Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kinda wanted to stay home

The commute yesterday looked bad...really bad.

I had to be in base by 3PM. I started my day at 7AM by having breakfast with my daughter.

I dropped her off at daycare at 8:30AM and made my way to the airport. All flights full....more than full...overbooked.

Once at the gate I saw a Captain for my airline that commutes. So much for the jump seat.

I began thinking I really didn't want to go to work and hoped to not get on. I would then try once more and then use the commuter policy.

Commuter policies vary, but most airlines require a pilot to try at least twice (on any airline) to get to base by report time. If they can't they can use the commuter policy. The pilot doesn't get paid but also avoids punishment. I have never used the policy.

To my amazement I was given a seat. The gate agent initially wanted to check my bag. I politely asked if I could try to find space, she agreed...thankfully.

After in base I had 4 hours to entertain myself.

Four day trip. Legs are 2-4-2-1

First flight was blocked for 2 hours 35 minutes. The flight time is only 1 hour 20 minutes. The flight is padded due to chronic delays at both ends and long taxi times.

Sure enough we blocked out 20 minutes late. We then spent 10 minutes taxiing and 10 more minutes waiting to takeoff.

My leg. While en-route I heard several planes along our route being given holding instructions. I told the Captain I would be slowing to save fuel. Flying slow straight uses less fuel than holding.

We held anyway.

Over an hour of hold fuel on board (due to the padded block time), Three laps around the hold (10 mile legs) and we were out.

Weather. RADAR on. I picked to go south. Controller gave us a heading of 150 when able direct to a fix. Fine. After a minute the controller asked how much longer. The Captain said 10 miles. The controller gave us a 180 degree right turn. Just then we were on the backside of the weather and could go direct to the fix. The next was classic.

The controller responded, "Oh god!"

That's it. I stayed on my heading (not turning). The controller came back a minute later and cleared us to the fix.

Glad I went south. All other aircraft were sent north around the weather for more holding. The conga line behind us just got 30 minutes longer.

While on final the weather was quickly moving in. At 1300 feet AGL a master caution went off, "GEN 2 OFF". For whatever reason the right engine generator went off line.

"I didn't do it" was the first thing I said. Quick discussion about the situation resulted in the Captain starting the APU and I continued the approach.

After landing we had an hour break. The Captain bought the whole crew dinner (first time this has happened in a long while!). The mechanics MEL'd the generator. The MEL required us to run the APU for the next flight non stop.

Blocked out on time. Long taxi. A 767 ahead stopped suddenly during our taxi. Ground inquired. The plane had a security issue with a disruptive passenger and needed an immediate return to gate. Not a good thing for the crew considering they were going overseas. Long day. It didn't make the news this morning so it couldn't have been too bad.

Number 20....yes 20 for takeoff. Another padded flight. Arrived in another country on time. Fourteen hour overnight.

Four legs today. Two tomorrow and just one Saturday. Time for food.


  1. I still don't know how you do it, but apparently your terrible commute will end in a few months. Question: I know that the cockpit jump seat is by on-line senority, then others...  If t he JS is filled, can an on-line pilot occupy an un-used FA jump seat?  Maybe you'd just get in the way.  Lastly, I hate hearing about flights with major items MEL'd. (Half of your generating power is major, in my view.) Smarter folks say it is OK and that running the APU for the entire flight is OK - I just don't like it.  Is there a day a leg limit on a MEL'd generator for your type?  Safe and happy flying, -C.

  2. Depends on the airline. Some allow pilots to sit in unoccupied FA jumpseats (I know Expressjet and Delta allow this...American does not). I've never had to use one...or even been given the chance as there are several FA's commuting as well and they get priority over the unused FA jumpseats before pilots. 

    The APU can run all day long without harm. The MEL on the engine generator does have a limit...I'm not sure how many days off the top of my head, but I know it can't be extended. For what it's worth it broke on 13th and was fixed on the 15th.


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