Robert S. Randazzo
I'm an airline captain for United Express, based at Washington Dulles International Airport.
I've been in this position for two years. Previous to joining the pilot ranks, I served 10 years in non-management and management roles for United Airlines in Allentown, Pennsylvania; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Washington.
I started working for United as an airplane cabin cleaner while attending college in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I moved through various non-management customer-contact positions and was eventually promoted into entry-level management.
Shortly after accepting an account executive position at our sales office in Washington, I decided to pursue a lifelong ambition to fly. I began an intensive (and expensive!) program of flight training outside my normal management position. I was fortunate to meet a number of pilots and managers at United who were eager to provide guidance, advice and opportunities to gain experience during this four-year process.
On meeting the experience requirements, I applied for -- and was offered -- a position as first officer with our United Express affiliate in Washington. I've recently completed training as captain.
We work a broad range of times, as dictated by our flight schedules. A typical week will find us flying four or five days each week. Normally, we'll be away from home three to four nights weekly. The amount of time we spend at the controls of an aircraft is determined by FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations and company-union agreements. On a typical day we'll be on duty between 10 and 14 hours and during that time we'll actually fly 6 to 8 hours.
Securing my first cup of coffee is ritualistically the first task of my day. My activities revolve around getting prepared to fly -- obtaining up-to-date weather information; reviewing technical or procedural changes at destination airports; reviewing company-related information and briefing items; reviewing the maintenance status and history of our assigned aircraft; and spending a few moments getting acquainted with the other crew members.
Meal times will vary depending on my flight schedule. Usually we have at least one longer "turn" through an airport and we'll use this time to eat. I bend over backward to avoid eating airport concession food, although I'm not a fan of hotel food either.
Maintaining a healthy diet can be a challenge. I often carry dried fruit, crackers or other nonperishable snacks with me in order to avoid snacking at airports. When all else fails, we always have pretzels.
|When a day goes badly: "I just remind myself that I have the best job in the world. If that fails to work, I simply consider that I can always give this up and return to management. That always does the trick!"|
Things get tense when the airline operation itself is under stress from weather or other phenomena. It's been my experience that we do a poor job of explaining the reasons for delays. It's not uncommon for passengers to tell us that they were given completely different explanations as to why their flight was operating behind schedule. This is always frustrating because you want nothing more than for your customers to feel they've been given complete and accurate information. It is a complex business, sometimes.
Not surprisingly, I seek the same things that most of our customers seek. An on-time departure, a smooth flight, good cohesion between crew members and a smooth landing. (A good landing always makes the day go better!)
None, unless I'm in training. We undergo approximately three months of training any time we change aircraft or when we upgrade from first officer to captain. The training environment is intensive, stressful and highly regulated.
Our training records can influence our ability to obtain promotion and advancement in our careers. As such, training periods tend to be marked by long hours of study and extended separation from friends and family.
A fiction writer or President of the United States. (Wait -- is that a single choice?)
Lack of integrity.
I run my own aviation-related software business when I'm not flying, Precision Manuals Development Group (see Related Sites below). Most of my co-developers live outside the United States, and I find it to be educational and rewarding to work so closely with fellow aviation enthusiasts from all around the world. Our customer base includes airplane enthusiasts around the world. I enjoy helping to promote interest in aviation, regardless of where someone lives.
Unfortunately, my reading during the past four months has been related to my promotion to captain. Federal aviation regulations and airplane flight manuals aren't exciting reading. During the summer however, I read Herman Wouk's "The Winds of War" (Warner Books, a sister AOL Time Warner company to CNN.com) and "War and Remembrance" (Little, Brown and Company). These books should be required reading for anyone who thinks our country should only remain concerned with its own affairs.
I simply reflect on how hard I had to work in order to reach the dream I've had since the age of five. No matter how bad things get, I just remind myself that I have the best job in the world. If that fails to work, I simply consider that I can always give this up and return to management. That always does the trick!
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Precision Manuals Development Group
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