Louisville is a beautiful place in the spring and spring occurs a month or more before it does in Pittsburgh. The Kentucky Derby is held on the first Saturday of May. There is a weeks long celebration leading up to it with parades, airshows and fireworks.
We were spending time getting our kids set up in the schools they would be attending. Both Caitlin and Mike tested well enough to be in the advanced programs.
At work, I was getting better at my job and it was fun to experience flying as an engineer, after the time I had spent training engineers several years ago. Flight engineers are most busy from the time they report for duty, until the airplane levels off at the top of climb. If there is any kind of hiccup in the engineer's duties, the flight will depart late. The part I hated most was calculating the speeds and power settings for takeoff, climb and cruise. The method involved interpolating from tables and charts and had many opportunities for error.
They look something like this.
Approaching the end of my probationary first year, I received a letter to interview with United Airlines. Doreen was very happy. She had been seeing me get up in the middle of the night to go to work and come back home in the middle of the night and wanted me to work for a passenger airline, with a more normal schedule. To make a long story short, we were trying to figure a way to make that possible.
We were going to have to rent an apartment, less expensive than the house. We were already in more debt than we had ever been, except for the mortgage and this was just to try to keep up with necessary expenses. I was finishing the first year with low pay at UPS and would be facing another first year of low pay at United. We weren't sure exactly how we were going to do it, but we were going to do it. It felt like running toward a wall with an opening that we could not fit through, but we were going to try to hit it hard and crash our way through. It was a troubling time.
I had to make it through the United interview process with all the troubles that were facing us on my mind. I don't know if I have an objective view of that, but I felt as if I did well. When it was done, we just had to wait for the result.
Finally a letter arrived. I opened it and read that they had decided not to hire me. I have to admit, that the first thing I felt was relief. All options were now gone and I had to stay at UPS and make the best of it. The second year at United would have had a big pay raise and with what we knew about both pay scales and all other circumstances at that time, United would have been a far better career, but I just didn't know how we could get through that first year. The second consecutive year of low pay, with commuting would have been very traumatic for our little family.
Soon after this, I had an opportunity to upgrade to first officer, copilot, a window seat again. Conventional wisdom says to not go into training again during your probationary year. It is not considered wise to expose yourself to another opportunity to fail a check ride, when you can be fired without cause and do not fall under the protection of the union. I was not worried about that.
I could have bid the DC-8 or the 747-100. I chose the 747. I knew more about the way the different planes were scheduled now and thought I would be on reserve as a junior first office on either. UPS owned many 8s, but many fewer 74s. The 74s flew long distance, trunk routes. The 8s flew just about everything. They were a versatile plane and could fly internationally or domestically.
Because of all that, I thought reserve on the 747 would be easier. Besides that, I liked the idea of flying the Whale.