Thursday, January 17, 2019

The People You Meet on Airport Trains

Finished a pretty easy 3 day trip today. I had to take the airport train to get back to the terminal I started the trip in to take the employee bus back to my car.

I ,like many pilots, have my name embroidered on my suitcase handle. While on the train I saw a passenger take notice of my bag. Turns out it was a passenger that recognized me from my blog...nice to meet you Wesley!

The trip this week was mostly easy. Day one was an El Paso turn followed by a Cincinnati overnight. Day two was two legs ending up in St. Louis. Day three was 3 legs including a Kansas City turn. Only one leg was tricky....the one to St Louis.

Due to weather in St. Louis we had an alternate. No biggie. Due to a big patch of turbulent air we had a longer route around the bumps. No biggie. We had full flight plus 3 jump seaters (1 pilot and 2 Flight Attendants). Biggie.

We were landing weight restricted. Max landing weight is a lofty 130,000 pounds. It took some phone calls but we got all passengers and jump seaters physically on the airplane and closed the door. No APU. Ready to start an engine with the external air cart...then the external air cart ran out of gas. Ugh. Then the cargo door opened. More bags. Four hundred pounds of more bags. They wanted to pull the jump seaters.

We worked the numbers and stated we could burn the extra fuel and still have the amount needed for the alternate.

Engines started we made our way to the runway. Planning stated we had to burn 1300 pounds more fuel enroute than planned to be under max landing weight. Kind of a short flight. We stated we could do it. Worst case we'd have to hold.

My leg. I climbed at 310 knots instead of 300 which increased the fuel burn. Instead of flying at FL330 we flew at FL270.  I haven't mentioned this before, but I truly appreciate having crew meals at my new airline. They are the same meals as First Class. They aren't amazing but they help on days when I have long flights and short connections. I love it here! Anyway we denied all short cuts and descended early.

Two hundred miles out we were still projected to be 500 pounds over. Out went the spoilers partially along with the turning on of the anti-icing system. We didn't need the anti-icing but it increased fuel burn considerably. It was looking good.

On downwind we were right at max landing weight.

All passengers weigh the same in the eyes of the airline. In the winter passengers weigh 5 pounds more than in summer (due to carrying extra coats and such).  It is kinda complicated but everything loaded on the aircraft (passengers and luggage specifically) is an assumed weight. We use this assumed weight in our calculations.

In my previous aircraft with electronic displays there was a green line that would pop up on the speed tape in flight but it was really important during the approach. Most of the time it was under the approach speed. If it was above the approach speed (and the aircraft was fully configured) it meant you were heavier than you think you are and better add speed.  The aircraft computers know the real weight because it knows how the aircraft should perform for every given configuration.

On the MD-80 there's no such line. Instead the speed window changes to "ALPA SPEED" if the configuration of the aircraft isn't suitable for the given weight. Most of the time this means we just put out slats and flaps. On occasion it happens with the gear down and full flaps....in that case we can only add speed.

Ref speed for max weight with full flaps is 132 knots. We add at least 5 knots as a buffer so this night the approach speed was 137 with full flaps.

It's very rare to land at max landing weight. I can't recall the last time I landed at max weight in the MD-80. Can you see what's coming?


Low clouds in icing conditions. We broke out around 300 feet. I clicked off the autopilot and auto-throttles.

At 100 feet all was well with the world. Passing 50 feet I began to flare. Normally I cut the power just below 20 feet and increase the flare. Being at max weight I delayed it until I heard 10 feet. Once I did the plane slowed and dropped much faster than I anticipated.

It wasn't a hard landing but I could feel the struts compress. Bleh. I get paid the same either way.

Done with day 2.

Thankfully day 3 was pretty straight forward. I'm off for 8 days before my next 4 day trip.

I purposely bid reserve for February. More time off to study for the bus.

Recently I was parked next to a plane I used to fly. It's now being flown by a different American Eagle feeder...it still upsets me how much different regional flying is than mainline flying. I hate the "pay your dues" and "it's a stepping stone airline". Regional pilots are Professional Pilots. They deserve to be treated as such. It's lots of little things.



Last year I picked up a fun little airport car and an amazing main car. My airport car is a Smart Electric. It goes 0-60 in 11 seconds. My main car is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. It goes 0-60 in 3.3 seconds. Quite the odd pair eh?


For those on Instagram feel free to lookup geekinthecockpit. I post there pretty often. It's a private account but as long you don't have an odd profile photo I'll approve you.



Sunday, January 6, 2019

From old to not so old

I've been meaning to blog more....really....I just get wrapped up in other things. Will try to update at least once a month.

My first year at a American Airlines was complete last November. I studied for 3 months for my probationary check ride. I was told multiple times I was over studying. Over studying is all I know.

At my previous airline training was difficult....on purpose. Being one or two knots to fast on an approach or single engine climb out was a topic of discussion during debrief. Knowing the hydraulic system of the 145 in detail was required for the oral exams (before AQP). Thus I read every manual for the MD-80 cover to cover twice. I studied limitations and memory items every....single...day...for months.

I was indeed over prepared.

The probationary check ride was totally uneventful and a low stress environment. Nothing like I had seen before. I was done.

Soon after my check ride a vacancy bid was released. Vacancy bids allow pilots to swap aircraft and/or seats.

The MD-80 at American Airlines is scheduled to fly through August of 2019. After August they will all be flown to Roswell as American Airlines will retire them. It will be very odd not seeing the silver Mad Dog. At one point there were almost 300 of them in service just a few years ago. Today there are under 30 still flying for American.

The MD-80 is a very busy aircraft for the First Officer between the gate and runway. I'm used to it. Flying the MD-80 is actually fun. It's old....real cables run from not just the flight controls...but every single handle in the cockpit. Pulling the fire handle means actually pulling a cable that goes from the handle to the various systems in the back of the plane. There's zero fly by wire. There's very little automation. Sometimes annoying, but I'm used to it.

Speaking of the vacancy bid. I assumed I'd be locked in my seat until the aircraft was retired. Due to various reason no new pilots can be trained on the MD-80. I'm NOT replaceable. Well ya know what assuming does eh?

I had a bid in for DFW Airbus International as that's where I wanted to go when the MD-80 went away. The 737 is nice...but even the MAX is very antiquated (especially the overhead panel!). I can only hold the Airbus 319/320/321 or 737. I picked the Airbus. To my surprise I was released from the MD-80. I head to training in February and should be flying it in April.

I'll miss the Mad Dog....but look forward to flying something new.

Now a few beauty shots from my passion.





Still here

I'm still flying the MD80 for a few more weeks. Transferring to the Airbus in February .I'll try to have a post up covering my first year at American soon .

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Still flying...very lucky

I'm still here. I've settled in nicely into the right seat of the MD-80. So far I've flown just under 200 hours in the Mad Dog. I'm almost comfortable.

Being able to be based at my home airport was very lucky on my part. I've enjoyed a lot more time at home and days off not being called.

The MD-80 is a very small fleet at my airline. In the fall it will be very small. As of now there's no plans to displace any pilots in my current status. I will stay as long as I can as I can't hold any other aircraft in my base.

Hopefully by next year I will be able to hold something local...if not I should be a line holder in another base. As of now I hope to hold the Airbus....but will settle for the 737.

Monday, April 30, 2018

103 hours later

I finished my consolidation for my new aircraft at American. The FAA requires pilots to accumulate 100 hours of flight time within 120 days of earning a type rating. It's not hard for narrow body pilots, for wide body pilots it can be an issue as they might be at the controls for 6 hours of a 14 hour flight.

After 100 hours I finally feel comfortablish in the MD-80. It's a very different aircraft than I most recently flew at my last airline.

The last aircraft was a nearly fully automated glass flight deck that required very little input once programmed. The MD-80 requires a lot more attention....but I enjoy it.

Through my first 100 hours I've flown to exactly one new airport. Ironically everywhere the MD-80 flies is where I used to fly when flying for American Eagle. It's fine...at least I know the airports.

I'm still getting used to the idea that I will never have to interview at another airline...or anywhere for the rest of my career....possibly 24 more years if I work until 65.







Saturday, March 17, 2018

Nothing new...but nothing bad either

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Omaha, Nebraska. I have stayed in Omaha many times before at my old airline....but this hotel is a bit nicer.

Everything is nicer at American versus my last airline. I've flown about 60 hours total...but every airport I've flown to has been one I flew to in the past. Nothing new. The hotels are all better...and I get actual crew meals!

This was a Frankenstein one off MD-80. Digital Gauges from a legacy TWA MD-80, FMS from a legacy AA MD-80 and laser touchscreen ACARS from...some museum. 

I'm still the bottom guy on reserve...but driving to work means there's zero stress. I should have 9 under me by the end of April and 20 by the end of May.

Flying the MD-80 is easier than I thought. Don't get me wrong there's a lot to do. My seat has been often described as the busiest seat in the airline.

I still have many friends at my old gig. News isn't good. There's a severe shortage of Captains. The shortage is so bad that they've halted hiring any new hire that doesn't qualify for an immediate Captain position. They've also sent instructors back to the line to fly as there's such a shortage.

And for those of you wondering....my easy button is still with me.


Monday, February 5, 2018

I think I'm going to like it here....

Just finished my first IOE trip. First...the plane is waaaay easier to land than the simulator. Of my 8 landings, 7 were very smooth. The one that wasn't was just me being new. It wasn't rough, but I flared late and it was a little more wobbly than I would have liked.

My trip was a 3-0-4-3. I overnighted in OKC and PNS. At my last airline I only got a meal if there were leftovers...and since we had no ovens they were always cold. At AA pilots get meals loaded for them. It's a whole new world. Being given a hot meal on the same route I flew at my regional is just weird.

The MD-80 is a very busy plane...especially for the First Officer. Between the gate and runway there's a lot to do and fine tune. I am keeping up though.

I hope to keep the blogging up now that I have something new in my world. I was honestly very burnt out even as Captain at my regional. It wasn't a nice environment for me.