San Francisco, Monday 8-7-95 1100 local (Z-7)
At least life working for Tower Air can't be described as a boring, never changing routine. They called me on the 3rd and assigned me a trip from LAX (Los Angeles) to JFK on the 4th. That was fine with me. It meant they paid for a ticket from Eugene to LAX, I got paid for going from there to JFK, and they had to pay for that night's lodging in Los Angeles. Otherwise I would have spent the day jumpseating to New York and would have had to pay for my hotel room to boot. Sometimes things break your way. The captain and engineer flying the trip were also good guys. Actually, there were two engineers. Crew scheduling had messed up and assigned two to the trip, so one just wound up sitting in back. The only bad thing, very minor, was that I didn't get to fly. If you wind up with only one leg with a captain, he will typically fly that leg. What's bad is if they keep changing captains on you, you never get to do the flying. I once went 88 days at Evergreen without getting to fly. They kept changing captains on me, and when I had multiple legs with a captain, he was a new one and the rule there is that a new captain has to do all the flying for his first 100 hours as captain in a given type of aircraft. Personally, I ignored that rule when I became a captain.
On the 5th I got with the captain and engineer who have the same line I do. We flew a San Juan, Puerto Rico turn. I didn't get to see much of Puerto Rico. We only had 2 hours on the ground. Both the captain and the engineer are excellent. I felt a little sorry for the captain in that on my leg I got a great landing - flight attendants mentioning it and and saying passengers had remarked on it - and his leg he got a clunker. When that used to happen to me as a captain - the f.o. getting a much better landing than I - it always made me feel bad.
I was looking forward to staying with this captain and engineer, but on the 6th things fell apart. The f.o. assigned to the JFK-SFO (that's San Francisco) leg had gone illegal for domestic flying but not for international flying, so they gave him my Paris trip and switched me to his SFO trip. The rest rules are insane. Domestic flying is much less stressful than international flying. It doesn't make sense to have rules that say you have inadequate rest for the easy flying but then permit you to be assigned to the harder flying. Ah, the wonders of the American bureaucracy. In this case, the f.o. was about to exceed the maximum of 30 hours in the last 7 days. That's a domestic rule, but it doesn't apply internationally. Really insane.
The bad thing about the change was that it put me with a captain who's a real cowboy - totally non-standard, doesn't communicate. He flew the poorest approach I have EVER seen a 747 pilot, captain or f.o., fly on the leg here. After he left the cockpit, the engineer turned to me and said, "What a fucking cowboy."
His approach and landing put me in a difficult position. It wasn't that he was doing anything unsafe, just that it was unprofessional and reduced the usual large margin of safety that's present. You have to be careful calling out a captain's errors. If you don't say anything, you're guilty of not alerting him to the problem, and that's part of your job. On the other hand, if he's purposely doing it, he'll accuse you of nitpicking, and many an unfavorable report on f.o.s has been turned in on that account. In this case, I warned him once that he was too high, once that he was too fast, and once that he was too close to the preceding aircraft. He ignored all the warnings. He finally took care of being too high by nosing down on short final, thus setting of the ground proximity warnings (horn and recorded voice commanding "pull up"). The deck angle became so steep flight attendants and passengers noticed it because one flight attendant came to me afterward and mentioned it, asking what the hell was going on. The tower finally took care of the problem that the airplane in front of us was not going to be able to clear the runway in time by switching us at the last minute, actually the last half minute, from runway 28 Right to 28 Left. This necessitated a low level turn also noticed in the cabin. The extra speed caused him to float, not touching down until well past the touchdown zone. He then had to pile on the brakes (congratulations, sir, you just set yourself up for a brake overheat - I only thought that, didn't say it, but all the brake temperature gauges went out the green to the top of the yellow), and he still used all of San Francisco's longest runway to stop. If an f.o. had done all this, he would be at the very least assigned to more training and more likely would just be terminated. However, this guy is a high seniority captain, so nothing will happen, nobody (including me) will say anything formally because the system is that you simply can't.
I'm not looking forward to the return leg tonight. If I'm lucky he WON'T let me fly. On the other hand, maybe he doesn't care how his f.o. flies. He night be one of these guys who believes in everyone doing his own thing. I'll find out.
I'm hoping I'll quickly get back on my regular line. That isn't too likely to happen immediately though since they're spending 2 days layover in Paris.
Everybody take care...Terry