Monday, July 25, 2011

Need an APU and a little luck

My last trip went from hard to easy.

Getting to the overnight on day 3 took was 5 1/2 hours of flying over 2 legs. Felt like more.

On the way to the overnight I heard about Amy Winehouse being found dead while listening to an ADF channel.

Got to the hotel at 2:45PM. Napped till 5PM then hit Hooters for dinner.

I truly love Hooters 3 Mile Island (hottest in most locations) sauce. I've rarely met a meal that was too hot.

Wings and beer in my stomach I made my way back to the hotel for a great nights rest. This being the longest overnight (18 hours with a 8:30am van!) was great.

Up around 7:30AM I started my day. Before leaving the hotel I checked the MELs on the outbound APU LCV. This meant the APU worked for electricity, but could not supply bleed air.

I then checked on my commute flights home. All overbooked. The two leg commute that I took two weeks ago was the best option.

We got to the airport 40 minutes early. To my surprise and delight the ground crew (all contract workers as opposed to my airline employees) had connected preconditioned air (cool air!) and had the air cart ready to start the engines. I was truly impressed as most of my airline ramp personnel would have done neither.

The preconditioned air made the cabin just tolerable as the outside temperature was already 91 degrees.

Boarded up and then it happened. We had a 9:30AM departure but ATC imposed a 10:20AM wheels up time.

The Captain and I discussed it.

Dispatch gave us 1100 pounds of taxi fuel as opposed to a more normal 200-300 pounds. Reason being we had no APU and thus any ground delay would require running the engine which consumes around 500 pounds per hour versus the APU that consumes just 135 pounds per hour.

With the extra fuel we were willing to risk leaving the gate on time and waiting it out. I call it the "go sit next to the runway and put on your best sad puppy face" tactic.

The airport wasn't very busy. We taxied out and then got the good news, our new wheels up time was 9:45AM. It was working!

When we got to the runway it was pushed back to 9:50AM. If we had waited at the gate until 10:00AM we would have missed the earlier time.

Right at 9:50AM we were cleared for takeoff. My leg

Due to weather near the hub we had to take a scenic route. We got a short cut, but we were still estimated to land 10 minutes later than scheduled.

An hour into the flight the ATC center controller offered us a new course that would bring us in through another gate and we would be number 1. We advised we would look at it. Before we could answer she came back that it was no longer an option. To make it worse all arrivals were shut off. Prepare to hold.

We were cruising at FL370. We have no hold charts for that altitude. Additionally the plane is programmed to make 1/2 banked turns above 31,600.

The Captain advised we would need 20 mile legs and would take up a larger than standard holding pattern. ATC understood. This is what it looked like.

After one REALLY long pattern we were cleared to the previous gate. ATC requested "max forward speed you're leading the pack." followed by, "and what would max forward speed be?" I told the Captain, "Mach .83." When ATC heard that she replied, "oh I thought you were one of the slower RJs....okay that will work."

We indeed were leading the pack. Except during turbulence I flew right under red line.

Brought in at 11,000 and assigned a 7000 foot downwind. Once we were assigned a speed of 170 I began to plan for a short approach.

Sure enough assigned a base turn for a 6 mile final, but I was still 6000 feet AGL.

I'd been here before.

I idled the engines and leveled off. I made a shallow descent and called for the gear down and remaining flaps. Once done I nosed it over and extended the flight spoilers.

The VASI was showing all white lights....the glide slope was hiding somewhere down on the PFD. Steep approach.

Descending through 1400 feet AGL I stowed the flight spoilers but the engines were still idled. Passing 1000 feet AGL I was on speed and stabilized. Power was then added. I was a little taken back by the really long lines for takeoff...over 20 planes deep!

Nice landing and the Captain took over. Then it gate. While on the way to a holding pad operations called back, our gate was pushing back!

We pulled into the gate at 11:50AM...30 minutes late. My original direct flight was at 11:55 AM and the two legger at 11:50AM. My wife AKA travel agent sent me a text that the direct flight was delayed till 12:15PM.

My Captain commuted, but his flight wasn't till 12:30PM. He then offered to do my post flight AND take my kit bag 1/2 way through the airport down two flights of stairs to the crew room. Wow! I thanked him for a great trip and the offer and headed to my gate.

There were several pilots waiting around...mostly mainline. Not good.

I checked the flight listings and saw I was the only pilot non-reving. The rest were dead heading!

Sure enough I was given the flight deck jump seat. All direct flights were overbooked.

After requesting a ride I stashed my suitcase and swam upstream against the boarding passengers.

Nice crew, I'd ridden the jump seat with both pilots in the past. The First Officer made a memorable impression on me as he thinks regional pilots are all living on food stamps and are unskilled. Eh.

During push back the Captain started both engines. This worried me. I had seen the 20 plus line of planes for takeoff.

Their release was sitting right on the pedestal. I found the minimum fuel for takeoff number, 28,100 pounds. As we sat waiting for taxi the total fuel showed 30,400 pounds. A 2300 pound buffer.

We inched up the line. They chatted while I watched the fuel number. Around 28,600 pounds the Captain began to get concerned.

It was close....really close but as he turned the plane onto the runway the total read 28,200

Long flight. They got their crew meals. Nothing for me. I always carry snack bars and had two en route.

I was happy to see the airport as he turned final.

I walked into my door at 4:45PM....still daylight out.

My next trip starts on Thursday at 4PM. Super easy to commute too....I hope. Today was truly a day of with my daughter.

Tomorrow and Wednesday I'm going back to teach the RJ Course at ATP. Back home Wednesday night.

My trip ends Sunday with a dead head back home as I start vacation for REAL on Monday.

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