For This Writer, a New Era Brings a Change of Course

Welcome to ‘V1 Rotate,’ a new digital series from a longtime friend of FLYING.

I first learned about FLYING’s change of ownership as many of you did, at Oshkosh this summer, though my association got me a day’s advance notice and a brief chat with the new owner. As a writer and an aviator, I am naturally biased toward tradition and continuity and resistant to change; yet in this case, I was happy to hear the news. 

The new owner, Craig Fuller, is a pilot and aviation enthusiast with a long regard for the brand, and he is making big changes with the goal of setting up FLYING to prosper in its second century of publication. 

It’s not all beer and Skittles; I’ll admit I’m saddened to see the print edition going to a quarterly publication. I have a curmudgeonly affinity for physical print and paper, and while I’m glad to see the positive changes underway—doubling the page count, reinvesting in quality, and refocusing on long-form storytelling, which I love—if I had my druthers we’d do all that and increase publication back to 12 issues a year! But that’s not the world we live in. Even I—print aficionado that I am—made the switch to primarily reading digital books and magazines during my time cruising the Caribbean (owing to lack of library space on Windbird), and have retained that habit since moving back to land. 

Digital content has an accessibility and immediacy that print cannot match—and durability too, thanks to search engines keeping years of information at one’s very fingertips. 

In a way, starting “V1 Rotate” is a way for me to get back to my roots, to rebel against that insulating tendency of my position and stay abreast of a rapidly changing industry, while still being able to share my experience in a meaningful way. 

Every print publication, if it wants to survive and thrive today, must shift its center of gravity online, and not in a way that merely reproduces its printed pages. Graphical, audio, and video content have become every bit as important as writing, if not more. It pains me a bit to say that, because writing is my second love (after flying)—but at the end of the day, the written word is merely one way of expressing an idea, the thing that is in your head and your heart that you wish to share with the world. The idea is the important thing; the medium only matters in how well it spreads the idea. The explosion of affordable high-quality video recording equipment and consumer-level editing software has made video, in particular, an increasingly accessible and effective medium for both storytelling and sharing skills and knowledge. Much of today’s quality aviation content that is compelling to both pilots and aspirants is made by amateurs and streamed on YouTube. 

A New Idea

All of which is to say that I’m glad FLYING is surviving in print form, and I’m glad to be continuing to write my print column, Taking Wingbut I’m really excited to be contributing to FLYING Digital during this time of rebirth and expansion. I was initially going to do a straight port of the Taking Wing franchise—Taking Wing Online, etcetera—but while that started out with a strong focus on pilot careers, it turned into more of an adventure column (It’s a mild point of pride that I’ve written nearly as much about motorcycles, dirt bikes, and sailboats as airplanes—for me, these are all means to an end, ultimate freedom). 

I’m going to be doing something different here, refocusing on aviation careers and professional piloting, especially on the beginning stages of a flying career. This calls for a new title, and I found “V1 Rotate” especially appropriate. It’s a phrase you’ll hear on the flight deck your very first day flying a transport category airplane, and you’ll say or hear it on every flight after that for the rest of your career. 

There’s a very personal reason for this refocusing. 

About Me

For those who haven’t followed my print column, I’m a 40-year-old Boeing 737 captain for a major U.S. airline (you’ll quickly guess which one), but I began flight lessons at a small-town airport at the age of 13. 

Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who flew for a living, much less worked for an airline. There was no blueprint, and information was scarce in those days. Now the problem is inverted: There’s an enormous amount of information on aviation careers online, but it’s difficult sifting through it all to see what is valuable advice, what is flight training industry or airline industry propaganda, and what are the disgruntled rantings of individuals whose careers haven’t met their expectations. 

My vision for “V1 Rotate” is to become a good, reliable source of sound advice for prospective and newer professional pilots who, like me, didn’t come from an aviation background. Some of it will be in written form, some will be graphical, some will be video, and some—like today’s installment—will feature a blend of two or more mediums. 

Now, just because I’m a major airline captain doesn’t make me an authoritative source that you should listen to—honestly, it’s sort of the opposite. Airline pilots tend to give advice based on their own careers even after circumstances have dramatically changed, and my current position makes me rather insulated from the recent turmoil and changes in the lower echelons of the aviation industry. 

I remember that when I was a young regional airline first officer, I used to scoff at the fuddy duddies in the majors’ left seats as being hopelessly out of touch. Now I’m the guy incredulously querying the jumpseater: “Wait, who did you say you fly for…when did they start up!?” 

In a way, starting “V1 Rotate” is a way for me to get back to my roots, to rebel against that insulating tendency of my position and stay abreast of a rapidly changing industry, while still being able to share my experience in a meaningful way. 

And it won’t be just me: I’ll be featuring video and Zoom interviews with airline recruiters, chief pilots, sim instructors and check airmen, union officials, and active and retired pilots who have had interesting career paths. I’ll show how to create a resume and cover letter, how to network, how to prepare for and dress for an interview, and how to get through training and your probationary year. 

I’ll break down things like flows and checklists, standardization, and CRM for those just entering a crew environment for the first time, and relate those things to light aircraft flying for those still in training and time building. We’ll review products that may be useful to current and budding pro pilots. And occasionally, I’ll invite guest writers and vloggers to share their own unique perspective. 

Eventually, I hope to make this a special place where those considering an aviation career come to get good advice, and then return as they progress through training, timebuilding, and their first flying jobs. It’ll take a while to build up a good body of work here, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. I invite you to stop back on the 1st and 3rd Friday of every month, when you’ll find new content here. I’ll see you here next on December 17!


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