Thursday, December 31, 2009

Unexpected airport appreciation

I should be preparing for push back but instead I am sitting in the terminal...why? Delayed.

I'm feeling huge today. I brought my HP Mini 5101 Netbook and Microsoft 8GB Zune instead of my 15 inch Macbook pro and Zune HD.

For reasons I can't figure out, the inbound plane is running an hour late. I am supposed to leave at 1PM . The inbound won't be here until 1:55PM. Right now my flight is scheduled for 2PM. I'm a betting man and I am going to bet against leaving before 2:35PM.

Today is my day off. I picked up this 3 hours 40 minute turn on overtime. It was supposed to leave at 1PM and get back to the gate at 5:10PM. I could have been home by 5:45PM. Now I will be lucky to be home before 6:45PM.....thinking more like 7PM.

Today is the last day of the year. It's been good overall. I've once again cheated commuting by holding my base even though I am THE bottom guy. Next year....tomorrow...should be good. My seniority will rise given new guys coming in below me.  Starting tomorrow I have plain old reserve thanks to someone forgetting to bid.

I'm glad I was smart enough to bring my netbook along with me. I was thinking about leaving everything behind since this was *only* a turn.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Bose QC15 + UFlyMike headset....needs a little adjustment

Had a nice two day trip. Aside from missing a meeting with my wife, it all went well. The Captain was very shall I say.....quirky.

Over the last two years I have flown with almost every Captain at my base. I have a mental Rolodex on how each one operates. Captain Richmond likes to single engine taxi and use the highest flex thrust temp possible. Captain Holcomb however wants the APU running until the second engine is started, he could care less about saving the company money. Captain Wallwin is just here for the paycheck....he could care less about anything other than getting his paycheck. I could go on...but the point is I know how they operate and to fit into their world.

The Captain for my overnight was all over the place. Could never get a "fix" on how he operates. He isn't based at my base, he commuted in for an overtime trip.

The front flight attendant was very interesting. She started at my airline when I was still in junior high (I'm not incredibly old or young....32 years old). Before she came here she was at Eastern Airlines. We talked about Eastern Airlines, Frank Lorenzo and such. She told me before Eastern airlines went under she was making $37 an hour and an easy $50K a year due to work rules and such. Mind you Eastern Airlines went under in 1991. She said she just now got up to $33 an hour at my airline. I was shocked. I thought for sure Flight Attendants earned more than that. They deserve more as their job is often much harder than mine. She is happy though. She is perfect for the job. Quick witted, humorous, always thinking one step ahead and truly cares about the passengers safety and comfort. This was my first time flying with her and I look forward to flying with her again. Knowing I have a great flight attendant back there helps make the flight more enjoyable for me and the passengers.

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The overnight was short. On the way to the airport I saw our plane sitting in a hangar. This outstation has contract maintenance that does a lot of tire changes, oil changes and small work. Since it was likely in the hangar all night, as long as it didn't start snowing, we could get by without deicing.

Because that would have been ideal, it didn't happen. As the mechanics pulled the plane into the gate, it started snowing. The outstation has a really good de-icing system. They line up one truck on each side of the plane and go at it. The trucks are very high tech as the driver controls the steering  as he sits inside of a cab attached to an arm that's up in the air deicing the plane.

Once back in base I had a Captain swap. The next Captain and I were supposed to fly together twice over the last 3 days. The first time was Christmas Eve when the flight cancelled. The second time was the previous night when I was assigned a different trip at the last minute. When he came up I said, "Well Dave, I guess I can't avoid flying with you anymore." He laughed. I have flown with him only twice before. He is an incredibly intelligent guy. He graduated at the top of his class in Aeronautical Engineering. First time I flew with him he was incredibly quiet. Since then we have the normal chit chat.

The turn was just an hour out and back.

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So with this trip I have used my new Bose Quiet Comfort 15 headphones an UFlyMike setup quite a bit. The verdict? Pretty good. The QC15 + UFlyMike setup is quieter than my previous Telex 500 ANR headset. My biggest annoyance is the microphone. It isn't very clear. I know it's a tuning issue on my part. It sounds quiet muffled and tinny. Eventually I will get around to adjusting the bias on it. Is it worth the money? Well the QC15's are $299 and the UFlyMike with the TSO required ear phones are over $300. That's a good $600....ouch. Of course as a lowly regional First Officer I can't afford that. My wife who has a Master's in Forensics (she's a DNA Analyst) bought it for me.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Last minute change

I was sitting airport reserve. I was the ONLY First Officer available. Around 4PM I was assigned a 6:45PM overnight. This was a 9 hour overnight which was good as I would get back in time to meet up with my wife as she had a meeting at 9:40AM she wanted me to attend with her. Then at 5:45PM I was called for a 5:20PM departure. I had literally just finished dinner. I walked onto the plane at 5:58PM. The passengers began applauding (they knew I was a subsitute pilot). By 6:03PM I was in the cockpit pushing back.

My hat is at home. This outstation is COLD. Snow cold. I hate snow. Eh. Short overnight. When I get back I was assigned another turn. Won't get done till 12:45PM. Going to miss the meeting with my wife AND lunch with some family that flew into town. Not happy, but it's part of my lifestyle.

Below is a photo I snapped with my phone as the hotel van sloshed it's way from the airport.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

See you next year jacka*s

The Holiday season brings out the worst in people. This can be seen at any airport around Christmas. On Christmas day it can be down right ugly.

Last night I was assigned a simple turn. The flight (let's call it flight 5001) out left 5 minutes early. Nice ride. We arrived 5 minutes early and figured we would leave on time or early. It wasn't too be.

The outstation understaffed for the Holiday. After they parked us, they all left to handle an outbound flight thus no bags were being pulled off. The flight prior to ours (lets call if flight 5000) back to the hub was more than two hours late and would actually be leaving an hour after we left. This meant upset passengers who might miss their connections.

After my post flight I headed up to the terminal. At the gate desk was a gate agent being lectured by a male passenger. The gate agent was all of 26 years old, 5'5 and full of cheer. Nice lady. The male passenger was upset because he was going to miss his connection as he was booked on flight 5000. His connecting flight was to leave at 8:30PM but was currently showing a 20 minute delay. My flight back to base, call it flight 5002, was scheduled to arrive at 8:50PM...the same time as the his connecting flight. Got it so far?

Well the passenger wanted his checked bag checked THRU to his final destination (hoping it would arrive the next morning). This isn't allowed as passengers must PLAN to fly with their bags. Airline's aren't allowed to intentionally fly bags without the passenger aboard. It's an old...but required...rule. He complained that bags fly all the time without passengers due to fault of the airline screwing up. True, but again airlines can't intentionally separate a passenger and their bag.

The passenger then said why can't the airline just rush the bag over to the connecting flight that night. Well since there was ZERO minutes between our scheduled arrival and the delayed departure....not possible. He went back and forth with the agent while I quietly stood next to her checking my schedule and other bits. I looked up and saw a growing line of passengers who also needed help. I looked at the passenger and stated, "Sir she has explained the rules to you at least twice. She has given you the choice of getting on my plane and you will have to collect your bag and attempt to make the connection OR you can stay here and get a flight out in the morning. The ball is in your court." He then attempted to play the game with me about his bag and such. I cut him off quickly. "Sir the agent has clearly stated the rules. If you have a problem with the rules feel free to contact the FAA." Under his breath he said the infamous, "We will never be flying this airline again." In my head I replied, "See you next year jackass." With that I asked passengers behind them if they had an easy question not dealing with seating or tickets I could help them. While the agent helped the male passenger I worked the line. Everyone behind him had been patiently waiting and all had simple questions.

The male passenger decided to ride on my flight. The agent stated twice that he would have to collect his bag in baggage claim and either carry it on to his destination or get a hotel and catch a flight in the morning. The airline would not give him a hotel and would not deliver his bag to him if he failed to collect it. This was all noted in his file.

Once I was on board I warned the flight attendants about him.

Boarding started and the second passenger on was one I had helped at the gate. They had a service dog and wanted to pre-board. No problem. They were sitting in row 12. Problem. They have to sit in a bulkhead row with a service animal. The flight attendant advised them of this and offered them 1A and 1B. I then offered to take their boarding passes and go up to the gate to get them rebooked. It's not in my job description, but I have not and will do my best to never forget that the passenger pays my paycheck.

On my way up was a family of four I had helped and told their bags would NOT fit on board. The wife said "my bag always fits" earlier and she walked right by me again. By the time I got back to the plane she was walking back off the plane. Her bag didn't fit. Cause of all of this she cost us a good 5 minutes as boarding STOPPED while she walked from the back of the plane to the front to drop off her bag. It takes a while on a single isle plane.

We left 15 minutes late in the end. My leg. I decided to make up as much time as possible. I climbed at 305 knots and cruised at Mach .81. Approach helped out a bit by giving us the runway closest to our gate. There was a catch though.

The arrival brings us in at 12,000 feet. Field elevation is 700 feet. Altitude at the FAF is 3200 feet for a 5 mile final. We were given a descent to 11,000 feet. The told to expedite descent to 4000. With 4000 set in the altitude preselect I used the VS wheel to spin it down to an initial 1800 feet per minute. Once descending I deployed the flight spoilers fully....then called for flaps 1....then flaps 8....slowing to 200 knots I called for flaps 20. I then spun the wheel over to 3300 feet per minute. Yeee haw!

While descending approach turned us on a base and called out "traffic, 12 o'clock, 757 at 3000". I saw him. Wanting to avoid a TCAS advisory I reduced the descent rate to 1200 feet per minute.

Once clear we turned final. The ILS was turned and the PAPI was in sight. We were still very high. "Gear down, Flaps 30" I called as I turned the autopilot off and nosed the plane over.

Passing thru 2000 feet I called flaps 45. I was on glide slope as I reached 1100 feet. What a ride. For the first time since 12,000 feet I added power.

Calm winds. Landing weight of 63,000 pounds. I adjusted the trim to 7.5...just below the 7.7 I used for takeoff. I had it trimmed so  I had to apply very slight pressure forward to go down. The touchdown was perfect. We cleared the runway with 2 minutes until our scheduled arrival. Not too shabby.

The male passenger made the connection. It ended up leaving at 9:30PM. No idea if he picked up his own bag.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tis the season

Fifteen feet above me is a terminal full of passengers yelling at gate agents (who all smile and politely restate what the policy is). Then there are passengers swearing they will never fly my airline again (I'm sure I will see them in the Spring....and Summer..and next Winter). I feel bad for the passengers as many will be sleeping in the airport or paying crazy amounts for a hotel room.

Bad weather days cost the airlines millions. The flying public thinks airlines love to just cancel flights. Nothing can be further from the truth. When weather goes bad airlines have to figure out how to get the right crews with the right airplanes in the right city all while respecting crews duty and rest requirements. True nightmare, especially if an airline has more than one fleet type.

Right now I am supposed to be at FL310. Instead I am in the crew room. The weather today has caused the airline to literally run out of flight attendants. There are no reserves left. My plane requires two. Right now they are trying to source one who is on the ground 200 miles away waiting to fly into base. That flight diverted after my base shutdown due to weather.

As I typed this my flight cancelled. Nice. Now to drive home in this crap.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Airlines Hiring in 2010?

For almost any business requiring a skilled worker there is a time period between when a new hire employee isn't useful. Each year, just prior to Lent, managers at Long John Silvers look at staffing and consider hiring. The Friday's during Lent are the busiest times for Long John Silvers. Years ago I used to work for NCR fixing computers in retail and fast food. Long John Silvers was crazy around that time.

Training a fast food employee takes just a few hours or days depending on the job. Back when I was at NCR I was sent to Dayton, Ohio for a week of training (8AM-5PM of mind numbing training). After that it was on the job training.

Airlines are similar, but unlike many professions they must attempt to use a crystal ball when it comes to hiring. If an airline bets correctly, they are properly staffed and flights go out on time. If they bet wrong, they are understaffed with tired, cranky pilots and flights will never leave the gate.

Training for my airline started later October 2007 and didn't officially finish until mid January 2008. Of course back then there were training classes of 10+ people coming in every two weeks. In addition my airline was training new Captains, training new First Officers in new planes and providing recurrent training to all pilots. In my aircraft training class were a mix of new Captains, new to the airline First Officers and new to the plane First Officers. I would never want to work in an airline training department. Never.

Airlines have to look at future bookings and the state of the economy to gauge staffing. They also look at historical data as pilots retire, quit, go on leave monthly. It's an art as much as a science in getting just the right staffing number.

I said all that to say this. A few airlines will be hiring in 2010. Skywest is hiring right now......for a whole 16 positions. Don't hold your breath though as the slots first go to United Airlines furloughs, ASA furloughs then everyone else. Sixteen whole positions.

GoJet airlines is hiring. I'm going to bite my tongue on my personal opinion of why this airline is in existence. Do your homework before heading over there.

American Eagle recently recalled all furloughs. Strong word on the street is even with all the furloughs coming back, they will still be short 60+ pilots. Hiring could start in spring.

Compass is interviewing for limited spots. One odd thing about have to pay for your own housing during training. Most airlines pay for housing during training. I think Trans-States is another airline that makes you pay for your own housing.

When hiring starts it's anyone's guess what the hiring minimums will be. With all the recent furloughs there are a lot of pilots on the street with 1000+ hours looking for work. One thing with flying is for many....its in your blood. It's a sickness of which only a few care to be cured from. Right after I was hired, a former 757 Captain who was furloughed from another airline came to my airline as a First Officer. I'm sure part of it was a paycheck/health insurance. I can only imagine this love affair was another part of it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Another year almost done

I thought I would fly a lot in December seeing as senior pilots take vacation and/or time out (flying 1000 hours thus far). Nope. I think I have flown 12 hours this month.

Bidding recently closed for next month. Some poor senior First Officer either failed to bid, or bid the normal airport reserve line I normally get. Either way I have a regular reserve line. I am 100% positive I will still end up doing a few days of airport reserve...but at least it won't be everyday.

My wife bought me the UFlyMike setup for Christmas. Right before we went to Japan she bought me a new set of Bose QC15's.  I tried the setup a few days ago during a turn. It was okay. I'm going to have to adjust the microphone bias a bit. They are for surely quieter than my Telex 500 ANR's. Almost as comfortable. Time will tell.

My time as the bottom guy will soon me over. Next year 10 First Officers will be below me. This isn't due to hiring, just movement of pilots. It will be nice to be able to bid and it mean something.

If anyone has any questions feel free to fire them my way at .

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Off all things ironic....I left people behind

Almost by design my last flight was weight restricted.

Weather at the outstation was horrible...the approach was 60 knot quartering headwinds from 2000 AGL till 300 AGL. Visibility was 3/4 mile in rain. Ceiling 300 broken. Winds were just 13 knots on the ground. Huge difference. Windshear in effect.

The whole approach had our airspeed varying by 10-15knots plus and minus. Captain kept extra speed to compensate. A very demanding approach.

The flight to the outstation was just 2 1/2 hours block. The flight back was estimated at 3 1/2 hours block. Normal fuel load for the flight for VFR conditions at base is about 14,000 pounds. Due to weather in base we needed an alternate. Closest suitable alternate also had a little weather...thus a second alternate. Total fuel load required....18,000 pounds.

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Here are a few limitations of my plane:

Maximum Takeoff Weight: 75000

Max Ramp Weight: 75250

Max Landing Weight: 67000

Max Zero Fuel Weight: 62300

The empty weight of the plane I was in including the crew and our bags is 44,631 lbs. With the planned fuel load of 18,000 pounds brought the plane to 62,631lbs. That leaves 12,369 pounds to work with. There were 62 passengers waiting for the flight. Those 62 passengers are assumed to weight 189 pounds in winter. Total weight of the passengers is 11,718lbs. All the bags and cargo that would be loaded in the cargo compartment was 2332lbs. Total weight 76,681 lbs. Way too much.

The gate agents and ramp crew took much longer than expected to get us out. We blocked in on time. We didn't taxi out until 25 minutes past departure time. Only 53 people could be accommodated. Prior to taxiing out I saw we had a problem. The total estimated weight of the plane was 75,189 pounds. The distance to the runway was fairly short. We had to burn 189 pounds of fuel before we could take off.

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In order to burn that much fuel in a reasonable amount of time we taxied with both engines and the APU running. Additionally the Captain used slightly more thrust while holding the brakes during the taxi. It took about 6 minutes, but we reached the end of the runway weighing 74970 pounds. My leg.

The rain was still pouring. The wind still gusting as I advanced the thrust levers to takeoff. At VR I could "feel" the extra weight of the plane. It lifted off the ground much more slugglishly than I am used too. Away we went.

Because we left so late it was doubtful we would arrive anywhere close to ontime. The headwinds were around 130 knots on the nose. On the ground, as I put in the flight plan, I initially made a slight error when I input performance data.

The FMS wants to know the winds at the top of climb, cruise and top of descent. With this data it can estimate the arrival time and fuel burn. On a long flight the winds can vary widely. I normally pick a cruise number in the middle of the flight. The number I picked when I first put in the data was 60 knots. The FMS assumed 60 knots during the entire flight. Once I saw how much extra fuel we would have and how early we would be I rechecked the flight release. Once I put in a more accurate 120 knots....the numbers looked more realistic.

Being so heavy we could not fly any higher than FL360. ATC requested that we climb to FL380 for traffic. We rechecked our performance charts. Unable. Down to FL340 we went. About 30 minutes later we climbed back up to FL360.

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Southwest 737 (like they fly something else!) flying 1000 feet overheard

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Once at cruise I began checking the weather in base. It was VFR and expected to stay that way. With that knowledge I decided to fly at Mach .81 instead of .78. This would burn more fuel, but would also cut down on the flight time.

In addition to flying the plane, the Captain and I are in charge of keeping the cabin at a comfortable temperature. On the ERJ the Flight Attendant controls the temp with a dial in the cabin. For some reason Bombardier decided to have the cockpit crew control the cabin.

Most of the time we don't hear a peep from the Flight Attendants if we keep the temperature around 27 degrees. The problem is the system doesn't work well when the plane isn't full. For whatever reason the system overcompensates when there are fewer bodies back there. With less than 30 people I normally set 29 degrees knowing that it is much cooler than that back there.

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Nearing base the weather was still VFR. Of the 18000 pounds we fueled up with, 7200 pounds was still in the tanks when I began the initial descent from FL360. As I crossed the fence on approach the fuel was down to 6200 pounds and the plane weighed 63,000 pounds.

As I eased the plane down with a 5 knots headwind it all looked good. The mains kissed the runway and I smiled. Then the CRJ decided to screw me as the plane slightly rebounded. The ground and flight spoilers all popped up which forced the plane back to the ground. Damn technology!

Of the 9 people we left behind, 6 were accommodated on another airline while 3 took a later flight.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Old man winter is here

Preparing for work is now more complicated. I feel like the little brother in A Christmas Story. I don't do cold. Not my thing. After I layer up I grab my hat, gloves, and ear clips (collapsible ear muffs). Again I don't do cold.

Along with the cold comes the winter winds. Anyone flying eastbound will likely notice a much faster flight than normal. Those flying westbound will notice the opposite.

Thursday I had a nice airport appreciation stint. My shift was 2PM-10PM. Around 5PM I checked my assignment for Friday. I was assigned morning airport appreciation starting at 6AM. I saw a problem.

If I did my full Thursday 2PM-10PM shift I would have exactly 8 hours before my 6AM Friday shift started. I live close to the airport but even then I would be home at the earliest at 10:30PM. By the time I got to bed it would be 11PM. Fall asleep maybe by 11:30PM. I would then have to wake up at 4:50AM to get ready to leave the house by 5:15AM to sign in by 6AM. Maybe 5ish hours of go and potentially work a 16 hour day?!?!? No bueno.

After a quick call to scheduling they assigned me a 6AM short call time. Meaning at 6AM I had to turn on my cell phone and, if they called me, report to the airport within 2 hours. Whatever.

That all became moot at 5;50PM when I was assigned an overnight. Another FO called in fatigued. I can't blame him.

He had a sign in at 6:45AM Thursday. He then flew a 6 hour turn. Once he got back to base he was assigned a 5 hour sit to fly a flight leaving at 6:45PM to an overnight. The flight would arrive at 8PM. That's a 13 hour + work day. Of course I imagine he had been up since at least 5:30AM.

I was assigned one leg to the overnight then three legs on Friday. The Captain was the same Captain I flew my recent sim session with.

The winds were very high up at altitude last night. Thankfully we were east bound. The 150 MPH tailwind was nice...until it became time to descend.

I had flown this route countless times. The approach center, that controls the outstation, request all inbound planes cross 35 miles out at 10,000 feet. No biggie. With the tailwind though the top of descent point came much earlier than normal. The VNAV computer advised my 3.0 degree descent point was more than 20 miles earlier than normal. Down we went.

The tailwind increased as we descended. From FL310 to 2500 feet I had the thrust levers idled. This saved fuel, but also heated up the cabin as there wasn't much bleed air to cool it down. Ever notice that sometimes the cabin of the aircraft heats up during a long descent? Reason...lack of bleed air.

In addition to idled engines I had to use flight spoilers to keep from exceeding MMO.

The temp at the outstation was -10 Celsius, calm winds, and clear skies.

The ATIS stated they were landing runway 20R and 20L. We requested runway 02R so we could go straight in. We got it.

Flight spoilers out full I could see that at, 250 knots, there was no way I would make 2300 at the FAF (glide slope intercept). I had been in this situation before. It was at this same airport, same situation....and it resulted in a go around as I couldn't slow down enough to get past flaps 20. Back then I was at 1500 feet AGL, doing 190 knots, gear down, flaps 20 and flight spoilers fully extended. Around we went.

This time passing through 8000 feet I reduced the descent rate, slowed down to 220 knots and then began extending flaps. It's slow down OR go down...not both.

With flaps 20, full flight spoilers and idled engines I had the plane descending at 2700 feet per minute.  I could see it making the 2300 at the FAF wasn't going to be an issue.

Lined up for 02R I could see a traffic taking off from 20R. Kinda odd seeing a plane takeoff in your direction. Additionally another RJ was lined up to land on 20R.

I touched down a little long, but nicely. The overnight hotel is my least favorite. The hotel is so large this give us maps to find our room. An easier way would be to design a better hotel.

The morning came quick. Thankfully we had the same plane as last night. Each time I get a new cockpit I go through a disenfecting process by wiping down every switch, knob and button I might press with alcohol swaps (provided by the airline).  The ground crew had (thankfully) de-iced the plane prior to our arrival. There was just enough moisture in the cold air to frost up the plane. Since there was nothing falling we had a very long (over an hour)hold over (how long we have until we have to deice again). We actually kept the same plane for all 3 legs that morning.

Due to the deicing the windshield was full of streaks from de-icing fluid. A quick call to operations fixed the issue with a window wash.

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The winds were still high headed south from base.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why airlines leave passengers behind

“Ladies and Gentlemen due to weight restrictions we are looking for 7 volunteers who have flexible travel plans to volunteer their seats for a later flight.” Words that send shrills down the spines of travelers.

If there are 50 seats on a plane, why can't all 50 be occupied? MLW or Maximum Landing Weight.

To keep it simple I am going to use the following 100% fictitious numbers.
Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW)=62000
Max Ramp weight: 62250
Maximum Landing Weight (MLW)=52000
Basic Operating Weight (BOW)=34000

The fuel burn between Boise and Santa Fe (our destination) will be 9200 pounds. The dispatcher planned on burning 250 pounds on the ground during taxi out of Boise. So add those together and you get 9450. Together with the BOW brings us to 43450 pounds. The weather in Santa Fe is ½ mile and overcast 200. Because of this we need a landing alternate. Due to a large low pressure system in the area the closest airport that qualifies that has staffing from our airline is Tuscon. The fuel burn from Santa Fe to Tuscon is planned at 6600 pounds. The weight...before any passengers and cargo is now 50050 pounds. We still need to be able to fly for an additional 45 minutes. That will take 1600 pounds bringing us to 51650 pounds.

Now this time of year the airline thinking the average adult weighs 190 pounds (in summer every passenger is assumed to weight 5 pounds winter coat...both physical and...well fat). Kids are assumed to weight 95 pounds.

On the flight today are 47 adults, 3 kids and 2 infants (infants weigh nothing). Total weight is estimated at 9215 pounds. The cargo weighs in at 1900 pounds. Total weight sitting on the ramp is 62765 pounds. Take away the 250 pounds of fuel that will burned during the taxi out brings us down to 62515 pounds. Five hundred fifteen pounds too much for takeoff. Before we can even depart the gate, 3 adults will have to be left behind. After removing 3 adults ramp weight is now 61945 pounds. But wait....there's a problem....we can't land!

The enroute burn to Santa Fe of 9200 pounds bring us down to 52745. Seven hundred forty five pounds too much. Thus we need to leave more people our case 3.92 adults..or 4 people.

Taking off 4 adults would reduce the estimated landing weight down to 51985. So our 50 passenger jet can only take along 43 people today.

Aside from leaving seven people behind the airline could leave behind about 1300 pounds of bags. The problem is the airline would have to pay a third party a hefty fee to hand deliver the bags to the customers. The cost has to be weighed (pun intended) too see if it's cheaper to leave behind people or bags. Most of the time people are cheaper.

It's been rumored that some gate agents will count some people as kids...even if they aren' get everyone on board. I can't say I have ever seen it.

When we get our computerized weight and balance it list adults and kids. The flight attendant also brings up a passenger count with adults, kids and infants. Most of the time the numbers are close or spot on.

Weight and balance problems can be very complex. If they are done incorrectly they can be deadly.

In 2004 Air Midwest 5481 crashed shortly after takeoff. The weight and balance planning used FAA approved average weights. After the crash it was realized that the plane was actually 600 pounds over MTOW and the center of gravity was too far after as well.

In my two years I have only been on a handful of flights where we had to leave people behind.

Thankfully my plane is a little overpowered and can take a full load. I have been in a MLW situation due to burning significantly less fuel than planned. The solution to such problems is to get help from ATC to fly at a lower altitude if possible. Throwing out drag early also helps. In one situation I had to fly at 8000 feet for the last 45 miles at flaps 20 with the spoilers partially extended in order to get under MLW. Loud...but it worked.

And I was told there would be no math.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Very interesting video

Taken at an airshow. Not so comfy with the wing scrapes on the runway....I assume they are re-enforced?

Click on the link below for the video (WMV file)

Franklin\'s Flying Circus

Original link

Friday, December 4, 2009

Always have a back up plan

During private pilot training pilots all go through the, "you just lost your engine, where are you going to land?" scenario. I had it done to many times. It's a non-event once you realize you're not going to just fall out of the sky. Of course I always had it done during VMC conditions. Sully had it during VMC conditions. This guy had it happen in real life (single engine plane) during IMC conditions. Not only did he walk away....but the plane wasn't damaged at all.

Cicero man safely lands FedEx plane outside Rome; no injuries

By Debra J. Groom / The Post-Standard

December 03, 2009, 12:09PM

Rome, NY -- A Cicero man is OK aftering ditching his plane in a field north of Rome this morning.

The Cessna plane owned by FedEx and being piloted by Peter May of Brewerton went down north of Rome near the intersection of Elmer Hill and Chmielewski roads. Oneida County sheriff's Sgt. Matthew J. Bauer said May, 46, had to think quick to figure out where to put down his doomed plane.

Oneida County Sheriff's Capt. Richard Antanavige said May was the only person on board and he was not injured. The plane was not damaged.

The Cessna C208B Caravan turbo prop was flying from Syracuse to Plattsburgh with 300 pounds of overnight packages on board. At about 7:45 a.m. at an altitude of about 7,500 feet, the single engine turbo prop lost power, Bauer said.

At the time, the plane was about 15 miles away from the airport at the former Griffiss Air Force Base. May radioed air traffic control with a mayday, Bauer said. While on approach to the Griffiss runway, the plane rapidly lost altitude and air speed.

"These factors made it apparent to the pilot that the aircraft was going to under shoot Griffiss and crash," Bauer said.

Upon dropping out of the clouds at about 1,000 feet, May decided to either crash land in Lake Delta just north of Rome or a less populated area west of the lake. May chose to land in the hayfield of the Von Matt farm.

"He had the good wisdom to drop the flaps,which gave him lift," said Vernon May, commissioner of aviation in Oneida County. "He did everything right."

May has worked for Wiggins Aircraft, of Manchester, N.H., since 1994. Wiggins leases aircraft from FedEx and supplies pilots for routes throughout New England, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. 

Assisting at the scene were Rome Fire Department, Griffiss Crash Crew and AmCare Ambulance. The incident will remain under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration out of Albany.

The aircraft will be partially disassembled and trucked to Griffiss, where the FAA will attempt to determine the cause of the engine failure.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My wife sat airport reserve with me kinda

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I've run out of movies to watch on Netflix while sitting airport reserve. Additionally I've watched all 231 episodes of Diggnation. A few months ago I was reading a book every two weeks. After about 7 books I got tired of reading. Yeah. Pretty boring now a days.

Sat airport reserve last night and tonight. The monotony was broken up for about 30 minutes when my wife passed through.

She is flying out to testify in a court case (she is a DNA Forensic Analyst for a private lab). About once a month she gets the call to fly out. She enjoys this kind of flying as she has a REAL ticket versus or normal standby. She also enjoys being able to wear jeans and a t-shirt instead of the required nicer clothing.

Don't think I'm going anywhere. Only 3 flights left. Everything is running on time. Because my wife is traveling tonight, if I get a flight I have to call the pet sitter to watch her dogs. Going to be interesting when we have a child to watch after as well.

The company my wife works for is holding the annual holiday party December 12th. I was assigned to work airport standby that day.

My request to swap my days around were all denied by crew scheduling. I could either call in sick or play my last card and burn a vacation day from next year. I chose the latter.

After filling out the proper form in the Chief Pilot's office I stopped by and dropped it off. Too my surprise it was approved within an hour. This does mean that next year I only have 13 vacation days. Small price to pay.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's that time of year

It's getting cold. I don't like cold. I was raised in the southern part of the United States and thus in a warm climate. Anything below 60 degrees is cold. Don't judge.

After digging out my long sleeve work shirt, long johns and gloves, I left for work yesterday.

Tuesday was a day off for me. I picked up a 2 1/2 hour turn on overtime. I used to not pick up such small amounts, but I would like  a little gambling money for a cruise my family is taking next month.

The plane had been parked at the gate for an hour or so. It was "cold and dark" when I walked into the cockpit. Thankfully the GPU was plugged in and working as indicated by a green "Avail" light on the overhead panel. After making sure various switches (such as the landing gear handle, flap switch and others) were in the right positions, I turned on the battery master and then checked the electric synopotic page to double check that the external power was indeed connected and was supplying power appropriately. With a push of a button the plane and cockpit came to life.

It was cold Tuesday. Outside temp hovered in the low 40's with light rain. The temp was just inside of a limitation requiring cowl anti-ice to be used.

During the taxi out the Captain turned on the left cowl anti-ice and shutdown the APU. The rain was very light and not sticking to the ground, so we were able to use a single engine. If the rain had been heavier and thus contaminating the runway we would have had to use two engines.

Before long we were rolling down the runway. Captains leg. Passing 136 knots I called for V1. Away we went.

We entered the clouds and the temperature began to drop. As long as we are flying faster than 235 knots we only need cowl anti-ice. Reason being ice doesn't tend to adhere to the wings at speeds faster than 235 knots.

Cowl Anti Ice works by using hot bleed air from the engines back to front of each engine to melt/prevent ice inside the cowls.

When the Cowl Anti Ice is active it reduces the available thrust as there is a higher demand for bleed air. It's very noticeable during a climb, not so during cruise and very noticeable during the descent.

There were reports of rime icing between 16,000 and FL200. We never noticed ice formation. The windshields on my plane are heated (for ice as well we to protect the glass from cracking). In order to check for ice I simply check the the condition of the windshield wipers as they are not heated.

Being overtime for both the Captain and I, we wanted to make as much money as possible. I am paid "block or better" meaning the scheduled flight time or actual, whichever is greater.

On the flight out we had a 65 knot tailwind. Even flying at just Mach .75 we were 10 minutes early. This was due to the tailwind and the leg being over blocked.

During my leg back we left 5 minutes early. I climbed at the planned 290 knots. Leveling off at FL240 (normally FL300 but turbulence was moderate above FL260) I planned to fly at Mach .75 which equated to about 310 knots indicated. The 65 knot tailwind was now a headwind. As soon as we leveled off ATC slowed us down to 250 knots. This was great for us as we hoped to make a few extra bucks by arriving after scheduled arrival time.

On the arrival are various speed and altitude restrictions. I have flown this arrival more so than any other. But it's been a while since I've flown it during the winter.

We were in the clouds from FL210 down to 11,000 feet. With the cold temps and the slow speeds on the arrival, the cowl's were on. I used the flight spoilers a bit (thrust levers were idled) in order to meet two of the restrictions. Normally I am able to simply idle the engines and meet the speed and altitude restrictions.

Descending out of 10,000 feet I can normally dial in 1700 feet per minute down and hold 250 knots. Not so with the cowls on. The STAR required 210 knots. Anything more than 1000 feet per minute was exceeding 210 knots. I needed drag.

Initially I called for flaps 8. I put the plane in descent mode at 210 knots. This was only giving me 1300 feet per minute. Descent mode can be a little wonky. The plane will pitch up and down to meet whatever speed is set. There is a little more to it than that, but that is the basic operation.

I could "see" what the controllers plan was on the TCAS. There was a plane 5 miles ahead at 5000 feet that was just turned for a base turn. I had 4000 feet to knock off and somewhat quickly. Out went the flight spoilers. Not fully...just partially.

Then came a call to reduce speed to 180 knots. It's go down OR slow down. Not both.

I put the plane back vertical descent mode at 500 feet per minute and called for flaps 20. Once slowed to 180 knots I increased the descent rate.

Passing through 6000 feet ATC turned us toward the airport on a base turn.

"Airport in sight, " I advised and the Captain passed it on to the approach controller. "Cleared for the visual,".

The ILS was dialed in. By 1400 feet I was at flaps 45 and slowing to approach speed. Still light rain and near freezing temps.

When it's not cold, 60% N1 will hold approach speed almost regardless of landing weight. With the cowls still on, that was too much power.

Everything worked out to a decent landing. A passengers even stuck his head into the cockpit door during deboarding to thank us for the nice landing.

The planned block time was 2 hours 25 minutes. I flew 2 hours 20 minutes. Eh..I got paid for 5 minutes I didn't really work. Kinda.

As many know I don't get paid my hourly wage during the pre-flight or post flight. The only time I get paid when the cabin door is closed AND the parking brake has been released. In all I was at work for 3 hours and 55 minutes and was paid for 2 hours 25 minutes. Still not bad. More money than I would have if I stayed at home.