No flying this weekend.  Having flown on Wednesday it didn’t seem that urgent. I was out at the airport each day, though. Saturday I spent the afternoon in the hanger working on some window frames. I plan to replace a couple of windows when the weather warms up. I cut out the aluminum frames for the windows, shaped them, cleaned up the edges and drilled the attachment holes. It would have been nice to continue with work on the Plexiglas, but it was barely 40 (F) degrees and that makes the Plexiglas a bit brittle.

It’s really frustrating to work for a couple of hours shaping and drilling holes in a new window and then almost at the end have the drill bit catch and crack the window. I have a set of drill bits ground for use on Plexiglas but you can still screw it up if you let your attention wander.  Been there, done that. Then, when you throw the ruined part across the hanger you invariably knock something onto the floor that you really didn’t want spilled. Things you laugh about…….  much later.

Sunday I went out to the airport again, this time to go flying. I plugged in my engine pre-heater, uncovered the plane and got it ready to go. I let the little pre-heater work b;owing warm air into the engine compartment for about an hour in the colder temps to try to get the oil lubricating everything as quickly as possible on engine start. While I was waiting I checked the local area and NOTAMS on ForeFlight and did some reading. I found myself falling asleep ( I didn’t sleep very soundly Saturday night). At that point I questioned whether I ought to go flying and that gave me the answer.

The way I figure, if you ask your self if you ought to be doing something or question whether you should continue on a particular course of action, then you have already answered the question with a negative. If you didn’t have doubts the question wouldn’t have come up in the first place. At that time, the right course to take is to put the plane back to bed and go home or land, find a room and try again the next day. The world will not end if a flight is cancelled, a meeting is missed or you don’t make it to that date or kid’s ball game. I can’t remember the last time that I saw photos of a crash scene that were taken in bad weather. And how many times have you read an accident report and asked yourself why in the world the pilot kept going?

The Airlines, the Military and the New Rules

I’ve seen a couple of articles lately that said the Air Force is getting concerned about their ability to keep enough pilots to fill all their cockpits. That’s probably a valid concern considering the current state of the aviation profession. With all the cutbacks the squadrons are probably getting just enough in their budgets to meet the minimum flying currency requirements. Pilots, especially military pilots, don’t like sitting around.  At the same time the airlines are starting to look hard at potential pilot availability compared to known retirements.

The increase in the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots changed from 60 to 65 about 5 years ago so now all those pilots who were going to be forced to retire and got a temporary reprieve are hitting the mandatory age again. Then Congress mandated that a pilot must have at least 1500 hours of flight time in order to occupy a copilot position in a scheduled airline cockpit (commuter or major airline). And just a couple of days ago a new set of crew rest requirements went into effect. The new rules were a much-needed change to some marginal rest rules, but the effect is that the airlines now need more crew members to cover those times when the new rules require the crew stop working for the day and a new crew must be called into action.

Probably the biggest effect will be felt by the 1500-hour rule, although there are some exceptions to the experience requirement. As I understand, graduates from aviation schools like Embry-Riddle and the University of North Dakota can get a Restricted ATP rating at 1000 hours and graduates of military pilot training courses can qualify for the Restricted ATP at 750 hours.  These Restricted certificates allow the individual to be hired by an airline as a copilot. When they accumulate the full 1500 hours of flight experience they can remove the restriction to their ATP certificate and qualify for job upgrades. Before this new rule airlines, especially the commuter airlines, were permitted to hire copilots with only a Commercial pilot certificate and often as little as 300 hours of flight time.  The assumption was that the new-hire pilot would gain their upgrade experience flying for their employer. That was fine as long as the airline was diligent in not assigning two pilots with minimum experience to the same crew. That hasn’t always worked out.

A general aviation pilot might average 100 hours in a year when flying on their own dollar. That’s 2 hours a week, every week, regardless of weather. That would require 15 years of flying to reach the new airline hire limit. Reaching the 1500 hour mark requires getting some sort of flying job that builds hours quickly. You can probably cut that to 2-3 years if you find the right flying job and don’t burn yourself out. Frankly, I’m at a loss about how any pilot can get the numbers to show that choosing an airline career will result in a positive income in less than 20 years or so from the start of flight training.  I was extremely lucky to have completed a military career and then had the opportunity for an airline career. I managed to be in the right place at the right time.

I’m not saying not to choose professional aviation as a career path, just do it with open eyes and an understanding of what the process will be to achieve your goal. There will always be pilots who will do just about anything in aviation in order to earn a living by flying. The question is whether there will be enough of those types of people to fill all the cockpits. One wonders with all the talk by the alphabet groups trying to get more people to join the pilot ranks at any level.

The Photo:  A typical dinner appetizer on a Narita (RJAA)  layover – a big bottle of Sapporo beer and an order of Gyoza.  I believe I took this photo on my last airline flight before retirement.