Piedmont captain, Joe Malinchak, wrote a feature story about his experience flying for Piedmont. Below is his article from the November 2016 issue of Model Aviation magazine. Reprinted here with permission.
Life as a full-scale pilot
Yes, my column is titled “Micro-Flying,” but this month I would like to discuss something slightly different and opposite of micro models—full-scale flying. The world of model aviation is a great one, and many modelers who love model aviation are also interested in, or currently involved in, full-scale aviation.
I was fortunate to grow up around full-scale aviation. I actually learned how to fly RC models on my own. I knew what I wanted to do for a living—fly!
I was a young, hotshot pilot, I had a private pilot’s license, and I headed off to college to start my journey to become a professional pilot. I received the rest of my pilot ratings at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. Embry-Riddle brought me down to earth and did a good job of preparing me to be a pilot, but I had no idea what it was like until I started flying commercially.
I am employed by Piedmont Airlines, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines. I have been flying for airlines for more than 26 years and have logged more than 24,000 hours in the air. Many of you might wonder what it is like to be a pilot for a regional airline. It could sound exciting to fly a modern airliner, to have approximately 11 to 15 days off a month, and have good travel benefits. I always tell people when they ask me what it is like, that it can be the best and the worst job, all in one day!
First let’s discuss the good. At 52 years of age, I still enjoy flying as much as I did when I started out. Let’s face it—flying is fun. As you move up the ladder, you have a better schedule and more days off per month. I average 13 days, but I can have as many as 23 days off with a one-week vacation. Travel benefits with my company are great because we have free airfare as long as there is an open seat on a flight.
Here are some of the negatives of being a pilot. When you start out, you are normally on reserve. A reserve pilot has to be on call and ready to travel to the airport in a specific amount of time. Most companies have a short call reserve of two hours or less. This means that if you do not live near your crew base, you will need a crash pad so that you are close enough to make the callout time.
Life on reserve is not fun. You have minimal days off and might not spend many days at home. Eleven days off may sound like a lot, but you are living out of a suitcase and normally need a full day to recover from your trip when you get home.