Monday, May 31, 2010

Little bit of flying

I'm supposed to be sitting in a cockpit flipping switches and preparing for a flight right now. Instead I am sitting in the bowels of the airport waiting for my plane.

Picked up an overtime trip today. A 5 1/2 hour turn. Supposed to have left at 8:05AM and be back at 2:05PM. Not going to happen. The inbound plane had a flaps issue departing it's overnight. Fixed now. Running late.

My wife had the day off so she dropped me off. Even though I knew I was delayed before I left the house, I still had to sign in on time.

With this flight I will have flown roughly 23 hours this month. I will be paid for 81 1/2 hours of flight time. Not too shabby.

Next month I got morning airport reserve. Starts tomorrow morning of course. Not looking forward too it.

Here I wait. Hopefully I won't be too late getting back.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Airline hiring picking up?

There is a little hiring going on. A friend of mine who was at the soon to be no more Lynx Aviation (Frontier regional) got a gig fairly quickly after leaving Lynx. It helped a lot that she is a very good pilot and has around 1000 or so hours of turbine time. She got hired at another regional flying Q400s. A few friends have been hired by American Eagle. From what I hear that airline is being very selective in hiring as the pool of pilots if much larger than the number of open slots. Delta has announced they will be hiring soon and Continental is recalling it's furloughs. So is this a turn around? Starving pilots want to know.

While walking across the employee lot this morning  I watched a few Caravans and Brasilias departing on cargo flights. I never did the cargo flying. From what I have read and heard, it's a whole different kind of flying. Long hours, sketchy planes and low pay. The benefits are....well boxes don't bitch....unlike passengers. The ironic thing is, until recently,  I wasn't qualified to fly for a cargo feeder....yet I could fly around living passengers.

The wireless access point I have been using in the crew room for about a year has stopped working. No idea who it belonged was simply called the infamous "Linksys". Annoyed. The wireless signal that covers the terminal area can't be picked up down in the basement where the crewroom is. Annoyed. I can tether through my phone every now and then, but being so far away from outside I can't pick up 3G. Thus I have to hang out in the terminal to use the Internet. Sitting around for 8 hours without wireless access is not something a geek enjoys. I ordered a Wi-Fire antenna from HField Technologies in hopes of pulling in the wifi signal from the terminal.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More of the same

Bored. Sitting airport I will all next month. Being the most junior it's all that was left after everyone else bid. This has been the same story over the last 18+ months.

Had a 2 day trip last week. On day 5 of 6 on reserve I had a quick turn followed by a reduced rest overnight. Running late, we left the gate an hour and forty minutes late. Arrived an hour twenty minutes late. The Captain I was with fits my definition of Captain. He takes charge and responsibility for the flight and crew. True that's what they are supposed to do, but I fly with some guys that are either burnt out, don't care, never cared or don't care that they don't care. It's refreshing to fly with a true Captain.

The overnight was scheduled for 8 1/2 hours. Scheduling of course had planned on reducing it to 8 hours exactly in an attempt to get the flight out on time.

As we walked up the jet bridge his phone rang. I knew it was scheduling. He greeted the scheduler, paused and then said, "No Cindy we will not be here at 7:06AM. My crew is taking the full 8 1/2 hours of rest that was scheduled. We will be here at 7:48AM."

I still slept horribly as always on short overnights. It was nice to have the extra 30 minutes though.

I had a 3 day weekend. My wife and I headed down to Washington, D.C. for the day to visit the Newseum.

[singlepic id=448 w=640 h=480 float=center]

The nations capital has a very nice public transportation system. We walked off the plane and were at the Newseum very quickly. Being able to take day trips for next to nothing is fun. We are very used to it. Since my wife is getting ready to start her third trimester for pregnancy, this was her last flight until after the baby is born. This will be hard for her as we have flown somewhere every month since I was hired.
Flights were landing south at DCA. Very busy approach as to stay clear of restricted

airspace flights don't turn final until the last few moments.

[singlepic id=449 w=640 h=480 float=center]

Flights were landing south at DCA. Very busy approach as to stay clear of restricted
airspace flights don't turn final until the last few moments.

It's 4 1/2 more hours of airport reserve. Sure wish I could easily do this from home.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Whole Lotta Sitting Going On

I'm on day 4 of 6.

Sunday - Airport Standby 6AM-2PM...never called for a flight

Monday - Airport Standby 6AM-2PM...never called for a flight

Tuesday - Airport Standby 2PM-10PM...never called for a flight

Wednesday - Reserve Callout 10AM-2PM....called at 4:14PM as I was heading out the door to take my wife to dinner for her birthday.

Thankfully I was just called to go sit...Airport Standby at 6:15PM. I changed into my uniform pants and shoes and put on a polo. I tossed my uniform shirt in the car. After dinner my wife dropped me off and here I sit until 10PM. Tomorrow I was going to have....Airport standby from 6AM-2PM. No longer legal for it. Now I will likely be on a reserve call out again from 10AM-2PM. My last day of reserve for the week will be on Friday...marking 6 days in a row. Ouch.

If I was a commuter I would be hating life as I would be paying for either a crash pad or hotel each night. Things could always be worse. I don't see myself flying anywhere tonight.....just a whole lotta sitting going on.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Beats airport standby

I got a three day trip. This came in handy as my mother in law was in town and well....hanging out with her all day.....she's a nice lady and all....but...well.

The trip was supposed to start with my signing in at 5:20PM and blocking out at 6:05PM. Supposed to.

I did indeed sign in at 5:20PM. Heck I was in the cockpit ready to go at 6:10PM (inbound plane didn't arrive until 5:50PM). But leaving even close to on time...was not to be.

Sunday was mothers day...also the first day of a new baggage system to be put in use. The rampers loaded up the bags....then had a miscount. They unloaded all the bags....then reloaded them.....then had a computer problems. My overnight was SCHEDULED for 8 1/2 hours. Reduced rest.

At 7:18PM (63 minutes late so overnight was now roughly 7 1/2 hours!) we blocked out. My leg. Windy.

Flying fast was pointless. Just flew the planned speed. We were already under 8 hours. Scheduling would adjust our schedule to give us exactly 8 hours....not a minute more.

[singlepic id=446 w=640 h=480 float=center]

Coming into the airport environment we called the airport insight while turning base. I looked down and then back up...and lost the airport. Clear skies...but the city lights washed out the runway. The Captain had it in sight.

I was well inside of the final approach fix for the runway and a little high. I clicked off the autopilot and began dirtying up the plane while searching for the runway and using my MFD to make sure I was on a base leg. Busy cockpit as I had the flight spoilers fully extended trying to descend and slow down. Oxymoron indeed. Coming through 1000 feet I saw the runway. I was blazing down at 180 knots, flaps 20 gear down. Out went the flight spoilers and flaps 30. By 700 feet I had flaps 45. At 600 feet I stowed the flight spoilers. Touchdown.

We blocked in at 10:51PM. We were scheduled to arrive at 9:35PM and depart at 7:05AM. While I did the post flight the Captain ran the numbers for rest. He figured if scheduling reduced our show time to 20 minutes prior to departure, we would be scheduled to leave at 7:06AM and be fully legal. That's exactly what they did.

Our "rest" began at 11:06PM. We were all waiting for the hotel van at that time. While waiting I called scheduling and stated we wanted 8 hours of rest starting when we arrived at the hotel, versus it starting now. They had no problems with the request. The hotel van finally arrived and a slew of passengers walked toward it. Nice. Thankfully room for all of us.

We walked into the hotel at 11:25PM. I called scheduling. Our new "show time" was 7:38AM. We would get a full 8 hours of rest.

At 7:20AM the next day we were in the hotel van headed for the airport. We would be flying the same plane we flew in the night prior. There was already a MEL for a SSCU computer which controls the spoilers. On my way back up the stairs after the preflight I noticed the passengers heading back up the jetbridge. When I reached the cockpit I saw why, the other SSCU computer was also showing faulted. Can't go with both INOP. Glad we had 8 hours rest.

A contract mechanic was standing by, pretty sure my airline pays them to hang out for kick off flights. After running a spoiler function test (which is a sight too see as the spoilers go up and down in a little dance) both computers showed to be online. we blocked out at 8:30AM. Being so late we would misconnect for our next turn. We all would enjoy 4 1/2 hours of airport appreciation upon our return.

A front was moving through the airport. Winds were 170@20G29 and we were assigned runway 12. Winds at 1500 feet were 220@45. Big shift. The Captain worked the controls all the way down to a very nice landing.

[singlepic id=447 w=640 h=480 float=center]

During my sit I toyed with the idea of going home for lunch. I had left all the food I purchased for the trip at home. I "ran the numbers" and figured I would burn an hour and one gallon of gas going to and from. I stayed at the airport and had an employee lunch special for $6.

All the wind were causing delays. We blocked out 36 minutes late for the overnight. Just prior to takeoff the tower warned of a 20 knot gain due to wind shear by a preceding aircraft. My leg.

I briefed the Captain that I would be delaying rotation by at least 20 knots. Max tire speed is 182 knots. VR was planned for 124 knots. Wind was 170@24G35. At VR I did nothing. I let the speed build up. Sure enough the airspeed lept forward a bit then died off. At roughly 140 knots I slowly rotated. By 160 knots we were off the ground.  The ride was bumpy from the ground until roughly 4000 feet. I decided to hand fly and work it versus let George (nickname for the autopilot) fly. Airspeed was up and down by 10 knots or so. Finally above the clouds the air smoothed out.

Weather at the outstation wasn't much better. Winds 120@14G21. Landing runway 4. Winds at 3000 feet were 220@40. Huge tailwind. With the large tailwind I had to click off the autopilot and level off as the plane wouldn't slow down enough while on the glide slope. With the gusty winds I left the power in longer than normal. At 20 feet I slapped the thrust levers closed and used rudder to align with the runway and aileron into the wind. Nice touchdown.

We had compensatory rest of 13 hours on night two.

This morning I had just one leg in. Captains leg. Arrived a few minutes early and done. I'm on reserve tomorrow and off Thursday thru Sunday. My father in law arrives Friday. Thinking about taking him on a day trip.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Fit to fly for another year

May 5 marked 4 years since I took my first flight lesson at ATP. May is also my month to get my FAA medical.

My first medical was a nightmare. I simply went to the closest Aviation Medical Examiner to my house. He doesn't regularly give FAA physicals. He was very slow and had me stressed in the first 10 minutes. Very pushy. At the time I lived a very unhealthy lifestyle. Little sleep, lots of caffeine, fatty foods and the occasional cigarette. My blood pressure was high...140/92 high. Before long he was shaving my chest for an EKG!! When  I left (after paying $190!!!) he said I might not even get a medical as my blood pressure was so high. I went home depressed....thinking I would never be a pilot. I got my first class medical without an issue and never went back to his office.

Since then I eat much healthier, exercise, limit caffeine (just coffee in the morning...rarely drink soft drinks) and no longer smoke. My blood pressure now is a much healthier 123/72. No drugs...just living healthy.

Each year since I have gone to the same AME. It's an AME that most pilots in my domicile use. He does FAA medicals all day everyday in addition to being a family doctor. He charges a flat fee (under $40!) and is easy in and easy out.

I stopped in last Thursday. When I walked in I saw a Captain I fly with every now and then along with two other First Officers I know. It was like a crew room.

First up was peripheral vision test, color blind test, distance vision test along with height and weight. After that there were the normal questions concerning my health, blood pressure, hernia test and urine test. That was it...I think. I was in and out in under 15 minutes. Nice.

Not much else is going on. My mother in law is in town for a WHOLE week. My wife and mother in law have been getting stuff ready for our baby due in August. She leaves on Tuesday or Wednesday. She flew here using airline miles but will be flying back with one of my buddy passes. I sure hope flights are open. ;-)

Sitting airport reserve tonight. I have a 3 day trip tomorrow. Beats both sitting at home with my mother in law and airport standby. The only bad thing is the first overnight is 8 1/2 hours.....crazy short!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Continental and United merger

Continental and United are planning to merge. This could be ugly for regionals.

The following regionals fly for Continental:

Expressjet (the largest)


Gulfstream International


Cape Air

The following regionals fly for United:

Skywest (the largest)








That's a lot of regionals. United has far more regionals than Continental. Once they merge there could be a shake down and whipshawing. I also suspect bases/domiciles to be closed/adjusted (up or down). When Delta and Northwest merged regionals were moved around quite a bit. Continental and United don't have major bases close to each other...well Cleveland and Chicago. will be interesting.

Hard too sleep with Tornado sirens going off

Thought I was pretty safe from "having" too fly Friday. Sitting in the bowels of the airport, I began to plan my evening at home. Then the phone call came. Off to an overnight.

The Captain I flew with and I have always got along. I am a very easy going guy. That being said, I've heard a few First Officers complain about this Captain. Hmmm...don't know why.

One leg to the overnight. After 14 hours I was supposed to fly back.  Supposed to.

A line of weather was delaying flights across the country....including mine.

The weather was moving into the area. Gusty winds, rain and low clouds. The runway in use has an offset localizer ILS. Once the runway was in sight (about 11oo feet AGL) I clicked off the autopilot and visually lined up with the runway. It was kind of an odd sight seeing the localizer needles off center while landing.

We only arrived 90 minutes late. Off to the hotel. Once there I realized my Macbook Pro was deadish. No display....just a chime. I used my Nexus One (I love this phone!) more than I ever have. I researched the problem and tracked it down to a known issue with the Nvidia Chipset and that Apple would fix the problem for free if within 2 years of purchase. My computer was 2 years 1 month old. Thankfully they fixed it free anyway.

With no laptop I was bored. Not for long as a wicked thunderstorm came in. I grew up in the south so I am used to Tornadoes, Hurricanes and Thunderstorms.

I watched the local weathermen discuss the storm. Problem was they were mentioning counties...I had no idea what county I was in! Back to my Nexus One.

After opening an app called "Rainy Days" I was able to load up slightly delayed RADAR that was around my GPS pinpointed position. I appeared to be in the clear. Between 7PM and 10PM tornado sirens were on and off. I kept an eye on my RADAR on my phone. All was okay.

What wasn't okay were flights. Every flight for every airline cancelled that night. That meant there was no plane for me to fly back Saturday morning. My Captain called me shortly after 10PM and let me know we were now leaving at 2:30PM instead of 5:40AM. Nice.

After a long boring morning we all loaded up in the hotel van. My flight attendant was also on reserve. She was upset about having a 2 hour sit when we get back then another turn. She spent the entire van ride complaining to us and crew scheduling. I had no sympathy for her. I sit all the time. I am the bottom guy. She has much better relative seniority than me.

I was released when I got back. May should be interesting. I'm on regular reserve. I could have reserve at home, morning airport reserve, afternoon airport reserve, deadheaded to another base or.....regular flying.