Hello everyone how’s it going? For this week’s “What’s it like?” segment I interviewed a good friend of mine who is one of the newest rated 777 pilots out there for a Major Airline. Brad has many years flying different types of aircraft and you may have even flown with him not knowing it. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did, and a huge thanks to Brad for taking the time to conduct this interview complete with thoughtful responses. You can connect with Brad by following him on twitter @AAFO4ever and interact with him if you want to learn more and see some pretty cool picture too.
See you all next week!
The Flyn Panther
Responses annotated as follows:
AA: Brad (AAFO4EVER)
FP: Tell us a little bit about yourself?
AA: Above all I’m a family guy. I’m also a huge aviation geek and have been for a very long time, but my family comes first when I’m not at work. I’m often asked how my family deals with the hectic schedule of an airline pilot, but I honestly believe I spend more time with my family than the average guy working a 9-5 job. Generally speaking, I work one three-day trip every week and spend two of those three nights in a hotel away from my family. That leaves five nights at home. Plus, when I’m home, I’m really home. I don’t bring work home with me, my phone doesn’t ring day and night, and I’m never tempted to slip into the office on a day off. I take pride in being a hands-on dad and I’m happy to say I’m 25 years married to my best friend.
FP: At what age did you know that you had the bug and all that you wanted to do was fly?
AA: Not as early as you might think. There were a number of aviators in my family… my dad, both grandfathers and a few uncles were all pilots… but I was never pressured to fly and didn’t show any real interest to fly for a living until high school. It was an “aviation science” course at J.J. Pearce High School in Dallas, Texas that cemented my love of aviation and my desire to make it a career.
FP: What’s your earliest memory of aviation?
AA: My earliest memories of aviation revolve around family vacations. My parents have a picture of me at about age 10 sitting in the left seat of a Delta 727. It’s the usual picture that I have encouraged so many times when kids (and kids at heart) visit the flight deck. Wide eyed and overwhelmed with the Captain’s hat resting atop a full head of blonde hair that I so wish I had back!
FP: What was the most difficult part of your training at any phase?
AA: Seems strange now that I look back at it, but I remember struggling to feel motivated during my private pilot training. My instructor insisted that I complete the written portion of my training before I started flying. I’ve never enjoyed book work. Even today, when I’m training on a new plane, I can’t wait to have ground school behind me so I can move on to the fun part. I remember sharing with my instructor the fact that I was having a hard time getting motivated. He told me, without apology, that it wasn’t his job to be my cheerleader. I either needed to get excited and get it done or find something else to do.
FP: What is your proudest moment in aviation so far?
AA: I don’t know that it’s my proudest moment, but what immediately comes to mind is my recent Boeing 777 type rating. I received job offers from Southwest and American on the same day back in 1999. The airline industry has changed a lot since then, but at the time, American pilots were cashing yearly bonus checks big enough to purchase new cars, they had an industry leading retirement plan, industry leading compensation, and flew big airplanes all over the world. I strongly considered Southwest at the time, but I felt like working for Southwest would be like flying for a bigger regional airline. Of course, that was all before 9/11. I chose American largely because I wanted to fly wide-body airplanes overseas… and I didn’t want to fly 737s for my entire career. The irony was that after almost 18 years at American, I was still stuck in the right seat of a 737. At least at Southwest I would have been a Captain.
So now, after all these years, I’m finally getting to do what I always wanted to do. I have a fresh 777 type rating in wallet and I’ll be headed to Rome, Italy and Narita, Japan on my first two trips. It’s a big milestone for me.
FP: Any emergency that stands out?
AA: I’ve only had a few that I can even remember. I had two engine shutdowns when I was flying for ASA, one on an EMB-120 Brasilia and another on an ATR-72. I had a third engine shutdown while flying an MD-82 for American and that one is still fresh in my memory. We practice engine failures all the time in the simulator and the real thing was no different than anything I’d ever practiced before, but I vividly recall reminding myself that this one was real as I rolled out on final and spooled up the good engine to stabilize my approach. No reset button. No simulated visual out the window. There were real fire trucks waiting for our arrival. Of course, it all ended with a decent landing and grateful passengers. I remember being a little surprised that I didn’t hear anything from the company. No call or email to see if I was ok. No pat on the back. Anticlimactic at best.
FP: Which airplane is your favorite to fly?
AA: My favorite kind of flying is in small, fabric wing aircraft, down low and slow with the windows open. But if we’re talking airliners, the 777 is my favorite by far. Honestly, I’ve loved every airplane I’ve ever flown, and my career at American has been no exception. I started out on the 727, but that airplane was already headed toward retirement and I didn’t fly it for long. I moved on to the MD-82/MD-83 where I spent 13 years and almost 9,000 hours. After that came the 737 where I spent another 4 years. Up until now, the 737 has been the most enjoyable airliner I’ve ever flown. It’s an excellent, capable airplane that I’ll fly again someday, maybe sooner than I want, as a Captain. But after completing 777 school, I find myself truly impressed with an amazing airplane. I have a lot of book knowledge on it at this point and very little actual experience, but I get the impression that I will love it a little more every time I fly it.
FP: If you could fly one plane from any era what would it be and why?
AA: I have two answers to that one. First, I would have to say the Boeing 747. It’s always been my favorite airliner and it’s an airplane that I will most likely never have to opportunity to fly. My airline doesn’t currently own any 747s and I sincerely hope I’m never in a position where I have to find another airline. I’m happy with this one and would like to retire here. Aside from airliners, I’ll have to go with something historic and say the B25. My Grandfather was a B25 Crew Chief during World War II and I hold my memories of him very close. Even though he wasn’t a pilot, the B25 still reminds me of one of my favorite people.
FP: Favorite layover?
AA: That’s a tough question. I’ve been flying 737 international for the last couple of years and spent most of my time flying to the Caribbean. Long layovers on the beach was the norm and it’s hard to pick a favorite. That said, my most memorable layover was at St. Maarten. That place is an aviation geek Mecca. I only spent two nights there but they were quite memorable. Long days in the sun on Maho beach, bobbing around in the surf, drinking a little too much of something good and cold while watching everything from Cessna’s to Boeing 747s flying shockingly low overhead. What’s not to love.
FP. Any advice for new pilots or those wanting to get into the industry?
AA: Get started, don’t give up and try not to take breaks. There is a path from here to there. Yours may be different than mine, but if you want it badly enough you can make it happen. Have faith in yourself. Don’t let others negativity bring you down. Enjoy the journey. Sometimes we get so focused on the end goal that we miss all the awesome stuff along the way.