I was doing my airport standby stint yesterday. All was quiet. Around 6:05PM I checked my schedule and saw an overnight....but my phone never rang. I checked my voicemail...nothing. Had scheduling not called me?
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".