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Young Captain...

Avi8tor2000

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I was just wondering in all honesty, would anyone who is a FO, or anyone who used to be for that matter: would you (or would you have had) an issue flying with a Captain who is 23 years old? Would this have presented any problems unique to the situation or would it be just like a normal cockpit relationship? Thanks for your time.
 

Timebuilder

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I am fifteen to twenty years older than many of the captains with whom I fly, and I am three years older than the owner of the company and the check airman.

Since they chose flying as a career before I did, I expect them to bring real world flying experience to the table. Although they don't always agree on a particular procedure, I manage to learn something about the company's operation of these jets every time I fly.

On the other hand, I have survived the pressure cooker of broadcast journalism, and long ago learned how to survive high risk situations using decision making skills, diplomacy, and an extensive library of life experience.

Between my experience and theirs, we have a good flight every time. It's a team effort, and that's what CRM is all about. Whether or not this is representative of other "cockpit relationships" is academic. If the captain and FO can get along, get the job done, and gently check each other's actions for errors, there shouldn't be a problem with relative age, or gender for that matter.
 

PuffDriver

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Avi8tor2000 said:
I was just wondering in all honesty, would anyone who is a FO, or anyone who used to be for that matter: would you (or would you have had) an issue flying with a Captain who is 23 years old? Would this have presented any problems unique to the situation or would it be just like a normal cockpit relationship? Thanks for your time.

Hey Avi8tor2000,

As somebody on the other end of the spectrum, a very young captain at Delta, I haven't really seen a problem with it. I think in my career, I have flown with 7 or 8 people younger than me. I have never really experienced a problem with it. Sometimes it is a little cold when you have a retired Col or Gen. in the right seat on the first leg, but if you cut them a little slack and think of it from their point of view, they loosen up in short order.

If you are the elder and have one of the young punks in the left seat, I really can't help you from that perspective. I have never flown with a captain younger than me. I can't imagine having a problem with it though. Experience goes beyond age.
 

InHot

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Young Punks?

Puffdriver's right: "Experience goes beyond age."

I retired from the USMC at age 43 with 20 years and 4000 hours flying experience. In the last 7 years flying for three different Part 121 carriers I've flown with lots of captains who were much younger than I.

I've never had a bad experience related to age difference. I credit that fact to the professionlism and character of those "Young Punks" I called Captain.

It's all about attitude - from both sides of the flight deck.

Good luck!
 

ACWild

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Age isn't as much of a factor as maturity. I've noticed that some of the quickly upgraded captains were really insecure. Any little thing that happened caused them to get irate because they thought the passengers would think it's their fault or something, even though nobody noticed. In general, the older captains seem to be a little more laid back, but I've flown with some great young captains too.
Younger pilots in general seem to be more cocky.
I feel bad for some of the young pilots because they really can't win when they fly with a crustbag. If they're enthusiastic, you think, just shut up already. If they start to complain and sound bitter, you think what the heck are you bitter about, your're lucky to get a flying job so young...
 

chperplt

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I'm 30 years old and just upgraded with my company. I flew with a captain who at the time was 23.

At the time, this captain had been flying with an FO who was around 50 years old. The two of them were having problems flying together and I was asked by the CPs office to fly with the captain. I flew with this guy for a little while and definately saw where the other FO was coming from. This captain had a big attitude problem and his attitude was a danger to the airplane.

Some people were fortunate enough to get an early jump on flying. As long as they don't keep reminding you that they are 23 and an airline captain, I don't see a problem. You fly with all sorts of people in this industy and have to be able to fly with them all.
 

bobbysamd

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Respect v. Maturity

I would have been in that position and I absolutely, positively, would have had no problem with it. It's all relative. I figure that if I had started fifteen or twenty years before we'd be about the same age.

I figure that this other person is there for a reason. He/she is the Captain, age difference notwithstanding. I would have had no problem with it whatsoever. Even if the captain was young enough to be my son or daughter or, a couple of years earlier, was my flight student (and, in effect, I was the Captain).

It all turns on respect. As PuffDriver mentions, maybe the problem is more with the FO in question. If, indeed, the FO is some former military bigshot who got into airline flying later, that person needs to swallow some pride. He/she needs to realize that he/she is starting out again and exhibit humility. On the other hand, you do get some 23-year-old captains who are not especially mature by anyone's standards, and need to learn respect. Maybe they can learn from the situation as well.

PS-This is a good discussion. Also, a potential interview question.
 
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ACWild

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The good thing about flying with really disagreeable pilots is that you will be asked about the situation in your next interview...
 

Andy Neill

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I have no problem at all flying with younger captains. They ALL are. A 23 year old captain has been with the company long enough to meet minimums and has demonstrated competency in the job. If my captain were 23, however, I'd simply have to add one more task to my normal duties -- I'd have to rent the car at the destination.
 

TurboS7

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A true captain is a very humble person. Attitude is more important that anything. Being 23 years old has nothing to do with it, maturity and humility has everything to do with it. Anyone can be taught how to pass a 121 checkride, it is another thing to flow with the constant change on the line. That takes time and experience, I hope the 23 year old captain takes all the advice that he can get. As for safety if the bad decision gets him in a jam his quick reactions and hand eye coordination with usually get him out.He has a lot to learn and as an FO you have to go the course with him and learn with him.
 

hobbsmeter

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I'd have no problem with a 23 year old captain, especially is she was hot! :D
 

surplus1

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I agree with Puff (a rarity) that "experience goes beyond age". At the same time, it's hard to figure out just where the "experience" came from when one is only 23. Not much time to get "experience".

I don't question the young captain's ability to fly the airplane. But that's really the smallest part of being an airline Captain. Maturity is a major element of judgment and judgment (in my book) is the true key to command ability. It's not about sitting on the left side of the airplane and flying down the ILS.

I don't have much of a problem (mentally) in a Beech 1900 from Peoria to Chicago, but I don't really know how comfortable I'd be in a 76 from Kennedy to Gatwick or MSP to Narita.

Good CRM can make a big difference. It's not just the chronological age difference either. If the FO is less experienced that's one problem. If he happens to be more experienced that's two problems.

It's dooable with the right attitudes on both sides of the cockpit but it's not ideal. As one person pointed out, some young pilots are "cocky". Cockiness may be a virtue in a fighter, but its a liability in a transport.

People skills are a big part of the equation. A 23-year old is definetly challenged having to deal not only with the other cockpit cremember, but with a bevy of flight attendants, dispatchers, ram agents, CSRs and management. For all of these reasons, I personally don't tend to favor the instant upgrade programs that exist in some carriers.

Again, its not the flying that bugs me nor the one-on-one with the FO, its the overall level of maturity. I was a very young Captain myself (27) in a big airplane in international service. I didn't have any problem flying the darn thing, but looking back it was a very full plate.
 

Caveman

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I'm 44 and an FO in a CRJ. Once in a blue moon I'm the youngster in the cockpit. Most of the pilots I fly with are junior Captains and usually are no older than 30-32. Plenty of them are in their late twenties. I've never met one yet that didn't have way more experience and way better airline flying skills than I have. As far as basic stick and rudder I think I can hold my own with the majority of them. (Heck, I wouldn't be much of a pilot if I didn't believe that!) None of them lacked good judgement in respect to flying and flying related decisions. IF, I repeat IF some of them had any shortcomings it was directly related to plain old leadership and life skills type maturity. That's where I come in. As a relatively older dog I have the benefit of longevity, meaning I've made more dumb decisions from which I've had the opportunity to learn from. I've gently guided a few through an occasional decision that upon further review they decided to take a different course of action. Rarely did it have to do with the airplane or actual flying. More times than not it had to do with dealing with a gate agent, customer or rampie.

When I was in the Marine Corps I often dealt with very junior officers and very senior officers. In both cases my job was to watch their six and make sure I did everything possible to make their jobs as easy as possible. I may be doing the majority of the work but it's their butts on the line. Same with flying a crewed a/c. He or she is the boss and I take great pride in being the best freaking FO they ever saw and in making their jobs as easy as possible. It doesn't matter whether they are 23 or 53. Maybe I'm weird but it's kinda fun looking out for the young guys. I dig watching them succeed and I get job satisfaction out of playing some small part in their success. The more I do for them the better prepared I become to move into their seat. Which means the better prepared I'll be to groom the next batch of FO's. The best compliment I ever got from a Capt was that flying with me made him complacent. He was comfortable enough with my abilities that he was able to relax a little bit. Made my day.
 

bobbysamd

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U.S.M.C. Experience

I've known a few retired Marines, and I know the life experience you obtain in the Corps is second to none. Undoubtedly that was an advantage for you.

Also, I hear a little conscientious CFI coming out, too, my friend. :) Especially the "satisfaction" aspect.

Once again, humility is a major component of being a great crewmember, no matter what seat position you hold.

Very good post.
 

bart

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I have found respect is the key and that it is a two way street. In my experience, If I respect the young captain and his abilities (they must have done something right to get where they are), the respect is mutual.

I have also found that by not respecting the other person, regardless of position, the have no room to respect me. Though I wish I had entered the game sooner, this is the way it is. I have yet to fly with a captain older than me and suspect it will be a long time before I do.

I find that like Surplus1, if I put my attitude, experience, maturity and good judgement to work for the purpose of benefitting the captain, they end up learning and having a high opinion of me. I also find myself learning from them.

At the end of the day, the experience is more enjoyable when I respect their authority and do what I can to put them at ease, after all I am sure it can be intimidating to them to know the guy in the left seat was driving when they were in diapers...
 
3

350DRIVER

I think "age" is usually irrelevant and is used as a a cop out in most cases. You are either a competent, safe, experienced, proven pilot OR you are NOT "regardless" of your age- I truly believe that age is a meaningless number since it is not how many years you have been on this planet B U T what you have actually done and accomplished in your years here- At my company I am the youngest at 23 and the oldest is right at 70 so go figure BUT each and every pilot has been put to the test and the same standards so if you are 23 or 70 it really doesn't matter at all- (a cop out in most cases) At this point in the ball game you either know your stuff or you don't and "IF" you don't then it will be known to many and you probably will not get too far in this industry and should start looking at other avenues to pursue- IF you are "professional" then age will never become an issue on the flight deck and each crew member will respect the other to the utmost- I have never had a problem with this issue nor do I think "age" will ever be an issue due to the fact that it is not your "age" that is recognized and respected it is your piloting skills that are in "question" and being "tested"- As for some stating that at 23 "we" don't posess the "experience" I beg to differ (a cop out once again) since the regulations don't give one knowledge "breaks" and the "younger" so-called "less experienced" pilots are allowed to know less than someone that is in their 50's- Like I said you will be tested the same and pushed the same regardless of whether you are 23 or 70- Most of the people that make "age" an issue appear to be the older pilots nearing the "magic 60" - why? I have no idea, possibly because of the changing times as well as the era that they were accustomed to along their way up the ladder.- - -

Saying we "lack" experience because of "age" would be comparable to someone saying that a young heart surgeon right out of their res/intern is not "experienced" enough to do a double bi-pass operation because he isn't as "experienced" as the 55 year old surgeon that has been doing it for 20 years and has developed "people skills" . (last time I checked the "young" doc's still had to pass the same boards and prove themselves prior to being given the knife) The bottom line is that you are"proven" by the time you get to that point and the same holds true in aviation- Line and sim checks are NOT changed to make sure certain age groups are given a "break" due to their so-called lack of knowledge/experience in the industry-


C H E E R S

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Timebuilder

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Although any recently upgraded captain can be competant, safe, experienced and proven, my life experience suggests to me that there are degrees of all of these qualities.

If you are on a path of constant improvement (learning=a change in behavior) you will need many more takeoffs, flights, and landings in order for these improvements to occur. In order to have this increase of experience, time will have to pass in your life, i.e.: age.

Can a young captain be better at his job than someone older? I'm sure there are many examples of that, when the older captain has less experinece (time) as a captain, or if he has no desire to improve.

Certainly, an older person has had opportunities for life experience that will exceed those seen by a young captain. The standards the young captain has met are a baseline, not the be-all, end-all measure of the job, but a beginning of a long experienced air transport professional.

Like Caveman, my job is to make the other guy's job easy, whether it is our newest captain, with whom I will fly this afternoon, or one of the owners, who is a seasoned captain and check airman with a 121 background. I'm still older than everyone here, and I probably will always crew with someone younger than myself. That's fine. My first intent is to be the best FO they ever saw, then I'll set my sights on becoming the best captain I can be.

If you always aim for excellence, the rest will take care of itself.
 

CL60

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My answer would depend on the individual in question.

If the 23 year old captain was an egomaniacle a-hole, yes I would have a problem. If the 23 year old captain was a competent pilot and a good leader, no problem. The same could be said of a person of any age.

The whole situation is based solely on one's subjective perception of a 23 year old's ability to handle the job and themself in a manner befitting a captain in every sense of the title.

Don't let age or gender or race or any other predjudice interfere with your ability to learn and grow.
 

surplus1

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Kudos to Caveman and Timebuilder. You both have the "big picture".
 
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