My 2:25PM departure left the gate at 4:40PM. Two hours late. I was in a good mood as I had a nice crew. My favorite flight attendant was on the trip. She is the nicest lady in the world and takes care of the crew as though we were her kids.
The damage to the wing was only surface damage, but it took a while for it to get signed off by a mechanic.
The first leg out was the Captains leg. I hadn't flow in almost 2 weeks. Sitting back was perfectly fine with me. Being 2 hours late there was no way we were going to make up the time. He climbed at a high speed and we flew a little faster than normal but only cut 5 minutes off the 2 hour 40 minute scheduled block time.
I was hungry when we pulled into the outstation. This airport has extremely long concourses. The area we park at is kind of isolated. No food nearby. There used to be a Chinese food place that gave flight crews huge portions, but it closed down. We were scheduled for a 30 minute turn. The walk to the food court is literally over 200 yards. Thankfully I had the post flight/dash to get food/stop by the mens room/prepare the plane for the next flight thing down to a science.
After running the parking checklist I stood in the cockpit doorway and thanked the passengers. They are the reason I am here. Once they were off I took my time with the post flight, no issues found. I then briskly walked all the way down to the food court. I ordered chips and guacamole (I love guacamole!) and made my way back to the plane. After stopping by the mens room I used a computer in the gate area to check the schedule. Being so late I was wondering if our overnight would be given away. Nope still there. The reason? There are no other crews available to fly it. Nice.
I stashed my dinner and began preparing the plane for the return trip. When I finished there was still 5 minutes to spare. Nice.
The return flight was nice. Coming into the airport area they changed the runway twice. Initially it was a runway close to our gates, then it was a runway far from our gates and finally it was one in the middle.
With all of the changes I turned off the flight director and and did a pure visual approach.
I configured the plane a little earlier than normal as I haven't flown in a while. By 1500 feet all the checklist had been run.
The winds on the ground were 040/15 and I was landing on runway 8. At 1000 feet the winds were 020/30. The nose was pointing a good deal to the left of the runway but the plane was tracking straight to the runway. At 500 feet all was looking well. The controls did feel a little stiff. I looked down and noticed I had the trim up to 7.4. A little high. With my right thumb I lowered the trim down to 7.0. Better. I began straightening out the nose at 20 feet and adding left aileron. I noticed I was a bit left of centerline. There was too much correction in. Thrust levers idled at 10 feet. I eased up on the yoke and left the plane drift more towards centerline. I held off the main gear for a few seconds and made a surprisingly nice landing just slightly on the upwind side of centerline.
On the way back to the base, the flight attendants let us know about a piece of metal carpet trim that was sticking up in the aisle which could cause a safety hazard.
When we pulled into the gate and finished the checklist the Captain called a mechanic. I thanked the passengers and was happy to hear many comments about the smooth/nice flight and landing. I never get tired of hearing attaboys!
Thankfully the mechanics/rampers/ground crew all wanted to get us out to our overnight. We were the LAST fight to leave. We were still running nearly 90 minutes late. It's amazing how fast people work when they have a desire to be home. Just 30 minutes after we pulled in we were being pushed out! Carpet fixed!
During the push out the Captain started the left engine. Once started we both heard and felt a vibration that wasn't present on the last two flights. The vibration gauges won't appear until both engines are started. He started the right engine which felt normal. Once the vibration gauges appeared the left engine showed .6 while the right showed .2. Both in the "green" range.
Taxiing to the runway the left engine dropped to .4 vibration. Better.
On the takeoff roll to vibration gauge surged higher and went to 1.0. I was expecting a master caution light if it went past 1.6. Didn't happen. I announced "V1, rotate" and we climbed into the sky.
We were all tired. Long day. Being so late at night ATC gave us a clearance to FL310 very early. En route the vibration gauge for the left engine rose to 1.3...but held. Again still in the green.
Forty-five minutes after taking off the Captain landed the plane at the outstation. We were supposed to arrive at 10:40PM. Due to all the delays we landed at 11:50PM. We officially blocked in at 11:54PM. Same day service.....best we could do.
We used to stay at a nice downtown hotel in this city. The downtown area is a little seedy. A number of flight attendants from another base complained loudly enough and caused the airline to change. No one from my base complained. The old hotel had free breakfast, an awesome gym and an entire room just for crews to hang out and relax. The room had a fully stocked (free!) snack area with soft drinks, coffee, cereal, crackers, chips, candy, milk and more. There was a computer AND printer with Internet Access. It was awesome! The new one has NONE of those. Not a single perk beyond a decent gym. The new hotel is also further away from food. I'm sure we will be stuck here for at least a year. At least the hotel tonight is my second favorite hotel, The Hyatt Place.