I started my airline career in a small Company, in the cold, distant Patagonia, a reduced group of pilots flying a bunch of turboprops; work and the weather were hard, but union was strong, for some reason still today the pilots that belonged to this defunct airline keep up an especial brotherhood. I still remember a cold night when we were watching the world football cup, the living room of our crash pad was so cold that we gathered all together in a sofa and covered ourselves with a blanket, no distinctions, not three or four stripes.
Attracted by bigger jets and making my path on an aviation career, I moved to a bigger Company, operating several B737’s, 757’s and 767’s. At the beginning many times I regretted my decision. I was just another number on the seniority list, and mine was right at the bottom. Relationships with people was not easy, pilots were coming from different sources, Air Force, Navy, retired from major airlines, etc. and each one had its own way of understanding how to treat a low time Copilot. There was a constant fight for showing who was best among military pilots coming from different origins. Ex-Air Force Captains were good to show how fly by the seat of its pants, ex-Navy skippers were good explaining the scientific part of flight and calculations and old retired Capts were excellent showing tricks of how to get the most of our aircraft.
It took me more than a year to fly with all the Company Captains, until that moment every flight was an appointment with a pilot I never met before. But even having flown with some of them, when I was walking with my Captain to the Ops office and on the way we met another Captain, he completely ignored me and only talk to the other Captain. A big Company, it was a hard way up from being a junior copilot until become a senior one.
Moving from a small, family type, airline to a major one is never easy. People on big Companies forms reduced groups of relationships and the rest is just another work partner. Among all these people, you may find pilots with whom you feel comfortable working with themand someothers withwhich it is noteasy to work; the challenge is to work with the not so easy ones.
Some pilots have an attitude whose sole purpose seems to be ruins Copilot’s life, many times I asked myself why some guys decided to be pilots. But you have to work with them, keep professional and never argue with a Captain except that your own safety is in danger. If de Captain does not do so, sometimes relax the work environment runs on your own, a good trick to deal with tough guys that worked for me a couple of times is to find what is his/her favorite topic of conversation, everyone likes to talk about something, sports, politics, family, achievements, etc. Without being that copilot that always says “I take the fat one” you can enjoy a good time with your fellow Captain.
Being a Captain today, I can tell you that there are guys with whom I tune better at work, not because we are having fun on the cockpit, simply because together we can achieve the balance of having an enjoyable moment on that tight space that is an aircraft’s flight deck and at same time do a professional job.
We arrive here to the point where some you of will start wondering what a Captain expects from a First Officer? Well, this is not a personal answer but once a colleague and I agree with him: “a smile, a touch of good humor, commonsense and someone I can rely when the chips are down”.