Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bumps and winds and snow oh my!

The overnight was 9 whole hours long (again 9 hours between landing and taking off). I got about 6 hours sleep, which is really good for me on short overnights.


Taken on the way to the overnight. Sunset. Faint contrail on the upper right from another aircraft.

The leg back was mine. Weather at the departing airport was fine. The flight was full and then some. There was a full deadheading crew onboard from a flight that cancelled last night. That crew normally just does day trips (they fly out in the morning and return to base each evening). The flight back cancelled so they spent an unexpected night in a hotel.

All 70 passenger seats were full in the back. The First officer from the cancelled flight was in the jumpseat. Normally having a jumpseater on a long flight is a double whammy. On long flights (this one was 3 hours), I like to stretch out and occasionally stand up in the cockpit. With the jumpseater here...not feasible. Also the poor jumpseater has to sit on the most uncomfortable seat on the plane.

There was weather all over the United States yesterday. We did our best to avoid it. We still got bumped around pretty good. During the descent we were given a level off at FL310. The turbulence was so bad I was unable to clearly see my primary flight display. My attempts at changing settings via the flight control panel (which controls the autopilot) were not possible. I had one hand on the yoke in case the autopilot disconnected due to turbulence. The Captain had to reach up and change the settings I wanted.

We were kicked around the entire way down to the runway. The winds at the destination airport were gusting. The winds were blowing 080@28G35. The clouds were at 2500 overcast. The clouds were too low for a visual approach. The airport was setup for planes to make an ILS approach to runway 01L and then make a visual approach to runway 06R. The reason being there is no ILS approach setup for runway 06R. The runways are spaced a good distance apart and do not overlap.

I have never done such an approach before. There is only a VOR approach to runway 6R. Not helping matters much is the fact I had only flown 13 hours this month.

I briefed the approach. I would follow the ILS on runway 1 down until we were under the clouds. I would then ask the Captain to setup the visual approach with the FMS (Flight Management System). The FMS can be setup to draw a 5 mile final to any runway on the screens.

Descending through 2500 feet I already had the plane slowed to 170 knots and was at flaps 20. The winds above the cloud deck were stiff out of the north. The ground began to come into view. As the airport came into view I clicked off the autopilot and asked the Captain to setup the visual approach. The winds under the cloud deck were now gusting out of the east. The plane eased into a crab into the wind. I looked down and saw the 5 mile fix for runway 06R. The airport is large enough to easily allow a 5 mile final.

I turned the 5 mile final and was just above the glideslope. The gusty winds made me really work to keep the wings level and the plane heading toward the runway. With flaps 45 set I kept the speed 5 knots higher than V approach. As I came into the flare I kicked the nose over and applied aileron deflection into the wind. Now in ground effect everything looked okay. That 5 knots I kept hurt as we were floating.

Eating up runway quickly (traveling at 140 MPH still) I decided to put the plane down versus trying to make it nice. The landing was just average for this plane. Nothing great...but ya know we landed.

The winds at the airport were so high, they were down to using 2 runways from the normal 5+. Delays were rampant.

The Captain and I were advised on our way in this morning that we would be flying one more turn before being done for the day. Thankfully we were keeping the same aircraft.

We pulled into the gate and 30 minutes later were being pushed back out.

The winds came around to the north a little more. This allowed us to use one of the main runways. We were sent to runway 01R for takeoff. The winds were now 060@22G28. Still a stiff crosswind.

We got moderate turblence for the majority of the flight. Someone forgot to tell mother nature it's spring. The weather at our destination was overcast 500 and snow. Snow? Snow? Really? Snow?

As we descended into the airport area we began picking up rime ice. We turned on all the anti-ice systems (wings and cowls) and left them on until after landing.

The winds were gusting 60 knots off runway heading. The previous arrival reported braking action as good. I picked up the runway right at 400 feet. The Captain made a nice landing and turned off the runway.


The snow was no match for the heated windshields. Melted right away.

On the return flight there was another deadheading crew. The First Officer is a good friend of mine. We went through training together. I talked to him for a few minutes in the terminal. The return flight only had 14 passengers. He showed me his boarding pass. Jumpseat. He asked for the jumpseat because he knew I was flying. Nice.



I had to dig out my de-icing checklist. I had stowed it away...because it was SPRING!

We pushed back and waited to be deiced. The tower advised us we had 8 minutes to takeoff in order to meet our EDCT (Expect Departure Clearence Time). I advised we would not make it. They came back with another time, we now have 15 minutes. Maybe.

The deicer first applied the hot deicing mixture and then came back with the anti-ice mixture. The anti-ice mixture is a green gel that sits on the aircraft and will collect ice/snow. Once we start the takeoff roll the gel will literally slide off the plane and take any snow/ice with it.

Now deiced we start the engines and begin taxing. The tower advises we have 3 minutes until we miss our EDCT time. I don't let that time rush me. Rushing in the cockpit will likely cause mistakes. As we are halfway down the taxiway I look down at my MFD. We have less than a minute. The airport isn't very busy. The tower clears us for takeoff. The Captain later joked that we should have taken off from right where we were...the taxiway. Ha. The tower cleared us in order for us to make the EDCT time.

I applied takeoff power and away we went. I momentarily forgot how light we were. With only 14 passengers and 25,000 pounds thrust, we reached VR in less than 3000 feet.

The flight back we were assigned a lower flight level that kicked around the plane even more. I was ready to be done.

The winds at our base kicked back up. This time we were assigned runway 06L. There was an ILS approach to this runway. We were vectored around quite a bit. This approach involved a straight in profile. I clicked off the autopilot around 1000 feet and flew it in.

The airspeed varied widely due to the gusty winds. I worked the yoke and throttles to keep it on glideslope. This landing was very smooth....but long. We were cleared to roll to the end so I wasn't too concerned with stopping and getting off quick. At the landing weight of 57000 pounds we only needed 3700 feet to stop. The runway was over 9000 feet long. I ended up setting the main gear down just past the 2000 foot markings.

The deadheading crew was going to take the plane next. My friend in the jumpseat had let me know he would be calling in sick. I was exhausted. Once we were done with the checklist I quickly called crew scheduling to get released. If he called in sick before I was released I could have been assigned his turn. In my physical condition (reduced rest overnight, already flew 6 hours, weather) I would have called in fatigued anyway. I was not fit to fly the rest of the day. Thankfully I was released.


Headed home I snapped a photo of another plane making a gusty approach.

Off for three days. My wife and I were going to hop over to MSP for lunch today. The flights are all full. Maybe another weekend.

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