Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hurry up and wait

Six days. That's the most consecutive days I can work. I don't do it often. Most schedules are built 4 on 3 off. Every now and then the stars align....or unalign....and I end up working 6 days straight.

Work started on Tuesday June 22nd and ended on Sunday June 28th. Each day I had morning airport reserve assigned.

Tuesday wasn't bad. Eight hours of standby and I went home.

Wednesday was busy. A flight was supposed to leave at 7:35AM. The First Officer for the flight signed in for his flight more than an hour prior. At 7:37 my phone rang. The First Officer was a no show. Must have had a family emergency.

I grabbed my things and made my way out to the plane. Just twenty-one minutes later we were on our way. Long turn. Blocked back in to base at 2:10PM. Done for the day. Total duty 8 hours 10 minutes. Total flying for the week 5 hours 29 minutes.

Thursday....just 8 hours of airport reserve. This was great as I was able to go to a Doctor visit with my wife and pick up my family flying in for our baby shower.

Friday. Clocked in at 6 AM for airport reserve. At 9AM I was called for a deadhead to an outstation to pick up a plane and ferry it right back. The deadhead flight was running late. Instead of leaving at 9:40AM the flight blocked out at 11:00AM.

Once we landed I had a voicemail. I was to deadhead back on the same plane I deadheaded in on (departing at 12:15PM). My flight was cancelled. Nice. Not Nice? The flight was oversold. I was on standby. Went out full with a deadheading pilot in the jump seat. I would have to wait.

This is where things started to suck.

Weather moved in. The next flight was supposed to leave at 1:40PM. Delayed. I checked scheduling on my computer .They were out of Captains and had started Junior Manning. Passengers began arriving. Small airport. My airline is the only scheduled carrier. Small waiting area. As each hour ticked by the passengers grew more and more upset. By 4PM I was tired.

My phone rang. I didn't answer. It was scheduling. I'm not required to answer. After literally 6 phone calls I finally gave in.....foolishly. Since they now had me on tape (all calls recorded) and positive contact, I was assigned to fly a ferry flight back leaving at 6:30PM. Not happy. Tired. Hungry.

I made my way to the hangar. The plane was almost ready. Stashed my bags on board and headed to their breakroom. A few minutes later I was "enjoying" a mushy hot Hot Pocket,a V8 and a bag of mixed nuts.

The Captain was still at the hotel.  I called and verified he was on his way. ETA 5:15PM. It was just 4:20PM.

Not much I could do. I fired up the APU and began preflighting the plane, programming the FMS and preflighting the cabin (since we had no flight attendant on board I had to make sure all the safety equipment was there).

That took all of 20 minutes. I made my way to the cabin and air from the packs made for a nice relaxing space.

Captain arrived at 5:20PM. We blocked out at 5:48PM.....right behind us? The deadhead flight I was supposed to be on.

After landing in base, we parked the plane on a pad instead of a gate. This annoyed me. Scheduling assigned me to fly a plane back that wasn't going anywhere? Later I learned it sat on that pad for over 30 hours. Nice. Blocked in at 6:44PM. Total duty 12 hours 59 minutes.

Saturday started with a 6AM sign in. Tired already. Called at 9:40AM for a 11:35AM departure. Another 5 hour plus turn. At the outstation it looked like it was going to be a very long day.

After we blocked in to the outstation(11 minutes early) the flight attendant opened the main cabin door. I then heard a very loud crash. Something abnormal happened.

The door on my plane has integrated stairs. A motor assist the door in closing and opening. When the door is first opened gravity takes the door most of the way down. The last few feet a motor helps slow down the fall and kicks out a wheel for the door to sit on.

The motor didn't kick in and the wheel didn't kick out. Not good.

What was good was that a contract mechanic just happened to be at the gate when we arrived and was talking to a ramp manager. Both were watching us come in. The mechanic saw the entire thing happened. He immediately started looking at the door. After the passengers were off we tested the door. The motor brought the door up fine, but when lowering it never slowed down the motion. The wheel DID kick out properly though.

The mechanic inspected the door then got on the phone with my airline to get a MEL for the lowering issue. We blocked out 2 minutes early.

Tired. Really tired. Flew Mach .83 for most of the way back. Blocked in 25 minutes early at 5:02 PM. Total duty 11 hours 17 minutes. Total flying for the week so far, 11 hours 50 minutes.

Sunday I was really hoping to not work. Six AM sign in for airport reserve. At 9:40AM I was called for an odd assignment. Fly to an out station then fly to another base and deadhead home. Something was fishy.

This out station is normally served by another regional carrier. More over there were only 20 passengers on the first flight and 1 passenger on the second flight. Why send my plane? Because they needed my plane in another base and this was a way of getting in there without losing money on a ferry.

Blocked out for the first leg at 11:00AM. An hour and 10 minutes later I was turning base to final on a visual approach for runway 20.

It had been over a year since the Captain or I had been there. During the rollout we both looked over at A terminal and noted how empty it looked. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the tail of an the new fancy terminal across the field.

After blocking in we were told there was a ground stop at the next airport. Instead of one passenger we had super high tier frequent flier and 2 nonrevs. Another revenue flight was delayed....with empty seats...going to the same base. Hmmm whatever.

Captain and I grabbed lunch. Ground stop lifted. Blocked out at 12:54PM...right behind the other revenue flight.

Right before takeoff, the other flight got a reroute. Good as they would be out of our way.

All attempts to fly fast failed. Congested airspace. Not only were we slowed to 250 knots at FL310, but we were given no less than 3, 90 degree turns to reduce the spacing.

Eventually we were lined up for a 22 mile final. Windshear reports were coming out. Ten knots plus and minus during the flare reported by a 737.

Our approach turned out busy, but fine. Blocked in at 2:26PM. I was initially supposed to catch a 2:45PM deadhead on mainline home. Lucky for me it was delayed.

I grabbed dinner and found an empty gate. My deadhead was overbooked and I was on standby. Standby you ask? But you're deadheading!

Sometime ago flight crews at my airline were always "positive" space on deadheads. Positive space means a seat is either reserved or a paying passenger is bumped for the flight crew member. Then some bean counter got upset as they were losing money by bumping paying passengers.

Now flight crews are positive space IF, upon reaching the destination, there is a flight assignment for them (meaning they are going to work a flight). If there is no flight assignment waiting for them, then they are standby.....the top of standby.....but still standby.

Tired. This was my day 6. Flight crews can only work 6 consecutive days. On the 7th day they MUST be free from all duties. This includes deadheading. If I didn't get on a flight I would be stuck in this base on my day off. I would get an extra day off plus Junior Man pay for deadheading home on a day off...but it's less than ideal.

Boarding began at 4:10PM. My name was called. I got a real seat. Nice.

My seat was near the front and thus one of the last zones to board...normally. I had to stash my flight kit and suitcase. If I wait until I am supposed to board, I will likely not have room. Whenever I am in uniform and deadheading I board early. Which is what I did.

The agent scanning boarding passes initially looked at my boarding pass and began to say it wasn't my turn to board. She then looked up, saw I was in uniform and I replied, "I'm deadheading, I just want to stash my bags." She let me on.

Long flight. Blocked in at 6:55PM. Tired. Three long days in a row.

I had family in during the weekend. Barely saw them. They left Sunday morning. I was tired all day Monday and most of Tuesday recovering.

I flew more in those 6 days than I did the rest of the month. I didn't mind the flying, but the really long duty days got to me. Lots of sitting around doing nothing.

Off till Friday. New month starts where I'm back on regular reserve.


  1. Are airline hubs where every flight will start. so if i lived in San Diego and "crash-N-burn airlines" hub was in Seattle i would have to commute to Seattle every day to start my trips?

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