If you've been reading since the beginning of the blog, you know that I had to struggle to gain confidence at several stages in my adult life. The first time was in the Army, when I was becoming a drill sergeant. Next was the several year period after I got out of the Army and was trying to decide what I was going to do to support myself. Although I was aware of the option of just sitting on my ass and collecting benefits from the government, it was never a serious consideration for me. This would have fallen in the same category of trying to avoid the draft. My entire family would have been very disappointed in me. Homey just didn't play that shit.
My confidence was doing pretty well during the 5 years at Butler Graham Airport. I was able to carry much of what I had gained in the Army into that, although there were the uncertainties of trying several different occupations that did not work out and a failed marriage. I just remember comparing myself to others. I was doing as well as people I admired and better than those I did not.
Going to my first airline pilot job in California, my confidence took a bit of a nose dive for almost a year. The four year layoff from professional flying just prior to that, combined with the dramatic change in the nature of the flying made me feel behind the curve. I'm not sure what it looked like on the outside, probably not great, but mostly acceptable. However, I was comparing the way I felt with the way I had felt during the last several years at Butler. Shaky.
About the time I upgraded to captain at PacEx, it was starting to hit a rhythm and I was feeling better. With today's perspective, I don't think I was a good copilot and did not like being a copilot. When I moved to Flex, I was one of the most experienced pilots on the plane and had former airline experience. I think the folks down there overrated my abilities at first, but eventually, I was living up to them. It was feeling good.
I tend to jump around a little chronologically, but I am trying to establish an understanding of the roller coaster ride of my aviation career. Most of the time in Orlando was on the upswing. Things were getting better and I was feeling better about the life I was making for myself and my family.
Florida Express was about a four and a half year chapter and Braniff was about a year and a half. At some point and I think it was late in the Florida Express time, something started happening and it is hard to describe. I noticed that I was having a hard time focusing to the level I had come to know was necessary during critical segments of flight, such as approach to landing.
I was spending more time in an airplane seat than I was in a car seat. I had more than 5000 hours of flight time during the 7 years in California and Orlando. That is a lot for airline flying. There are all kinds of regulatory limits on the number of hours a pilot can fly in a day, a week a month and a year.
As a comparison, I had flown 5000 hours during the 5 years of general aviation flying at Butler, and that was really a lot in that period of time, but it was not unusual to work from 9 AM to 9 PM as a flight instructor in the summer. This does not mean I flew 12 hours per day, but I was on duty that long and frequently flew nearly 8 hours on days like that. As I transitioned into more air taxi and corporate type flying, my hours per day, week month and year began to decline.
One of the problems with flying so much and beginning to feel comfortable in the airplane is the possibility of complacency. I am not sure if that is what I was experiencing at Florida Express, but I found myself not having the kind of mental intensity that I should have at certain times of a flight. Perhaps the fact that I was noticing this situation indicate that it was not complacency, but just too much flying. I needed to slow down a little. Eventually my focus returned to normal.