First I had to meet with the assistant chief pilot for my base orientation, during which we covered the rules and toured the crew facilities inside the terminal, located under concourse G. After a few years of dreaming of being part of a big airline, I finally get to see what goes on behind the curtains. The sight of hundreds of crew bags that are decorated with stickers representing anything from flags to messages and lined up on racks clearly say that this is a sizable operation. I was due to report at noon for a turn to Columbus, Ohio. This was not my first trip as a crewmember, but what is called an observation flight. This is basically the opportunity to watch from the jump seat, a qualified crew operating the aircraft on a regular line. The experience was very interesting as it was my first time being in the cockpit of the CRJ700. After a quick return flight to ORD, I headed to the hotel before officially starting the next day, my IOE. As I woke up from the rumbling thunder and a very dark sky with an impressive lighting show, I realized that my first day on the job might get a little trickier than what I had bargained for. None the less, by mid afternoon, I started heading toward the airport where I was to meet with my captain and start my sequence. We were supposed to deadhead to Bentonville, in Arkansas. From there I was to fly the airplane back to Chicago then head to Newark later in the evening, where I was scheduled to spend the night. Unfortunately, the local weather had other plans for everybody in the biggest airport in the world. As the building cumulonimbuses were passing through Illinois, all inbound and outbound movements came to a sudden stop and delays started increasing steadily.
The next morning, I got an early phone call by my captain who let me know that our trip was modified once again. Our deadhead to New York and flight back to O’hare were cancelled, leaving us with just one flight for today. We decided to meet up at the gate for our flight down to XNA around 4 pm. After dropping my bags in the crew room, we sat down to review some of the local procedures especially the communications between airplanes and controllers to get in and out of Chicago. Due to the enormous number of movements, taxiing between a gate and a runway requires a lot of attention and precise lingo from both parties to make for a smooth, safe and efficiently run operation. As our departure time approached, we made our way to the airplane for a thorough preflight under Cleve’s expertise. We first went down on the ramp to do a walk around. This was my first time looking at the airplane from this angle and as we were walking around it and inspecting everything from the nose to the tail, I stopped a moment kneeling by the main gears and realized how big this airplane actually is. The tires are as big as the one on an 18 wheelers. While I didn’t feel overwhelmed, I most certainly was in awe looking at this modern piece of engineering and technology with its tail standing 25 feet high.Afterward, we settle inside the flight deck and proceeded to test the systems and set up the flight plan. It was not long after that our passengers started boarding the 70 seats Bombardier and were greeted by our two flight attendants and music playing over the P/A. The captain decided to let me fly the leg and I was looking forward to do so. After having briefed our takeoff and having the jet bridge pulled away from the main cabin door, we were being pushed out and started our engines. Soon we were on our way to runway 22L. After letting the 63 passengers know of our eminent takeoff, we lined up on the 2 miles long stretch of concrete and the captain, after calling for takeoff checklist, handed over the controls to me. With our takeoff clearance issued by ATC, I tried to apply the thrust as smoothly as possible and in less than 30 seconds I rotated the 72000 pounds bird at 145 miles an hour to initiate our climb toward 36000 feet.
The next day was a busier one as we went from Arkansas back to Chicago, followed by a quick hop to New York and finally Toronto, in Canada. It was very interesting as while on approach, we made a turn coming from the Atlantic ocean to intercept a visual approach which took us over east river. Located between Manhattan and long island, it offered us and our passengers a view of the statue of liberty as well as all the skyscrapers and the beaches along the Hamptons. From a young pilot’s perspective, landing in JFK is a memory I will cherish forever. When I first came in the US in the mid 90’s, Kennedy was the first thing I saw in this country and to be landing there today, as a professional pilot, between Lufthansa’s airbus 380 and Jet blue’s A320, meant a lot to me. I feel like I have achieved my goal to succeed on this side of the pond. While I took some time to enjoy this moment, we had to turn the airplane in 30 minutes to head for Toronto. In no time, we overflew the Niagara falls, and I landed the airplane to officially make this my first international visit as a pilot. We got to spend part of the afternoon and the evening there, and early the next morning made our way back to Chicago to complete my first sequence of IOE.