The Murky Future as seen from the Past Few Days

by Berck

I had a two hour break between flights in Denver on Wednesday. When I turned my phone on, it indicated that I had a voice mail, which meant that either Mesa wanted to change my schedule or one of my parents had called me. Anyone else would have sent a text message. In any case, I feared bad news.

Imagine my surprise when the message unexpectedly started with, “Hi, this is Dee Marsh from Lynx Aviation. We’d like to extend an invitation for you to interview on Friday…”

My immediate reaction was unfettered glee, but that was quickly tempered by a realization of the complications fraught by the message. First, I was in the middle of a 4-day trip and would have arrange time off in order to attend the interview. Second, Lynx Aviation is wholly-owned by Frontier airlines, which you may or may not have heard, is in the middle of bankruptcy. Taking a job with a bankrupt airline is not immediately obvious as a good move. Furthermore, Republic Airways Holdings has just announced that they’re buying Frontier, which is even more of an unknown for Frontier/Lynx. Finally, I’m not yet furloughed from Mesa, which means that taking a job with another airline would involve giving up my recall rights.

The Republic buyout scared 2 pilots who were scheduled to start ground school in Lynx’s July 13 class. As a result, they needed to fill the class quickly, thus the short-notice interview. I tried to see if I could beg off for a later interview date, but they explained that I’d pretty much won the interview lottery. Generally they only interview pilots who are recommended by other Lynx pilots, but their list of 40 people didn’t contain any that could make it to an interview on short notice as they all lived out of town. So they called the best-qualified local pilots, which included me. But there was no guarantee that they would get to me without a recommendation in their normal course of interviews.

So I set about trying to figure out how to make it to the interview. I was about to fly to Durango, and wouldn’t get back to Denver until Thursday night. I was supposed to fly back to Durango and overnight there again Thursday night as well as Friday night. I happened to be flying with the Captain ALPA (our union) representative, and asked him what he thought I should do. He said that the only way I was likely to get out of it was just to call in sick. I didn’t want to do that for a couple reasons. The first one was that I was simply not sick, and I don’t generally lie. The second reason was that it would be terribly unfair to a reserve pilot. I’d have to call in sick after I got to Denver, and we had only half an hour before we turned around to fly back to Durango. That meant that a reserve pilot would be called on short notice and the flight would be delayed. None of this seemed responsible.

So I went for broke and called the Chief Pilot. I explained that I was going to be furloughed in October or November, that I had job interview on short notice, and I needed a couple of flights covered. He was surprisingly completely agreeable and arranged for me to take “personal time off” for those flights. I was astounded.

The interview was at 1pm in north Denver on Friday. My flight back to Denver on Thursday night was very late. I was hoping to be able to eat dinner with Robert on Thursday night, but I didn’t get back to the apartment until midnight or so. And then I spent a couple of hours catching up my official log book with my flights from the last couple of months. I’d figured I wouldn’t bother updating it until I got furloughed and had plenty of time to waste on such nonsense.

I got up a few hours later and printed out all the forms and arranged the paperwork for the interview. Pilot interviews require an insane amount of forms, documentation, and proof of having done and not done all sorts of things. Additionally, pilot interviews are extremely technical in nature. While there’s the normal sort of ridiculous interview questions involved, “Why do you want to work here? What are your strengths and weaknesses?” there are also a whole lot of technical questions that are very similar to an oral exam for a check ride.

And unlike a check ride or normal interview, I didn’t have much time to prepare. I brushed up as best I could with the sort of knowledge that pilots are expected to know, but only bother remember for interviews. Maximum holding speeds, VOR service volumes and so on.

I put on my suit. Dad bought me a suit to go to a wedding years ago, and I wear it for job interviews and the occasional wedding. Well, and once to get fries and custard with BeManda. I’d hoped not to be wearing the suit for interview purposes for some time, and reflected that it had been nearly two years, which is apparently as long as I ever get to work at any once place.

I collected all my papers, licenses, passport, logbooks and so on and put them in Jonah’s car, since her’s has the working air conditioning. (Odd how that worked out, that Jonah has the air conditioning and she never uses it.) Normally I just drive with the top down, so air conditioning isn’t really needed in Denver. But in a suit, that wasn’t really practical, so I figured borrowing her car was the better bet.

There were only two other pilots there, interviewing for a total of 2 spots. That’s pretty good odds and made me fairly confident. I was the only current airline pilot there. One guy flew in Alaska for the past few years and the other had been working for Great Lakes, but wasn’t any more. After about an hour’s worth of telling us about Lynx (much of which was, “At least we’re not Mesa Airlines”) we took a written test. The questions appeared to come from the ATP written, which is the most absurd and difficult of all the FAA written tests. I’d passed the test with a 96% years ago, but it had been awhile. And almost none of the knowledge was actually useful to airline pilots. Fortunately, I’m pretty good at useless knowledge and only missed 5 out of the 40 questions which they said was pretty good.

Since I had to get back to the airport for my flight to Durango, they were nice and let me go first for the grand inquisition. Four people, from pilots to HR people took turns grilling me on everything from what annoyed me to how to fly an instrument departure from Durango, CO. (They actually handed me a set of Durango plates to ask me about. I actually laughed out loud, since that’s the place I fly most often these days.)

I tried hard to point out all the ways in which I would be a pilot for them. I already do basically the same job, to and from the same airports, in an older/smaller version of the plane they fly. I fly a Dash 8 200, they fly the new Dash 8, the Bombardier Q400. I even told them how I was honest with Mesa in order to get time off for the interview, ’cause that’s just the sort of person I am. I’m not sure if it came about as boasting, but it seems like that’s the sort of thing you’re supposed to do in an interview. I think.

I also had to fly the stupidest “simulator” ever. It was basically a computer with Microsoft Flight Sim, yoke, rudder pedals, and a throttle quadrant hooked up. They warned me that I wouldn’t be able to fly it very well, and that was okay. I couldn’t fly it very well at all. It’s got about as much in common with flying an airplane as playing a first person shooter has to do with fighting in urban war. I didn’t fly it very well, but I think I did a reasonable job of demonstrating that I know instrument procedures. I hope. It’s the only part of the whole process I didn’t think I did an excellent job on.

The whole thing took 4.5 hours. They told me that they would let me know this week, and that if I don’t hear from them by Thursday to give them a call. That actually seemed a little strange. It seems like if I don’t hear from them, then they probably don’t want me. I’m trying not to read too much into it, or worry too much until I hear one way or the other.

If I got the job, I’d be able to stay where I am. The pay is exactly the same, though I’d be starting at the bottom again, so I’d be sitting reserve and the working conditions wouldn’t be quite as good as what I’ve got now. Since they only have a Denver base, there’s no danger of them shipping me somewhere else.

If I don’t get it, I’m probably going to have to move. And there’s no guarantee that even that would get me a job somewhere. Lynx is pretty much the only airline hiring right now. I’m hoping this is yet another case of my being in the right place at the right time. On the other hand, last time I thought I had a shoe-in to do the same job for different people, I didn’t get that job. And I was sure that interview went well, too.

Here’s hoping I don’t go crazy waiting for that phone call.

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