Wednesday, February 19, 2020

I love Jury Duty

February is almost over. I have worked just 5 days...really 4 and 1/4.

I originally had 3 trips this month. Two 4 day trips and a 5 day trip. At the beginning of the month I had a few days of vacation that carried over from January.

Being junior I get mostly crappy vacation days. Thankfully with flexible scheduling it's not a big deal.

In January I had 16 days off. I didn't do much beyond annoy my wife. I did take a quick trip to Madrid, Spain. By quick I mean I was on the ground for just 25 hours. It was fun traveling with just a backpack. I got a whole row of coach there and a nice business class suite on the way back.

While on vacation I was given a jury duty summons. It was for 7:30 AM on a Thursday. My first trip of the month was a 4 day finishing at 7 AM that same Thursday. The trip was a red-eye trip from Ecuador. 

I sent an email with the summons to my Chief Pilots office and the entire trip was removed.....with pay. At second year pay that was $3381 to attend jury duty. The day of jury duty I was home by 8:15 AM. Nice!

With the vacation in January, being a little more senior and jury duty.....I haven't worked much this month.

In January I did take my first trip south of the equator. I had a 5 day trip that ended with a red-eye back from Quito.

Quito airport is 7700 feel MSL. The hotel and city of Quito is almost 1500 feet higher. I have never been so high. The headache never stopped. I have no desire to go back. I made the best of it with a trip to stand on the equator though.

By this summer I will go from the bottom 20% seniority to the top 40% as they expand the status. I will really enjoy the seniority by then.

If only there were a way to get more jury duty summons. Ha.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Well that was not fun at all

The Airbus is a fabulous aircraft. I truly enjoy flying it more than any other plane I have flown. True I've only flown 5 different transport category jet aircraft...but the Airbus is my favorite.

For new readers I started with the CRJ-700 as a First Officer then the ERJ-145 as a First Officer, CRJ-700 as a Captain, ERJ-175 as a Captain, MD-80 as a First Officer and now the Airbus 320 series as a First Officer.

The Airbus is automated, quiet and spacious. When things go wrong the ECAM walks you through fixing many things.

On Christmas day I had three flights to complete before heading home.

I started in SFO with a flight to DFW in a 321. This 321 was legacy US Airways and only had about 5000 cycles on it. There was a MEL on the left generator. The generator was having issues and was taken offline. We ran the APU for the entire flight to take the place of the left generator.

We were full plus two jump seaters. One was a Airbus 330 dispatcher and the other was an Airbus pilot from Alaska.

Things were fine until we started our descent to DFW from 33,000 feet. Once the engines idled down things got "exciting". The RIGHT engine had a compressor stall. The ECAM stated the engine failed...but it was still making power. We followed the ECAM checklist. One action was to take the number right generator offline. The left was already offline. We were left with just the APU. If that failed we would be on the RAT.

Once the ECAM actions were done we were on one engine as the right engine was idled per the checklist. I made a radio call I never thought I would make...."Pan, Pan, Pan, Pan American 1198".

I advised ATC that we were on one generator with one engine idled. We were given priority to the airport.

I continued running checklist and preparing the aircraft. The Captain advised the Flight Attendants and Passengers. Everything seemed to be going smoothly.

Once on final the right engine somehow appeared normal. All the errors went away. We decided to land normally.

There were emergency vehicles on each end of the runway. Normal landing. The Captain went to full reverse on both engines. Both reacted normally. Once he came out of reverse....the right engine fully failed. Gone.

No exterior issues were noted. We taxied to the gate with the emergency vehicle escort. The plane was placed out of service.

The Captain and I ate the company sponsored Christmas Dinner then went to an Airbus 319 for the last PNS turn.

Thankfully those flights were normal. I like normal.

For January I bid reserve (versus a line) for the First Time since 2018. There's a strategic reason due to my contract. Basically I will get paid for 85 hours and only "work" 13 days. Of those 13 I only expect to actually work maybe 8. So far I've worked 4. We will see.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Cleared to fly for 9 more months

Back at my regional airline I had training events every year. For most of them it was a "bet you job event".

My regional airline used to be known for having above average pilots. Training wasn't easy...but it weeded out the weaker and average pilots. The check ride event was a single pilot event. The other pilot in the sim could not help, assist, recommend or comment. They could only respond to commands.  Even if they saw you were about to fail....they could do nothing. Not a positive experience, but you were on your game.

My last few years at the regional,  things changed to a crew checking event. They made training just how we fly. It allowed the crew to work together. Much better experience, but it did allow weaker pilots to be helped by stronger pilots.

At my mainline airline they have been using the crew training and checking for a while. It is train to proficiency instead of train to check. As long as you show a positive attitude and improve, the training department can retrain events within reason. They train and check every 9 months. This was no one gets stuck training in December every year.

Since most of my career is the "bet your job" style training, I still study and prep as though my job is on the line.

I started studying 6 months prior to the checking event. My studying involved reading the systems manual cover to cover twice (even though I would only be tested on just a few systems). I read the aircraft operations manual...twice. I reviewed every training scenario multiple times. I read study guides multiple times. I still felt I was behind.

I wasn't.

On my first day here 2 years ago (TWO YEARS MAN! TWO FREAKING YEARS ALREADY!) I was told that I could relax and I don't need to be stressed in the training environment as I wasn't at a regional anymore. They repeated that....several times. I just can't relax. This is my dream career and I came from an environment where one mistake could cause the sim to stop and the pilot to be sent home and given just one more chance to be nearly perfect or be out of a job.

Yesterday I had a 5:30 AM show time. I am glad I live just 4 miles from the training center.

The briefing and sim went very well. I was paired with a "seat filler" which is a person trained on the aircraft but it NOT a current line pilot. This can be a good thing as they do these training events over and over again. I only had one debrief item. We descended into icing conditions and I forgot to turn on the engine anti-ice until we had been in it for over 2 minutes. Not a huge deal, but it was an item.

Cleared to go back on the line for 9 more months.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Bus Driver Life

I am truly enjoying the Airbus. This is the first aircraft that I truly enjoy being on the flight deck. The Airbus flight deck is spacious and almost perfectly thought out. I appreciate how quiet it is and the room to stretch and spread out.

My trips have been all over the place. I have enjoyed a double overnight in Portland (I have family near by), 24 hours in St. Lucia (at an all inclusive resort!) and of course many...many...many trips to Bogota, Colombia.

My first recurrent training is coming up next week. I began studying 2 months ago....because that's who I am.

I haven't flown the NEO yet. I was assigned a LAX turn...but it cancelled 2 hours before departure. The NEO has fancy CPDLC (Controller Pilot data Link Communications)boxes and of course new engines. The CPDLC makes flying out of RADAR coverage more pleasant among other things. Right now when traveling over the Atlantic between the Caribeaan and parts of the Eastern US we use High Frequency radios for communication. The HF radios aren't clear and we are talking to radio operators and not controllers. CPDLC is like text messaging between controllers and pilots. I look forward to using it one day.

Beyond that life is great. My 2 year old is still giving me grey hairs. My 9 year old is itching to take another International Business class flight. My wife is finally enjoying the extra income I'm bring home. Long time followers know she supported me for years when I was a regional First Officer making under $40 an hour.

I plan on riding out the Airbus until I can hold the 787 right seat. At least 2 more years. Which is fine with me.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Just a few hours ago

This month has been interesting scheduling wise.

I started the month off with the first vacation without kids...since we had our first kid. We flew my mother in law to watch our kids while my wife and I escaped to Vegas.

In true pilot family style, she flew on a paid ticket on Spirit while I jump seated on my airline. We arrived and left Vegas within 30 minutes of each other.

When I arrived back home I found two cash out vouchers worth $90 that I failed to cash in. Lucky for me I had a 24 hour Vegas overnight two weeks later. It was like I won again.

My line for the month was originally a comfy 78 hours. Then my wife got an unexpected work assignment requiring travel. I had to trade a 26 hour 5 day trip for a 10 hour 2 day trip. I was down to just 63 hours. Not good for the budget.

I put my name in the proverbial hat for extra flying. I'm fairly junior so I don't often get the best assignments.

Saturday my family went to the Alliance Airshow. It was our first time in years. My pilot union sent out an email offering VIP tickets free. I signed up and was able to get enough for my family of 4. We had a fabulous time. While watching the show I was offered a very lucrative 15 hour 2 day trip.

The trip was a deadhead to Miami then deadhead Guyana to overnight then ferry a plane to Tulsa and a quick dead head home. Super easy! But I was enjoying the show so I declined it.

On the way home I was then offered a 1 leg to STL, overnight then 1 leg to MIA and dead head home. I was pretty tired from the air I declined it..

Sunday mid-day I was getting ready to take the family to Six Flags (we live 4 miles from Six Flags Over Texas...we go...a lot) when the phone rang. They offered a deadhead to San Diego, overnight and 1 leg home...worth 10.5 hours. Done.

I'm now up to 73 hours for the month. I think I can pick up at least another overnight this week to be back in the 83 hour range.

It's funny to think this morning I had no plans...then a few hours later I was walking thru the Gas Lamp district of San Diego.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Perks of Living in Base

I have been fortunate enough to live in base for most of my 12 years in this industry. Living in base means more time at home and, most of the time, a higher quality of life.

At my current airline being close allows me to pick up extra flying that commuters can't easily do. When flight crews run late the airline tries to cover that crews later flights with other pilots. They will try to get pilots from home, reassign another crew or at worst delay a flight.

Sometimes they have just 3 to 4 hours notice of a flight crew running late. That might sound like plenty of time....but it's not.

Report time is 1 hour prior. That brings it down from 4 hours to 3 hours to find someone. They have specific procedures in place to fill this type of flight. They normally start calling pilots on the "make up" list in seniority order. Pilots have to add themselves to this list. I list myself on everyday off.

I am still very junior. Over 80% of the pilots in my status are SENIOR to me. I get the crumbs most of the time for my line and makeup flights. Every now and then though....I get the good stuff.

My favorite type of makeup flight is a flight out and deadhead back the same night. I've done a few where they call me at 6PM for a 10PM departure to Vegas. Once I arrive in Vegas I am assigned to dead head right back. I fly there and sleep back....home with donuts for the kids by 6:30 AM.

The flight to Vegas is just over 2 hours. Due to the pilot contract I am paid 10 1/2 hours to fly there and deadhead back. Easy money..

This past weekend I picked up two make up trips worth 21 hours, but I was on the flight deck for just 6 hours.

The first sequence was a deadhead to ATL, fly the same plane to LAX...stay the night...then deadhead home on Sunday worth 10 1/2 hours. Once I arrived in LAX I simply deadheaded right to DFW instead of staying the night. I was still fully paid 10 1/2 hours even though I didn't stay the night.

Sunday afternoon I was offered a 8:44PM departure to Austin then deadhead back the next day...again worth 10 1/2 hours. Austin is only an hour long flight. I was in the Austin hotel by 11 PM.

I debated taking the same aircraft back at 5 AM being home by 6:45 AM.....but I didn't want to be a zombie Instead I took the 6 AM flight and pulled into my garage at 7:35 AM. In 3 days I was paid 21 hours for just 2 legs where I was at the controls...only one of which I decided to fly. Good living.

Beyond that life at my airline is good. My "bet" years ago to start hitting job fairs, volunteering and networking paid off by beating my flow date by a year. That year allowed me to get based at home. If I had lost the bet...or just waited to flow I would be commuting for over a year. That would be less money, less time at home and more money spent (on commuting hotels, crash pads etc).

There are lots of perks to living in base.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Everything finally aligned

Non-rev travel is a fun way to see the world.

When I was pretty new my wife and I took an awesome trip to Tokyo. We enjoyed First Class suites for the 14 hour flight to Tokyo. Those seats together cost more than I made that year as a First Officer flying a CRJ. Because I worked for a wholly owned subsidiary it was less than $200 each.

Since then we have traveled on hundreds of flights Domestically with each other and our children. My nine year old has been on over 350 flights including 5 flights "across the pond".

Of those 350 odd flights less than 15 have been in a premium cabin. A few of those were mileage award seats and a handful were non-rev. The reason being my airline requires non-rev passengers to be at least six years old to sit in a premium cabin.

My oldest is a very experienced traveller. She knows how to clear security, find the gate and, most importantly, find the nearest emergency exit.

She's been asking forever to travel in International Business Class.

We finished a huge (17 people total) extended family vacation last Saturday.  Monday we headed to London. We had just a backpack and a very small (fits under the seat) carry on. That's it.

To increase the odds of sitting next to each other we first flew DFW-PHX then PHX-LHR. He had seats next to each other on the 777-200. She was beyond excited.

After 9 hours we walked off the plane just before 10 AM Tuesday morning. We took a few hours nap in a hotel then went to explore the city on a very sunny day.

Wednesday was rainy so we made the best of it.

Thursday morning we headed back to LHR and got lucky again with Business Class Seats next to each other on a 777-300 to DFW.

Ten hours later we were home. Being frequent travelers we are both Global Entry. The new biometric Global Entry scanners are amazing. They just took our photos and knew who we were. From plane to curb was under 8 minutes...with most of it being walking.