Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Better than on-time....early

Something amazing happened during my two day trip. Every flight I flew left on time and arrived early. All four flights. The contract states I am paid "block or better". So even if the flights are early I still get the scheduled flight time.

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 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 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.


  1. I've noticed that on the crj-100,200 the door on the main front landing gear stays closed while deployed, and on the -700 its open. I was wondering if you could help me with this.

  2. I noticed the same....not sure why. I do know that when flying the 200 the doors have to be opened during the preflight to inspect the nose wheel brakes and such. That is a pain in the cold/rain/snow. The 700/900 sits high enough that I can literally stand up inside the front gear well. Also of note is that the 100/200 has trailing link landing gear while the 700/900 have traditional stiff legs.


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