Friday, May 1, 2009

Hmm what's missing...plane...passengers...flight attendants..Oh yeah a Captain!

Even though I didn't have to check my schedule before my flight yesterday, I'm glad I did. I proffered for flights starting today and was awarded a sequence that includes another overnight. This will be my first 3 day trip (two consecutive nights away) since January. I actually had to pack!

Because I am now working through Saturday afternoon my wife offered to drive me to work and I took her up on her offer. If I was coming back on a weekday this would not have worked at I would have no ride home.

I signed in for my flight and grabbed some dinner. After checking for update for my manuals I made my way to my plane. Both flight attendants were waiting for me at the gate because the plane had no power (the previous crew properly shut the plane down as there was no crew to receive the plane). I powered up the plane and did my walk around. There was still 35 minutes to go before departure. As I came back up the jet bridge I noticed they were boarding! This is kinda odd a we normally don't board until 30 minutes prior. Whatever.

I get back into the cockpit and fire up the APU to provide air to the packs and cool down the cabin. The Cabin temp was already hovering at 76 degrees and would climb quickly with all the warm bodies getting inside.

That done I realized I have no seen the Captain. He is deadheading in from another base. "I'm sure he will be here and if not I'm sure the airline is aware." I thought. I pulled up our clearance and had the plane set up to go with a good 20 minutes left before departure. By this time we were fully boarded. Still no Captain.

I headed up to the terminal to see if the Captain was there printing out the paperwork. Nope. I went ahead and printed out the release and checked the crew assigned to the flight. No changes. Hmmm....

I made my way back to the cockpit...still 15 minutes left. I called operations to advise we had not been fueled and to check on the status of the Captains deadhead. A few minutes later the news came.

The Captain's flight took off late and he would not be arriving for another HOUR. On top of that there were no spare Captains to fly. Furthermore I was told to deplane the aircraft as the new departure time was 8PM (Original was 6:45PM). Yeah......

I first advised the front flight attendant and she told the rear flight attendant. I then made PA explaining the situation and that the passengers needed to gather their things and make their way to the terminal. As I finished I heard passengers asking "was he serious?"

As the passengers deplaned a few of them were in a good mood and made jokes to me that "I'm sure you can fly it by yourself," and "Come on it can't be that hard, let's go!". A sense of humor can help almost any situation.

After all the passengers were off I shutoff the APU and headed up to the gate area. There wandered 70 upset passengers all waiting for information. The gate agent was doing the best she could. I headed over to a computer to check on the Captains flight. His flight was to land at 7:49PM. The time now was 6:55PM.

A few passengers approached me for information. I let them know that if they would like they have time to go get some food but to be back to the gate by 7:30PM and check the status. Most were appreciative of the information. I sat down with my laptop and checked my email.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a Captain I know walk to my gate. Hmmm. Sure enough he was sitting airport standby and they had pulled him off his previous flight to fly my flight. The time was 7:10PM.

The passengers saw me make my way to the plane and asked if that was "the Captain". I said he was the Captain that would be flying with me and that we would be leaving as soon as possible.

We fired up the plane and then were told many of the passengers left the area as they were told 8PM. Nice.

Yadda, yadda,yadda by 7:40 we were still missing one passenger. By 7:45PM he was on board. The problem now was we had no ramp crew. We could see many sitting 15 yards away...but they were all looking down at their cellphones or reading. I tried using my flashlight to signal them while operations called them on the radio. No response. Most of them left the area without even looking at the plane.  Supervisors were called. At 8:05PM we finally were being pushed out of the gate.

The already short overnight was even shorter. As is it was an illegal overnight as we were down to under 8 hours rest.

We touched down at 8:59PM and pulled into the gate at 9:03PM. Once all the passengers were off we made our way to the hotel van. My cellphone rang with a call from crew scheduling. They called to advise our new show time (time to report to the airport) was us exactly 8 hours from that moment.

The hotel was worse than last week. My first room had an inoperative air conditioner. Of course I didn't realize this until I was getting ready for bed. Ten minutes later I had a new room with a working air conditioner.

The overnight was short. I didn't really get into a good deep sleep until right before my alarm went off.

This morning things didn't improve. We had a 5:15AM van time. We pulled up to the airport right at 5:18AM. After we arrived at the gate the agents let us know the ground crew made a mistake and the wrong plane was parked at the gate. We would have to board via our stairs. Just keeps getting better.

We all made our way down the stairs from the terminal and then I stood at the top of our air stairs and lifted the crew bags into the plane.

Loading via stairs is very slow. The stairs on the CRJ are steep and narrow. Passengers in good health take time to get up with their bags. Larger and older passengers take even longer. This morning we had one passenger in a wheel chair. The process for him is complicated and time consuming.

If everything had been correct this morning we would have left close to on time with even with a 5:18AM show time. We didn't leave until 6AM.

Back in base now. I have a little time before my next flight to the overnight. Hopefully things will improve.

Even with all of this....I still love this job.


  1. Go man, go! I will be hauling my customers today while you dodge t-storms with yours.... rather be in the cockpit!

  2. Sounds all too familiar: ) My favorite is the ride to the airport!! Can't beat that.....I loooooove the ride to the ariport!

  3. Wow, what a day :)) but then, its one of the best jobs in the world, can't complain ;)
    btw you really can become a very good author of a book... maybe some day you should try!


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