Wednesday, June 19, 2019

My schedule is just a proposal

I am 3 for 3 having my schedule majorly disrupted.

Last week I was supposed to fly to Bogota from Miami. After arriving and being delayed scheduling wanted me to fly to Manaus, Brazil instead getting in 3 hours later...at 3:30 AM central. I was supposed to arrive in Bogota at 12:20 AM central. I had to do a self assessment and call in fatigued. From my years of experience I predicted being fatigued a few hours into the Brazil flight. It wasn't safe for me to accept the flight.

Then earlier this week I picked up a Nashville overnight on overtime. It paid 10 1/2 hours for a simple 1-1 flight with just 2 hours and change flight time. Delayed for weather. By the time the plane came in I was reassigned without my knowledge (I left my phone at home). Ended up going home as they put a new crew on Nashville. The union is working with the company to get me paid since I wasn't aware of the reassignment and followed all the rules in the contract.

Last night I picked up a Las Vegas turn. It was a dead head there and fly back arriving at midnight. Due to a lack of pilots they were paying 150% to do that flight. I would be paid 7 hours or just over $1066...to fly as a passenger and then one leg back. Easy right?

On the way back from Vegas the flight deck printer began printing a message I didn't request. It stated the Captain and I were to fly to Austin upon arrival in DFW. I wasn't expecting this. Austin is a short hour flight. I had a bunch of coffee on the way to Vegas to make sure I'd be fully alert for the flight to DFW. I decided I would do a self assessment on arrival in DFW.

Once on the ground I felt okay to continue as did the Captain. The passengers had been waiting for 3 hours and we were their last hope. I don't let outside influences affect my decision making concerning if I will complete a flight or not. That's an easy way to make a mistake. Last night I felt okay before knowing that we were their last hope.

Quick flight down. I rotated the nose into the air at 1:17 AM and smoothly touched the runway at 1:50 AM. If it weren't for Southwest and United ahead of us I would have landed at 1:40 AM.

Scheduling gave me 11 hours of rest in Austin before deadheading back that afternoon. I decided I didn't want to rest in Austin as I was still hopped up on coffee.

I arranged with scheduling to take the first flight out at 5 AM....which was the same aircraft I flew in.

I checked into the hotel at 2:40 AM. I cleaned up and rested in the bed until 3:40 AM. I then took the 4 AM shuttle back to the airport.

Since I live close to DFW I was at my kitchen table with donuts for the kids at 6:35 AM.

Due to extra Austin turn my pay jumped to Just over $2170...for one night of work. That used to take me almost a month to earn back when I first started at American Eagle back in 2007.

Off for a while now. I've flown A LOT recently.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Every year the flights get longer

First...I really enjoy my career.

I've been flying commercially for 12 years. Every year it seems my flights get longer and longer. Last night I flew the longest flight of my career....2228 Nautical Miles. I flew DFW to Bogota, Columbia.

This flight is on day 2 of a 3ish day trip. The first day was an afternoon start. I had been in Sacramento, California visiting family. I took at 7 AM flight to DFW...on the jump seat.

Landed in DFW just before 1 PM. I had a 1:47 PM report time. My inbound aircraft was running late so my first flight was already delayed.

Day one was DFW-DEN-DFW-MCO. I was scheduled to arrive at MCO at 12:28 AM. Due to weather and delays we didn't arrive until 1:18 AM. Walked into the hotel at 2:10 AM.

I met the Captain in the lobby for a 12:30 PM van. Day 2 was MCO-DFW-BOG. Weather in MCO caused a delay. Weather in DFW caused another delay leaving to BOG. It all began to pile on.

Bogota is a special qualification airport. The airport sits at 8360 feet MSL. The airport is surrounded by very high terrain. This time of year the area is known for tremendous thunderstorms. I decided to take the leg down.

I spent a good amount of time last week reviewing the charts and documentation for arriving and departing BOG. Scheduled block time was 5 1/2 hours. Plenty of time to review the charts further.

Sure enough there were gigantic storms all around the area. Unlike the United States, the controllers down south make no mention of the storms. It was up to us.

It took a lot of coordination and situational awareness to navigate the storms while descending into high terrain. We were off the RNAV arrival for large portions of the final segment.

On an extended base we were finally in the clear. I haven't flown the 319 since early May. It's much shorter than the 321...handles a little differently. Slight crosswind landing. Average landing. Due to higher altitude our true airspeed was much higher than indicated. Even with my normal braking and thrust reverse the rollout was longer and the brakes got much warmer than normal. I turned the brake fans on the taxi in.

Exhausted. I mostly remember the walk thru the airport and into the van for the hotel.

Twenty -two hour overnight. I head back to DFW tonight arriving tomorrow morning at 5:20 AM.

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.