Thursday, May 9, 2019

I was looking forward to a new country!

Currently sitting in a hotel near LAX. I am supposed to be in a hotel in ORD.

This morning I signed in at 5 o'clock for an easy 4 day trip worth 21 hours. I was a 2-2-0-1 trip. Day one was DFW-LAX-ORD. Day two was ORD-MIA and a deadhead to Nicaragua. I had a 33 hour overnight and did a red-eye home arriving in DFW at 5 AM. Easy trip!

The early morning sign in hurt a bit. I prepare for these by having my suitcase and kit bag fully packed except for my Ipads.

I arrived to the plane before the Captain. After reading the logbook I did the exterior preflight, flight deck preflight and first flight of the day test. It was low visibility and raining so I would not be able to perform the first leg (there's restrictions on me for the first 100 hours...I'm at 64).

Captain arrived with a United jump seater. Both nice guys. We left on time and arrived on time. Two hour sit....scheduled.

Headed to the crew room for coffee and to relax. My next departure was 9:35 AM. The aircraft had arrived the day before. At 8:45 AM there was no plane at the gate. By 9:20 AM...still no plane. The Captain stated it was still in the hangar. Departure pushed to 10:50 AM....then 10:20 AM. Well by 10:00 AM..still no plane. I began to worry about my duty day.

With a 5:00 AM sign in I had to be done by 5 PM or agree to an extension. Extending a duty day is dangerous. The FAA published all kinds of data about how accidents and incidents increase with long duty days...especially with early starts.

Finally had a plane at 10:10 AM. Departure set for 10:50 AM. Arriving in Chicago at 4:58 PM. Two minutes shy of my 5 PM max. I didn't see this ending well.

Boarding started promptly. During my pre-flight I noticed the fueler connected but not pumping fuel. Didn't think much of it.

The Captain and I began getting the aircraft ready. FMS programmed and all checks done...we just needed fuel.

10:40 AM fueling started. We needed 39,000 pounds. That takes a while.

I sent a message to scheduling advising them that I would likely not be off the gate before 11 AM.

At 10:53 AM we got a print out from the on board printer stating we would exceed our duty day unless we agreed to extend. Not an option.

If anything goes wrong the FAA will ask why we agreed to extended and why we didn't go into rest. We were taken off the flight.

Scheduling initially had us doing a red-eye deadhead to MIA, 3 hour sit and deadhead to Nicaragua. Not desirable....but fine.

They then pulled us off and had us laying over in LAX and deadheading back to DFW tomorrow. We will then be subject to being reassigned Saturday and Sunday. Not ideal as I could work late into the day Sunday when I planned on having the majority of the day off. Also....I really wanted to go to a new country!

Beyond that I'm adapting to the Airbus quickly. More later. Now rest. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

IOE Complete

Last week I had a crazy long turn....CLT to SJU back to CLT. Once I was done my IOE was complete.

I needed a minimum of 15 hours of IOE since I was transitioning between aircraft. Initial new hires need 25 hours of IOE minimum. Because I am now an "international pilot" I needed to fly over water more than 50 miles from shore. The routing took us roughly 150 miles off shore.

So what's next? Well I am already a line holder on the Airbus in DFW. I suspect because senior pilots like reserve as it's not a huge status.

For April I was given two 4 day trips. One I really didn't like (one 6 hour flight and another was a red-eye) while the other I did like.

The first 4 day was worth 21 hours. I traded it for a 10.5 hour 2 day and picked up another 6 hour day trip..so I'm still down about 5 hours but because of IOE and training I'm at 89 hours pay for the month...so I'm okay

The other 4 day has trips to airports with high terrain. The airline has a restriction that a First Officer needs at least 75 hours in seat to fly to them....so I will be pulled off with pay. Not bad.

For May I was awarded another line with about 86 hours of pay and 15 days off. Lots of red-eyes though. I will be trading...a lot.

Right now I'm in STL on that 10.5 hour 2 day. It's my first trip off IOE. The Captain is retiring this month. Very nice but broke the ice with , "I see you're new to the Airbus. If you see me doing something odd you can speak up, but I'm retiring...so I might do it anyway." I responded with...."ok but give me a heads up if you plan on buzzing the tower." she laughed. She's been flying for 41 years. I'm only 42 years old. She is retiring early though....she's ready to be done.

Friday, March 29, 2019

I'm a Bus Driver....again

About 25 years ago I drove a school bus in Nacogdoches (not a typo!), Texas while attending college. I would get up at 4:30 AM. Back the bus out at 5:30 AM and make two bus runs finally parking the bus in the University parking lot around 8:00 AM and then head off to class. That afternoon I'd fire the bus up, make two runs and park the bus around 4:30PM. It was an odd job for a college student. I only made like $6.50 an hour...but it was fun.

I said all that to say this. I am a (Air)Bus driver! Passed my final check ride last week. I head out to CLT this afternoon for IOE tomorrow. It's odd to be doing all of my IOE out of CLT instead of DFW. It is what it is. I do a simple two day CLT-MCO-CLT-BWI then BWI-CLT-ROC-CLT and finish on Sunday. Later in the month I go back to CLT for a SJU turn to complete IOE. The SJU turn is needed for my international qualifications. At my airline it just means I can fly waaaaay out over the water, into Latin American and around high terrain. We all...well MOST of us...know SJU is part of the United States.

More later.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Passed the first gate

Just finished my systems validation and my procedures validation.

The systems validation is the new "oral". It's a 100 question exam covering the aircraft that I have to score 85 or better on.

The Airbus systems was entirely self study with an Ipad app. There was minimal review in person. I started studying back in January while still flying the MD-80. I am happy to report I got 99 out of 100. The one question I missed was on fuel transfer. Eh. Not bad.

The procedures validation was done in a semi mock cockpit. It's a bunch of touchscreens and a thrust lever quadrant. It's good for muscle memory but there's no outside view so it's all pretend. My partner and I rocked the validation finishing very quickly. All along this journey instructors have mentioned how we are doing much better than average crews. I credit my partner as having been on the Airbus for a few years and me being the over prepared person that I typically am.

Two days off and the real sim starting Saturday.

The Airbus is waaaaaaaaaaay easier than the MD-80.

Monday, March 4, 2019

It's an entirely different kind of flying all together

I'm almost done with week 2 of Airbus ground school. I've been in the sim (used as a FTD meaning no motion) a few times. It's an entirely different kind of airplane.

It took me a bit to get used to the idea that flying with the side stick is just inputting a command then releasing. A 360 degree turn is done hands off....zero trimming. Very odd feeling.

The trusting in automation is also new. Starting an engine on a MD-80 involves me turning off the packs, opening the cross flow valves, the Captain holding the start switch, clicking a timer while I watch the gauges and introduce fuel at the right time all the while being ready to cut off fuel if things appear to be going in a bad direction. On the Airbus I turn a dial...then move a switch. No timer. I'm still not used to looking away.

My systems validation and procedures validation is in two days. My partner is a 8 year First Officer coming from the Airbus and upgrading to Captain.



More to come.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Save The Mad Dog




As of 1PM yesterday I'm no longer on the MD-80 reserve list for the month. I start training next week on the Airbus.

I was on short call on reserve all month. I was only called once for what was supposed to be one leg to YYZ, short overnight and dead head home. Easy. Ha.

The original crew timed out due to an EDCT issued by YYZ due to weather. There was heavy snow and high winds all day long.

I was called around 5:30 PM Friday for a 7:35 PM report time for a 8:35 PM departure. Being a short time frame I was given approval for terminal parking. This means I can park in covered parking feet from the terminal that normally cost $24 a day....with my airline picking up the tab. Nice.

After clearing KCM I made my way to the gate only to be greeted by a 9:00 PM departure. Ugh.

Unbeknownst to me I completed my last MD-80 pre-flight. I set up the flight deck and waited for the Captain. He arrived with just a back pack. He is very senior and picked up the overnight on over time. I mentioned he was brave as the weather was crap, overnight short and we could easily be stuck for over a day.

We boarded up and pushed out at 8:55 PM. After a little congestion on the ramp we left gate C20 and were told "Runway 36R Bridge". Many airports use coded routes to minimize radio congestion. Being based in DFW I know most of them by heart....from the WEST side of the airport where I flew for American Eagle for 10 years. Thankfully the east side routes are similar.

The Captain taxied down Kilo to Bravo and headed west on Bravo. This entire time I'm finishing my taxi flow and waiting for the printer to spit out our final numbers. I called operations in an attempt to get them to send them over. No answer.

On top of the Bravo bridge I called the west side ground controller. We were assigned Golf Whiskey Quebec. I advised ground that we were still waiting on our numbers. We were then assigned Whiskey Romeo. This worked fine as we had 20 minutes left for our wheels up time for the EDCT.

Another call to operations and they answered. They stated we had to pull a bag as one passenger didn't board the flight. Being an international flight all bags must be matched to a passenger on board. Back to the gate. We would miss our wheels up time.

Ground assigned us north on Foxtrot to Yankee to get back to our gate. Yep...we did a full tour of DFW airport.




We were assigned the same gate. Thankfully they pulled the bag quickly. The small delay was costly though. The delay meant we would be illegal for our scheduled deadhead as we would have less than 10 hours of rest. Being a Saturday that was the only flight of the day back to DFW. We were assigned a deadhead Sunday morning instead. A weekend in Toronto!

After pulling the bag we were given runway 35L via Kilo and Echo Quebec. Much easier routing. I reprogrammed the FMS, the final numbers printed and we finished the checklist.

The Captain gave me the leg up to Toronto and I was happy to fly it. Smooth takeoff and away we went.

Being late we got direct routing and I flew at .78 MACH instead of planned .75 MACH.

The weather in Toronto had not improved at all. Winds were still gusting to 34 knots out of the west with snow. For whatever reason Toronto doesn't like using the east/west runways and prefers the 3 southern runways. Crosswinds.

The Captain had only met me hours before. We had not flown together before this trip. He knew I was fairly new and thus opted to take the landing.

It kinda bummed me out, but I would do the same with the conditions (night landing, gusting crosswind and snow) if I were Captain with a low time First Officer I had just met.

He made a very nice landing and we pulled into the gate at 1:00 AM eastern. We contacted scheduling and opted to waive our rest requirements to take the original deadhead at 11:45AM. Ironically it was on my previous airline and aircraft...the Embraer 175.

We can waive our rest for ourselves but the computer must show legal rest. That meant the computer and our schedules showing us staying until Sunday. We would get 15 hours 45 minutes worth of credit instead of the planned 10 hours 30 minutes. I was on reserve so it was just credit (that later helped me not get called for the rest of the month due to the way reserve works here). The Captain was on overtime so for him it was an extra $1500+.  All because of a passenger that didn't board the plane with their checked a bag.

The hotel van arrived late and I walked into my hotel room at 2:05 AM. I'm an early riser and woke up early at 7:30 AM. Quick breakfast at McDonalds across the street (What's up with Canadians putting mayo on breakfast sandwiches?) and I met the Captain for the off schedule 10:45 AM van. Yeah the van didn't show. I called them and they didn't get the memo. Cab it was.

I scored a first class seat home. The Captain looked familiar while the First Officer was fairly new. Toronto to DFW is a long flight and I napped a good amount. I do enjoy dozing for dollars.

By 3PM central I was home on a Saturday with my family.

That was my last trip on the MD-80. For the rest of the month I was on call but never called for an assignment.

That gave me ample time to finish up my Airbus training and start on the flows.

I will miss the MD-80....but am looking forward to something different.



Thursday, February 7, 2019

So that was being a line holder....

I expected to complete my flying in January with a nice Toronto overnight. The overnight was the "short" one which means a hotel by the airport. The "long" overnight is downtown.

Regardless the overnight was 7 hours and change worth of flying. Nice long legs and I enjoyed the company of the Captain I was paired with.

Well that particular day was the day a crazy arctic front was moving across the country. Temperatures were well below 0 farenheit. On the leading edge of the front was crazy wind and snow.

That morning I had deadheaded in from San Antonio. I then had a two hour and thirty minute sit. At my old airline I was paid only per diem for the sit time. At my new gig I get paid 1 minute for every two minutes over 2 hours thus this sit made me 15 minutes of pay or an extra $35. Not bad.

There's a new employee cafeteria at the airport I had been meaning to try. With all this sit time why not? Glad I did. A burger, fries and drink was only $7. All freshly made in front of me.

While waiting for my meal,  I noticed my departure time was pushed back an hour. Our ETA was right at the worst of the wind and snow. I took my time eating.

I then went for a walk around the airport. I perused the regional terminal where I spent 10 years of my career. I rarely see anyone I know as most pilots I know have moved to mainline or other carriers. This day was different. I ran into a former student of mine.

He had recently flowed to mainline and was commuting home. He had just finished his checkride on....the Airbus. We chatted about how much better things are here and I got a few tips on the Bus. My delayed departure time was only 50 minutes away so we parted ways.

Once I got on the airport train my time was pushed back another hour.

This put my 11 hour 30 minutes overnight down to just 9 hours 30 minutes. It would be adjusted as we needed at least 10 hours in order to have the required 8 hours of sleep opportunity.

I decided to head to the plane anyway. It had been on the gate for 2 hours. At worst I could set everything up and get comfy.

I was supposed to fly the last "Classic" MD-80 to YYZ. Classic means legacy AA. Most remaining are the newer MD-80s acquired from TWA in the merger. 



Onboard were all three Flight Attendants. They were antsy to go as they had to be off the ground within 3 hours due to duty time. The Captain and I were legal until well past that.

I greeted them all and stashed my bags. I took a look at the logbook and headed out for the pre-flight.

Each time I round the nose of the MD-80 I smile. It really is a good looking plane. Airbus 319/320/321 and 737s all look the same. The Mad Dog has style.
The Super 80 graphic has been removed from all aircraft...but can still be seen faintly on a few.



Back on the flight deck the Captain arrived. We discussed the weather, fuel, route and alternate. We set up the aircraft and he left to get a printout of the release. My airline is almost free of paperwork. The flight release isn't needed on paper, but some like it. To each their own.

A note on cancellations. Contrary to popular belief airlines hate cancelling flights. Cancellations mean much more work getting passengers, bags, cargo, aircraft and crew where they need to be. Most cancellations result in more than just a single flight as the plane is likely supposed to keep flying from where ever it's going.

I said that because once the Captain returned....the flight cancelled. He was a commuter and immediately called scheduling to confirm he can go home. Contractual guidelines at airlines often allow scheduling to reassign pilots after a cancellation. We were both released.

Bummer I didn't get to fly....but I still get paid. This is important as I'm now on second year pay.

I'm on reserve in February. I bid short call. Short call pays a minimum of 76 hours (instead of 73 for long call). I skated thru the first 4 days of short call without being called. Quality of life is much higher being local instead of commuting. I spent the entire weekend with my family instead of a crash pad. The only odd thing was taking two cars to visit a friend instead of one. If I got called I didn't want to have to inconvenience my family. From call to airport time isn't defined at my new airline, but it is supposed to be reasonable. Under 3 hours is deemed reasonable. For long call minimum notice is 12 hours.

I start 5 days of short call tomorrow followed by just one day off and 4 more days of short call. After that....I'll be training to be a Bus driver. Almost done with my distance based learning.
The distance learning app my airline uses is much more enjoyable than my last airline which used a Windows only browser application.