Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sometimes this job......

Right now I am sitting in a hotel room. I'm not staying the would make sense.

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.

It wasn't.

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.


  1. Got a real chuckle out of this. I especially didn't know that part about the partner airline getting paid the same per flight empty or full.

    Perhaps they should think of buying some old 172's or Cherokees to substitute for the jets ... Captain, First Officer in front and two FA's in the back seat ... then they could save the fuel and much more expensive hourly maintenance/wear and tear on the 'real' airplanes. (wow, maybe I shouldn't have written this ... next time I am back in the States I am liable to see a Warrior taxing by emblazoned with the logo of XYZ Air Lines on the side ;-)

    When I was with the USAF in a flight line capacity our role (nowadays called Air Mobility Command) was to run transport aircraft much as a scheduled airline might have ... 4 engine jets, often on a fixed schedules, etc.

    The one thing we were chronically short of was spare parts, so the schedule got maintained by heavy use of 'cann birds' ... so-called hangar queen aircraft which essentially never flew but spent their careers in the hangar being robbed or 'cannibalized" for parts as required.

    But Congress, who couldn't find the funds for spare patrts, did manage to micro-manage aircraft flight time and decreed that every aircraft we owned had to fly once at least every 60 days. So on the 59th day for every "cann bird" massive efforts were underway to stick serviceable parts back in all the empty holes and ready the aircraft for 'flight". Where did the spares appear from? Why from the next aircraft being put into cann bird status, of course.

    Park them side by side and spend all night ripping out and reinstalling. Hard work for the maintainers and a bit risky for the aircrews (not to mention the passengers LoL). But no fear.

    In the same regulaion about every arcraft flying every 60 days there was an offical Congressional definition of a "flight".

    "When the nose wheel leaves the runway, on a regularaly scheduled mission."

    So every 60th day, ther "former" hangar queen would taxi out with a fully qualified crew on board (couldn't fly a regularly scheduled miission without them, now could we?) complete with a flight plan, IFR clearance ,active transponder code, etc.

    At end of runway the engines would spool up, brakes would be released, black smoke would pour, PF and PNF would crosscheck and call out "airspeed alive" at 80 knots. the PNF would call "Rotate" at the appropriate speed from the TOLD Card (Take Off and Landing Data) card clipped to the panel next to the right seat flight display, the PF would apply back pressure and the second the rumble of the nose gear stopped, would smoothly lower the nose, state the word "Reject" and bring the throttles to idle as the crew went through the rest of the "Rejected Takeoff" checklist.

    After slowing and turning off the runway, as you can guess, their taxi clearance was back to the same hangar they had departed from, to start the 'clock' on the next 60 day 'must fly' cycle.

    A long story and perhaps a bit removed from airline flying, but then again, flying an empty airplane and getting paid for it doesn't seem all that much more wacky. ;-)

  2. Thanks for throwing that in there, nice touch for sure, haha!

    Thanks for posting the story too, Dave.


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