Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Rant on Copilots (and their Hats)...

I recently finished two trips which were much more difficult than they otherwise should have been. Bad copilots on both parts.

Copilot #1...
Just about the first thing he says when we meet is that we need to be on time on the last leg...then four days in the future. He's got a close connection to the last flight of the night. I've got no problem with this as I'm a commuter too and understand completely. Then, on the second day, he wants to switch legs so that he doesn't have to land in the same place twice. I agree, but wonder: On the day he retires, will the number of landings here vs. there make any difference to anybody? (And I notice that this change makes the last leg his.) He has a habit of taking off his shoes, which is somewhat unusual. At one point in the trip, we speak about the good workout room on the last layover. On the last day, he asks if I minded if he dried out his gym clothes. I (reluctantly) was just one leg, and I'd be done with him. Then, as he's standing after draping his wet gym clothes throughout the cockpit, I detect an odor of something. I wonder: Did he just fart, or do his gym clothes come complete with skidmark? I try not to answer.

He did have a hat (more on that later), and a coat. The hat rarely touched his head and spent most of the time on a second hook on his suitcase. The coat fit him, oh maybe, 20 pounds ago, so it didn't often get buttoned.

Copilot #2...
I notice right away that he doesn't have a coat. Well, that's not exactly right. He has a coat, just not a uniform coat. It's more of a windbreaker. No hat in evidence though. The conversation on our first leg is pleasant enough, but it becomes clear to me (and probably to him) that we aren't going to agree on much. He was angry that the pilot's pension was lost while everybody else retained theirs. I explain my belief that our pension was probably just a ghost anyway and about the divorce cons I'd heard go on. He says that we'd be better off if we were a more hard-core union. I think: Great. I'm flying with one of those guys who thinks that we're pussies unless we go past the point of threatening to Burn-the-House-Down, but actually throw the gas and light the match. Never mind that we're in bankruptcy. Never mind the conditions of the rest of the industry. It was all about how we sold out too early. Anyway, again, the conversation wasn't unpleasant, but we soon drift into our own silences. On the second leg, I got to the airplane a bit before him. As he arrives, he asks if I've done the walk-around. I say "No", and off he goes--coatless--for his mid-November walkaround. [A small digression on walkarounds...While he may think I'm being a prick for not jumping at the opportunity for a walkaround, I don't think so. If you've paid attention at all on that other forum, you can probably guess at why I don't really like to get too far away from the cockpit without packing up at least a portion of my stuff. I use the time while the F/O is outside to brief the Flight Attendants. I don't really like most F/As, but I do have to work with them. It is up to me to set an environment where they want to work with me rather than for me. Also, I told myself when I got hired that I'd do half the walkarounds over my career. Guess what? I've already done my half. And finally, the surest way to get me to never do a walkaround is to somehow intimate that you expect it.] His leg into LGA is a challenging one. The weather was low and the winds were near crosswind limits. Most pilots would keep the automation on until we saw the runway, but this guy does otherwise. He clicks off the autopilot and autothrottles and flies manually. There's nothing procedurally wrong with this, but it does make things harder than they need to be. Once we break out, he was lined up on the downwind (right) side of the runway, further making things difficult for himself. The landing was good for LGA and the conditions (read: "firm"). On the approach on his second leg (second day), he again turned off all the automation. We didn't have the weather conditions to deal with this time, but again he lined up on the right side of the runway. I wonder: Is this a trend? [Another digression--this one on his hat. On the third day, his hat makes a brief appearance, from deep inside his roll-aboard, as we change planes in ATL.] His last leg was the real doozy. The weather in LAX was right at minimums. We were very close to needing me to do a Cat II or Cat III approach. So what does our intrepid aviator do? Yeah. You guessed it. He again turns off all the automation and hand-flies the approach. A Cat I autoland would have been perfect here, but that doesn't occur to Steve Canyon. He manages to find the centerline this time, but he wipes off the power at about 25 feet (767) and absolutely crushes the landing. I mean--it was awful. We taxi to the gate in silence. At the gate, he packs up his stuff, we exchange pleasant, but not warm goodbyes, he says goodbye to about a third of our passengers, and then in one of the biggest displays of cowardice I've ever seen, he leaves. I'm left to put my face to what is probably the worst landing experience our passengers have ever been through. No stones at all. None.

Epilogue...Here are the common threads:
  • I had F/As question me on the behavior out of both these guys. The first less-so than the second, but in both the non-conformity was easily noted. The second guy was a bit abrasive with a couple of the girls. One of the F/As in the crushing landing later complained of back pain (after Steve had left). Not good at all (and later, I thought that I should have asked if this was OJI back pain, or just back pain.) They both cut a wide swath.
  • Both these two guys have trouble with the hat. If you're out to make me wonder if you're about to ask for special treatment, do non-standard things in the cockpit, and make me think that I'm going to have to watch for sub-par flying skills, not wearing the hat is a good signal. I'll be able to see you coming a mile off.

1 comment:

The Sanity Inspector said...

Not a cheery thought, right before holiday travel... >:^/

There's a Delta pilot in my church, and I can only imagine what shape his portfolio is in, what with two daughters in college.