Flying with someone who bought the seat he is on; is exactly what I expected it to be
September 1st, 2017
The Eid-Al-Adha is the bigger of the two holiday seasons in the Muslim world, it marks the beginning of the end of the Hajj -Pilgrimage- ritual and the holiday season. It also celebrates the Abrahamic tradition of sacrifice where God ordered Abraham -Ibrahim in the Muslim vernacular- to sacrifice his son but then that was replaced with a goat.
Just like Santas and Elves -or Elfs- in the western culture celebrates the Christmas season, sheep in all shapes and forms fill the malls, airports and public spaces in this holiday season. Flying in Eid is just like flying in the holiday season anywhere in the world, congested skies, overflowing tarmacs, piled-up passengers, delays worth thousands of minutes.
This is just the time to be doing a red-eye with a rookie in an airport undergoing renovations. We landed in Kuwait International, my counterpart in the cockpit is a P2F. That made me anxious, but I set my mind to give him a fair chance. On the way to Kuwait, he showed symptoms of the shortcut pilot – pilots who take shortcuts around procedures. One of mentors once told me: “There are no shortcuts in aviation, our manuals were written in blood.” I made sure he heard it from me, I still don’t think it registered. P2Fs -or Pay-2-Fly- pilots, are the worst breed of pilots. In my mind, they rank well below paper-pushers and the shortcut pilots. They have a sense of entitlement that the machine doesn’t like, the machine makes sure to tell you when she doesn’t like you. Though you have to listen to the machine really well to hear it.
Pay-2-Fly is not a misnomer, although airlines call it “self-sponsored line training.” P2F is a growing trend in the industry, we ask pilots to cough up thousands and thousands of dollars -or Euros or whatever- to pay for time spent in line training. Some continue in that airline, others join outfits like ours.
What is wrong with that, you ask? Well, if having someone who bought his way to one of the most regulated jobs in the world isn’t scary enough, then continue to read.
There was a time when the economics of flying were straight forward. You got your license, via working for it or having a military experience, no matter. Then you got interviewed, tested, grilled and the best made it to the seats of the airlines, were the real money was to be had.
The trend now is, you got your license by buying hours in flight schools, like I did, then you pay to register for a controversial P2F program. This will qualify you in an airplane where you get “rated,” which in turn qualifies you to become an airline pilot. Notice that I skipped the part about interviews and tests; the airlines did that, not me. I also skipped the part about the real money, because why would an airline pay you to fly, if you are paying them to fly.
Instead of looking at the other side of the cockpit and thinking: “S/he made it because s/he deserved it;” I now think: “S/he made it because his/her family is rich.” Not a very nice feeling, but I tried to overcome that and give him the benefit of the doubt tonight. I flew out of my base and into Kuwait, I struck up a couple of topics to encourage him to open up, comraderie has a good place in the cockpit. His life experience seemed to have revolved around hitting on cabin crew and drinking his liver to oblivion. Youth is truly wasted on the young.
In Kuwait, he offered to do a coffee run, I needed it. I offered to prep the aircraft and have it ready if he got me my fix of caffeine. 20 minutes later he was back, more importantly, I smelled the aroma of wake-me-up.
“You wouldn’t happen to know why they call it Arabica?” I asked, in a hope to get a new repertoire going before I fell asleep. “They call what Arabica? Do you mean Arabia?” If he didn’t know the basics of coffee, I must sound like a bore to him. “Forget it, did you get a chance to see the new SOP revision?”
He missed an exit in Kuwait and attempted to look like he knew where he was going until I had to stop him and do a 180 that barely fit on a taxiway.
“Let’s call a spade a spade.” I told him at the end of the flight, he was clearly in a need of a wake-up call and not the type you get from a cup of Java. “In order to continue to flying and make living in this line of work, you have got to respect the cockpit. You are free to be careless in your car, but please take the cockpit more seriously or you will get yourself in trouble, if not worse”
It didn’t register anymore than my previous comments. “I was just tired from all the Eid stuff going on,” he dismissed. I am sure I won’t see him anytime soon. For the better, I say, I need my counterpart to cover my bases.
The P2F trend has to stop, but it won’t until someone is hurt, by then it will be too late!