A Job Interview

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 90° 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.

10 thoughts on “A Job Interview

  1. Thank you for your insight into your interview process at Papillion. I have spent a few hours researching others who have interviewed to get a feel for what I am about to experience. I am excited and like you, left the 9 to 5 job world in search for something more “open” and “outdoors”. While I realize that times change and that the process can too, I appreciate your insight. Thank you and I look forward to more of your blogs.

    • Good luck. Working up there is good experience. Very challenging. But don’t mention my name; we apparently didn’t part on the same friendky terms we started. Let me know how you do there if you get the job.

  2. Wow… I went to read this article and there is a .25 cent charge or subscription options? (I understand everyone needs to be paid for their work.) And I am guessing that you must have a big following to be able to do this!

    I posted many of your helicopter blog entries on my helicopter Facebook Fan page (over the last several years) and at no charge to you.

    I only post free articles or free blog entries on my Facebook Fan page (for many years I never posted Wall Street Journal articles about helicopters, until the other day when there was a no charge article), so I guess my readers will probably miss reading your future helicopter stories.

    Best of luck.

    • Sorry you feel that way. This particular article is part of a book I’m working on. There will be a charge for the book — more than 25¢, I might add — so it seems logical that parts of the book should be available at a fee. If you prefer not to read or share premium content, that’s fine with me. Sorry that 25¢ is too big an expense for your budget.

      Have a great day!

    • Well, now that you explained this, I don’t feel this is too much to ask because… 1) I originally assumed your entire blog was now a for-pay blog and 2) I did not see your fine print just below the for-pay button (“This post is part of an upcoming book about my summer…”) because those words are in fine print!!!

      Thanks for your comment and I will now put myself back on your blog email list!

      Sorry about the confusion on my part.

    • And I’m sorry about the 25¢ budget crack. Rude of me.

      Of the 2,000+ posts on this blog, only 5 (so far) are considered “premium content.” It’ll never be more than 5% of the posts here. I’m hoping to get the book out by Christmas.

      This post is old and had been taken offline for at least a year. When I re-released it, I suspect Twitter or something was pinged. Certainly didn’t expect to get 28 hits on it in a few short hours.

  3. Maria,

    25 cents is “within my budget”, and to be frank, I would be happy to make a donation of 400 times that amount as your blog and the photos are well-hewn, quality work.
    I don’t trust these automated payment systems (PayPal is not 100% secure and cointent is new to me).
    I am happy to send you a check to your HA, or bank address, if you prefer. It will be obvious to me when the check has cleared into your account.
    Is that acceptable? That is the method I use to support Wikipedia.

    (I am not a weirdo stalker and live 6,000 miles to the east, in the UK)


    • That’s the biggest problem with accepting micropayments — unfamiliar, unliked, or simply inconvenient payment systems. Yet I’m tied to a system to automate access. Even if you did send a check or payment from some other method, you’d still need a Cointent account to access the premium content. That doesn’t mean you’d have to give them credit card info, though.

      It’s a difficult situation. I need compensation for my work yet there’s no way to set it up without entrusting payment collection to an organization like Cointent or Paypal. That means readers have to trust, too. What’s the answer? I don’t know. But once the book is out, this post will likely disappear entirely.

  4. I’m looking forward to the book as a nice Christmas present. Which platforms will you be publishing on? I assume Amazon and the iBooks store will be included.

What do you think?