Real Answers from Real Pilots

Crew Cross Country


(Colton Gapp) #1

Hello,

First of all a little about me, I am currently training at the Phoenix Mesa location which has became the largest one of them all with nearly 300 students and over 40 or more Cessna’s alone. I have really enjoyed the training, great instructors, and the structure of the program has been great. Crew has definitely been a downer though and has not quite lived up to what is advertised by ATP. I would just like to get some thoughts from Adam, Chris, Tory or any ones perspective on how your Crew Cross Country phase went.

So far I got about 10 hours completed and it has involved a day trip from KIWA to KNYL to KIWA which was shy of 5 hours round trip. The second day was from KIWA to KCRQ to KIWA which was nearly 6 hours round trip. I was lucky enough for the first 10 as it was Thanksgiving weekend so plane availability was no factor.The kicker is that as crew flights sit at the bottom of everyone else it is the same story everyday that you call in to flight ops that they have no planes available in Phoenix do to the over use of local flights and checkrides (which I agree with checkrides being first priority) so they can never get you schedule out for the next day. If your lucky to get out with a plane it is mandatory to be back the same day for local flights the following day. The other part of that is because of the availability of planes, they send you to locations only 2 hours away and have you return back to Gateway. One being Yuma, AZ (KNYL) and Tucson, AZ (KTUS). Both of these airports at which we went to multiple times during our instrument training so in a way we are familiar with the airports and procedures.

I have talked to multiple students about there crew at Phoenix and most of them maybe made it to California once and the rest was going to Yuma and Tucson. Some students have been in Crew for over a month trying to get the hours done and just cant because there is never a plane available. Crew partner is never a problem as ATP has been sending many crew people to Phoenix due to the nice weather but this only complicates the issue.

I have brought up these issues with flight ops and nothing ever seems to change. My biggest reason for this is that I don’t want to have crew lasting over a month when it has already been over 2 weeks since Inst. Checkride and I would like to keep on moving through the program as planned. The other issue is that when I came into the program I was assuming based off how ATP advertises there crew phase, that this crew was airline style where they let you go out for couple days and experience new areas and then return but it has been nothing like that.

Sorry for such a long post but I wanted to get some input on how yours went or what you think of this situation.

I enjoy this forum a lot and appreciate your feedback.

Thank you

Colton


#2

Colton,

I did fly further on my cross countries, but that was back in the day of flying the Seminole on cross countries, which obviously had a further range.

While I am sure you would rather fly further, the main objective is building the hours.

That being said, I will reach out to training support and see what their take on this is. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

Chris


#3

Colton,

I appreciate your frustration but there are a few things to consider. First there are many factors that determine when, where and how far you fly and to some degree it’s the luck of the draw. Further you don’t mention how far along you are time wise (are you on schedule, ahead or behind?). The program was 6 mos and was extended to 9 mos to address logistical issues like this. While I understand your desire to keep moving forward, you have been flying and it’s only been 2 weeks since your IR checkride so I’d hardly call that stalled. As Chris said it’s more about the time than the location as since you’re still in crew you may very well get to some new destinations.

Adam


(Tucker) #4

The crew cross countries vary. It depends on where they need planes moved, aircraft usage, weather, etc. As you said, you are at ATPs largest location, so they use the planes A LOT. They also do maintenance there and do not need as many planes moved for maintenance. Crews from Tampa vary, some fly out and back every day and never spend a day out of base, others fly out and never come back. At the end of the day, you are getting the hours you need to move on in your training and career. When they talk about Crew Cross Countries, you are flying in a crew setting “Cross Country”.

In my experience, we were schedualed to fly out and back, but due to weather and a hurricane during my training, I didn’t return to base for over 3 weeks. While it was a blast, I definitely didn’t pack to not be home for over 3 weeks.

My biggest piece of advice is to use this time to study up and get ahead. Get the commercial written done, (not sure if you are in the updated 50hr program or the origional), but either study up on the Seminole or start studying for the commercial checkride. If you are prepared knowledge wise when you return, you can push through the commercial phase quickly.

It may not be all of what it was cracked up to be, but try to make the best of your time and enjoy it while you can.


(Tory) #5

Colton,

I agree with everything that’s been said by the other mentors. You have to understand that aircraft availability and such aren’t within your control. Everyone has a different crew xc experience and everyone wants to actually fly across country, but ATP’s website explicitly says under the crew cross country phase “dictated by operational needs.” No where does it say that the student has a say in where you get to fly and how often. Now, as PIC, you have the authority to refuse a flight if you feel that the operation isn’t safe or outside of your personal minimums, but that’s a different story.

When you’re on crew you have to think of yourself as an airport reserve pilot. In the airline industry, you’d be considered the airline’s last line of defense. For example, the line pilots fly their schedule. What makes them line pilots? They hold enough seniority to fly the airline’s scheduled operation and they specifically bid to fly the line. These would be the pilots that need a plane for a check ride, for example.

Then, you have your home reserve pilots. Those are the reserve pilots that are on call, ready to go, within 2 hours of the airport. If a line pilot exceeds their duty time or calls in fatigued or has a family emergency, crew scheduling goes down their list of home reserve pilots to fill in for the line pilot. This category doesn’t quite fit in my analogy, but let’s just say these are the pilot’s at ATP that aren’t taking a check ride or not on crew XC.

If the airline has used all of their home reserve pilots, that’s where you come in. They may also use airport reserve pilots for misc flights like ferry flights or MX check flights.

For you, flight ops needs you and your crew partner to be available to move planes around for them for MX purposes. When they don’t need you guys for MX purposes, they always need you to fly to help you build time. It’s a win-win. Just remember your rank, and flight ops decides what’s what. Believe me, they don’t want you to be sitting around doing nothing either. Hopefully you see the big picture.

I like Tucker’s idea of using your time more wisely and preparing for your next written. If you’ve already taken all of them, crack open the ACS and prep for the oral. Or the Seminole supplement. These are all things that you should be doing anyway.

Last point and then I’m done. The longest I’ve seen a pilot at Horizon sit reserve without flying was 62 days. So long that they almost lost their takeoff and landing currency…plus, the company has a consolidation policy that requires pilots to accumulate a minimum of 100 hours in 120 days after finishing IOE. I understand that’s more than you need to know. Just trying to give you some perspective.

Tory


(Colton Gapp) #6

I may be jumping the gun a little bit with only being on this with only being 2 weeks in but I think it has been due to getting more perspective from other students and the complaints they have about it as well and doesn’t help with Phoenix growing like it has. I’m sure for flight ops it has to be a nightmare trying to figure out how to schedule crew out the day before with the availability of planes. I feel it would make life easier for them if they just took one plane off the schedule and used it for scheduling crew while they have crew students available.

Adam I am about 2 weeks ahead of how my actual schedule lays out. This is due to me putting a lot of work into this, being at the school every day studying with other people I know, and it has helped me be very successful so far. So my reasoning was to only try to hold out on this 2 weeks ahead because of Christmas break and when the CFI portion comes in. The MEI checkride scheduling availability has been really tough around here, but maybe that will change now with DPE’s being able to move around.

Tucker I am in the 50 hour program still so I am already ready to take my Commercial written any day now and I have already been opening up the Seminole supplement and looking at the checklist to start getting familiar with the plane. I also plan on going through some of the ACS as well while I have the time off and even look towards the CFI school as well. In a way it does help by giving you time to get prepared for the next steps.

Tory I like the perspective you put on it as acting like a reserved pilot. It is hard to just sit around waiting but like I said before it gives me time to get ahead on everything.

Thanks guys I appreciate all your feedback!

Colton


#7

Colton,

As I was doing about my tenth EWR-BOS flight for the month yesterday, I was thinking about your situation of flying to the same airports repeatedly. I thought, “yep, just like the real airlines”.

Chris


(Robert Breen) #8

Here is what worked for me back in June (I finished crew in 5 days and flew about 1/2 way across the country). I got a few hours of actual, including holds on approaches. It was a great experience. But I had to work at it.

When I was contacted by Ops about my upcoming crew time, I respectfully asked to be sent somewhere besides the general area I had been training in. I had been based in Las Vegas and really didn’t want to be stuck in the “Yuma triangle” like so many others called it. I wanted something besides desert/California flying time.

I was pleasantly surprised when they airlined me to Dallas to start crew. My crew partner and I were assigned airplane. We retained that same airplane throughout the entire crew experience.

We flew from Dallas west to Midland. Then worked our way back east. Eventually going to places like Pensacola, FL, Atlanta, GA, Jacksonville, FL, Savannah, GA – you get the idea. However, that didn’t all happen by accident either.

My crew partner and I worked every night looking at the airport pages for ATP approved airports that were in range compared with the TAFs. That way when we had the morning call with Ops, we were able to bring forward alternatives to their plans when maybe weather would have prevented us from going where we were originally scheduled to go.

My crew-time advice: Talk to other students before you start crew. Ask the Ops people for what you want (nicely, of course) and always have alternatives on-hand for where you may want to go when you talk to Ops. Get stuck somewhere in the middle of the day — pull out your airport pages and find somewhere else that might work and call ops.

Good luck! Safe flying everyone.