true course with little correction from me.

But the most important, exciting and rewarding point for me was, I was the pilot flying. That felt good, after almost two years sitting sideways at the DC-10 engineer’s panel. That had been an easy, decent gig, but this is what I was here for.

Fully configured with full flaps, the MD-80 autothrottles kept the EPR (Engine Pressure Ratio, pronounced “EEP-er”) fairly high, which was good: she flew more stable at a higher power setting with more drag. The MD-80 Operating Manual recommended flaps 28 for routine use because it saved fuel due to the reduced drag compared to flaps 40. But I learned from experience that the jet flew a better, tighter approach at the higher power setting and really, how much extra fuel was being burned from the final approach fix to touchdown anyway?

Fully configured with gear and flaps, I simply flew the long silver jet down the guy wire Major Wingo had told me about, from our vector altitude all the way to touchdown on the comparatively short Long Beach runway. The landing was firm but decent, although the nosewheel came down harder than I’d anticipated.

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“I should have reminded you about that,” Charles said later in the hotel van. “With flaps forty, the nose is heavy; so you have to ease it down.”

Still, nothing could dampen my elation at having flown my first takeoff and landing in a passenger jet at a major airline. With a full load of passengers on board. That was it—I was really an airline pilot at last. Cross another item off the dream come true list, I said to myself silently.

The first officer upgrade at the Schoolhouse had been a breeze for a couple reasons. First, the McDonnell-Douglas systems logic and flight guidance processes were much the same as those on the DC-10. I already understood “CLMP,” “IAS,” “VS” and all of the flight guidance modes and what they’d do because I’d been monitoring the DC-10 pilots’ processes and procedures for a couple years.

And, I was paired with Brian, a very smart, capable captain-upgrade pilot for the entire ground school and simulator programs. He was a Chicago-based pilot, quiet, serious, and very capable. He offered easygoing help and coaching, just as he’d do with his copilots up at O’Hare and I learned a lot from him. He’d be an excellent captain, I could already tell, and in fact, he became a Check Airman himself eventually.

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The MD-80 itself was a study in design contradictions. When Douglas Aircraft stretched the old DC-9 by adding two fuselage extensions, one forward of the wing root and one aft, they didn’t enlarge or beef up the wing at all. By contrast, when Boeing extended the 737 series, they’d enlarged and improved the wing. The MD-80 simply had higher wing loading, which is not an optimal situation from a pilot’s view. The lift was adequate, but certainly not ample, reducing the stall margin. While Boeing’s philosophy was “make new,” Douglas seemed to be simply “make do.”

The ailerons were unpowered, relying on the exact same sluggish flying tabs the old KC-135 tankers had. She was lethargic and clumsy in the roll axis and the actual control wheels in the cockpit were cartoonishly large to give pilots more leverage against the lethargic ailerons. To boost roll response at slower speeds, the wing spoilers were metered to the ailerons, which was a mixed blessing: they didn’t raise the left wing to reinforce a right turn; rather, they dropped the right wing with drag. In an engine failure situation, the last thing you needed was spoiler drag added to engine thrust loss in any maneuver. That was Douglas doing “make do,” as they had done with so many hastily added components on the DC-10.

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The instrument panel was chaotic, as if they’d just thrown in all the indicators and instruments they could think of and then slammed the door. That left the pilots to constantly sort out useful information and block out distracting nuisance warnings. Douglas made a stab at lightening the scan load on the pilots with an elaborate array of aural warnings, a voice known as “Bitching Betty” to pilots. They just weren’t sensitive enough to be useful, like yelling “landing gear” in certain situations where landing gear wasn’t needed, which gradually desensitized a pilot to the point where you’d reflexively screen out the distraction, which was good, but also the warning, which was bad.

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The most unbelievable bit of cockpit clumsiness was the HSI, or “Horizontal Situation Indicator,” the primary compass-driven course and heading indicator before each pilot. Mine on the copilot’s side was placed off-center and mostly behind the bulky control yoke. It was actually angled slightly to make it more visible to the captain, because his instrument display was also obstructed by his control yoke, an incredibly clumsy arrangement.

The ultimate design goofiness was the standby compass, which on most aircraft was located right above the glareshield between the pilots. Douglas engineers must have had a field day designing the MD-80 whiskey compass, locating it on the aft cockpit bulkhead above the copilot’s right shoulder. To use it, you had to flip up a folding mirror on the glareshield itself, aim and find the compass behind both pilots’ backs, then try to fly while referencing the compass in the tiny mirror.

The fuselage was long and thin, earning the jet the nickname “the Long Beach sewer pipe” because it had been built in Long Beach at the McDonnell-Douglas plant. Flight attendants called it the “Barbie Dream Jet” because it was almost toy-like compared to the other American Airlines narrow body jet, the 727.

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The problem with the increased fuselage length was that Douglas hadn’t enlarged the rudder at all on the stretched MD-80, so the rudder itself was fairly useless for heading changes or turn coordination. All it seemed to do was torque the fuselage and have little effect on the aircraft’s azimuth. Eventually, an MD-80 pilot learned to ignore the rudder pedals in the air, unless it was needed to control yaw during a thrust loss on either engine.

The aspect of having the engines mounted along the aircraft centerline was a good deal compared to wing mounted engines which incur more asymmetrical yaw in an engine failure and I appreciated that. The engines were so far back that you couldn’t hear an engine failure in the cockpit, so there were actually warning lights to alert pilots of a failure.

The JT8D engine response was forceful and the engines themselves were the Pratt and Whitney equivalent of the gutsy General Electric TF-33 fanjets we had on the EC-135 J at Hickam. Minus the roll heaviness and disregarding the cockpit design mess, I wasn’t about to let anything dampen my enthusiasm for line flying as a pilot at a major airline.

I’d waited long enough to bid first officer that I could actually hold a set schedule rather than an “on call” reserve pilot schedule. At my seniority range, the trips weren’t very good, but they were trips just the same.

My first month I held a schedule of early two day Buffalo trips. Still, I was undaunted—I had a schedule! A regular airline pilot trip.

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Read more: fly the DC-10, the F-100 and more.

Get your copy of An Airline Pilot’s Life in paperback or Kindle format from Amazon Books HERE.  Makes a great Father’s Day gift!

Want a signed copy (US only)? Click Here.

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An Airline Pilot’s Life Now Available In Paperback & Kindle.

Posted in air travel, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airliner, aviation, crewlife, flight attendant, flight crew, flight training, pilot, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2020 by Chris Manno

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This is the true story that is Amazon’s #1 new release in Commercial Aviation, now available in paperback! Now you can live the pilot’s life yourself, from early years flying gas-powered, control line aircraft, to soloing in a Cessna 152, to USAF pilot training and soloing a supersonic T-38, to many years as an Air Force pilot in the Pacific, to American Airlines and a decades-long airline pilot career around the world, most of it as captain.

You’re in the pilot’s seat, living every step of the journey, hands-on, first person; the unvarnished truth that is the reality of a pilot’s life.

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Critics have called this “the real thing,” “an extraordinary adventure,” and “the closest most of us will ever get to flying a jetliner.” It’s all here, from the flying the DC-10 to captain upgrade to the MD-80 left seat, to instructor/evaluator, pilot union elected officer, to the Fokker-100 and eventually, the 737-800.

Live the dream yourself, every approach, every tight spot, every behind-the-scenes adventure in a vivid, fast-paced real life story.

Get your copy from Amazon books–just CLICK HERE.

Then, let your first-person adventure begin.

From Goodreads: “Reading this book, one learns what goes into the making of an airline pilot, as well as what is in the heart and soul of an airline pilot. I highly recommend it on both counts.”

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Airline Cartoons LIVE

Posted in air travel, air travel humor, air traveler, aircraft maintenance, airline, airline cartoon, airline cartoon book, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airlines, cartoon, fear of flying, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, pilot, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2019 by Chris Manno

The best airline cartoons just got better: now you can watch them come to life. Just tap on the image.

Of course, you can still enjoy the static version,

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the best of which are in the cartoon collection, available in paperback or Kindle format from Amazon here,

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but meanwhile, here’s a sampling from the “live” cartoon channel on YouTube, which you can subscribe to free for updates.

There are plenty more cartoons on my YouTube playlist, which you can access and subscribe to here.

Just one more way for you to enjoy the best, frontline airline cartoons.

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