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Early Years

I'm switching the rest of the story to the Flexible Flyer banner.  I have always thought that would be a good title for my memoirs.  My ...

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Plumbing

I had a flight engineer rating and had been a simulator instructor for a year in Atlanta.  (I'm sure you remember that, eh?)  Now I was actually going to get a chance to fly the line as a "plumber".  I was kind of looking forward to that.  At this point, it was nice to have something to look forward to. 

After the indoctrination classes, we had a little break and I was able to jump seat home for a few days.  I wanted to drive my pickup to Louisville, so I had a way to get around.  Lou was another member of my class.  He lived in Orlando and had worked for Braniff also.  He had worked for Braniff Int., but had refused the recall to Braniff II, because he had started a little business in the interim and did not want to commute to Dallas.  He had applied to Florida Express, but not been hired, mostly because of a misunderstanding.  Then, when Braniff bought Florida Express, Lou was hired by them and came back on the seniority list below all the Florida Express pilots.  I invited Lou to drive to Louisville with me and then we went into a "crash pad" together with a couple other guys.  Crash pad is what we call a house or apartment where several pilots have a room to stay in when they are not flying, but can't get home.  We had a nice apartment.

Commuting to a job like this is a possibility and Doreen and I considered moving to Pittsburgh, our home.  We started looking for a small house, while visiting my parents.  The more I thought about the expense of buying a house and keeping a crash pad in Louisville, the more I felt that it was smarter to move to Louisville.  Doreen and I had some disagreement on this, but I thought it was a much better idea.

Once I started earning some money, I started paying Grandma Ann's utilities and taxes.  I felt better not being a complete mooch.

In Louisville, some of my friends had been buying houses, using a real estate agent named Dave.  I met Dave and we started looking for a house.  As he got to know me and understand our situtaion better, he told me he thought I should not be buying a house, but renting one and waiting until I could save for a decent down payment.  We had broken even on our Orlando home and had not been in it long enough to build up equity.  Dave helped me find a home to rent, which I thought was very generous.  He was not going to be making any money for his time.  He was betting that I would come to him when I could afford to buy.

Now I had to figure out an inexpensive way to move.  My old pal, Dan, from the Butler Graham days, had been building a trucking company after he was hired at USAir.  When I told him of my dilemma, he offered to have one of his trucks stop at the house in Orlando with some space saved for our stuff, then drive it to our house in Louisville.  I got some friends to help with the move in Orlando, then got some guys to help in Louisville.  This was in May 1990, and we got the stuff in the house just in time to go into the basement, because of a tornado warning.  We did not have any problems at the house, but there was damage to the building at the UPS Training Center.

https://goo.gl/maps/hdrEUb9jt732



So, I was going to be spending some time in this building.  First there was ground school, in which all the academics of learning the DC-8 systems took place.   Then came the simulator.  It looks just like the cockpit of the airplane and it can be "flown" by pilots, while the engineer is sitting in front of the panel that controls all the systems.  The instructor then pushes buttons and tortures the student with all the abnormalities and emergencies that can occur in the airplane.  After the curriculum is complete and if the instructor chooses to recommend the student, a simulator check ride is scheduled.  After that, the student begins Initial Operating Experience (IOE).  This is training on an actual revenue flight, with an IOE instructor.  In my opinion, the worst part of being a flight engineer is calculating all the performance data for each phase of flight.  We had to use charts in our manual and on the table top of a little desk at the panel.  This table was under a piece of plexi glass and the lighting was terrible.  This is the first time I felt that I needed to start wearing glasses.  I was starting to become a little far sighted and went to a drug store to buy a pair of magnifying eye glasses.

With successful completion of the IOE curriculum, a release to line check ride is scheduled.  If that is passed, the student is now prepared to fly the line, or at least, that is the plan.  I managed to get through all of that unscathed and was on reserve, which meant I had to hang out at the crash pad and wait to be called to work.

The toughest part of flying for UPS, is that most of the flying is done at night.  UPS is a package delivery company.  It began in Seattle in about 1907.  In 1971, Federal Express came along and revolutionized the package delivery company, by promising to deliver them overnight.  This is how airplanes became such a big part of the business.  FedEx, as it is called now, flew to nearly every city in the US, then ran a hub and spoke system out of Memphis Tennessee. UPS developed its airline to compete.

This meant there was a whole lot of night time flying going on out there and I was now a part of it.  At the time I started working at UPS, reserve was a 24 hour deal.  I could be called at any time and was responsible to be available for contact.  The UPS pilots had a very lousy contract.  When the operation began, the pilots were represented by the Teamsters, the same union that represented the truck drivers.  The pilots who negotiated the contact did not know what they were doing and I think they felt they were over a barrel.  

Things were so bad, that during the first year, 1988, several of the pilots began the steps that would lead to forming their own union, The Independent Pilots Association (IPA).  This was a very risky enterprise.  They had to pass out cards to all the pilots to get them to turn them in, saying they wanted to change representation.  This has to be done secretly, or they run the risk of being fired.  They may get their jobs back, but they have to sweat out the process, not knowing for sure how things will go.  

By the time I showed up, all the heavy lifting had been completed, and the IPA began to represent the UPS pilots in January, 1990, while I was in training.  Of course, I would not be part of that, until I completed my first year on probation.


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