Captain / Airline Pilot
I always look forward to the art of actually flying the aircraft.
What is a typical day like for you?
Check-in at the airport pilot self briefing area begins1hour and 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time of my flight. After accessing the company’s computer network, I will verify the latest relevant bulletins and advisory information pertaining to the flight or flights that I am about to operate. At this time I will also meet the 1st Officer and sometimes a Cruise relief pilot (if our flight is planned to exceed 9 hours). Once again through access of the company’s computer network we will retrieve our Flight Plan that has recently been prepared for us by our Flight Dispatch department. We thoroughly review the Flight Plan and satisfy ourselves to the extent that all aspects of the flight have been correctly considered. It’s time now to proceed to our departure gate. Flight Deck preparation takes 45 minutes on average. Time is spent verifying that the Aircraft is in an airworthy condition and readying all controls and switches for our departure. It takes several minutes to load our Flight Management Systems with the Flight Plan and enter all the aircraft performance data. We are always monitoring the correct fuel loading, cargo loading and cabin preparation. Once all our passengers are seated with their cabin bags stowed all doors can be closed.
It is now time to finally do what pilots do best…Go Flying! Taxiing to the departure runway on average takes about 15 minutes where we complete the final take off preparations and checklists. Flight time “legs” vary as a function of mileage to be flown, environmental conditions, air traffic control routings and airport departure and arrival procedures. I am presently flying the Airbus A330 and my flight legs vary anywhere between 1 and 10 hours in duration. There are always at least two pilots on duty in the flight deck. The pilot flying is responsible for the physical control of the aircraft and the pilot not flying is responsible for air traffic control communication and documentation duties. We are both always continuously monitoring our flight path and aircraft performance. Normally the flying and not flying positions alternate on each subsequent flight leg although the Captain retains the ultimate responsibility for every flight. Approximately 40 minutes prior to our estimated arrival time we will plan our descent, approach and landing procedures. Once at the final destination of the day, I am either on my way home or on my way to a Layover Hotel. I prefer to arrange my flying as to have at least a one day layover during work “pairings” as we call them.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
I always look forward to the art of actually flying the aircraft. Equally enjoyable is the satisfaction that comes from giving my passengers a smooth, comfortable and above all a safe flight and therefore I hope, an enjoyable experience for them also.
What is the least enjoyable part of your job?
It is a Transport Canada requirement that every 6 months (on average) all Airline Pilots are subject to recurrent training, evaluation and grading. This is normally accomplished in a simulator. I prefer actually flying my Aircraft rather than practising and being examined in a simulator. I am also subject to a medical examination every 6 months and one day of annual recurrent ground school training. Once again, not nearly as much fun as going flying.
Explain the path you took to get to this job (education, internships, etc.).
I graduated from Notre Dame Secondary High School in Academic Sciences (my present employer requires completion of high school at the university entrance level as one of their prerequisites of employment). I spent the next year completing 1st year pre-applied sciences at the University of British Columbia. Then eager to start my aviation career I enrolled at Staron College of Aviation, a flying school located at Pitt Meadows BC. One year later I had logged 150 flight hours, taken the appropriate Transport Canada written examinations and flight tests and therefore achieved my commercial pilots licence. I had also taken time to acquire a Float Rating which allows flying aircraft equipped with pontoons and capable of operating on water.
The next 3 years were spent flying as a bush pilot in North Western Ontario. During this time I was able to upgrade my commercial license with an Instrument and multi-engine rating. The next two years were spent in Southern Ontario flying commuter aircraft. While working there I was able to log enough hours to once again upgrade my commercial license. Haven taken the appropriate additional Transport Canada exams, I obtained the ultimate pilot licensing goal, an Airline Transport Rating. I had now surpassed all minimum qualifications and was therefore hopeful for the opportunity of employment by a major Airline. Fortunately for me, coincidentally Air Canada had recently started a major hiring initiative. With my résumé complete and my application being considered, I was fortunate enough to be granted an interview. Here I am 34 years later still working for Air Canada and living my child hood dream of flying large commercial transport jets for one of the best Airlines in the world.
Who or what was the greatest influence that set you on this path?
The Vancouver International Airport and the associated Hangars surrounding it were definitely the greatest influence. Growing up in the Vancouver area I was always fascinated at the logistics of running this magnificent complex. As the aircraft were the focal point around which everything revolved, the desire to learn how to fly seemed to evolve naturally.
What advice would you give others seeking a similar job?
Finding out whether or not you like flying would definitely be the first step. Aviation is a career seeded from the love and passion for flying. I would suggest taking an introductory flying lesson. Most local flying schools will offer one at a very nominal cost. Next I would schedule an aviation medical examination. In order to hold a pilot licence of any kind you will first have to pass the applicable medical. There is then the decision as to which flight training path you wish to follow in order to obtain your Airline Transport Rating. The three principal options are Flying Schools, Flying Colleges and the Canadian Military.
How does your job make a difference?
We are very much a mobile society. Aviation augments time critical transportation of people and medical supplies, this in turn can and does save lives. Air travel for the business community offers numerous opportunities that would not otherwise exist. The tourism industry would change dramatically without the ability to span the globe within a day or two. The aviation community employs hundreds of thousands if not millions of people directly or indirectly around the world. In so many ways invention innovation and technology can be attributed to the aviation industry.
How do you use science, math and technology in your job?
Environmentally I am continuously monitoring and analysing weather charts and data. The use of math to explain the aerodynamic principals of flight, is helpful when interpreting aircraft responses to given situations. Other routinely used math applications include aircraft performance calculations such as weight and balance issues and calculating take off and landing distances. In flight I am continuously using math for navigation, time and distance calculations, consumption of fuel and in the planning of profile descent distances. Without technology there would not be and airline industry. Almost every type of computer imaginable plays part of a typical working day for me. Specifically on board the aircraft there are literally hundreds of computers and computer systems. On the Airbus A330 there are system monitoring computers, flight control and electronic flight instrument computers, flight navigation management computers and of course passenger entertainment system computers just to name a few. The use of technology definitely makes my job more efficient, safer and under some conditions less time consuming than it would be otherwise.
Is there one course you wish you had taken in high school but didn’t? Why?
Just following my High School academic science curriculum provided a good base for my aviation career. Rather than regrets about the course I didn’t take, I would like to mention the course that I was most happy to have taken. Introductory Physics was a great aid in helping me appreciate the world around me especially to start thinking more three dimensionally.
What makes this job right for you?
The enjoyment, passion and challenge I experience while flying airplanes is a great part of it. As I don’t think I am suited for a 9 to 5 work day, I appreciate the flexibility that an irregular work schedule provides. I also appreciate the opportunity to travel that is afforded by an aviation career.
What's the most bizarre or silliest thing you’ve ever done in this job?
Years ago I encountered an experience while flying east bound over the North West Territories on my way to London England from Vancouver. It was a typical clear star-lit winter’s night, special only in the fact that it happened to be Christmas Eve. As I glanced out of my flight deck window I could see the North Star shimmering brightly. Below it a spectacular display of dancing Northern Lights. Suddenly underneath all of this I caught a glimpse of an Unidentified Flying Object heading towards us. For a brief moment I could have sworn I was witnessing the on-time annual scheduled departure of Santa Claus and his Reindeer flight crew. They were streaking South bound and looked eager and capable of pulling off an “all night-err” on behalf of all Santa believers located throughout the world.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
I love to participate in most sports. I normally run 20 to 30 kilometres a week. Although not very athletically gifted I enjoy being active as a counter to the hours I spend sedentarily in an aircraft. In spite of the fact that I travel for work I am still often traveling for my own pleasure. I spend a great deal of time landscaping and gardening and of course just hanging out with my wonderful family and friends.
You just won $10 million! What’s the first thing you’d do?
I would immediately do my “I just won $10 million dollar” dance and shout. Then I would share my good fortune with family and friends.