Sunday, June 3, 2012

The day that wouldn't end

Finished my last 4 day of the month. It was almost a 6 day trip.

My 4 day started May 29th and terminated June 1st. I then was to start my only 2 day trip of the month on June 2nd and finish June 3rd. I traded it for a 2 day starting June 3rd and terminating June 4th. One day off between trips!

Day one was fine with 3 long legs. Day two was 4 long legs....7 hours 50 minutes of flying. None of us were looking forward too it.

Van time on day two was scheduled for 10:50AM. Well weather happened. In bound plane was very delayed. Van time changed till noon.

Due to the delay our second and third legs were cancelled. Once we arrived back in base we had 6 hours to kill before the flight to the overnight.

My entire crew is local. Some live further from than airport than me, but local all the same.

We were all excited to be able to go home or, in the case of my cabin crew, go shopping instead of sitting around the airport.

My leg. As we approached our hub we got the bad news. We had all been reassigned to cover other flights. My co-pilot was being seperated from the rest of us.

My new assignment looked fine at first. A very quick 25 minute flight and then come right back. But the times didn't add up. Why are two 25 minute flights taking 5 hours? Ah ha....a sit.

I was assigned to fly to an outstation and then sit for 3 1/2 hours then fly the same plane back. So much for going home.

The next plane had a minor issue. There were several cancellations due to weather and my flight was overbooked by double. Unhappy passengers to say the least. In my head I thought "The out station is 90 miles away....why didn't they just drive?"

My cabin crew advised I get something to eat as there were "very limited choices" at the out station. No need to tell me twice, I grabbed a  salad and headed back to the flight deck.

Left 20 minutes late. Minor delay getting off the ground due to traffic.

Just 19 minutes after taking off the runway my copilot greased it on to the runway.

Passengers got off and there we sat.

The out station is very small. We are the only airline. The terminal is extremely small and there are no restaurants. The "very limited choices" meant a vending machine.

I grabbed my netbook, Ipad and phone and headed back to sit in the cabin. The ground crew connected the air conditioning and power. The cabin was nice, but the flight deck was a little warm.

I relaxed and played a new game I bought. I have been toying with the idea of buying this game for 5+ years. ATC Simulator is not for the average person. It's a very complex "game". I like strategy games...controlling planes is like a huge chess game.

Storms moving in. Lightening strikes 14 miles from the airport. If they got much closer they would close the ramp as there is no jet bridge.

My copilot made the decision to leave early as if we waited we would likely not go at all.

Leaving early was tough to approve as only 3/4 of the passengers had arrived. Dispatch said "go" as it was better to take a few passengers than none at all.

Lightening getting closer. One of the last passengers to board was a lady holding a new born baby. She had only paid for one seat and planned on holding the baby. This made all of the crew uncomfortable. A Flight Attendant yelled out to her to bring her car seat if it was FAA approved. This confused the passenger as she didn't pay for an extra seat. The Flight Attendant then explained we had extra room and it was much safer for the baby to be in a seat.

We taxied out 25 minutes early. To save time we ran the numbers to take off with a 7 knot tailwind instead of taking the time to taxi down to the other end of the 11,000 foot runway and take off into the wind.

The numbers worked (including my "lets not make the news" fudge factor of adding an extra 20% penalty).

At VR I rotated the nose into the air. The windshield instantly changed from ground to nasty black and grey clouds.

I smoothly turned the plane to the right to make a 180 degree turn away from the weather and towards the hub.

The next 5 minutes were nothing short of constant moderate turbulence with several stiff jolts.

Hand flying. We were cleared to deviate around the weather. I used my eyes and RADAR to try and find holes in the weather.

The final altitude was 17,000 feet. We never made it that high.

Passing 14,000 the turbulence got worse. So bad that I was fighting just to keep the wings level. I could see blue sky at 11 o'clock and slightly lower.

My co-pilot requested a descent. Approved.

I slowly turned the plane to the left and began a descent. With the turbulence and updrafts I didn't want to bank too much and risk over banking.  Using the flight director or autopilot was useless in that kind of turbulence. I was happy the baby was in the car seat, no way the mother could have held it.

Finally in the clear. We could see the hub 40 miles ahead.

Decent landing. Ironically I landed 2 minutes after the original departure time. I felt bad for leaving people behind, but it's better to take a few than none at all.

One hour sit until the overnight flight. My original co-pilot was flying the plane in that I would be taking to the overnight.

Delayed....but only by about 20 minutes.

Finally blocked out. The weather that was at the outstation was now threatening the hub.

Long lines for departure. All south and east departure routes were closed due to weather. We were going west.

Things looked good so I fired up the number two engine. Then it happened. The tower called out several flight numbers followed by "Monitor 124.8 for a reroute due to weather".

Thankfully we were tankering extra fuel known as ferry fuel. It was cheaper to carry the extra fuel for the next flight than it was too buy it locally. We could use it if needed.

We waited 12 minutes until the clearance controller called out our flight number. Long reroute. We surely needed the extra fuel. Our dispatcher ran the numbers, we still had more than enough fuel.

My leg again. Up and away we went. Long line of planes given the same clearance to avoid weather and numerous holding patterns setup for inbound flights.

Smooth flight.

The tower at the outstation closed at 9PM. Our scheduled arrival time was 9:45PM. Our ETA was 10:25PM.

Clear and a million at the outstation. Runway 30 was the primary runway. It's 12,000 feet long and 200 feet wide. No VASI or PAPI for vertical guidance.

I loaded up the ILS and tuned in the frequency. Visual approach backed up by the ILS.

On short final I succumbed to the "flat featureless terrain + wide runway" phenomina....I flared a little late as I thought I was high. I was able to "fix the glitch" by adding a little power. That did mean I passed my planned exit point. Whatever...glad to be done.

We were all tired.

After all the passengers were gone...we still weren't done working. A "large" passenger used an armrest for a seat....and snapped off the armrest. Paperwork.

My first time at this overnight....and hopefully my last.

The hotel is a La Quinta. Normally nice. This one is okay...but the wifi is horrible, the breakfast was kinda sparse and there is very little to do around the hotel. This is an 18 hour overnight.


Day 3 was easy. Two legs into a reduced rest overnight. Delayed. My Co-pilot flew into base and we swapped flying duties.

My leg to the overnight. I was NOT looking forward to less than 8 1/2 hours of "rest". I flew very fast. Flew straight in for runway 34. Done.

We had 8 hours and 8 minutes of "rest" between when we finished duty and had to report back to the airport. Of course 20 minutes of that time was spent in a hotel van, 30 minutes spent getting ready to go to bed, 30 minutes being spent getting ready for work and eating breakfast. So maybe what 6 1/2 hours sleep? More like 5 hours sleep.

I was VERY tired on day 4. All of us were. Just 3 legs. My Co-pilot took the first two.

We had about an hour break between the 1st and 2nd legs. I got coffee. Feeling more tired. I debated calling in fatigued.

The coffee and sugar helped. Felt a lot better about 40 minutes till departure. Still tired, but at least I could think clearly.

Two short legs later and I was done...20 minutes early. Really tired now.

Headed home for lunch and then I picked my daughter up from daycare. The moment I came around the corner and our eyes met I was full of energy again.



  1. You said "my copilot" a lot through that post, did you get bumped to the left seat or is "copilot" universal for the non-flying pilot?

  2. The latter. Most think the Captain does everything. Copilot helps the general public understand a bit better. Even my extended family assumes First Officers just sit there.


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