Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Commuting hasn't been easy....not even once

Back from vacation. Had a great week with my in laws in New York. My daughter (who turns one this week!) has been on 24 flights....amazing.

I had a two day trip that started on Sunday. Because of vacation/scheduling it was chopped up into a one day trip.

The original trip was:

Day 1:

Flight 9313 depart LEX 0845 arrive OMA 1115

Day 2

Flight 9401 depart OMA 0630 arrive TUS 0810

Flight 9444 depart TUS 1220 arrive ELP 1450

Flight 8551 depart ELP 1535 arrive LEX 1650

What I was assigned was just day 2 flying.

Deadhead on mainline flight 311 depart EUG 0700 arrive TUS 1110

Flight 9444 depart TUS 1220 arrive ELP 1450

Flight 8551 depart ELP 1535 arrive LEX 1650

Total of 8 hours 15 minutes in an airplane. Only 4 hours 45 minutes of me actually flying. The initial deadhead was 3 hours 30 minutes.

My dead head was fine. I debated calling in sick for the day to avoid wasting a day. Bleh...too honest to call in sick.

Ironically the next two flights from EUG to TUS cancelled. If mine had cancelled I could have gone home. Bleh. No luck!

Arrived in TUS. Grabbed a quick lunch and headed to the plane. My crew was already in the plane having had a 4 hour sit.

Captain was new. He already did the preflight as he thought I might be running late (I had to go from the mainline terminal to mine reclearing TSA).

I took the initial leg. Blocked out on time. Taxied into a 12 plane line for takeoff which is normal for this airport. Thirty minutes after blocking out I rotated the nose into the air. Somewhat tricky departure that must be hand flown. Done.

Planned for Mach .75 at FL280. Slow.

Weather was moving into ELP. Vectored around a bit. Assigned runway 27R. This runway is really bowed. The middle sinks noticably downward to make a U shape. This has thrown off many a pilot in the flare as they flare too high and bounce it on. Been there, done that.

Gusty headwind. Floated a bit but landed nicely.

Plane swaps at outstations are silly, but we do them.

Forty five minutes after blocking in we were blocking out on the next flight...on time.

Complicated ramp and airport. We were initially assigned a runway on the south side of the airport. Rain started. Taxiways clogged with arrivals and departures. We sat at the edge of the ramp for 20 minutes before ground got to us.

We were put into a line of aircraft to taxi east, then north through another ramp to a north side runway.

We blocked out with 11,900 pounds of fuel. Min takeoff was 10,900 pounds of fuel.

After 20 minutes of one engine and APU we were down to 11,500 pounds of fuel.

Forty minutes after blocking out we had 11,200 pounds of fuel. APU went down as it draws about 135 pounds per hour while the engine at idle burns 520 pounds per hour. Due to slow taxi movements we couldn't shut the engine down and just use the APU.

The computers fuel readout is like a 1976 Lincoln Towncar fuel gauge. It varies based on the incline, temperature and magic.

When we were on a decline the fuel read high, climbing an incline it read lower.

The taxiway to the runway was initially an incline. The fuel showed 11,050 pounds. On the decline it read 11,290 pounds. Eh.

An hour after block out we were cleared for takeoff.

Instead of going in a straight line (straight east) between ELP to LEX we had to go WEST, then north and finally east to avoid weather.

ETA was 1745....so much for my 1750 flight home.

Three hours after blocking in the Captain made a nice 9 knot tailwind on a wet runway landing. Gate open. The flight was blocked for 2 hours 15 minutes. We blocked in at 3 hours 10 minutes.

My wife was monitoring my commute flights. We parked at C3. The next commute flight was leaving from C25....in 10 minutes. No way to make it.

I stashed my kit bag and made my way to B15 for a 7:10PM flight. Overbooked. The 5:50PM flight had an aborted takeoff and returned to gate. Several of those passengers were now waiting on the 7:10PM flight. I called my wife.

I started with, "It's not looking good. Heavy rain at the airport, overbooked flight and lines for takeoff were 20 planes deep. I'm not sure if I want to sit on a jumpseat for 4 hours."

She replied, "I hate you commuting. Every week it's the same thing, it's never easy. Not one single time!"

I understood her frustration. She understood mine.

After finding an empty gate I started looking at flights home the next morning. I found a two legger that was wide open that would get me in my car by 11AM. Back up done.

I was the only pilot listed for the jump. Then a thunderstorm moved in. Ramp closed. Flight delayed. Finally at 7:30PM boarding began.

A Captain from my airline arrived at the gate. He was deadheading.

He COULD take the jumpseat or a real seat. Since boarding had started the agents would have to pull a paying passenger to get him on. They persuaded him to go to a gate 5 down with a delayed flight that had not started boarding. He took the bait. 

If he had taken the jump I had already decided I would head to a hotel.

I got the jump.


Stopped by the flight deck and asked for a ride. Approved. Stashed my bag.

Over the last 5 months I have at least 70 hours in the jump seat. I've memorized the flap speeds and 1/2 of the First Officer flows.

At 10:06PM I was in my car driving home. I had left my house at 5:30AM. Long day. Over 11 hours in airplanes.

I'm off till Friday.

My next trip is interesting. I purposely traded into a trip with an IOE Captain betting I would be displaced. I was....but only for part of the trip. More later.

Oh and I'm betting you figured it out, all the city code and flight numbers in this post are for ease of reading only. The flight times are correct though.

1 comment:

  1. You know, your posts about commuting have really given me second thoughts about whether that's something I want to do when I make it to an airline, which is hopefully not far off.  For as long as I've wanted this job, my plan was always that I'd live here and commute to work.  But after reading your blog, talking to other pilots, etc... I'm begininng to change my way of thinking.  It really seems like commuting adds a lot of undue stress and strains your QOL a bit.  It sounds great to think, "oh I'll live here and just hitch a ride to base when it's time to go to work."  But you have to deal with delays, overbooked flights, multiple-leg commutes... Add that to the fact that when you're new to the airline and you don't have many days off a month, you're using a lot of your time off just getting to and from work.  Doesn't sound as good as jumping in the car and driving 20 minutes to the airport.  My old instructor and a good friend of mine is a fairly new CRJ first officer at a large regional.  He's getting better schedules now, but when he first started, he was working 5 on-2 off.  Because there are only a few flights from our home airport to his base a day, sometimes he'd have to commute home the morning of his first day off, and commute back the afternoon of his second day off.  So for a while, he wasn't even getting a FULL day off.  Crazy!  Things like this are really making me think about considering living in base when I get hired somewhere.  Or at least until I can hold a line and get a good commutable schedule.


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