Saturday, July 9, 2016

No such thing as an easy commute

August 23rd...when my commuting will cease.

Until then I, like many flight crew members around the country (and maybe the world), commute.

Each day there are 11+ flights I can pick from to get to and from work. The aircraft seating capacity varies between 140 and 260+ seats. Most are between 140-160. Sounds easy...but most flights are full...and there are lots of commuters and dead heading flight crew.

I am getting more senior. In May I had 4 people under me. I now have 16. When I transfer next month I will have 30.

Being more senior I can get the "better" reserve trips. Trips that start later (allowing me to commute in same day) and end earlier (allowing me to commute home that day).

This week I had a 9PM sign in on day one and finish at 6:30 AM on day 4. I'm only on reserve 4 days.

Getting to work seemed easy enough. Per my contract I have to give myself two flights to get to work on time. This meant a 5:40 PM flight and a 6:30 PM flight. Both were very open.

Well there was weather. Delays. The 5:40 PM flight started with a 30 minute delay...then 45 minutes. I alerted crew scheduling. They said to keep them informed. The 6:30 PM flight was showing on time. I debated and felt the 6:30 PM flight (a 777) would leave before the 5:40 PM delayed flight.

They were in different terminals.

I rushed to the 777 flight...only to see passengers deplaning! They were now an hour delayed. Crap. I rushed back over to the 5:40PM flight which was suddenly boarding. I called scheduling and told them I would miss my sign in time by 25 minutes. To my surprise they were fine....as I was the only Captain available.

We left at 7PM and landed at 9:25 PM. My departure was 9:45 PM. I checked on the rest of my crew and they were very delayed.....not arriving until 10:45 PM. So much for feeling rushed.

They arrived and we left. Every leg so far (today is day 3) has had issues....mechanical or weather.

Today is one flight in and a deadhead to an overnight. Tomorrow is one leg to the hub.

As far as getting home the direct flight is almost full....I might two leg it on wide open flights.

Looking forward to August.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Two legger

I've had a lot of vacation recently. I spent a week in Paris at the start of the month and spent a week at home this week.

The day after my vacation ended I had 4 days of reserve. I am getting more senior (15 below me!) and was able to get an easy 4 day trip. I just had to commute to base.

Normally travelling on weekends is easy. The weekday flights are full of business travelers. Well with the booming travel industry today was hard.

I didn't have to report to my base until 3:50 PM. In order to get there I had to leave my house at 7:30 AM.

My first commute attempt via a direct flight was a bust due to a mainline jump seater. The next flight was a bust due to a coworker getting the jump seat (jump seat procedures vary by airline....thus is complex). At this point it was 10:05 AM. I had a back up two leg commute which I didn't want to take....but it was my only viable option.

As luck would have it the two leg option left just a few gates down. It seems several non-revs were using this route as the standby list was quite long. I was given an exit row seat along with several other crew members.

Up and away we went. Quick 90 minute flight.

Leg two was leaving at the gate next to my arrival gate. The flight originally had 35 open seats. It was down to 13 as revenue passengers were being routed through here as well. I was number 14 on the list.

The last seat left was the most upright, thinly padded seat on the airplane...the flight deck jump seat. It happened to be on the same aircraft I currently fly.

I settled in and was thankful it was just an hour and ten minute flight.

Once in I had lunch and took a moment to type this up.

The trip is a 1-2-2-1. It was originally 3-2-2-1 but another pilot sliced the first two legs off and flew them as overtime.

Speaking of overtime I made an effective $222 an hour this week.

On one of my vacation days I picked up 7 hours and 30 minutes worth of flying. It was a little nutty as I left home at 5:20 AM, commuted up on a 6:50 AM flight, flew 3 legs, deadheaded back to base, then commuted home on a 10:30 PM flight. I pulled into my garage at 12:45 AM. It will be great when I am paid for it. I made as much in one day as I used to get in 15 days as a First Officer.

Time to go be a Captain.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Still a baby Captain

Two months later and I'm still a baby Captain.

I did use some of my new Captain money to take my family to Paris. That was my kiddos 3rd time to Europe...and she's only 5.

As far as being a Captain it's about what I thought it would be. The worst part is dealing with being a low seniority pilot commuting to reserve. Commuting kills quality of life...add in reserve and it's that much worse. Thankfully I knew this going in and will only be commuting until mid-August at worst.

Right now I'm sitting in an airport in Ohio waiting for an aircraft to be fixed. Once it's fixed I have to do a functional flight check to make sure it's really fixed (it was grounded for stiff ailerons). Once it's fixed I am supposed to fly it back to my base.

The flight was originally supposed to leave at 8PM....then 9PM....right now it's 9:30 PM but the mechanic stated the aircraft won't be ready until 10PM. Yeah...Left hand and Right hand aren't in agreement.

I think in reality the aircraft will be ready at 10:30 PM. We will do a functional flight check around 11PM....return by 11:30PM. If it passes the aircraft will be fueled up and maybe signed off around midnight. At best I will get to a hotel room by 1AM. The only solace will be I will be illegal for reserve tomorrow....so there's that.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Yeah....I'm a bad commuter....and I hate it...but we already knew that

Oh commuting....is bad. Commuting to reserve is worse.

Readers who've been around for a few years (like 5+) may remember I was a forced commuter for 5 months straight...and hated it. I swore I'd do everything to avoid it....yet here I am....commuting. At least I'm being paid better.

This week I had to do something I really didn't like. I had to commute up the night BEFORE reserve.

My 5 day reserve block started on Friday. Thursday evening my daughter had her belt test for her Martial Arts class. I didn't want to miss it. The test was at 6 PM. The last flight I could catch was 8:15 PM. My report time was 7:15 AM. The earliest I could get a direct flight in the morning wouldn't put me on the ground until 7:30 AM. I had to go in the night before.

She earned her orange belt at 6:35 PM. I hugged her, congratulated her and headed to the airport. The flight was oversold and I was planning on sitting in the jump seat. Thanks to the TSA and their inept screening process  I was able to get a real seat! I feel bad for passengers, especially those with children as the lines are the worst I've ever seen.

I got to my hotel room at 11 PM. The 7:15 AM show time came quickly.

Thankfully it was just one leg to the overnight. The overnight was actually to the airport I flew out of as a passenger many times as a kid. It was very cool to by the Captain of an airliner flying into the airport I first flew out of as a kid.

What made it more special was seeing my wife and daughter waiting in the window of the terminal. They flew down as I had a 20 hour overnight.

I told my crew I'd meet them at the plane in the morning. I joined my family and headed off to a rental car.

We had a great dinner and visited the Johnson Space Center for the day. A bit of weather moved in. This caused a flight to cancel...which caused the next days flights to get full. My family was going to have a problem getting home.

Thanks to the TSA again my family got on. All of us have TSA Precheck so they zoomed through while I used KCM.,

Day 2 of my trip was long but easy. It was 3 legs with the last being a dead head on the same aircraft I flew in to an out station.

I arrived in base at 4:00 PM. Normally scheduling has the next day assignments done by then. There was nothing for me. I called and asked if they had any open overnight flights ( to avoid possibly having to pay for my own hotel in base). They had nothing, so I headed to a hotel.

As I was checking in I saw my assignment for the next day....a 6:15 AM deadhead to my old base (also where I live!). If I had known that I would have just gone home that night and slept in my own bed. It was 5 PM...I was tired. I checked the direct flights and they were all full...I just checked in to the hotel.

This morning I woke up way too early. The deadhead left one time. The lines for security at 5:30 AM were ridiculous. Lots of passengers missing their flights.

Just one leg to the overnight again. I have two flights tomorrow and two the next. All are in and out of my old base.

I can deal with the commuting for now as it will be short lived. In August I go back to training to train on another jet to be based at home again.

Commuting is not for the faint of heart...or those that have busy families. When I get a job at a major I will either move to the new base if there is no hope of being based at home. It's just not worth it to be a lifetime commuter. I can handle it for 3 months.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Awe.....what a cute baby Captain

I'm on day 5 of a 6 day reserve trip. Six days....longest trip of my 8 1/2 year career.

As a new Captain I have restrictions on what kind of weather I can land in. It's known as being a "baby" Captain. To keep it simple I can't land with less than 1 mile visibility and 300 foot ceilings. Most ILS approaches go down to 1/2 miles and 200 foot ceilings.

It's ironic that my First Officers can land at 1/2 and 200. When I was a First Officer I could land at 1/2 and 200, but because I'm new to the left seat it's now 1 and 300. This new restriction applies to me and thus my First Officer as well.

As luck would have it I have had low ceilings almost every approach. Last night was the lowest.

KHPN was reporting 1 and 400 when we left the hub. It was supposed to stay that way for our arrival.

About 45 minutes out the most recent ATIS reported 1 1/2 and 400. Good enough.

The runway at KHPN isn't terribly long at 6500 feet. It was raining. Our charts stated we needed 4000 feet of pavement to land (this included landing 1000 feet down said 4000 foot runway as airliners plan on).

My leg.

My First Officer has been at the airline for 4 months. Very sharp.

As we were shooting down the ILS there was nothing but clouds. Passing 1000 feet...nothing. Passing 500 feet nothing. I expected him to say "approach lights in sight continue" shortly after 500. Instead I heard nothing. Passing 400 I got a little nervous, but the preceding CRJ landed fine.

Finally at 300 he said "approach lights in sight continue!". I clicked off the autopilot and then he said "runway in sight, 12 o'clock!". I looked up to see the runway lights on full intensity.

My eyes took a moment to adjust from the dark cockpit to these extremely bright runway lights. I gently kicked over the nose and planted the mains just past the 1000 foot markers. Max reverse and slight braking brought us to taxi speed with 1500 feet to spare. Exciting.

I'm glad it worked out as it would have been a little awkward (but the right thing to do) to divert because I'm a new Captain.

Beyond that this trip has been fine. I've had 4 different First Officers. All but one have been great. The one that wasn't was new and thought it was okay to recite checklist from memory. It's not. He missed things. I corrected him and asked him to read the physical checklist. He didn't. I corrected him again. No change. Eh.

Today is one flight to the hub then a ferry (no passengers, cargo or Flight Attendants) flight to an out station. Tomorrow morning is another ferry to the hub and I'm done.....for two days...then I'm back for 5 more days.

My baby Captain status goes away after 100 hours in the left seat. So far I have 30.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

First Trip Irony

Today is my first full day as a Captain. I commuted up this morning on a 7:30 AM flight to be in position for my 10 AM -Midnight call out period.

Lucky for me Sunday flights are light and I got an aisle seat for my commute. Boarded up early...then rain moved in. Then lightening. Delayed.

We didn't end up leaving until 8:40 AM. Right before we left I called scheduling and let them know I won't be able to answer the phone at 10 AM but would be at the airport well before my contractual 2 hour call out period. They understood.

I used the WiFi in flight to monitor open flights. Sure enough a few opened up. I was #3 to be called. I was assigned a trip while I was in the air but of course had no way to return a phone call and confirm it. The trip was full of irony.

I was assigned to dead head BACK to the hub I commuted from and work two flights back to my current base. It would have been too convenient to have been assigned that early this morning. It was actually contractually impossible. I could have been assigned it last night, but it wasn't open. Bleh.

As of now it is supposed to leave at 12:44 PM.  I arrive back in base at 9:20 PM. I get to buy my own hotel as I am on reserve tomorrow as well.

In reality the flight is delayed by 2 hours. Who knows what will happen the rest of the day. This is a new adventure...being a Captain and commuting. I haven't been on reserve in 5+ years. At least I'm being paid well know.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Slam and robbed

I completed my first trip from the left seat. It was uneventful and low stress. The fact that I have a little over 2000 hours in the plane (from the right seat) helped a lot even though I haven't flown it in 4 years.

Originally I was supposed to start my trip from my current base (10 miles from my house), but scheduling changed things around and I was now starting out of my new base (hundreds of miles away).

Both the Captain and I had to deadhead up the night before. The training department arranged my flight and hotel.

The flight was fine. The First Class Flight Attendant even gave me a huge bottle of water AND a warm chocolate chip cookie during the flight. Very nice gesture.

Everything was fine until I reached for my bag that was under the seat in front of me. The passenger in front of me got air sick...really air sick...and vomited all over themselves and the seating area....including the floor. Yep the top of my bag was covered in vomit. I cleaned it off the best I could for the moment.

I tried washing it out in the sink. It helped a little.

My first flight was to Little Rock, Arkansas. Taxiing the real plane was interesting, it was nothing like the glass smooth simulator. The visuals were of course different. Keeping the plane on center line. The instructor told me to keep the line "going through my right leg"...so it's kinda like driving.

Up and away we went. Smooth flight.

Arriving from the north, the airport was landing north. This meant a downwind arrival.

The instructor was big on energy management. A nice long and smooth descent. VFR conditions.

I turned final and lined up for runway 4L. Winds were about 10 knots out of the east. Things looked decent until short final when he said I was about 5 feet too far left....sight picture was off for me.

I thought the flare was good....but the concrete and struts thought otherwise....slam! It was a firm and slightly jolting landing.

The IOE Captain debriefed me. The aircraft is difficult to land smoothly even for season pilots.

He took the next leg and made a very nice landing. The Flight Attendants said "that was better." I let them know it wasn't mine....they replied, "oh".

Break.

The flight to the overnight was short, but it was my first dose of weather and alternates. We had to print a second release after the dispatcher decided to add more fuel.

The next approach was to Columbus, Ohio. Very nice approach. The flare looked perfect....yet another slam. The instructor said I got robbed as he thought it was going to be a greaser.

Shortish overnight. Day 2 was one short flight and two longs flights. My last landing was very good.

After my deadhead home I was ready to relax. Two days off and I start again Saturday.