Friday, March 20, 2009

Nice trip out of Colorado

My Captain and I arrived last night expecting to find our own cab to the hotel (which was 2 hours away!). We both kinda wandered around this little airport when she went outside to check. I was behind the ticket counter (the airport was closing) looking up hotel information. Another employee came up and I told her our situation and she started calling her boss. This was when my Captain came back stating a van was waiting outside for us! In fact it was the only taxi at the airport! As it turned out, employees at the airport we would be departing out of took the initiative to arrange for our transportation. Nice.

Two hours later we pulled up to the hotel. Colorado is very nice....I'm told. The ride was in the dark. Boo.

This morning I made my way down for some of the awesome Holiday Inn Express cinnamon buns. After downing two and a yogurt, I topped off my coffee and made my way to the van.

The issues with the plane were resolved by our airline maintanence crew. They were flown in yesterday afternoon as soon as the problem occured. I prefer our mechanics fixing our planes versus contract mechanics. The main reason is our mechanics know our planes. Contract mechanics work on all types of planes...not really specializing.

TSA agents at smaller airports have authority to wave flight crews by. TSA agents at larger airports have never done this. We like this as it speeds up the process. I can't imagine a flight crew risking their job by taking something on board they aren't supposed to. Pilots go through all sorts of background/screening checks. If nothing has come up by the time they are hired....they are probably good to go.

I made my way out to the plane with one of the flight attendants. The cabin door was closed. I told her a story of what happened the first time I tried to open the cabin door from the outside. I had just finished IOE and was on a ferry flight out of Ohio. The Captain and I both struggled to open the main door. It seems simple enough...big ol' handle. Nope.

This morning as we walked up a ramper came up to open the door. He also struggled. Eventually he had it open. I helped the flight attendant with her bags as the steps on the CRJ700 are kind of steep. Once done I did my pre-flight inspection and then made my way to the cockpit. The Captain came on board and we began setting up the plane for the return trip.


Starting off high...5750 feet! I couldn't get a clear photo this morning.

I have flown with this Captain a few times and have always had a good time. She is an older lady who has a great sense of humor and has a very open cockpit policy. If I am making a mistake or doing something "not quite right", she will let me know. She expects me to do the same. I like this.


Taken while waiting for the rest of the crew to get on board. Very scenic. I climbed out over the valley left of this photo.

The weather in Colorado today was beautiful. I asked her if she minded if I flew the leg back. She didn't. We discussed our engine failure on takeoff chart for this airport. The airport is surrounded by mountains. Our airline had a special procedure for engine failure on takeoff for this airport. We briefed the procedure and made sure we both understood what the plan was. Being VFR we would follow the procedure and, if possible, simply enter a downwind for a landing on the same runway we would use for takeoff. Additionally since the airport was surrounded by moutains/hills I stated I would make a right turn after takeoff and climb while heading toward a valley. The plane has all the perforamance needed to climb direct to the first fix without having an issue...but what if ?

Chances of an engine failure on takeoff/climbout are extremely rare. I don't play odds when flying (I do like to gamble in my off time though!) so I like to have an "out". By turning to the right after takeoff and climbing out toward the valley if we lost an engine on climbout we would have lots of ground under us versus hoping we could out climb whatever was in front of us. With that done we moved on.

The APU was inoperative today. We use the APU for electricity in addition to air conditioning and engine starting. This meant we needed an air cart to supply air pressure for an engine start.

Once the passengers were loaded my Captain started the right engine and we finished up the checklist. The ground crew here for my airline is awesome. They work harder than any other station I visit. All of this for one flight a day!

She began taxiing to the runway and I was going through my flows. She then asked me to start the left engine. We do this with high presure air from the right engine. Starting an engine in the CRJ700 is extremely easy as the computers do most of the work.

She advanced the right engine up to provide at least 42PSI of pressure for the start. I then pressed the left start button and started my timer at the same time. Once I had 20% on the N2, ITT less than 120 and N1 rotation, I advanced the left thrust lever to idle. The engine began starting. Just as it appeared the engine was stabilized we got a ding....left engine start abort. Crap.

She stopped at the hold short line and we tried again. No light off. Now we had to wait 5 minutes (per our checklist). I called the flight attendant to let him know (him...we have two on board) what was going on during the 5 minutes. Thankfully the third time was the charm...normal engine start.

My Captain lined up the plane with the runway and turned the plane over to me. I advanced the thrust levers to the takeoff detent and away we went.

The field elevation was over 5000 the takeoff roll was longer than normal. At VR I gently pulled back on the yoke and we began climbing into the sky. Once we reached 400 feet I began turning toward the valley. I basically made a climbing turn into the downwind and then exited the pattern. By the time we were over the airport we were already climbing through 10,500 feet...I love this plane!


17,000 feet climbing out of the area.


FL310 leaving Colorado

The rest of the flight was uneventful.

Coming in for landing I had the runway in sight 15 miles out. We were cleared for the approach. I had the plane setup to follow the ILS down. On most visual approaches I still setup an approach to: 1)Make sure the runway I see outside is indeed the right runway! 2) Back me up with my descent 3)See Number 1.

Somewhere around 500 feet I clicked off the autopilot and brought the plane down to the runway. Somewhere between 10 feet and the ground I thought I made a butter smooth landing. What I actually felt was a cushion of air from ground effect. Thankfully I had been in this spot before and kept flying the plane down until we really landed....nice and smooth.

That's all for now. I turn the big '32' tomorrow. I will be celebrating with my wife, my fraternity brother (who is also my pledge borther and best man at my wedding, his wife, and another couple who are great friends in Las Vegas. Worry not if I win it big I will still keep my job.

Oh yeah bids closed today. Being the most junior First Officer in my status I got the scraps left over. The only line I didn't bid was the morning standby line. The last choice I placed was the afternoon airport standby line. Thankfully I got my last choice....afternoon standby.


  1. Congratulations on winning Afternoon Standby and Happy Birthday!

    Awesome pics!

  2. Happy birthday and have fun in Vegas!

  3. Hey Happy Birthday! Great Pics! Did I hear Vegas? Im in PHX right now heading up that way...hoping to win the big bucks! Good luck!

  4. I'll be in Vegas till Tuesday. We mostly hang around Flamingo, Harrahs and O'Sheas. If you are around and see me stop and say Hi. Ill be the guy losing at Blackjack.

  5. Happy Bday! What Frat were you in? Flysafe


  6. Thanks for the Birthday wish! I am a proud member of the Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity.

  7. Under what circumstances do airlines fly VFR? Is that common procedure?


  8. My airline has specific situations in which we are allowed to takeoff/land VFR. The rules are quite strict. In this case we would have been fine taking off VFR and picking up our clearance in the air. This is sometimes done to allow other IFR traffic to land/depart from an un-towered field. Since we were the only plane on the ground we picked up the clearance at the end of the runway and contact ATC soon after takeoff.


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