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 from...no 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.
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 again...it 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.