Transcribed Interview #5

In Person/30:21

March 15, 2014

Dedication/Check Rides/Training


S: In our first interview you mentioned….um,… staying healthy, and pilots needing to stay healthy…a medical, every 6 months. Can you elaborate on that, for me?

T: As a captain on a Boeing 767, I have to hold a first class —-paper shuffle—paper shuffle—FAA…and too a first class medical is renewed every 6 months., so that’s why every 6 months I have to go to the uhh… and FAA approved doctor. And he uh, some are more in depth then others but, they’ll look at your eyes, you know…ask you how you’ve been doing, look at your reflexes. Uh lets see what else –ears, nose, throat- hearing.

S: Anything else about medicals?

T: Uh…Well if you would happen to uh, if there would be something wrong then you’d have to go back in order to get it, so if you get sick, if you don’t have a medical, you won’t be able to fly. If you uh, you know you can’t take drugs- er I- am taking about prescription, there is limited stuff you can take that’s approved by the FAA. So a lot of times if you get sick with something, that would be, diabetes. An example, some people with diabetes live almost normal lives…right? That would be a downer, immediately- you would be done. You could not fly –

S: -You could not fly at all.

T: Nope.

T: If you have a heart attack…you’ll eventually get back in it, if you can prove that your heart’s good enough. Might take a couples years but..uh, that’s probably what I was talking about by, if you keep healthy, you try to avoid that kind of stuff.


S: Okay…I guess I’m going to try something I little different….I’m gonna, not go into these questions and go to the next one (I have to tell him so I hear my thought process out loud. I am so lost but trying to stay on Ethnography Thinking Tract.) Because she was saying, if you are curious about something, that’s not –no. That’s not an ethnography question ( I am SUCH a curious person. That’s why this is hard for me.) Its not. Okay so I- I still don’t know…what I’m doing here… (Probably a really terrible thing to tell your informant in real life.)

T: Do whatever you think you have to do.

S: See that’s what- that’s- wha—I don’t know…. So…..

S: You say, uh, back from our first interview that its important to keep up with studying. What do you uh- ah, well I can’t ask that—

S: How often? Does a pilot havveta, to- study…

T: Well, of course that’s changing too with United. It used to be every basically 9 months that you had a checkride and I think its going back to every 6 months. Uh, one of, I’ll just say for now…United’s, on a 9 months, uhm cycle. So have to go back into the training center and which I’m pretty sure that’s changing, because continental….they didn’t have that –anyway. Everybody at each different airline they have to go back to the training center, and, and, and train, the emergencies and get the updated latest things that’s happening in the industry that might be harmful to your profession- and then your tested- your checked both by given oral exams and then checked in the simulator, and uh, you have to these emergencies that  they perform, you have certain procedures.  Uhh…like when they fail an engine on take off there is a procedure to perform to keep everything safe and you have to do that, and you have to do that in parameters, acceptable to the FAA and United or, you don’t pass.

T: So they have set emergency scenarios that you have to pass. And then also you have a check ride, with a first officer, working together, as a crew. They wanna see how you do with that too. And then if that goes okay which usually it does, then your good for the next cycle.

S: If a pilot fails a…. simulator, can he try again?

T: Yeah he’ll get additional training and then a re-check.

S: So uh…the training center…is where the check rides take place..? That’s what they’re called…?

T: United’s training facility is in Denver, and its called TK, which, is you are a pilot at United Airlines and you say I’m going to TK- everybody knows that your going to the training center either for a check ride or to go on a different air plane or…uh, that’s where you also practice opening emergency doors…uh, every couple years you have to jump in a, in an escape chute.

K: (audible sigh) I’m going downstairs, I’m exhausted.

S: Okay.

K: I called Denise I said, Denise are you tired? She was pulling people off the zip line today, in the snow and mud, I don’t know how she did it.  Um, one of the guys from uh ski patrol had these, they’re really cool, they’re these, I don’t know what you call them you get them at REI you slip them over your shoes, to give you traction?

T: Yeah they are trax. T-r-a-x.

K: They are really nice.

S: Were they walking on the snow with ‘em?

K No, he gave ‘em to us to use I hope she gave them back to him I guess she did.

T: You’ve never seen those before?

K: nn mn.

T: I’m sure you have.

K: But we needed them today, because you had to go up a hill, in the slush, and the snow, in the mud and she had to put them on her shoes and…the people were coming off the lake. I got to zip over the lake today.

S: mmmm

K: Pretty cool.

S: Nice day for that.

K: Perfect.

K: (Speaking to the dog) You wanna go downstairs with Mommy?

No answer

T: Sarah ‘s decided which questions she needs to ask.

K: (also to the dog) I’ll be right out then I’m taking you downstairs.

K: There’s shit all over this toilet bowl Tim. I’m not cleaning it. Its embarrassing.

T: Maybe its Corey’s.

K: No. It’s your shit from last week. I thought you would have cleaned it while I was gone.

S: (trying not to laugh.) Ok.

S: When a pilot goes into the simulator, does he face the same emergencies every 9 months?

T: Uh, yeah most of them are the same.

T: There are some different ones, but there’s some of the same ones that you have to, you have to do, to uh, to let the United & FAA know you are doing okay, and its not all emergencies either. Its uh, lets see it I  can- its engine out on take off , uh… and then a single engine landing. Uh, you have different approaches that you have to do, what they call non-precision, um, we have to do its called category 3 approaches which is called Auto-Land uh, down to the runway, the visibility could be 300 feet, as low as 300 feet, uh…there’s a lot of others I just can’t of them  all, off the top of my head…for some reason.

S: Does uh, does the pilot and first officer go through, the same sort of check ride?

T: Yeah, yea, they go together, and there’s a few things that the captain has to do…ah, like the category 3 approaches, it’s the captain, is always flying that. Always the one flying that. Ah lets see what else, I can’t think of all the procedures but the first officer is doing mostly all the other emergencies too.

S: Remember when we talked about seniority and the first officer gets bumped over and say now he’s a captain, will he be taught the capt- I mean, seems obvious but-

T: Yeah, he will go through an entire course that is designated as the Captain’s Upgrade, is its called, Captain’s Upgrade Course, dependning on which airplane he is on. Its still, it like if you’ve been on the airplane for years and years and years as a first office, and you upgrade to a captain on the same airplane, you still go through the entire upgrade to captain, uh, program.

T: Remember the captain is calling the demands and all that, that’s the big difference between, one of the big differences between captain and first officer.

T: So let’s say your flying along and you get a fire in the #2 Engine okay, it’s the Captain that’s gonna have to start commanding orders , its not the first officer who does that.

S: Its also the Captain who makes the final decision-

T: Yeah, so he’s gonna call for a certain checklist… I mean if it’s the wrong checklist the first officer can suggest, why don’t we do this check list, but then the captain still calls for the checklist- so that’s a big difference, that’s why the first officer is, is getting an upgraded captain’s course.

T: Like I said before, he’s taxiing the airplane now, he’s coordinating the flight attendants now, he’s coordinating with customer service, he or she…whereas before the first officer is not doing that.

T: If there’s a mechanical, or let’s say, if there’s a delay, a weather delay, you know sometimes it comes down to “well captain, do you wanna keep the people on the airplane or do you wanna get them off?”

T: That’s the decision a captain has to make.

S: Are there any…uh… responsibilites….or…. what’s the thing that the first officer is specificly responsible for that the captain is not? (I am so confused. I am throwing things everywhere.) 

S: Does that make sense?

T: Uh, there’s really nothing.

S: I- okay.

S: You mentioned that-

T: But I will say that, the captain cannot fly an airplane- cannot operate an airplane that size, by himself, by herself, has to have a good first officer. To push an airplane.

S: What, what kind of airplane-

T: Well, all of them. All of the bigger ones, they’re all two person airplanes. If something goes, I mean you can fly the airplane by yourself but if something would go wrong it would start to be getting too much, it would just be too much. By yourself.


S: Ah…you had said it takes, dedication to make it to a major airline, what does, what do you mean by that (I don’t  even know if that was appropriate to ask)

T: ohhh…

S: About how much studying it takes? (That question above must have made us both uncomfortable )

T: Well its, there’s a lot of things, you know it was just in the news before…it’s a very strange industry. When you first start out, you’re making. You could make more in heating and air conditioning. Then you are in the right seat of a regional jet. You know when I was a first officer…I think I told you this, I grossed 8,900 dollars back in the- you know it was 30 years ago or whatever but I think  the poverty, I grossed 8900 I think the poverty was 12500 that year, so I wasn’t making anywhere near the poverty level, so it, but you always have in the back of your mind well why am I doing this. Its you know, you know your not going to stay there. Keep on, keep on thinkin’ well, this is not gonna be the same, you know, I have a goal. So- that’s you have to be dedicated in that way, or you know you would say, well screw this I can go, get a heating and air conditioning job so-  its what you just said, you do have, check rides and they are pretty stressful…and they’re on a regular basis. Uh, its also a type of job if you , you could be the healthiest person in the work but if you get a certain illness your career is over.

S: I mean if you were to develop diabetes..

T: Yea- I don’t know, that  doesn’t really answer your question about dedication.

S: No, no that was great.

S: I don’t really, I don’t know if this qualifies as an ethnographic question ( I am so going downhill) but,  why…how is possible that you can get a degree…and end up on a regional airline…and still not make, poverty, level.

T: Well,  well its better now, I was flight instructor, when I was doing below poverty.

S: Okay but-

T: I think, those regional guys are getting hired and making…17 & 18 thousand a year, which is, uh-

S: Does that have to do with-

T: If you get hired by Lowes, you, you work a lot- but you’d be making the same amount of money.  But they’re (regional pilots) Thinking the same way- their gonna move up. It’s an unusual job its something different everyday which, which is, …..can be, what can be not interesting but it definitely doesn’t get boring in that aspect.

S: …regionals…

T: Yeah, you were asking about, can’t understand how you can get a degree and make that less money.

S: Yeah. I mean…doing what you do…even as a flight instructor….

T: Well that’s the ironic thing

S: It takes so much knowledge and education-

T: Yeah- and that’s the ironic thing about this whole business.


T: But there’s enough people that wanna do it, so…if you get away with paying first officers…I think its like 22,000 nowadays I’m not sure, but that’s still kind of on the low side, for what they’re doing. That was just in the news two weeks ago.

S: The….

T: How much pay they are getting for what they’re doing.

T: You’ve got people’s lives in the backofya.


S: Um…when you talked about captain’s training, its that something…part of the check ride training?

T: Uh…no, that would be, that’s just… like whatever airplane your on, whatever airplane your on your either going to train as a captain or train as a first officer so, you know, you had asked when a guy moves, so that would be called initial captain training.

S: Initinal comes—

T: Initial meaning- the first time he’s a captain.

S: And that’s what’s a part of Captain’s Upgrade Course?

T: Yeah, that’s part of the airplane training, that’s like part of the syllabus that’s with the airplane, the person is on. Like when I was a first officer on the Boeing 767, when I got upgraded to captain, I went to the Boeing 737, so I fell under the Initial Captain Boeing 737 Captain Course. They have set, set syllabuses for…

S: So is it each—kind of plane or type of plane?

T: Type

S: Each type of plane has alittle bit different syllabus-

T:  Every- yes.

S: For-

T: It has to because its different.

S: They’re all different

T: All the different instruments upfront, everything’s different: weight, speeds,  the way they look the way they fly…remember we were, United is one of the few airlines that has Boeing & Airbuses, remember what we talked about that’s on an Airbus, that’s different- Airbus has the joystick!

S: M hm
T: so yes each type of airplane has different course, and depending on if you’re a first officer or a captain…that.’s the course line that you follow.

T: But they pair first officers and captains together. So they’re going through the same program, they’re  matched up, the courses are matched up. So at the end of the program, the captain and first officer take a check ride together.

S: Will the first officer also be learning what the captain is learning?

T: No…the first officer is learning- some of the things are the same, some of the things are different.

S: Wait, hold on a second, I mean the Captain-

T: The first officer has certain things like remember what I was saying like pre-flight on the airplane.

S: Yeah.

T: So he’s learning all that other stuff, the Captain’s learning all the stuff that he’s going to be doing when he walks on to the airplane, like we had said before.

S: Okay.


S: I can’t pause it you’ll just have to talk.

K: What time do you have to leave tomorrow?

T: I really don’t know I’ll have to check, I think it’s about 1:15, 1:30, might even be earlier…

K: She still has her toothbrush in her mouth look at her ( the dog)

S: That’s all for today


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