He is an airline pilot by day, writer by night, and kid by choice. He has spent over 21,000 hours in the sky (nearly 2.5 solid years!) and is now Captain of a major US airline. He inspires other aviation enthusiasts to follow and pursue their dreams of flying, and reports and discusses aviation topics in an honest, candid way.
As a professional pilot, Captain Eric Auxier (Cap’n Aux) is living his dream, and even more impressively, is dedicated to inspiring others to achieve their own. For anyone with a passion or dream of flying, or those seeking the highest office chair in the world, this is what you can expect from a day in the life of an airline pilot.
Why are you madly in love with flying?
Why does anyone fall in love? For me, it started as far back as five years old, when I would literally have flying dreams. Floating, hovering, soaring like an eagle. And I still remember, at age 8, stepping aboard my first airliner, a Hughes Airwest DC-9, marching into the cockpit and declaring, “I’m gonna be a pilot!”
Like a good marriage, with the day in/day out ups and downs, flying is something which has to be worked on. But that dream and love has never left me.
What inspired your passion for aviation?
I’m actually the first in my family to fly, and didn’t really grow up knowing any pilots. But I remember at age 7 sneaking down the hallway at 11am–way past my bedtime–to watch Neil Armstrong first step foot on the moon.
That inspired my passion for aviation.
Tell us about a day in the life of an airline pilot?
As I comically present in my video, “Livin’ the Dream,” it ain’t all peaches and roses. You typically work long, odd hours, and only get paid while the plane is moving.
Time spent between flights or during planning is sort of done “gratis.” Therefore, you could work a 12 hour shift but only get paid, say, 4-5 hours.
Flying for a major airline, most of the planning is done for you by dispatchers. There’s no heavy lifting, filing flight plans, etc. And, it’s the world’s best office view!
How many hours of flying did you need to accumulate to achieve your current position? And how long overall would you say you have spent in the sky?
Like any business, it’s supply vs. demand. At the time, I got hired by my major airline at about 5,000 hours. I now have over 21,000 hours.
That equates to nearly 2-1/2 solid years in the sky!
As a captain of a major US airline, what are some of your responsibilities outside of flying?
The nice thing about it is, when you set the brake at Point B, you’re off the clock and can walk away from your job.
I’m also a freelance writer, blogger and book author, however, so I do feel a major responsibility to report and discuss aviation topics in an honest, candid way.
Tell us about your career as a young pilot.
I initially started my blog, “Adventures of Cap’n Aux” to tell all the tall tales I’d racked up over the years. Some of the first pieces I ever sold as a writer entailed mistakes I’d made in the cockpit that led to, shall we say, “adventures,” which ultimately offered up a cautionary tale or two.
In fact, my “There I Wuz!” book series is a collection of those crazy tales from my blog and various magazine articles over the years. Volume 2 is slated for publication this June.
The blog has expanded to cover all aviation topics, and especially to encourage those dreaming of a career in the cockpit. However, I also strive to present the business honestly. To that end, and going back to your question, my early career was quite rocky, as is common.
You may also enjoy my post, “Top 10 Downers of an Airline Career”.
You say your favourite vacation is not knowing which country you will wake up in the next day. Can you choose which flight paths you take, or are your destinations all pre determined?
Well, again that’s for vacation, although admittedly I’ve gotten a little soft over the years! As for work, we bid for a monthly schedule, and we get that schedule about 10 days before the month begins.
I can bid for destinations, days off, night or day schedules, etc. All kinds of parameters go into your bid, and you are “awarded” your schedule according to your seniority.
These days, I am more concerned with when I’m flying as opposed to where I’m flying, so that’s more of what I bid. Frankly, when you’ve been to the same destination dozens of times, you are less likely to go out sightseeing.
How much free time do you have in-between flights?
Normally 1-3 hours. But you need to start planning the flights about 45 minutes prior to departure. I’d rather have 1 hour between flights, so we can go go go, rather than have 2 or more hours that just stretch your day out and can lead to fatigue.
What kind of excuses have you used in the past to fly somewhere?
Haha good question! Pilots talk about the “hundred dollar hamburger,” which is simply an excuse to jump in the plane and fly somewhere for lunch–hence, your meal costs $100!
Now, you’ve simply GOT to watch my video, “Cap’n Dillon’s Ecstatic $100 Hamburger Adventure!”
Which destinations have you had the opportunity to explore due to your job?
Well, all kinds, obviously! But, I fly mostly domestic, Canada, Mexico, Alaska and Costa Rica. Our 757 pilots also get 24-30 hours in several Hawaiian Island locations, so that’s a dream…although they pay for it by having to fly a long redeye home.
We don’t do overseas flying out of my base (PHX) yet, so I don’t get to, say, Paris or Tokyo unless I’m on vacation. I’m not sure I’d want to do that kind of flying, anyway, as, like the 757 flights, it really beats up your body with all those time zone changes week after week.
My favorite among my normal schedule would have to be Anchorage, or a long layover in New York, where we would stay in downtown Manhattan. Can’t go wrong with that!
As an airline pilot, why do you have to be prepared for anything?
Haha, well that was just a saying I had fun with in my “Livin’ the Dream” video. But, realistically, you really do have to be well-versed in your airplane’s systems and procedures.
For airline pilots, we have very rigorous training standards, so by and large your pilot is ready for just about any contingency.
Speaking of which, I’m just about to release a video interview with Qantas Captain Richard De Crespigny, who safely landed his crippled A380 after the number 2 engine exploded, damaging all but one system.
The emergency could not have possibly been planned or trained for, but nevertheless, after 2 gruelling hours inflight, he and his crew managed to get back safely on the ground.
Can you bypass security in airports or do you have to take your shoes off like everyone else?
Things are always changing and evolving, especially post-9/11. Now, for most airports, we have KCM, or Known Crew Member which is a system for crew members to help expedite our entry.
What is the longest flight you’ve flown & how do you take breaks on a long shift?
Around 6 hours usually gets you, on my A320-family Airbus, from KBOS (Boston) to KPHX or KLAX, or from KPHX to PANC (Anchorage.) We’re human, so we do need to leave our seat to “tend to our physiological needs,” as the regulations dryly state.
Sadly, this little bit has been in the spotlight lately, with the Germanwings crash. In the U.S. we are already required to have another qualified crew-member or flight attendant up front while one pilot goes to the back.
Tell us about your most memorable flight?
Oh, my, so many! Again, that’s the reason I started my blog. I guess you’ll have to search the archives!
My novel, “The Last Bush Pilots” won a Top 100 spot in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Awards, and is a fiction tale inspired by my very real adventures flying as a young bush pilot in Alaska.
In the chapter entitled, “The Sky Fell,” I describe a harrowing flight that serves as the crux of the story for the main protagonist, DC Alva. The fictional flight closely mirrors one I experienced in real life, that became a watershed moment in my career. That true flight is also chronicled in Volume 1 of, “There I Wuz!”
What happens if there is a passenger medical emergency?
Now, that’s a timely question, as I just wrote a four-page piece for the April, 2015 edition of Airways magazine entitled, “You’re the Captain: Medical Emergency!” In it, I chronicle a real-life medical diversion I had, which also resulted in a heavy landing.
I wrote it in such a way that the reader feels the “burden of command” of the captain, while making real-time decisions, with imperfect information, all while traveling at 10-miles a minute. Believe me, after reading this, you’ll be sweating!
What are the greatest joys you get from your blog?
As you’ll have seen in the video, “Cap’n Dillon’s Ecstatic Adventure,” one of the unexpected joys I’ve found in writing my blog is meeting aviation enthusiasts around the world. I regularly correspond with many of them, who often tell me how much I’ve inspired them to pursue their dreams. Well, it’s hard not to get teary-eyed hearing that, and it really encourages me to write more!
“Cap’n Dillon” specifically is a young man who refuses to let his cerebral palsy get in the way of his aviation dream. I dare you to watch his “Ecstatic Adventure” video and not come away teary-eyed! Now, I take him on as many aviation adventures as I can. In fact, since his video came out, droves of pilots have come out of the woodworks to offer him flights in their plane as well!
To see that boy’s face light up when he goes flying has become a serious addiction!
What are some of your best war stories from the air?
Well, that’s a good reason why my blog is still going strong after over three years: so many tales to tell!
Search for “Flying a Fallen Hero,” “Grand Crisis Over Grand Canyon,” “I Nearly Wet My Pants” and, most recently, “Pilots of the Caribbean, Parts 1 and 2.” Or, make it easy and get my book, “There I Wuz! Adventures From 3 Decades in the Sky,” available in print or ebook.
As a pilot, what are things you can’t travel without?
To avoid the tedium of packing all the time, I basically have two of everything—shaving kit, tennis shoes, etc., that just stay in my bag.
Nowadays, my most essential tool is my laptop, with which I can fill those long hours during overnights with writing my blog, articles and books.
Which destinations are at the top of your bucket list?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Japan (I took Japanese in college,) so one of my top dreams is to backpack the old samurai route from Tokyo to Kyoto.
Also on the short list: Jamaica, Eastern Europe, the Viet Nam/Cambodia region, and more of Africa. All broad, vague goals, I know, but also many new areas only recently opened to tourism.
I’d love to tour some more in the Middle East, but sadly that’s on melt-down mode right now.
Most practical piece of advice for those wanting to pursue a similar career?
From the moment you first step into a cockpit to learn to fly, cherish every moment: you’re ALREADY living your dream!
This is a tough, volatile business, but if you are tenacious and stick to your vision, you WILL most likely be able to fly for a living.
That does NOT mean you’ll become a 777 Captain, or make a lot of money. How far up the food chain you get is largely a matter of economics, timing and luck, so never be disappointed at where you end up.
Why should people travel?
I’ve got to answer that with a quote from my all-time favorite author, Mark Twain:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
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