Interview of UCM Aviation Alum Glenn Haefner
I interviewed Glenn Haefner, a former CMSU graduate. Haefner was a flight instructor for CMSU after graduating and has furthered his career to US Airways. He is currently a captain on the Airbus A320, and has been a first officer and captain on a variety of other large transport aircraft. I conducted this interview through phone calls, text messages and email since Mr. Haefner lives in Charlotte North Carolina. My questions were oriented so I could get an idea of the world of a commercial pilot. Topics included such things as emergencies, final authority of a flight, and how performance data is completed.
1. I know you told me that your regional career was jumping from place to place. If you could list the airlines that you worked for and the order they came in and why you decided to switch at each point.
I was hired at a commuter airline, Skyways in Vichy, Missouri for one day in August 1979. I had been trying to get hired at a cargo airline, Petroleum Air Transport (Pat Air), in St. Louis, Missouri, I called them up again and got hired in August of 1979. I had stopped by there [sic] office in St. Louis many times, had left a resume and talked to the pilot that did the hiring. He was a former Parks University instructor, I think that help me get hired. I was hired to be a DC-6 Flight Engineer. I received my FE rating at Pat Air, this included about 3 weeks of ground school and a week of aircraft training. That cargo airline went out of business in February of 1980. That summer I enrolled as a Masters student at CMSU and instructed at the airport. In September of 1980 I was hired at Jetway in Ypsilanti, MI as a DC-6 FE, Laid off February 1981. Hired at Pacific Alaska Airlines in Fairbanks, AK as a DC-6 FE in April. Flew to the North Slope and western Alaska hauling cargo and fuel oil. Recalled by Jetway in October 1981, Laid off in February 1982. Flight Instructed at Arrowhead Airport in St. Louis, Mo for 3 months. Flew summer fish haul in Alaska for Ball Brothers in Anchorage, AK as DC-6 FE. Hired by DHL in Honolulu, HI in August 1982 as a DC-6 FE, upgraded to FO in April 1983. Transferred to Mainland operation in December 1983 as a Learjet 35 FO, Upgraded to Captain in November 1984. Transferred to Captain on Boeing 727 in February 1986. Hired by Piedmont Airlines in June of 1986 as B-727 FE. I have flown FO on the B727, B737, F100, B767/757, Airbus 320 series and Airbus 330 series, also Captain on B737 and Airbus 320 series. Piedmont merged with USAir in 1989, Changed name to US Airways, merged with America West in 2007 and it looks like we will merge with American to become the New American.
2. How long have you been with U.S. Airways?
Hired at Piedmont Airlines on June 2, 1986. Merged with USAirways December 1989.
3.During your career have you had any serious emergencies? or difficult decisions you had to make as PIC?
I have had to shut down many engines on the DC-6, probably around 20 engine failures in 2000 hours of flying. Have only shut down one Jet engine in 18,000 flight hours.
Most of the operational problems now deal with passengers and security problems.
4. Where did you learn to fly?
I started college at CMSU in the fall of 1975. I received my CFI in the summer of 1978. I finished my BS in Aviation Technology in the fall of 1978, after which I started working on a MS in Aviation Safety. I flight instructed at Skyhaven until August 1979. I had around 900 hours at that point, a CFI, Multi Commercial, Instrument Ground Instructor. I had built all my flight time at Warrensburg.
5. As a first officer did you ever have to make a decision that over ruled the captain?
I have disagreed with a captain before on the aircraft. It is hard to over rule the Captain. Captains will usually take helpful input from a First Officer. If it comes down to a life and death decision, and you can confirm your decision with written backup, then you have to stand your ground. That is the crew concept in an multi person crew, this includes pilots, Flight Attendants.
6. Do you own or plan to own your own plane or helicopter?
7. What types of salary ranges did you go throughout in your career?
DC-6 Flight Engineer $20.00 to $30.00 an hour Year 1979
DC-6 First Officer $25.00 to $35.00 1980
Learjet 35 Pilot $35.00 to $50.00 1982
B-727 Captain $50.00 to $60.00 1985
B-727 FE Probationary Pilot $1100.00 per month 1986
A-319/320/321 Captain $186.00 per hour 2014
8. Do most airlines cover medical visits? And do they provide benefits for family?
Yes, I pay about $100.00 per month for health insurance.
9. How do you pass the time on flights?
Do you mean when we are flying? The aircraft is on auto pilot in cruise. We have to monitor the aircraft systems, the navigation systems and communicate with air traffic control. You do not have time to do any thing to pass the time.
10. How do you normally spend time for delays or layovers?
Short delays are spent on the aircraft. Longer delays the crew goes to the hotel. On layovers it depends on the length and location. Less than 12 hour overnight we usually stay at a hotel close to the airport. On longer layovers we stay at nicer hotels, close to things to do.
11. Do you use foreflight on the ipad, or some other method for planning?
We have company issued IPads. We use Jeppesen Flight Deck as the chart application. We also have a application for all company manuals.
12. How has the weather affected your decisions on go, no go decisions?
Weather always affects our decision to fly. I think the worst weather is ice and snow on the airport and ice on the aircraft on the ground. The time to de/anti ice the aircraft and coordinate our takeoff time is very hard to do. With all the equipment on the aircraft, low visibility takeoffs and landings are not a big problem. The weather radar is very good and we have plenty of fuel to deviate around storms
13. Who decides to go or not? is it you, dispatch (company)?
It is a dual decision between the flight crew and the dispatcher. If the flight crew decides we are not going to go, then we do not take off. I have never been second-guessed in my decision at USAirways. This is not the case at smaller operations.
14. Do you still have to figure all weight and balance, performance data, or is this done prior to your arrival?
The weight and balance, and performance data is computed by the company after the aircraft has left the gate. We get preliminary data with our weather package when we arrive at the aircraft. After we taxi away from the gate, the final data is transmitted to the aircraft printer.
15. How much does it cost to get a type rating in the A319-321?
All training is paid for by USAirways. I did not pay for my type rating. I think the training would cost anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 dollars.
16. Have you made any international flights?
Yes, in the airbus 320 we fly to Bermuda, the Caribbean, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica and Canada. I have also flown the Airbus 330 to Europe and the Middle East. I have around 5000 hours flying international flights.
17. Have you had any medical issues that threatened to end your career, or have seen other pilots lose their medical?
I have been very lucky with my medical issues. I had a growth removed from my kneecap last year and was off work for 30 days. My company sick leave covered that leave. I have had a few friends loose their medicals. Mostly heart problems, diabetes and inter [sic] ear/ balance vertigo problems.
18. How difficult are proficiency checks?
We have checks once a year. It is a 3 day process. First day is a ground school/ classroom day. 2nd day is 4 hours in the simulator of training. The 3rd day is a loft (line ordinated flight training) day, 2 normal flights with small problems.
The training is very good. You have to study and prepare for training, if you do the check is not a big deal.
19. Do you have a lot of paper work that you have to deal with?
No, we have a flight plan, weather packet, W/B performance paper work when we arrive at the aircraft. The aircraft logbook is in the aircraft, we check that for write ups. Then the final W/B is printed on the aircraft. If we have a safety problem we will fill out a NASA report. Most of the paper work has gone to computer forms.
20. How often do you work? hours per week? Days of the month?
I usually work 3-4 days a week, 15-16 days a month. Fly about 70-75 hours a month. On duty about 150 hours a month, away from home about 260 a month.
21. What is your favorite aspect about flying?
I like that after we leave the gate, the flight completion is in our hands. We make the decisions that affect route, altitude, passengers, arrival airport, runway used.
I also like different destinations that we get to go to and exploring the city. There are always new sites to explore and different people to meet.
For this interview I learned a lot about how the real world airline pilots spend their time, how much they work, and how as time passes the variety of aircraft expands. I will also latter this year be able to have lunch with Mr. Haefner and his nephew. His nephew is currently attending UCM as a freshmen with professional pilot as a major.
Haefner, G. (2013 09). Interview by N Beck. Aviation interview.