Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thunderstorms, high winds and a "short" runway

I was doing my normal airport standby thing....sitting in a underused part of the airport working on the Internet. Every 10 minutes or so I would check the status of flights. Around 4PM I saw an overnight placed in my schedule. I figured I would get a call soon as the flight was scheduled to depart at 5:55PM. Not in a hurry, I went back to doing my own thing. Sometimes assignments are assigned to the standby pilot temporarily as they look for anther victim pilot. After fifteen minutes the assignment was still there. Wanting to have an idea what was going on I gave scheduling a call. Good thing I did. The scheduler "thought" he called me. Nice.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Random sky photo taken last week

Back in the cockpit the ride conditions degrade. The weather RADAR shows what is to come.

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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.


  1. I was wondering what type of hotels they give for your overnight stopover? I heard that on international routes they get 5 star hotels for crew members, what about on regional airlines & domestic routes?

    Does it includes free food or its upto the crew to pay for it?

  2. It sounds like crew scheduling is never on top of the ball. You always seem to catch their mistakes of not informing your crew, or you. What if you never called and missed an assignment because they didn't tell you?

    "Do they not know where I came from?"

    --haha funny. When I was working for SWA, I used to get called from the ticket counter to the gates to board a flight. When going straight through security people would get "ticked off" without realizing, unless someone is there to board the flight, you might as well stay in security. haha.

  3. If crew scheduling never called me then I would not be held liable for the late departure. All communication between myself and crew scheduling is recorded/monitored. It was an honest mistake on his part. I have to remind myself that they are indeed humans who are given a very unsavory task. ;-)


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