Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I had reserve at home from 10AM till 1AM. I was called at 10:40AM for a 12:40PM sign in for a 1:05PM deadhead to fly a flight back to base and be done at 4:30PM. Sounded easy.
The original flight back to base was to leave at 6AM. It never left due to a mechanical....steering INOP. The original crew was put on a deadhead flight back to base. Nearly all regional airlines are paid a straight "fee for departure". As long as the flight (and associated flight NUMBER) leaves the gate and arrives at the destination the airline gets paid. The mainline partner markets the flight, sells the tickets, pays for the fuel and more. All the regional really has to do is staff the flight and provide a plane. The flight can have 1 person on board or a full load...the regional is paid the same. Got it?
Well the flight number I was to fly back was the same as the 6AM flight. All of the passengers have been accomidated on other flights. I was to fly back an empty plane. Deadheading with me was a Captain and two flight attendants. Why flight attendants? Well we can't fly a revenue flight without flight attendants.
On the way to the airport I forgot my wallet at home. I had to go back as it has my pilot license, medical and oh yeah my drivers license inside. Once back I was short on time. I was originally supposed to be back in base at 4:40PM. I decided to "princess park" (park at the terminal) versus parking in the employee lot. Doing so would allow me to sign in on time. Up to 6 hours is $6....after that it's $20. I PLANNED on being under 6 hours.
I parked and was sitting in the back of a RJ on time. The deadhead went fine. No annoying passengers using electronics this time.
As the plane taxied to the gate at the outstationI saw my plane being worked on. A good sign. Maybe it would be done on time.
The original 3:30PM departure was pushed to 4:30PM. I had not eaten lunch. I walked thru the airport. I couldn't find anything non-greasy/salty. Thankfully I carry snack bars (Fiber bars). I was sitting in the boarding area with the flight attendants. The Captain had disappeared down in the station operations area earlier.
At 4:30PM the time was pushed back to 8:30PM. Time for a hotel. Our contract states that if we sit in an outstation for more than 4 hours we get a hotel room. It's black and white.
Sitting across from me was a flight attendant from my mainline partner. I called scheduling and simply asked for a hotel room. Put on hold. The agent came back stating my flight was leaving in 3 hours. I then explained we had already been sitting for 3 hours and that I wanted hotel rooms for the crew. Additionally I reminded the agent the flight attendants would time out before our scheduled arrival as they both started at 5:40 AM. Put on hold again. The flight attendant from mainline told me it's the exact same crap over at mainline. Nice.
Finally we had hotel rooms. I called down for the Captain. Off we went. On the way to the hotel I looked up the flight attendant schedules on my netbook. They were scheduled for 15 hours 57 minutes of duty time if our flight left at 8:30PM. They were both beat.
After checking into the hotel the Captain called scheduling. They pulled off the original flight attendants. They were staying the night. The Captain and I would still be flying a revenue flight back to base. They were deadheading new flight attendants to work the still empty flight back.
The flight they were on was the same plane we would fly back. It never left the gate. Mechanical. An hour later they swapped planes. My new departure time is 9:10PM. Long day. We are still empty. Airline will get paid. I will have airport standby tomorrow.
Sometimes this job is more frustrating than it has to be.
On a side note a reader of my blog passed his instrument multi-engine checkride today. The ironic thing was it was at the same airport I was sitting at. He passed his checkride about the same time I boarded the initial deadhead. Small world eh?
Time to head downstairs for the van. I do wonder how we will get to the gate. TSA closed an hour ago.
Forgive any spelling/grammar/other errors. Tired. Will clean it up in the morning.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Three updates came out Friday for various manuals I carry thus I spent the first 90 minutes ripping out pages and installing new pages. Yeah it was really fun. I was feeling really lazy and just stayed down in the crew room versus heading up to the terminal to my normal hang out. Staying in the crew room isn't as comfortable (well worn chairs) but again I was lazy.
I spent a good three hours wasting away watching movies via my streaming Netflix account. I then watched a live netcast from Twit (no connection to Twitter!). There is a huge gap between 6:45PM and 9:10PM where there are no flights on my aircraft. If I get to 6:45PM without being called, I have a really good chance of sleeping in my own bed. I did say really good chance.
With the departure of the 6:45PM flight I thought I was good to go. The remaining flights were all running on time. Then my phone rang. What?
I was assigned a deadhead leaving in just 30 minutes. Nice. My original plan was to get a decent healthier dinner. No time now. I grabbed my bags, stopped by Sbarro (pasta salad.....it's salad right?) and headed to the gate.
By the time I made it to the gate most of the passengers had boarded. I didn't feel like playing overhead bin cop and gate checked my suitcase and flight kit bag.
Passengers often seem a little surprised to see a pilot sitting in the back. They sometimes give that, "shouldn't you be sitting up there look?"
One passenger sitting across the aisle up and one seat forward did something that really annoyed me.
FAA policy on portable electronics is pretty simple...they must be off. There is no mention of "airplane mode" or exceptions. Last night there was a passenger who closed his Kindle when told to bey the flight attendant, but once she was seated he opened it back up. I know he saw me sit down behind him.
My wife owns a Kindle DX. I know they only use battery power when changing pages. As long as the wireless is off there is likely little risk interfering with the aircraft systems. However policy is policy.
He proceeded to use it during taxi, takeoff and climb out. This really annoyed me as I felt he was disrespecting the flight attendant, pilots and myself. When the flight attendant walked by after takeoff he hid the device again. Once clear he reopened it. The sterile cockpit light was still on indicating we were still likely under 10,000 feet.
I whipped out a hotel notepad and wrote a polite note explaining I own a Kindle, know how they operate and that he was violating FAA policy. There was no threatening language...just information. I passed him the note. He put the Kindle away.
The flight out gave me time to eat my dinner. It was a short flight...just 30 minutes.
Once at the outstation I figured I would have to wait around for a ride to the hangar where the plane was waiting. As luck would have it the plane I deadheaded on was going to the hangar. The Captain and I hitched a ride in the back. Nice.
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I would have bet money the test flight plane wasn't ready. They rarely are. Last night I would have lost.
The plane was sitting outside of the hangar. I stashed my bags, grabbed a flash light and did a very detailed pre-flight. Taking a plane up for a test flight after it has been down for extensive routine maintenance means a little more scrutiny for me. Happily all the big parts (and all the small ones too) were in order.
While I was preflighting ,the Captain was getting the paperwork in order. Within 40 minutes of arriving at the outstation we were taxiing out for a test flight.
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The Captain flew while I handled the radios. The outstation is in the middle of nowhere. ATC gave us a block altitude to work with and simply said to call back when we were ready to come back in.
After a few turns, climbs and descents the Captain was happy with the plane. I called up ATC. We were then vectored in for an ILS. The Captain briefed he wanted to go down to mins, go missed, enter a hold and then back for a visual. This would be my second time going missed in the real plane. During training in the simulator going missed is common.
The first time I went missed in the real plane was my own doing.
I was flying to an outstation and was expecting to fly downwind to final. About 20 miles out approach cleared us in for a straight in approach. I decided to "go down, then slow down". Already slowed to 250 knots at 10,000 feet the Captain set 2500 in the altitude preselect. I idled the engines and hit the descent button to have the plane descend at 250 knots.
This brought us down at about 1600 feet per minute. This wasn't getting the job done as the "banana" bar showed us leveling off at 2500 feet just inside the final approach fix. I then extended the flight spoilers fully. The rate increased to 2200 feet per minute. The "banana" bar now showed leveling off about 2 miles ahead of the final approach fix. Still no good.
I reduced the descent speed to 220 knots. Passing through 4000 feet the plane slowed to 220 knots and was now descending around 1800 feet per minute. I called for flaps 1, then flaps 8, then flaps 20. The nose pitched down progressively with the increased drag.
Just 2 miles from the final approach fix and just under glide slope I called for gear down. I clicked off the autopilot and flew the plane down on glide slope. Still doing a blazing 200 knots 5 miles from the runway, I looked over at the Captain......he was smiling......the way you do when you know what's going to happen before it happens.
The spoilers were still fully extended just over 1400 feet AGL. The plane wasn't slowing fast enough. At 1200 feet AGL I realized it wasn't going to happen. I stowed the flight spoilers and announced I was going around.
We were vectored around for a downwind and I landed normally. Once at the gate the Captain and I talked about the situation. In jets it's either go down OR slow down....not both. The proper thing (and what I have done since then) is slow down to just under VFE and descend. Works every time.
Last night the Captain had the autopilot fly the ILS down to mins and then took over for a go around. After entering the hold he bounced the very light plane onto the runway. Test complete.
After another hour of waiting it was my turn. The plane was extremely light. On rotation I used minimal force to avoid a tail scrape.
I was a bit tired. I decided to keep my mind active and hand flew the plane for the entire flight. The weather was clear and a million. The outstation was just over 140 miles from base. Leveling off at FL210 I accelerated to 330 knots. Being so late we were cleared direct to the airport.
On the base turn I decided to try something different. We had already been cleared for a visual approach. I had the ILS tuned in like always but decided to turn off the flight director and just fly a true visual approach. The localizer and glide slope were serving as a backup. It was a nice change.
I bounced the light plane onto the runway....eh....I've had much worse. The ramp controller had long since gone home. It was 11:30PM. Thankfully we were parking in front of the mechanics area and they were there to guide us in AND take the aircraft. This meant I didn't have to do a post flight. One of the mechanics even offered us a ride to the employee parking lot. Nice. It was my first time in a car on the airport. Very different view traveling around at ground level.
I walked in the house at 11:58PM. My wife woke up for a moment then fell back asleep. I saw her for a few seconds before she left this morning for work. With a little luck I will see her again tonight before she goes to bed....that is if I don't get sent out on a flight.
Friday, September 25, 2009
There are changes on the horizon. The pilots of Colgan 3407 will not have died in vain.
The new rules (a PDF can be seen here a news story here) are a step forward in many ways...but not perfect.
One thing I don't like about the current rules is the concept of reduced rest. Normal rest is 9 hours. Airlines can take rest down to 8 hours as long as they give the crews compensatory rest of at least 10 hours the next rest period. When the FAA put the idea of reduced rest into effect, it was designed to be used on the rare occasion that a flight was running late. Rather than delay the morning "kick off" flight, the crew could be taken down to 8 hours to help get the morning flight out on time. Sound great right? Well greedy airlines saw the rule in a different light. They SCHEDULED reduced rest.
There are quite a few trips where reduced rest is the "norm". Take for example a flight that arrives at 9:00 PM and goes back out at 6:25 AM.
The crew goes off duty and enters rest at 9:15PM. Chances are very high that at 9:15PM the crew is still on the plane or at best walking through the airport. If they are lucky the hotel van is outside waiting. At best they arrive at the hotel at 9:35PM. Most hotels have the keys already assigned and crews simply sign in and take a key. If they are tired and prepared for sleep (after working a legal (safe?) 14 hour work day they fall asleep at 10PM. The van time the next morning is set for 5:25AM. In order to get ready and eat breakfast I would wake up at 4:45AM. Thus if at best I get 6 hours 45 minutes of sleep (again only if I am dog tired and fall asleep right away). The ride to the airport is still considered rest. The crew goes back on duty at 5:40AM as they enter the airport.
Under current FAA rules they can fly all the way until 8:25PM.....on that "8 hours" rest. Legal yes....safe?
The rules would make normal rest 10 hours and reduced rest 9 hours. Better. I don't like the chart concerning how many hours per day we can fly though....they increased! Right now I can fly 8 hours per day. Under the proposed rules it goes up to 11! Thankfully the maximum duty day is no longer 16 hours. I've worked a 16 hour duty day....tired doesn't even begin to described how I felt.
Remember Colgan 3407
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
The 5:00PM flight was also late...they left at 6:30PM. The 6:45PM flight went out on time. The outstation only has 2 gates.
Our original return flight was supposed to leave at 5:35PM and have just 26 people on board. By the time we made it to the outstation all the passengers were on board another flight headed back to base. Thus we went back empty. For CG issues we had ballast in the front cargo hold and had both flight attendants sit in the front row. My leg. Tired. We pushed out just 15 minutes after blocking in.
Lined up on the runway I advanced the thrust levers one click...and I thought another click...and said "set thrust". At this point the Captain verifies that the engines are spooling up together and that I indeed have takeoff power set. Once he states, "power set" I remove my hand from the thrust levers and he places his hand on them.
Being empty I set an assumed takeoff temperature of 44 degrees. The takeoff weight was just 51,000 pounds. He moved the thrust levers another click and then said "thrust set". Apparently I had only advanced the levers one click. This all happened in less than 5 seconds and before 50 knots.
Even with the reduced power takeoff I lifted the nose off the runway in less than 3500 feet.
After retracting the flaps, I held about 3700 feet per minute while traveling at 250 knots until 10,000 feet. From that point I clicked on the autopilot and climbed at 320 knots.
Being so light we held 2000 feet per minute while traveling at 320 knots all the way to FL300.
Light weight landings are always a little tricky. I jokingly apologized to the Captain for my rough landing that was sure to come. Somehow it didn't happen. Average. That's fine with me.
At 9:20PM we pulled into the gate. No rampers...no APU....no bueno. Finally we had rampers. Once they saw there were no bags to remove, they disappeared....without hooking up external power or air. We had no choice but to completely shut the plane down. Of course once we did the rampers were back. Seems the plane was going back out. As I walked out of the plane one was yelling up at me that they needed lights (in the cargo area). I replied, "We waited for you too hook up the power then we shut the plane down." He came back with, "Yeah man, the power at this gate isn't working." Hmm, "Sorry, we have no APU." I replied. He then proceeded to hook up and turn on the external power! Grrrrr.
My wife picked me up and brought me home in time to see the second half of the game (she paused it for me!).
Still loving my job. I have a good feeling at least one regional might be hiring next spring. I hope it happens.
This morning I arrived at 9AM to an overfull room...not enough seats. After an hour we were released. I was paid a whole $46 for the two days of service. Of course I spent $40 on parking. The county has free parking....but it's in an isolated and unsecured lot. No thanks.
I did feel a little guilty not going to work. I could have made my 2PM standby. Eh.
Tomorrow I have reserve at home from 4AM until 7PM.
Next month I have a week of vacation. Since most of my reserve stints are 6 days long my 7 days of vacation covers 6 reserve days. One thing I don't like about my airline is how vacation is assigned. I have to bid on vacation a week at a time. Most line holders work 4 on/3 off. Thus they burn 7 vacation days when they only had to burn 4. It can get really complicated. As is I only have 13 work days next month. I am going to try to "bundle" them to have more time off together. Eh.
I am sending out the videos tomorrow. I had a few people express interest. The fair way is first come first serve. The first person I believe is still working on his private. The second is getting ready to take his private.
I decided to ship the first person will get all the videos dealing with getting the private pilot license and basic flying. The second person is getting IFR videos, Commercial videos and CFI videos. I am also throwing in some Jeppessen charts in the box as they can be hard to come by unless you know someone.
My wife and I are taking another trip this weekend. I have Friday and Saturday off so we looked all around for open flights...and then tried to find a city we wanted to visit. Should be fun.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
My wife dropped me off at 2:55PM after running me by Subway. On the way to the airport I realized I forgot the J-hook I bought last night while on standby. I left my original J-hook at home last night. I bought a new one but never put it on as I stored my bags in the and went home after my assignment. I meant to bring it back today. Glad I bought food.
Since I was assigned just a turn I decided to just carry my flight kit bag and risk not having my suitcase. The flight kit bag weighs a good 30 pounds.
My crew room is in the basement next to gate 12. My first assignment was out of gate 8. No biggie.
After arriving at the plane I did my preflight and settled in. Then I saw two mechanics walk toward my plane. Not a good sign. The previous crew reported both engines wouldn't start on the first attempt.
The mechanics asked us to try and start the engines. Sure enough no light off on either engine. On the second attempt with the right engine it fired up. Yadda, yadda, yadda they put the plane out of service. The next plane was at gate 11.
On the way to the second plane the previous Captain told me that he wrote up the First Officer seat handle being broken in half. Hmm ok...it still worked fine. Yadda, yadda, yadda after 25 minutes that plane was put out of service as well!
Now I am waiting on the third plane due in @ 6PM. So much for making the football game. I knew yesterday when I was given this assignment that something would go wrong. This particular flight is often late. Yesterday it didn't leave until 6:45PM! Thus this is life on reserve.
I was really looking forward to sitting back with an ice cold beer and watching some football.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
He gave me the outbound leg. During the taxi flow he told me to start the other engine. Most of the time we taxi out on the left engine and taxi in on the right engine. I had not noticed that he started he right engine at the gate. There are operational advantages to taxiing out on the right engine. When I reached up to start the right engine (again I didn't notice it was already started). I announced, "starting number right" and placed one finger on the clock to start the timer and another finger on the start button. The Captain quickly came back with, "the right engine is already running". Thankfully the plane is smart enough to not reopen the start valve to an already started engine. I started the left engine and all was normal.
We were behind an ERJ who happened to be on the same departure SID. We both groaned when we heard his takeoff clearance, "Flight 913 RNAV to LAKES, Cleared for takeoff runway 14". Our initial fix was LAKES as well. The ERJ's climb out typically at 270 knots and at a much lower rate than we do. Even though we were full with 70 passengers and at at takeoff weight of 73,000 pounds when we knew we would out climb him.
Three full minutes passed before we were cleared for takeoff. Climbing through 2000 feet departure advised us to not exceed 250 knots until advised. Using the TCAS we could see the ERJ 5 miles ahead and 2500 feet above us. Clearing 12,000 feet we were cleared to speed up to 270 knots. At this point we were a little more than 5 miles behind, but just 1000 feet below the ERJ. Clearing FL180 we were now 1100 feet above the ERJ. ATC finally turned us right a bit and allowed us to speed up. By the time we reached FL 280 the ERJ was behind us just getting to FL 250. I love the CRJ700.
As we neared the out station the STAR advised to expect PERKY at 10,000. I had previously plugged this into the FMS. ATC advised we would get lower in 10 miles due to crossing traffic under us. The VNAV computer already advised to meet the 10,000 restriction I would have to descend at 2800 feet per minute...3.2 degrees. Normally we use 3.0 degrees for descents.
IAS was 320 knots at FL240. I began slowing to give myself a buffer. Finally we were cleared to cross PERKY at 10,000 , "if unable advise". The Captain looked over at me...I smiled and said, "eh no problem."
With 10,000 set in the altitude preselect I idled the thrust levers and rolled the VS down to 3800 per minute descent. I then smoothly extended the flight spoilers. One big draw back of extended idled descents is the cabin gets stuffy/warm due to reduced of airflow to the packs. The VNAV computer kept reducing the needed descent rate. Passing through 14,000 feet the required descent was just 2300 feet per minute. At that point I started reducing the descent rate. The plane leveled off at 10,000 feet with 2 miles to spare. Fun.
The out station wasn't very busy. Winds were 330@10. The long runway is runway 28 at 12,000 feet. We were assigned runway 32. The runways intersect on the eastern side. Runway 32 is plenty long at 9000 feet. Another regional jet was landing runway 28. They were one mile out while we were on a 4 mile final. I made an average landing. My attempts at a smooth landing were spoiled by the Ground Lift Dumping System. Under just the right circumstances (to numerous to list) the CRJ's lift dumping system activates pushing the mains onto the pavement. Sometimes it's smooth...every now and then it causes the plane to bounce slightly. Eh.
Once at the gate I asked the rest of the crew if they wanted any food from inside. We only had 30 minutes. The flight attendants rarely have time to get off the plane. I always offer to grab food for them. They both had food of their own. The Captain was fine as well. Off I went. Food in hand I briskly made it back to the plane. This outstation has super fancy jet bridges that pull back and then turn away negating a need for a pushback vehicle.
We left on time and were staring into the sunset waiting for takeoff clearance from runway 28. Away we went.
It took just 2 1/2 hours to reach the outstation. It would take 3 hours to reach the hub. The winter jet stream isn't in full force yet (as given evidence by storms sitting over the eastern half of the United States.) The headwinds were just 30 knots on the nose. In a few months they will be over 100 knots.
I took the time to update my charts. Took the better part of an hour. Ugh. I can't wait until we get Electronic Flight Kits.
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Just ahead of us on our STAR was a 777. As we entered the terminal area approach assigned the 777 runway 30C. They then assigned us the same runway. This would mean we would be delayed a bit. We were happy when they reassigned the 777 to 30L. Nice. Smooth landing.
Since this trip was overtime for me I wasn't obligated to contact crew scheduling upon arriving at the gate. While waiting for the employee bus, a friend of mine from ATP walked up. He currently commutes to another base. He was based her until November last year. Since then he has been commuting. I mentioned how I am the most junior jet First Officer and that I soon to might be commuting.
On airport standby now. I was assigned a quick turn tomorrow. Not happy about it. Oh well.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Wednesday I was assigned reserve at home with a 2 hour call out. My shift started at 4AM and stopped at 7PM. There have been many days in the past that I had been called at 4:01AM. Lucky for me Crew Scheduling called at 5:53AM.
When the phone rang I was still in bed. My wife almost didn't answer the phone as the caller id simply said "3303". She figured it was a telemarketer. She thankfully picked it up.
I was half away when one eye open starting at Robin Meade when my wife entered the room and shoved the phone my way. Ugh. "Good Morning First Officer, I have a trip for you leaving at 8:40AM with a sign in at 7:55AM. Nice. This particular Crew Scheduler has been nothing but nice to me in the past. Very good sense of humor.
For the most part the trip was uneventful. One issue did come out headed to the outstation. While on a RNAV STAR the controller cleared us "direct POLKI then direct DRONE". I was the Pilot Not Flying and responded, "Ok cleared direct POLKI then direct DRONE". I saw POLKI on the arrival but had no idea where DRONE was. The controller came back and advised DRONE was on the ILS 4 approach plate. Ahh...okay.
I punched it all in and then confirmed with the Captain. He agreed and I hit execute. Then he had a second thought. He thought we were assigned "after POLKI direct DRONE". For this STAR it didn't matter as the arrival was a straight shot to POLKI. The Captain re-entered the arrival and then put DRONE after POLKI. By the time he was done the controller cleared us direct DONE anyway. Ugh. Too much work for a VFR day!
We arrived in the outstation 15 minutes early. With a light load we left 7 minutes early. This outstation has several intersecting runways.
It was my leg. We were position and hold on runway 22. There was traffic landing runway 30. We were told to be "ready for an immediate" as there was another plane landing on runway 30 that he was going to shoot us out in front of. No biggie. The Captain gave the aircraft to me. The aircraft rolled a bit and I placed my toes on the brakes a little to quickly as the plane abruptly stopped. It's very rare that I use the brakes when the plane is stopped/going slow. Oh well.
I watched the 737 land on runway 30, then it disappeared behind a few buildings. Right then we were cleared for takeoff. I released the brakes and smoothly applied takeoff power. The next moment the 737 crossed our runway. Good clear.
We were assigned a right turn to heading 350. At 400 feet I began a smooth roll to the right. Just past 10,000 feet I clicked on the autopilot.
The entire crew was staffed with reserves. We were all up for reassignment. About 30 minutes from base the ACARS printer began printing...no new assignments. Nice.
Roughly 80 miles out I called into our operations that we needed an extra wheelchair. The flight attendant advised one lady would need help getting to her next gate. No biggie...glad to do it.
The winds were 340@9G21. We were assigned runway 28. The clouds were overcast 1800. I setup and briefed the ILS approach. Above the cloud deck the winds were 340@11. The winds died down in the clouds and picked up once under them.
With the gusting winds my speed varied up and down a bit. I added 6 knots to the approach speed and let the speed fluctuate without chasing it.
Landing weight was 62,000 pounds. Runway 28 is 9000 feet long. Our performance charts stated we needed 3200 feet to stop. With the gusty winds I decided to "fly it onto the ground" and left the power in until 10 feet. I abruptly cut the power and started the flare. With the gusting winds and extra 6 knots it floated more than I thought it would. I eased the right main down first, then the left main followed by the nose. With the good headwind and semi-light weight I didn't need much more than reverse thrust to slow down. Minimal brakes around 80 knots by me and the Captain took over and turned off on a high speed exit.
All four crew members were released from duty after parking at the gate. When I called in I got the same Crew Scheduler. I told her "I should be released because I was all comfy and warm in bed this morning, curled up with my Teddy bear when you called." She laughed and replied, "since you gave me such a guilt trip I guess I will release you."
I had the day off today. I picked up a 5 1/2 hour trip on overtime tomorrow. This will bring my overtime for the month to 19 1/2 hours. This should almost pay for our non-rev charges to Tokyo next month. Nice.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
After calling crew scheduling the agent apologized for not having called me for a flight that leaves in 35 minutes. Nice. No biggie...the inbound was late.
The original crew was arriving at 6:54PM. The inbound plane wouldn't arrive until 6:30PM. There was no way the flight would leave on time at 6:40PM. I didn't understand why they were being pulled off the flight. Once a flight is late...it's late. Worst yet my flight was leaving from gate 6 while the original crew was arriving at gate 5 and they were deadheading!
I walked up to the gate and saw a flight attendant who I have seen in passing a few times. The first time I saw her I had a Starbucks froo froo drink in my hand. She asked where her's was. I shot off a smart remark like, "Ah, I told them you would be here but they refused to give me another one!". Since then we joke back and forth whenever we see each other. This is the first time we would be flying together.
Like clockwork the inbound pulled in at 6:30PM. The Captain I was to fly with came up. I've flown with him before. Only a few left that I haven't flown with. The other flight attendant wouldn't be arriving until 6:41PM. Something was odd...she was in the top 1% of flight attendants and this wasn't her line. Why was she being assigned this flight when they had flight attendants on standby?
By 6:40PM I was doing the pre-flight. This is one of our newest birds.....just 5 years old.
The 2nd flight attendant arrived in the plane at 6:50PM. Boarding started promptly. With only 51 passengers boarding wouldn't take long. I didn't unpack my stuff as I still thought the original crew would show up. I know the Captain commutes...not sure about the rest of the crew. If they came up I would have no problem giving them the flight.
I looked over to see the plane with the deadhead pull up. My Captain went out to call scheduling to see if the original crew could fly.
Boarding was done at 7PM. I watched the deadheading crew grab their bags and head up the jet bridge. Too late. The jet bridge was pulled away and we pushed out at 7:09PM. Late it late.
There was a good amount of convective activity last night. So much so that we had two alternates. The first was an airport 185 miles from our destination. The second alternate was my base. The normal fuel load for the 500NM flight is 8-9,000 pounds. Because of all the weather we had 14,500 pounds of fuel on board. Yeah.
We were happy we were still somewhat light as we were able to climb to FL390. This helped out a lot at there was non-stop lightening at FL370 and below. Planes below us were all complaining about the turbulence and were flying around huge cells.
However at FL390...smooth ride.
I did snap several photos of the lightening and took a video as well.
Understanding FAA crew rest rules can be difficult. My union has a flow chart to use to make sure pilots stay legal. The Captain and I started the day at 2PM. We knew we could be taken down to 8 hours "rest" and still be legal for the next day. The second flight attendant (the one is in the in top 1% in seniority...known as "senior mama") had an issue.
She started at 7:45AM. If we arrived on time she would have been legal as we were scheduled for 9 hours of rest. But we weren't on time. We arrived 19 minutes late. Scheduling called the Captain to advise that the flight attendant need 9 hours rest. Our show time (when we are to arrive at the airport) was pushed back from 5:45AM to 6:04AM. Yes 6:04AM. I advised the flight attendants of the show time of 6:04AM and the VAN time of 6AM. Prior to this I discussed the awesome breakfast this hotel has at least 3 times. Guess what happened?
I was eating breakfast at 5:45AM. One flight attendant came down at 5:50AM. The Captain at 5:55AM. At 5:59AM we all began walking toward the van. Behind us strolled the senior mama who turned the other direction and said "I didn't know they had breakfast". She then spent 3-4 minutes getting food. Nice.
We arrived at the gate at 6:10AM. The gate agents were quietly clapping as though "it's about time you guys arrived". I politely asked if they were told we had an adjusted show time. They said they didn't know that. With a few keystrokes they looked it up.
Once onboard with all checklist done, but before push back, I made an announcement straight from the company manual stating why we were late and that we were complying with FAA required rest regulations. I have found that by keeping the passengers informed they are happier. I also let them know we should still be close to ontime.
Towering cumulus clouds (tops to 10,000 feet) surrounded the airport. During climb out, departure asked if we wanted to head 30 miles north or 15 miles south to clear the weather. The clouds weren't dark rain clouds...just towering cumulus. I saw a good size hole I could fit through. I told the Captain to ask if we can pick our way through. It was approved.
With my right hand on the yoke, I reached down and turned on my radar. There was a thick shelf that I wanted to duck under. I couldn't do that with climb power set. I pulled the thrust levers into the cruise area and picked my way through the clouds. I love this kind of flying...where I pick the turns.
Once clear I turned right on course, pushed the levers back into climb and turned on the auto pilot. Done for now.
The weather in base was reported as 800 overcast. I set up the ILS approach in use. I leave the autopilot on during ILS approaches until the runway is in sight or about 100 feet above minimums...whichever is higher.
Passing through 800 feet AGL...no runway. Seven hundred feet came....nada. Finally just below 500 feet the runway was in sight. I clicked off the autopilot and announced " going visual". The landing was uneventful. We pulled into the gate 3 minutes late. Not too shabby.
Even though there were ZERO First Officers available, I was released. Nice.
Side note. I have at least 15 King series (I still have a thing for Martha Kind) VHS tapes covering private pilot, commercial, instrument and CFI courses. I don't need them. If anyone would like them (and will seriously use them) shoot me an email. I will cover shipping domestically (no international...I AM a regional First Officer!). My way of "paying it forward".
Monday, September 14, 2009
Each day I am on standby it looks like I will fly. Many times I am the only First Officer available....but each night I go home. Once again tonight I am thinking I might fly. I watch the outgoing flights to see if crews will connect to them on time. Right now there is a 6:45PM flight to a short overnight where the crew will misconnect by at least 25 minutes.
It's been a really boring month. I've flown all of 11 hours. Of those 14 hours, 10 of them were on overtime. If I had not picked up overtime I would have flown just 4 hours. Ouch.
The powers that be selected me for Jury duty next Monday. In order to get paid and not have a mark on my record I have to bring my jury summons to my Chief Pilot. No biggie. It would be more complicated if I were a line holder though.
Beyond that....welcome to boring town. Population 1...me.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
This morning my wife and I left the house at 5:15AM to catch a 6:30AM flight. Flying is like driving to the store for us.....just another mode of transportation. But of course today isn't just another normal day....
I have gotten lax about preparing for a personal flight. This morning showed me I need to prepare for personal flights the same way I do for my work flights.
My wife woke up at 4:30AM. I stayed in bed. She has three dogs that I don't care to interact with. If I stayed in bed then she would get to them in a few minutes.
Just past 4:50AM she was out taking care of her dogs...I rolled out of bed.
First stop was getting my computers ready. I copied over several video episodes of Diggnation to my netbook from my server. We were just going out for a day trip...no need for a full laptop.
I then got my clothes out of the dryer and turned on the iron. Time 4:58AM. My wife was busy feeding her dogs and getting ready herself. When I am on an overnight I iron my clothes the night before. I am going to start doing that for personal flights as well.
While the iron was warming up I began searching for my employee ID, cell phone charging cable and GPS for the rental car. I was done ironing at 5:09AM. I still had not found my employee ID. I stashed my netbook and cables into my mini messenger bag and slipped my shoes on. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my ID.
We rushed out the door at 5:16AM. I tossed my bag and items into the backseat and drove away. Halfway to the stop sign I reached around my neck like I always do when heading to work to make sure I had my ID. I didn't feel it. Turn around.
I ran back inside to hunt for the ID. Not in sight. Once back in the car I saw it around the strap on my messenger bag. Nice.
Now we were 4 minutes late. We reached the employee lot at 5:38 AM. I saw the employee bus approaching. I still had not learned my lesson from 20 minutes prior and rushed myself and wife out of the car and across the lot. Once seated...another missing item. My cell phone.
As soon as I realized it was not in my bag or on my belt the bus pulled away. Crap. I told my wife to go ahead and go through security and I would meet her at the gate. At the next stop I got off and walked the 1/3 of a mile back to my car. I searched for my phone, which of course was in a black case......which was hopefully somewhere inside my car. Oh yeah I have a completely black interior. I searched and searched. No phone. Crap. Time is 5:49AM.
Figuring it is in my driveway (having fell out when I went back to look for my ID) I got in my car and started driving to the terminal. I then remembered my prepaid cell phone I carry for my side business. I grabbed it out of my messenger bag (glad I packed it in there last week!) and called my wife. We discussed our options. I then had a bright idea...have her call my cell phone to see if it was in the car. She did...and saw her phone number pop up on my radio screen. Thankfully my blue tooth was on...my phone was in my car...somewhere.
I answered and told her to go to the gate and that I would princess park (parking right at the terminal) and meet her at the gate. Parking at the terminal is expensive....but I had no choice. I had put myself into this situation.
Once parked I turned off my car and called my phone again. I saw it...it was under my brake pedal. Nice spot.
I cleared security and headed to the gate. Time 6:05AM. Flight made I needed coffee. We boarded the flight at 6:20AM. I wore my ID around my neck to make sure the flight attendants know I am here if they need me. I don't always wear it as they can also look on the passenger manifest to see I am a crew member. Today was different.
After I took my seat the crew prepared the cabin. To my astonishment and disgust a man across the aisle wasn't complying with the simple request to turn off his IPhone. Not airplane mode...off. The reason? The FAA says devices have to be off....they don't mention “airplane mode”. The flight attendants enforce the FAA policy that electronic devices must be off. Don't be an ass...just turn it off.
The flight left on time. One flight attendant felt a little sorry for me as I was sitting in a middle seat next to another large guy (hmm did I just call myself large?) and told me after takeoff I could snag an exit row aisle seat. Sometimes it pays to wear my ID.
For now on I'm going to treat personal flights just like work flights. I don't rush for them because I prepare ahead of time.
We had a great day. We are some of the hands down best BBQ I have had in my life.
For the flight back we were going to take the last flight of the night. At the last minute we decided to head home early. Good thing we did. Due to weather the last flight of the night cancelled. We would have been stuck. Not good.
Back to work in a few hours.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
While he was here we talked about the industry. He is getting furloughed in a few weeks from his current airline. He's pretty young and is looking forward to some time off. He has been living in base in an apartment for more than a year. Not a great apartment...but an apartment. His schedule allowed for very few days to come home and see his parents. He sees the furlough as time off. He figures the unemployment checks will be about what he would take home after paying rent and bills. There's a mutual friend that is a CFI at a local flight school that he might get a gig with. The school needs someone with turbine time.
Prior to flying I spent almost 8 years in the computer field. Fixing both hardware and software issues. I've been a computer guy for over 20 years. Over that time I have amassed a lot of computer parts. I've tossed out quite a bit over 20 years....but I've kept a lot as well. Time to clean house.
My mother in law, sister in law and niece are all coming in town for a week next month. Their arrival is my deadline.
Tomorrow my wife and I are flying out for the day. Just a day trip. Should be fun.
Back to reserve on Saturday.
Monday, September 7, 2009
The flight to the overnight was pretty normal. There was one minor restriction on the plane, "Flap Halfspeed". This meant literally that due to a minor mechanical issue the flaps only extended/retracted at half the normal speed. The first time I had this a year or so ago, it through off my timing during the approach. I was a little too far ahead of the aircraft as I waited for the flaps to extend.
With a light load we flew at FL390 to save fuel and get above the bumps.
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The moon was full and bright heading to the east.
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The outstation airport is kinda small. Two runways in the typical North/South and East/West configuration....crossing in the middle.
Descending into the area I was on the radios as pilot not flying while the Captain guided the plane. I heard one other airline in the area, another regional jet. The airport was landing runway 10. We were coming in from the west and figured we would be able fly straight in. The other RJ was coming in from the east. They were about 5 miles north east of the airport (rough calculation based on my TCAS information). At the same time we were 20 miles out.
The approach controller was being very cautious and advise us "flight 9103 left turn heading 010, vector for sequence, following regional jet, just north of the airport at your 1 o'clock". This caught us off guard...why not just slow us down? Whatever...left turn from heading 100 to heading 050. In the turn the Captain slowed down to avoid having to fly way out. He called for flaps to be extended. The other RJ was turning a base turn when approach told us "flight 9103 further left turn heading 330". Wow. Okay. Halfway through the turn, "flight 9103 right turn heading 130". Interesting.
Once established we clearly saw the anti-collision strobes of the other RJ as well as the airport beacon, and approach lighting system. The controller cleared us for the visual. At the time The RJ was on a 7 mile final. We were still doing 200 knots. Not incredibly fast.
I switched to the tower and said, "Tower, flight 9103 visual runway 10." They came back with, "Flight 9103 cleared to land number two, be advised you are overtaking traffic ahead by 80 knots." What? He's on a 7 mile final and already slowed to approach speed? Wow.
The Captain clicked of the autopilot and began slowing. The plane was at flap 45 and the spacing had been reduced to 5 miles. The tower came back and said spacing looked "good". At many busy airports I am typically just 3-4 miles behind another plane while landing. We could only guess the controllers in the area aren't used to jets coming in so close, even though it's perfectly safe.
During the approach a "lifeguard" helicopter was coming in to land. Apparently he was unfamiliar with the airport. The tower controller kept advising and quiering the pilot to make sure to stay south of runway 10 to avoid landing traffic....us. The pilot sounded a bit confused and the tower ended up holding him off the airport a bit until we landed. Good thing.
The hotel van pulled up just as we stepped up to the curb. Within 30 minutes of landing I was in my awesome hotel room. Too bad it was a short overnight.
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I set my alarm clocks (I set at least 3....I'm never late) and went to bed. Some time during the night my Macbook Pro switched from the correct time zone to the time zone where I am based. When I woke up in the morning I had a bit of confusion. My phone and personal alarm clock said 5:50AM while my laptop said 4:50AM. The Snow Leopard auto time zone function failed. Boo Snow Leopard.
The van time was set for 6:45AM. I was munching down on an awesome breakfast at 6:25AM. This hotel rotates their menu every so often. I was here just a few weeks ago and had an awesome breakfast. This most recent visit was even better.
At 6:45AM we were all in the van. By 6:48AM we were all stepping into the airport. I love short van rides.
The TSA only had one lane open. There was a family of 4 ahead of us including 2 boys around 3-5 years old. The parents were very well versed in going through security. They were faster than most people traveling alone. Word to parents...when traveling with kids...check EVERYTHING except what you need to take care of your kid. It's worth it.
This family breezed through. The father turned around and apologized for going so slow. I told him, "no problem, you guys are way faster than most parents." I then figured they might be non-rever's. Sure enough they were...and on my flight.
We blocked out at 7:35AM...right on time. We were assigned runway 10 with an initial turn to heading 330 and 3000 feet. As the Captain turned onto the runway another airline was announcing they were ready to go runway 18...which crossed our runway. I could see the other plane holding short. I don't like airports where trees or buildings restrict seeing crossing runways.
With takeoff power set we were rocketing down the runway. Just 48 people on board. At 400 feet I began the left turn to heading 330. I love taking off. I love the feeling of power in my hands. VFR takeoffs with headings are one of my favorites. I have time to look outside and enjoy the view. Rounding out the heading the Captain was sent to contact departure. They cleared us to 11,000 feet. I then began calling for flaps to be retracted. Due to class C airspace restrictions I kept the speed at 200 knots (which allowed a for a very high climb rate) until 4 miles away. I used the FMS to simply draw a 4 mile circle around the airport. Easy.
Eventually we were settled in at FL400. Moon was still there....heading westbound.
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The front flight attendant was a very nice lady. She has been a flight attendant (at various airlines) for almost as long as I have been alive. She is absolutely professional and nice. I can never say enough about how nice it is to fly with experienced flight attendants.
About 30 minutes out the Captain sent our ETA to the airline. They then sent back our gate and crew assignments. Since we were all reserve...we were all up for more assignments. When the printer began rolling....only he had an assignment. Of course between now and arrival they could still find stuff for the rest of us.
Descending into the area we were assigned the runway closest to our gate. With FMS/GPS planes fly through the exact same air on air routes. Even though we were more than 10 miles behind the plane ahead, we hit his wake during a turn on the arrival. The smooth flight turned bumpy for a few seconds. Wake turbulence feels very different than turbulence caused by thermals/weather. This wake felt like driving on ice as the plane yawed a bit.....kind of sliding...while bumping around a bit.
I turned final 4 miles behind a 737. Unlike the other airport...nary a word was said. I used the TCAS and my eyes to make sure I was at least 3 miles behind him. Just over 700 feet AGL he cleared the runway. I clicked off the autopilot and then called for my Flight Director to be turned off. Keeping with my new technique I waited till 20 feet for power reduction and flare. The 56,000 pound plane kissed the runway and I smoothly applied reverse thrust. Nice way to officially pass 1500 hours total time.
After pulling into the gate I called and was released. My awesome wife was already at the terminal waiting to pick me up. I had the rest of the day off!
I have airport standby today and reserve tomorrow. My wife and I are planning to go somewhere Friday, September 11. I have yet to fly on September 11. I did visit a 9/11 Memorial a few years ago and took some photos.
We will never forget.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Colgan pilots say many felt pressure to work while ill : Home: The Buffalo News Shared via AddThis
Saturday, September 5, 2009
This is my new favorite overnight .The hotel is extremely nice. Two rooms suites, LCD's on the wall....and the best part...the flat out best breakfast of all the hotels I stay in.
I haven't flown much this week. The first two days on airport standby ended with me going home. I had a feeling I would fly today as I was the only First Officer available. As is I arrive back in base tomorrow at 9AM and will hopefully be released. It would be nice to spend a weekend day with my wife.
Once a year I go back to the training center for a check ride. This should be occurring in the next two months. I am going to dust off the flash cards I made during my initial training and go over them once a day starting Monday. You can never start preparing too early.
Pretty slow time right now blog wise. Guess I should get around to publishing that crosswind blog. Still working on getting Facebook Connect to work. Feel free to shoot a question my way via the comment system or email.
It's 10PM now....6:45AM van....time for bed.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I was supposed to fly 6 legs. Due to a minor mechanical delay the crew would have misconnected to the overnight flight. Scheduling pulled my entire crew off the flight and put on a crew consisting of people sitting airport standby. I then had over 5 hours till the next flight. I went home.
The flight to the overnight left 5 minutes early. Due to an aircraft limitation we were not allowed in RVSM airspace (28,001-41,000 feet). This was unfortuneate as we could have saved a lot of fuel. There were only 28 people on board. We could have easily flown at FL410 and sipped fuel. Instead we were down at FL270.
The Captain took the leg outbound. He made a beautiful visual approach which got spoiled by the effects of a light plane. He floated a bit before putting mains down to avoid having to go around. It happens.
The hotel was nice. They have free dinner each night....at 6:30. The flight arrived 25 minutes early at 7:55PM. By the time we arrived the dinner was gone. I used the kitchen in my room to cook up Mac & Cheese. Ah fine dining at it's best.
I was planning on eating a big breakfast to tide myself over until late in the afternoon. The last time I stayed here the kitchen attendant had the breakfast area setup by the time I arrived at 5:30AM. Well apparently she no longer works there. When I arrived all that was out was fruit. I ate a banana. The rest of the crew arrived in the dining area and also grabbed what was there. At 5:43AM there were eggs out. We all grabbed a plate for a quick bite before loading up in the van at 5:45AM.
I took the leg back. The initial altitude was just 3000 feet AGL. We used a flex power takeoff to both save fuel and help reduce the climb rate a bit as the initial altitude would come up in a little more than a minute at max power. The takeoff was uneventful and we were cleared up to FL280 right away.
Without even trying (i.e. flying faster than planned) the FMS projected the flight to be 35 minutes early. The expected headwind wasn't there. To save even more time ATC assigned us the runway closest to the gate.
I have had nothing but crosswind landings lately. This is a good thing as I prefer them. I let George (the name for the autopilot) guide the plane down (following the ILS) till 1500 feet. With a push of the big red button, the plane was in my hand. The winds were blowing 50 degrees to the left of the nose at 11 knots. Most of the time I start flaring at 50 feet while reducing power. I decided to change things up a bit and not begin my flare until 20 feet. Doing so would use up less runway and *could* make for a smoother landing. If done wrong then it could result in a much rougher landing if the descent isn't arreseted quickly enough.
The plane I fly has a very nose down attitude during landing. I've gotten used to it although I've seen jumpseaters get a little uneasy during the landing as they are used to a nose high attitude.
When I heard "50" announced from the ground proximity system I resisted making any changes. At "40" I still held steady. When "30" was announced I slowly started taking out the power. As soon as "20" was heard I closed the thrust levers and began arresting the descent while aligning the nose with the runway with the rudder. By "10" feet the descent was arrested. With a little aileron to the left I had the proper crosswind correction in. I slowly added increasing back pressure. The mains kissed the runway so softly that it took me a moment to realize we had indeed landed. After easing the nose down I deployed the thrust reversers and gently applied to brakes. The Captain took over and exited the runway. We were 30 minutes early! Even being so early there was an open gate. I then had 4 hours till my next flight. Back home I went. Sitting at the airport tires me out.
Once back at the airport I met the next crew and we departed 4 minutes early. The Captain I flew with on this leg is a great guy. I've only flown with him a handful of times, but always have a great time. He let me take the leg out. Once again we were light, but this time we had no RVSM restrictions. Before long we were cruising in smooth air at FL390. There was an Air Canada jet ahead of us also at FL390 on our same route. ATC queired his Mach number...it was .74. We were filed for and flying at .79. ATC was getting ready to descend the Air Canada when my Captain advised we were capable of FL410. Problem solved.
The outstation was using runway 3 which would allow a straight in approach to runway. The runway in use is 10,000 feet long. When landing runway 3 only 8500 feet are available as the first 1500 feet is only available for taxi or during a rollout when landing on runway 21.
I tuned in the ILS to help keep me from descending to land at the end of runway 3. There was only a slight 5 knot crosswind during the landing. Crossing the displaced threshold was an odd experience. Once again I cut the power at 20 feet and settled in for a very nice landing.
We parked 15 minutes early. As I rounded the nose during my post flight my eyes went straight to the right wing. There was a dark patch.....I had hit something during landing. As I got closer I saw a green watery substance covering an indentation. The indentation in the wing had been there during the pre-flight. I just happened to hit something in the exact same spot.
I finished the post flight an alerted the Captain to the impact. He inspected it and called to my attention how much brighter the metal was in the area. This area had recently been polished/repaired. He and called our mantanence operations who verified that a bird strike had been repaired on the right wing last week. As a precaution we had a contract mechanic reinspect the area. No further damage. Whatever I hit wasn't a bird as no blood or feathers were found....just a really big bug.
Even with the inspection we left on time. Once again we landed in base 22 minutes early. The Captain pulled into the gate 15 minutes early. Done.
Of the 14 hours of overtime I only flew 9 hours. I will get paid full pay for 14 hours and an overtime bonus on the 9 hours I actually flew. Not bad.
I'm off today. Back on airport standby starting tomorrow for 5 days followed by 1 day of reserve. Going to be rough. Today will be spent upgrading my Macbook Pro and my wife's Macbook to Snow Leopard. Fun.