Monday I had my afternoon airport standby shift. Pilots can only work 6 days in a row max. My line for next month starts one the 31st of July. Due to a 7 day conflict I have airport standby Monday and Tuesday, off Wednesday (paid day off), then airport standby Thursday thru Sunday.
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.
[singlepic id=260 w=320 h=240 float=center]
[singlepic id=261 w=320 h=240 float=center]
[singlepic id=262 w=320 h=240 float=center]
[singlepic id=263 w=320 h=240 float=center]
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.
[singlepic id=264 w=320 h=240 float=center]
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.
[singlepic id=266 w=320 h=240 float=center]
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.