Thursday, February 3, 2011

Know the rules, don't let scheduling push your limits

This post starts where the previous post ended.

I blocked in from a reserve assignment on Tuesday. I had Wednesday thru Friday OFF.

During the taxi in a message printed out on the flight deck printer telling me I had been assigned additional flying. This print out is NOT official communication. Official communication requires two way communication. This print out is one way. The printer could also be broken, out of paper or ignored.

After blocking in the whole crew was tired. I needed food.

I did my post flight and checked my schedule (as required to by contract after completing a reserve assignment).  I was assigned to fly back to the same city I just left for an overnight. Junior man assignment. Checking my schedule is considered official communication as they can tell when I checked it. It was an official assignment.

My contract states scheduling will give crew members time to eat and "use the facilities". Additionally I only planned to be away from home for 3 days. I didn't pack enough clothes, medication or contact lenses for another overnight. I'm required to wear corrective lenses to fly.

I called scheduling with the intent of letting them know I would need time to eat lunch, go home and then drive back. Back of the napkin estimate on my part was 3 hours 30 minutes. This would have given me an estimated duty day of 15 hours (not including the 1 hour spent getting ready that morning and riding the hotel van to the airport). With weather delays I can be on duty 16 hours. I would potentially be awake for 17 hours. Legal yes. Safe????

I told the Captain (who was also junior manned) that I would be away for 3 1/2 hours. He understood.

There was no way I could eat while on hold. So I just made my way to my car.  After one hour ten minutes on hold I gave up. While on hold I did get two phone calls. For some reason I didn't hear the beep. They were from an "unknown" caller. Guess I will never know.

I checked my schedule again,  I was pulled off the trip. Fine with me, I headed home.

The flight did end up leaving the gate. An hour and ten minutes later it pulled back into the gate and cancelled. Weather happens.

Wednesday morning my phone rang. Another "unknown caller". I didn't answer. I don't answer "unknown calls" on bad weather days (still snowing), on my days off....or especially a combination of the two.

With all the bad weather, cancellations mounted. I decided to see if I could make some money and picked up a 5 hour overtime trip on Thursday. I am a betting man and I was betting it would cancel. If it did I would still be paid for it.

Wednesday afternoon my phone was from a local area code. I answered. The voice was from the training center, "Good afternoon I am calling to let you know I removed you from your trip tomorrow. The Captain is an IOE Captain and is behind on giving IOE. It's too late for you to be reassigned so enjoy your morning off." Nice. I now get 5 hours of extra pay and never have to leave the house.

When I was new at my airline scheduling pushed me around quite a bit. They took advantage of my lack of knowledge of the contract. I specifically remember throwing away a dinner I had just bought as they stated if the flight left late it would be my fault (they had given me 20 minutes notice). No longer. I know the contract and more importantly I know my limits.

For pilots going to an airline for the first time I recommended learning to fly the plane, finishing training and then spend time with your contract. Know it. Fly it. Nothing more.

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