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. 

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 .