Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lost the overnight

I should be in Canada right now.

Last night my 3 day overtime trip started. Was supposed to be a simple turn then a Canada overnight.

Due to the Nor'easter the winds were gusting to 40 MPH+ which shutdown 1/2 the runways. On a good day there is normally only a 10-20 minute delay. Take away 1/2 the runways...well.

My 3:40PM departure was pushed to 5PM. We pushed out at 5:15PM. The Captain was new to the plane and decided to take the outbound flight to "let" me handle the gusty wind approach back. I didn't mind, and it made sense since I have 1300 hours + in the plane.

Inching down the taxiway we were number 15 for departure. With staggered arrivals and departures it would be at least 30 minutes.

Once we rotated I heard a howling sound. A sound I haven't heard in over a year.

One the front on most commercial jets there are various hatches and panels. They allow ground power to be connected as well as an interphone to be connected so the ground crew can communicate with the flight deck.

One of those hatches was left open.

For whatever reason the aircraft designers didn't design the panel to allow it to close if left open and the aircraft is in flight.

Even my noise cancelling headset was no match for the howling noise. I stuffed ear plugs under my headset. Better.

By the time we arrived at the outstation we were 2 hours late. I gave a call to maintenance to inspect the hatch. Turns out it wasn't the communication hatch, which is most common, was the ground power hatch.

While on the ground I checked my schedule. Due to our being so delayed, the Canada overnight was given to a ready reserve crew.

The mechanic inspected the hatch. No contact was made with the skin of the aircraft. He signed it off as fine.

Pushed out in 40 minutes, not bad considering the slight mechanical delay.

After pushing back, more bad news came....30 minute wait for our wheels off time.

My leg. On climb out we were restricted to 250 knots till advised. Then came word for maximum forward airspeed as we were leading the pack.....330 knots it is.

Descending back into the NY area was really bumpy. Very high winds and light rain. While being vectored for the approach we were at 4000 feet...the bases of the clouds. Very rough ride.

Assigned a localizer approach. First one in a while. Due to the winds the plane was lined up with the localizer, but the nose was pointed 20 degrees to the left.

An unfamiliar airport for me....especially at night.

I picked up the runway 4 miles out. Slow descent. Tower advised +/- 10 knots all the way to the runway. I added 10 knots to my airspeed and advised the Captain that I would keep that until short final.

Autopilot clicked off at 1200 feel AGL. It was rough. The airspeed did indeed fluctuate all the way down to the runway.

The sink rate increased sharply at 200 feet. A little more thrust and pushing the nose down slightly corrected it.

I idled the thrust levers at 20 feet and began the flare. The sink rate quickly increased. I thought for sure I was going to have a firm landing. The gusty wind and a little luck allowed for a surprisingly smooth landing.

I had not worked so hard to land a plane in a while. Night + gusty winds + unfamiliar airport = break time.

My crew is all based here and commutes. The flight attendant is a line holder, no crash pad. He began calling family looking for a place to stay. My Captain has a crash pad but hates it. He called another Captain here on TDY (who was assigned our Canada overnight) while we were at the outstation. My Captain took the other Captains hotel room.

For my line holder flight attendant, if he didn't have family to stay with he would have to spend at least $200 for a hotel room. Quite the hit in the pocket book.

I lost out on my Canada overnight, but I still get paid for it. I have the entire day off until 4:50PM when I head to another overnight. It's 12 hours long. Get back tomorrow morning. Tomorrow afternoon my wife and daughter are non-reving up for a few days.

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