Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Looking forward to going nowhere

Quick weekend getaway with my family. My 18 month old daughter has now been on 42 if not 44 flights. We've gotten lazy about updating her logbook.

I finished my trip last week on Thursday night. Flew 8 hours. Tired.

Arrived home at 8:15PM. Left Friday morning to drive the family back to the airport at 5:20AM. Nice weekend. Went to a wedding. Stayed with family.

On the way back we had an interesting experience with the TSA.

I always travel in uniform. There are just perks to being in uniform that justify it's use.

While walking my wife and daughter into the regular security line we were given a short cut by an airport employee. Not a TSA screener, but just an airport employee who directs passengers to various security lines (First Class, Premium Passenger, Regular line). We were given a short cut to the front of the regular line. Okay with me... I didn't ask for any help.

Then a TSA employee asked if we wanted to use the employee line for even faster service. The TSA employee escorted us out of line and then directed us to a  door which lead to the private, employee only, area. The door wasn't in a SIDA area, just a private area. I reminded him I had my family and I wasn't based at this airport. "No Problem" he stated.

We went through the door. It was a nice, quiet area.

Interestingly enough the employee line was not staffed by TSA, but by private screeners. One could only tell if you looked closely at their badges, patches and epaulettes. Same processes though. They were nicer than most TSA personell.

We travel standby so we often take the first flight out. We took the first flight from our home on Friday and we took the first flight back Monday morning. We all got a row together. It's only been a handful of times (in the single digits) that we have been seated separately.

Speaking of traveling with a newborn/toddler here's our system:

A super lightweight Combi Car Seat (here's the one we bought on Amazon)

and a

GoGo Babyz Travelmate (again I'm an Amazon person )

The Combi car seat is super light weight. Our normal car seats (super nice Britax car seats) are super heavy. The first few times we traveled we used them. It was a chore to lug it through the airport and onto the plane.

The Britax didn't fit down the aisle. I had to raise it above my head.

Our little system fits down the aisle of any plane. My daughter is in the seat which is attached to the GoGo Babyz wheels. It has fit down every plane we have been on (ERJ 145, CRJ200, 737, 767 and 757s) without a problem. We each have a backpack. My wife carries a backpack with baby stuff and her Ipad. I carry a backpack with my Ipad, my daughters Touchpad (running Android...but she prefers the Ipad) , snacks and a magazines.

That being said....I'm looking forward to going nowhere for a while. I'm kind of like a mechanic who has no desire to fix a car when he gets home.

We have a trip planned for March (heading to Vegas) but nothing for April. I'm looking forward to April.....looking forward to going nowhere.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Longest overnight....ever

Day 3 of a 3 day. Easy trip.

Day one started with a 5:30PM departure to the overnight. Kinda odd spending all day with my daughter and then leaving for work when my wife arrived at home.

The line Captain called in sick. Reserve Captain was called in.

Nice Captain, but once again he's younger than I am. A little odd. I look a little old. He looks very young.

He flew it out. We were number 3 for landing behind two other regional jets.

We all walked out too see a crew member standing by the hotel van in the distance. We walked over (normally the van is at the curb) and hopped in. Then we waited.

The crew member was from another airline. The rest of his crew was lost in the airport. It's not a very big airport. Only 10 gates....but they were lost.

The hotel van driver left on foot to find them. No joy. About eight minutes later they came walking around a corner. They apologized for holding us up.

Kind of a long drive. While my flight attendant filled out the sign in sheet for my crew, I found out we would be sharing the morning van with the other crew. We had the same arrival and departure time.

Crappy Holiday Inn. Well...not crappy...but it hasn't been updated in at least 9 years. Old TV....worn furniture. Just way too lived in.

Ten hour overnight. In the morning I saw the other crew...plus another crew. All of us loaded up into the van. Glad it was one of the larger hotel vans.

Hotel van drivers make bank when they transport multiple crews at once. I typically tip a dollar if  they are on time, courteous and don't drive like a maniac. By taking three crews at once I bet he doubled his hourly pay...maybe tripled.

At 5:50 AM we pushed from the gate...with 7 passengers....4 of them non-revs.

My leg. Uneventful. Flew a little fast as I was hungry. The Holiday Inn doesn't offer free breakfast and the breakfast they do offer doesn't start until 7AM.

I had another smooth descent until flare and then a last minute  yank to grease it on. Light weight meant no thrust reverse was needed...just smooth easy braking.

We were scheduled to keep the same plane for the next leg. I had just enough time to get my Dunkin Donuts coffee and a breakfast burrito before departure.

Blocked out 7 minutes early. Nearly full. High tailwinds meant a super early arrival time.

Approach vectored us in for a left downwind. Level at 4,000 AGL I began to wonder when we would get lower. Finally cleared to 2500 feet. Right when I spun the vertical speed wheel down we got a "traffic" TCAS caution. A plane was just 500 feet above and less than 6 miles away. I previously heard the controller giving vectors to a Piper Seneca at 4500. WTF?

Even though it was just a caution I clicked off the autopilot and made a steeper descent. Caution went away.

Gusty winds at 220@15G30. Landing runway 29. Around 20 feet I began kicking the nose over. I chopped the thrust a little early and thought I would slam it on. Thankfully mother nature intervened and a gust of wind softened the landing...greased again.

Blocked in 20 minutes early. The overnight was now 23 hours 40 minutes. Longest overnight ever.

Decent Marriott branded hotel suite. Mall and restaurants nearby.

Had a nice (and early) grilled fish dinner with a salad...and two light beers. Back to my hotel by 6PM. Departure isn't until 11:40AM.

Three legs today. Seven hours Fifty minutes of flying. Just a thirty five minute turn on the first and a thirty minute turn on the second.

Tomorrow I head off with my family for a wedding near Sacramento, California. We wanted to go tonight...but after almost 8 hours of flying in one day....I doubt I will have any desire to hop on another plane and fly further.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Next month

I preferenced weekends off, 3 day trips and that's exactly what I got. I could have had it this month as well....bleh.

I start my trips on Wednesday afternoons and finish late Friday night. Same overnight two nights in a row....one I like even!

The overnight is at a Holiday Inn Express which has a nice supermarket next door. I get my cinnamon rolls for breakfast and can buy a healthy meal for lunch and dinner.

March is going to be a good month. I turn 35 and celebrate my 7th wedding anniversary,

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Twelve legs ended up being 11......

Done with this crappy 3 day. Twelve legs worth 13 hours. Lots of short hops.

Day one was 5 legs. Nothing crazy. All on time. Tiring...but a 13 hour overnight helped out.

Caught a Rainbow during the descent to an outstation;

[singlepic id=502 w=320 h=240 float=]

Day 2 was just two legs. Really crappy weather. Inbound 45 minutes late. I thought I might get pulled from my overnight. Nope...we just flew it late.

A common practice is too swap flying duties at the outstation. Otherwise one guy is always landing in base one guy is always landing at the out station.

Day one started with the Captain flying. I picked up legs 2 and 3. He flew legs 4 and 5.

On day 2 there were just two legs. I flew them both.

First flight was to the hub. VFR. Easy flight and landing.

The next flight was to the overnight. The  outstation was barely VFR. I picked up the airport 6 miles out breaking out of the clouds. Off went the autopilot.

I'll stop here to discuss a pet peeve of mine....pilots who slam on the brakes upon landing just to exit early. I hate that.

The runway was over 13,000 feet long....I could land, take off...land...take off....you get the idea.

I greased it on....and then it happened. I became "that guy".

Max reverse, heavy braking....all to make an early exit. I didn't realize it until after I did it. As the passengers got off a few said, "geez way to hit the brakes guys!". Hopefully I won't do that again.

I hadn't been to this airport in 2 years. Nice older hotel. At dinner with my crew.

Day 3 was long...5 more legs.

Captain took the first leg. Watched the sunrise and the moon fade.

[singlepic id=503 w=320 h=240 float=]

The Captain is fairly senior...likes his paycheck...thus flying slow. An extra minute or two over block here and there adds up for him. For me it's pennies.

Being vectored for an ILS. Early in the morning on a weekend. Not very busy.

The controller gave us a tight turn to join right before the FAF. It was marginal IFR....meaning a thin layer of clouds.

We could tell due to wind we would join final AFTER the FAF. The controller asked if we were okay with that. We stated we were. All good right?

Switched to tower. Cleared to land. Then another voice came on, "8722 approach clearance cancelled. Turn left heading 210, climb and maintain 3000". The final monitor decided it wasn't okay for us to join after the FAF. The final monitor is a guy who watches over every single approach and can over ride an approach clearance or landing clearance. Every now and then the monitor jumps in to give a speed correction due to distance between arriving planes.

Back to approach control. Tight circle and we were lined up for a longer final.

Blocked in 6 minutes late.

Weather moving in. Next leg was also his. We blocked out...and then he had a 10 minute discussion with the dispatcher over the weather. Understandable....but we had an hour sit time before the flight.

I looked at the weather. At the out station the weather wasn't great...rain (with heavy rain in the area), light winds and 600 foot ceilings. We had an alternate that was VFR including the route to the alternate. We had 25 minutes hold fuel in addition to a 45 minute reserve after arriving at the alternate. Just a 45 minute flight from the hub to the oustation. Fine with me.

The Captain was very apprehensive about weather from the first time I flew with him on day one. I can pick up on vibes from Captains sometimes. Some are very worried about being in the correct plane (tail number) after having been violated in the past (it's easier than you think to get in the wrong plane). Others are antsy about having more than enough fuel after being put into a corner in the past. Everyone has their hangups. Many have hangups on weather.

I've been through crap weather before. So bad the autopilot clicked off and all I could do was grab the yoke and fly straight and level, unable to read a single gauge. It sucks. But I never broke rule #1 (always come home).

Smooth at FL310. As we began the descent it was moderate chop.  The Captain was discussing turning back to the hub. Here was the weather I pulled up for the out station:

27004KT 3SM RA BR FEW006 BKN015 OVC042 09/07 A2998 RMK AO2 P0032

Not horrible.

Descending through 17000 we hit moderate turbulence. The Captain was not comfortable with it. The RADAR was showing moderate rainfall ahead. We had 6200 pounds of fuel. About 600 more than planned at the point of the flight due to lighter than estimated winds and a light load.

At 14000 the Captain said, "Tell ATC we're climbing up. And returning to our departure airport." That second part surprised me.

It was smooth above FL220. We had plenty of fuel on board. The route to the alternate was fine. But I'm the First Officer.

I complied. Up and away we went.

Once we got back the flight cancelled. Had we gone to the alternate we would have later delivered the passengers and picked up the one's waiting. Had we held we could have done the same. Now the passengers were going to wait several hours for maybe a chance to get where they wanted to go.

I then had a 2 hour sit. The next two flights were mine.

Ironically there was a last minute plane swap. The flight release didn't match the tail number of the plane we were sitting in. Thankfully the paper work was wrong and we were in he correct plane. New release printed...away we went.

A little weather.

First out station was VFR. The approach controller must have fallen asleep or gotten busy as he vectored us right through the localizer without stating he would be doing so. Only after we questioned him did he turn us back.

I pulled the power back a little early in the flare. The Captain said, "uh oh....sink rate." I quickly pushed the nose forward and goosed the power. Greaser.

Quick 25 minute turn.

On the return flight the weather we diverted (and subsequently cancelled) for was heading to the hub. The Captain was once again planning for the worst. I was flying. He was pulling up weather for airports in case we had to divert again.

I looked at the weather before we left. Just moderate to heavy rain. No high winds. One thousand foot ceilings.

There was moderate chop reported in the descent. I just planned to drop through it quickly. The Captain asked the controller if any flights had gone around or diverted. The controller stated flights from the opposite direction were changing course for weather but everyone was getting in.

Assigned to cross a fix at 10000. I programmed the VNAV to give me a 3000 foot descent. Done. Minimal bumps.

ILS approach. Heavy rain. Greased it on. Happy to be done.

Off for 3 days. Go back Tuesday night for a quick 3 day trip.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Back to the grind

My last three day was pretty uneventful. I did manage a 10 minute turn. It helped that there were only 6 passengers in and 10 passengers out. I didn't feel rushed at all. In that 10 minutes I had time to run the parking checklist, passengers left the plane, I did my post flight, hit the lav,  bought a cup of coffee, passengers boarded, I called to get clearance, programmed the FMS and away we went.

It was a fairly productive 3 day in that the high headwinds caused me to overblock the 3 day trip by 47 minutes.

Yesterday I commuted over to an ATP location to teach the RJ course. One of the students looked really familiar....I flew with him when I was a CFI.

He was set to start the ATP 90 day fast track, but needed a few more single engine hours to meet the 85 requirement. I flew with him to his hometown where his grandfather picked us up and took us to dinner. That was 4 years ago.

He decided to not start with ATP and spent 4 years in the real world. He CFI'd on the side and has just over 1000 hours total time and ready to head to an airline.

The other student was a much older man who got his private in the 70's then decided to work with the family business. He bought a Seneca and later a Cirrus to fly for fun. He sold the business a few months ago and is heading to an airline as well.

They both did well. It's an eye opening course. Even though the flows and checklist are very different than what I do at my airline, they are similar enough for me to quickly adapt.

I really enjoy teaching the course. Normally there are 4 students per day. This week I only had two and thus only get 1/2 my pay from ATP. Since I had the whole day scheduled to teach I went ahead and spent double the time with the students. I'd do it for free...that's how much I enjoy it.

I start a really crappy 3 day tomorrow. It's a 5-2-5 trip. Five legs on day one, two on day two and five legs on day 3. A total of 13 hours of flying. Simple math shows they legs average an hour a piece. Lots of up and downs. I traded into this trip so I could be off Monday since my daughters day care is closed and my wife no longer has Presidents Day as a paid holiday. The things you do for love! My original trip was MUCH nicer.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Short post

Great 3 day trip. Great crew and overnights. Lots of deicing and weather. Heading out tonight to teach the ATP RJ Course tomorrow.


More later. For now....a few photos from my trip.

The 1st photo is a shot during deicing at the gate. The Glycol running down the windows...makes for a streaky mess.

The next two photos were taken descending through 15000 feet to the hub. Nice rainbow effect.

[nggallery id=55]



By the way....I love my job.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fat Secret

Leaving on a 3 day tomorrow. Packing a bit extra for the trip.

I had a REALLY good week long vacation in Hawaii. How good? I gained 10 pounds. Booo.

So this week I hit up FatSecret.com and started using the app and software to track my eating again. I've used the site/app for a while. It's a totally free service and I get no revenue from them so don't think I'm mentioning the site to make money.

There is an app for iOs and Android. Works for me.

After putting in all my data it says I can eat about 2600 calories a day and loose weight. To do that I've been eating fish, rice and fresh vegetables this week. I feel a lot better. I've also been avoiding processed foods.

This is easy while at home. On the road. Not so much. Fresh foods don't exist much in airports and when they are there....they are expensive. So I compromise...and plan.

I'm gone for 2 nights. This is the food I have packed away:

2 Oranges (breakfast)

4 Celemintines (snack in route)

2 Healthy Choice Steamer Meals (dinners)

3 Thomas Bagels in a freezer bag (breakfast)

2 Lara Bars (lunch/snack)

2 Cliff Bars (lunch/snack)

1 container of cinnamon almonds (my sweet vice)

All inside my suitcase with my clothes, Roku box...and all my other stuff.

More than enough food. I won't eat it all. I pack it so I have options....and reasons NOT to go out. It helps I know both hotels I will stay in (Wingate and a Holiday Inn Express) both have Microwaves and Fridges in the room. None of my food needs refrigeration....but still nice to have.

I'm all out of GoPicnic meals this week. I ordered 18 meals from their website with a 40% off coupon for taking a survey. The discount brings them down to $2.37 a piece...far cheaper than the $3.99 in store or $3.61 from Amazon. I might have to order another shipment.

And with that...my first post in a long time that doesn't directly mention flying.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Good read about dealing with automation

Came across this blog post about a pilot who flew 737s and 757s but was new to the A321.


It started with a RA

Four day trip done. My first 4 day trip in a while. I don't care for them....but I do them when needed to get a few extra hours of pay.

My first turn was interesting. While on a localizer approach I was descending to MDA when I saw the runway about 400 above minimums. The autopilot was on....and then it wasn't.

"I didn't do that." were the first words out of my mouth. My right hand had been holding the yoke for the entire approach.

A quick scan of the instruments showed the localizer on the ground had turned off...which turned off lateral guidance on the autopilot. Thankfully this happened AFTER we had the runway in sight. If it happened before I would have been forced to go missed approach. It came back on....and then off again.

Landed normally. I then advised the tower that the localizer had turned off.

"Are you sure, the alarm hasn't gone off." replied the tower. Right then an alarm was going off in the background.

"Nevermind...gotta love this equipment." the tower controller continued.

While on final during the the return flight we were cleared to 3000 which is the base of the class B shelf. There is a glass G airport under the shelf.

"Traffic! Traffic!" barked the TCAS computer. I saw a yellow blip on the screen climbing toward us. I looked outside (clear VFR day) and saw a plane coming up at us. Not just any plane...but a Piper Seminole from AllATPs.

"Traffic! Traffic! Climb! Climb Now!" barked the TCAS. My Captain clicked off the autopilot and began an escape maneuver. I got on the radio with approach and advised we were responding to a RA.

The seminole climbed to about 2700 feet and about a 1/2 mile away laterally. The RA likely came due to the rapid climbing ascent it was doing.

We landed normally. I then filled out the airline required paperwork. Anytime there is a RA event I have to fill out a form. Done.

The rest of the trip was nice. Overnighted right on a beach on the first night. The second night was in a forgotten downtown area...which was kinda crappy as everything was closed....and my crew was hungry. We had to wait for the hotel resturant to open at 5:30PM to eat. Glad I pack snacks!

The last overnight was in Lexington, KY....the site of the most recent United States crash by an airliner. Spooked me out a bit as I lined up with runway 4 I could see the fields where the Comair flight came to rest.

The airport has had a lot of changes since the accident including the removal of runway 8/26.

My four day trip ended uneventfully. Flew 21 hours over 4 days. Off till Saturday when I start a 17 hour 3 day trip.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Rule Number One....Always come home

There's a simple list of rules in my house;

Rule #1 Always Come Home

Rule #2 See rule #1

Picked up a day trip on overtime yesterday. Simple 4 hour 40 minute turn.

I debated picking it up....then I saw the weatherman said the weather would be horrible ALL DAY...that sealed the deal.

I was hoping horrible weather would mean the flight would cancel....I'd stay home with pay.

I drove to work under partly cloudy skies. So much for horrible weather.

Blocked out 4 minutes early Captain flew it up.

The weather was starting to turn for the worse. Lots of turbulence.

Two hours later he greased it on. Quick 20 minute turn. Blocked out 10 minutes early.

Normal first hour of flight. Then we got a reroute. Now going on the backside of the weather. Fuel looked good.

Twenty minutes later we got another reroute. Further out. Fuel looked decent.

Another twenty minutes later a third reroute. Way out. Computer showed landing with 5 minutes of fuel to spare. Problem.

Pulled the power way back. Captain began typing messages to the dispatcher. We happened to be directly over an airport we serve....easy diversion.

ATC was very busy assigning reroutes. Lots of chuckles reading them back....none of us had the fuel to do it. I'm glad I brought my suitcase. Some pilots on day trips just bring a kit bag.

Thankfully they worked out a way into the hub....via direct to a VOR and RADAR vectors. RADAR vectors......into a major hub.

The closer we got the busier the controllers. at 15,000 feet we were cleared to 5,000. I tried to shallow out my descent to avoid the weather. Unavoidable.

Out went the spoilers and flaps. Dive! Dive! Dive!

It was a rough 5 minutes. Told to keep a speed of 220 knots. Moderate turbulence and updrafts the entire descent. I haven't been pulled and pushed against my seat belts so much in a while. The autopilot was on, but I had one hand firmly on the yoke and one hand on the thrust levers. There were moments of turbulence where the trend vectors shot way up and then way down. Every now and then it was so rough I couldn't read a single gauge or number.

Remember....don't break Rule #1.

Further descent to 2500. Right at the bottom of the scud.

Picked up the airport 10 miles ahead. Cleared for the visual. Gusty crosswind 50 degrees to the right of centerline. Somehow greased it on. Done.

Went 40 minutes over block. Five hours twenty minutes total. Cha Ching!

As the passengers exited the plane several stopped to thank us for the safe flight a long with more than a few "good jobs".

Start my 4 day trip tomorrow worth 20 hours thirty minutes.

When I walked in the door my wife knew about the bad weather but she wasn't the least bit worried......the reason? Rule #1.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Making Lemonade

So when I put in my preferences for February I was on the island of Maui...on vacation. I didn't really think about much beyond maximum days off and domestic only flying.

I got what I wanted...18 days off, domestic only...but almost all flying is in the cold states. Ick.

So over the last few days I've been working on my sequences.

My first sequence was a 3 day trip worth 16 hours. I started late Saturday morning and finished very late Monday night. Somewhere in there I sat around for over 3 hours between flights.

I searched and searched..and waited. I finally found a 21 hour 4 day trip with fewer legs and a much earlier finish. Icing on the cake (balanced out by the fact that I lost a day off !) was I could be on the beach by 4PM on day one! Traded!

My next issue was February 20th....Presidents day. Day care is closed that day.

My wife used to have that day off. Her company was bought out and the new company doesn't have Presidents day as a paid holiday.

I was scheduled to start an 18 hour 3 day trip early on the 18th (a Saturday) finishing late Monday night (the 20th). The trip was scheduled to fly to almost all cold/snowy airports.

If I didn't change it my wife would have to take a day off work and I would spend the weekend running de-ice checklist.

Once again I searched and searched and found a 3 day trip worth 17 hours in warm states...that starts on Thursday (the 16th) afternoon and finishes late Saturday night.

I get Sunday off...home Monday to hang out with my daughter....and very little de-icing.

I still have two of my original trips. The last one of the month is a 4 day. Eh. Hope to move that one so I can attend a family wedding.

For March I will pay MUCH more attention to my preferences for bidding.