Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I flew for 4 hours, on duty 8 hours...only paid for 3 3/4 hours

On reserve at my airline I get 11 days off per month. Seeing as there are 31 days in the month of May, I am going to work 20 of those days. Each month when I am on reserve (and available on each reserve day) I am paid 75 hours. Take 75 hours divided by 20 days and the number is 3.75. Each reserve day I am paid 3.75 hours of pay (currently around $33 an hour). I get paid this as long as I am available. If I fly more than 75 hours in a month, I am paid for each hour over the 75. I have never flown more than 75 hours during a reserve month. For those days where I fly more than 3.75 hours....I am still only paid for 3.75 hours unless at the end of the month I exceed 75 hours. With that said let's look at what I earned today.

I was assigned morning airport standby. I signed in for duty at 6AM. My duty time started as well as my per diem clock.

When I signed in I saw the Captain I flew with on my most recent trip. He was also assigned morning airport standby. We talked for a few minutes before both heading to the quiet room to sleep. I had morning airport standby the entire month of February. I would sleep for 3-4 hours of my 8 hour shift. Sleeping made the time go by faster.

Just as I was falling asleep my phone rang. I had been assigned a turn. I left the quiet room and checked the computer. Within minutes the Captain was also out of the quiet room. As I prepared to head upstairs from breakfast, the Captain's phone rang....then mine. We were no longer needed as the turn had been given to another crew. Back to the quiet room we went.

I drifted in and out of sleep. Around 7:20AM my phone rang again. I was assigned another turn. I asked who the Captain was (in case it was the standby Captain I could give him a heads up), I was told it was not the standby Captain.

Again I made my way to the crew room and printed out my schedule. After grabbing my bags I headed up to the terminal.

On the way I grabbed a cup of coffee (also known as "go-go juice"). Close to the gate I passed a First Officer who looked familiar. He stopped me and asked if I was going to gate 5. I stated I was. He let me know the pre-flight was done and everything in the cockpit was done. He was heading home to care for a sick kid.

I arrived at the gate and greeted the Captain. I had flown with him a few times, nice older guy. After arriving at the plane I stowed my bags and took my seat. I went thru my flows and made sure everything was setup correctly. The Captain took his seat and before long we were being pushed out of the gate. The plane was setup for me to fly. I took a few sips of my coffee....just 25 minutes ago I was resting peacefully in a recliner.

The line for takeoff was kinda long. There was a large weather system just north of the airport that extended for over 100 miles. Normally this flight over to the mid-west is pretty direct. Due to the weather we had to fly 400 miles out of the way before turning toward our destination. This added 45 minutes to the flight.

Only 14 of the 70 passenger seats were occupied for the flight out. We had 15,000 lbs of fuel on board. We only needed 6000 lbs for the flight on a normal day. The excess fuel was due to the longer routing as well as the need for an alternate due to low clouds at our destination.

While waiting for takeoff the tower was clearing a few planes to quickly cross the active runway due to an arriving flight. One plane was deliberately (IMHO) taxiing slow. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the arriving flight start to go around. A few seconds later the tower controller came on and advised the flight to go around. A formality I am sure. The flight crew saw the need to go around prior to the tower seeing the problem.

Eventually it was our turn. We used maximum power for takeoff due to the high winds in the area. We went from a standstill to over 145MPH in less than 15 seconds. One day I should time it for an accurate number.

The climb out was a little bumpy. After turning on the autopilot and clearing 10,000 feet I snapped a photo of the weather system over the airport.

[singlepic id=81 w=320 h=240 float=center]

Here is the same weather system from over 200 miles away

[singlepic id=84 w=320 h=240 float=center]

After heading more than 400 miles out of the way, we were allowed to turn toward our destination. We were level at FL360 waiting for higher. During the wait I snapped a photo of the reason we had to wait....crossing traffic.

[singlepic id=86 w=320 h=240 float=center]

[singlepic id=88 w=320 h=240 float=center]

Once the traffic was clear we were given a climb to FL370. After checking the performance charts on board, we requested and were approved to climb to FL410.

I finished off my coffee while watching the beautiful view outside. Clouds are beautiful masses of dense turbulent air.

Nearing the destination we hit bumps and I had to zig zag through weather. I avoided most of the big bumps.
[singlepic id=91 w=320 h=240 float=center]

The weather at our destination required an approach. The winds were 200@15 knots, 1900 broken, 10SM visibility...runway 13 was in use. I briefed the ILS to runway 13. The approach controller was a little late in giving us a turn to  intercept the ILS. We blew through the localizer and I had to turn back to recapture it. The landing was average. Landing the CRJ700 when it's light is tricky. Most are bouncy or firm. Mine was just average. Average is fine with me.

After arriving at the gate, running the parking checklist, performing the post-flight and grabbing another cup of coffee (I live on that stuff), I made a call to my wife. Normally I would shoot a text message that I landed and what the flight number was for my next flight. She keeps track of me via most of the time. Having her know my flight number gives her peace of mind in case something goes wrong...she knows where I am supposed to be.

Most airports I fly to have a PDC (Pre-Departure Clearance). I use the FMS keypad to access ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) to pull up our clearance. This morning I had to copy down the clearance the old fashioned way. I use hotel pens and pads of paper every time I fly. Today it was Crowne Plaza's turn on my yoke.

[singlepic id=93 w=320 h=240 float=center]

The clearance was written down in my shorthand. I digitally removed the departure procedure (I have to remove as much info as needed to protect my of those things). The rest is there. We were cleared to follow a radar vectored departure, climb and maintain 5000, expect FL380 in ten minutes, departure frequency was 123.9 and we squawked 2474.

Twenty-five minutes after arriving, we were being pushed out again. For departure the airport was using runway 25. There is a big hump in the middle of where runway 25 intersects runway 13. The first time I took off on runway 25 was over a year ago at 6:30AM. I didn't know about the hump. The Captain did. When the plane crossed the hump it caused the entire plane to shudder as though we ran over something. Really got my attention. Today the Captain and I both mentioned it so we both would expect it.

We left the gate 40 minutes late (due to us arriving late). The Captain used the 90 knot tailwind and Mach .83 to make up as much time as possible. We landed in base just 5 minutes late! Not too shabby.

Now back to pay. I flew for 4 hours 19 minutes. I was on duty for 8 hours. My total pay for today is $137.75 (33X3.75 + my per diem). Whenever I fly for more hours than I get paid for while on reserve...the airline wins. In this case they won because they paid me for less than I flew. Most days however, I win as I don't fly much.

I'm still waiting for my assignment tomorrow...pretty sure it will be morning airport standby again. Life at the bottom of a seniority list.


  1. Surely the average of a bouncy and a firm landing is a greaser? :)

    Thanks for your writings. Always a welcome few minutes dreaming of being up there rather than sat at my desk.

  2. I love your awesome pictures! Especially img_1747 inside the clouds.

    One question as to how often do you have to go to recurrent training? Also could you write about your experiences with that? Many thanks and 5 stars for your blog.


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