I go on my first job interview in nearly 20 years.
I went on a job interview yesterday.
It was my first job interview since 1987. When I left the 9 to 5 world in 1990, I left the world of real employers and regular paychecks for the world of freelance work, odd hours, and irregular pay. I’m still firmly entrenched in that world, but I was ready for a new challenge. And I wanted to remember what it was like to be responsible to an employer.
So I applied for a job at Papillon Helicopters at the Grand Canyon. My interview was yesterday.
I was interviewed by a panel of three people, including the Chief Pilot, the Director of Operations, and a lead pilot. They asked me interview questions I hadn’t heard in nearly 20 years. “What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?” “What’s your idea of an ideal employer?” “How do you deal with a bothersome fellow employee?” The questions were kind of funny because although I didn’t expect them, I should have. After all, it was a job interview and that’s the kind of questions interviewers ask.
I did very well. I was nervous at first — heck, I was out of practice! — but soon relaxed. I must have told them what they wanted to hear. I know I made them smile.
I can be pretty funny when I try. And I use humor whenever possible. Life’s too short to go through it thinking everything is totally serious.
After the interview, the Chief Pilot took me flying. Yes, I got a chance to fly a Bell 206L (Long Ranger). I’d never flown one before. He took off from the helipad and headed south to a practice area near Red Butte*. He handed over the controls about a mile south of the airport. I was able to keep it in smooth flight and maintain speed, altitude, and heading. I could do turns without significant changes in altitude. I crossed over the old runway at Red Butte, read the wind sock, and entered a left traffic pattern for landing beside the sock. I made a good approach and landing. I set it down (a bit bumpy) and picked it up (smooth as silk). I did 90Â° pedal turns in a 10-15 knot wind. I did another pattern and landing. Then I took off for the return trip to the airport. The Chief Pilot made the radio calls. I landed at one of Papillon’s pads.
The only thing I had trouble with on the whole flight was trim. You really need hard to push on that right pedal! My set downs could use some work, too.
I obviously had very little understanding of any of the turbine engine gauges. A thousand hours in various piston helicopters doesn’t do much to prepare you for that. But I could FLY the helicopter — that is, I could make the connection between my hands and feet and the machine to control the helicopter. Enough to make a confined space landing over ponderosa pines into a relatively small heliport.
My friend Rod, who has worked for Papillon on and off for the past few years, was waiting for me when we returned. We waited in the pilot break room while the Chief Pilot went out with another candidate. The other pilots wore white shirts with epaulets on the shoulders. Like airline captains. They were eating lunch out of bags and watching a television show from Japan called Extreme Elimination (or something like that), where these people went through obstacle courses and, nine times out of ten, ended up falling painfully into water of questionable biological cleanliness. A few of the previous month’s hires were waiting with their headsets for a training flight. There was one woman (a new hire) who seemed to be a well of information about basketball. She had very small feet in white joggers. There were no other women.
A while later, the Chief Pilot returned and led me into his office. That’s where he told me they’d be honored to have me work for them. Honored. He actually said that. Wow. How could I say no?
Training starts on April 12. That gives me about two weeks to get my life in order before I’m gone for two weeks. After that, I’ll be on a 7 on 7 off schedule (at least that’s what I asked for when given the choice). This time next month, I’ll be qualified as a Grand Canyon Tour pilot.
Today, I’m canceling the rides I scheduled at Buckeye for this weekend. Time building mode is over. No need to sell myself as a pilot anymore. I’ve already got a buyer.
* For those of you unfamiliar with the Grand Canyon area, the airport is about 5-8 miles south of the Rim in a town named Tusayan. The airport has a tower, but Papillon (and probably the other operators) also have their own towers for controlling their own aircraft. The terrain there is covered with ponderosa (tall), juniper (short), and pinyon (short) pine trees. About 7 miles southeast of the airport is a volcanic rock formation called Red Butte because of its color. You can’t miss it on your way from the south to the canyon.