Friday, July 31, 2009
The flight went fine. Captains leg. Nothing too exciting. Lots of weather to go above and around.
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I never get tired of sunsets...taken at FL390
This is another hotel (still working on a blog about hotels...haven't forgot about your question Ajin) that crews brag about. I will say it was nice. My room was the furthest one from the front desk. At least a 3 minute walk after leaving the elevator. Eh.
I woke up at 5AM for a 5:50AM van. I was filling up my plate with food from the breakfast buffet at 5:35AM. The rain steadily falling outside made me happy I carry not one...but two umbrellas. One is stashed in my flight kit and I have another in my computer bag. I don't like getting wet.
Five Fifty AM came around and we were all being whisked away to the airport. Just 3 minutes later we were all walking into the airport terminal.
The departure was set for 6:35AM. For some reason there were no gate agents at the gate at 6:02AM when we arrived. . My crew and I just waited at the gate for them to arrive. We have no access to the jet bridge. For some reason small town airports have the most high tech/complicated jet bridge access systems when compared to large hubs.
At my hub I carry a key that can open the door to any jet bridge my airline owns. The same key works for many jet bridges my airline operates around the country. Small town airports though...no way Jose!
I finally saw one of the agents on the other side of the jet bridge door at 6:09AM. She was having problems getting the door to open. Apparently her access card wasn't allowing her access. Turns out this tiny airport is super secure. The gate agents only have access to the door between the gate and the jet bridge. The rampers only have access between the ramp and the office area under the gate. The lady trying to open the door had ramper privileges.
While she was trying to open the door, passengers took turns coming up to the podium to ask questions. The flight attendant behind the counter was very polite and told each one she wasn't a gate agent and could only answer basic questions. I use the same wording when I get caught behind a gate podium. Just like gate agents have no idea the inner workings of the CRJ (for the most part), flight crews (for the most part) have no idea the inner workings of reservations/ticketing/seating assignments. Finally at 6:12AM we were walking down the jet bridge.
The rain had thankfully stopped long enough for me to do my preflight inspection. This was the same plane we brought in last night so unless something was damaged overnight, it should have been fine and it was.
Even with the late access to the plane we had 66 passengers seated and ready to go at 6:30AM...5 minutes prior to departure.
The Captain who I am flying with (who also sits afternoon standby on the same days as I do) came from the training department. I had one session with him in the CRJ cockpit mockup (AKA the paper tiger) when I was first hired. He is very nice and knows quite a bit about the CRJ. More than I do for sure. Each time I fly with him he sets the assumed outside temperature for Flex Thrust to the maximum value dictated by the performance charts. Most of the Captains I fly with will pick a number right in the middle of the actual outside temp and the max value. Forty-two degrees is a normal assumed temperature used with most guys. This value saves engine wear, but still gives more than enough power to takeoff and climb out. It's more of a psychologically safe number as we know we have much more power than required, yet still saving fuel.
The performance charts we reference list data for each authorized runway at the airport in use and with different scenarios (Engine ECS, APU ECS, Anti-ice etc). This morning we would be taking off from a 7000 foot runway that was damp,but had no standing water. With 66 passengers and 2500 pounds of cargo, the takeoff weight was 70250 pounds. The performance chart listed 48 degrees as the maximum assumed temperature we could use with Engine ECS and that's what the Captain used.
A 7000 foot runway isn't short....but it isn't really long. With this in mind I decided to set takeoff thrust as quickly as possible once I was given the controls.
As the Captain turned onto the runway he already had the thrust levers 1/3 the way up. Once he said "your aircraft", I replied, "my aircraft" and smoothly advanced the thrust levers into the takeoff detent. "Set thrust" I said, and placed both of my hands on the yoke. My eyes were focused on the end of the runway, which looked really short.
"Thrust set", replied the Captain. The plane quickly began accelerating down the runway. "80 knots" the Captain stated. I momentarily looked down at my PFD and answered, "80 knots". Looking back outside there was 4500 feet of runway left.
With a light quartering headwind I didn't have to work much to keep on center line. I could see the speed tape getting close to VR. My grip on the yoke got a little tighter. The end of the runway was getting closer and closer. Once I heard , "V1, rotate" , I smoothly pulled back on the yoke. The CRJ7 only requires a slight back pressure to raise the nose, once it's started, most of the pressure is released. The nose lifted into the air with roughly 2500 feet of runway left.
"Positive rate, gear up, climb mode" I stated and transitioned my eyes from outside the cockpit to inside on my PFD.
The initial altitude was 3000 feet. The Captain checked in with departure around 1200 feet and we were cleared to FL230 and to deviate as necessary around the weather. I looked outside and aimed for a break between two cloud banks. This was the first time in a while I just sat back and flew VFR like. Most of the time I have to follow a GPS RNAV SID on takeoff. Rarely on takeoff am I allowed to just do whatever I want.
With my right hand on the yoke, I reached down with my left hand and turned on the weather RADAR. The gap between the two cloud banks was plenty big to fit through. Once clear I made a left turn to avoid another build up. There was nothing painting on the RADAR past that point. Too bad as I was having quite a bit of fun hand flying while picking my way through the clouds, all the while calling for the flaps to be retracted and then the appropriate checklist.
I hand flew the plane until just past 14,000 feet and called for the autopilot.
After leveling off at FL380 the ride was smooth and we were above most of the weather.
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Once on the arrival into base we were advised which runway to expect. The Captain setup the approach and I then briefed what I would do. The winds were calm...which I hate. We were vectored in high and then cleared for the visual. I clicked off the autopilot at 6000 feet and began turning toward the runway. A little flight spoilers here and flaps there. Reaching 800 feet the final checklist had been run....I just had to land the thing.
I hate no wind landings. I just do. Everything was looking decent at 500 feet. On speed, sinking 800 feet per minute. I adjusted the sink rate to 700 feet per minute and continued the descent. I ran the trim up to just below the takeoff trim setting. This tends to work for me as I have to put slight pressure forward on the yoke to continue the descent. By doing this I normally keep the plane from slapping itself onto the runway.
I pulled the power partially at 50 feet and closed it at 10 feet. The mains rejoined contact with the runway in an average manner. Eh I was tired. Short overnight...no winds....just not in my element. There is something wrong when the drive to and from the airport is in the dark.
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Sunset to the overnight
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Sunrise from the overnight
Once at the gate the Captain and I both called to get released. It was 8:35AM. We were both (almost like they planned it) assigned to 8 hours of rest and then be available for a 2 hour callout this evening at 5:45PM. Nice. It's a loophole in scheduling. There are many loopholes on both sides of the table. This is one they can use. I doubt I will be called, but this assignment keeps me from having a cocktail with my lunch.
Still working on my displacement plans...I have a few more days till it closes. I am still trying to write up a blog without being too specific.
Anyone know of an easy to use (because I am lazy) watermarking program for Mac ? Maybe IPhoto compatible? I've been finding several of my photos of other peoples websites without my permission.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Thu, 07/30/2009 - 11:58 — Paula Berg
Q&A with Ron Ricks, Executive Vice President Corporate Services and Corporate Secretary
Today, Southwest Airlines confirmed that it is preparing a bid to acquire Denver-based Frontier Airlines, which will be sold at auction in bankruptcy court next month. We sat down with Ron Ricks, our Executive Vice President Corporate Services and Corporate Secretary, to discuss the bid and what this news means for Southwest Airlines.
Q: Ron, what’s the news today?
Southwest Airlines is preparing a bid to acquire Denver-based Frontier Airlines, which will be sold at auction in bankruptcy court later this month. The bid is worth a minimum of $113.6 million, and is a nonbinding proposal in accordance with the bidding procedures established in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
Q: What does that mean exactly? What’s in proposal?
A: Southwest is still preparing the proposal, so it's premature to comment on the specifics at this time. What we can say is that we are interested in a substantial investment in Frontier and to operate Frontier as a wholly-owned subsidiary, independently and separately from Southwest Airlines, for a period of time until the carrier could be combined into Southwest.
Q. When will we know if Southwest’s bid has been accepted?
A. A nonbinding submission of interest must be provided by August 3, 2009. Assuming that Southwest is determined to be a qualified bidder, Southwest has until August 10, 2009, to submit a binding offer. If there is more than one qualified bidder, an auction will be held beginning August 11. Southwest believes our bid ultimately will be seen as the strongest bid by all interested parties, including Frontier Employees, management, and its creditors.
Q. Who approached whom? Is this a response to Republic’s bid?
A. Frontier has been in bankruptcy since April 2008, and we’ve been considering a bid for some time, independent of any action Republic took with its bid proposal. In the past month, we began an intensive study of the airline and expressed that interest to Frontier.
Q. Obviously, we are in a tough economic environment. What makes this the right time for Southwest to seek to acquire Frontier?
A. We have always prepared in good times to weather the bad times and to be able to take advantage of a good opportunity, like this one, when presented to us. We have the cash, access to capital, and collateral that allows us to take advantage of this existing opportunity and synergies between Southwest and Frontier. We believe this is an opportunity to expand our network with legendary low fares, add jobs into Southwest, and boost competition in Denver as well as other cities with our low fares and high quality Customer Service.
Q. Is this a cash offer, or a combination of some sort? And, will Southwest accept all of Frontier’s debt?
A. We are still exploring what a final bid would be – it’s really too early to say.
Q: What would a possible acquisition by Southwest Airlines mean for the employees of Frontier?
A: We believe our bid proposal will allow Frontier to emerge from bankruptcy. Frontier would continue to operate independently and separately for a period of time with its Airbus aircraft and personnel. Over time, Frontier Employees would be hired into Southwest as needed to support our fleet growth and expanded operations. We believe the acquisition will boost low-fare competition across the country and certainly in the Denver market. And, again, we believes our bid will be seen as the strongest bid by all interested parties, including Frontier Employees, management, and its creditors.
Q: What about Lynx (the regional carrier operating as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Frontier)?
A. As part of our overall due diligence, Southwest Airlines will study Lynx. Until a bid is finalized, it’s too early to say.
Q. Do Southwest’s most recent Union agreements include language that would allow for acquiring another airline and its Employees?
A. All of our collective bargaining agreements have provisions for the acquisition of or merger with another carrier. This is not new to Southwest, as it has in its recent history purchased assets of ATA Airlines (2008) and acquired Morris Air (1993).
Q: Final thoughts?
A: From a Customer perspective, nothing today changes at either carrier. This is merely a preliminary step in the process. There are many details to be worked through, but we are excited about the opportunity to submit a bid. We see a strong fit between our Company cultures, a mutual commitment to high quality Customer Service, and our similar entrepreneurial roots. We are confident that our bid, if successful, will boost low-fare competition and benefit consumers in Denver and other cities our expanded network will serve.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
FAA seeks rapid overhaul of rules that govern pilot training and scheduling for regional airlines
Scott Shaw/The Plain DealerMichael Zaite, recently a co-pilot with CommutAir flying the twin-propellor planes seen in the background, resigned rather than take a transfer to Newark, N.J. He said pilot fatigue and occasionally lax discipline in the cockpit raise safety concerns at the regional partner for Continental Airlines.
• Buffalo crash pilots discussed sickness, low pay
• NTSB report cockpit voice recording from Buffalo crash (PDF)
CLEVELAND -- Michael Zaite learned a lot when he flew as a co-pilot for Cleveland-based CommutAir, but it wasn't the education he was expecting.
Zaite, 30, saw how grueling schedules at the regional airline left crew members sleep-deprived, with bags under their eyes, "not thinking straight." He attended in-house training sessions where instructors skimmed over safety procedures. He sat in the cockpit next to rabid BlackBerry fans who text-messaged friends while the plane was taking off.
"They've got themselves deluded into thinking they have sufficient safety and sufficient training," said Zaite, a Garfield Heights resident who resigned from CommutAir in October rather than take a transfer to Newark, N.J. He now works for his family's business building musical amplifiers.
Zaite and other current and former pilots discussed their experiences with The Plain Dealer at a time of increasing national scrutiny for regional airlines, which have expanded rapidly and now account for half of all domestic flights.
In Cleveland, half of the passengers and three-fourths of the departures are on the smaller regional planes, often branded with the names of mainline carriers. Four regional carriers, for example, fly under the names Continental Express and Continental Connection, often serving the smaller markets where Continental Airlines' bigger planes don't fly.
Continental and its regional carriers say their planes are safe and their training thorough. A Continental spokeswoman declined to comment specifically about its affiliates but said safety is Continental's top priority "and we expect the same from our regional partners."
Nevertheless, the Federal Aviation Administration is seeking a rapid overhaul of rules that govern pilot training and scheduling because of concerns about a Colgan Air plane, flying as Continental Connection, that crashed in February in Buffalo, N.Y., killing 50 people. Investigators say the pilots were tired, insufficiently trained and poorly paid.
Legislation to require more stringent screening and training standards for pilots who fly for commercial air carriers is scheduled to be introduced Tuesday in the House.
A Plain Dealer review shows an increased rate of deadly incidents at regional airlines since 2002. Regionals doubled their annual flights between 2002 and 2008. But fatalities increased at a much faster rate, with 156 deaths in six crashes. U.S. mainline and low-cost carriers during the same period had three fatalities.
A decade ago the situation was the opposite, with fatalities at regional airlines a rare occurrence and major carriers marred by catastrophes that took 365 lives from 1999 through 2001 - aside from 265 killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks. Regionals during the same time had two fatalities.
"The statistics flipped," said Mary Schiavo, an aviation attorney and the Department of Transportation's inspector general during the 1990s.
Schiavo thinks major airlines cut their accident rates in part by modernizing their fleets. The airlines got billions in federal subsidies after the Sept. 11th attacks and used some of the money to buy new jets, she said.
Commuter airlines expanded their reach as major airlines cut capacity and outsourced less profitable routes.
CommutAir Chief Executive John Sullivan said his airline surpasses FAA rules on training and safety and pays on a par with other regional airlines.
"By any measure that is reasonable, the air transportation system, including the regional sector of it, is very safe," he said.
However, interviews with current and former pilots for regional airlines that serve Cleveland Hopkins International Airport reveal a startling picture of sometimes minimal training and experience of men and women in the cockpit.
The pilot flying a commuter plane out of Cleveland might be as young as 23. The co-pilot could be 18. They may be weary from a tight schedule, limited sleep and lousy food.
Amy Vidovich, a pilot for Colgan from 1999 to 2001, described a relentless schedule flying short hops throughout the Northeast.
On a single day she might go from Boston to Augusta, Maine, then to Rockland, Maine, then back to Boston for refueling. She'd fly out again, perhaps to Rutland, Vt., before heading to Augusta, then back to Boston, then repeat the sequence again. The weather was often foggy, and some days she flew 10 legs -- 10 departures and 10 landings.
"I remember being so tired at the end of the day that I couldn't do basic math to fill out the flight time in the log book," she said.
Dan Morgan, Colgan vice president of safety and regulatory compliance, said the airline's policies allow for rested and fit flight crews. The airline limits flying time to 7½ hours in any 24-hour period. Colgan pilots average four hours 44 minutes of flying time per day and as much as six hours, he said.
"It would be highly doubtful that anyone could fly 10 legs in a day," he said.
Federal rules now limit pilots to no more than eight hours of scheduled flight during one shift. But pilots can be on duty a total of 16 hours, with nonflying time spent on duties such as checking weather and dealing with paperwork. They must have eight hours off between shifts, but the minimum break includes waiting for a hotel shuttle and going through airport security.
The National Transportation Safety Board has linked fatigue to more than 250 fatalities in aviation accidents in the past 15 years. A military consultant at a recent FAA symposium on fatigue and performance said 80 percent of regional pilots surveyed said they nodded off during a flight. The first skills to go are vigilance and attention, researcher say. They liken the effect of deep fatigue to being drunk.
An examination of pilot training and experience are part of the post-Colgan-crash probe into regional carriers.
The FAA pushed to require "one level of safety" in the 1990s, requiring commuter airlines to comply with more stringent rules that applied to major airlines. But FAA rules provide only general subjects to be covered in training and minimums on flight hours. And as the majors assigned more marginally profitable routes to regionals fighting for the work, two levels of safety resurfaced, Schiavo said.
Zaite, the former CommutAir co-pilot, said the airline's in-house training wasn't rigorous.
"They go through the motions, repeat the power points as fast as they can and go home," recalled Zaite, who was hired with just 507 flight hours, 25 hours of it on multiengine aircraft like the twin turboprops at CommutAir.
Inexperience shows up in the cockpit, said a CommutAir captain, who asked not to be identified because he feared repercussions for talking to the press.
"It's very exhausting for me to monitor [co-pilots] because I have my own duties," he said.
The climb after takeoff, for example, requires multiple tasks in quick succession. Co-pilots raise the landing gear and wing flaps, talk on the radio to air traffic control and open the "air bleeds" at about 1,000 feet to pressurize the cockpit so it doesn't lose oxygen.
Some co-pilots are sharp; others seem "overwhelmed" and "frazzled," the captain said. And things get missed.
"You feel the popping of your ears and you look up and the air bleeds aren't on," he said.
Passengers shouldn't expect quick fixes to the regional airline industry, officers of the Air Line Pilots Association warn.
One stubborn issue is a business model that pits regional airlines against one another to win contracts with mainline airlines, said Capt. John Prater, ALPA president. Airlines that spend more on safety or pay higher wages risk being penalized in the marketplace, Prater said.
Weekly take-home pay for beginning pilots of $300 to $350 forces some to take second jobs to support their families.
Schiavo blames safety differences between mainline and regional airlines on the relative inexperience of pilots at smaller airlines and the rapid turnover -- when economic times are good -- as they move to more lucrative and prestigious jobs at the major carriers. Salaries at many regional airlines changed little as they ramped up, "meaning many pilots who can find better jobs do so," Schiavo said. "The experience level has fallen."
A statistical analysis to see if there is a link between accidents and pilot experience and pay is part of the government's post-Colgan accident review.
For all the talk about the stresses of flying, pilots say today's highly computerized cockpits relieve some of the cognitive demands of their job. Veteran United pilot Frederick Dubinsky says he taught his son to "fly" a Boeing 777 in a simulator in 45 minutes.
"Airplanes are big computer games, is all they are," he said. "Anyone who's sat in front of a Nintendo can do it."
But learning to fly and learning to be a pilot are not the same.
"When the picture goes bad," Dubinsky said, "these kids have nothing to fall back on."
News Research Director Dave Davis and researcher Jo Ellen Corrigan contributed to this report.
Yesterday there was lot of bad weather around the United States. Just as I explained in "When Weather Happens", crews misconnected. While sitting out my shift I got called at 4:25PM for a 4:50PM departure. Hmmm...nice.
The reason this flight became open was directly related to the weather, but in an odd way.
The First Officer assigned to the flight was supposed to start a 4 day trip earlier in the day. Due to the weather his first flight cancelled after he signed in for the flight. The first turn was a total of 6 hours. He saw it cancel and went home. Meanwhile the airline went into an "altered schedule" mode which allows them to reassign line holders to other flights. The entire crew was reassigned to the 4:50PM flight. Everyone but the First Officer showed up.
When there was no first officer in sight the airline called me, the standby guy. Nice.
I made my way to the crew room, grabbed my bags and headed to the plane. The Captain had already done the preflight inspection. This threw me off. I don't like flying planes I don't personally inspect. He said it was done, thus I didn't do it. I held a hard line last year with this Captain..nice laid back guy.
At 5:14PM we pushed out. The Captain took the initial leg. There was still weather in the area so the climb out consisted of being vectored around build ups. Being so late he climbed at a faster speed than normal to make up time.
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The flight landed at 6:10PM and was in the gate at 6:17PM....20 minutes late. Thirty minutes later we were on our way out.
Flying back the weather wasn't as bad. I flew fast to make up time. Once again the winds were coming out of the north...but we were landing to the south. This time it wasn't as bad as the wins were 030/06 and I was landing runway 18.
I made a decent landing at 7:35PM. The flight was scheduled to arrive at 7:35PM. I made up 20 minutes. Things would have been perfect if the rest of my coworkers were ready to do their jobs.
We were cleared into the ramp at 7:38PM. Then everything stopped. There were no rampers to marshal us in. The Captain and I are both team players with fuel saving. During the turn at the outstation we taxied in on one engine. The ramp crew quickly connected the GPU and PCA thus we never started the APU. By not starting the APU we saved wear on the APU and fuel. Everything worked perfect.
However in the base things rarely go so smoothly. There we were waiting to be marshaled in. I called our operations for rampers. We waited. I called again. We waited. Finally at 7:45PM rampers appeared. Next we needed a gate agent. Without a gate agent to move the jet bridge, the rampers can't connect the GPU. Since there was no agent, the rampers disappeared. At 7:48PM the gate agent appeared. She moved the jetbridge into position.
Without the rampers we had no choice but to start the APU, thus we did. It really frustrates me to no end when my coworkers fail to do their job. I was talking to a ramper a few weeks ago. They make MORE money than 1st and 2nd year First Officers. One would think they would take pride in their work. Many don't. Sad.
After the flight I finished out my airport standby shift. After my shift I had a discussion with scheduling.
I was originally assigned to airport standby on Tuesday. Since I have Wednesday off, it made little sense to have me sit afternoon airport standby as I can't do an overnight. Because of this they assigned another pilot afternoon airport standby. However because this is my "line" they couldn't just take me off afternoon airport standby, I had to request it. I mulled it over, I would rather risk sitting at home on reserve and getting called than sitting airport standby. It was done. I was assigned morning reserve at home starting at 6AM.
This morning I walked out to my Lazy Boy at 7AM. I popped open the laptop and checked out the "situation". The morning airport standby got sent out on a flight. I figured I would be called to come sit standby. However there was also a turn open at 11:10AM. Hmmm...I guess that would be better. Well at 7:36AM I was called out for the 11:10AM turn.
The turn was pretty easy. The first flight left at 11:10AM and then returned to base at 1:50PM. Not too shabby right?
Being such a short turn I contemplated "princess parking". "Princess parking" is parking right at the terminal versus in the employee lot. The difference is $$$$. I would spend at most $5 to cover the time I planned on being out on assignment. Of course if flights were delayed I could spend more. The weather was nice....hmmm. Eh.... I need to save money. Employee parking it was.
I signed in at 10:23 AM...two minutes to spare. After grabbing my bags (I stored them overnight in the crew storage area thus I came to work "empty handed") I headed to the gate. The passengers from the inbound were streaming out. It appeared to be a full flight. I met the Captain and crew at the plane. During my preflight I noticed the nose strut was really low. I figured it was low due to the previous flight being full. It's normal for the strut to be low it the flight is full, but it will slowly rise back up.
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Everything was looking good and we blocked out at 11:10AM. Right on time. Things were going too well. The push cart nosed up to the plane. Then the ramper came over the intercom. "Captain you need to call mantanence as t he nose strut is so low I can't attach the strap." Nice.
The mechanics were called. The passengers would have to deplane. So much for an easy turn. Glad I didn't princess park.
The mechanics estimated the repair would be done at 12:30PM. I had planned on eating lunch around 2PM when we were scheduled to get back. With this delay I wouldn't eat until 3PM at best. Fat man needs food. Off I went.
McDonald's at my airport seems to be staffed by, no nice way to say this, idiots. I normally grab grilled snack wraps and yogurt parfaits. Most of the time they get my order wrong. I get fried snack wraps of the wrong flavor and they leave out the granola from the parfait. I have to check my order each time.
Today I ordered a grilled BBQ snack wrap, a plain hamburger and a yogurt parfait. I used the word "plain" because they don't have the simple hamburger on the menu. Last time when I ordered a hamburger they asked if I wanted cheese. WTF? That would make it a cheeseburger. To avoid that situation this time I used the word "plain." Do you see where this is going? Below is what I got.
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I ate lunch in the cabin (nice and chilly because the rampers hooked up external power...but no PCA...thus the APU burned away). Finally at 12:35PM the repair was done. All passengers were on board at 1:25PM. Problem? NO RAMPERS!
We called...and waited....and called...and waited. Finally at 1:40PM we had rampers. Ridiculous and embarrassing.
The Captain did his best to deal with the gust crosswind and touched down at 2:36PM. The outstation ramp crew was on the ball and had us parked at 2:40PM. Another flight from my airline was right behind us. They only have 1 GPU and PCA cart so they used them on the other flight as they would be on the ground longer. We used the APU the entire time. Just 20 minutes later we were taxing out.
The airspace around the airport was busy with military traffic (there was also NASA T-38 arriving as we left). Normally we are assigned 17,000 feet for an initial out of this airport. Right before taking the runway we were assigned 8000 feet and to fly runway heading (310).
The weather wasn't the best. Lots of build up and down drafts. The cloud base was around 9000 MSL.
During climbout it was smoothish till 6500 feet when we really started getting knocked around. We were given a left turn to heading 090. At 7000 feet I pulled the levers out of takeoff power and reduced the climb rate to level off at 8000 feet (I was till hand flying). I was hoping we would get higher and get out of this crap. It wasn't too be. The bumps got so bad around 7400 feet I called for the autopilot on as I was annoyed with dealing with it.
Level at 8000 feet we were being vectored around. Finally the Captain asked why we weren't given a higher altitude. The controller came back with a 17,000...he mistakenly thought he had told us. Nice.
Being so late I climbed at 310 knots. The FMS predicted us to be just 3 minutes late. Nice.
I kept the speed up until the arrival procedure slowed us down.
Gliding in things were looking good. The approach controller assigned us "at least 180 till BIZCO cleared for the visual". No problem as I was doing 230 knots. Right away another controller came on and stated to slow to 170 immediately. Who was this voice? Well at my airport there is one guy who simply watches arrivals and listens in. He only speaks up when he sees something that could be an issue. The Captain replied that we would slow.
Instead of having a smooth arrival, I had to pull out the flight spoilers.
The plane was descending through 3500 at the time. The CRJ can either go down or slowdown...not both. With the spoilers out I called for flaps 1, then 8 then 20. The engines were idled. I then called for gear down. We were still doing 190 knots while on glide slope. The Captain checked in with the tower. At the time the speed was down to 180 knots. The tower cleared us to land and advised we were overtaking a turboprop ahead by 100 knots. Nice. I called for Flap 30. Spoilers still out. At 170 knots I called for flaps 45 and stowed the spoilers.
The turboprop cleared the runway as we passed through 800 feet. I clicked off the autopilot and made a decent landing. Done.
While back in the terminal I stopped to talk to a First Officer who was just a few numbers senior to me on my aircraft. There was another First Officer who was also a few senior to me on my aircraft. For a few minutes we discussed displacement options. I just might choose to displace out of base. Stay tuned.
From a passenger prespective, it there is a storm at 8AM that is over by 11AM and they have a flight at 3PM, there is no reason that flight shouldn't be on time. Right? Well not so much. For this example the passengers is leaving an outstation on flight 8000 at 3PM.
Flight crews (especially at regionals) typically fly in and out of a hub 3 to 5 times a day. Follow this schedule for a crew coming in from an overnight for a full day of flying:
Flight 1000 Outstation to Base - 7:30AM arriving 9AM
Flight 2000 Base to Outstation - 9:30AM arriving 10:15AM
Flight 3000 Outstation to Base - 10:45AM arriving 11:30AM
Flight 4000 Base to Outstation 1:30PM arriving 2:30PM
On most days this schedule works just fine. Turning (landing, pulling into the gate, getting the passengers and bags off the plane, cleaning the plane, refueling, loading new passengers and bags and getting off the gate) in 30 minutes is very doable at most airports. When weather comes in and flights start getting delayed, the domino effect starts.
Flight 1000 took off on time at 7:30AM. While en-route a thunderstorm over the airport shuts down operations. Now they are in a holding pattern starting at 8:30AM. Thankfully they have plenty of extra holding fuel on board. At 9AM they burn the last bit of the holding fuel and head to the alternate airport. Meanwhile crew scheduling is calling up reserve pilots and flight attendants to staff flight 2000. Flight 1000 lands at the alternate airport at 9:25AM.
The reserve crew for flight 2000 waits at the gate along with the passengers as there is no plane available for the flight. Contrary to popular belief airlines don't have a fleet of planes sitting in a hangar standing by.
Flight 1000 is fueled up and ready to go. The weather is clearing. The EDCT for flight 1000 is 10:15AM. Another flight in route to the base is able to land at 9:55 AM. The plane pulls up to the gate and will be used for Flight 2000. Flight 1000 takes off from the Alternate at 10:15AM. At 10:25AM flight 2000 pushes out of the gate. Due to the weather there is a long line of planes waiting to take off.
Flight 1000 lands in base at 11:00AM. Flight 2000 takes off at 11:00AM as well. The crew from flight 1000 obviously won't be flying flight 2000 and flight 3000.
My airline has rules in place for weather events and scheduling. The crew from flight 1000 has been reassigned to cover another flight from another crew that misconnected. They are now assigned the following:
Flight 5000 Base to Outstation - 11:50AM arriving 12:30PM
Flight 6000 Outstation to Base 12:55PM arriving 1:30PM
The crew scatters to find food (they have been going since 6:20AM when they hopped in the hotel van). They push out at 11:50AM and wait in line of a long, but dwindling line of planes to takeoff.
Flight 5000 takes off at 12:20PM and lands at the outstation at 12:50PM. The station personell work hard (most out station personell work much harder than base....but that's a different story) and turn the plane in 16 minutes. Flight 6000 pushes out at 1:06PM. The flight takes off at 1:10PM and lands in base (where the weather is downright beautiful!) at 1:45PM.
Due to the morning of delays, planes are arriving both on time and delayed. There are not enough gates and flight 5000 is forced to wait on a taxiway. At 2:10PM a gate opens up. The crew had planned on being at their overnight via flight 4000 at 2:30PM. Not going to happen. Meanwhile the passenger for flight 8000 arrives at the airport and is steaming that his 3PM flight is posted as a weather delay when the weather outside and in base is beautiful. They release their frustrations on an underpaid gate agent. Why?
Flight 4000 which was scheduled for a 1:30PM departure is now set for 3PM. At 3PM flight 4000 leaves the gate. The passenger for flight 8000 swears he will never flight ABC airlines again. Of course two months from now he will buy another ticket. Because ABC airlines had the best fare.
Flight 4000 touches down at the outstation at 4PM. The crew for flight 8000 is just starting their day. Flight 8000 leaves the outstation at 4:40PM and lands in base at 5:30PM. And the whole cycle continues.
Delays domino at airlines. They typically stop overnight. Sometimes they continue for days.
I am sure most readers of this blog understand weather delays. This was written for those that don't.
I had planned on writing another blog this morning, but I just got called from home to cover a flight...why? Because weather is happening. More tonight.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
The retired pilot mounted the horse, unassisted, and the horse immediately began moving. As it galloped along at a steady and rhythmic pace, the pilot began slipping sideways from the saddle.
Although attempting to grab the horse's mane the pilot could not get a firm grip. He then threw his arms around the horse's neck but continued to slide down the side of the horse. The horse continuted to gallop along, seemingly oblivious to its slipping rider. Finally, losing his grip, the pilot attempted to leap away from the horse and throw himself to safety. Unfortunately his foot became entangled in the stirrup and he was at the mercy of the horse's pounding hooves as his head and upper body repeatedly struck the ground.
Moments away from unconsciousness and probable death, to the retired pilot's great fortune a Regional Airline First Officer, working as at Wal-Mart to supplement his meager salary, observed the situation and quickly unplugged the horse.
Non-rev travel can be difficult at times. Lately with the sagging economy, airlines have been having fares sales which have made non-rev travel a little more tricky.
My incredibly awesome wife has a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and a Masters in Forensics. She's uber smart and loves animals.
For a while we have been hopping around the United States visiting Aquariums and Zoos. We have now visited 5 aquariums, 3 zoos and one megamall (the Mall of America).
This recent weekend was my last weekend off for a while. We wanted to take advantage of it so we went out of town.
My wife has wanted to visit the San Diego zoo for a while. Apparently its one of the top zoos in the country.
The flights out were really full. Crazily full. I had 5 different ways to get down to San Diego at one point.
Friday morning things got worse. When we got to the airport we had to pick either trying to make a direct flight or trying a flight in the wrong direction and then hope to make a connecting flight. I chose the direct flight. We didn't make it. It turns out we would have made the connecting flight option just fine. Hindsight is always 20/20. Things began looking grim. Every way I planned out had an overbooked flight and a long standby list.
I then began thinking of other non-direct flights. After 5 minutes of furiously typing away I found a possible way out. We would have to fly to an out station and then hope to get one of only 5 open seats on a flight out to San Diego.
The flight to the out station was fine. Very empty. Once we arrived at the out station we took seats in the waiting area...3 hours to the next flight.
Two hours to go I saw a plane from my mainline partner being followed by a fleet of ARFF vehicles. Uh oh. The plane pulled up to the gate in front of us and de-boarded. I could tell this flight wasn't supposed to arrive here as all the passengers were waiting in the boarding area. Turns out this plane took off, had an engine malfunction, shut it down and returned to the airport.
No fire, just a bad sensor apparently. The bad thing was the flight was moved to another plane...the plane I was expecting to take us to San Deigo!
This actually turned out to be a great thing as our flight was delayed. Over 20 passengers were rebooked on other flights/airlines. Suddenly we had a great chance of making the flight.
Five hours after arriving to the outstation we were headed out. We didn't have seats together (we rarely do when non-reving), but we had seats.
During the final approach at about 2500 feet a lady and her child decided that was the perfect time to use the lavatory. Apparently the smooth cruise potion of the flight (when the seat belt sign was OFF!), was not risky enough for them. They walked by so fast and went into the lav so fast, I don't think the flight attendant had a chance to stop them.
I heard the landing gear extend and they were still in the lav. When they came out we were no more than 500 feet. The flight attendant pulled them both to the back of the plane and secured them in the extra flight attendant jump seats.
I'm not a parent, but when I am, I would take my child to the restroom 30 minutes out if they even kinda had to go. If they didn't have to go I would take them regardless 20 minutes out. It's not the first time I have seen this happen. The most amazing thing I saw was a lady get up right after the plane landed and try to walk to the back of the plane. The flight attendant immediately came on the PA and told her to go back to her seat. The plane was still traveling over 100 knots!
The rest of the trip was really fun. Friday night we walked around San Diego's Gas Lamp district.
The Comic Con convention was in town. The number of dorks around town was truly amazing. We ate dinner at a brewery/restaurant and then headed to a bar to meet a host of a podcast I listen to (Diggnation). We had a great time and headed back to the hotel around 11PM.
Saturday we woke up, had breakfast (I love Holiday Inn Express Cinnamon rolls!) and then headed to the zoo. I'm glad we got there really early as we saw everything we wanted before it got crowded.
After the zoo we hopped in the car and headed to the airport. Thankfully the flights back on a Saturday night were very open. The plane was under 1/2 full. Nice.
Once again during the final approach a lady across the aisle and one row ahead of me had her 4 year oldish little girl standing up in front of the seat! No seat belt! The flight attendants had already done their final checks and were seated. I just don't get it.
Below are a few photos from the trip. The guy in the red outfit was just one of MANY adults dressed up in um....comic themes? The Gorilla really got my attention. he sat right in front of the glass with his back to the crowd as if to say, "I'm so important that I am sitting right here. You are so unimportant to me, that you can only see my back." Ehh...it made me laugh.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Take a few minutes and watch the video via this link http://kstp.com/news/stories/S1041636.shtml?cat=1
INVESTIGATION: Are Regional Airline Pilots Rested?
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
LAX parking lot is home away from home for airline workers
Buffeted by their industry's turbulence, airline employees save money by living part time in a motor home colony at LAX.
By Dan Weikel
July 20, 2009
For about 15 days a month, Alaska Airlines pilot Jim Lancaster lives in a motor home in Parking Lot B near the southernmost runway at Los Angeles International Airport.
Every four minutes, a jetliner or turboprop roars in -- 500 feet above his front door -- for a landing. The noise is so loud it forces Lancaster to pause during conversations. But he doesn't mind. Lancaster puts up with the smell of jet fuel and screaming engines to save time and money.
The 60-year-old aviator's primary residence is a cottage he shares with his wife overlooking a quiet bay off Puget Sound in Washington state. Living in Lot B while he's on duty means he doesn't have to rent a Los Angeles apartment with other pilots or spend 12 hours a day commuting to and from the Seattle area.
"As kids we used to ask our parents to take us to the airport to see the planes," Lancaster quipped. "Now I get to live at the airport."
He isn't the only one. Lancaster's 2001 Tradewinds sits among 100 trailers and motor homes that form a colony of pilots, mechanics and other airline workers at LAX, the third-busiest airport in the nation. They are citizens of one of the most unusual communities in the United States.
Their turf, just east of the Proud Bird restaurant off Aviation Boulevard, is less than 3,500 feet from the south runway. It is a drab expanse of crumbling gray asphalt, approach lights, chain-link fencing and rows of beige and white RVs -- some battered, others grand. A splash of color comes from the red and white blooms of about a dozen rose bushes along the colony's northern edge.
Many of the residents are separated from spouses, children and significant others for days -- even weeks -- at a time in order to keep their jobs or move up the pyramid of the airline industry.
"This is the cost of being a pilot today," said Todd Swenson, 40, a first officer with Alaska Airlines. His wife, Amanda, and 2-year-old son, Noah, live in Fresno, a six-hour commute by car. "I've wanted to be a pilot all my life. It can be awful here. But I have to provide for my family, and I love flying airplanes."
Swenson, who earns about $70,000 a year, lives across from Lancaster in a 1973 Coachman trailer that belonged to his father. If Lancaster's 38-foot rig with leather furniture is Park Place, Swenson's is Mediterranean Avenue. The 23-foot metal box is as cramped as economy class, with just enough space for a double bed, a television and a La-Z-Boy recliner. There is a galley kitchen and a bathroom about the size of an airliner lavatory.
The trailer's windows are blacked out with foil and brown paper bags so Swenson can sleep during the day. To muffle the constant din of aircraft, he bought a white-noise machine -- a small tape player with a recording that sounds like a washing machine. Swenson works out at a nearby 24-Hour Fitness, where he showers to conserve his trailer's limited water supply.
Inside the Coachman, the wood paneling and storage cabinets are covered with photos of Amanda and Noah, whom Swenson returns to about 11 days a month. He keeps in touch via a computer webcam.
"When my tires leave the driveway of my house in Fresno," Swenson said, "the only thing I can think about is getting back to my family."
For several years, clusters of RVs were scattered around the airport's parking lots until LAX officials decided to consolidate them in Lot B. Now operating as an organized camp overseen by the airport, it has an unofficial mayor, a code of conduct and residency requirements, including background checks, regular vehicle inspections and proof of employment at an air carrier.
"There might be a few other places like this nationally, but I think this is rather unique," said Michael Biagi, who heads the land-use division at Los Angeles World Airports.
Today, the colony has more than 100 residents -- mostly men -- from around the country, including captains, first officers, mechanics, flight attendants, support staff and employees of air cargo companies. There are at least two married couples, who work as flight attendants. About 10 people are on a waiting list.
Lot B's attractiveness is partly the result of the decade-long decline in air travel brought about by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the outbreak of SARS -- severe acute respiratory syndrome -- in 2003 and the deepest recession since World War II.
Salaries for pilots, mechanics and other airline workers have plummeted. Captains like Lancaster have been demoted to first officer, losing hard-earned seniority and forcing them out of plum assignments at airports close to home. Lancaster, who came to LAX from Seattle about 18 months ago, estimates that his reduction in rank cost him about $30,000 a year, roughly 20% of his pay.
Rather than quit their jobs or uproot their families for what could be a temporary stint in Los Angeles, workers have settled in Lot B, where the rent is only $60 a month.
"They'd probably be out of a job otherwise," said Doug Rogers, a 62-year-old United Airlines mechanic from Utah, who is the colony's acting mayor. "You can't maintain a household elsewhere and afford a home here in this economic climate. The airline industry is fragile right now. You just don't know what is going to happen."
Rogers has lived at LAX for about seven years in a 26-foot camper built on a Ford truck chassis. He and his wife own a house in Stansbury Park, a semi-rural community of 2,500 just north of Salt Lake City.
Rogers' living situation is the product of years of financial difficulties at United, which has gone in and out of bankruptcy proceedings. He lost his assignment at Salt Lake City International Airport, where United closed its maintenance facility a few months after the Sept. 11 attacks.
A $5 pay cut to $30 an hour, along with the airline's still tenuous future, led to his decision to keep his Stansbury Park house and rent a spot in Lot B, he said. He now works four 10-hour days a week and gets at least three days off to go back to Utah.
There's another advantage to not commuting -- whether by plane or car -- when on duty: Pilots and mechanics can get more rest, mitigating a problem that has plagued airline workers for decades.
An ongoing federal investigation indicates that fatigue could have been a factor in the crash of a Colgan Air turboprop that killed 50 people in Buffalo, N.Y., on Feb. 12. The pilot was commuting from Tampa, Fla., to Colgan's base in New Jersey. The copilot had regularly traveled from Seattle.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, 93 of Colgan's 137 New Jersey-based pilots considered themselves commuters, including 49 who traveled more than 400 miles and 29 who lived more than 1,000 miles away.
If not for Lot B or other temporary quarters, the residents would be commuting from Anchorage, Seattle, Indianapolis, Memphis, Minneapolis and Hawaii. Others live in California, but hundreds of miles from LAX.
Rogers said life in the colony has been uneventful except for a period in 2005 when scores of non-airline workers moved in from a camping area at nearby Dockweiler State Beach, which was undergoing renovation. At the time, the airport did not screen potential residents.
The new arrivals brought in lawn gnomes, garden furniture and barbecues, which created a party atmosphere and the potential for public disturbances on airport property. A few dumped garbage and human waste on the pavement. Two prostitutes moved in as well, including one in her late 60s with a taste for tight skirts and silver high heels, residents say.
Responding to complaints from parking lot tenants and patrons, airport police swept into the eastern area of Lot B, where the RVs are located. They removed the prostitutes and towed about a dozen motor homes and campers with expired registrations. Officials stopped short of closing the site by establishing strict qualifications for residency and prohibiting lawn furniture, outdoor barbecues and parties.
"We try to keep a real low profile," said Steve Young, 52, a United Airlines mechanic whose family lives in Twentynine Palms.
"We consider living here a privilege."
Since the expulsion of the outsiders, Lot B has been quiet. Most people pass their free time reading, watching movies, shopping for supplies or servicing their RVs. Occasionally, there are bike rides to Dockweiler, about four miles away, or visits to the El Segundo Air Force base hosted by Lancaster, a retired lieutenant colonel.
Because tenants' work schedules vary widely, social gatherings are small and infrequent. It is typical for a few people to organize an impromptu happy hour in one of the larger rigs, such as Lancaster's coach, which is known as the Chateau. It has satellite TV, plush carpeting and walnut-stained cabinetry.
Lancaster's wife, a teacher in Seattle, likes the Chateau as well and occasionally flies down on Friday nights to explore Los Angeles over the weekend. "It's great fun and adventurous," Marlene Lancaster said.
But other tenants, like Rogers, can't wait for their days off to escape their cramped RVs, the din of aircraft and the tedium of Lot B.
"When I go home," Rogers said, "people sometimes ask me if I'd like to go camping. I tell them no. I already do that."
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This particular overnight is one that many crews rave about having awesome hotel rooms and the best breakfast in the system. Hmmm.... okay.
I head over to the crew room and grab my bags, print out my schedule and grab some ear plugs. The plane was pulling in at 5PM.
Once I reached the gate, I verified the plane outside is indeed the plane I am assigned. The tail numbers match. During the preflight I noticed the PCA (pre conditioned Air) hose has a huge gap where two hoses are supposed to connect. Nice. I attempt to push them together. No luck. The thing that made it worse was an actual air cart (versus the normal jet bridge air unit) was pumping out very cold air. Oh well.
The flight attendants (both reserve like myself) boarded and I began setting up the plane. Twenty minutes to departure I had the plane ready to go. The Captain had not yet arrived. This particular Captain is known for being a little abrasive. I have never had a problem with him. He's a little pompous...but I am a smartass...they can equal out. He strides on board 15 minutes to departure. Apparently he was celebrating his 23rd year with the company the next day and wanted to fly on his anniversary.
The overnight airport at the time of departure had thunderstorms overhead, high crosswinds and the long runway was shut down. Nice eh? Every time I have flown with this Captain he lands in base. He likes to grease them on. The runways in base are plenty long enough to allow him to slowly ease the plane down.
[singlepic id=252 w=320 h=240 float=center]
TAF at the overnight. Storms passing, winds dying down
I had the plane set up for him to fly while I knew that he would tell me to take it out. Sure enough he gave me the outbound leg.
The route to the outbound had thunderstorms and build ups all along the route. Lots of zigging and zagging. We climbed up to FL390 and avoided most of the bumps. The passengers were well informed as the Captain loves making announcements. No sleeping on his flights.
[singlepic id=248 w=320 h=240 float=center]
Neat photo of the shadow of the plane (sun setting behind us)
By the time I began to final descent to the airport the weather had cleared out. There was still a huge storm 30 miles south of the airport which created quite the light show during the arrival.
The main runway is 10,000 feet long. The runway I would be using is 6500 feet long. By following the glide slope down I had 5500 feet to land.
I loaded up the GPS approach to the runway to use as a backup. This runway has no ILS approach.
At 11,000 feet we were cleared down to 2000 feet, which is the FAF altitude. I used the "banana bar" to be level at 2000 feet 1 mile before the FAF.
Descending through 4000 I slowed to 220 knots an called for flaps 1. At 3000 I called for flaps 8. Once reaching 2000 I called for flaps 20 and turned off the autopilot. We were cleared for the visual. Once I was lined up with the runway I called for gear down. By 1000 feet we were at flap 45.
Being a shortish runway that was still wet from the rain, I planned on minimal flare and to just land it.
Around 200 feet I could see a visible hump in the runway. The middle section was higher than the ends. The visual effect could alter my "landing picture" so I took the bowing into account.
I left the power as is and didn't start a flare until 20 feet. At 10 feet I closed the power and added the slightest notion of back pressure. Somehow the stars aligned and the landing was pillow soft. Of course me being me that didn't last for long.
I applied maximum reverse thrust and began applying brake pressure. For some reason my right foot moved a few millimeters further than the left and caused a jerking motion. Ah...that's more "normal". We blocked in 24 minutes late. This would turn out to be a very good thing.
Amazingly none of the crew had been to this overnight before. We had no idea where to meet then van. I was joking with the flight attendants that we were like passengers, "I don't know where to go. Where do we go? Which way is the exit?"
The hotel was very nice. This is the nicest hotel in the system. All suites, wall mounted huge LCD TVs in the living area and the bedroom. My first room had a king. When I walked in I could see the bathroom. "Hmm that's odd the towel is wadded up...and the soap is out." I walked in a little more, "oh and the bed is not made....yep they gave me a used room". The second room was cleaned.
This morning I headed down stairs 40 minutes before the van to eat this "amazing breakfast". Glad I did. Wow. This is the best breakfast in the system. Wow. I had seconds.
At 7 AM we were all in the van. We had a 7:35AM departure time. For whatever reason the ground crew attached the PCA to the plane leaving at 8:15AM instead of our plane. Hmmm that makes sense. We blocked out on time.
The storms from last night were back in force. We had a takeoff alternate and two landing alternates.
We climbed up and down looking for smooth air. Our cruising altitudes varied from FL390 to FL300.
[singlepic id=249 w=320 h=240 float=center]
Interesting shot of a plane passing overhead
All the morning coffee came back in force. I had to make the "walk of shame" to the lavatory. The CRJ700 has options for front AND rear lavatories...we only have rear.
I called back to the flight attendants. Lav was open. The rear flight attendant told me she would lock the lav door from the outside and call me back. Hmm okay....problem was I had no idea how to unlock it. When she called back I asked her...she told me....still wasn't sure.
One of my pet peeves is when passengers see me walking to the lavatory AND GET UP AND WALK INFRONT OF ME MAKING ME WAIT! Do they not know where I came from? Sure enough a man sitting in 10C gets up and his wife in 10D looks at me....then gets up and walks to the back. Grrr.
Once she gets back there she reaches for the door and says, "oh it's locked there must be someone in there." I state, "no mam they locked it for me." I step by and try to unlock the door. Can't figure it out. I used the rear phone to call the front flight attendant. She tells me how to do it. The lady then attempt to walk in. I state, "excuse me " and step in. Really?
[singlepic id=246 w=320 h=240 float=center]
Random sky photo taken last week
Back in the cockpit the ride conditions degrade. The weather RADAR shows what is to come.
[singlepic id=250 w=320 h=240 float=center]
We get vectored all around. Eventually we are on the arrival into base. The weather in base is clear, just a little windy.
We are assigned runway 15. The winds were mostly straight down the runway. Like always the Captain greased it on....after eating up 4500 feet of runway flaring.
After blocking in, only the flight attendants and I were up for reassignment as the Captain is not on reserve. We each call in to crew scheduling. Thankfully because I flew a little slow last night we had 8 hours and 54 minutes of rest. If we had blocked in 6 minutes earlier we would have all been reassigned new flights. Because we had less than the 9 hours required rest we were all illegal and were released for the day!
The Captain I flew with has been here 23 years. He was hired when he was 23. That's a long time to be at a regional airline. Hopefully I will not be here after 23 years.
I've had a few emails asking about my plans for displacement. Can't go into much detail to avoid revealing my employer. Sorry.
Monday, July 20, 2009
There has been a change in the bidding process starting with August bids. In the past if a pilot failed to bid (or did not bid enough lines) they would get whatever was left over. This is how I lucked out with regular reserve lines for May and June. No longer.
For now on if a pilot fails to bid he will be assigned the highest line he can hold of the remaining lines. For example if the number 1 pilot failed to bid and there were two lines left, a hard line and the afternoon airport standby line, he would get the hard line. Using the same scenario in the past I would get the hard line (as I bid every line) and he would get afternoon airport standby. So for me....there is no use in bidding. I get the last line regardless. Oh well...at least I have a job.
For July, the afternoon airport standby line had Thursday - Sunday at 2PM off. Not bad at all. Next month the same line has weekdays off...like Tuesday thru Thursday. Boo.
Displacements. I covered the process here. As is there are no pilots being displaced out of my status. I am still up to being displaced just by how the process works. My plan is to try to stay in base....if not then I will likely be a commuter. I am fairly certain I can hold another aircraft in my base. There is a pay differential though....which will suck.
If I am displaced this will be the third time in the course of 22 months. The first two times were all on paper. Each time I was awarded back my current status before the effective displacement date. The first time was just one week prior. The second time was well in advance. I am numb to it now. If it happens it happens. Even if it happens it could change.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I had a pretty easy day, just a turn. This was to an untowered airport in the middle of a valley surrounded by mountains. I have flown in an out of this airport a few times. This would be the first time I would there in the summer.
My sign in time was 10:05AM. I signed in and waited by the gate for the plane. I was really hoping for an on time day.
The inbound pulled up 10 minutes early which was still 50 minutes before my departure. Nice. I headed down to plane as the previous crew left the cockpit. The Captain told me "good airplane". Which normally means "everything works". With the beautiful weather outside, a plane ready 50 minutes before departure....how could it no be an awesome day?
I entered the cockpit and did my safety scan. I always make sure certain switches are in the correct position (nose wheel steering, flaps, etc). They were. I reached up and turned on the battery master. The power came up...then off. I heard a click out of my let ear. Not good. I saw a circuit breaker popped. Grrr. I pressed it in once. I then applied just external power. In the CRJ is the external power checks out good, the external power button will illuminate. Once I turned it on, everything powered up normally. I turned off the external power and tried the battery master again. No power...and thus the curcit breaker stayed in. I turned off the battery master and just used external power. I called the maintenance department and advised them of the problem. Someone was on the way. It was all downhill from here.
The rest of the crew arrived. I advised the flight attendants that we had a maintenance issue. The Captain arrived and I showed him the logbook entry I made and the issue.
Now we waited. And waited. Departure time came and went. The gate agent came down and advised we were assigned a new aircraft....18 gates away!
Once we arrived we loaded up and pushed out 40 minutes late. Not bad all things considered.
The flight out was nice. Beautiful clear skies. The destination was an airport located in a valley. During IFR conditions there are strict procedures we have to use to get in. Today it was VFR.
Another airline was arriving, thus we weren't allowed to go in under IFR until the other airline cancelled or reported having landed. For whatever reason they were not canceling even though they knew we were waiting for them. With a clear view of the airport and the area, we cancelled IFR while flying over the airport 5000 AGL.
I made position reports as we entered the pattern. The other airline finally cancelled once they cleared the runway.
The Captain made a nice landing and we taxied in 48 minutes late.
We were scheduled to have an hour on the ground, not today.
I did my post flight and then began planning the return trip. With the high outside temp (90 degrees) and high elevation (over 5600 ft), we had to be careful with takeoff procedures and engine out procedures. After looking over the performance figures the Captain decided on an APU ECS (Environmental Control System...i.e. "the packs")takeoff.
Most of the time we takeoff with the engines powering the ECS. This does rob a little power from the engines, but not enough to make a huge difference at low elevation. With being at a high elevation and hot outside temp, we needed all the power we could get. If we lost an engine on takeoff, the performance required with one engine is enough to safely fly with engine ECS...but why risk it? Thus the APU takeoff.
We taxied out 31 minutes after arriving. On the way to the runway the Captain revised his takeoff briefing. At my airline the Captain gives the takeoff briefing regardless of who is flying. His new brief was a different takeoff method.
Most of the time I takeoff with a rolling start while increasing the power. This reduces the chance of getting FOD to the engines and is smoother on every part of the aircraft. On this takeoff he wanted to use a method "B" takeoff. In this scenario I hold the brakes and advance the power to 70% N1. Once there I release the brakes and place the thrust levers in the takeoff detent. I haven't done one of these takeoffs outside of the simulator.
Because it was an untowered field we had to get our clearance from ATC. Normal procedure is to call ATC at the end of the runway when we are ready to go. This way other IFR traffic is free to come and leave from the airport.
As we reached the runway I finished my taxi checklist and flow. I then called to get our clearance. Once done we were released to go.
After he centered the plane on the runway I stood firmly on the brakes and brought the power up. Initially I went to 60%...then right past to 75%. Grr. I pulled it back a bit and they stabilized. I then released the brakes and placed the levers into the takeoff detent.
Even at 5600 field elevation, 90 degrees and a 64,000lb takeoff we reached V1 at the 6,000 foot mark. Nice.
The departure procedure required us to climb to 8000 feet prior to any turns. This is for obstacle clearance. Once clear I made a smooth turn to the right while continuing the climb. Almost the moment the turn started we hit turbulence from all the mountains around the airport.
I left the levers in the takeoff detent until we cleared 10,000 feet and were established on our heading. Once there I placed them into the climb detent and hand flew till FL210.
Had to dodge a few build ups on the way to base. Lots of convective activity over the United States on this day.
Above 30 minutes out we checked the ATIS. The winds were 010/11 but they were using a south flow. Hmmm. Maybe they thought the winds were getting ready to shift.
As I rolled out on final tower announced, "winds 360/13 cleared to land runway 18". The Captain and I both starred at the other. Can't do it. The Captain asked the tower to repeat the winds. This time they stated "360/10". What the deal? Well out max tailwind landing limit is drum roll please..........10 knots. This is the same for just about every airliner. With the 360/10 report from the tower, we were legal to land.
My previous briefing for getting off at a certain taxiway went out the door. We would get off where ever I stopped.
I was on speed at 133 knots on final. Of course my ground speed was much higher due to the tailwind.
I flared at my normal point of 10 feet...and floated. I ended up giving up and putting the plane down 3500 feet down the runway. Thankfully I had plenty of runway left to stop.
After we cleared the runway the next plane was cleared to land. "Winds 010/14 cleared to land runway 18". That crew also asked the tower to repeat the winds. The winds happened to reduce to 010/10. The crew advised the tower they might have to go around and wanted another wind update on short final. They floated just as long as I did and had to put the plane down, just like I did. Good times.
This was an interesting turn. It was truly a break from the norm. Which was welcome.
I have a lot going on currently. Just finished bidding for the month, working on getting my own business started, wife and I installed new floors this weekend and the biggest thing....I might be displaced out of my status.
My airline announced a displacement bid. I will go over how it works in detail tomorrow. Good times. For now...gotta work on my other sites.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Prior to flying I was all about computers, technology and networking. I lived and breathed computers. When my wife first met me I had at least 15 computers, all networked together (cables!) in a 520 square foot apartment. Yeah....I had "issues".
Nowadays I am much to broke to keep building the latest and greatest computers. I haven't truly built a computer since January 2007. My computer count has gone from 15 to "just" 5. Kinda sad.
One thing that hasn't gone down is my troubleshooting skills. A few times a month someone ask for help. So far they have all been Windows based computer questions. This is a good thing as I am still learning my way around a Mac. Several times a month I am asked for a business card so they can spread the word. Trouble is, I don't have one.
This week a pilot friend of mine had computer issues. I helped him out and he is back up and running. He let me know Best Buy and the "Geek Squad" wanted $150 minimum to just look at his computer. Ouch! I had him pointed in the right direction in under 20 minutes in the crew room at the airport. He called me later that night and I spent another 15 minutes on the phone. A bit later he was back up and running.
Then I got to thinking. Why not start my own side business? Nothing huge, just a basic website (I know a thing or hundred about designing and running websites), business cards and the rest to just have something. So I did it. I spent the morning doing research on what I need. Total cost out of pocket will be about $200. This includes filing fees for the DBA, new phone line (going to use Skype and route the calls to a prepaid cell phone), business cards, letter head, forms, and domain name. I think I will have it up and running within a week.
I will post a few business cards in the crew room, place ads in the free newspapers, craigslist and such. I'm not looking to get rich. Even a modest $200 a month would be nice.
If it takes off that would be great. At worst....well at least I have a business card to hand out.
Ah I had a question posted via my comments button. The question and my answer were too specific. I tried emailing back to the @aol.com email...but it was rejected. Shoot me an email at my contact email geek AT geekinthecockpit.com. Thanks.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
This month I got the airport standby line I wanted. The afternoon airport standby line this month has partial weekends off (Thursday thru Saturday +Sunday until 2PM). Not bad all things considered. The afternoon standby shift consist of 3 days of airport standby followed by one day of regular reserve. The last day of reserve is ideally a day at home with a 2 hour call out (that's what I have today!).
Next month the afternoon airport standby shift has Tuesday thru Thursdays off plus Friday off until 2PM. Hmmm.....no lo quiero.
The morning airport standby shift has the partial weekends off that I like. I don't care for morning airport standby. I had that line for February. The hours of standby (6AM - 2PM) are more in line with my wife and her work schedule (6AM-3PM). The morning standby line is 4 days of standby unlike the afternoon which is only 3 followed by a reserve day. The reason being they can likely get a morning standby pilot back to base same day. The afternoon shift mostly covers overnight flights. When I had morning standby in February I was tired all day. Sitting around the airport makes me tired. Sitting around the airport during the morning hours is even worse.
For each month on reserve I am guaranteed 75 hours of pay. Line holders are only guaranteed 72 hours of pay. Most of the time real lines have 75-90 hours of flight time. In addition to more hours, line holders get more per diem as they are away from home more often. Next month things look a little dreary.
With the downturn of the economy (where is that CHANGE Obama was preaching about occurring so quickly?) the line values are very low next month. How low?
Of the hard lines next month, only 24% have MORE than 75 hours. What does this mean? Well this means I will be paid for more flight hours than 76% of the line holders. I could make as much or more than some line holders as the day trip lines (pilots fly out in the morning and are done in the evening each day) have less than 75 flight hours and very little per diem. Of course...they still hold a hard line.
There is a small chance I could hold a line. If enough pilots bid reserve to make more money (but possibly have a less structured month if they get called often) I could hold line. Very, very, very doubtful.....but possible.
The old URL for this site is no longer functional. I pulled the plug a few days ago. I do find it interesting that 8-12 people google this site each day versus use a bookmark. Guess it's faster? Eh.
I'm going to spend the morning updating my logbook...I haven't updated it since February. I have meant to update it several times...always found an excuse.
Monday, July 13, 2009
and soon to be Mesaba.
Very long list when just two years ago they were ALL hiring like gangbusters. The only major regional not to furlough is Skywest (although rumors are all around that they will...and it will be big).
ASA just announced more furloughs today. One of my friends from ATP is among the most recent furloughs. I feel bad for him. The furloughs at ASA now go back to November 2007 hire dates. I was hired by my airline just one month prior....barely.
I really thought we had reached the bottom. Guess not. I know my airline is hurting since furloughing. Daily there have been few if any reserve pilots available. Today there are ZERO Captains available for me to fly with today or tomorrow. The Captain sitting airport standby with me was called out 2 hours into our shift. Word from scheduling is there hasn't been a day since the furlough that they haven't had to junior man or extend a pilot. Junior manning is best defined here. Extending happens when a pilot holding a line is given another turn at the end of his assigned schedule. The extension could be just a turn or an overnight. If they happen to have the next day off they are paid junior man pay for that day. Sounds great, but what if they had an important dinner with the family or had planned to attend their 7 year old's play?
I hope things improve soon. Although I loathe sitting airport standby, I am happy to have a job. I have one friend that has been furloughed twice in the course of her career that started in early 2008. Ouch.
Something died via my windshield last week. Whatever it was died before I sat down...honest. It was that way before we even left the gate! Yep. I think. Hmmmm.....
[singlepic id=244 w=320 h=240 float=center]
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Well at 8:15PM I checked my flight and noticed the inbound plane wouldn't arrive until 9:15PM. I then checked and did a little investigative work and found the crew flying the plane in was *supposed* to fly the overnight flight I was assigned. They then fly out tomorrow afternoon. Now the delimma. Do I give the heads up to crew scheduling?
I know the Captain, he is local. The rest of the crew are unknown to me. The schedule is a "commutable" 4 day so I assumed at least one is a commuter. Since they lost their overnight they would all be responsible for finding somewhere to sleep tonight. If I called crew scheduling, I could give them back their overnight AND get out of having to sit in an airport all day tomorrow trying to deadhead home. Of course I would also cement my fate as having afternoon airport standby tomorrow. Choices.
The call was made. I called crew scheduling and gave them the heads up. The agent put me on hold and then put the crew back on their overnight. Nice. The earlier 6:45PM flight is still here...supposed to depart at 8:50PM. The overnight is just 7 hours long. It will be adjusted to 8 hours. I really wanted that overnight as it was somewhere new and different. Maybe next time.
Before I knew it I had my headphones sitting on the counter and was just talking about my job, the weather and travel. The man is retired air force. He served in Iraq as recently as 2002. He injured his back jumping out of airplanes. Once I heard that I asked if had visited the USO facility in the airport. He had not and I showed him the way (thankfully it was close).
While he was gone I asked his wife a typical airport question, "where are you headed?". She paused for a moment and stated she wishes it were a more joyful trip. They were headed over to Germany because their youngest son's (who is serving in Iraq) wife is giving birth tomorrow. She was due in two weeks. She went on to say the baby had died and it would be a still birth. I let her know my wife and I have had our own problems having kids. We lost our first two attempts, both ending with miscarriages. I mentioned how crappy it is that people who don't take care of themselves, use drugs and never see a Doctor can have 10 kids. While people who do everything "right" have problems.
They had planned on staying in Germany for a month to help with the scheduled birth. Of course that will no longer be needed. Instead they are planning on bringing the wife back home with them as she has no family in Germany. The airline they are flying is being somewhat cooperative with the schedule changes, only requiring a Doctors note in order to come back earlier with no fee.
Normally I don't talk much with people in airports while sitting airport standby. I am normally just in my own little world. Glad I spoke up today.
Six hours of standby left.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Midwest Airlines Announces Furloughs For Pilots, Flight Attendants
Employees Say Furloughs May Start In September
POSTED: 10:05 pm CDT July 8, 2009
UPDATED: 10:56 pm CDT July 8, 2009
MILWAUKEE -- Midwest Airlines informed its pilots and flight attendants Wednesday there will be furloughs in the near future.
The employees were informed through letter.
Midwest officials said they have made no announcements as to when these furloughs are to start. Employees, however, said they are due to start furloughs in September.
While company officials said things are looking up for Midwest Airlines since it has been bought by Indianapolis-based Republic Airways, many employees say the situation continues to get worse.
"We need our jobs," said Midwest Flight Attendants Union President Toni Higgins, "and we need to be able to earn a respectable wage."
Company leaders informed pilots and flight attendants Tuesday that they are reducing the number of Boeing 7-17s from nine to five.
The Midwest Flight Attendant's Union president said employees anticipated cuts, but not as early as September.
"It's devastating to the flight attendants," said Higgins. "When republic purchased us, at least we knew what was happening with the company."
"By no means did they anticipate they were going to start losing their jobs a month and a half later," Higgins said.
A Pilots Union representative said the Union is waiting for more details, but called the situation "regrettable" and "unfortunate" considering there are already so many unemployed pilots.
Midwest officials say they don't have specific details on how many employees will be affected....
The Flight Attendants' president, however, predicts the situation will continue to get worse.
"The threat is there that the longer you wait to do the merger the more and more jobs that are going to go away," Higgins said.
Flight attendants and pilots have filed for federal mediation for ongoing contract negotiations.
Another big step in this process will be negotiating a merger plan between Midwest unions and Republic unions. Representatives said they are looking for that to happen as soon as possible.