The RADAR
Julie Hafen

Spotlight on Alumni: Julie Hafen

Julie Hafen

Describe one of your typical workdays:

My favorite kind of trip is a local, for example, to Boise, ID (BOI) and back to Seattle, WA (SEA). I had to be to work at 6:15 a.m. I met up with the crew at the aircraft and we had a crew brief. We talked about our game plan for the day, weather at our destination, the altitude we were planning to fly and the flight time, how we would work together as a team if there was an emergency situation, and any other information the captain deemed necessary. Sometimes these briefs are 5 minutes long, sometimes they are much shorter.

After our brief we each went about our duties. The captain began on some checklists while I proceeded to do the preflight walk around inspection. About 35 minutes prior to departure the passengers began boarding. I got into my seat and finished some of my preflight duties. Once the captain and I were ready, we decided who would fly each leg. I would fly the first leg to Boise, and the captain would fly us back. I briefed our departure items (weather, taxi, NOTAMS, busy airspace) then we went through some checklists. I have found that checklists are a pilot’s best friend. They help us to stay on track and get the important things done without leaving anything out.

The flight to Boise was enjoyable as the weather was perfect and the captain was a great talker. Before we began our descent into BOI we got our weather and then I briefed the arrival items. We weren’t at altitude for very long before we had to begin our descent into Boise. I’ve flown to Boise quite a bit in the past few weeks, and this was by far the most beautiful day there: sunny with crisp, clean air.

After my nearly perfect landing at Boise, the captain taxied us to the gate while I completed the after landing checklist and communicated with ATC. At the gate the passengers got off the plane and we were ready to do it all over again. Learning to be an airline pilot is stressful for the first few months, but after that it is quite enjoyable.

How many hours do you work in a typical week?

Some weeks I work only one 4-day trip, and some weeks I have 4-5 locals where I am home each night, but I typically get paid for 20 hours a week and am away from home about 70 hours each week.

What parts of your job do you find to be professionally challenging?

Most of the captains I fly with are great, but there are a few that are not. Having to fly with a negative or rude captain can be challenging. I stay positive and look for the good.

What do find most enjoyable?

Flying! I get to fly every workday and get paid for it. I love turning off the autopilot in tricky weather conditions and pushing myself to be better. I never want to lose my flying skills or my love for flying.

Are there any downsides to your job?

The part of being an airline pilot that is the toughest for me is not having a consistent schedule. Some weeks I work 6 days in a row, some weeks I only work 3, sometimes I have weekends off, sometimes I don’t. It is hard to plan life around it, but having weekdays off is super nice because everybody else is working and the lines are shorter everywhere.

The airline industry is always changing. What have you seen from inside your company? Where do you think the changes will happen in the next five years?

When I first began at the airlines there were too many pilots. It was bad for the company, but great for me! I only had to work 4 days a week (sometimes only 3 days a week), and I still credited between 75-85 hours each month. It was perfect. There is a definite pilot shortage now, so each pilot has to work a lot more hours. Most months I am scheduled to fly for 95 hours. That means I am working 6 days a week. Having a supportive spouse, great crews, and working for a great company helps.

What is the typical salary for a person in your position in the company?

The first year first year I made $22/hour (thankfully it has since been raised to $30/hour) with a 75 hour/month guarantee. The first year at any airline is going to be tough, so keep that in mind. Think about it like a paid internship.

I am in my third year now and make just over $40/hour. You can see how much each airline will pay per year at http://www.airlinepilotcentral.com/.

What educational preparation would you recommend for someone who wants to advance in this field?

Most major airlines require a degree, but it can be in anything you are interested in. I have flown with pilots who have degrees ranging from culinary arts to engineers. It really doesn’t matter as long as you have a degree. The part that plays more into your career as a pilot is your flight hours. The airlines like to see productive hours. If you have 1,000 hours flying in the same area, in the same plane, to the same airport, that doesn’t show you know that much; but if you have 1,000 hours in a variety of aircraft, to a plethora of airports, in various weather conditions, that shows you are a better and more experienced pilot. They will look through your logbook in the interview, so be prepared to answer questions about any of the flights you have in there.

To read more about Julie’s love of aviation, visit her blog: Trendy Pilots

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