Saturday, January 29, 2011

Forgot how things really go

Wednesday I was called out for a simple assignment. Ferry a plane to a maintenance base, overnight and deadhead home in the morning. As planned I would be driving home at 9:30AM Thursday. I would then pick up my daughter from day care and have a bonus day with her.

The Captain I flew with was a Captain that gave me a hard time when I was on probation back in 2008.

He is based elsewhere and we were both dead headed to an outstation...during the winter. He continually rushed me on the ground. I could barely keep up. After deicing he took over the radios (normally my job on the ground) while I finished up. I was heads down when I heard a voice screaming, "Flight 9391 stop! stop! stop!" I was forced against my seatbelt as the plane abruptly stopped. The Captain was about to cross the hold short line right in front of a landing plane. Moments earlier he had read back a hold short instruction.

It didn't get better. For the rest of the flight I was more or less single pilot. I had not seen him since.

He is a very senior Captain. In the top 1%. He was originally scheduled to fly to an overnight. It cancelled and he was reassigned to do my ferry flight.

He hasn't changed much. He was more helpful this time, and I deliberately made it a point that I was not going to be rushed.

I took the leg out. Ferry flights are fun the plane climbs like a bat out of hell. Even with a reduced power (to save wear on the engines and fuel) the initial climb out was a sustained 3800 feet per minute.

This was only my second flight since returning from leave. The matenance base is at a fairly small and isolated airport. Cleared for a visual 20 miles out.

I made a decent landing and we headed to the hotel. While signing into the hotel I looked at the sign in sheet to find the crew of the 8:00AM flight and their van time. They picked a 7:20AM van. Nice.

At 7:20AM we were off to the airport. Once at the gate I saw the flight was delayed....until 9:00AM. Reason? The plane they were to fly was still being fixed.

Nine o'clock came and went. New time was 2:00PM. My contract states any downtime for more than 5 hours at an outstation means I get a hotel. It's black and white.

When I called scheduling to get a hotel voucher (since I already checked out I would need to check back in, plus I was staying past normal checkout time). The scheduler gave me a hard time:

Them : "We are putting you on the 9:55AM Flight."

Me: "It's already oversold and weight restricted."

Them: "We aren't giving you a hotel, you should not have checked out of the first one."

Me: "When I left the flight was scheduled to leave on time."

Them: "Call the hotel and see if you can check back into your old room."

Me: "That's not my job. I want a hotel voucher now."

Them: "Hold on,"

They finally gave me what I asked for...even though I should not have had to ask for it.

I stopped by an airport cafe and bought something for lunch. Nothing at the hotel. Away I went.

Being a "geek" I don't watch much "real" TV.  I watch mostly Internet TV (from Revision3, Cnet and Twit). I connected my Zune to the hotel TV and geek'd out for a bit.

At 1:20PM I was headed back to the airport. The 9:55AM flight was STILL there (also delayed for a mechanical problem)....scheduled to leave at 2PM. My 2PM flight (originally 8AM) was now pushed to 3PM.

The gate agent said the 9:55AM flight was almost full. I might be able to get a jump seat. For a laundry list of reasons my airline doesn't positive space dead heads unless the dead head is needed for a flight assignment at the destination. Pretty crappy. Thankfully I got a seat.

I was released from duty after arrival. By the time I got to my car my wife had already left work and was headed to pick up my daughter. Waste of a day.

My original flight never left and was cancelled.

Friday I was called at 4AM to sit morning standby. Around 7:30 AM I was called to fly a 5 hour turn. Long day. Great Captain.

Off today, Saturday, back to afternoon airport standby tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I can still land

My first flight was Monday night.

My report time was 8:40PM. I arrived early as security procedures at my airport had changed and I wanted to make sure I had time to review them.

The Captain I flew with was the same Captain I was with during my initial check ride. Laid back guy with a great sense of humor. Sometime before the flight I noticed a Check Airman was dead heading. It was a last minute addition.

At the gate the Check Airman stated we were getting a line check. Nice. He inspected my license and medical. It took me a little longer than normal to do my preflight as I had to get back into my groove.

Thankfully the Captain took the first leg. I could have done it, but appreciated him flying as I could get back into the swing of things.

Since I had been gone a new checklist had come out and a few procedures changed. That combined with me being gone for a bit slowed us down. Not terribly, but it wasn't totally smooth.

Normal flight for the most part. Check airman was in the jump seat observing.

During the approach phase things got a little busy as the FMS didn't display the identifier for the localizer. I had to whip out the approach chart and verify the morse code. This caused me to miss arming the thrust reversers when I normally arm them (after I lower the gear). This was caught by the check list....that's why we use them.

Being in a hotel again was a change. I had forgotten what it's like to have limited food choices. Over the last few months I had been eating at home. Healthy stuff. Eh.

We got in late...just prior to midnight. The next morning I slept in till 10AM. Having a 5 month old daughter means I never get to sleep in at home. I took full advantage of being away.

I trudged through the snow for lunch. Taco Bell. Eh. It was hot and passed for food.

The flight back was my leg. The checklist and flows went faster. One pet peeve I have is when at a fairly slow airport the tower controller should give any takeoff headings/instructions before being cleared for takeoff...especially when the guy is also the ground controller.

We never stopped from the time we left the gate until we got to the runway. Lined up for takeoff I was then told of a heading and altitude change. I read back, "turn left heading 080 and climb and maintain 7000, cleared for takeoff." Initially we had planned on flying runway heading to 10,000. Not a major deal, but it would have been easier to advise us before we were on the runway. Small pet peeve. Bleh.

Winter flight times are all blocked to include deice time. If no deicing is needed, flights are likely going to be early. Sure enough we did not need to be deiced and thus were way ahead of schedule.

During the arrival we were behind a mainline 737. For reasons not known to us they slowed down way early. There are speeds on the arrival chart that show when to slow down. Because they slowed down so rapidly we were given a 60 degree left turn off the arrival. Twice. The first time for about 5 minutes. We were then put back in line. Then once again the 737 slowed down early, left turn again.

Beautiful VFR arrival. My landing was absolutely average. Which is good considering I haven't landed in months and the sim lands nothing like the real plane (in my opinion anyway).

Blocked in 25 minutes early.

Today I am on a reserve call out. Short call. I dropped my daughter off at day care just in case I do get called out. I work thru Friday, off Saturday then work Sunday thru Tuesday.

It's great to be back at work.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Check ride

Saturday morning at 2AM I finished my training in the simulator. Tired. I drove home mostly awake. Once home I emailed my wife a message, "If I am not awake by 9:30 AM please buy me a Sausage, Egg and Cheese McGriddle meal with Coffee." I don't eat McGriddles often. Haven't had one in over a year. My wife knew why I wanted one. Check ride.

Before every check ride I have had this same meal. It started by accident. I was in a rush for my private pilot check ride and forgot to eat breakfast. I stopped by a McDonalds and saw "McGriddle"...and ordered it. I passed the check ride the first time. Every since then I have eaten the same breakfast....and passed each check ride.

I woke up around 10:30AM to a luke warm breakfast. I quickly ate it, mostly to get it over with. Wasn't very good.

Saturday afternoon was spent relaxing and doing everything but studying. If I didn't know it then I would never know it.

I left home 45 minutes prior to my check ride....even though the simulator is just a 10 minute drive away.

Sitting alone in the briefing room I listened to a podcast on my phone. A man walked in. I asked if he was my Captain/Non-flying pilot. Negative. He was the examiner. Nice.

We had a little small talk and then got down to the oral. The oral was optional as I just had ground school. In fact of the three prior checking events, only my initial had an oral.

I wasn't at my best. I was thinking too hard on fuel and hydraulic system questions. He was looking for an easy answer and I was trying to build the airplane. Finally got through it. I could tell he wasn't digging my knowledge. I was just off. I've never stumbled through an oral like that.

Finally got to the simulator. My non-flying pilot was the Captain that trained me the last few days and I had flown with in the past often.

Started in JFK. Reduced visibility takeoff. Normal takeoff, then given a block of airspace for air work. I briefed each of the three stalls (clean, takeoff and landing) before demonstrating them. They were my best stalls ever. Done.

The flight plan was to fly to DCA. Changed. Now returning to JFK. First was a 2 engine ILS to ILS 4R. Briefed and set up. Once the wheels touched the runway, go around was issued. Away we went. Textbook go around.

On the missed we entered the hold at DPK. Then told to expect a GPS to 22L. I briefed the approach. The approach can start at DPK (nice coincience eh?). Hand flown. Short final a plane pulled onto the runway. Another go around.

Flying around the right engine caught fire. Called for the checklist. Shut it down. Time for a hand flown single engine landing to ILS 4R.

There has been an issue for a while with pilots mucking up the single engine ILS requiring a go around. Most of the time it's because when they go visual at 100 feet they don't see the normal sight picture (single engine is flaps 20 versus flaps 45 for a normal two engine,  thus the deck angle is different) and push the nose forward. They are then too low, get unstable and around they go. I did this my first time in the sim 3 years ago.

Flying single engine isn't a big deal once the plane is settled. A little right rudder (I prefer to use the rudder manually versus trimming the rudder as I have a better feel for the plane) and all is good. I just put in stone that when the thrust goes forward my foot goes forward and vice versa.

When the runway was called in sight I kept my head inside for one additional second then looked outside. I didn't move any controls even though the sight picture wasn't normal. I cut the power at 30 feet and made a firm landing. Heavy brakes and minimal thrust reverser. Done.

Next up....V1 cut.

V1 cuts are one of the most over trained maneuver's. I taught a lot of them while I was an instructor for the ATP RJ course. I am pretty good at them.

Right at V1 the right engine failed. Right rudder pressure and I steered the nose back to center line. I then made sure the plane was stable and slowly rotated. There was no need to rush as I was on a long runway. Nice takeoff. Text book call outs. After the climb the checklist was run and the engine restarted. Nice.

Final approach was the VOR 4 into LGA. This approach was a little tricky as the MDA was 600 but there was a step down from 700. Almost caught me. I left the autopilot on until 500 feet. Landed and thought I was done.

"ATC" AKA the sim check airman stated to roll to the end and line up for another takeoff. I thought I had screwed something up and had he wanted to see me fly a bit more. My Captain was smiling and almost giggling when I began setting up V speeds and running the pre-takeoff checklist.  Lined up, I advanced the thrust levers.

He made the 80 knot call, and then it happened....I lost all my flight instruments. Immediately I pushed the yoke forward and said, "abort, abort, abort!" Done. The last item on my check ride was an aborted takeoff. The Captain knew it, thus his smiling at my worried tone and actions.

The check airman said he really liked my flying and control, but to brush up on my systems knowledge for next time. I missed the takeoff alternate for the first reduced vis takeoff, forgot to call for the climb checklist once and I exited the hold with a bit too much airspeed. That's it. Check ride passed.

I'm legal for another year.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Blue up, Brown down....still applies

First night in the sim was a little rough.

I was happy to see I was paired with a pilot who is upgrading to Captain. He is upgrading after being a First Officer in a different type of airplane so it's a new seat and plane for him.

I flew first. My first takeoff was a 6-6-6 takeoff out of JFK with a 24K crosswind. Low vis + a crosswind for my first takeoff in months! It was okay....I got a little squirrelly right after rotation.

We then went through required items like an ILS PRM into PHL, windshear training, GPWS training, raw data (no flight director) ILS, takeoff aborts, unusual attitudes and more.

Tonight I simply have a practice check ride. Multiple approaches, V1 cuts and stalls. Pretty tired.

We finished at 2:30AM. I was home in bed by 2:50AM...fell asleep around 4:00AM. Woke up at 6AM to the sounds of my daughter waking up. Back to bed at 7AM. Woke up for good at 11AM. Groggy. Going to try to take one more nap before I go....then lots of caffeine.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tomorrow is the next big day

Tomorrow night at this time I will be sitting in a simulator.

From what the training scheduler told me I am paired up with a new hire instead of a Captain. This will be interesting. It's only training (I get extra training since I was gone over my normal recurrent training month), but it helps when the person on the other side of the flight deck knows what they are doing and has been doing it for a while.

The same thing happened when I was hired.  I was paired with another First Officer. We both took turns in the Captain seat. We weren't graded for any actions done while sitting in the Captain seat (no need to memorize flows or certain test).

My "show" time is 8:30PM. The sim session starts at 10PM and ends at 2AM. Same thing Friday night. Saturday night is my check ride  .

For the first time in a few months I was able to bid for a schedule and have it count.

Next month I have a regular reserve line. Weekdays off. This used to be something I hated. Now it's not so bad as it will save us $60 a week on day care since my daughter will only have to go part time. Over the course of a year that's an extra $3000. Nice.

My twitter messages should ramp up again soon.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Questions Answered: How much did you earn last year?

Just curious, what is your current take-home pay AFTER taxes and union dues? And how many passengers are you flying in that aircraft?

Pay after taxes won't be useful as some states have state and federal taxes...some have federal only. I will include only federal taxes, since we all pay those. Last year I made $35,817.71 gross pay...over 10 months as I took the last two months off of work and received no pay (FMLA spent two amazing months with my daughter). Take out Union dues of $563.35 and Federal Taxes $4,067.21 (I take out at the SINGLE rate...never changed it...if I took out at the Married rate it would be less...will be less this year as I had a kid). Total money in my pocket before all other deductions $31, 187.71 or roughly $3118 per month. If I had worked a FULL 12 months I would have earned an estimated $42,980 based on the pervious 10 month earnings before taxes and Union Dues.

I am paid that rate to fly 50 passengers around.

Pilot pay is incredibly complex. Included in that above number is per diem, bonuses and overtime. Not included in deductions are items like insurance, extra insurance, 401K benefits and the like. Pilot pay per hour is a just a small piece of the overall pie. Airline A might pay pilots 10% more than Airline B, but Airline B might have health insurance 25% less than Airline A. Airline B might match 401K contributions to 7.5% of total pilot pay while Airline A might only match 5%. All adds up.  Overall I am very content with my pay and career. I am able to live a very nice life with my wife and child. My wife and I have traveled around the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan and the Caribbean.

Next year I should clear $45,000 simply because I got a raise to year 4 pay.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Baby steps back to the skies

Finished my requalification (don't think that's a real word ;-) ) ground school today. I am consistent in that I missed the same questions on the final exam I missed last year. Poorly worded questions in my opinion. After I reviewed the question and then thought in an illogical manner, it made sense.

What's next? Well I'm off for a few days. My wife and I were planning on taking my daughter to the North American Autoshow over in Detroit this weekend, but the weather looks like it will be a bit rough. We will decide on Friday. I might ask my wife if I can sneak away to Detroit for the day without them. Not likely as my wife went to school in Lansing and would like to visit for a bit.

I'm going to spend the next few days caring for my daughter and reviewing flight profiles to prepare for the sim.

Baby steps.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Learning it all over again

Today I finished day 2 of 3 of my re-qualification ground school. For the most part, it's the same information I went over last year...and the year before that....and the year before that.

I'm the only pilot in the class getting re-qualified. The other pilots are all getting recurrent training. The only difference is I get an extra day in the simulator.

Recurrent training goes over all of the systems of the airplane. It's hard to stay focused going over the same slides about information I already know about. It is nice to be in a room full of pilots though. Some I have flown with, most I have never met before.

One topic I always get interested in is security. My airline has a very good speaker and security presentation. Each time I leave the security presentation I am energized and ready to be vigilant in defending my flight deck. I have to keep that mindset throughout the year. Complacency creeps into flight decks and cabins the further we get from 9/11.

Tomorrow is the final day. A few more systems to review then the final exam. After that I have a few days off before my simulator training.

Due to a backlog of training (lots of upgrades and pilots moving around) the local simulator is booked solid. I will be heading to another city for my sim training.

Right now my wife and I are doing part time day care (3 days a week). As of now I head out for sim training next week on Wednesday. This will allow me to spend time/watch my daughter on Monday and Tuesday.

Since I will not be fully trained before bidding closes for February I will be on reserve and have a schedule built for me. Hopefully it will be decent. I would prefer to work weekends to save money on daycare as my wife works Monday thru Friday.

It's great to be back.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Monday! Monday! Monday!

Finally got my training date....Monday January 10th. This is when I will do my ground training anyway. The training department couldn't give me a sim date. That's fine with me. Once my training starts, my pay starts. I will get my monthly guarantee for the rest of the month and for the foreseeable future. If it takes them a month to get a sim session scheduled, I still get paid.

Time to dust off my flash cards. I am still using the set I made when I was a new hire. I bought a set that were on rings for ease of use. I can't wait to get back into the swing of things....and get a paycheck.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Today is my first day back....and I am at home. I'm inactive.

I was on FMLA during my grace month for training and am thus no longer qualified to fly. I  am currently waiting for a training date. I literally live 5 minutes from the training center. I naively thought everything would go smoothly and I would have a training date quickly. Not.

While on 2 months leave I raised my daughter, traveled a bit (went to the LA Autoshow, visited friends and family, had a good time), bought my wife a new car (she has a 2010 Prius while I have her 2004 Prius) and relaxed.

Yesterday I stopped by the airport to pick up updates for my manuals. Wow I forgot how annoying it is to update manuals! I had 8 updates for my Jepp charts alone. I took a break after 4 hours of updating. I have another 2-3 left.

With that said I have one small rant.

This blog is as open as it can be and allow me to have a job. My email address is listed in the "about" section. I respond and approve all comments that have a valid email address attached. The commenters email isn't shown to anyone but me. It's just a way of knowing it's a real person and a way of contacting someone directly if they have a private question.

A few days ago someone left a comment without an email. It was a very negative comment. I will be happy to approve it if they simply attach a valid email. I spent years studying journalism while in college (I have a BA in Photojournalism which involved a lot of regular writing). Open and free discussion is highly encouraged hence having a commenting system. So to the person who left the very negative comment, simply resubmit with a valid email and I will approve it. Unedited as are all my comments.