Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hitting the ground running

Today is my day 6. This means I can't legally work tomorrow. I am off for 8 glorious days starting tomorrow.

I was assigned morning airport standby again today. The plan was to sleep as much as possible...mull around the airport....and drive home. So much for plans.

As soon as I signed in I had an email that I had an assignment. I checked my schedule. What a mess!

I was assigned a deadhead to one outstation...lets call it Peoria. Then I was to ferry a flight from Peoria to Bloomington. Once in Bloomington I was to ferry ANOTHER plane to another crew base and then deadhead home on our mainline partner back to my base. Holy ball buster batman!

The crew for my first deadhead was in the crewroom. I let them know I would be in the back and then left for coffee and breakfast. Whenever I deadhead on my airline I board before passengers as I like to store my kit bag in the cabin. My suitcase normally rides in the cargo compartment as it won't fit in the overhead bins on the CRJ. This morning the front flight attendant let me put my suitcase in the front closet as she was on a day trip and didn't bring a suitcase. Nice.

[singlepic id=127 w=320 h=240 float=center]

view from my seat in row 17 on my morning deadhead

The deadhead was fine. The flight was pretty empty and I had the back of the plane to myself. As soon as we pulled up to the gate I saw the ferry plane waiting. I could see a Captain inside. He is based at another base and was in the outstation overnight. His original First Officer deadheaded out last night.

As soon as I got off the plane, the ground crew advised the Captain was waiting for me. Within minutes I was walking across the ramp to the ferry plane. The plane had a flap failure last night and was signed off as repaired early this morning. The airline needed the plane in Bloomington ASAP for a flight to a hub.

The Captain and I had to do all the cabin safety checks normally performed by the flight attendants. No big deal...but it took a while as took us a while to find some items.

Within 30 minutes we were taxing out for the 138 mile trip to Bloomington. The flight plan was to fly at just 16,000 feet. That's the lowest I have flown for a flight....ever. The Captain took this leg which was fine with me as I wanted to fly the longer leg anyway.

With clear VFR skies we both enjoyed the view from "down low". Within 25 minutes of take off we are on final for runway 16. The plane was very light. The CRJ700 is a tricky plane to land smoothly when it's loaded with passengers. When it's empty....it's extremely tricky. He manages an average landing for being so light.

After we pull up to the gate we see a full crew approaching. They were taking the plane to the hub. We deplane and wait about an 10 minutes and then the plane we are supposed to take parks in the back of the ramp. I think it's odd that the airline wasted the fuel for us to fly here and then ferry another plane when the original crew could have just used the second plane we were going to ferry. Whatever.

They pull out and the Captain and I walk out to the next plane we are to ferry out.

I have done a lot of ferry flights in my time at my airline (about one a month on average). Every time we need ballast (extra weight) in the front cargo compartment to keep the plane in C.G. On the first ferry the Captain said we didn't need ballast. Again on this one he said the same. He worked the weight and balance and I took his word.

This was my leg. We were filed at FL410 to base. This particular base is located at an airport I despise. I hate it. Each time I go there I get headaches. When I first started I was sent to this base in the middle of winter. I had no winter coat, gloves or long underwear. I was miserable. On top of that this airport operates in a manner the exact opposite from how every other airport in the country operates. I hate this airport.

For takeoff I debated using full takeoff thrust....but I didn't want to waste fuel and more importantly I didn't feel like rocketing up in the sky at 5000 feet per minute. Even with the use of Flex thrust we climbed out at 4000 feet per minute.

Within 20 minutes we are leveling off at FL410. There was an extreme LACK of wind today. The wind readout on my MFD was sometimes blank. Lots of still air. The highest I saw at altitude was 20 knots. Most of the time the jet-stream has winds of 70-120 knots way up there. Odd.

As we near the base I begin the descent. I referred to my arrival charts a few times to make sure I have all the speed and altitude restrictions programmed in.

Before long we are being vectored in for a downwind to runway 24. Runway 24 is being worked on and has a 3000 foot displaced threshold. The ILS glideslope is out. There have been at least 3 incidents of aircraft landing ON the displaced threshold in the last week. Not good.

We were told to follow a 737 on final and I turned to start a base. I followed the PAPI down while dealing with a stiff 20 knot crosswind. The view outside bothered me as I could see where the runway *used* to end. I had to keep my eyes on the PAPI and the end of the temporary runway.

Remember what I said about ballast and C.G.? The Captain stated we didn't need ballast. I never worked the weight and balance so I can't say for sure how close we were, but the plane didn't "feel" right on approach. It felt very ass heavy.

I was right on speed and dealing with the crosswind, displaced threshold and ass heavy plane. At 50 feet I began kicking out the nose and correcting for the crosswind. By 10 feet I pulled out the power. On most ferry flights, when super light, the plane floats. Today with the ass heaviness feeling that didn't happen. I made the hands down worst landing ever. We bounced at least twice...maybe three times. Ouch.

Once clear of the runway the craziness started. At this airport you keep moving until told to stop or you get to where you are going. You may or may not talk to a ground controller. Ugh. I get through it.

As soon as we pull up to the gate another crew is there waiting to take the plane out. I grab my stuff and head for my deadhead home. On the way I have time to grab a small chicken wrap.

Deadheading on my mainline partner means I have the chance to ride in First Class for free. I list for it, but it's full...coach it is.

The flight is completely full. I board right after First Class even though my group boarding number on my boarding pass is the last group to board. I stowed my bags and quickly begin eating my little snack. I had not eaten in almost 6 hours. Starving.

Two hours later the plane lands in base. My ready reserve stint was supposed to be 6AM to 2PM. My deadhead flight landed at 4PM. I was in my car by 4:30PM and home by 5PM. Long day.

Off for 8 days. Worry not I have a bunch of stuff I wanted to write about that I hope to get posted during the next 8 days. Bids close tomorrow as well. Good times.

Time to spend time with my wife. She turns 30 today. Still looks 16. I'm a lucky man.


  1. I've been listening to liveATC this week and wondering why even the RJs were rolling down almost to the end of a 13,000 foot runway before exiting.... the 3,000 ft displaced threshold explains that. Sorry you hate my hometown airport, but its cool to read when you're flying around my neighborhood. You were probably over my house on downwind. That is, if you were indeed where I think you were.

  2. You should have seen the ruckus shortening the runway caused with the local (non-aviation minded) media--assuming you are where I (and Joel) think you are. In this instance it's really too bad they can't pull a "Die Hard 2" and just shift the glideslope with the turn of a knob.


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