Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bad Fast Food...and no ID

Interesting last trip.

Three day...17 hour trip.

I met the Captain at the gate. Older guy...seemed laid back.

Every pilot has their hangups. This guys hang up was the use of the autopilot on all departures. He has been violated in the past due to deviations from flight path during a departure. I didn't ask further but I bet it was on a RNAV departure.

RNAV departures are becoming more and more common, especially at big airports. RNAV departures have very specific flight paths unlike RADAR or radial  departures. As long as the FMS is loaded correctly and the flying pilot pays attention and understands RNAV departures...nothing can go wrong.

I say paying attention because some RNAV departures have 90 degree turns. The flight director will direct a very tight turn during a 90 degree turn. If the autopilot is on it will fly a very tight turn. The problem is some pilots see the tight turn commanded by the flight director and (when hand flying) will fly a shallow turn for passenger comfort. This shallow turn can cause a flight path deviation and possible seperation conflict with other aircraft.

Much more common deviations with RNAV departures occur when the incorrect departure is loaded. Sometimes its due to a last minute departure change, more likely it's due to the wrong runway being loaded.

Some RNAV departures are runway specific. I covered this in a previous post. So I won't rehash it here.

I told the Captain I'd turn the autopilot at the minmum engagement height during RNAV departures. Normally I don't, but if that's all he wanted...fine.

I took the first leg out. Three leg day. Seven hours and forty five minutes of flying on day one.

Normal flight. Decent landing. He took the next two.

Long day. Got to the hotel at 11:50PM. Van set for 11AM the next day.

Decent hotel. Been there once before.

I slept decently. Decent free breakfast.

While getting ready to leave I looked at my ID lanyard on the counter nd mentally said "don't forget that". I have never left it behind in my 4 1/2 years at my airline....well never behind in a hotel. At home maybe twice...but I always had time to go turn around and still be on time.

I headed downstairs at 10:50AM. As I left the room I looked back and thought "I should go back and check. Nah I got everything."

I chit chatted with the van driver. He remembered me from the last time I was here in February. The reason is because I look just like his nephew. Poor nephew! Ha.

Away we went to the airport. We were dropped off at 11:15AM for a 11:55AM departure.

As I approached the TSA checkpoint I noticed that they had a "flight deck only" line. Nice. I reached for my ID around my wasn't there. I left it in the hotel.

Mild panic.

The Captain quickly called the hotel as we both walked up to the ticket counter.  We discussed the situation and my Captain headed to the plane to get it ready. Between the ticket agent, the local TSA and my Captain I was able to be cleared through the checkpoint. The hotel stated they couldn't get a hold of the driver but had retrieved my ID.

I saw the inbound crew while walking to the gate. They were aware of my situation and would ask the driver to quickly get to the hotel and back. I had just 30 minutes till departure.

Wouldn't you know it...we were boarded up and ready 10 minutes prior. The hotel stated the van driver STILL wasn't back. I asked the agent if they had another turn today. Sure enough they had a 6PM departure back to my base. At worst that crew could drop off my ID in the crew lounge. It would mean an annoying rest of the day or morning the next day as I would be without my ID. I use my ID and attached keys to get to secure parts of the airport, open jet bridge doors and more.

Go time. We pushed back without my ID.

The tug disconnected and I started the left engine. Then it happened. A switch fell off the overhead panel. It just fell off.

We tried to reattach the switch. It wouldn't stay on. Problem.

The switch that fell off is used for power plant control. The engine in question was already running....but if we had a problem in flight it would be an issue. Delayed. Engines shutdown. Announcement made to the passengers. The ground crew just sat there waiting for us to leave.

We went through the required phone calls and paperwork. The ground crew called and asked what the issue was. Once we left they had a 4 hour break.

Twenty minutes later we were good to go. I started the engine again and then it happened. A ramper began waving his ID and pointing to me. My ID had arrived!

They passed the ID to my cabin crew through the service door. Glad the plane broke!

Rest of the day was normal if not long. Another 7 hours and 40 minutes of flight.

The flight to the overnight was my leg. Before we left the hub my Captain bought a fast food  value meal.

During the flight he stated the burger was bad. It was made with too many condiments and was leaking so much he couldn't eat it. He planned on returning it the next day. I thought he was kidding.

The overnight airport is fairly small and located in a valley.There were large mountains on either side of the airport and rising terrain all around.

My airline has special procedures for the airport concerning single engine go arounds due to terrain clearance. During my approach briefing (which was much more extensive due to it being night time and high terrain) I briefed what I would do in case of an engine failure in case of go around. The chances were slim, but I wanted to be prepared.

I could make out the mountains even at night. As I descended into the area my MFD filled with red dots indicating the terrain was at or above my altitude.

The ILS was inop at the airport so we flew the GPS approach that I briefed. Smooth air..nice landing. Done.

I was a little shocked to see the fast food bag as we got into the hotel van.

Eighteen hour overnight. Yup eighteen hours. Nice hotel. Great breakfast. Small town.

I was more than ready to leave the next day. Van time was 4 PM. The fast food bag was still in tow....and smelled.

As we taxied out the flight deck smelled like old fast food. We left 10 minutes early and were planned to arrive 30 minutes early.

Normal flight. I was quiet as I was ready to be done. That overnight was too long to have just one leg back.

The Captain indeed landed 30 minutes early. gate. It was the evening rush. We waited for 20 minutes for a gate to open. My Captain mentioned that we would be parking 25 gates away from the fast food place and maybe it wasn't worth the hassle. I replied, "Well you brought it this far, might as well."

I'm not sure if he returned it as I left as soon as I finished my post flight.

I go back to work on Tuesday. Just two days off between trips. My next trip as of now is a low 13 hour 3 day trip. Two crazy long (17 hour + ) overnights in small towns. I might trade the trip away.



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