Monday, May 16, 2016

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

Oh 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" 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".


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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Captain Check Ride - Satisfactory

It's done. Eight years, 6 months and 23 days after starting at my airline I've finally made Captain. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't hard.

The stress level was much lower since I had flown the aircraft before as a new hire. That was a double edged sword as I didn't study as hard as I would have if the aircraft had been new to me.

The check ride started with a pre-flight inspection via a slide show. I did very good except I had one error. It was satisfactory (the highest possible rating....only passing rating).

My First Officer was a check airman. He would be perfect, but could provide ZERO assistance. If I made a mistake he could not say anything. This is what annoys me about 121 check rides.

The ride started in JFK. I taxied out to the runway, low visibility takeoff. I climbed out and was cleared for air work.

Steep turns are something that is never done in the real aircraft. I only practiced them twice in the simulator. It's an odd maneuver as the aircraft warns of high bank angles by stating "Bank Angle!" over the speakers. A bit startling.

Mine last night were not perfect, but satisfactory. I was a little high...a little low....a little fast....but satisfactory.

I then did three approaches to stalls, clean, takeoff and landing. All done fine.

Our destination was suddenly closed and we were directed back to JFK. Low visibility operations were in effect, Category II approach.

My aircraft has no HUD so Category  II approaches are a little funky. The First Officer flies to approach while I look outside. If I see the runway I take over and land. If I take over and have to go around I fly the missed approach. If I don't see the runway he flies the missed approach. The ceiling and visibility were right at minimums.

Sure enough I saw the approach lights and runway right at 100 feet. I quickly stated "landing" and pushed the First Officers hands off the thrust levers. Done.

We were then zapped back out and flew the approach again. This time when I took the controls to land I was given a go around due to a truck on the runway.

On the climb out a bird entered the left engine. Checklist were run and we entered a hold. During the entry the First Officer was running the checklist and I failed to notify ATC of entering the hold, minor but I corrected it.

Emergency declared we headed back in for a GPS 22L approach into JFK on the remaining engine. Weather came up for minimums.

Short final another truck came on the runway (dang airport vehicles!) and we were sent around.

This is where I almost made a fatal error.

The missed for 22L is straight to one fix then a turn to another for a hold. A single engine missed is a little more busy than two engines. I forgot to call for lateral navigation right away. In the real world the First Officer would speak up. Last night all he could say was "well there goes Foler!". I thought "that's odd for him to say that."

I looked down and quickly called for nav mode. Thankfully I was within tolerances.

Vectored back in for a single engine ILS. Landed finally.

Taxied to the end for another takeoff. Had to abort due to some red light. Lined up for another. On this one the engine flamed out at V1. Climbed out and ran a came back.

Weather cleared and we were told to slow for traffic. Flaps failed. Final approach was a no flap landing.

In and done.

I was deemed worthy of Captain.

I now have a few days off. It's been a crazy week as Monday I got a nail in my car tire. Normally not an issue but my tires are unique (BMW I3...they make only 1 brand and model of tire for my car) and there are none in the entire state. It was a "nice" birthday gift as I also turned 39 Monday.

The day of the check ride I broke a huge piece of glass in the house and cut my finger. It all seemed small though as I was handed over my new license.

Next is one more simulator (line flight in real time) then I get to fly the real aircraft.

For the time being I will be a commuting Captain, but a bid just closed...and I should hold Captain in my current base.....but on yet another entirely new to me aircraft. Yep....collecting type ratings.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Smoked filled flight deck

Day 3 of simulator training. My First Officer is progressing well. The instructor is the same instructor I had when I was a new hire.

After each 4 hour sim session there is a debrief over what happened during the sim session. Thankfully the items I made mistakes on were very light. I credit the 8 years of being a First Officer and my 4 years experience on the same aircraft from the right seat. My First Officer has only been at the airline for a year. He is brand new to the jet.

Today involved emergency descents, DME arcs, and localizer approaches.

My first approach was runway 2 at KSGF with the glide slope inoperative. During the climb out from the missed approach (tower told me to go around AFTER the mains touched the runway) we got a cargo fire. It got busy as I called for the aircraft to be cleaned up, fire check list run and entering a hold. The holding fix was just 6 miles north of the airport.

ILS 2 chart

The First Officer had just finish running the cargo fire checklist when I crossed the holding fix. I declared an emergency and took over the radios. Right then the Flight Attendant called stating the cabin was filling with smoke.

The simulator has a smoke function. The flight deck began filling with smoke. We donned oxygen mask. We were then given the runway 14 approach glide slope inoperative with the SGF transition. How appropriate as that was the holding fix from the last approach. I had the First Officer run the smoke removal checklist.

ILS 14 chart 

We exited the hold and were quickly at the BVRLY fix to do a hold in lieu of a procedure turn. No time to hold and wait for the smoke checklist to be complete I turned final and began descending.

I told the First Officer to tell the Flight Attendant we are 3 minutes from landing, will be evacuating on the runway and the signal would be emergency lights on and seat belt sign off.

Runway in sight I was slightly right of course. I corrected and planted the aircraft on center line. Maximum braking and reverse. The instructor came over the radio and said "DO NOT EVACUATE". He knows me and knew I was going to take the situation to the end. Ah it was fun anyway. He cleared the fire.

I taxied to the gate and we were done.

Tomorrow is yet another adventure.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Oral passed

Passed my Captain oral yesterday. The day before that I passed the systems written with a 99. I missed one tricky question.

The oral went okay. I stumbled on two easy questions. During an oral exam the examiner will not acknowledge right or wrong questions. They just take the answer and move on....probing more if needed. As long as I kept talking, the event wasn't over.....just like as long as the sim keeps moving...the ride isn't over.

The examiner was satisfied with my knowledge. It is a double edged sword being in the right seat for 8 years. Over this time I filled my bucket with a lot of knowledge.  A few years ago I stated I was ready for Captain after 4 years. I was wrong.

Next up is the simulator. I have a 8:30 AM showtime. I'm looking forward to flying the jet I was first hired into....for now a simulator will do.