Monday, August 31, 2009

1500 ...almost

First...the reason I haven't been posting is due to the hours spent installing a new floor in my house. We went from this:

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to this:

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My wife and I installed more than 600 square feet of flooring over the last week. When I say installed....I mean we were on our hands and knees installing it. Ooof. Lots of work.

Friday I had afternoon airport standby. I had hoped to not get an overnight so I could work on the floor Saturday morning (I had afternoon standby Saturday as well). Well I got an overnight. The longest overnight I have had in a while....15 hours! Booo!

The entire crew consisted of people on airport standby. The Captain gave me the outbound leg. The flight was just one hour each way.

The outbound airport runways are installed in the typical cross fashion. One east/west runway and one north/south runway. The winds were out of the northeast at 4 knots. We were coming in from the east. I told the Captain to ask if we could land on runway 27 instead of 36. Doing so would save a few minutes and allow us to fly straight in. The tower allowed it. Nice.

There was no ILS on this runway so I simply briefed a visual approach. The runway is 8000 feet long. Even with the quartering tailwind we only needed 3900 feet according to the performance charts.

On final I noticed the wind readout on my MFD displayed a 25 knot tailwind. The winds on the ground were much lighter than in the approach corridor. I had to increase my descent rate slightly as the airspeed was 135 knots while the  ground speed was 160 knots. The tailwinds died down below 200 feet. I began my flare at 20 feet and chopped the power to near idle just below 20 feet. The wind was still pushing us down the runway. I set the mains down about 2000 feet down the runway. Immediately I popped the thrust reversers and began applying the brakes. The exit I planned on making in my brief was quickly coming up. I decided not to brake harder than needed (I hate when I'm a passenger and the pilots brake hard to make an exit....braking hard to avoid the end of the runway is okay though!) and told the Captain I would make the next one. Done.

The hotel was nice. They have Sleep Number beds. I don't care for them. Like a big air mattress.

For breakfast on Saturday I walked across the street to a small cafe that's more than 45 years old. My eyes were bigger than my stomach and caused my mouth to order the "Big Boys Breakfast". Yeah. I somehow ate it all.

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I then spent the next few hours in my room updating my manuals and watching episodes of Diggnation. Fun day. Not.

The van was set for 1:55PM. The inbound plane was 15 minutes early. We only had 19 people going back with us. That combined with a beautiful day outside allowed us to leave 10 minutes early. Nice.

The skies were clear in base. On final the Captain made a very interesting approach. He had been doing the normal fuel saving techniques for the entire flight. Turning final I noticed we were really high....but it didn't concern me as we were on a 10 mile final. I then noticed he had the thrust levers idled and they had been for the last few minutes. He was managing the energy and gliding in. This can't always be done as airport congestion/weather/you name it typically causes us to do 180 knots to the final approach fix then slow down.

He was a good deal above the glide slope until we reached 1000 feet. He never added power until right above 1400 feet the plane was at flaps 30 with the gear down. Nice.

With such a smooth approach one would think the landing would be awesome. Well the combination of a very light plane (again just 19 passengers) and a gusting crosswind caused the plane to float a bit. He was easing it down perfectly when the gust died down....plop went the plane.

After parking, I was released right away and my wife picked me up. I often state how awesome my wife is......I'm a lucky man.

My wife and I spent the evening laying more flooring. I checked my schedule for Sunday and was assigned morning airport standby. My line is afternoon airport standby. I haven't done morning airport standby in months. For the first time in a long time I had to set an alarm clock at home. Boooo.

At 5:30 AM on Sunday my wife drove me to work. I signed in, checked the open flights and went to the quiet room to sleep. There were no open flights to cover and all the morning flights "appeared" to be covered.

My slumber was disturbed by my phone vibrating on my chest. A First Officer called in sick after flying into base. The next flight left in 30 minutes. By contract I have 45 minutes to prepare for a I was in no rush.

I walked out of the quiet room and saw a Captain I know. I asked if he was flying to Fargo. He said he was and asked if I was going with him. Yep.

I grabbed by bags and stopped off at Dunkin Donuts. Coffee was needed. Java in hand I went to the gate.

The gate agent told ME to tell the flight attendants that she was sending the passengers down. Hmmm. I asked if the flight attendants were ready? She again stated she was sending the passengers down. I replied back to her that she should call or walk down and verify the flight attendants were ready. She then gave me a glare and turned around.

As I walked onto the plane I saw my favorite flight attendant Peggy standing in a dark plane. No power. They were not ready. I told both flight attendants what the gate agent had planned. The front flight attendant called the gate. I applied power to the plane and went out for the preflight.

By the time I got back the Captain was on board. I took my seat and began setting up the plane. I quickly noticed something wrong with my side. The FMS wasn't working.

The plane I fly has dual FMS (Flight Management System) units installed. Only one is required. Most regionals have just one installed as they are quite expensive. The plane is built around the FMS. I could only get to the ACARS side application, but no navigation/performance data. Grrr. Call to maintenance.

While waiting I chatted with the Captain and the front Flight Attendant. The front Flight Attendant was itching to go. When she heard we had maintenance she got a little bummed.

The Mechanic arrived and quickly added the FMS to the maintenance log and placed an INOP sticker on the unit. We pushed out 20 minutes late.

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With no FMS my "needles" were yellow showing cross side data (Captains data). Also of note is the green FMS1 showing I am using his FMS while the arrow is pointing to my side showing my flight director is being used.

With just 24 people on board we were able to climb to FL410. This helped save fuel and time. Being so high we can get more direct routing. The weather at the outstation was low enough to require an ILS approach. I haven't done a "real" ILS approach in a month or two. I miss the "magic" of the runway appearing from under clouds/rain/fog.

We pulled into the gate 18 minutes late. After loading up 70 passengers, we pushed out 23 minutes late.

Takeoff weight was 74000 pounds. I haven't flown a plane near max weight in a while. The Captain briefed the takeoff, making note that we were 7000 pounds over max landing weight.

The takeoff was normal. I could feel the weight of the plane on rotation and climb out. We were given three different heading changes between takeoff and 5000 feet. The climb out can be a little busy. Since I was hand flying, the Captain (Pilot Not Flying) sets the heading bug. He also takes care of the radio as well as any other button,switch and lever. He is busy. With each heading change I would turn toward the heading right away even though it had not yet been bugged. I feel very at home in my plane. This comes from time in the plane (about 950 hours) and my total time flying (I will pass 1500 hours tomorrow).

We were up against headwinds as high as 90 knots on the flight back. The winds normally don't get this high until winter. With such high winds I couldn't make up the time.

I brought my lunch on this trip....a Lunchable with mini-hot dogs. I don't like cold hot dogs. I decided to try and warm/cook them using sunlight and windshield heat. It kinda worked.

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After lunch I joked with the Captain that I was assigned airport standby from 6AM until 2PM and that I would stop working at 2PM. Once 2PM was reached the plane was all his. He laughed.

The arrival corridor was busy. For a reason not known to me the plane ahead slowed down from 300 knots to 260 knots more than 90 miles from the airport. This caused ATC to slow us down from 310 knots indicated to 250 knots. So much for making up time.

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Winds were blowing right down the runway on my approach. I briefed a visual approach. With no FMS on my side, once I switched to the ILS frequency, I lost all navigational data on my MFD. We were cleared from 12,000 feet to 4000 feet. Being clear we sensed approach was going to give us a short approach. Already slowed to 210 knots by ATC I set descent mode at 210 knots and slowly opened the flight spoilers to increase the descent rate. With a 40 knot tailwind we were being pushed way downwind. I called for flaps 1 and then flap 8 to increase the descent. Passing through 5000 feet we were given a turn to join final.

Approach told us to do 180 knots to the Final Approach Fix. Since this was a visual approach I asked the Captain to let me know when I reached the FAF.

Just under 2000 AGL I clicked off the autopilot. The landing weight was 64,000 pounds. I haven't landed a plane this "heavy" in a while. When the plane is heavier it doesn't float as much. I waited until 10 feet to chop the power. The mains touched down decently. Nothing spectacular...average.

The Captain took over an steered us off the runway. Once clear I noticed the clock....1:59PM. After we parked at the gate I told the Captain I was done. Ha!

My wife picked me up and we went straight to a home improvement store to rent a 100 lb roller to finish off the floor. After that was done we went out to celebrate being done by eating at an awesome Greek restaurant. Yum!

Today starts my 14 hour two day trip on overtime. Probably won't post until tomorrow night. I will likely be using Twitter tough (the Geek on the Go! section in the upper right hand corner!).

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