Monday, June 29, 2009

Enough work, time to have lunch with my dad

Today was better than yesterday. The Captain I flew with today is a guy I had a hard line with last year. He is very easy going and fun to talk with. The flight was one leg out and then deadhead back.

Getting out was a chore. Delays. Shift change for the ramp crew happens AT 2PM. If any flight is scheduled to leave between 1:50PM and 2:10PM...good luck. We were supposed to leave at 1:40PM. Delays in boarding pushed us till 1:55PM. We were ready at 2PM. Due to shift change we didn't push out till 2:25PM. Nice.

For the deadhead back the outstation put the entire crew in row 1. Grrrrr. I hate sitting in row 1. Less legroom for one and it just looks odd as passengers board and see an entire crew sitting together. A few made funny comments, "Look honey, pilots don't even need to sit in the front anymore to fly these things," and "Ah, they put the crew in First Class". Of course there is no First Class on my plane. Whatever.

After getting back I made a trip over to where I accidentally left my Zune MP3 player. Gone. I have my name and phone number prominently displayed on the back of the MP3 player so whomever found it could easily call me. I called the lost and found department....they didn't have it.  I will stop by tomorrow morning and check again. Sad. I love my Zune!

Tomorrow I am going to fly to have lunch with my dad. He lives a few hundred miles away. Most people would simply drive a few times a year. I don't drive. I fly. I would normally rent a car once I got there, but rental car companies really gouge customers who rent a car for just a few hours. It is normally cheaper to rent a car for 24 hours versus 4 hours. Even with my employee discount the cheapest car is $55 all in. If I kept it overnight it would be $39 all in. Boo. My dad is old cell phone. He hasn't been to the airport in a few years. This should be fun.

Off for two days, reserve for one, off for two days.....then my month of afternoon airport standby begins.

My own personal hell

I was assigned afternoon airport standby. I would have bet money I would not have flown. Why? Well the weather was perfect. No planes were broken. Flights were running on time.

My phone rang around 5PM. The scheduler assigned me a turn to a city not currently served by my airline. My airline is one many regionals serving my mainline partner. The regional airline that is supposed to fly the flight cancelled due to a few mechanical issues with their fleet. The flight was "scheduled" to leave at 5:30PM. The scheduler and I both knew this wouldn't happen. Why?

Well all of those passengers would have to be rebooked on my airline. While it's true they bought a ticket from my mainline partner, the flight was scheduled to be operated by airline A but was now going to be operated by airline B. In addition all of the luggage needs to be transferred from airline A to airline B. My best guess was 6:15PM.

I made my way to the crewroom. Upon walking in my mood changed. The Captain I would be flying with is one of maybe 2 who just I don't get along with. Thankfully it was a quick turn.

We all have people we just don't get along with. I consider myself very easy going. There are a few Captains that, while not very personable, are easy to fly with. They are consistent. They might be a consistently boring or an ass....but they are consistent. I know what to expect every time I fly with them. This guy is inconsistent and annoying.

I head to the aircraft right behind two flight attendants. They were also sitting airport standby.

The ground crew connected the external power (score!) and the external conditioned air (score!). Problem? Well they didn't turn either one on. FAIL!

I head out to find a ramper to have the power and air turned on. After I finished my walk around I found one. He said he would turn them on. A minute later we had power and slightly cool air. The interior had already heated up to 85 degrees. The outside temp was over 100 degrees with the pavement being much warmer. If conditioned air isn't connected right away, it will never cool the cabin properly.

With a flick of a switch I turned on the recirculation fan. This increases the air flow in the cabin and can help cool the cabin a bit.

By 5:35PM the plane was ready to board. The gate we were using was being used to board two flights. This is common with regional airlines. One gate, gate 4 for example, will branch off to gate 4A, 4B, 4C and 4D. I knew we wouldn't start boarding until the other flight was finished.

At 5:50PM I figured we would be leaving soon. I fired up the APU as the cabin was hovering around 88 degrees. With the packs on cool air was finally flowing. A few minutes later the flight next to us pushes out.

Around 6PM I head up to the gate to see why we aren't boarding. The gate agent told me they were waiting for all the passengers to finish being reticketed and make their way to the gate. Nice. FIguring it could be a long night I grab a burger.

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At 6:15PM we finally start boarding. The Captain signaled to have the external power removed from the plane, we previously asked to remove the conditioned air.

6:40PM rolls around and we are done boarding. There is a jumpseater from another mainline carrier. He is in the military and heading down the fly a training flight.

A few minutes later the noisy cockpit (due to all the fans cooling the avionics/CRTs and the gaspers) is made even more noisy by a triple chime. Straight ahead is a flashing master warning light. I look over on ED1 'L BLEED DUCT WARNING'. A moment later the packs are cut off. The cabin quickly begins to warm up. I extinguished the warning light and switched back on the recirc fan. I knew we had 10 minutes at most to get cool air back on the plane before we would have to deplane. With the hot outside temp and 70 bodies all radiating 98.6 degrees....the cabin will be hot fast.

I whipped out my emergency checklist. By the time I had it open the warning was gone and now just a caution. Checklist done I call operations first to get conditioned air back on the plane. I then called our mantanence department. Now the waiting begins.

The Captain was not concerned at all with the cabin. He is always under the opinion to sit back and let everyone do their jobs. I am one to get involved to help when I can.

There was no movement on the ramp. No rampers in sight. I called again for air. They said they were working on it. I grabbed my keys and headed out to find a ramper. I know they have a rough job in this heat. I spot a guy a good 30 yards away and use hand signals to let him know we need conditioned air attached. He signals okay.

Backup in the cabin I let the flight attendants know in a louder than normal voice (to let the passengers know I knew they were uncomfortable but was working on the problem) that conditioned air was coming. A few minutes later, coolish air began flowing.

Back in the cockpit I see a mechanic pull up. When he enters the cockpit the Captain handed him the logbook and pointed at ED1 were the caution message was posted. The mechanic couldn't find anything in the "Mantenance Diagnostic Computer". He asked the Captain what caused the problem. He shrugged and said he is not a mechanic. I wanted this flight to be done. I explained that first we had a warning, the APU LCV closed, the packs went offline and then we had a caution.

I don't know the CRJ like the back of my hand, but I do have a very good understanding of the systems. By the time the warning appeared the APU had been providing bleed air for the packs for almost 40 minutes. The outside temp was over 100 degrees. The APU never shut down. I was thinking it was probably the left bleed duct getting a little too warm due to continuous use in still air with a high outside temp (and the sun beating down on primarily the left side of the aircraft). The cabin temp was almost 90 degrees and very humid. I asked the mechanic if he thought it would be a good idea to simply put the bleed air system in manual mode and configure the system to once again use bleed air from the APU. He thought that might work. The Captain was off in his own world. I reached up and first closed the bleed valves, opened the APU isolation valve then switched the bleed source to the APU. I then switched to the ECS (Environmental Control System) EICAS screen and verified bleed air was indeed being directed toward the packs. No issues. I then switched on the right pack, which provides conditioned air to the cabin, and saw that air was indeed flowing. A moment later I turned on the left pack, which provides air to the cockpit, cool air again began flowing. The caution was gone. Me being me....I hit my "Easy Button" (I really do carry one!).

The mechanic cleared out the logbook and  the conditioned air and power were pulled off the plane again. At 6:54PM we were being pushed out of the gate. Glad I grabbed that burger.

The flight went fine (I'm still here obviously). After landing the Captain wanted to save wear on the APU and have ground power and air connected. No biggie. Problem was this airport hasn't seen a CRJ in over 2 years! The door on the CRJ has stairs attached. The flight attendants can't see through the door. The procedure is to have the ground crew knock on the door to let the flight attendant know the area is clear. This station didn't know that. I could see the jet bridge agent through the Captains window waiting for the door to open. I asked the Captain to signal her if its clear. He refused, "it's not my job, they will figure it out." Ugh. I then see the jetbridge pull all the way up to the plane. This is an accident waiting to happen, if jet bridge agent knocked on the door and the flight attendant opened the door right away, someone could be injured and damage could occur. I have used basic human communication through hand signals in the past to verify the area is clear to gate agents and/or ground crew. Other Captains I have flown with have done the same. Thankfully the agent knocked and quickly moved the jet bridge back.

The ground crew was having problems finding the external power and air ports. I asked the Captain if he minded if I went and showed them the ports. Again I was met with, "they will figure it out". Finally he Captain fired up the APU. Once the checklist were run, the jumpseater pointed off in the distance to the plane he would be flying. I wish I remembered what it was called...I am sure someone reading this knows. It was a two seat jet trainer. The seats are inline, not side by side. That's the best I can do.nHere are some fuzzy photos of him leaving.

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After he left I went out and helped the ground crew with the power and air ports. They were all working very hard, but again they have not seen a CRJ in over 2 years. With power attached and my post flight done, I walked back to the cockpit and shut the APU down.

Twenty-nine minutes later we were taxing back to the runway to leave.

The flight back was nice only in that I watched the sunset.

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I couldn't fly fast enough back to base. Being so late we were cleared direct to the final approach fix even though we were 70 miles away. Nice.

The winds were 040@19 knots. I was landing on runway 36. Somehow I managed a very nice landing at night even though I haven't landed at night in a few weeks.

I thought the madness was over. Not so fast. Ramp areas at big airports are busy. We are cleared in to the ramp via a "spot". From the "spot" a ramp controller guides us to the gate.

Last night we were cleared to spot 2. Before we pulled in I told the Captain that if we pulled into spot 1 we could go straight into the gate. I fired off a request to the ramp controller before the Captain could answered. They cleared us in spot 1. The Captain still pulled into spot 2 and stopped. He stated he didn't want to be in the way. Well now he was in the way as the aircraft that pushed back had to make an awkward turn out. Nice.

We blocked in at 9:48PM. I did my post flight, grabbed my bags and left the area as efficiently as possible. I couldn't leave fast enough.

By contract my duty ends at 10:03PM (15 minutes after block in). I was assigned to be available at 6AM today. The difference is 7 hours 53 minutes. Minimum time off is 8 hours. I called scheduling and was given a new time....7:03AM.

This morning my phone rang at 7:00AM. How do I know ? Well the phone rang right after Robin Meade said "Good Morning Sunshine". I instinctively answered the phone. The person on the other end was from crew scheduling. He stated he was calling to have me go sit airport standby. I politely let him know that I would discuss the assignment at 7:03AM and that he called me too early. About 5 minutes later he called me back. Was I being petty? Yes and no. True I was awake. However we have rules in place. If I don't follow the rules, why have them? The hours and conditions regional pilots work in are already rough enough. I will not bend on rules affecting work conditions or hours of duty.

Finally, for a while I wanted to post a photo of what digital ATIS looks like. Before I came to the airlines I kinda wondered "How do the pilots know the weather when we are 500 miles away?". Well Digital ATIS is one way, we can also request METARs and TAFs digitally as well. Here is a Digital ATIS from San Diego.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

How much is too much for regional pilot pay?

I don't know how this guy can take his stance with a straight face. How can he state a regional airline pilot who earns just $32K a year is compensated properly when bus drivers, janitors and truck drivers all earn more, but have potentially less demanding jobs? To be qualified to fly a commercial plane requires a significant financial and personal investment. This investment takes quite some time and skill. Just about anyone can learn to drive a bus, truck or be a janitor in less than a month and considerably less money. I know first hand about being a bus driver, I drove a school bus for 3 years during college.  How much is the right amount? Well I think enough to support a family of 3 would be fair. Say starting wage of $38K a year? Pilot pay is a fairly small expense in a given flight. In addition to pilot pay, the airlines pay for gate space, landing fees, fuel, advertising, gate agents, ramp workers, maintenance, cleaning crews and flight attendants. Ok...going to step off my soap is the article from Aviation Today.

RAA Defends Pilot Pay

Aviation Today

U.S. regional airline pilot pay is "fair and reasonable", according to the Regional Airline Association RAA), in defending salaries under scrutiny in the wake of the Feb. 12, 2009 Continental Express fatal crash near Buffalo, NY.

RAA President Roger Cohen testified before the Senate aviation subcommittee that "the entire airline industry - regional, majors, and low-cost airlines - has a highly unionized work force that is paid a fair and reasonable wage.

The average salary for a regional pilot with the rank of Captain at an RAA member airline is $76,000 a year. This salary is comparable to other professions that utilize similar skills.

"A First Officer has less seniority and responsibility than a Captain. The average salary for a First Officer, working at an RAA member airline, is $32,000 a year."

"Again, this salary is in line with comparable professions".

"Pilots earn a fair and reasonable wage and also receive valuable benefits such as free airline travel, paid leave, and comprehensive benefits."

"Also, pilots, while on duty, receive collectively- bargained per diem expenses," he added.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Should have stayed asleep

Good ol' morning airport standby. I woke up at 4:45AM...just like I did yesterday. Somehow I was pulling out of the garage at 5:01AM....14 minutes earlier than yesterday. By 5:17AM I was walking toward the employee bus stop. For whatever reason the bus driver waited a long time to leave my stop. Normally it's a 10 minute affair. Today it was 20 minutes. No time saved. Didn't matter... early either way.

After signing in I went straight to the quiet room. As soon as I opened the door I heard my name. A buddy of mine who went to ATP with me and got hired at my airline just after me, was sitting airport standby as well. He just had his first baby and likes morning airport standby as he can get some sleep. Nice. A few minutes later another pilot entered the quiet room as well.

I slipped on my headphones, placed my cell phone between the buttons on my chest and fired up my Zune to a new podcast series I like (all from and went to sleep. Around 6:30AM I heard a cell phone go off...not mine. It was my buddy. He was being called out. About 30 seconds after he hung up....another cell phone rang. Apparently the second guy who entered the room was a Captain....they would be flying together. Once they were gone I slept for a good three hours.

I woke up around 9:15AM. I figured I would grab a coffee and spend the next 5 hours meandering around the net. I took a seat in the crewroom next to a Captain I know. She was sitting morning airport standby as well. No Internet access. The crewroom is located in the bowels of the airport. The wireless signal from the terminal is very weak and hard to get. There is always an open "Linksys" router in the crewroom. The only time it is connected to the Internet is when the Chief Pilot's office is open. They were not in today.

While packing up the Captain I knew let me in on a rumor I heard last night via a crew message board. The rumor I heard was more displacements were coming from MY base. The rumor I heard this morning was more displacements are coming indeed...but from a different....more senior base. Ugh. I was hoping good times were ahead, but I noticed several instructors from the training center are being sent back to the line next month. With instructors flying the planes...there will be none available for teaching. So much for a turn around anytime soon.

After hearing all the "good news", I headed over to a coffee shop that offers free refills. I will guzzle a cup or three and then head over to an underused portion of the airport to waste away the remaining airport standby sit.

Don't think I am flying anywhere today. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wow...this is just wrong

Saw this on Comedy Central. Poor passenger is already sick....and then it gets worse.


About time! Carry on thugs beware!

I can pack 5 days of clothes in a standard carry on bag. This includes when I travel for work and for vacation. If I can do it so can 95% of travelers. The exception? Those with kids. They should just check bags anyway!

Bill would limit airline carry-on bags

Carry-on bags would have to be 22 inches by 18 inches by 10 inches


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Airline fees for checked bags are yielding an unintended consequence that’s adding to the hassle of travel: Some travelers are lugging bigger bags onto planes, crowding overhead bins and slowing the boarding process.

“You’ve got people lugging huge bags aboard taking up more than their fair share of space, and whoever gets on last as a result is forced to check a bag,” said Nathaniel Zimmer, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D.-Ill. And when bags fall out of overhead bins, “the bigger the bag, the higher the likelihood of some sort of injury.”

Enlarge this image

Elissa Eubanks/

Darren Cox, 42, from Columbus, OH, tries to change his flight from a kiosk at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Wednesday.

Lipinski has introduced a bill in Congress to set a standard limit on the size of carry-ons and put the Transportation Security Administration in charge of policing it. The Association of Flight Attendants supports the measure to lessen hassle and safety risks during boarding, but airlines oppose additional regulation that would force them to adopt a federal standard.

The bill would limit carry-on bags to 22 inches by 18 inches by 10 inches. It also dictates that the TSA use templates on its screening conveyor belts to enforce the limit, as airlines once did before the TSA took over security in 2002 and had the templates removed. Passengers whose bags exceed the size limit would need to check them.

The TSA said its policy is to not comment on pending legislation.

The government after 9/11 put a limit on the number of carryons — one bag, plus one “personal item” — and airlines continue to use that rule. But size rules vary by carrier.

The proposed federal limit is slightly larger than the size allowed by Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and other major carriers, but smaller than the size allowed by AirTran Airways, which has its largest hub in Atlanta, and JetBlue Airways.

The bill includes the standard limit of one carry-on bag and one personal item, and would also allow airlines to set smaller size limits. Exempt from the limits would be child safety seats, musical instruments, coats and hats, and items for disabled passengers like wheelchairs, canes and crutches.

The Association of Flight Attendants has pushed for carry-on baggage limits for years, and Lipinski’s father Bill also introduced legislation to limit carry-on bags as a Congressman.

Federal carry-on size limits would “reduce a lot of the frustrations that go on inside the cabin as well as increase safety and security,” said Association of Flight Attendants spokeswoman Corey Caldwell.

“Flight attendants suffer a great deal of injuries from carry-ons, whether they’re too heavy, too big, the passenger can’t physically manipulate it into the overhead bin themselves,” Caldwell said.

The Air Transport Association, which represents Delta and other major carriers, and the Air Carrier Association of America representing carriers including AirTran, oppose the legislation.

“Every airline has different size baggage compartments, so you can’t really set a Congressionally-mandated standard on the size of bags,” said Edward Faberman, who heads the Air Carrier Association of America. He said the bill would also “tell TSA that TSA should focus less on possible threats and look at sizes of bags.”

As it stands now, airline employees can enforce the limits for bags too big to fit, but exercise some discretion, he said. “If I’m the gate agent and I know the plane is only 50 percent full, I may let you on with one extra bag or so,” Faberman said.

Faberman said he believes the bill, which as of Wednesday had no co-sponsors, will not advance very far.

Phil Bush of Atlanta feels business travelers like him, who often carry on only and do not check any bags to save time, are being targeted by the proposal. He disagreed with a carry-on policy that returns to a template system, which he called “a pain.”

“We don’t need the hassle,” Bush said.

Lipinski, a member of the House transportation subcommittee on aviation, is also working on a proposal to limit checked baggage fees charged by airlines, Zimmer said.

Time to make the donuts

Assigned morning airport standby. I wanted to come in and snooze. Well Jeppesen released a huge update instead. I spent the first HOUR updating my manuals. Ugh.

Electronic kits bags can't come fast enough!

So instead of sleeping I got a large coffee from Dunkin Donuts (I love their coffee!) and the requisite donuts (because well....bleh) and got to work.

Now I am full of caffeine and sugar...with 6 hours left of duty.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Just like I thought

Tomorrow I have been tentatively assigned morning airport standby. I will confirm my assignment in about 30 minutes. My attempts at bidding trips in other bases were lost. Oh well.

A buddy of mine who commutes was getting very frustrated trying to get home. He listed for 5 flights before getting the jumpseat. I was kinda shocked when he asked if revenue passengers get on before him. Of course they do! My mainline partner puts all paying passengers on before any non-revenue passengers. This includes revenue passengers who are trying to catch an earlier flight. This is really common as many business people book the first flight in the morning and the last flight home in the evening. They then finish work early and go standby to get home earlier. The last flight of the night ends up going out pretty empty when compared to originally planned. He finally got a jumpseat though.

Another reason why I will avoid commuting as much as possible.

Being a pilot has made me much more health conscious

Before I started flying I was really unhealthy. No exercise, horrible diet and way overweight. My first medical scared the crap out of me. I had rushed to the AME after a stressful day at work where I regularly drank 5 cups of coffee minimum. By the end of the exam my chest had been shaved and I was doubting I would ever fly.

Since then I exercise more often. I normally exercise 30 minutes a day 3 to 4 times a week. Sometimes I skip a week. Don't know why. Always feel better when I exercise.

Prior to flying, whenever I was sick I would go to the doctor and open wide. I didn't care what they put in me or gave me a script for. Not anymore. I am much more cautious.

With this sinus issue I have been having I have had to walk a very fine line. There are tons of great drugs that are not approved by the FAA for pilots to take. My current doctor is not an AME. Before I visit, I research whatever illness I have and possible drugs. I then compare it to a list of approved FAA drugs. I then take the list with me. I advised the doctor that I am a pilot and that I can't have just anything. Last week I went to the Doctor right before having to be back on duty. He wanted to give me  steroid shot to help with the sinus issue. Problem is the steroid he wanted to use requires me to not fly for 24 hours after injection. Thus I left with just an antibiotic and a decongestant. I was fine for the two day trip I was assigned.

Monday I felt a little more congested. I gave the antibiotic till Tuesday afternoon and threw in the towel, another call to the Doctor.  I went back and got the steroid. I didn't mention me being a pilot again, but apparently should have. On the way out I was given a prescription for Astepro nasal spray. When I got home I took one look at the back of a coupon for the nasal spray and realized I can't take it. Why? Well "Do not operate a car or heavy machinery". Hmm yeah. No big deal as I know I can use Afrin nasal spray if I need it.

Feeling better today. I am back on reserve tomorrow. From my crystal ball (me pouring through uncovered flights/shifts) I feel I will be up early in the morning for airport standby. I am going to try to bid for a trip in another base though.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hmmm maybe it's time to switch headsets

When I started flying I bought a set of David Clark H10 13.4's. They were great. But I have a big head. After 2 hours in a hot 172 my head was ready to explode. I did a lot of research ( I research EVERYTHING I buy). I ended up buying a wonderful Telex Stratus 30XT. I loved that headset. I wanted to keep it...but it's not TSO approved. Booooo.

I did MORE research. I ended up buying a Telex 500 ANR. The headset is very good. I love it.

Before I bought it I did take a look at a product from UFlyMike. They make an adapter for use with the Bose Quiet Comfort 2 headphones. My awesome wife bought me a set of Bose QC2's a few years ago. I truly love them. At the time I was looking for a head set the UFlyMike setup was NOT TSO approved. I didn't want to risk using a non-TSO approved headset at my airline.

Recently I flew with a Captain that had the UFlyMike setup. I asked if it was finally TSO approved and he indeed said it was. Nice. I just visited the website and am very interested again in the product. I think this might be something I will save up for/beg my wife for as it would be nice to  have a smaller headset to carry around.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Good times are over for a while

So far this year I have had the following monthly assignments:

January - Reserve

February - Morning Airport Standby

March - Afternoon Airport Standby

April - Afternoon Airport Standby

May - Reserve

June - Reserve

July - Afternoon Airport Standby

I am the most junior pilot in my status. After all pilots senior to me bid, I get what's left over....literally. So how did I score regular reserve in May and June? Because someone forgot to bid! Each month one pilot forgot to bid. So instead of getting airport standby, I got a reserve line. It was nice while it lasted. I flew more in May than I did February thru April COMBINED! Next month it's back to airport standby.

Yesterday I was assigned afternoon airport standby for the day. Not a big deal as my wife was flying back from a weekend on the west coast anyway. A note about my wife, she is a non-rev queen. She couldn't get a direct flight on my mainline partner home. Instead she used a ZED pass to fly on another airline then catch a flight on my mainline partner home.

The afternoon airport standby shift is from 2PM-10PM. I just sit at the airport. Not much fun. I didn't get used. Today I was assigned to be available for a 2 hour call out from 6AM till 9PM. I initially thought this was an illegal assignment. I read through the contract and then called scheduling. Turns out I was wrong. I didn't like the idea of leaving the airport at 10PM, driving home, getting ready for bed and being called as early as 6AM to go back to the airport. It's legal. Fair? Eh.

I have reserve for the rest of the month. Good times were great while they lasted. I am still better off than a buddy of mine. He lives near me but is based elsewhere due to displacements. He commutes and held a hard line for 2 months. He has been on reserve for May and June. Till recently he was pretty senior on reserve so he got what he wanted as far as flights and assignments. Tomorrow he is assigned morning airport standby. This means he has to commute up late tonight, buy a hotel room for a few hours and then make his way to the airport to sign in for airport standby at 6AM. Commuting to reserve sucks. Commuting to airport standby....well at least I can drive.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Catch me if you can

The weather at the outstation was nice. The weather at the base was beautiful and VFR. All I had to do was get to base and I would have 55 minutes between scheduled arrival of my flight and scheduled departure for my deadhead. Should be easy right?

Well in the “real world” 55 minutes is really 35 minutes at best. How so? Our scheduled arrival time was 815AM. That’s when we should be landing. If we land on time it will take at least 5 minutes to get to the gate. If the rampers are there waiting then we should pull straight in. If I bust out of the cockpit and do my post flight, then rush back in and grab my bags I can be done in about 10 minutes. Rarely does that happen as it takes a while for passengers to get off the aircraft. My deadhead flight is scheduled to leave at 9:10AM.

The hotel van was scheduled for 6:30AM. I was in the lobby at 6:20AM. There was another crew there who would be deadheading. The flight cancellations last night were crazy. Not only did the last two flights from the outstation to base cancel, but the last two flights from the base to the outstation cancelled. The deadheading crew was supposed to fly the early morning departure. Now they would be deadheading.

At 6:30 my crew was in the hotel van. Problem? The rest of the seats were full with passengers. The deadhead crew would have to take the next van.

This airport doesn’t have a crew only TSA screening line. We were able to cut to the front of the regular line, but were still in the back of the screening line. Nice. For some reason passengers always give us dirty looks for cutting in line. Without us cutting in line they would leave late….which is worse? Waiting 3 minutes now or 30 minutes later? Flight crews are professionals at clearing security. We have it down to a science.

My formula is as follows. Before I even get close to the screening line, I place my wallet, cell phone and sunglasses in my laptop bag. I grab two bins. I take my laptop out of the bag (I don’t have a TSA approved laptop bag, I like my current bag AKA my man purse) and place it in one bin. I place my laptop bag in the second bin. I move the bins forward till I am next.  I send my kit bag and suitcase in first. Then my laptop followed by the laptop bag. Why this order? Well I have seen laptops disappear as they come out first and a passenger grabs it and takes off. By going in last I should be able to keep an eye on it.

I wear metal free shoes so I can keep them on. Once clear I put my kit bag on the hook of my suitcase and then my laptop back in the bag and off I go. Most of the time between my first bag going in and me walking away is under 45 seconds. I am good.

We get to the gate at 6:50 AM. I ask the gate agent for the jet bridge to ramp code. Some jet bridges use keys (which I have) while some use codes. This one is a code. Remembering this code is vital. I used to get stuck out on the ramp in the cold/rain/heat as I forgot the code and no one was around. Sucks.

The plane is stuffy. The airport is next to a huge river. The temp in the cabin is 28 degrees Celsius or around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. I turned on the battery master and check to make sure the external power connection is within limits. Once done I power up the plane and turn on the recirc fan to get air moving in the cabin.

This is the same plane we flew in yesterday. It has issues. The cabin temp controller isn’t functioning and we have to manually adjust the temp. Sounds easy. It’s not. More later.

With the post flight done I head into the cockpit. The deadhead crew is on board. Due to all the cancelations there are way more passengers than seats. The deadhead crew is “must fly” as they have a flight to fly once reaching base. There were two flight attendants from my mainline partner also on board who are commuting to work to work an overseas flight. In order to help them get on board one of the deadheading pilots agrees to take the cockpit jump seat.

General boarding starts. The ground crew didn’t connect external air. Other planes (all my mainline partner) have it connected.  But none for us.

After 10 minutes boarding stops. We aren’t full. Something is up. The deadheading pilot states there is a group of 20 kids who were stuck in the TSA line. What?

The chaperones should have been way more responsible to make sure they arrived well ahead of departure time. Instead they arrived 20 minutes prior to departure. Hmm.

I fire up the APU. Once it starts I get a “ding” and a flashing yellow light, “APU Fault”. Garr. Wait a few minutes. Try again. Same thing. Cabin temp now 90 degrees.

The Captain went into the terminal for something. No idea when he is coming back.

Now I am in a pickle. We are almost loaded with passengers. Time is 7:15…5 minutes from departure. The cabin is uncomfortably warm. No APU. Time to make a decision.

I call operations and ask for pre-conditioned air. A ramper comes up. He is reluctant as he thinks we are leaving soon. True enough hooking it up for 5 minutes does no good. I make a deal. We have no APU. I asked him to have the huffer cart ready so we can start an engine as soon as the Captain comes back. Which I think is  any minute now.

A few minutes later I hear the huffer cart spin up. No Captain. Grrrrr. The deadhead Captain is in the back. I can’t start an engine without the Captain. Grrrr.

Cabin temp 92 degrees. Captain is back. We run the checklist and start an engine. Cooling.

Meanwhile the 20 kids showed up. It’s now 7:30AM. The two mainline flight attendants are pulled off the flight to accommodate the kids. Final count is 68 plus the jumpseater. Something is wrong, if we have two empty seats put the flight attendants back on. The jumpseating pilot took the jump seat to help them out. No go. New count is 69 + 1 jumpseater meaning one empty seat. Both mainline flight attendants gave us a thank you wave but they were staying behind together. They would miss their international flight.

I call for pushback. The airport is so congested that we can’t pushback without blocking a taxiway. We are cleared….”tail south.”

During the takeoff roll around 100 knots we get a "ding" and a flashing yellow light. I quickly look up and say "continue". The warning was simply a L PACK TEMP caution due to the temp controller being out of whack. No big deal. We lifted off the earth at 7:50 AM…. thirty minutes late. Not good.

There is weather between the base and us.  Other planes are flying around the weather. We are reduced to 250 knots until we clear 27,000 feet! We normally do 290 about 10,000 feet. Today the Captain planned on flying at 310 to make up time. For the entire flight, every 10 - 15 minutes we would get a "dink" with L PACK TEMP. I would reach up and manually warm the pack...over and over. Annoying. Boo.

Even though it’s summer we hit icing conditions between 12,000 and 26,000 feet. On went to cowl anti-ice.

Clearing 27,000 feet we had normal speed. We requested FL380 to get above traffic and fly fast. Approved.

Looking down at my display we were estimated to land at 8:39 AM. Add 15 minutes and I would have 16 minutes at BEST to make my connection. Hmmmmm.

I sent operations our ETA via the ACARS and out of the printer comes our next assignments and the connecting gates for the passengers. My next assignment is my deadhead. The gate is one of the farthest away from where we are parking.

The weather in base is beautiful. We could see the airport clearly 30 miles away. At 25 miles we were cleared for the visual. At 8:34AM the main gear touched the ground.

Due to the APU fault we would be handing the plane over the maintenance. This is one of two scenarios where I won’t have to do a post flight. Nice. The Captain I am flying with used to be based as my base, but was displaced to this new base. He is hoping to jump seat home on the same flight I am deadheading on. I let him know I will refuse the jump seat if offered. Why? Well as a deadhead who has a confirmed seat I should not have to travel in the jump seat. By doing so it might get a paying passenger on, but will block a pilot trying to jump seat.

At 8:45AM we pulled into the gate and waited for external power before shutting the plane down. At 8:52AM I was out the door heading for my deadhead. I briskly walked up the jet bridge past the passengers who were waiting on their gate-checked bags.

I needed a boarding pass. The line at the gate could be long. I stopped at a kiosk. I hit the check in button then enter my information. It comes back with it’s too late to check in and puts me on standby for the next flight. WTF? I checked in last night. Frustrated I leave and head for the gate.

I’m walking full speed to the gate. Hmm bladder full. Better stop now than wait till I board. When I checked in last night I was assigned a middle seat. Ugh.

One liter lighter I am back enroute to the gate and arrived at  9:01AM. Area is full. I pass a mainline crew and hear they are upset that they aren’t getting on board to deadhead due to a full flight. Hmmm. I stand in line. The two passengers ahead are tying up the gate agents with questions about LATER flights. Grrrr.

I tell the gate agent I am deadheading and already checked in, I just need a boarding pass. Telling her this lets her know I am not trying to jumpseat/non-rev home. She handed me a boarding pass….6F….First Class. Nice.

After arrived back in base I made a quick call to scheduling. Released for the day at noon. Not too shabby.

The same buddy of mine who brought the plane to me yesterday was still trying to commute home today. All the flights were full. He was trying to fly another outstation on one mainline flight and then home to my base on another. Well at the outstation his next flight cancelled. No hope of getting another, as they were all full, including the jump seat. He ended up having to use Southwest Airlines to get home. Two leg looong commute. Ooof.

Enough for now. It’s Miller Time.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Keeping me on my toes

I bid for an easy trip and was awarded it. The trip was a deadhead to another base, one leg to the overnight, one leg back to the base and a deadhead home. Sounded easy enough when I bid it. Another perk was I had never flown to this outstation before and there is a lot to see and do.

This morning I woke up at 5:30AM. By 6:05AM I was out the door and headed to the airport. By 6:20AM I was walking to the employee bus (living in base and living CLOSE to base is awesome).  At 6:35AM I cleared the security portal and made my way to the crewroom. I left my suitcase and kit bag in the crew storage area yesterday as I knew I would be back. When I had airport standby as my line I left my suitcase and kit bag here all the time. No need to bring it home.

I printed out my boarding pass and decided to buy something for breakfast. My hopes for a free first class seat and meal were squashed as the first class section was full. Lucky for me I was assigned an aisle seat that was right behind first class. This seat gives me loads of extra legroom.

The flight boarded up and pushed out at 7:40AM. Things were looking good. I knew there was weather at the other base but thought we might get in before it gets bad.

Seated at the window was a 777 First Officer from my mainline partner. He was deadheading home.

About 30 minutes out the Captain made a PA that we would be holding due to thunderstorms over the airport. After just 10 minutes of holding he headed to his alternate. Hmmm. I only had 2 hours between my scheduled arrival and my flight to the overnight.

I was kinda hoping I would mis-connect and then simply stay in a hotel (paid for by my airline since I am based elsewhere) and deadhead home in the morning.

We landed at his alternate and parked next to 4 other diverted planes. There we sat....for 3 hours. Thankfully I travel smart. I had my Bose QC2 headphones (my wife bought them for me a few years ago), my ZUNE, my smart phone AND an adapter to charge my phone via power ports on the plane. I was set.

While waiting several passengers were getting antsy. They had family at the base stating the weather was fine. Sure it might be fine where they were standing, but the FAA imposed a ground stop. Some passengers wanted off. They were advised they might get stuck if they get off....about 9 passengers were brought to the main terminal. I sent a text to a buddy of mine who was supposed to fly the plane to the base that I was to fly out to the overnight. Today is his last day of reserve. I was to join the existing crew. He diverted to another airport and was waiting out the weather. While waiting they let all the passengers off.

With hopes of misconnecting I let my buddy know that if I got a hotel room he could stay with me. He commutes and would likely not get home due to all the full flights. He was appreciative.

While sitting there I checked the status of my flight. Delayed of course.

We soon had everyone back in their seats and taxied out. My buddy stated he was still waiting. Eventually we took off and headed to the base. After landing I checked my flight status via my smart phone....still showing delayed...but leaving in 5 minutes. Maybe they found another crew.

I made my way through the airport. Out the windows I could see the gate my flight was supposed to leave plane! Yes....wait No! I checked the departure monitors...delayed still.

It was now 2:40PM. I was supposed to be here at 10AM and depart at 11:50AM. I was starving.

After grabbing a few grilled McDonald's snack wraps (quite healthy actually) I made my way to the gate. Still no plane, but the flight was on the board. I saw a flight attendant waiting nearby. I chit chatted with her about all the delays while devouring my snack wraps. She was hoping to get a flight home, but with all the weather and cancellations, all flights were full. Not looking good.

My plane arrived around 3PM. I made my way to the gate. The Captain and I flew together a few months ago. I remember the last time I landed very clearly.

We were headed to an overnight, my leg. I could land straight in with a 9 knot tailwind or swing way out and land with a 9 knots crosswind. Ehh the runway is 8000 feet long, we only need 4500 feet to land and stop. No big deal right?

Well at the time I had maybe 100 hours in the plane. I was on speed and figured I would make a nice landing. When I flared the tailwind made the plane float longer than normal. I touched down at the edge of the touchdown zone.....3000 feet down the runway. Now I had just 5000 feet to stop. I threw open the thrust reversers and hit the brakes. I finally slowed below 20 knots....with just under 1000 feet left. Yeah. I have since learned that when landing with a tailwind...just put it down.

I met my buddy as he was leaving the cockpit. I let him know about all the cancellations and full flights. He was already in the mindset he would have to pay for a hotel room for the night. He helped me stow my bags and then I did my preflight.

After getting to the cockpit the front flight attendant came up. We both knew we flew together in the past...but not sure when.

We pushed out at 3:30PM. The ground controller here was talking non-stop. He would simply call out a flight number and the directions, then go on to the next. When he called our flight he simply said follow the plane ahead to the runway. Glad I caught it!

The takeoff was straight forward. On the way out we passed the huge weather system that caused all the problems.

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The arrival into the outstation was complicated. There were several step down fixes. I have heard of friends at other airlines stating how difficult it can be to meet all of them without exceeding 250 knots below 10000 feet.

I met the first 4 just fine. The next one was 12,000 coming up so I started down. Well I failed to notice there was a fix prior to the next step down that was at 15,000 feet.  I was at 14,800 feet when ATC called and advised that next time we should observe that restriction. I looked down and we had just arrived at the 15,000 foot fix. Oops.

Reaching the 10,000 foot fix I was at 280 knots. The next fix was 8000 feet. I quickly idled the engines and bled off airspeed. The CRJ7 can descend clean at 1600 feet per minute at 250 knots. Lucky for me all I needed to meet the restriction was 1600 feet per minute. At 8000 feet we were told to slow to 210 knots and expect a long downwind. No biggie. We were then instructed to descend to 5000 feet. I briefed my approach. Then it all changed.

The controller stated we were next for the airport, turn left heading 090 and descend to 2000 feet. Nice. I hit the "Speed" button to descend at 210 knots and then fully deployed the flight spoilers. We were coming down quick. We were cleared for a charted visual approach. About 5 miles out they asked if we would like to swing out to a different runway. Umm no. The runway we were assigned was 7000 feet long. The other runway was 5000 feet long. I haven't landed the CRJ7 on anything less than 6000 feet.

This airport is very busy and congested. I made an average landing and applied max reverse and hit the brakes. We turned off onto another runway and then to a congested taxiway. Flight done.

During the after landing flow I started the APU. Ding! APU fault. Hmmm. I reset it...started fine. We pulled into the gate 3 hours late.

With the APU up, the Captain shut off both engines.....then the APU suddenly went off line. Dark plane. Nice. Thankfully it was day light. We waited a few moments and fired up the APU was steady. The ground crew hooked up external power. The next First Officer is also a friend of mine, we both went to ATP. I let him know about the APU issue. I just checked his outbound flight. Cancelled. Not sure why.

My plans of seeing the city were now shot. Oh well. On the way to the van I remembered when I flew with the front flight attendant. It was during my IOE on the plane over a year ago. Flight crews are really good at remembering faces...names not so much.

Tomorrow I am still scheduled to fly to the other base and deadhead home. Hope tomorrow goes better. I get into base at noon. There is a trip open that starts at 2PM that finishes at 8:10PM. I start tomorrow at 6:35AM Eastern. The open trip finishes at 8:10PM Central. I can only work 14 hours a day. Converting everything to Central time I start at 5:35AM. The latest I can legally work (with the exception of weather/mechanical delays) is 7:35PM. Not legal. Good.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Living with a regional airline....or any airline pilot

My wife is very patient. She supported me while I quit my high paying job to start Flight Instructing. I haven't paid a bill towards the house in over two years. I can never thank her enough.

Right now she is sitting in a very comfy first class seat on a widebody headed to California. Her cousin is getting married Saturday. I wanted to go, but I couldn't get off from work.

My wife is very well versed in non-rev travel. She has learned a lot about airlines. She can name every aircraft my airline and my mainline partner flies by looking at them. She knows about duty days, legalities and issues surrounding the industry. I keep telling her she should be a part time flight attendant (would make it easier for us to travel since we can both get jumpseats, me in the cockpit and her in the cabin), but she won't do it.

Today I didn't get an assignment. I came home at 2PM. She also came home at 2PM. All the flghts to California were oversold/full the rest of the day. I mentioned there was a 4PM flight that was on a widebody that she should at least try to get on. She listed and checked in. There were 20+ revenue standbys, but only two non-revenue standbys.

Since I am on reserve I have no idea where I will be over the next four days. Since she is going out of town, the dogs have to go to the kennel. She began to worry about driving 20 miles to the kennel, then back home and then having time for me to take her to the airport. Hmmm yeah...

See the dogs are hers. I don't claim them. I agreed to rush her to the airport, then drive her dogs to the kennel.

I dropped her off at 3:15PM. At the time it was looking like she was not going to get on the flight as there were only 4 seats in coach, 1 in first and still several standby passengers to accommodate.

After I dropped off her dogs I checked the standby list. She got the very last seat....FIRST CLASS. She deserves it.

As a very junior pilot at a regional airline, my schedule is always up in the air. I rarely know what I am doing more than one day in advance. All I know is what days I work...that's it. Making plans is very hard as I only know my days off. I have no idea if I will be free for dinner Saturday night. I should be home....but maybe not.

Each day at 5PM I confirm my assignment for the next day. I can already see my assignment for tomorrow. Looks like I get to take a trip to the east coast to an airport I have never flown into before.

Right now we have no kids. We are planning to have kids soon. We will have to be even more flexible. Till then it's living la vida regional.

Continental Captain Dies Mid-Flight

Another mistake by the media. First a pilot has died while enroute to Newark. Very sad indeed. The story below has a photo mistake....can you spot it?

HORROR: Continental Captain Dies Mid-Flight

Plane Departed From Brussels, Destined For Newark; Reserve Crew On Flight To Manage Emergency Landing


Click to enlarge
1 of 1

Continental Airlines airplane (File)CAL

A Continental Airlines flight from Brussels will be making an emergency landing at Newark Liberty International Airport after the plane's captain died mid-flight Thursday morning, CBS 2 has learned.

Federal Aviation Administration officials say Continental Flight 61 will land at Newark at noon. Newark was the flight's final destination. It left Brussels at 9:45 a.m.

It's not known what caused the pilot to become ill or how he died.

Officials say there are two first officers on the flight and a reserve crew as well. One of the first officers is piloting the plane.


Yeah it's an ERJ from Expressjet. The flight in question is actually a 777. There is another First Officer on board who is now sitting in the Captain seat.

Ok...back to sitting airport standby.
Stay with for more on this developing story.

RNAV departures

GPS (Global Positioning System). Those three letters have changed the way we live our lives. Twenty years ago most planes got from point A to point B by flying along airways created by ground based radios (VORs or NDBs). Ten years ago most people in the United States got from point A to point B with paper maps and coffee. Today both planes and cars use GPS to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible.

With GPS on board we can go direct to a VOR that is 500 miles away (too far to be picked up the old fashioned way). Additionally we can go directly to a fix that is either created by the intersection of two airways, a distance from a VOR or just exist in open space. In the old days a plane would have to fly directly to one VOR then follow the airway until they arrived at a set distance or intersection of two airways to get to a fix.

With ground based navigation, the airways are 4 miles wide on each side of the centerline. The margin for error is huge! This margin is due to slight variances in the radio equipment onboard airplanes.

With GPS, airplanes are able to fly an EXACT route. This really helps move traffic in and out of busy airports.

DPs or Departure Procedures, are used to route airplanes from an airport to an airway and onto their destination. DPs have been around for years. Most are still designed around ground based navigational aids and RADAR vectors. Due to the higher workload on the controller and pilots, fewer aircraft are able to be funneled through a given space.  Increasingly many are being designed solely using GPS.

These new DPs are called a RNAV Departure Procedure (aRea NAVigation...hey I didn't make it up!). With RNAV DPs, planes can be routed to very specific routes and to a very specific space and then onto their destination.

Many RNAV DPs are designed down to the departing runway. One RNAV DP might have 3 different routes depending on which runway a plane is departing from.

When loading a RNAV DP I have to be very careful to load the correct runway. Before takeoff the runway assignment is checked (via checklist) at least three times. Why? Well look at the RNAV DP from LAX called the Oshnn Three Departure.

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Assume the airport is in a west flow. Planes taking off from the 24R will proceed to FABRA as the first fix. Planes taking off from 24L will have DLREY as the first fix. Planes taking off from 25R will have DOCKR as the first fix and planes from 25L will proceed to HIPR as the first fix. Got it?

LAX is a busy airport. They typically launch one plane from each side of the airport at the same time. Let's assume they use 24L and 25R as the departing runways. If the plane taking off from 24L accidentally loaded 25L as the departing runway, upon takeoff the plane would veer to the left toward HIPR instead of heading toward DLREY. The plane taking off from 25R would be proceeding to DOCKR. The two would likely mate if no one intervened.

This sounds far fetched...but it happens often. I have had runway assignments changed on me numerous times. Each time the Captain and I take the time to verify both the new runway and the RNAV fixes.

To combat planes having the wrong runway loaded, many airports have another hurdle for pilots to cross. Here is a new exchange that happens when a plane is cleared to takeoff.

LAX tower -"Geek flight 398 cleared for takeoff, runway 24L RNAV to DLREY"

Geek 398 - "Cleared for takeoff runway 24L, RNAV to DLREY Geek flight 298"

By confirming the first fix in the RNAV DP the tower helps the pilots make absolutely sure they correct RNAV DP is loaded and they are lined up on the correct runway.

While flying in the terminal area, the GPS routes are just .3 miles wide....1/3 of a mile. Pilots hand flying while at 250 knots can easily be off course while turning if they don't pay 100% attention.

Some pilots have been reprimanded for making turns too shallow and overshooting the course. They turn shallow for passenger comfort. Using the same DP, look at the sharp turn made when taking off from 25R between WEILR and SHAEF and SHAEF and PEVEE. RNAV DPs are designed to be flown by an autopilot. Pilots, for the most part, like to actually fly. When I fly a RNAV DP my eyes are inside focused on the flight director and the CDI needle the entire time. Even a momentary glance outside can cause me to fly off course. When I want to look outside I click on the autopilot at 600 feet and let "George" do the flying.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Regional Pilot Checkrides

Performance reviews. Most jobs have them. Once or twice a year most people sit down with their supervisor to discuss their job performance. During the meeting the supervisor checks off boxes pertaining to certain task. The employee doesn’t have to “do” anything during such reviews….just answer questions. At the end of the review the employee is likely given a small raise or just sent back to their work area.
Sounds familiar right?
Now imagine having your job on the line. During the review, which last 2 to 4 hours, you are quizzed on your knowledge, examined while you work through manual calculations you almost never do on the real job (thanks to automation!) and then you are observed performing task that you have never actually done in real life, only during these reviews.
Kinda stressful eh?
Most regional airlines have checkrides for Captains twice a year and First Officers once a year. If a pilot has a bad 2 to 4 hours they can loose their job or (in case of Captains) loose their seat! The stress alone can cause issues. While flying, pilots have to put all other emotions/issues (family, money, friends etc) out of their heads and focus on the task. Easier said the done sometimes.
Try to grasp this concept. Your entire career is resting on your performance doing task that you don’t normally perform, but are expected to be proficient in. You only get one chance at each task. If you make a mistake you could be out of a job.
Really stressful eh?
Now imagine the same thing…..but there is NO chance of failure! That’s how Major airlines handle checkrides. The term is “train to proficiency”. Major airline pilots at United, Continental, Delta, American and US Airways have no fear of “failed checkrides”. They can’t fail! If they make a mistake during a training event, they are simply retrained until they do it correctly. No pressure.
Recently in the news the Captain of Colgan 3407 has been drug through the mud for having failed checkrides. The public has no idea what a checkride is. The news media makes mention (several times) that pilots at Major airlines don’t have anywhere near the number of failed checkrides. There’s a good reason for it. They don’t have them.
During my time around my flight school as a student and a CFI, I have seen many pilots fail checkrides. Some of the failures were truly trivial. A pilot can fail a checkride for any number of things unrelated to actually flying an airplane!
Stating that pilots at regional airlines are less experienced and thereby are inherently “unsafe” is scandalous. By the time pilots apply to a regional airline they have been examined by the FAA at least 3 times (highly unlikely that few), most likely 5 to 8 times. I had 8 FAA checkrides before I applied to my airline. Eight different times I put everything on the line for a 2-5 hour examination. Lucky for me, (I still knock on wood and click my heels three times) I never failed a checkride.
Captains at regional (and Major) airlines are examined very closely by the FAA before being set loose to be in command of an airplane. First Officers don’t get the same examination. First Officers are given checkrides by the airline, which the FAA can choose to observe.
The news media has a less than stellar reputation when reporting about aviation. The “experts” on the panel are sometimes pilots at Major airlines who contribute bad information. My jaw dropped when I saw one of these Major airline pilot “experts” repeatedly state that pilots at Major airlines are more skilled and don’t fail airline checkrides like pilots at regional’s. Gee, my car gets better gas mileage and doesn’t shoot bullets like Hummers the military uses. Doh!

Every 4 to 6 hours......oh yeah about that....

Saturday morning I was feeling halfway decent. I had already planned on calling in sick upon reaching base. I felt ok to fly from the outstation, but could see myself getting worse.

We boarded up 70 people and taxied out to runway 13. This was the Captains leg. Leveling off at FL310 I was feeling much better. This was likely due to the fresh air being blown over me. If I felt okay in base I would finish the last turn.

After pulling into the gate (20 minutes early!) I tracked down some FAA approved sinus medication. Feeling much better. I figure I can do the last long turn.

I did the same turn the day prior. My landing was a thumper. Ouch. Today I was determined to make it better. The weather conditions were the same; VFR, winds 360@5 knots, landing runway 6L. I crossed the threshold on speed. At 50 feet I left the power as is. At 40 feet I began pulling it back while trimming nose up. With the 30 feet call the power was 3/4s closed. At 10 feet I idled the engines and straightened out the nose. Like butter.

After pulling into the gate and running the checklist I made a self serving PA, "Ladies and Gentleman, after that amazing landing by the First Officer, have a great day as his can only get better." Once I was done I saw the PA light illuminate again....hmmm one of the Flight Attendants was making a PA as well.

I opened the cockpit door to thank the passengers. On the way out several commented on how nice the flight and landing was, a few even shook my hand. Apparently the flight attendant made a PA about my "carrier" landing the day prior and that I redeemed myself. Ha!

Thirty-five minutes later we were being pushed out again. I was feeling decent. About an hour into the flight I started feeling worse. Stuffy head. I then remembered the medicine box, "take every 4 to 6 hours". had been 5 hours. Ugh.

Once we got back I was spent. My wife brought me home and I went to bed. The next morning I called in sick. I am just now feeling better. The doctor yesterday prescribed me an anti-biotic. Apparently I have a sinus infection. I had to be very careful about what prescriptions and injections he wanted to do. Not all are FAA approved. Some are, but only after a set amount of time.

I did take a bunch of photos during the trip.

Every now and then we go "topless" in the cockpit. Topless meaning we take of our headsets. We have to have them on below 18,000 feet. At cruise though it is normally quiet enough to take them off. When we do,  and I am the pilot not flying, I use the lamp on my side to hold the microphone. On the Captains microphone there is a nifty metal holder so he can use just about anything to hold it up.

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I never get tired on watching a sunset, or in this case a sunrise.

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Finally just some random photos. Can anyone name the city in the second photo or the airline in the third photo?

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Still sick

Still sick. Went to the doctor today. Given anti-biotics. Hopefully will feel better tomorrow. Lucky for me I had Monday-Wednesday off and only used one sick day. For those that are curious I accrue sick hours like most "regular" jobs. The difference is in how many I have to use. Reserve days are "valued" at 3 hours 54 minutes. Thus when I called in sick Sunday that's all I used. I still have 43 hours let in my short term sick bank.

If I am feeling better tomorrow I will have several updates.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Called in sick

Called in sick for the first time. Whatever I had yesterday got worse on my flight back. Head stopped up. I was assigned a 4AM-7PM RAP. They tried calling me at 10:30PM last night. I didn't answer the phone. I checked open flights. The same turn I did the last two days was open. Total of 6 hours of flying. When they called at 4:30AM I advised I was sick. Now on Sudafed-D. Time to rest.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

One turn left

Both landings yesterday sucked. I (for a reason I can't explain) flew 200 knots to 1 mile from the FAF on the first one. Clear day....thumper. Next one I had a 2 knot quartering tailwind. A little squirrely at 5 feet...thumper.

Something was in the air at the overnight. Both flight attendants and I are sniffling. I was ready to call in sick after reaching base. Feeling a little better. I had to hunt down a FAA approved sinus medication.

Two legs, one turn, left. Two hours there...supposed to be two and a half back. Did the same turn yesterday. Due to all the weather we had to take a scenic tour of the US and flew 3 1/2 hours to get to base. Saying it was a long day is putting it lightly. Flew 7 hours 55 minutes yesterday. Ugh.

Gotta run.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Better day

Yesterday was long. My Captain has been with the airline for 17 years. Yesterday was his longest day ever for two 1 hour flights!

There was a huge storm over the hub. For 2 solid hours no one landed or took off. On a good day there are 260 arrivals per hour. This meant that each hour there were at least 200 flights holding, sitting an the outstation or flying slowly enroute waiting to land.

Each hour I would call ground and ask for an update. Each hour I was told the ground stop was extended for one hour. After about 3 hours diverted flights started landing. This airport gets no mainline service. There were several 737's and a 757 waiting it out on the ramp. Passengers were getting frustrated. The weather at the outstation was awesome, clear skies, calm winds. They couldn't get a grasp on why we weren't leaving.

The airport only has 2 cafes, a sports bar and a Starbucks. I wanted coffee. I figured coffee at the cafe would be cheaper than Starbucks and taste better. Nope. I was shocked when the price was $2.50 for a 12 ounce cup. Starbucks is way cheaper. Thankfully my flight attendant made me coffee on the plane.

Around 9:30 the plane started to get hot inside. The sun was rising. I tracked down a ramper to hook up the pre-conditioned air cart. Ahh...soo we were relaxing in 72 degree cabin.

Ground stop continued. My airline has a flight every hour to our hub. There is a mix of CRJ's and ERJs. By 11 AM there were more than 250 passengers walking about. There were almost as many passengers from another airline who also flies to the hub.

I was getting hungry. The lines for food were long. By 12:30PM they ran out of food. Most passengers arrive and leave without buying much food. Nice.

A bag of Chex Mix would tide me over until we got to base. If we ever got there. The Captain and I discussed maybe flying VFR 90 miles to our overnight. Yep...our overnight was just 90 miles away. We were hoping maybe the airline would cut their loses and have us ferry the plane there as there was a crew and passengers waiting on us.

Finally at 2PM the ground stop was lifted. Now a new problem. There were two cancelled flights. Our 6AM departure had 30 empty seats. Between 6AM and 2PM more than a few passengers gave up and went home. The gate agents were very busy trying to re-route as many passengers as possible. When boarding began SEVERAL passengers were assigned the same seat. At 2:40PM they figured it all out....but we only have 58 people on board. The Captain asked why we weren't full (the waiting area was full of passengers). The gate agent asked if we wanted to wait for 12 more people. "Uh, yeah, we are already late, get as many customers on as possible!". Finally at 2:55PM they figured it all out and we left.

The next three legs cancelled and we were given a later flight to the same overnight. Once we arrived in base we had no gate. After 10 minutes we had a new gate. Then we waited another 5 minutes for a ramp crew and another 5 minutes still for a jet bridge driver. All said we didn't open the door for 25 minutes after we landed! Thinking we need to hurry up and go as our next flight left in 20 minutes, I dashed out the door to get lunch for the Captain and I. I hauled from gate 27 to gate 8. I ordered the food and rushed back. I handed the food to the Captain and did my walk around. Boarding was 1/2 done.

Back in my seat I look back and see...56 passengers. What the heck? The boarding area was overcrowded. We trickled up to 65 passengers. The gate agent came down and said "that's it". Umm no. The Captain asked for a full load of passengers. The gate agent said he was restricted to 65. The Captain and I checked our reason we can't be full. I called operations, approved for 70. I went back up to the gate with a list of standby passengers from the flight attendant. There was a pilot and his wife trying to go. We should be able to get him in the jump seat and his wife in the back. When I got to the gate area it was nearly vacant. The gate agent had made an announcement when he reached 65 passengers that no more would be accommodated. All the passengers left the area for the next gate! He found 3 more. The Captain and I were not happy.

It was my leg out. We passed right by another large storm.

My leg. I flew fast...Mach .82 fast. Arriving to the outstation with the sun in our eyes, we didn't see the airport until we were 5 miles out. I was ready to be done. The final approach fix is 4 1/2 miles from the runway. The altitude on the ILS at that fix is 5300 feet. I was 6000 feet and about 1 mile inside the final approach fix.

I clicked off the autopilot and threw out the flight spoilers. Already at flaps 8, I called for flaps 20. At 200 knots I called for gear down. The runway was getting closer and I was still seeing 4 white lights. At 180 knots I called for flaps 30. At this point I was about 1200 feet. Right at 1000 feet I called for flaps 45. The speed was just under 170 knots. At 700 feet I was finally slowed to 134 knots, approach speed. I stowed the flight spoilers and made a perfectly executed crosswind landing and very smooth.


The hotel van was waiting.

This morning started at 4:30AM again. Van at 5AM. We left on time at 6AM and pulled into the gate in base at 6:55AM...15 minutes early. Three more legs to the same overnight.

Below are some photos from yesterday. Southwest diverted here. While waiting a dog was loose on the airport. I snapped a photo of a bad time. Then as Southwest was leaving they had to wait for the dog to cross. Further down are photos of the weather and then my MFD during the "hotel leg".

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Today was a long day

Today started at 4:30AM with my alarm clock. Van at 5:15AM. Boarded at 5:40AM. Closed the door at 6:04AM. Told of a ground stop at 6:05AM. Deboarded at 7AM. Between 7AM and 2PM given hourly updates. Today was supposed to be 4 legs to the overnight finishing at noon. At 2:55PM finally left outstation. At 6:36PM I made the hands down most beautiful, graceful visual approach 3000 AGL 5 miles out I have ever made. Finished duty at 6:51PM. Over 13 hours of duty. Tired and frustrated about all the issues and delays. Tomorrow should be better. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I thought I was kosher

There I was sitting at home in my office. I haven't used my office in months. I cleaned it up over the last few days and was flying on Flight Sim 2004. Relaxed. The time was 1:15PM. I figured by 2PM I would be safe from having to go into work. Then the phone rang. Doh! The scheduler said he had a 4 day trip for me! He hated giving it to me as I was barely legal for it. I hate 4 day trips.

I stopped what I was doing and started packing. My sign in time was 4:25PM. Thankfully my wonderful wife would be home at 3:30PM so she could take me to the airport.

The trip isn't bad. All the overnights are in the same time zone. Two of the overnights are in the same city.

My wife's Prius is in the shop right now and she has a Nissan Sentra rental. She hates it. She wants to use my car while I am gone. My car isn't anything special, a 2008 Mazda5. I have only put 8500 miles on it in the last 15 months. My car is babied...lives in the garage and is rarely driven more than 15 miles a day. The poor car will be in shock with her commuting the next few days. Eh.

I signed in at 4:20PM and made my way to the plane.

The ground crew connected the external power....but didn't turn it on. As long as their boss sees it plugged in...they are "doing their job". During my walk around I use hand signals to tell a ramper a gate over the power isn't working. When I finish he ask me to check it. I mention that we need ground air as well as it's 90+ degrees outside. He told me the ground air isn't working. When it's this hot outside we need power AND air otherwise we have to use the APU. I verified the power was working and powered up the plane.

The cabin temp was already 82 degrees. I turned on the recirc fan to get air moving. Once the flight attendants arrived I powered up the APU.I then began setting up the plane.

There were storms moving in from the west side of the airport. They weren't here yet...but would be soon. When I tried to pull up our clearance via the FMS (called a PDC- Pre Departure Clearance), it wasn't coming up. Nothing on file. After a few minutes of trying I tuned in the airport clearance frequency. It's a mess....non stop talking. Everyone was getting re-routed due to the weather. Ugh.

Passengers began boarding. I haven't seen the Captain yet. Ten minutes prior to departure I finally get a PDC. The Captain came down a minute later. The dispatcher was working hard getting everything filed due to the weather.

I pull up a radar image on my phone. It's bad. Really bad.

We pushed out 15 minutes late due to a discrepancy in the cabin. The gate agent had people on board who should not have been.

The Captain gave me the leg out. Instead of following the RNAV SID we were being vectored. Our destination was straight west. Because of the storm we had to fly 200 miles south before turning west. The climb out was smooth. Due to every other westbound plane having to fly south first the airspace was congested. We were told to descend from FL280 to FL220. Thankfully we had enough fuel that flying so low wasn't an issue.

The view out the window was amazing. The storm clouds tops were over 45,000 feet.

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After clearing the biggest part of the storm we were vectored right under a shelf. We had moderate turbulence for a bit and I slowed down the 280 knots. We then broke out and were in beautiful clear skies.

The overnight is in a city that I attended college for just one year. It's a very flat city. We were headed into the sun and directly too the airport. The controller advised the airport was 12 o'clock and 5 miles. We couldn't see it due to the sun. Finally 3 miles away we saw it. We were then cleared for a visual. I was already slowed to 200 knots and flaps 8. I disconnected the autopilot and made a near continuous turn from downwind to final. I was stabilized but didn't line up with the runway until right at 500 feet.

My landing was very nice. I came in slightly low and kissed the ground somewhat flattish on the 1000 foot markings. Nice.

After parking at the gate I called the hotel. The next crew was supposed to leave the outstation, head to base and then come back here for the overnight. Due to the storm the were delayed. They now won't get back to the outstation till after midnight. They were supposed to be done at 10PM. Ouch.

Since I started my duty at 4AM and didn't finish until 7:35PM I need at least 10 hours "rest". To be legal the airline reduced our "show time" in the morning by 16 minutes to give us exactly 10 hours rest. It's all numbers. Whatever.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The green line

I start a 5 day reserve stint tomorrow. I thought I would get airport standby, but was pleasantly surprised to see I was assigned a Reserve Availability Period from 4AM to 7PM. This means I have to be available for contact from 4AM until 7PM.

My last trip was pretty good. I had pitch issues though. The CRJ7 is very pitch sensitive. During landing the plane is flown nose down until at least 5o feet. From memory I believe it's 2 1/2 degrees nose down (I will have to remember to remember next time I fly).

While on approach for my most recent two landings I tended to raise the nose early. Both landings were at night and were done visually. I had the glideslope tuned in, but kept my eyes outside. Both times around 100 feet I pulled the nose up and added a little power. I would then have to pull power and lower the nose. The momentary raising of the nose caused roll out to be longer which caused the plane to eat up more runway before kissing the ground.

After the last landing the Captain mentioned that I did the same thing the night before. Odd. I landed in the touchdown zone quiet nicely both times, but ate extra runway. This is an easy thing to fix.

Something else happened on the trip worth discussing. While landing Thursday night we had a little confusion in the cockpit.

We were kept high for crossing traffic below us. After clear we were cleared from 10,000 feet to 3000 feet. I had just 3 minutes to get down. Nothing major, but the 3000 feet was also the altitude at the Final Approach Fix....4 minutes away. I slowed to 220 knots first, then called for flaps 1 then flap 8. With the flaps at 8, I extended the flight spoilers fully and briefed the approach. Whenever I extend the flight spoilers I leave my hand on the lever so I won't forget to retract them.

The plane leveled at 3000 feet 2 miles from the FAF. I began to stow the flight spoilers. The approach controller advised to slow further as we were 40 knots faster than the plane ahead. No problem I called for flaps 20. In order for the Captain to reach the flap lever, I had to move my hand off the flight spoiler handle. The approach controller then advised he would vector us through the localizer for better separation. No biggie. We had the airport and the traffic in sight.

I clicked off the autopilot as we were cleared for the visual approach. I called for gear down followed by flaps 30 and finally flaps 45. I then called for the before landing checklist. The Captain told me to watch my speed. I looked down and saw that I was right on approach speed. He asked where should the "green line" be.

Ahh the green line. There is a green floating line in the CRJ that is a FAA stall advisory speed. The line is set 1.27 times the stall speed in the current configuration. The line normally bounces around a little below our approach speed. During high level cruise we are sometimes just above the green line. The green line is advisory only. this doesn't mean the plane is about to stall (again it's 1.27 X stall at least 30 knots away even at approach speed).  Sometimes when the plane is light the green line is right at approach speed.

I concentrated on flying the plane before answering him. I stated it's advisory only and sometimes it's right on approach speed. Looking down I was right on approach speed. I then called for the before landing checklist again. "Landing gear three green" he said...."Landing gear three green" I responded. "Thrust reversers armed" he challenged. That's when I saw the problem. Right above the thrust reversers armed status message was the message that the flight spoilers were still deployed. When I moved my hand to have the Captain lower the flaps to 20, I wasn't done stowing the flight spoilers. They were only out two clicks. Once they stowed the green line went below the approach speed. Problem solved.

The approach phase of can be very busy, especially in busy airspace. Until that approach I had never taken my hand off the flight spoilers without re-stowing them. We were never in danger as again we were at least 30 knots above a stall and were in calm wind conditions and 2000+ feet above the ground. The next item on the before landing checklist after "thrust reversers armed" is "flight spoilers retracted". So even if I had not seen the status message, it would have been caught then. This is why we have checklist.

And now some random shots......

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Day at the Museum

I made it to the National Air & Space Museum yesterday. Thanks for all the tips via email and comments! With all the information I received I decided to fly into IAD and just visit the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

The flight out was nice. I was able to score a first class seat. Sitting in first for me is more about the leg room than anything else. Getting a free breakfast was nice as well.

IAD is an interesting airport. I have flown into it before. The huge passenger transport vehicles remind me of some kind of futuristic military transport.

I found an information desk and asked how to get to the museum. They handed me a flyer and pointed me to a lower door and stop 2E. While walking I misread the schedule and thought the bus left at 30 past the hour. This was great as it was 20 past the hour. left the Museum at 30 past the leaves the airport at 15 past the hour. Doh!

While waiting I was talking with my wife who was in NY. She was trying to get on a 1:40PM flight. Problem was several revenue paying passengers who were on a 2:10PM flight wanted to go standby on the 1:40PM flight. They all got seats. None left for my wife. Well then the 1:40PM flight was delayed due to a minor mechanical problem till 2:30PM. Guess what? All those passengers now wanted back on the 2:10PM flight. My wife had quite the entertainment watching all of these passengers getting all upset of 20 minutes!

Eventually she got on the delayed 1:40PM flight.

Eventually the bus came. The ride is a cheap $0.50 each way.

The Museum was very nice. There are many more planes here than the National Mall Air & Space Museum. The other museum does have more exhibits though. After about 2 hours I was content. I checked the flight schedules to see a 4:35PM flight that had a few open seats. The time was 3:25PM. The shuttle for the airport left in 5 minutes. I rushed to get my bag all the while listing myself on the 4:35PM flight. The shuttle left right at 3:30PM...they don't mess around.

I stepped off the shuttle at 3:45PM and made my way into the airport. Initially I walked past the Dulles employee line as I wasn't in uniform. When I walked up to a regular security line I was told to go back to the employee line. Nice.

I cleared security and rushed to the gate. I walked up to the gate at 4:10PM flight expecting to see boarding in progress. Nope. Delayed a bit.

If I had checked in earlier I would have had first class again. because I checked in less than an hour prior to the flight, all the first class seats were taken. I got a seat....very last row in coach. Oh well...still a seat.

My visit to the museum was pretty low stress. If I had waited until today to go I would still be waiting to get there. All the flights are full today going to Washington, D.C.

Some of the photos I took can be seen below [nggallery id=8]

Thanks again for all the tips!

Friday, June 5, 2009

One leg to the overnight

In base now. Flight was 3 hours late. Very upset passengers. We did everything we could to make them happy. We flew fast and the flight attendants comp'd all alcohol. Still upset. Can't please them all.

On the way we had a jumpseater on board. I talked to him a bit. He used to be at my airline back in 2001. He left for another airline which, at the time, had faster upgrades. Well things slowed. He just made Captain only to be displaced back to First Officer. He still lives near my base. While talking to him he said he wished he would have stayed. Even still he would barely be holding Captain, but would not be commuting. I asked if he was happy where he was, he said he wasn't. Different regional, same crap.

My next turn was canceled earlier since we arrived so late. Normally the flight would have been staffed by reserves....but there were none to be had. I find this ironic as my airline (like every other regional and most majors) furloughed pilots. Summer travel season hasn't even started yet....things will get much worse.

One leg left for this trip. Tomorrow morning I deadhead home. My company deadheads pilots depending on need. If I am needed for another flight then I am given "positive space", or a real confirmed seat. If I am simply deadheading home to go home, I am on standby. Nice huh? The outstation I am flying to has notoriously full flights. I checked in and am on standby. The flight is oversold by I don't know if I will take the jumpseat if forced to or not. Don't really need to be home. My wife is in NY right now. Eh.

One leg left....

Supposed to be in the hotel van

I am supposed to be in the hotel van right now. The inbound flight is delayed. In fact it hasn't left the base yet.

The crew left my current out station this morning. They were simply supposed to fly to the base, turn around, and fly back using the same plane. Well that didn't happen.

Once they arrived their plane was sent elsewhere. This was likely due to 7 CRJs being down for mechanical this morning. The second plane they were given also had an problem. Now they are waiting on an inbound plane due in at 12:55PM. I am guessing they will leave around 1:45PM arriving here at 4:45PM. As of now we have a 3PM van. Now I have a problem.

I brought food to eat. I have one tuna snack pack, 2 ramen noodle packs and 2 fiber bars left. None sound appealing. I was going to hold out for the airport. With two hours left I have to eat something. Right now I am brewing hot water to clean the coffee pot.  I will then brew hot water and likely eat ramen noodles. Oh joy!

The good thing about the delays is our next turn was taken away and given to another crew as we would be over 2 hours late. We still have the flight to the overnight.

My wife is waiting at the airport for a flight over to NY for the weekend. Her flight is delayed due to weather in the NY area. A day of delays. Good times.

Tomorrow I am still scheduled to simply dead head home in the morning. Nice.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Planes everywhere

Runway incursions. They happen everyday. I came close to having not only my first runway incursion, but first collision with another aircraft when I was just of IOE.

I was deadheaded from my home base to an outstation. A Captain was deadheaded from another base to the same outstation. The flight was one leg back to my base. Prior to this flight I had never met this Captain before.

Lucky for me I was to fly the same plane I was deadheading on. After the passengers deplaned, I made my way to the cockpit. The Captain's deadhead flight was running late. I began setting up the plane while the passengers boarded. This was in the middle of winter and there was quite a bit on snow falling.

The Captain arrived just prior to departure and quickly took his seat and we were out of the gate within minutes. For a reason I still don't understand he was rushing himself and me to get through checklist. Normally on the ground the First Officer handles the radio while the Captain drives. After de-icing he took over the radios and began taxiing. I had maybe 40 hours in the plane. My taxi flow has my head down quite a bit. I heard ground advise to taxi to 24R hold short 24L at Sierra.

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The Captain was working the radios and repeated back the instructions. The ground controller then advise to monitor tower. I reached over and put the frequency into the radio. As soon as I flipped over to tower I heard our call sign and flight number followed by "Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop!"

The Captain hit the brakes hard and I looked up to see us just shy of the hold short line for 24L. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an ERJ landing on 24L just over the threshold. We almost had an incursion and a collision.

I looked over at the Captain who simply stated, "What did they not think I was going to stop?" I didn't say a word. I don't think he was going to stop. The rest of the flight went decently. Thankfully I have never seen or flown with this Captain since.

Since this flight I refuse to be rushed. Rushing in the cockpit will only lead to mistakes. This hasn't been a problem since almost every Captain I fly with works at a normal pace and lets me do the same.

Yesterday I flew out of an airport with several interesecting runways. While taxing around I was in awe at the number of planes being launched in all directions. This place was a zoo.

We were assigned to taxi to runway 9. We were number 2. Meanwhile a plane took off from runway 32, while another plane was waiting to take off from runwway 4, another plane was landing on runway 9. Wow.

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Finally we were told to taxi into position and hold. At the same time an aircraft was cleared to land runway 9 and advised there would be one departure from runway 9 prior to his arrival.

I could clearly see another plane also in position on runway 4 and several more waiting for runway 4 and 9. While waiting a plane just took off from runway 32. A few seconds later it was our turn. Initally we were told to fly runway heading. After takeoff we were told to turn south heading 130. This place is nuts.

The first flight was mostly smooth. We tried climbing to FL390 to avoid weather. Didn't happen. Just a little light chop. It was worse down low.

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The first flight was into a hub of another airline. Flying into major hubs while being a different airline just feels odd. I had never been to this airport before, but the Captain had. I reviewed the airport diagram and ramp procedures. We were assigned to follow in a heavy 757. The Captain stayed one dot high and slightly right of course as the winds were coming from the right. The landing was uneventful.

The return flight was fine. We climbed up to FL400 and were finally clear of weather. Nice sunset.

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We were vectored in close so we thought we would get a short approach. I dirtied up the plane in anticipation only to be vectored out for a 12 mile final. Oh well...we got a nice view of the suburbs.

For the first time in a while I nailed the landing. Nice and smooth.

We had an hour and change between flights. I didn't want tuna fish for dinner and went on the hunt for food. For some reason the eating choices at 9PM are slim. I settled on a small cafe. They had a Salmon and Veggie Quiche. I risked it. Turned out it was quite tastey.

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Our flight was scheduled to leave at 9:55PM. We pushed out 5 minutes early due to a light load. My leg again. Being a hotel leg I flew a little faster than normal. Ok a lot faster. The dispatcher filed us for 280 knots indicated. I flew at 330 knots. We would have been 15 minutes early, but the airport put us behind two Citations.

It had been a long day. Winds were calm and the sky was clear. I was following the VASI down, backing it up with the ILS. At 100 feet it looked good. I was right on approach speed with not a knot extra. At 50 feet I was a little under speed. The ground was approaching quickly. The long day slowed my thinking process and I pitched up and only added a little power. Instead of a thumper of a landing I had a slightly better than average. The deck angle though was higher than normal. We weren't near a tail scrape, but if I had kept rotating we would have been. Eh. I admitted my mistake with the power and pitch. No big deal.  The Captain realized what I was doing and knew what I meant to do. We arrived 5 minutes early.

This outstation has two hotels. One for short overnight, one for long. From my base we used to have short overnights. That hotel is awesome. My second favorite. From the other base they have a long overnight. This hotel is horrible. I don't use that word lightly. It really is the pits. I won't proffer for this overnight again.

Today all I do is a flight to MY base and then over to the northeast for an overnight.

Still looking at going to Washington, D.C. next week. I think I will fly into DCA, see the Air & Space Museum in the mall then take the 5A bus to IAD and catch a ride to the Air & Space Museum there and fly out of IAD that night.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Packing for a trip

When I first started at my airline I had no idea how to pack. My first trip was a nightmare. I packed way too much. Since then I have refined what I bring. I'm starting a 4 day trip tomorrow.

In my main suitcase I have:

1 spare Uniform Shirt

3 undershirts

2 regular colored tshirts (for working out/walking around)

1 pair of jeans

1 collared shirt

4 pairs of  black socks and boxers

1 pair of tennis shoes

1 pair of white socks

4 pair of contact lenses

Shaving supplies

Network cable (for hotels without wireless)

3 tuna fish meals (more on that in a bit)

3 Snack bars

With the exception of the last two items, this is my standard 4 day trip suitcase. I have rarely needed more than this. Getting down to this level took a while. Sometimes I would not bring enough...other times too much.

The trip I am leaving for has two overnights I have been too before, one I have not. One of them I know for sure has no food available at the hotel or nearby. We get in at midnight and leave at 3PM the next day. I plan on eating the fiber bar for breakfast and the tuna fish meal for lunch. I might get the hotel van to take me for food. Maybe.

Tuna fish packs well for trips. I used to bring a lunch bag with associated ice blocks. Keeping food cold while on the road can be a challenge. I found it too much of a hassle. Having snack bars is a must as I never know about delays or how energized I will be once I get to a hotel.

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My flight kit (the big black bag you see many pilots slug around), I carry a few items as well. In addition to the required manuals, I carry my headset, umbrella, alcohol wipes, lotion (skin get very dry flying around all day), chapstick, notepads, pens, a snack bar or two and of course the most important easy button.

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I love flight kit has a few.....

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The third bag I carry (flight crews are supposed to only carry 3 bags...most people abide by this rule) is my "man purse" AKA laptop bag.

Inside my laptop bag is my Macbook Pro, headphones, Zune MP3 player, associated charging cables, book, magazines, car keys (hate having them in my pocket), lotion, snack bars, cameras, spare coins (I dump them in when going through security), notebook lock (used in hotels), alcohol wipes and my laptop ac adapter. I bought a second laptop ac adapter that I only use on the road. Remembering to pack my main one with my laptop was too hard. Having one only for travel is much easier.