Welcome to our new Interview Series. Interview #1 is with Andrew Klein a Delta first officer. Most people think of the movie “Catch Me If You Can” when they think of the glamour and excitement of being a pilot. Maybe it’s true, maybe it could be true 🙂 Take a read below.
ZJ: What do you like most about flying?
AK: I enjoy the unique perspective of the earth from 38,000 feet above the ground. Particularly out west where the sky is mostly clear, I never get tired of the view from my office.
ZJ: What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened when you were flying?
AK: I was sent to retrieve an airplane that had just been repaired after it encountered a bird strike on landing. A small area of the left wing was badly dented and the maintenance team had worked around the clock for 3 days to fix it. I flew it back to Charlotte, and just as I was about to land, a bird flew at us head on. Bam! The maintenance team was not too happy about that one!
ZJ: How did you get to where you are today in terms of becoming a major airline pilot?
AK: It took many years of dedication, beginning with expensive flying lessons. I became a flight instructor for a couple of years until I accumulated enough hours of flight experience to get hired by the regional airlines. I spent years there gaining valuable flying experience, and finally the major airlines considered me a qualified candidate and invited me to interview. Prior to all of this, I had already completed a 4-year college degree, and spent time in the military. It was a long, but rewarding journey!
ZJ: Have you ever worked a day in you pilot career?
AK: Funny! It is a common misconception that airline pilots just sit there and let the autopilot do the work. This is somewhat true for the middle portion of the flight while we are at our cruising altitude. During that time, we mostly monitor the automation while coordinating with air traffic controllers and keep tabs on our fuel and weather. The other phases of the flight (planning, taxi, takeoff, arrival, approach, and landing) are when we earn our pay. We must be very attentive and sharp during those times.
Also, we work lots of long days. It is not uncommon to wake up at 3:30am and finish work after 5pm. Other days we might start our workday at noon, but then finish the last flight after midnight. Frequently adjusting to different shifts can be challenging when trying to establish a sleep routine. Fortunately, the FAA and the airlines have recently improved their work rules to make sure we have the opportunity to get enough rest.
ZJ: What is the biggest plane you have ever flown on? Were you happy with the experience?
AK: I fly different variations of the Airbus A320. This includes the A321, which holds just under 200 people, including the crew. It is fun to push the power up for takeoff and feel the airplane accelerate and lift off the ground. Sometimes I forget just how big the plane really is until we land and I say goodbye to nearly 200 people. It takes a long time (usually 30 minutes), but it is the most rewarding part of my day.