Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Where did I leave off?? Oh yeah....turbulence

So after getting kicked around during the flight covered in Rocking and Rolling, the next flight was kinda smooth. The leg back to base was mine. The flight was smooth for the first portion. The last 90 minutes were constant moderate chop and moderate turbulence. This meant for the last 90 minutes of the flight I had to babysit the controls. For the CRJ, when entering areas of turbulence, we are directed to fly at 280 knots indicated or Mach .75....whichever is lower. Instead of flying back at Mach .80....we flew at Mach .75 for most of the flight.

Turbulence doesn't bother me anymore. I was mentally drained though from having to babysit the yoke and controls for 90 minutes. Through periods of turbulence the airspeed would rise and fall. I wouldn't make any power changes though unless things got really out of hand. Making power changes will only increase my workload because after the turbulence settles down, the speed will go back to close to what it was prior to the upset.

Even though we flew slower than planned, we only went over scheduled block time by 5 minutes arriving at 9:00AM.

The next flight was scheduled for just an hour later. Instead of keeping the plane as originally scheduled, we had a plane swap. As it would turn out the plane we were to take was still sitting on the ground at an outstation with numerous issues. Our flight was supposed to leave at 10:10AM. We were supposed to return and all be done at 1PM. With the delays our flight was pushed back till Noon! I opened my laptop and prepared to relax for a while.

I would periodically check the status of our plane and our flight. Around 11:10 AM, I saw that I was re-assigned to a new flight to a different city. The entire crew was reassigned! The flight was scheduled to leave at 11:20 AM! I quickly checked my cell phone...no missed calls...no voice mails. I then packed up my stuff and made my way to the gate. No other crew members were there. I went down to the plane and pre-flighted the aircraft. When I got back the Captain was there. We had the plane set up and then looked around for the flight attendants. The time was 11:20AM. I went up to the gate to find them. Nope. I helped a few passengers who had questions and let them know we would leave as soon as possible. After going back to the gate I decided I needed food. I grabbed a "healthy" bacon burger (as mentioned elsewhere extra lean beef and turkey bacon). I again stopped to chat with a passenger. This passenger was just an average guy....turns out he was much more.

Over the next 15 minutes the flight attendants were MIA. Finally at 11:45AM they arrived. No one bothered to call them. They assumed we were leaving at noon as previously delayed. Not their fault.

We loaded up and taxied out. I made a PA apologizing for the delay and that the first portion of the flight might be bumpy due to weather. I was the flying pilot for this leg as well. The weather en-route was horrible. So bad in fact that we had two alternates with the second being our base.

For the first 25 minutes we had nothing but constant light to occasional moderate chop. The winds at our destination were out of the north. Since we were coming in from the south it would be a straight in approach. I set up and briefed the ILS approach. The clouds were at 400 AGL and there was 2 miles visibility. There was a thunderstorm in the vicinity. While descending the weather radar on my MFD was displaying green, yellow and a lot of red. Good times. The Captain and I agreed we would do one approach, if I didn't feel right we were going to blast out of there for home.

While on the approach I listened in as another flight was coming in LOCALIZER ONLY! This means the glide slope in he aircraft wasn't functional. Looking down at the approach chart....they would have a hard time finding the runway environment with the localizer only mins are the MDA was 450 feet AGL. Again the clouds were overcast 400.

Once below the clouds the winds died down and the bumps stopped. I got a little under glide slope at 200 feet. I touched down softly right on the 1000 foot markings. Very nice. I used maximum thrust reverse as I didn't want to use the brakes until we were much slower to avoid sliding. The runway was very wet.

As the passengers left I stood in the doorway of the cockpit and thanked the passengers. On the way out, the passenger I talked to quite a bit in base handed me two pieces of paper and said "best flight I have had in a long time." The pieces of paper he handed me were part of a program my airline started to reward excellent service.

Passengers who have a top status at my airline (REALLY frequent fliers!) are given tickets to hand out for great service. Employees can then enter a contest to win 25,000 airline miles, enough for a free ticket. Not just a free ticket...a free ticket with a confirmed seat! Most of the time we travel on space available status, meaning only if there are empty seats. This program started last year and this was the first time I had even seen the tickets. He made my day as much I did his.

After the passengers were off the Captain stated we would NOT be leaving right away due to the weather. I disagreed...but I am not the Captain. I listened to the tower frequency as the localizer only flight came in...they made it. Good.

Over the next 6 hours our departure time kept being pushed back. First by the Captain, and then by ATC and our dispatcher. The passengers were getting restless as other planes were able to leave. The reason being, the storm was between the outstation and our base. Other planes had no weather to deal with, once they left the area.

I mulled around the terminal. There was an entire crew that would be deadheading if we left. The Captain of the crew is an awesome guy who I love flying with. He has a sense of humor as big as mine. Even the longest flights go by fast when I fly with him. His First Officer was one of the two women who are on my plane. I had not seen her before. She is also quite the character. They tend to fly together often. In addition to talking with them I talked with a few passengers, walked around outside the terminal and read a few magazines. My flight attendants took the time to nap.

I learn something new about my plane every time I fly. Last trip I learned how to raise the aisle seat armrest.

When I returned to the plane I saw the flight attendants sleeping across the aisles. I had no idea that the armrest went up! I took a seat and played with it for a while. I couldn't figure it out. When they woke up they showed me the trick. Nice.

Our last posted departure time was 5PM. I called up the ground controller and asked what our EDCT (Expect Departure Clearance Time) was. At the time the EDCT was 6:43PM. The current time was 4:45PM. I quietly informed the gate agents and the deadheading crew. Once back on the plane my crew discussed the situation. We had been on duty for almost 12 hours. We were tired. We all planned on being off at 1PM. At 6PM we all agreed we were spent. After working everything out with the deadheading crew (who agreed to fly the flight), our dispatcher, the station manager and crew scheduling...we left for a hotel.

The city we were in has two hotels. One is close to the airport and used for short layovers. The other is downtown and is used for long layovers. The short layover hotel has limited food options. The long layover hotel has much more. Originally crew scheduling advised us to go to the short layover hotel. I asked why and they stated the long layover had no rooms. After a few phone calls and standing my ground, we got the long layover hotel.

None of us had eaten dinner. The long layover hotel as a crew recreation room with a ton of snacks, soft drinks, coffee, 40 inch LCD TV, computer with internet access and comfy chairs. In addition there are lots of eating choices around. We were all thankful for all the options.

Once at the hotel I checked my schedule. We were assigned to deadhead out on the 6:55AM departure back to base. Once there I was going out right away for another overnight. The rest of the crew was done. The Captain and front flight attendant were off the following day. The rear flight attendant and I were both on reserve. One of the challenges crew scheduling has is dealing with each crew members schedule. Many times a crew is built with people having started and will finish at different times and days. It's a very daunting and confusing task. The flight attendants have items in their contract that are not in ours and vice versa.

The weather was still horrible all around our base. I looked on line (flightaware.com is an awesome site!) and saw no planes getting into the base. Lots of diversions. One flight on our mainline partner that normally takes 2 hours ended up taking 9 hours after TWO diversions. There were quite a few flights at my airline that had two diversions. The weather cleared up....then got worse. I had a good feeling the two remaining inbound flights to the outstation I was at would not make it in. If they didn't make it in, there would be no flight for us to deadhead on.

I went to bed around 11PM. At 4AM I woke up with an odd feeling. I fired up my laptop and checked my schedule. None of the flights made it in the night before. We were now flying the flight back at 12:55PM. In addition I was still going to an overnight after a 4 hour sit. I advised the rest of the crew and went back to bed.

The crew who brought the plane in was the same who flew our flight out the night before. The crew said the flight to base was horrible. They ended up holding for over 35 minutes. The First Officer said the turbulence and winds were so bad on approach that she had a hard time reading her instruments. Glad it wasn't me. They were all deadheading again back with us.

The flight back to base for us was fine. Kinda bumpy...but nothing horrible.

After my 4 hour sit I was off to the overnight. This was the same city as the second night of my trip, but a different hotel.

I checked the names of the crew. The front flight attendants' name looked familiar. I knew the Captain, great guy. The rear flight attendants' name didn't look familiar.

As I arrived at the gate the flight attendant greeted me with a big smile and hello. She is an amazingly professional and funny lady. Once I saw her I connected the name and face. Flight crews are really good at remembering faces...names...takes a few flights to sink in.

I don't talk enough about flight attendants. They are a vital part of a crew. They can make a great flight bad or a bad flight great. I prefer experienced flight attendants. The front flight attendant, Peggy, is my favorite flight attendant at the company.

The outbound flight was fine. The Captain and I caught up on each others lives since our last flight. The hotel bed was a welcome sight after we arrived. I was tired.

This brings me up to the point of For now…just today.

On a side note. Three years ago today I took my first flight lesson at ATP. I still don't believe how far I have come in a pretty short time. For all those thinking about learning to fly or are waiting for airlines to start hiring. Be patient. I am just an average guy who was just in the right place at the right time. Your time will come.

Tomorrow morning airport standby! BOOO! Haven't done morning standby since February. Ugh.


  1. Congrats on three years... here's to 30 or so more!


  2. I am a 31 year old private pilot with a wife and a 3 year old son. Up until February I had a nice (work from home) job that paid well (88K) but then the economy tanked. When I was younger I was a nervous flier, but in February of 2001 my friend took me flying in his Cessna 170B; from that point on I knew I wanted to become a pilot. A year later I had my private pilots license. For the next few years I flew the "same hour" over and over until I joined my flying club. Since then I have started working on my IFR rating (written and sim work is done) I was ready for the CC phase but than I lost my job. I tried sales but quickly realized it wasn't for me so now I am interviewing for IT positions and I am confident I will land one of them, but the question is.. Do I love it? I love Aviation, it's all I think about. Problem is, if I get my ratings and all... What starting pay should I expect and how long should it take to move up the ranks? I know this varies from company / type of flying and you can't really answer the question because it depends on the individual circumstances but any advice you can give me would be appreciated. Thank you

  3. Outstanding. I had no idea that it had been only three years. You have done well, and I certainly appreciate the time you take to let us non-pro ground pounders see some of the real details ... there's a heck of a lot more to airline flying that steering, stopping and sleeping.

    For the young guys and gals out there ... hang in. As an American who lives overseas, it is amazing when I do see US-based media, just how depressing and negative our "boob tube bobbleheads" have become. The US is still the greatest country on earth, global business is nowhere near as bad as the Wall Street and real estate special interest groups would have you believe, and this is one of the best times ever to get going on a professional aviation career. The old f*rts like me are ready to pass the baton, hang in there and you will do well.


If you are a spammer....your post will never show up. Move along.