Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Phone Call Changes My Life

This blog post has been a long time coming, so I apologize for its tardiness.

Let’s rewind the clock a bit.  All the way to August 14th, the day I got a phone call.  It was a harmless enough phone call, but one that would send both my life and T’s life in a dramatically different direction.

That day, I got a call from crew planning at my airline, wondering when I could be in upgrade class for the Q-400.  Upgrade means becoming a captain, and the Q-400 is a 71-74 seat turboprop aircraft.  I fly for Republic Airlines, which is a “regional” airline, or a contracted airline that does service for other airlines, such as United or Delta.  So this means that I would be flying the Q-400, which would mean I’m providing lift for United.  As a captain.  Which means a significant pay raise, and more importantly, it’s a chance to further my career.  The typical progression of a pilot is to work at a regional for a few years, get that captain time, or “pilot in command” time, and move on to a better airline.  Regionals are typically not the greatest places to work.  They fly harder and longer than their counterparts at the “majors” or “Legacy” airlines.  The schedules are more demanding and the benefits are not nearly what they are at the “big boys”.   Nevertheless, it’s a job, and it’s an opportunity to advance your career pretty quick.  That’s what I was doing around August 14th.  Grinding it out as a first officer, waiting for that call to upgrade.  And it came. 

So you might be wondering “why is Brandon talking about this?  What do I care?”

You might also remember I’m training for an Ironman?  I’m sure I’ve mentioned it once or twice on here.  :-)

My main concern when that phone call came was twofold. 

One was that they wanted me in class August 26th.  Class, or “ground school” is what you’d expect.  You learn things.  In my case, I’m going to learn an airplane that I’m familiar with (I flew the Q-400 for Lynx from June 2008 to May 2010) and procedures that are already familiar with.  So what was the problem with that?  Well, it left me with only 12 days to completely get ready to uproot my life AGAIN and head to Indianapolis and St. Louis for a few weeks of my life.  No biggie, but still a slight concern.

The second problem, and this was the big one, was Ironman.  Would I be able to train for it?  Would I get the time off I need for the actual race?  Hell, would I be done with ground school and the simulator before peak training?  I mean, as badly as I want to do Ironman, I certainly have to think about my career first, right?

So while T was at work, I paced the apartment.  I walked outside.  Made damn near a dozen phone calls to my friends, coworkers, and family to discuss my options.  This clearly was going to be a huge decision, and while I had my mind very close to made up, I wasn’t 100% convinced.  And while my friends and coworkers and fellow pilots were helpful, I ultimately needed to talk to T about it before I pulled the trigger.

When she got home, we chatted.  And we chatted some more.  I talked and talked and talked.  I verbalized everything I was thinking at the time.  I laid out all the options on the table.  And there weren’t many of those.  It was either “take the upgrade or don’t take it”.  What it came down to was more “what will happen to us/our life/Ironman if you take it?” 

The next day, after getting very little sleep, I emailed crew planning and asked them to put me in the August 26th class.  You may be wondering how I reached the decision to do so.  It was pretty simple.

Why not do both?

Our thought process went something like this: I like running in Indy and can treat my time there more like a run camp.  Get my long rides in on the weekend when I come back to Denver.  Play on the exercise bike in Indy and splash around in their pool a bit and I really won’t miss much of a beat.  In St. Louis, there are 24 Hour Fitness locations, so swimming is suddenly taken care of.  With running still able to happen no problem and plenty of exercise bikes, I really don’t see training being impacted much.

Of course, ground school doesn’t mean that I get a free pass and can just run and swim.  It’s ground school.  There’s limitations on the airplane to learn and emergency procedures to get down.  I also need to learn some stuff that pertains only to captains.  Things like logbook stuff, signing the release, etc.  Which means that if ground school goes from 8-5 (east coast time, mind you.  2 hours from me!) I have some time in the early AM if I wake up for it, or time right after class.  Factor in breakfast time, dinner time, and you can see my options are limited in what I can do. 

This last week was the first week of ground school, and thanks to T’s awesomeness (I’m not just saying that because she’ll read that!) and her ingenuity in planning workouts, I buckled down in the discipline department on all fronts.  I didn’t waste any time in ground school, using breaks and lunchtime and other downtime to study my limitations.  When our new hires (there’s brand new airline guys in addition to some captain upgrades in my class) were learning something that we didn’t have to worry about, I studied.  That way, when I got back to the room, I was able to quick change my clothes, bang out the workout, shower, and study. 

I didn’t miss a workout this week, and honestly, in terms of studying and preparation, I’m probably ahead of where I need to be.  As Dr. J said to me a few months ago when I was studying for my Airline Transport Pilot test, my training discipline probably helped me focus in that department.  And I’m guessing that is the case here as well.  While I know I will miss a workout here and there down the road (our schedules during training will not always be this regimented) I know I have the discipline to focus on both avenues I’m pursuing right now. 

With the opportunity to upgrade to captain and become an Ironman in the same year, I’d say 2013 might be the most eventful year of this guy's life so far.  :-)


  1. As my sister often said to me, "You can do it!!"

    She was right a lot more than she was wrong :-)

    Congrats on your promotion, Brandon!!

  2. As my sister often said to me, "You can do it!!"

    She was right a lot more than she was wrong :-)

    Congrats on your promotion, Brandon!!