Friday, May 25, 2012

"Cleared left turn direct destination"....flying as a Lifeguard

My last 4 day was crappy. I was off my game...I made the single worst approach in my career....went around.....and plunked it onto the runway.

The plunking was needed as the runway was 5200 feet long...and it had just finished raining. There were thunderstorms in the area which was part of the reason for the approach.

Due to weather  and direction of wind the only approach was a VOR approach. Yeah I said it was ugly.

The performance charts started I needed 3800 feet excluding thrust reverser credit. It was a minimal flare, get'r done, landing. Eh.

Fast forward to day 4. Go home day.

Day 4 was just 3 legs.

Flight attendants have preflight duties just like I have a preflight to perform. During the cabin preflight the cabin crew noticed an issue in the lavatory. It was a no go item. The overnight ground crew is supposed to inspect the cabin and have a checklist of their own. One of the items was the issue in the lavatory....which the ground crew checked off as "satisfactory". Nope.

Delayed. Blocked out 25 minutes late. This was the kickoff flight (meaning first flight out). Lots of connecting passengers.

Thankfully the skies were clear and the Captain was able to make up a lot of time. It helped our hub was in a west flow (meaning takeoffs and landings flown with a westerly heading) and we were approaching from the a straight approach.

We landed 1 minute late and blocked in 12 minutes late. Twelve minutes late is "on time" according to the Department of Transportation.

Originally we had 40 minutes between flights. Since we blocked in 12 minutes late we had just 28 minutes.  In those 28 minutes we had to:

1. Deplane and re-board passengers

2. Unload and reload passenger bags and cargo

3. Refuel.

4. Get a local mechanic to sign off on the issue with the lavatory

5. Get breakfast (nothing at the outstation)

6. Postflight/Preflight the flight deck and exterior of the plane

7. Get the cabin cleaned

8. Restock the galley

9. Set the plane up for the outbound flight

We did all that in 23 minutes. Crazy looking back. I didn't rush, I even had a chat with a pilot I haven't seen in a while during my wait for breakfast.

We changed it up and swapped legs at the hub versus the outstation....fine with me as I wanted to fly sooner than later.

There was a reason why it worked so well and were able to do a 23 minute turn, but we wouldn't find out the reason until we talked to the ground controller.

"4929 Lifegaurd taxi to runway 27L via Bravo, traffic on Mike waits for you,"

Lifeguard? We are a lifeguard? A quick scan of our small little line...stated we were indeed a lifeguard flight. No one from my company cared to advise us we were a lifeguard flight. Looking back it made sense.

Normally I have to call to have a mechanic come out....but there was one standing by when we pulled in. Normally the ramp crew takes their time unloading and reloading bags....but they were done early as they had extra help. It wasn't a miracle we got out was because we were a lifeguard flight. Everyone around the plane knew...but no one told us.

Our original clearance had the normal SID, Jetways, VORs and a STAR.

While climbing out the departure controller simply said, "4929 Lifeguard cleared left turn direct destination". Wow.

It was very odd flying a straight line. About 80 miles out we were cleared direct to the final approach fix. Other aircraft were slowed and turned to accomadate us.

Landed 20 minutes early and saved 800 pounds of fuel (mostly due to the straight line flight!).

During my post flight I saw the reason for the lifeguard status...a kidney was on board in the cargo compartment.

For the flight back every seat in the cabin was full....and there was a jump seater. Not just any jump seater....the man...the FAA. An FAA inspector was headed out for a sim session to stay current for his Citation type rating.

Long flight back. The FAA guy was quiet. He had no interest in talking. Each time the Captain or I brought up a topic we got just a few words back. I did ask him something I am very interested in...the First Officer ATP type rating coming up.

I took my ATP written before I was hired. There is a rule stating an expired ATP written can be used for an upgrade as long as the pilot is continuously employed at a 121 carrier. The problem is I will be taking a First Officer ATP practical. As of now I have to retake the ATP written...another $80 out of my pocket and more time studying.

We arrived 25 minutes early. I was in my car at arrival time. Great to live in base.

Off for 5 days. I have one more 4 day trip that bumps into a 2 day trip for my June line. Yup a 6 day trip. I do get to come home for the night after the 4 day trip.

Next month, excluding this first 2 day trip, I have 3 day trips, weekends off and one night staying ON the beach. Much better than May.


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