Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Long legs

Over the last few months I've been bidding for trips that have long legs. The thinking being the fewer legs the less work. Seemed like a good idea.

By long I mean 3 hours +. That's a long time to be sitting in the cockpit.

My average trip since April has been a 4 day trip worth 22 hours over 10 legs. That's 10 takeoff and landings.

This current trip started well. The Captain is a guy I flew with a few times. He's almost 63. The picture perfect definition of a crusty captain. Many don't like flying with him. I don't mind it. He has a good sense of humor, but he is definitely showing his age.

I took the first leg. Company pilot on the jump seat who slept most of the trip....oddly quiet.

Vectored to final. I was doing 250 knots and enjoying the scenery. I blinked and realized I was 2 miles from the FAF.....cleared for the visual. Company ops require to be stabilized by 500 feet for a VFR approach.

I popped the spoilers and stayed level. I then began adding flaps quickly while descending. Gear down full flaps and spoilers still hanging out as I passed through 1000 FT AGL. Engines were idled.

By 600 feet I was 10 knots over V-Approach. Right at 500 feet I stowed the spoilers and was right on speed. No way I would try that as a new guy.

I managed my best landing of the year. We could barely feel the wheels touch the ground.

My Captain made a joke about my "speed racer" approach and smooth landing.

During his landing back at the hub he also greased it on. Challenge was on!

During deplaning a passenger approached my flight attendant and stated he saw a "wire hanging off the flight spoiler on the left wing". He clearly was a pilot or knew about planes as most would say "a wire hanging off the wing".

The Captain and I both checked it out. Sure enough a retaining cable was loose. It's only used in case of full mechanical failure. An hour later it was fixed. We left 30 minutes late.

I commuted up early that morning. The Captain started his commute before me. Long day.

Mach .83 and FL360. Tired. I managed another greaser. Captain joked that I was trying to show him up.

Arrived at the hotel at midnight. I started my day 18 hours prior.

Eleven hour overnight.

The next morning came early. All of us slept in.

Easy day. Just one turn back to the same overnight. A long turn....6 hours 50 minutes of flying.

Left on time. Arrived early. Captain bounced it on. I was winning. Scheduled 40 minute turn. We had 45 minutes. Sounds like a lot....but it's not.

As passengers were deplaning I was busy programming the FMS for the return flight. I was done before the last passenger was off. After 1700 hours flying the same plane, I've got it down.

I left to do the post flight, relive myself, grab food and check my schedule. Before I was done with the last item boarding started. Away we went.

Normal flight until approach was controlling us. Due to spacing they gave us a heading of 130. Fine. Then cleared direct to a fix that was on a heading of 060. We were at 34,000 feet. The plane does half banked turns at that altitude....half standard rate. The controller came back during the turn and was upset at our slow turn and gave us a new heading of 360. The Captain replied that "these planes have a set turning rate in RVSM and at this altitude". The controller said, "yeah I know".....almost like it was our fault. Whatever.

Cleared for the approach. Much to my Captains chagrin I made an average landing. Tie game on the landings.

On the hotel shuttle was a crew from Air Canada Jazz. The First Officer sat next to me and we chatted it up. He was shocked to hear my airline can schedule 8 hour over nights. They get 10 minimum. That change is coming for us soon. Can't wait.

This overnight was 12 hours. Once in my hotel room (which was smaller than the night before...same hotel...eh) I never left.

Up early the next day. I bring oatmeal packets and used the coffee maker for hot water.

The hotel van was 9 minutes late. We made our way through security and boarded up....and left 8 minutes late.

We "made up" the time in the air and landed 20 minutes early. Easy to do on a 3 1/2 hour flight. Captain made an average landing. I was now up 1.

Two hour break. We all headed to the employee cafeteria. Breakfast done we did our on thing before the next flight.

After my preflight I saw my flight attendant quickly walking away from the plane. I asked why..."someone puked in the aisle!" Nice. There are air sickness bags in front of every seat. Eh.

Blocked out 30 minutes late. On a 50 minute flight it's impossible to make up that much time.

Arrived 30 minutes late. I was about 5 knots fast (within limits!) "over the fence". I floated a bit and finally eased it down. Average landing. Even score.

Tomorrow is just 2 legs and I commute home. I am supposed to have 8 days off before my next flight. I put in for a 2 day commutable trip on Saturday worth 11 hours. The company is short on staffing and is paying a premium for pilots to pick up extra flying. I hope to get that trip.

I used to like the long flights...but I don't care to just sit for up to 4 hours. I stretch my legs a few times and stand up on occasion to keep the blood flowing. It's nice to have fewer legs....but I might start mixing it up with shorter legs every now and then.

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