|Perspectives: Pramod Raheja|
|Written by Pramod Raheja|
Sometimes, when I'm doing the walk-around, I'm still in awe that this big hunk of metal can get up in the air and that I'm the one flying it. My name is Pramod Raheja (Mode) and I am currently an A320 pilot for United Airlines. I have wanted to be a pilot ever since I can remember.
I didn't make the decision to "go for it" until after my sophomore year in college which is when I started working on the private pilot license. I took lessons at the local flight school while a full-time student at the University of Maryland. In 1991, I graduated with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and a Private Pilot's License to go with it.
After graduation, I was off to train for my instrument-commercial ratings. Times were bleak when I was looking for my first job during the winter of 1992-93. I didn't give up though. With a little luck and lots of legwork, I landed my first flying job at a local fixed base operator (FBO). And fortunately, this particular FBO was at the top of my list! After many late nights of tweaking my resume, hundreds of dollars in phone bills, and countless visits to flight schools, perseverance had paid off.
I worked my way up from fledgling flight instructor to Assistant Chief Pilot. During that time, I was getting valuable experience as a CFI, traffic pilot, and charter pilot. I took on many responsibilities and initiated many new programs. Long days and short nights were the norm.
After 2 ½ years, hiring at the regional/commuters was starting to pick up and after several interviews I was on my way to Atlanta to work for Atlantic Southeast Airlines (also known as ASA). ASA is a Delta connection hub-and-spoke regional airline with bases in Dallas and Atlanta. I started out flying EMB110 Bandierantes in Dallas and eventually EMB120 Brasilias in Atlanta.
Then in October of 1996, I found a letter in my mailbox from United Airlines. I had been updating my application for over three years but was extremely surprised nonetheless. After several minutes of joyous screaming in my driveway, I immediately got to work! Preparing for a major airline interview is a discipline unto itself. A month later, I was on my way to Denver for the check ride of my life. If there's any one piece of advice I can give with regards to an airline interview, it is to prepare, prepare, prepare. Find out what the process is, talk to friends, scour the net, prep for technical questions by studying old manuals, FAR's, the AIM, etc…
If you decide to take the CFI route as I did, do your best to get the whole thing…CFIIMEI (Certified Flight Instructor-Instrument, Multi-engine). I cannot stress how important it is to build multi-engine time as soon as possible! If you want an airline career, your goal should be to get to a major carrier as soon as possible. The importance of seniority is always obvious during the difficult years of the airline industry such as what we are going through now.
And if your initial job is at a place where multi-engine time is difficult to come by, the MEI will come in handy! I did not get my MEI immediately after getting my CFII and I missed out on some multi-engine time early on in my career. The thought was that there was no rush since the more senior CFI's would get the time. But on more than one occasion, no one else was around and an MEI was in need. Soon after those missed opportunities, I trained and completed the MEI certificate. I have known many other CFI's who did not get it as quick as they could and it took them much longer to move to the next step.
What will separate you in the interview? Attitude, attitude, attitude. It has been said that in life, "attitude is what determines your altitude." Nothing could be truer when sitting in an airline interview. Yes there is the standard barrage of technical questions and the like. But you wouldn't be sitting in the interview if you didn't meet the basic technical requirements of that particular airline. So what are they trying to determine? Although in different form, the questions are quite similar from airline to airline. My advice is to get as much "gouge" as possible by talking to as many people as you can.
Finally in January of 1997, I was sitting in a New Hire class at United Airlines!
Over the past 5 ½ years as a United pilot, I have had the opportunity to work several jobs. I started as a B727 flight engineer. Good job but it doesn't compare to a window seat as a pilot! As of November 2001, United's entire fleet consists entirely of two person cockpits.
After a year of "plumbing" the 727, I went off to transition training for the First Officer seat of an Airbus A320. After three years of "flyin' the bus", I received a bid to upgrade to the B777!!! I was finally going to be flying the heavy metal! While on the B777, I was able to experience all of the various theatres of operation, which included Europe, Asia and South America. All great experiences!
After 9/11, a series of furloughs and surpluses took place at virtually every airline and as a result, I was displaced off the B777. When a surplus occurs, it works in the same manner as an equipment upgrade, only backwards. As a result of the surplus, I bid to go back to the A320. In a nutshell, you can only fly what your seniority will allow and of course, what you request.
Although times are bad for the airline industry right now, things will eventually turn for the better. Your job is to prepare for that time.
Whatever path you choose in your flying career, enjoy the experience and ride that will eventually take you to your goals!