(December 2011) It is ungodly hot. Sweat cascades off of me; rivulets of perspiration form at the temple, and when I look down, they coalesce into drops that drip into my glasses. I am raining myself into a pair of bifocals. As an unhappy result, I can’t see, much less organize, the flight management system on the Lear 31.
This is a shame, as it is my first day at work.
I joined my captain, Mike Bronisz, an hour earlier than usual for him and his regular first officer, and he patiently walked me through the preflight. I am in uniform, resplendent with three bars on the shoulder. The night previous my airline friends gave me some hints on how to dress. I had naively asked them why pilots wear short sleeves and an undershirt. “Well, it can get kind of hot” was all one of them said. No kidding.
All this sartorial instruction proved to be hugely valuable for the first day as a dream-come-true Learjet FO for EliteAir, based in St. Petersburg, Florida. We were to fly empty from KPIE for Lakeland (KLAL) — a grand total of 35.8 nautical miles — to pick up two passengers and a dog for a trip to Asheville, North Carolina.
After that the plan was to airline back to Tampa and get up the next morning and take another Lear to Asheville, and then airline home for the weekend. On the following Monday, we were to airline back to Asheville and pick up one of the Lears and return with passengers to St. Pete.
All of this would be fine if I could get the simple matter of KPIE direct to KLAL loaded in the FMS. Mike has to help me with this — and with the bug speeds and with the pitch trim setting and with how to use the radios. That type rating seems like a long time ago.
I’m reminded that 41 years ago a young intern showed up early on the first day of surgical training. The case was a simple one, sort of like a PIE-LAL leg, and the intern had hopes of handling the knife and getting going on a career in surgery. Only it was hot. So hot that when he walked into the operating room, full of prepared confidence, that heat had left his hands so sweaty that the patient’s hospital chart slipped from his hands and clattered to the floor, whereupon all the careful notes and graphs fluttered around the room like so many unhappy pigeons. And so it is again, this many years later as I embark on another career, this one in airplanes. With almost 4,600 hours as PIC, I am not an intern, exactly, but the parallels are easy to trace.
We are finally in and have started both engines. I am wiping my glasses on my EliteAir tie. I am reading the “after start” checklist. As we run through the deice portion, a current limiter light comes on. We recycle to no avail. We call the maintenance crew on a cell phone. They say shut down, so we do. After 10 minutes of mechanical intervention, we’re good to go.