Thursday, April 30, 2009
This morning I was assigned a reserve availability period from 10AM till midnight. During this period I have at least a 2 hour call out before having to sign in at the airport.
This morning I checked the open flights and saw two. One flight is a turn leaving at 5:10 PM while the other is a reduced rest overnight leaving at 6:45 PM. Using the Rules of Engagement I had to be called by 2:25PM for the 5:10PM flight and 4PM for the 6:45PM flight. My phone rang 1PM and I was assigned the 6:45PM flight. Odd.
Once I am assigned a flight I have no further duty to answer my phone or contact the airline. If for some reason the flight cancels or they have an assignment earlier, I am under no obligation to answer the phone or return a voicemail. By calling me early they have one less pilot to use. They are really hedging their bets.
This overnight is the *exact* same one I flew last Friday. Same uncomfortable hotel. Same reduced rest (8 hours 45 minutes from arrival to departure).
Tomorrow morning I get back to base at 6:50AM. I was REALLY hoping to get one of the multi-day trips that are open starting tomorrow. I proffered (which is a way of telling scheduling what I would LIKE to do) for them, but will likely not get them as I already have an assignment. One of the assignments had a decently long overnight (17 hours) in a city I haven't been too yet as a pilot. I am hoping to get an overnight there as there are a lot of museums and sights to see. Eh. Who knows.
Between now and my 6PM sign in I have to take apart my suitcase. I have a very squeaky wheel....which is REALLY loud and annoying.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
While getting ready today I washed my uniform pants and shirt. I thought I emptied out the pockets. Apparently not.
[singlepic id=52 w=320 h=240 float=center]
I left a pen in my shirt. Pilot shirts have a little hole at the top of the pockets to allow the pen to slip in with the pocket closed. Doh!
My company pays 1/2 the cost for 6 new shirts a year. I was going to order new ones anyway...now I really have to. I have a 2 other short sleeve shirts and 3 long sleeve shirts left. No big hurry.
With my moving of days for next month I work 12 of the next 13 days. Exciting! May 1st will be ineresting. There is another base that is very short on First Officers. I think I might be sent there a lot next month. No big deal as I will get to fly.
As of now I do airport standby today and regular reserve tomorrow. I will likely get airport standby again. Starting May 1st though I will at least be able to proffer (kind of like bidding) for trips.
Here is a little pilot humor I found online.
When my company hired me, one of the first things I noticed about many of my fellow pilots was that they were cheap ba#@$*ds. I consider this to be a compliment to my fellow aviators.
Hotels offer a plethora of freebies that end up in the homes of pilots. There are soaps, shampoos, lotions, sewing kits, amenity kits, and other things of strategic value. On the nightstands in hotel rooms, there usually is a pad of stationary and a cheap pen. The stationary pads are commonly found in the cockpits, on the built in clipboards, but the pens are too valuable to leave behind. If there are free newspapers at the front desk, we are certain to take one. At some of the better hotels you can find a newspaper and a Wall Street Journal at the same time, major score.
There is the story of the pilot who finally sends his first child off to college. The young adult returns for the holidays and proceeds to tell the parents everything they have learned. The parents are told many things, but their child was most impressed by learning that most bars of soap are actually very big and shampoo comes in bottles that are bigger than their thumb. Being raised on hotel toiletries brought home by the student's father, the young person was ignorant to this important part of life, only because the father, a pilot, was a cheap (expletive).
Discounts and deals abound in the pilot world. Almost every airport eatery and hotel restaurant offers a percentage off of whatever we purchase to eat. There are coupons for free drinks or buffets. I have seen 50% off in some places, which none of us can pass up. I was at a coffee shop in a layover hotel recently, getting ready to head to the airport. The young woman working the counter got me my coffee and handed me two big chocolate chip cookies for free. Of course I shyly refused, but she insisted that I take the cookies. 'You never know when you might get hungry', She said. I was trying to smile and not drool at the same time. This treatment is not unusual. I was walking through the Cincinnati airport once, when a worker at the Mrs. Fields Cookies counter waved me over. 'You can have all the left over cookies for five dollars', the counter person said. I walked away with three bags of cookies and boasted about my good deal for weeks after. I had realized that the cookies kiosk was closing and instead of throwing the cookies away, they would offer them all at a price no pilot could refuse. I scored those bags of cookies several times but got so sick of them, that I eventually refused the good deal. The same thing happened in Buffalo New York one night. We were doing a turn around, so we were there for about an hour. I ran down to the cafeteria and ordered some wings.
The man working the counter asked if I wanted extra wings. I said, 'Sure, sounds good'. He brought out three large to go boxes of wings, mild, medium, and hot. We stuffed ourselves. When ordering a meal where the food is scooped up in a predetermined amount, the generous workers dishing out the food usually add a partial scoop more, smiling at us while they do it. I have never seen a pilot tell them to take it back.
There is a good chain of communication amongst pilots, allowing us to share the free things or good deals in our layover cities. A fellow pilot told me about free coffee at the hotel coffee shop in Boston. He said, 'You have to be in uniform to get the free coffee'. I mentioned this to my copilot the evening we arrived at that hotel. The next morning I was in the lobby of the hotel studying the subway map. We had the entire day off and I was interested in visiting a museum. I was surprised to see the copilot walk by in his uniform, seven hours before we were to be picked up. He marched over to the coffee shop and picked up a free cup of coffee, saving himself about $2.50. 'You make me proud', I said. He smiled, held up the free cup of Joe in a salute, and then proceeded to pick up a newspaper someone left on a chair.
He went back to his room, drank free coffee and read a free paper. It doesn't get much better than that.
I worked the Hawaiian operation for several years. Our layover hotel was at a gargantuan hotel complex with three, forty story towers. Through the grapevine, I had found out that the rooftop of every tower had a hot tub on it with an ice chest of soda next to it. Access to the rooftop was limited to the expensive business rooms on the upper floors. This was by no means a deterrent to us pilots. I discovered that if I took the elevator as high as I could go without using a room key, I could then take the stairwell up the remaining floors, to the rooftop. I was not interested in the hot tub, but drinking a free soda and taking in the incredible view from forty stories up, was great. I spent many hours up there over those years and never saw another person on that roof. On my way down one day I decided to take the elevator from the highest floor. As I walked towards the elevator I saw a door open to what looked like a lounge. I walked into the room and realized this was a suite converted into the business club lounge.
The suite was gorgeous, fronting the ocean, filled with food, drinks, newspapers, and a self-serve bar. The best part of this situation was realizing that there were no hotel employees in the room. I was alone with platters of food, free drinks, and 24 hours off. I settled in like I owned the joint. I left two hours later, only when another hotel guest entered the room. I went back many times, but one day, when I walked in, I saw a woman sitting behind a desk. 'Good afternoon sir, can I assist you?' she said. I wanted to say, 'Yeah, can you just go away from this good deal I have?' I remained calm and said, 'I am trying to find my boss, and I was told to meet him here.'
'Oh, no problem, what is his name, I can look him up and contact him.' she said. I was digging myself into a hole. I politely refused her help and left quickly. I could tell she was eyeing me suspiciously. When I got to the elevators, I turned around to smile at her. Next to every elevator was a big bowl of tropical fruit and a stack of newspapers. In an act of defiance, I picked up a papaya, a mango, and a Wall Street Journal while smiling. The elevator arrived quickly and I left. I called the front desk and asked when the business lounge was staffed. I was told that at 4:30 every afternoon, the business lounge was staffed. I had my answer. From then on I made sure I never spent time in that room after 3:00.
I spread the word about the rooftop and lounge to my fellow pilots. One of my fellow pilots brought his wife with him on a trip to Honolulu. He convinced the wife to go to the rooftop with him and sit in the hot tub. It was a beautiful night and they ended up having sex, then more sex, then running around the rooftop naked. Just as they were getting back to putting their clothes on, a security team came out onto the roof. Both parties were surprised as hell to see each other. The pilot apologized to the security team as he was putting his clothes on, grabbed a couple of free sodas and left with his humiliated and unhappy wife.
There was a time when most airlines served good food, especially in first class. I am allowed to sit in first class when I travel off duty. The pass system at my company allows me to travel unlimited times a year. Some years ago a pilot told me that over the weekend he took his wife and children on a flight that was a round trip flight to another city. He flew out on the first leg enjoying a nice lunch and free drinks in first class. They were on the ground for an hour before the same aircraft with the pilot and his family still on it, returned to its point of origin. He and his family enjoyed a first class dinner on the way back, the children enjoying a few ice cream sundaes. That was how they spent their day and evening, enjoying free food, drinks, desserts, and movies. The monthly food bills were less than normal because the pilot was uncanny in his ability to be a cheap (expletive).
Not that long ago I was riding to a hotel for a layover. Across the street from my hotel I saw a sign on the marquis of another hotel advertising free wireless Internet. My monthly schedule requests were due the next day and I needed Internet access to send my requests in. Instead of paying for the service in my hotel, I walked across the street that next morning to use the free Internet at the other hotel. I walked past the lobby and sat in a public area near a fireplace that had couches and coffee tables. As I was booting up my computer I saw a large urn of coffee across the room. 'What the heck' I thought, it's just a cup of coffee. I got up and fixed myself a large cup of coffee, just the way I like it. I was working on my computer with a solid Internet connection, drinking my coffee, when a hotel employee approached me. 'Sir, the breakfast buffet is now open, would you like me to show you what we have this morning?' she said. Without the slightest hesitation, I said, 'Why that would be great, thank you.' I proceeded to make myself a waffle, gather a plate of eggs and bacon, a glass of juice, and a container of strawberry banana yogurt. I was still there three hours later when they closed down the breakfast area. I was asked if I would like anything else, so I asked if I could take a snack to go. I have shared this nugget with many of the pilots I fly with and they too have enjoyed a scrumptious morning buffet, across the street.
This story could go on and on as there are endless examples of pilots being cheap ba#@$*ds, but there is one last example I would like to share with you.
About 16 years ago, I was an engineer on the Boeing 727. The captain brought a bag onboard at the beginning of our trip. He handed me the paper bag and told me to put it in a safe place. When we got to our destination that night, he asked me for the bag. During our four-day trip, each day would start out the same, he would hand me the bag, I would put it out of harms way, and he would ask for it at the end of the day. On the last day he handed as he handed me the bag, I heard the clinking of glass. 'Be careful with that,' he said. I asked him what was in the bag. He told me there were about ten light bulbs in the bag. I asked him why he carried all of these light bulbs around. He said to me, 'I take the burned out light bulbs from home and exchange them with the working light bulbs in our hotel rooms.' I was at a loss for words, but I remember thinking that this guy is one cheap (expletive).
OK Here's a true story I've told some of you but not all. I flew with a guy that turned in his dirty uniform shirts, this was before 9/11, to a charity. He would come back a few days later when they were hanging on a rack & buy them back for .50-.75 cents. He said it was cheaper than sending them to the laundry & he'd get credit for a Tax deduction for his charitable donation- Now that that guy is cunningly cheap!
Monday, April 27, 2009
This month I sent in my first round of request yesterday at noon (when a special time period starts for such request). I was shocked when I had an email back within the hour approving all of my request. I submitted another one (it takes a bit of finessing to get my schedule the way I want it). Again approved right away. This morning I submitted the final request. Again approved. I am happy and skeptical.
I am happy as I have a week off starting May 20th thru May 27th. This time period included Memorial Day weekend. I can now have fun and still get a full months pay.
I am skeptical because this has never happened before. The cautious side of me thinks maybe more furloughs/cuts are coming. They are approving the request because "we are going to furlough you anyway, so why not approve the request?" Very odd. I'm happy. But very skeptical.
My wife doesn't understand my skepticism and the way I interact with Crew Scheduling. I have been "screwed" over by Crew Scheduling more times than I would like to think about. I am not used to them being so compliant. Kinda like a dog that has been kicked around being scared when suddenly the owner tries to pet him. Sad but true.
Air Japan B-767
Crew Resources Worldwide is now accepting application from qualified First Officers for assignment to Air Japan. Air Japan operates a fleet of passenger B767's from the crew base in Narita, Japan. Passenger routes are from Narita to Hong Kong, China and Honolulu with expanding route structure planned as Air Japan acquires more aircraft and pilots. Candidates planning to commute should give serious consideration as to how they will commute from their home country to Japan during the five year contract.
First Officers: Total Flight Time in excess of 3,000 hours
Commercial Jet Time in excess of 1, 000 hours
250 hrs. PIC; 100 hrs. PIC Cross Country; 200 hrs. Cross Country;
100 hrs. Night Flight; 75 hrs. Instrument Flight; Required.
Valid ICAO ATPL
ICAO Level 4 English
Valid Jet Aircraft Command Rating on the ATPL
Valid ICAO Class 1 Medical
Monthly Base Salary
Fixed Per Diem
Pension Plan USD $550/month after completion of training. Voluntary 401K plan available.
USD $550 will be paid during training only. USD $50 once training has been completed.
** Experience Pay
Effective August 2008, additional compensation to recognize years of service. Guaranteed for 3 years and subject to review in 3 years.
USD $2,000 per month or Option of having Business Class (subject to availability)
USD $550 per month.
$44/nt while in training; $976/month there after
Contract Completion Bonus
CAPT: USD $30,000; F/O: USD $18,000 based on a 5 years of completed service.
10 free duty; min. 8 consecutive days off and 20/21 operations days per month.
24 days per year. Allocated in 2 equal periods per year.
Accrue 1 day per 2 months, 12 days max per year.
International Medical Insurance through Aetna Global for the Crew and the eligible dependents. HCF and Overseas Insurance for Australian Citizens.
Basic Life Insurance 2x annual salary up to $300,000
ZED travel available on Star Alliance Carriers and ANA Group for the Crew and the eligible dependents after 6 months of service.
Today I have sit at home reserve from 10AM till 11:59PM. If I am needed crew scheduling must give me a 2 hour call out. They can call me to go sit airport standby, deadhead me somewhere to fly or to go fly right away.
Next month I work most weekends. I did play the switch-a-roo game with my schedule to get 6 days off in a row starting the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. I am still working on getting the Saturday and Friday off as well. The trouble is I can't work MORE than 6 days in a row. Most months crew scheduling is VERY slow in answering my request. I submitted a request yesterday and it was approved within 2 hours. Crazy.
A buddy of mine who commutes through Fargo to another base is having a bad end of the month trip.
This is his last 4 day trip. Next month he will be commuting to reserve. So far his commuting experience has been pretty good. This week is the exception.
His trip started at 7PM Saturday night and will end Tuesday afternoon at 3:30PM. Nice trip that is commutable on both ends.
He went up Saturday afternoon to start his trip. About an hour from the start of his trip his flight was cancelled. He was now supposed to report back at 12:20PM Sunday for a deadhead. Being so late at night and having to be back early the next day, he stayed in a hotel (about $38 out the door...not a great hotel...but decent).
Sunday he was supposed to deadhead to "Salina" at 12:20PM, fly the plane back and then fly to an overnight. The deadhead flight didn't leave until 3:30PM. This would put his return flight back to base arriving 2 1/2 hours after his flight to the overnight. The airline removed his crew from the overnight and gave it to a reserve crew. Upon returning from "Salina" last night he paid for another hotel room.
Today he reports at 3:20PM in base (checkout time is 11AM so he will mull around the airport for a while). He does one turn and then out to the overnight. Once he gets back tomorrow he will commute home. Hopefully all goes well for him today and he makes it to the overnight.
Wouldn't mind flying today. I only ask that I get a turn that goes smoothly. If I get stuck in an outstation I will be stuck for a couple of days due to this being my day 6. Hasn't happened to me yet, but it's happened to many co-workers.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
The breakfast at this hotel leaves MUCH to be desired. The "fresh" fruit hasn't been fresh in a while. The oranges were shriveled up, the apples has spots and the bananas were bruised. I tried to warm up a biscuit and poured gravy on top....the biscuit was still stale and hard to get through. I grabbed a cup of coffee and an orange juice.
The Flight Attendants were already down eating. I greeted them and they asked if I was done when I got back to base. I told them I the last time I checked I was done. They were both assigned the same flight up to the northeast once we got back. Due to the reduced rest overnight any flight assignment given today must included "compensatory rest" or at least 10 hours tomorrow night. Their overnight tonight would be 16 hours.
The van time came and we all piled into the van. Surprisingly the airport was busy at 5:05AM when we arrived. The security line was somewhat long. For the first time ever the TSA opened up a lane just for my crew when they saw us waiting in line. Nice.
The plane we brought in last night had been moved off the gate. We were taking another CRJ. We all went through our first flight of the day checks and inspections. I have said before I prefer flying with more senior flight attendants. There are many reasons for this. Senior Flight Attendants tend to be able to make even the most upset passenger happy, they know how to quickly board a cabin and most importantly.....they make coffee right away for the pilots!
This morning the Flight Attendants were both pretty junior. I knew they wouldn't make coffee. I snagged a diet coke before heading to the cockpit to get the plane set up.
Since this was the first flight of the day, the Captain and I both have to check and test various systems to make sure they are operational. For the remainder of the day these checks aren't required. The Captain has at least 6 items to test. I only have to check the ice detector, TCAS and my oxygen mask.
We boarded up and pushed out 5 minutes early at 5:35AM. Most of the world is still sleep. Nice.
I wish I could describe the rush I feel when lining up for takeoff especially a night. Looking down the runway at all the lights is a beautiful sight. The only feeling better are the moments right before landing.
With my left hand I advance the thrust levers and bring to life over 24,000 pounds of thrust. We used a reduced power setting called Flex Thrust this morning to save fuel and wear on the engines thus it's a setting less than the maximum power over 25,000 pound of thrust.
The rows of lights begin quickly passing under the plane. My eyes are starring at the end of the runway as I make small corrections with the rudder pedals to keep the plane on center-line. The silence of the cockpit is broken when the Captain called out "80 knots". I momentarily looked down at my PFD and call out "80 knots" to confirm the speed tape is working (it's also a check to make sure the other guy in the cockpit is "in the cockpit" as well). At 124 knots the Captain called out, "V1, rotate". I smoothly rotated the 68,000 pound aircraft into the dark sky.
We were given an initial heading of 240. At 400 feet I called for heading mode to be engaged and began the turn. I noticed a slight yawing in the plane and looked down to see the "brick" out of alignment. The "brick" serves the same function as a turn coordinator in planes with steam gauges. I reached down with my left hand and gave a quick turn to the rudder trim. All good.
Being somewhat light weight we were climbing at just over 3000 feet per minute. Our initial altitude was 4000 feet. With these low level offs if the non flying pilot is slow to check in on the radio, the pilot flying has to quickly pull of power to avoid overshooting the altitude.
As we passed 1500 feet the speed was passing 175 knots. I called for flaps 1. The Captain raised the flaps and checked in with departure. We were then assigned to climb and maintain 15,000 feet. After he set the altitude, I confirmed it and called for "flaps up, speed 250". I used the trim to lower the nose and gain speed. As we passed 220 knots I pulled the thrust levers out of the takeoff detent and into the climb detent. Most of the time reducing power to climb in the 220 knot range makes for an almost imprecetible change for the passengers. If power is reduced before that speed the passengers can feel a jolt as the power is reduced.
I hand flew up to around my normal 16,000 feet and clicked on the autopilot. I then cleaned off the diet coke can (they are REALLY dirty sometimes) and watched the sunrise as we climbed up to FL320.
The weather in base today wasn't bad, but the clouds were hanging a little low at 1500 feet AGL. This required in ILS approach. I haven't done an ILS in a while. After being assigned runway 18 ILS I setup and briefed the approach for the Captain.
The approach was standard. I left the autopilot on until the runway came into view about 1300 feet AGL. Once I saw the runway I called out "runway in sight, going visual". I clicked off the autopilot and continued following the glideslope. Just under 200 feet AGL I went below the glideslope a bit in order to land right on the 1000 foot markings. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the Captain sit up straight as the move might have caught him off guard.
Just like always I began reducing power at 50 feet and had the throttles closed at 10 feet. The winds were 150/18 so I had a slight crosswind. I kicked the nose over and touched down right on the far edge of the 1000 foot markings. Better than last time....but still not my best.
We pulled into the gate 5 minutes early. After my walk around I grabbed my bags and called crew scheduling. Released for the day. Nice. I will get my nearly 4 hours of pay today even though I only flew for one hour and ten minutes. Sometimes I come out ahead.
Friday, April 24, 2009
The plane had been down for maintenance earlier in the day. Nothing major, just a missing exit sign placard. The plane was sitting at the gate so I hopped on board.
The external power wasn't connected yet so the cockpit was dark and stuffy. I stashed my bags and went out for my pre-flight. I saw a ramper walking toward the plane and gave him the hand signal to connect the power.
While I rounded the back of the plane the ramper was connecting the external air to the plane to provide cool air to the cabin. Once back in the plane I patiently waited for the green light to turn on signifying the external power was connected. It never came.
The Captain showed up and let me know one of our flight attendants wasn't arriving until 6:33PM. We were supposed to depart at 6:45PM. She was arriving at gate 27 while we were parked at gate 5. There was no way we would leave on time.
We gave up on waiting for power and turned on the battery master. We then saw a problem.
[singlepic id=49 w=320 h=240 float=center]
The release only called for 8100 lbs of fuel. There was over 12000 on board. The plane was previously fueled for a much longer flight. Passenger count was on our flight was a full load of 70. There was no way we could take off with that much excess fuel and be under landing weight at our destination.
The Captain fired up the APU (we gave up on getting external power) and I called our operations to advise them of the excess fuel. Once I released the transmit button I saw an EICAS message relating to the fuel panel being open. Sure enough operations let me know we were being de-fueled down to the proper level. If I had only waited a few more seconds. No harm/ no foul.
The second flight attendant arrived at 6:55PM. We can't board unless they are both on board. We quickly boarded the plane and pushed out at 7:05PM.
The flight out was fine. A few bumps, but nothing major.
[singlepic id=50 w=320 h=240 float=center]
The overnight is very short. Our rest clock started 15 minutes after the cabin door opened at 8:18PM. So officially our rest started at 8:33PM. At 8:35PM we were in the hotel van. Thankfully the hotel is only 3 minutes from the airport. This hotel is one of the worst in the system for my airline. They ran low on rooms tonight and upgraded a few of us (including me) to a suite. So instead of a crappy room I get a crappy suite.
The departure tomorrow morning is scheduled for 5:40AM. We have a van at 5:00AM. Right now it's 9:30PM. I will probably get 6 hours or so of sleep if I am lucky. I tend to sleep very little on reduced rest overnights.
Since I get back so early tomorrow morning I will likely be released for the day and will be off until 2PM Sunday when I report for airport standby again. This is a great thing as my wife wants to go out with some friends tomorrow night. Here's hoping for the best.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
While sitting airport standby I checked the flights around 5PM and everything looked covered. I then thought about what to eat for dinner. The airport has a pretty vast selection of fast food and restaurants. For some odd reason I tend to eat the same thing for an entire month. Wednesday was no different. There was a new mexican food restaurant that opened a few weeks ago. I have already been there 3 times this month. Wednesday made four.
After getting my dinner I made my way back over to my hang out in the airport and enjoyed some amazing mexican (not Tex-mex!) food. Literally as I took my last bite my phone rang......it was "unknown". "Unknown" is always crew scheduling. The agent let me know I had an overnight up to the north east. Nice.
I checked my schedule and saw I was flying with the second most senior Captain on my plane. When I first flew with him I was apprehensive as there is a train of thought that the more senior the Captain the more difficult he is to get along with. Back then I had maybe 100 hours in the CRJ with around 660 hours total time. By comparison this Captain has over 27,000 hours. Yeah. To my surprise he is one of the nicest persons I have ever met. I enjoyed that first flight and every flight since. I then checked the flight attendants. I knew both of them and they were also a blast to fly with. I was looking forward to this trip.
After packing up my stuff I headed to the crew room. I grabbed my suitcase, kitbag and a set of ear plugs before heading out to the plane. I met the crew at the gate. They were all in great spirits. Flying with a crew that all get along makes even the worst trip better.
I had not done a pre-flight on my plane in 19 days so I wanted to get there early and really take my time. After stowing my bags I headed out with my pre-flight card to inspect the plane. I normally don't carry my pre-flight card, but I felt I needed it.
Once done, I settled into my seat and built my "nest". I arrange my side of the cockpit the same way every time as to always know where things are.
The Captain offered to take the leg out. I was glad and joked about not having flown in so long.
The flight out was nice. We pushed out 30 minutes late due to connecting passengers arriving late. We were the last flight out of Fargo to our destination. If the passengers missed the flight they would be spending the night in Fargo.
Muscle memory really comes into play when flying. While going through my flows I never missed a beat. My hands and arms knew which buttons to hit and when. Flows are always backed up with a checklist. Didn't miss a thing.
The overnight was nice. I really like the beds in the Marriott. I slept very nicely. The total time from arrival to departure was a nice 11 hours. After waking up this morning I checked my schedule. Once I am out flying I am their chess piece until the last day of my reserve stint (in this case Monday). They could (and have) added on all kinds of flying to my schedule. When I looked there was nothing. Good.
We met up downstairs for the van ride back to the airport. We took an early van in order to have time to get some food before the flight. The one thing I don't like about Marriott's is they have no affordable food and offer nothing for free. Some of the lower end hotels offer nicer beds AND a free breakfast. Eh.
It's an unwritten rule that Captains buy a meal for the crew once a month. I've had a few Captains do this during my time here. Today the Captain bought us all lunch at the airport before out flight. Did I say I really like this guy?
As we taxied out of the ramp area we noticed the left pack surging. The left pack provides air to the cockpit only. The right pack provides air for the cabin. We tried turning it off and on. No luck. We figured maybe it was an APU issue as it was providing air for the packs. I fired up the right engine and shut the APU down. The problem seemed to go away.
The Captain lined up on runway 28 and gave me the controls. I smoothly increased the thrust and slid the levers into the takeoff detent. As we passed 135 knots I pulled the nose into the air. Passing through 7000 feet the surging from the pack became worse. The plane was pressurizing correctly so no immediate action was needed. After passing 10000 feet the Captain began troubleshooting. After a few minutes he realized there was an issue with the temperature controller.
The ECS (Environmental Control System) on the CRJ is similar in function to an automatic climate control system in many cars. We select a temperature and the computers decide the best way to get there. Most of the time it works fine. Today the one for the cockpit was not.
After placing the system in manual mode for the cockpit the surging stopped. We now had to control the temperature ourselves. One thing that surprised me early on is how cold the air coming out of the air vents really is.
In the cabin of a plane are several warm bodies...all around 98 degrees or so. All those bodies give off a lot of heat. In order to cool the cabin the system of course puts out cold air (in the range of -10 to 26 degrees celsius). In order to WARM the cabin the system puts out less cool air...but still cool air. The warmer temperature is normally attained from all those bodies giving off heat.
The rest of the flight was fine. I enjoyed the view I had not seen in quite some time.
The above photos were taken at FL380. My checklist can be seen stuffed into its normal spot between the windshield and the dashboard. The lower photo shows a Delta 757 passing overhead.
The weather over most of the United States today hot and clear. We saw the airport over 60 miles away. Company regulations don't allow us to ask for or accept a visual approach if we are more than 35 miles away. As we were about 15 miles out they cleared us for the visual. The winds were 190/20G29. The runway we were assigned was runway 17. No big deal.
I clicked off the autopilot around 5000 feet and turned toward the runway. I was holding the plane steady at 210 knots as thats the last speed we were assigned. The plane ahead was a good 5 miles ahead. Descending through 3000 feet I began slowing and asked for flaps to be extended. First flaps 1, then 8, then 20. I was now slowing to 170 knots and was about 1600 feet AGL. Just prior to 1200 feet AGL I called for "gear down".
Descending through 900 feet I called for flaps 30 and slowed to 150 knots. Then the final flap setting of flaps 45. At 500 feet I was right on appraoch speed. The winds were gusting pretty good and I had to work a little to keep the plane tracking down the runway. As the wind increased and decreased in speed I made small adjustments to power. Jets respond much differently to power inputs as opposed to propeller driven planes. When I increase power in the CRJ there is a 2-5 second time period before the engines actually produce the power. In a propellor driver plane the adjusting the throttles brings an immediate change in power. Thus I must think about where the plane is now and where it will be 5 seconds from now and adjust the thrust levers accordingly.
As we passed over the threshold and I heard the 50 foot call out. I began reducing power and applying rudder pressure to straighten out the nose. At the same time I was arresting the descent. At 20 feet I had just a little power in and was passing over the 1000 foot markings. When I heard the 10 foot call I closed the power and pulled back on the yoke just slightly. Then the damn gust came in and ballooned the plane up a bit. A little more wrist work and I made an average landing. After having been 19 days...average was fine with me.
The headwind helped quite a bit to slow down. I popped open the thrust reversers but didn't apply full power as we were quickly slowing down anyway.
Once back at the gate I made my call to crew scheduling. There were no further flight assignments and I was released for the day. I am off until tomorrow at 2PM when I go back in for airport standby.
It was great to fly again.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Is this good news? Well for the most part yes. I keep the higher pay, avoid long term training and don't have to remember how to read steam gauges (the plane I was displacing to did not have a full glass cockpit). The bad part is.....I'm still THE junior man. I will have airport standby for the foreseeable future. At least I still have a job.
Now a little humor:
Basic rules of flying:
1. Try to stay in the middle of the air.
2. Do not go near the edges of it.
3. The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.
As I parked my car in the employee parking lot, a UPS plane taxied across the airport. I see this same flight everyday I do airport standby.
I grabbed my laptop bag (the rest of my bags stay locked up at the airport), and made my way to the bus stop. There I saw the same faces I see every day I do airport standby.
I went down to the crew room and signed in for duty. After a quick scan I was happy to see no updates have come out for my manuals. Grabbing my laptop bag I made my way to my hangout up in the terminal area. The same area I hang out everyday I do airport standby.
Along the way I saw a pilot who I went to flight school with. He is on the same plane but is based elsewhere. He did this to hold a line just as my other buddy did. Next month he faces the problem of commuting to reserve as well. We discussed a few things about the job/plane/airline. He did tell me he will have 22 days off this month due to scheduling and other issues. Not too shabby. He is hoping another vacancy/displacement bid comes out allowing him to somehow transfer back to Fargo (just go with it ;-) ) as he doesn't want to commute to reserve. I'm glad I didn't transfer out of Fargo to hold a line, I would be right there with him.
As I settled down in my hangout I took my seat. The same seat I sit in everyday I do airport standby. After a quick check of the status of the flights I began my routine of checking websites, listening to music and relaxing. This post took 5 minutes.....just gotta fill the next 7 hours 55 minutes. The same 7 hours and 55 minutes I fill every week I do airport standby.
Just spoke with another buddy who is getting furloughed on the 1st of the month. He is commuting out today. Even with the impending furlough he still has a positive attitude.
It's a pretty day across most of the United States....sure would like to fly.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
He was junior to me when he was based with me here in Fargo (My "base" for discussions on this blog"). He was displaced and chose to commute to a new base versus change equipment in Fargo. He held a decent hard line in March and an even better line in April. In May though he got a reserve line.
I think he got a reserve line due to the impending furloughs and displacements. In March and April there was enough staffing that senior First Officers could bid reserve and take a chance on never being called to fly. Some pilots do this to get work done around the house, work a second job (lots of pilots have second jobs!), or just do something other than flying while getting full pay. With the reductions of pilots there will be fewer pilots to cover the same amount of flying. There is a higher chance that all reserve pilots will be called next month. For this reason I think the more senior First Officers bid hard lines.
This was one of my worries on transferring out of Fargo. I could have displaced out of Fargo to the same base as my buddy a few months ago and avoided the last two months of airport standby. The benefits of having a hard line were not great enough to out weigh the possibility of being on reserve.
Next month I am still the most junior First Officer in Fargo in my status. I will be the first to be called each day to cover flying and/or airport standby. There is also a good chance I will be deadheaded out of Fargo to cover flying at another base. My buddy will now have to commute to reserve.
Commuting to reserve is just plain crap. Being on reserve you have no idea what your assignment will be for the first day of a reserve sequence until 5PM the day prior. Each day at 5PM (unless assigned a multi-day trip!) reserve pilots log into the scheduling system to see their assignment. They are assigned a period to be available for a 2 hour call out (called a RAP), a flight assignment or good old airport standby. Most reserve pilots are on reserve for 4-5 days at a time. So if my buddy checks in at 5PM and is assigned a 7AM flight, he will have to quickly drive to the Fargo airport and commute to his base the night before to make the 7AM flight. On the same token if he is a assigned the morning RAP (that starts at 4AM) he will also have to commute in the night before. Once the RAP is over, if he isn't assigned a flight he can either commute back home, pay for a hotel, go to a crash pad (that he will have to have arranged ahead of time) or sleep in the crew room (some pilots do this). No matter what his choice he is likely on reserve for several days in a row. The same process will happen until the last day of reserve. It could get ugly and expensive.
I'm thinking if my displacement sticks and there is not another vacancy bid soon, I will likely enter training sometime in June and finish in August. Till then....I have 5 days of airport standby starting tomorrow followed by a reserve day. Yep....6 days of work ahead. Hopefully I get to fly.
Plane Emergency Street Landing Captured On Video
Tuesday, April 21, 2009 6:24:28 PM
Reported By Evrod Cassimy
POLK COUNTY -- The Sun 'n Fun Fly-In starts today and already there were some tense moments in the sky for a pilot headed to the event.
The pilot, Kyle Davis, 22, and his passenger, Joe Surowiec, were flying from Winter Haven to Lakeland Sunday when they experienced engine failure.
Realizing the engine wouldn't cooperate, Davis was able to land the homemade plane safely on Havendale Boulevard.
"The options for me were land on the road or land on the lake," Davis said.
News 13 spoke to Eric Norber, a local aviation expert, who explained Davis performed well given the circumstance.
Norber told News 13 that statistically a plane's engine failure is rare, let alone catching one on camera.
Davis is a part-time flight instructor with 1,300 hours in the skies. His own flight instructor, John Amundsen, calls his roadway landing, incredible.
"Watching that video, he was just awesome," Amundsen said. "I just hope you know if I ever have a situation like that I can be as cool as Kyle was."
Norber said some of the things that could have gone wrong are lack of fuel, fuel contamination and or some sort of engine malfunction.
He also said that many pilots go their whole lives practicing for this type of situation and never experience one let alone one that is caught on video.
Both men declined on scene medical care. The plane was not damaged either.
Meanwhile, Sunday's incident didn't scare Davis away from the skies. He plans to fly his own plane to the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In later this week.
As for finding out what caused the engine failure, Norber said it could be months before the FAA or the NTSB issues a final report on exactly what happened.
Information from Central Florida News 13's Bright House Networks affiliate Bay News 9 was used in this report.
Monday, April 20, 2009
One of the freedoms of working for an airline is that you don't have to live where you are based. Living in base means being able to drive to work. Of course sometimes a pilot might live in base only to have the base close....and they become commuters.
I am currently toward the end of a book about the demise of Braniff airlines. Toward the end of the airline, employees were being moved all around the system due to furloughs and the closing of bases. There were employees who moved three times in three years.
Currently I don't commute. I am pondering the idea though. I have yet to meet anyone who enjoys commuting or says it's easy. Well there was one guy...but he is single, no pets and young.
Airline commuting policies vary. Most of the "good" airlines allow flight crew members to miss 2 to 3 assignments per year due to commuting problems. At my airline a flight crew member must list on at least 2 flights (on a regularly scheduled air carrier)in order to qualify under the rule. If they list on two flights and can't get on (and will miss their assignment), they must call crew scheduling and let them know they will not make the assignment and that they wish to use the commuter policy. The flight crew member will not be paid for the flights that they miss. If the assignment is a multi-day trip they can still attempt to commute to base and pick up the rest of the trip. The flight crew member will be paid for the remainder of the trip. Additionally if the flight crew member misses an assignment due to a late flight (the flight they commuted on would have allowed them to be on time, but ended up arriving too late) they can still use the commuter policy.
Commuting experiences vary. I know quite a few Flight Attendants and Pilots who live in one outstation that has an unusually high number of daily flights to base. The flights typically have plenty of open seats. One Flight Attendant in particular has only used the commuting policy once in the 6 years she has been here. There are many more cities where commuting is very tough even with a large number of flights. Don't assume just because the city you live in has a lot of air service that it will be easy to commute.
One really senior Captain I have flown with has a two leg commute to get to work. He lives in a pretty small town in the upper Mid-west not served by our airline and has no mainline service. He commutes/jumpseats on one airline to a city where he can then catch a ride on mainline to base.
I have quite a few friends who commute to work on Fedex/UPS. There is an obscure policy which allows shipping of people in boxes as long as they have sufficient air space. With the employee discount we get as pilots, FEDEX/UPS shipping of ourselves is really affordable. Hmmm...okay not really. Fedex/UPS have several jumpseats available for travel. After their own pilots are taken care of, pilots from other airlines are welcome to catch a ride.
The stories I have heard from those that have used Fedex/UPS are all positive. The companies make it easy to list, give instructions on where to be and when, and typically order a meal free of charge for the jumpseater! The downsides of using Fedex/UPS are that they typically involves overnight flights (which could be a positive) and they normally park quite a distance from the main passenger terminal. Getting a ride from the cargo ramp to the passenger terminal can be tricky.
If a Flight Crew member misses more than the allowed flight assignments due to commuting they could cease to be a Flight Crew member.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I actually wanted the afternoon airport standby line as it had Memorial Day weekend off! The line I was awarded has Tuesdays thru Thursdays off. I will play the swap game to see if I can get that weekend off.
So far this month I have flown a whole 7 hours in the cockpit. I have flown 15 hours as a passenger. Yeah. Slow month.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
I have a strict 'no shaving' policy when I don't work. The NY Autoshow beats the Detroit show by a long shot!
I learned to not like JFK. The delays there are legendary. The weather was beautiful Friday...and there were still lines of planes waiting to take off.
My flight left an hour late. I relaxed in my First Class seat and listened as the Captain fired up both engines on push out. I thought "great this must mean we will be leaving quickly as standard procedure is to taxi out on one engine,". As we taxied around I heard a sound I didn't want to hear. I first heard the left engine power down. Then the plane stopped....and the other engine powered down. The Captain came on stating we would be delayed for at least 45 minutes. Ugh. We ended up landing in base very late. I got home at 11:30PM. At 5:30AM I woke up to go to Minneapolis for the day with my wife. We had a good time. The flight loads were very light both ways. It was our first time there. We went up to visit the Mall of America. One thing we did notice...the public trainsit system there is on an honor system. We bought tickets and signs stated they would be checked...but they weren't. Anyone could have just walked on board and taken a ride. Odd.
Not flying anywhere tomorrow...just going to a ball game.
Despite all the crap this job brings.....I can't imagine doing anything else. Being able to fly my wife wherever she wants to go whenever she wants to go is an awesome benefit.
Right now I will be displaced. I was displaced by.....1 position. Three pilots above me proffered to displace or changed bases. If nothing else changed I would have kept my seat. There was one Captain who was displaced off a different status that came into my status. His one extra body pushed me out. Again it's preliminary.
Some pilots have worse displacement awards than me. I am lucky I will be able to stay in base. Other pilots will be displaced to bases hundreds of miles away.
What's next? Well the final bid award. After that happens the airline will put out an outline for training dates. That's when I will know when I will be taken off my current plane and onto the next one.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
There weren't very many so I took some time to compare names/employee numbers to those in my status. After double checking I found 5 pilots in my status who are choosing to proffer to displace. What does this mean. Well for this round of poker my seat it safe. The bottom 3 pilots (including me) are being displaced out of my status. The pilots who are proffering to displace are allowed to use my seniority for a new status. Thus if I can hold ERJ First Officer over in Gulfport, MS and one of those 5 pilots have that status in their displacement bids, they get the new status. The same goes if I can hold EMB-120 First Officer in Sacramento, CA or CRJ First Officer in Albany, OR. The pilots who are proffering to displace out of my status are mid seniority in my status. They are likely wanting to move to a new status where they can have greater seniority and better QOL.
What's next? Well after the proffers to displace bids are counted and recorded, the real displacing starts. I could (and likely will) be displaced. It's very confusing and can be stressful. The final results are due next Wednesday. A preliminary result list might be out before that. Many pilots junior to me have been displaced to three different cities in their first year!
Right now I am reading a really interesting book about Braniff airlines. The book is titled Splash of Colors: The Self-Destruction of Braniff International . I really like airline history and this book is a great record of part of it. Toward the end of the airline the book mentioned how FAMILIES moved 3 times in 3 years as the employee working for Braniff was displaced around the country. My airline contract requires the airline to pay for any move as the result of a displacement. I know a few pilots who have taken them up on the offer. If I were single and living in an apartment I might move. Being in a house with a wife....moving is not an option.
I had airport standby on Tuesday and Wednesday. I thought for sure I would fly somewhere. Nope. Today I have a RAP (where I have to hang around the city and be at the airport within 2 hours of being called) from 10AM till 11:59PM. I had this same RAP last Thursday.
As long as the weather holds up I will head up to New York tomorrow for the New York auto show.
Family of pilot who died in midair crash sues flight school
BY LAURA FIGUEROA
The family of a pilot killed in a midair collision between two flight school planes over the Everglades in December has filed a lawsuit against one of the schools.
Rick Ellsley, an attorney for the family of Edson Jefferson, 30, an aspiring commercial pilot who was killed in the crash, said the family is seeking an unspecified amount of monetary compensation from Airline Transport Professionals -- the Fort Lauderdale-based pilot school that owned the Piper aircraft flown by instructor Andrew Marc Rossingnol and student Bryan Sax, who also died in the crash. On the afternoon of Dec. 6, the two planes slammed into each other three miles southwest of Everglades Holiday Park, at Griffin Road and U.S. 27, in airspace where flight instructors routinely take students to practice.
According to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Piper plane was traveling 126 knots while the smaller Cessna was at at speed of 86 knots.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
With a descent rate of 7000 feet per minute they must have had the flight spoilers fully out. Interesting....if inappropriate video.
The other pilots in my status, all senior to me, can proffer to displace. This means they can change status and use MY seniority to hold something else. Why would they want to do this? Well maybe they are just 4 from the bottom and DON'T want to be the bottom guy. They can transfer to any other status MY seniority can hold. Doing so will save 1 junior pilot in that status from being displaced by that one move. Many pilots chose to proffer to displace to avoid QOL issues. This is just one move that can be played.
What I think will happen is the following. There are 20 Captains being displaced from one status. I believe they will displaced to my status (as they can't hold a Captain anywhere else). That will push out 20 pilots in my status. We will all go to a new status and push out 20 other pilots and so on. It will get extremely complicated and is mostly done by hand. Hopefully the results will be out by the end of the week.
Last time I was displaced, my date for training for the new status was initially 5 months away. The date moved further away twice until it was 7 months from the day the displacement bid closed. The week prior to me starting training ANOTHER displacement/vacancy bid closed and I kept my seat. I have a gut feeling the same thing will happen again.
While I was on vacation another Jeppesen update came out. I spent the first 30 minutes of my airport standby shift updating charts. I also reviewed the bid packets for May. If I get my same afternoon airport standby shift I will get Memorial Day weekend off! Score!
I am 3 hours into my 8 hour shift today. The Captain who sits standby for my aircraft was sent out while I was updating charts. There are NO Captains left for his status. This means if another Captain calls in sick or is unable to make a flight, there will be no one to fly with me. There are a ton of delays today, mostly appear to be mechanical in nature. Nothing major, but the repairs are taking a while which causes several flights to be delayed. I think I will be used tonight....if they can scrounge up a Captain. There are two overnight flights where the original crews won't return to base (due to delays) until at least 2 hours after the original departure time.
I am thinking of flying over to New York this weekend for the New York Auto show. The flights are kinda open. The hardest part is getting from the airport to the auto show and back. The process involves two buses and one subway ride for a total of an hour travel time. Hmmm we will see.
Monday, April 13, 2009
I should find out Friday if I will be displaced out of the CRJ.
Bids close for May on April 19th.
I still have to do my taxes!
Hmmm....maybe we should go on vacation again.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I am assigned a reserve call out period from 10 AM until 11:59PM. There are several rules that come into play when given this assignment. Crew scheduling can't call me before 10AM. Once they do call me I have 2 hours to get to the airport. Once I get to the airport I have 45 minutes to prepare for my flight. Realistically this means the first flight that can reasonably be assigned to me would depart at 12:45PM. Since I have tomorrow off they can't schedule me for an overnight unless every other reserve who works tomorrow is unavailable. Right now there are 6 other pilots in my status that are available today and to work tomorrow. Of those 3 of them have a RAP starting at 10AM as well, but they go until 2AM (max 14 hour duty day).
So I will feel safe assuming any overnight flights will be given to another pilot. The last flight that is a turn (meaning goes to an outstation and comes back to base) leaves at 5:10PM. Using my rules above the latest they can reasonably call me is 2:25PM (2 hour callout + 45 min preflight). After 2:25PM I can feel safe that I won't be called out today. I will give a call to crew scheduling around 4:30-5PM to ask if I can be released for the day.
My wife and I need to be in Florida by 3PM tomorrow. Seems easy enough. Problem is flights to the city we need to get to are very full today and tomorrow. We needed to get creative. We are going to attempt to get on the last flight out at 8PM tonight. If that doesn't work we are going to spend the night in Tennessee and then fly to Florida in the morning. We will have to pay for a hotel in Tennessee, which is fine as we would pay for a hotel in Florida anyway. I'm glad my wife is very laid back and flexible. Non-rev travel can be rough. We get on after all paying passengers get on. As airlines cut back schedules, flying non-rev get's a little more difficult. At one point I had us staying the night in one of two airports. The reason being we would fly in at 1AM and depart at 6AM. Looks like that won't be necessary.
But first I have to get through today.
When I sign in for a flight I can see the names of the flight attendants along with their seniority. I prefer to fly with senior flight attendants as more times than not the passengers will arrive happy no matter the conditions of the flight (bumpy, delays, bad weather etc). True the age gap between myself and the senior flight attendants is sometimes annoying. On long overnights the crew will sometimes go out to dinner/shopping/movie together. When the age gap is large, I don't tend to want to do what they want to do.
Anyways, saw this on Youtube this morning. Pretty funny.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Also, are the headsets worn during all phases of flight, or are they just required during certain phases?
When I first started flying I bought a David Clark headset (a h10-13.4). It was very high quality, but squeezed the heck out of my head. There is a reason why they are nicknamed David Clamps. I quickly bought a Telex Stratus 30XT headset. It was ANR and I loved it. I wanted to use it at my airline, but it wasn't TSO approved.
When shopping for a headset I would go ahead and buy one TSO approved. I didn't know what the heck TSO was when I started flying. TSO stands for Technical Standard Order. A TSO'd headset has met minimum performance standards issued by the FAA for specified materials, parts, processes, and appliances used on civil aircraft. Not all headsets are TSO'd. The FAA requires airline pilots to use TSO'd headsets. Some pilots use non TSO'd headsets thinking they will never get caught. True the risk are low, but are still too high for me.
My current headset is a Telex 500 ANR headset (TSO approved!). The headset retails for $500! I bought it for $100. How ? Well the eBay seller misspelled Telex (he spelled it Tellex) so I was the only bidder. I search for misspellings.
I am pretty happy with the Telex 500 ANR. My two biggest gripes are it uses 9-volt batteries and the ear muffs aren't easily replaced. For $100 I am happy....if I spent the full $500 I would be upset.
My airline (and maybe the FAA) requires that I (along with the Captain) wear a headset while taxiing and under FL180. I normally wear it the entire flight. The CRJ is very quiet once up at cruise altitude. I still wear my headset. Hearing is important. The extreme majority of my Captains don't hear nearly as well as they should. This comes from years of flying loud airplanes with crappy or no headsets. Many of them take off their headsets whenever they aren't required. No thanks. Once hearing is lost, you can't get it back. The ERJ's (135,140 and 145s) are MUCH louder than the CRJ. This is due to Embraer using the exact same cockpit as the Embraer Brasillia (a turboprop). The Brasillia cockpit is quiet for a turboprop. The Brasillia flies at turboprop speeds. The ERJ flies at jet speeds. High speeds in a cockpit designed for low speeds equals a very loud ride. I have only jumpseated in the ERJ once....I was glad I had my headset!
The airline supplies 3 David Clark headsets in each cockpit. One for each pilot and one for a jump seater. I have used them maybe twice, but only after a very intense cleaning with alcohol wipes.
The choice for ANR vs NON-ANR is a personal one. Remember, once you lose a part of your hearing you will never get it back!