Saturday, November 28, 2009

1000 hours later

I thought I was simply doing a short overnight. The plan was to sign in at 6PM and head out the door at 8:30AM when I got back. Why do I make plans?

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The flight last night involved a married Captain and Flight Attendant. I had flown with each before seperately. One joke about being a pilot is "if your FIRST wife isn't a flight attendant you SECOND wife will be,". They both met at the airline and got married not too long ago.

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What happens when the flight plan hasn't been filed or I make an entry mistake requesting it

Push back was set for 6:45PM. At 6:42 PM all but two passengers were on board. We were the last flight to the outstation for the night. The gate agent radioed down to the jet bridge agent that she was going to hold the flight for the two remaining passengers (she must have been in a holiday mood). They made 6:45PM exactly...with McDonalds in hand. This is important as the closest McDonalds was 18 gates away! That'sa good 5-8 minute brisk walk. These people made us late because they wanted McDonalds?!?!?!?

I passed the 1000th our in a jet last night. Knowing this ahead of time I took the leg out.

During the climb out ATC asked us to climb at 320 knots versus the normal 290 knots (after clearing 10,000 feet of course). I complied initially. During the climb I noticed the estimated arrival fuel number dropping.

A "comfortable" arrival fuel number is 3000 pounds. Clearing 16,000 feet it was 3200 pounds. Out of FL210 it dropped to 3090 pounds.

ATC stopped us at FL210 but asked that we keep the speed up. Hmmm.

Our final altitude was FL 370. The early stop was due to a slower 737 ahead at FL230. Adding to the problem was a stream of other aircraft climbing fast behind us. We were given 1000 foot step climbs to FL310. We then hung out for a while as the 737 turned out of the way, but there was traffic from the other direction causing a conflict. Arrival fuel was hovering at 3000 pounds.

Finally 30 minutes after takeoff we were cleared to FL370.

The airport was landing runway 26. We were coming in from the west. The Captain had not yet been to this airport before. He studied the airport diagram and I briefed him on a few odd things about the ramp area.

Clearing 12,000 feet on the descent I briefed a visual approach. The localizer approach was loaded up in the FMS as a backup.

Passing 4000 AFL we called the airport in sight and were cleared for a visual approach. The airport was at my 2 O'clock and about 4  miles.

I clicked off the flight director and straightened up for a proper downwind entry. Passing 210 knots I began calling for flaps.

Turning base at 180 knots and flaps 20 everything was looking good. The VASI wasn't visible, but I was 2000 AFL and about 5 miles out. Looking good.

After I called for flaps 30 I turned final and called for Flaps 45. Almost like I planned it I was right on the VASI.

Winds on the ground were 280/12. At 900 feet there were 320/25.

At 500 feet the Captain called, "on speed, sinking 600", meaning my speed was fine and I was descending the plane at 600 feet per minute.

Just like I have done at least 100 times, at the 50 foot call I began reducing power and correcting for the diminishing crosswind. The mains touched down at the 1500 foot markers. Just an average touchdown. We pulled into the gate at 8:20PM local time. Right on time.

I was the only crew member who had been here before. I told the rest of the crew that the hotel was close, van almost always here on time and that breakfast is awesome....if they have it out in time.

When we walked outside there was no van. I have most of the hotels I stay in stored in my phone. Five minutes later the van arrived.

The rooms are of the better hotels. Full kitchen....not that I have ever used it. I checked my changed. Scheduling added on a turn once I get back in the morning. After sitting around for 90 minutes. So much for plans.

At 5:10AM my peaceful slumber was disturbed. Time to get up.

I headed down at 5:30AM for a 5:45AM van. The air did not hold a scent of warm food as I exited the elevator. Sure enough no food. There was coffee and a few cold items. Coffee, banana and yogurt started my day.

Winter has begun it's trek. It's cold enough to warrant  not only my jacket, but gloves as well. Haven't had too deice yet. Sure it's coming soon.

We loaded up and pushed out 5 minutes early. The winter winds have arrived. The headwind on the nose varied between 70 knots and 110 knots. There was a fairly decent ride up at FL380.

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We pulled into the gate 10 minutes early. Due to being so early I now had almost 2 hours before my next turn. Down to the crew room where I went (where I started this blog).

The Captain of the next flight's name looked familiar. Couldn't place him. The sight of his name didn't make my blood pressure rise, so  I didn't think he was hard to get along with.

About an hour prior to departure the plane had arrived. Off I went. Once on board there was just the a flight attendant. I know I had flown with her before. After a minute I remembered her.

We chit chatted for a bit. She was interested in my vacation to Tokyo. She is half japanese and grew up there. Soon after the Captain arrived...once I saw him I remembered him. Quiet guy...really senior...easy to get along with.

He gave me the leg out. Short flight. About 45 minutes block time. En-route we discussed cars, computers and politics. Thankfully we had similar opinions.

The outstation has a VOR about 5 miles south. In the past I would simply tell the FMS I wanted to cross the VOR (part of our flight plan) at 3000 feet. Always worked. Today it shot back a "Check FLT Plan Alt". Eh...I would wing it.

The descent worked out fine. I truly feel at home in my plane. Clearing 10,000 we were vectored for a right downwind. Once again I clicked off the flight director and did a true visual.

The runway was 16. Winds were 180/15G25. I planned on keeping a 5 extra knots for the gust. The gust didn't come into play until 10 feet...when I had almost no thrust set. A quick thrust addition and forward push on the yoke and it all worked out decently.

I had not been to this outstation in months. Had no idea they were installing a new runway. It had been so long in fact that I forgot the door code for the jet bridge door.

One of the most difficult parts of my job is getting through the door leading to the ramp. Some airports have key locks (I carry the key with me). Many have electronic combination keypads. None have the same code. Many times I get locked out as there is no code to get out on some...but there is to get back in. This morning in fact I got locked out. I had to shine my flash light thru the window to the flight attendant to come open the door for me. It's worse when it's raining/snowing/really cold.

Forty minutes after arriving we were heading back. Go home leg. Captain flew fast.

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We ended up arriving 10 minutes early. Released right away. Off for two days. I picked up 2 hours of overtime on Tuesday.

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