Sunday, April 24, 2011

Flying Tired

So prior to this month I had been on Reserve most months. That meant I had little control over where I fly or when I flew.

Being a line holder should be different...but so far I'm not seeing it.

My line started on Friday. Due to weather my first turn cancelled. I was then reassigned to do a shorter turn. My pay is based on my original flight time. If the shorter flight went longer ( due to weather) I would get the extra pay.

The turn was supposed to leave a 5:20PM and return to base at 8:30PM. I would then sit until 9:45PM and fly to my overnight that's part of my line.

The first flight was rough. Moderate turbulence. Lots of bumps and altitude variations. ATIS initially reported winds 160@19G24 landing runway 10. Wet runway. Captain and I discussed the conditons and I felt okay landing. Did I mention it was my leg?

On a 3 mile final in IMC. New winds 160@26G40. Going around. Out to hold.

Controller seemed overworked and gave us a hold that made no sense. Another flight asked for clarification as well as they were holding 1000 feet above us. Again the instructions made no sense, but we both got what she wanted and did it.

With the turbulence bumping us around it was difficult to put the hold into the FMS. We went retro and held the old fashioned tuning in the VOR and timing

After 15 minutes we were getting close to bingo fuel. Winds died back down to 160@18G27. We would do one approach then divert

Previous aircraft reported gain and loss of 10 knots. I Briefed I would add 10 knots. Long runway.

It was rough. Turblence all the way to the runway. Gust pushed the plane around quite a bit. Took me 2500 feet to straighten it all out and land. Quite smooth though...which is normal during the windy landings.

After landing my flight attendant called. Several passengers had vomited due to all the bumps. Nice.

Parked. More weather. The vomit covered cabin was so extreme that the ground crew could not clean and remove the smell. Lucky for us a previous plane came in to overnight. We swapped.

More weather. We finally left. Landed back at base at 11PM. My overnight was cancelled. No gate. Again due to weather.

After sitting on a remote pad for 55 minutes, we had a gate.

Since I commute and lost my overnight. I had to find my own place to stay. Got to a hotel at 1AM. Sleep around 1:45AM. Woke up due to sunlight around 8:ooAM. Had to be back at the airport at 11:30AM Deadhead and connect back up with my trip.

Due to all the weather my original crew was scattered about.

My deadhead was to leave at 12:05PM. I would arrive at the outstation at 2:00PM where I would then wait 30 minutes before leaving on my next flight.

Delayed. Staffing issues. Finally at 2PM I Walked down a jetbridge to my deadhead. I heard my name from behind. It was the First Officer....that I happened to instruct while I was at ATP.

I had not seen him in 3 years. He just hired on with my airline 3 months ago. With all time constratints there wasn't much time to talk.

Away we went. Tired but couldn't sleep. At 4PM I arrived at the outstation. I saw my plane next to where we parked. Loaded up and waiting for me.

I literally walked up one jetbridge, down another and into my seat. Captain had done the preflight.

Away we went. Three hour flight. Already tired.

We were headed to an airport I had not been to in 2 years, the Captain had never been there.

While enroute we studied the airport diagram. We had an idea of where we parked.

None issue. Done. We previously thought we lost the next quick turn because we were 2 hours late. Nope we still had it.

It was only a 94 mile flight. Kind of a waste to me. Whatever, I just fly the planes.

Tower, Ground, Approach, Departure, Station Personell...just about everyone assumed we knew what we were doing and were used to the local procedures as my airline does a lot of flying around there. This made it more stressful as we had to ask for clarification a few times.

My leg. Short flight. Once again approach assumed we knew they would clear us for a visual on downwind while 5000 AGL...oh and a short approach.

"Regional 499 cleared for a visual to 27, turn your base in the next mile." Was what were told.

I had been to this airport a passenger. I saw the airport. Slowed down, popped out the flight spoilers, clicked off the autopilot, and began a smooth diving turn.

There was no way I would have attempted that as a new guy. It was a tight approach. Landing into the setting sun made it even more difficult. Decent landing.

More issues with station personell assuming we knew where they wanted us. Quick turn and another 94 miles back. Still tired.

My line orignially had a 2 hour break coming up. Due to all the delays we had just 35 minutes. Crew meal break.

After we each bought a $10 salad we loaded up. My leg. Tired. I'd been up for Sixteen hours on 7 hours sleep. By this point I had been on airplanes for 6 hours 20 minutes....and had another 2 hours to go.

Total flying was scheduled for 8 hours 20 minutes. Because of the first flight being a deadhead that 2 hours doesn't count towards actual flight time.

Blocked out on time. Tired. I set the autopilot to climb at 310 knots....and cruised at Mach .83. Tired.

Being so late there was not much radio chatter. We ate our $10 salads and then just sat in silence. Very tired.

Decent landing. Long runway. I let it roll to the end as we had to go there anyway.

None of us had been to the airport for an overnight. Took us a bit to find the hotel pickup spot. Then it took 30 minutes for the van to arrive. We weren't happy.

When I arrived at the hotel I had been up for 18 hours. I hit the bed without turning on the lights.

Slept about 7 hours. Today is an easy day...just one leg. Fourteen hour overnight and then 2 legs tomorrow followed by my commute home.


  1. A grueling day for many, Geek Pilot. By the looks of the radar, today won't be much better for many either. Hopefully, you are posting a day or two behind actual time and you are reading this at the start of days off, safely ensconced in your domicile.

    On days where the lines of cells run from OK to PA, I often wonder what it must have been like to fly those lines in a non-pressurized twin with a VFR chart and an E6B. Then I think to the future, when the young guys will wonder "what was it like to fly those lines in a RJ at only FL330?"

    I believe that pilots flying lines in all time periods will share the common experience of fatigue, despite advances in technology. Some things never change.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Thanks for showing us what it's like during your days. All legal but not necessarily the safest way to do things.
    Wouldn't it be great if it was required that the people making the rules then had to work under them for a year or so to see how they're actually put to use? Might lead to them going back and doing some re-writing.
    Makes me tired just reading about your days. Another reason to be glad I'm finally retired from that life...

  3. Do you get paid for the time spent on the ground waiting for a gate? Do you then get paid for the time you taxi to the gate? Do you log this time, when you have your engines running and you are taxiing, but no intention to depart - just to get to the gate?

  4. At my airline (and most airlines I know of) , flight crew (pilots & flight attendants) pay starts when the passenger door is closed and the parking brake is released. Thus while boarding or deboarding we are only getting our per diem. So when I was waiting for a gate I was getting paid. For flight time I log block out (parking brake released, passenger door closed) to block in (parking brake set, passenger door opened).


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