Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Funny Numbers.....not so funny situation

Most of the time my little plane....barbie jet as I call it...can take all the passengers, bags and fuel safely from point A to point B.

Every now and then weather or a MEL comes into play and complicates things.

Right now I'm sitting in a Hampton Inn in a crappy city in no where anyone should live USA. I have one leg home tomorrow for Thanksgiving.

Last night, about forty minutes before departure, the gate came down and asked if she knew we were weight restricted....but one passenger. I said I wasn't and then took a look at the numbers. Sure enough due to low ceilings at the destination we had an alternate of flying all the way back to the Hub. It was a short one hour flight. The Captain was away getting dinner.

I told her I would see what I could do. The restriction was that we were landing weight limited. To keep things easy lets use the following:

Basic Empty Weight 40,000 lbs
Release Fuel: 6996 lbs
Minimum Takeoff Fuel: 6450 lbs
Maximum Landing Weight: 55,000 lbs

Actual fuel on board at the time was 7100 pounds. I immediately started the APU. I transmitted exactly 6996 pounds to the "load room". The load room is really a computer system that works out weight and balance. I then called the load room over the radio and inquired about the weight restriction. They stated they planned on 2500 pounds of cargo due to several military passengers. There were 47 paying passengers waiting.

My airline assumes each passenger weighs 184 pounds in winter (they weigh 10 pounds less in summer). Kids weigh 76 pounds. They were restricting it to 46 passengers due to all the cargo. Taking the above numbers they planned on a takeoff weight of 57,964 pounds.

En-route fuel burn + taxi = 2980 pounds. Taking a ramp weight of 57,964 - 2980 fuel burn = 54,984.....or 16 pounds to spare.

Taking things further the airline assumes each checked bag weighs 30 pounds unless it is marked heavy (being over 50 pounds) then they assume it weighs 60 pounds. My barbie jet overhead bins can't take normal carry on bags. The bags checked plane side are assumed to weigh 20 pounds. If the bag is able to be brought on board and stowed it weighs zero pounds. Keeping up?

The one passenger that was going to be left behind was going to his Grandmothers funeral. He had problems getting to the airport and missed his earlier flight. If he was denied boarding the airline owed him NOTHING.

We had no control over checked bags. We could "control" kids on board and valet bags that aren't checked plane side.

The Flight Attendant was very forgiving on bags being brought on. If they could safely fit she let them on. Nine minutes to push we got the final numbers. We were 240 pounds under PLANNED weight.

I called the load room and asked why the passenger wasn't on board. They stated they didn't want to take a delay. I looked over at the Captain and he said, "if you don't mind can you run up there and bring the passenger back with you." At this point we had 7 minutes.

I bolted up from my seat and sprinted up the jet bridge. There alone in the boarding area was a very upset twenty-something guy. I just pointed to him and said, "Hey, let's get you to where you need to be."

He was surprised as was the gate agent. She quickly began typing. Thankfully he only had a backpack. The Flight Attendant told him to sit where ever he wanted. The agent rushed down the final paperwork and we blocked out with 2 minutes to spare.

We weren't done though. We had a very short taxi and didn't use all the planned taxi fuel. I had to fly in fuel burning mode to make sure we were below 55,000 pounds on landing. With a shallow climb and early descent I was 100 pounds under while 20 miles out.

It's all funny math. The plane knows how much it weighs. On final approach I've had situations where I needed much less thrust than normal as we are lighter than we think we are. I've also needed much more thrust as we are heavier than we think we are. The low speed awareness cue is very telling. The margin between VREF and the TOP of the low speed cue (not stall speed!)  is normally 5-10 knots. Sometimes it's 1 or 0 knots. That's when we are heavier than we think we are. Nonetheless we have to abide by the funny numbers.

In and done. I then spent ALL day at a hotel. Tomorrow is a very early 4:15 AM van for a 5:15 AM departure and a 6:09 arrival. I'm then off until the 7th.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Seniority has it's privileges

Being a Senior First Officer is like having a REALLY nice Yugo. Yeah it's nice....but it's a Yugo.

Part of my seniority is getting just about everything I want schedule and vacation wise.

For December I got my 2nd choice of line. Out of more than 280 lines....I got my second choice. Not too shabby.

I combined the lazy December schedule with a lazy November schedule. I'm able to take more than 13 days off in a row without using vacation.

This will all change next year. I will be 10 from the bottom Captain wise....and commuting. Hopefully I can bid back to base as a Captain before Fall.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Eight Years Later

I passed my 8 year anniversary last week. Eight years! I thought I'd be close to 7000 hours total time as I figured all pilots fly as much as possible. Nah. I'm right around 5200 hours total time. I was hired with just in 8 years I've flown about 575 hours a year. Not a lot. Of course I've taken a good 16 weeks of vacation....almost 4 months. Plus I took a few months off when my daughter was born. Blah.

It's good I was awarded an upgrade as I'm topped out on the First Officer pay scale. Yep no more money for me until I upgrade.

I have been crafty in getting paid for more than I fly. So far this year I've flown 507 hours but have been paid more than $46,000 in non-taxable income (thus I'm excluding my per diem). That equates to almost $92 an hour. This is more than double my actual pay. The discrepancy is due to bonuses, overtime pay and "blood money".

The "blood money" was paid out due to my pilot group signing a new contract with the company. we agreed to concessions in exchange for new planes and a bonus check. It was a bad idea, but what's done is done. I get another payout when I upgrade to Captain.

I'm guessing I will hit training in February.....could be earlier. Posting should begin to pick up again. The last few months have been quite boring really.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Back to where I started

After almost 8 years I will finally be moving to the left seat....I got the upgrade.

I was awarded Captain in the aircraft I was originally hired on. It's not the aircraft I currently fly. There's more....I will be commuting.

Bidding on a new status is complicated. I played the cards just right to get my upgrade in a way that I can bid out whenever I can hold Captain in my current base. Normally at my airline if you CHOOSE to upgrade to a current Captain seat you are locked in for 2 years. This is to help the airline recoup the training cost.

When I bid for my upgrade I picked all Captain seats in my current base. I then stated if I was displaced I would like to hold Captain in an another base. That's what happened. I was first awarded Captain in my current base, but due to more senior pilots being displaced out of my current base, I was displaced to another base.

Training should start in January and I should be on the line in March. It's been a long time coming.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Yes I know as the year has gone on I've blogged less and less. No real reason.

In the most recent Captain bid I could have held another base. I bypassed.

I would have been the most junior Captain meaning absolute horrible quality of life. My airline gives reserves 11 days off a month. In reality having to commute to another base I'd be at home 8-9 days a month. Not worth it to me.

Every airline has rumors. The latest is there will be another Captain bid soon with vacancies in my base. I hope it comes out soon as I get no further pay increases as I'm at the top of the First Officer pay scale.

I currently bid number 50 in base. I'm number 70ish overall in the company.

Beyond that I am no longer the union Communications Chairman. Due to some politics I was not re-elected. It annoyed me at first, but I've come to grips with it, back to a regular line pilot.

More to come..........

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another Career Fair

I've been busy this month.

We finished an amazing vacation in Hawaii on the 9th. My family had real seats on a direct flight home. Being a pilot I was going to jumpseat.

Glad we had real seats as the direct flight was booked full with 20+ non-revs. Thankfully I was the only pilot.

Being a long flight there were 3 pilots, 1 Captain, 1 First Officer and 1 relief pilot.

For takeoff and landing I sat in a First Class seat designated for rest for the pilots. After takeoff the bell rang and they were ready for me to occupy a Flight Deck Jumpseat.

Being a wide-body there was a lot of room, but still a stiff jumpseat. I settled in and closed my eyes. About a minute later all the lights in the flight deck came on. They turned them on to help them stay awake. So much for me sleeping.

They were a nice crew. Every two hours or so they swapped turns in the crew rest seat. I did snag a meal.

Once home we all slept a bit. The next day I headed to DC for the OBAP yearly Convention and Job Fair.

My eyes were set on Virgin America, JetBlue, Delta, and United.

I made good inroads with Virgin America in April. I spoke with them again and reaffirmed my enthusiasm. When I spoke with JetBlue I was a little nervous and botched the answer to the question , "What are our core values?" I brushed it off and came back the following day to the same JetBlue rep and apologized for not remembering them and then recited them verbatim.

My talks with Delta were nice. They have slowed down hiring due to construction on their simulator building. They said I had great qualifications, but it may take time for them to call me.

United was by far the worst experience for me. The Captain interviewing me said I had good experience and "maybe in a few years when you've been Captain for a while," that I'd be ready for United. It was quite a crushing experience.

I left there feeling a bit down but I'm not going to let one persons opinion deter me.

For now I'm keeping my applications up to date and working on my interview skills.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Flew a Cirrus!

I'm on vacation with my family in Maui. Hawaii for a week or so. This is my 3rd time to Maui. Each of the first two times I planned on renting a plane for a tour. Each time "something" happened.

This time I wanted a sure thing and contacted Maui Flight Academy for a Molokai tour. It was pricey....but everything in aviation is expensive...add in Hawaii and it's even more expensive.

They use a Cirrus G3 for tours. I told the instructor I was an airline pilot and he took 10% off. I haven't flown a General Aviation aircraft in 8 years. I've never flown a Cirrus period. This was also the first time to have my family onboard with me at the controls. 

The flight went well. After taxiing a few few for a run-up, the instructor gave me the controls. For the first time in 8 year I taxied around an airport....I forgot what that was like! 

Rotating at 70 knots was odd as the first speed I normally call out is 80 knots with rotation occurring around 130 knots. 

The flight went well. The airspace is fairly busy with airliners and helicopter tours milling about. 

Our first stop was Molokai. Very short and scenic airport. After a brief tour we headed over the other side of the island and back to Maui. I put my daughter on my lap to let her fly, but she wasn't into it. I was surprised as she's eager to fly at home on flight simulator. 

We flew right by our beach house so the rest of the family could see. 

Below is my approach into OGG. It was gusty (as is common in Hawaii). I give the landing a 7 out of 10. I flared a bit high. After 5000 hours in jets it's hard to go back to a different sight picture.