Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Airline Chronicles Chapter 2, Part 1: Go West, Young Dispatcher

OK, when we last tuned in, a LONG time ago, I had just taken a new job with a regional airline based near my hometown of Albuquerque, and hauled all my stuff there from New Hampshire. The trip west was MOSTLY uneventful but I did have my hotel room broken into one night in Tennessee, while I was asleep, and all the cash taken from my wallet. I haven't been back to Tennessee since.

I was able to stay at the pilot training facilities at my new airline for a couple of days right after I got there. They came in about zero on the comfort level (although I didn't have to have a roomate) so I quickly went searching for a new apartment. I found a place only slightly more expensive that my place in New Hampshire was, which even included free utilities. My new boss helped me move some of my big stuff upstairs, which I appreciated (mainly my bed and coffee table) and I was all moved in pretty quickly, since I still didn't own much furniture.

My next step was buying a new (used) car since I'd sold my pickup to make the move. I found a decent deal on a Plymouth Duster (similar to a Dodge Shadow) and was all fixed up pretty quickly. It took me a while to get unpacked and settled in at my new place (that's unfortunately become all too common of a trend, I'm afraid) but I was pretty happy with my apartment, and I ended up staying there for the entire length of my time in that town.

Although I had gotten a slight pay raise from this job, I wasn't very happy with it at first. This mainly had to do with dealing with crew scheduling, which we had to cover for on weekends. Calling pilots out if there is a sick call, etc. I truly despised that job and I admire the people who can do it for a living, because I sure as hell couldn't. However, things started to get better after a few months when I finished my dispatch training.

There was a lot that went on during my time at that airline. We consolidated operations with a separate division that had been based in Florida, so we had a big influx of new people into the office. We moved to a bigger office to handle the influx of new people, and then moved offices again when a larger space became available. We went through a transition from Part 135 to Part 121 for a lot of our flying...this is airline-federal-regulation speak, but from my job perspective, it meant that all of our flights were now required to be dispatched. Prior to the transition, there was a "flight following system" in place but no dispatcher was required for planes with under 30 seats...after the regulation change, this number of seats went down to 10.

I participated in the "proving runs" to demonstrate that we were capable of dispatching all the flights that had previously not been dispatched, and that went pretty well. However, the day of the actual transition to Part 121 was a nightmare...the system just wasn't set up to handle the volume of information we were sending out. I was having trouble getting an open phone line on the day of this transition, and the CEO of the company, who was in our office, offered me his cell phone to use. I tried calling one of our stations, only to have someone pick up the phone and hang up on me. I called again, and the same thing happened. I told the CEO, "I'm afraid they just keep hanging up on me," and he didn't look real happy. Fortunately, they did get most of the kinks worked out fairly quickly, and the following day went much more smoothly.

I actually liked living in that area, if not the town itself, which was a bit too "country" for my tastes. It was in a cool area though...good skiing only an hour away, lots of outdoors stuff to do, and there were lots of flights back to Albuquerque every day. There were management issues with the airline, though, and we ended up losing one of our major airline codeshares towards the end of my time there...and this ultimately precipitated a management change and a new CEO being brought in. Basically, the previous CEO and founder had run the airline on a philosophy that worked well when it was a small company, but really badly when it was a large one, and he eventually paid the price for that.

(Side note here...with the spike in oil prices earlier this year, 19-seat planes have become increasingly unprofitable, and the route I used to fly home on when I lived in that town that had almost hourly service, currently has NO service. The gates I flew into that used to be bustling with activity in Albuquerque are now empty. It's kind of strange to see that when I fly home these days.)

The new CEO made moves to consolidate operations and training, and move our HQ from a small city in the Southwest to a big city in the Southwest. I ended up leaving that town after two and a half years or so...I wasn't extremely sad to go, since I was looking forward to all the things to do in a big city, although I did miss being able to get back to Albuquerque as quickly as I had. It was a paid move, though, so I couldn't complain too much. Tune in next time for more adventures in my continuing airline saga, and my first experience with big city life.


Suldog said...

You owned a Duster? Man, I haven't even heard the name of that car mentioned in years, let alone seen one! Used to be pretty popular with some of the gearheads around my neighborhood.

Chuck said...

Suldog - It was called a Duster, but only resembled it in name. Actually just Plymouth's version of a Dodge Shadow.

Anonymous said...

Oh, but it had that cool little tornado-looking graphic back by the tail lights on the rear quarter panels, right?

I remember those. Even though they were just rebadged Shadows, most of my friends thought they were pretty cool...

Of course, we were all impressed by the Bay City Rollers, too - so take that with a HUGE grain of salt! :)

Chuck said...

Thimbelle - They did have the decal thing...but my car I bought used, and for whatever reason, it had no decals on it. I still liked the car, lasted me for several years, ultimately dying due to a blown head gasket in Wisconsin.