Monday, August 22, 2011

Is it September yet?

I am a horrible commuter. I know this.

My sign in time for my trip was 9:45AM Friday morning. In theory I had two flights to get me there on time. My problem was the duty way was already estimated at 13 hours 15 minutes. If I commuted up early on the first flight (required to give myself two flights to get there), I would be awake for at least 20 hours. No thanks.

Instead I commuted up Thursday evening and got a hotel. I had to spend some money, but it was a safer option.

I met my crew at 10AM at the plane. I flew with the Captain a few years ago. Average guy.

The first flight was to JFK. Here is the schedule I had...of course only JFK is a "real" airport.

Flight 1: 4303 LEX 1030 JFK 1354

Flight 2 4599 JFK 1634 LEX 1818

Flight 3 5591 LEX 2130 MSY 0010

We left on time for JFK. My leg. The flight was heavily over blocked as JFK is known for delays and long taxi times.

Normal flight. Slowed enroute.

Assigned ILS 22L.Weather was just below VFR mins about 10 minutes out. While being vectored to intercept the final approach course (4 minutes from landing) the controller came back, "Regional 4303 sorry about this, fly present heading expect VOR/DME 22L"

No big deal. It's not a straight in approach. By giving us this approach they have more room and less spacing requirements for arriving aircraft.

My Captain loaded the approach into the FMS. I briefed the differences. Easy approach. Blocked in 2 minutes early.

Then it happened. Weather. Thunderstorm.

Initially I had a 2 hour 2 minute sit. My next flight cancelled.

My crew was reassigned to fly a later flight back to LEX leaving at 9PM. Our overnight was being given to another crew. Scheduled 14 hour duty day to the minute. Fine.

Ate lunch. Sat around. Chatted up with other crews who where stuck due to cancellations.

Around 5PM the gate manager asked if my Captain and I would move a plane off a gate and onto a hard stand. Reason being they needed more gates due to flights returning to the gate due to the new Passenger Bill of Rights. Fine.

We prepared the plane then called to push. Ramp said they would only let us push if ground would let us taxi. Hmmm. I called ground. Nope. Taxiway Alpa was blocked ALL THE WAY AROUND THE AIRPORT. Delays.

Shut the plane down. Back inside.

Back in the same plane at 8:45PM. Boarded up. Taxiway Alpha was still blocked all the way around the airport. Huge conga line.

To make matters worse another RJ was parked behind our plane as they ran out of gate space. Here came the waiting game.

We couldn't push until the another flight pushed and the ramp was able to move the plane from behind us to that gate.

While waiting a mainline pilot came down looking for a jump seat. No problem. We warned him about the delays. He was happy to just be going home.

Finally pushed at 10:15PM. The clock started ticking for the Passenger Bill of Rights.

We slowly edged toward taxiway Alpha. I called ground on 121.9. He said now monitor 121.65 and wait. And wait we did.

Planes slowly inched forward. Departures were ONLY using 22R. Arrivals 22L.

We had to be off the ground by 12:35AM local to make it back within 16 hours of duty.

Ground controllers changed shifts. Waiting.

At 10:50PM the jump seater said, "I bet they forgot about you guys."

In the back of my head I knew they had. I was hoping to just time out. Long day ahead and I knew I would get just 10 hours rest tonight. I called ground.

Ground: "Regional 4599 have you called 121.9 yet?"

Me: "Yes sir, I called at 10:18PM"

Ground: "Roger standby."

A few minutes later he made a hole for us...we lined up on taxiway Alpha.

While lined up there was a funny exchange between Ground and British Airways (call sign Speed Bird).

Ground: "Speed Bird 114 taxi to the ramp when able."

Speed Bird: "We'd rather go to London Heathrow if that's okay with you."

Ground: "Roger, taxi onto Alpha when able."

The British Airways pilot replied in the most calm, English accent which made the exchange so funny.

Back to my misery. We taxied via Alpa, to Echo, back down Bravo to Victor, across 13L then down Charlie.

There was a line of planes on 13L waiting for 22R. While on Charlie we were told to "Shut'em down if you're close to min fuel, it's going to be a while."


We had 2500 pounds of taxi fuel. We left the engine running. Before we hit min fuel we would time out.

Finally at 12:20 AM we were cleared for takeoff....15 minutes to spare.

Captains leg. He flew at MMO since it was smooth air.

We landed 3 hours 40 minutes after blocking out.....all for a normal 1 hour 30 minute air time flight.

The adrenaline from the approach left me. Tired. Fatigued. I read back the taxi instructions then asked the Captain what I just said. I had no idea. Thankfully we were the only plane on the airport. Captain understood the instructions.

Blocked in with 15 hours 30 minutes of duty. I had been awake 19 hours. If I had commuted in I would have been awake 23 hours.

We were all given a hotel since the reassignment caused us to miss our overnight. We were to deadhead at 11:05AM to catch up with our sequence.

Due to van issues we didn't get to the hotel until 3 AM. Captain called scheduling to advise we would not be at the airport for 10 hours. Reassigned a 1:50PM deadhead.

I was tired. My whole body just hurt. Pretty sure I was dehydrated .

Slept decently.

More weather. The 1:50PM deadhead flight didn't end up leaving until 4:20PM.

We missed our next turn but would make the overnight flight.

Snagged a first class seat. Napped.

Late. Still a little tired from the previous night.

Next plane was a POS. No APU... and one of the EICAS screens in the cockpit was MEL'd. Ugh.

Left on time. Short hop to Canada.

New York is very congested. Many of the departures involve heading and altitude restrictions based on DME.

Our climb out was a heading of 180 till 4.5 DME then a right turn heading 340 and cross the next radial at 5,000 feet.

Far different than the normal RNAV departures which simply requires hitting a button.


Decent landing, cleared customs and off to the hotel.

Last time I was in Canada I got $5 Canadian back in change.

For breakfast Sunday I was ready to rid myself of this maple money.

I went to a donut shop and played the old fashioned "Wheel of Fortune."

I told the employee I had $5 to spend. I asked for a muffin and coffee and she rang it $2.24. Hmmm then I asked for a maple donut, total $3.59. Then a maple donut with creme filling, total $4.97. Done!

One leg to base and done. Left on time. Uneventful. Now the commute home.

We arrived at 12:54PM. I planned on a 1:40PM flight on mainline. Twenty minutes prior to boarding a mainline pilot got the jump seat. Every flight was oversold.


Wanting to avoid more bumps I just did a two leg commute on my own airline. Longer...but less stressful.

Home. Flew 4 legs for 9 hours. Got paid for 16. I am ahead...but it was painful.

Off for a week. Looking forward to next month and going to long term training.



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