As we start a new decade, I'd like to share my experiences of the last decade with you.
As I've mentioned in episode 300, my employment with Jet Airways in India ended toward the end of 2009. The Indian pilots were fully up to speed, and it was time for us expat pilots to leave. So there I was, 64 years old, unemployed, and no pension.
I filed to start drawing Social Security payments and started looking for work. As so many of our podcast guests have advised, networking is the key to finding employment. In my case, I recalled reading an update from a former United pilot in our retiree newsletter. He had mentioned that he had a job performing airline audits, and I contacted him to learn more. He put me in touch with the company he worked for, ARG/US Pros. Toward the end of 2009 I visited them for an interview, and they hired me.
In January 2010 I attended Auditor Training, and then went on my first assignment, to Japan, in February. One of the reasons the company sent me to Japan for a month - four audits - was because I mentioned in the interview that I spoke Japanese.
Each audit was five days long, and our team of five auditors (plus myself) would look at every area of an airline's operations, and debrief the airline CEO at the end of each day. On the weekends between each audit our team would work on our post-audit report and prepare for the next audit. During the first audit I mostly was observing, although toward the end I performed a lot of the auditing duties. For the last audit, I was "cleared solo" and operated by myself.
The audit process is called IOSA - IATA Operational Safety Audit - and during an audit the team uses an IATA (International Air Transport Association) checklist to look at everything an airline does, to determine if the airline conforms to the ISARPs (IATA Standards and Recommended Practices). There are over 1000 ISARPs the team examines. It's hard work.
For the next two years, I performed about an audit each month, and eventually became an audit team leader. Since I had studied Russian some 40 years earlier, I led a team to Moscow for a few weeks. By the end of the visit I was able to conduct the debriefs in Russian. Leading the team entailed planning for each audit and writing a detailed audit report at the end of each audit. It was a great experience, but I wanted to get a bit closer to airplanes.
In 2012, through networking with some of my former Jet Airways pilots, I heard that Boeing was looking for instructor pilots (IPs), and I applied. I went out to Seattle and interviewed, and was hired to be an IP on the new B787. I started as a contract employee on the anniversary of my United new-hire date, October 16th. I went through the 787 course as a student, took a check ride and received another type rating: B787. Then I went back through the course again as an instructor-trainee. Since the 787 was not yet flying, Boeing didn't have any real airline students, so three of us instructors would practice our teaching on each other. Two of us would play student while the other instructor would go over the planned lesson in the simulator, then we would each trade places. Finally the 787 was cleared to fly and we started getting real airline students.
I really enjoyed being back in a cockpit environment, but wasn't crazy about always being away from home. One day, a Boeing check airman told me that Omni Air International was looking for B777 IPs, and they were using the United simulators in Denver for their training. I applied to Omni, had a telephone interview with the Chief Pilot and the Director of Training, and was hired on a contract basis. So now I had two contract jobs: Boeing and Omni.
Omni was great with scheduling, giving me work assignments a month in advance. Boeing operated a bit differently. Typically, I would get a call saying I had a work assignment in two more days. Sometimes I could accept the assignment, but often it conflicted with my Omni commitment. After I turned down several assignments, Boeing advised me I was no longer a contract employee. So I was all-in on Omni.
Unfortunately, the United Training Center in Denver was getting busy with internal training, so Omni had to look elsewhere for simulators. Eventually, all of the Omni training was conducted at the Delta Airlines training center in Atlanta or in the Boeing training facility in Miami.
In 2016, again through networking, I heard that a training company in Tennessee, ARCS Aviation, was looking for a B777 Subject Matter Expert (SME) for some software development. I contacted the owner, and he drove up to Atlanta to meet me when I had finished an Omni simulator period. We hit it off, and I started doing consulting work for ARCS.
After a few years, Omni decided to use only their line pilots as simulator instructors, so we parted ways, and I spent all of my time as an SME, first on the B777, then the B787, then the B747. It was a great job that I could do at home, on my computer. Finally, the software programs were complete, and my work for ARCS was over.
In 2016 I started the Ready For Takeoff Podcast at the urging of an Omni pilot, Phil Pagoria, and my son Steve. Phil became one of my first guests on the podcast, and will make an appearance again soon! Steve walked me through everything I needed to do to produce a podcast, and has been my go-to person every time I need help.
In 2018 I heard from a friend, Nick Hinch (former RFT guest) that Wheels Up was looking for pilots. I hadn't flown in nine years, but had stayed current in simulators, and figured this would be my last chance to be employed as a pilot again. But, of course, my medical certificate had expired. So I made an appointment with my Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).
And I did something really stupid. For over 30 years, I had gone to the same AME, and every time on my application I had listed all of my visits to healthcare professionals since my previous visit (6 months earlier). And for some reason, I don't know why, I simply did the same thing. I listed all of my doctor visits since seeing him last. This is important: the form only asks for doctor visits in the last three years. But I foolishly listed all of them, and some from five, six or seven years earlier, were no one else's business, certainly not the FAA's.
My AME said he needed to send my information to the FAA, and the FAA Medical Department wanted some tests. Expensive tests, over $10,000 worth of tests. I saw the Wheels Up job disappearing, and asked the FAA if I could change my application from First Class medical to Third Class. No can do. Once you apply for a medical certificate, it must be either Approved or Denied. After many exchanges of letters, mine was Denied. After a Denial, an airman cannot get ANY medical certificate, including the new BasicMed. So, the only solo flying I can legally perform is in a glider, which does not require a medical certificate.
One of my first jobs when I had retired from United in 2005 had been teaching at Metropolitan State College of Denver, in their Aviation Department. In 2018 I visited them, now renamed Metropolitan State University of Denver, to see if they needed a classroom instructor. My timing was perfect, and I started teaching Fundamentals of Aviation and Basic Instrument Flight, two days each week, as a contract employee. Eventually, I became a full-time employee with the title of Lecturer, and I still teach courses two days every week.
In 2018 I was accepted to the Writers Guild of America Veterans Writing Project, and started working on a screenplay adaptation of my Hamfist novel series. (That's my son Steve sitting next to me in the first picture that comes up on that website).
In the next RFT episode I'll visit the year 2019.
Have a GREAT 2020!