Oct 10th, 2016 – FlightSafety Alternative Stays Alive

In my last post I spoke about building a schedule for next year that will keep me busy and help me build a routine. The leading elements of that schedule would be built from contractor work with one or more consulting firms, volunteer flying, aviation maintenance, and/or writing a book.  I’ve been playing enough golf that I can use that to fill in the gaps in whatever schedule I end up with.

To achieve this new schedule, I began a process of developing each alternative into a truly viable option, until a natural winner evolves. In this case, it would be a combination of natural winners that are based on things I want to learn or do. It was time to:

  • Reach out to the contractors and encourage project development
  • Get my butt to the DAMF hangar more and work on airplanes and help out
  • Sign up for additional Angel Flights before taking the airplane apart for it’s annual inspection
  • Began the owner-assisted annual inspection on N833DF
  • Sign up for Golf lessons, be at the driving range to practice, and play as many rounds with friends as I can. I started taking perverse pleasure encouraging my friends to play hookie from work to play golf with me…..

FlightSafety wasn’t even a consideration in my list of alternatives for 2017, since I’d had zero success applying or getting connected thus far.  In just another week or so, however, an opportunity would surface out on the golf course that would change all that.

I’d like to use this post to talk about the history of my interactions with FlightSafety, leading up to an interview with them. Some combination of luck, networking, and personal initiative paid off. I’ll never know exactly what the magic bullet was, but let me walk you through it anyway. I need you to know all this before I blast out the next post.

I’D BEEN SCHEMING for a way to join the FlightSafety team at the Wilmington Facility since I became aware of its existence back in the 80’s. My initial thoughts were to work for them part time at night and on weekends, while I kept my job with PHI. That would allow for a no-risk, optimal transition into retirement that would be easy to plan for. It was highly unlikely that I could pull this off, it didn’t cost me anything to try, and would be amazing if it happened.

I chose them because they were doing cool aviation things close to home. I didn’t want to have to move or travel, so this was clearly a solid option. The only competing retirement might be flying a locally based King Air or other airplane, so long as the schedule was reasonable and there was enough pay to cover my costs.

Being able to learn and teach flying in retirement, so close to home, would be almost too good to be true. I never let go of that idea, and  kept watch over job openings. I submitted an application for an opening at least ten different times over the years.

Allow me to briefly rehash my work history so that I might highlight the evolution of the FlightSafety alternative.

2000-2010: While working at Conectiv Energy (subsidiary of PHI) I had a very reasonable schedule in that I had several nights and most weekends where I wasn’t working. This was in the early 2000’s, and I was the Manager of Application Development (MAD Team). The reliable young people I had working for me made it a goal of theirs to cover all of our needs to ensure I was free on those nights and weekends. Awesome, talented, eager young people.

I had been very used to working nights and some weekends over most of my engineering career. I filled in the free time these kids afforded me by providing flight instruction at night and on weekends. This was working out pretty well, keeping me entertained, and the thought occurred to me that it might be a good time to establish myself with FlightSafety. I felt confident that working nights and weekends for them would be doable.

Since I had never heard anything from any submitted application, it was time to be more assertive. On a cold and windy fall day, I went confidently strolling into the Wilmington Office of FlightSafety asking for the Director of Training by name. As luck would have it, he happened to be walking by the desk and heard me. I walked right past the front desk administrator, and thrust out my hand confidently. It would be awkward to ignore me at this point, so he did decided to take a few minutes to talk with me.

It was clear at the end of the conversation that there was no place for me doing part-time work, and that I should come back when I grow up. He told me that in a nice way, but that was the gist of it. I still left happy to have made what I considered a bold effort in pursuit of my goals. I’d learned more than once to take control of my own destiny, and not wait to others to do it for me.

2010-2014: Conectiv Energy was sold by 2010, and I was asked to join the parent company to manage a large special project – the construction of two network operation centers. That meant I had no extra time to do anything other than this project. FlightSafety could not be a part-time endeavor.

Jun 2014 Retirement: I had been away from my home working on PHI projects now for four years. I basically lived in Marriott hotels and drove my own car all over the territory. Though I was very well compensated, and felt the entire experience rewarding, I’d had enough.

I applied to FlightSafety for a full time position at this point. As usual I heard nothing from them. On a lark, I did an internet search for pilot jobs I could commute to. Piedmont popped up in Salisbury, MD, so I submitted an application and got on with my day. Updating resumes and submitting applications has been a way to vent the occasional frustrations of my work from time to time, and I expected this to be no different.

Only this time – Piedmont called me and expressed an appreciation for my resume and a desire to have me interview. I was 56 years old, and surprised they thought I was a good candidate. I retired and flew with Piedmont for 18 months, until my circumstances helped me decide that it was time to be home.

Jun 2016 Oshkosh Introduction: I was out of ideas on how to further develop the FlightSafety option. I put it out of my mind, or so I thought. While out at Oshkosh this year, I happened to notice that they had a booth set up for careers, and took one more shot at finding a way in. With my grandson Jake standing patiently by me, I handed over my contact information and explained my tale of woe. ‘Any thoughts for the best approach for getting someone’s attention at the Wilmington facility?’ I asked. They were polite, not necessarily helpful, but I left my contact information with them anyway.

Aug 2016 FlightSafety First Contacts: I had forgotten about doing this by the time I got home. I was surprised a few weeks later when FlightSafety’s Director of Pilot Recruiting, Dan, called me. He told me he was new in this role, and explained that my information had been forwarded to him. He wondered if I had a moment to talk, and of course I was happy to.

The conversation lasted about 45 minutes as we talked about flying in general, my experience in particular, and FlightSafety as a great place to work. I liked Dan immediately, wether or not this call led anywhere. His time is important, and the fact that he made time to call me reflected well on the organization.

We talked about my background, most recent turbo-prop experience, and the fact that I had zero time in jets. Dan suggested the lack of jet time might hurt me, but that I’d be a good fit for the King Air program being run at either Teterboro or LaGuardia (I can’t remember which). We spoke frankly, and both of us knew I’d be an unlikely match for that grueling commute.

He was willing to have someone talk with me further about the New York location, if I wanted to hear more. I made it clear that it was unlikely that I’d ever try to work there, but also told him it would be an interesting conversation I’d like to have anyway. Before we ended the call, I emphasized to him that only the Wilmington location would work long term, and that I’d be happy with any airplane in that location. He promised to follow-up.

I forget the center manager’s name who called, but only a few days later he spent a full hour on the phone with me. No matter what happens with this – the care and consideration shown me from both of these contacts created a very positive first impression of FlightSafety.

The manager confessed that he’d seen others try to make the commute work, and that they were in his office shortly afterward demanding raises to cover their costs. He was brutally honest with me, and told me that money wasn’t there, and that it would be very expensive for me to do this. I countered that income wasn’t my concern, but quality of life was. All I had to do was cover my costs – making extra money was nice but not necessary. It was the time away from home in hotels that wasn’t interesting me much.

We explored ways to make this work, including bunching my time on the schedule in a way that would minimize travel implications and hotel stays. It would still be brutal, but it was at least possible.  I’d be teaching and building experience in the King Air, a popular turbo-prop I’d flown before.

By now I’d told him that there was an 89% chance I wouldn’t be doing this. I wanted to think about it before I’d get back to him though, so I could really think it through. He invited me to come up just to look around, even if I didn’t want the job. He readily agreed to give me his time whenever I chose to go up there.  Nice!

I sat there thinking, but after about 20 minutes decided it simply wasn’t worth trying. I had a new appreciation for FlightSafety, but saw no future there any longer. There is nothing I can do about my lack of jet time, and I will start focusing on the other alternatives in building out my 2017 schedule.

Sept 2016 – Tom gets in:  I saw on FB that a friend and fellow pilot, Tom, was recently hired by FlightSafety. He also had no jet time, but he would be working now at the Wilmington location. I immediately sent him a message to find out how he did it, and we talked on the phone for awhile. I explained how interested I still was, and his success gave me hope that I might also get in.

Tom was new to the organization, but promised to let some folks know about me. I submitted another application for an SIC opening, just to give it the old college try, and sat back to wait. Thinking there might be some poison pill on my resume somewhere, I eventually convinced myself that FlightSafety would just not work out for me. It was just too good a fit to work.

Something was about to break, though, and in a very good way…..

Fly safe and be in charge of your own dreams…..

Frank