Thursday, July 12, 2012

No more Co-Pilot....Got it

I added a little page at the top of the screen "what I do". Might change it over time. No more Co-pilot it.

Day one of a 3 day. It's a 3-4-3 trip worth 17 hours.  Started early as I left my house at 5:20AM. I got to the employee lot at 5:45 and was inside the crew room by 6:00AM.

The day before I noticed that a check airman was listed on the roster for my first two flights....yep line check time.

Captains get line checks often. First Officers...not so much.

Ever since Colgan 3407 there has been increased scrutiny on First Officers. I got a line check a few months ago, my first ever in my 4+ years of being at my airline. Today it was for the Captain.

I'd flown with this Captain before back in January. Nice laid back guy who crosses all the T's and dots the I's but knows how to have a relaxed flight deck.

Departure was set for 7AM. The check airman was the same check airman who gave me my initial check ride and my line check. Nice guy. He would be riding in the back on the way to the out station and in the jump seat on the way back.

Just 13 passengers on board. We were supposed to have 17.

There was a family of 4 missing. The dad went outside to have a cigarette and was stuck in security getting back into the terminal. Yet another reason not to smoke, they missed the flight.

My Captain had been off for two weeks. He wanted the first leg to knock off any rust before his line check. Okay with me.

Normal take off...then a right turn eastbound...into the sun. Sunglasses on...still annoying bright light. I tried putting on my baseball cap to block the sun. Not good enough. I lowered my seat to the lowest setting. No joy. Bleh.

Predicted weather required two alternates. Predictions were off...clear skies.

Easy approach. A little confusion finding the gate.

I'd never been there before. For 10+ years my Captain had always parked at the same gate. As we taxied toward that gate we saw all our normal ground equipment...but no personnel.

I called operations and sure enough...different gate...on the other side of the terminal. He made a U-turn and all was well.

Quick turn and the check airman took his seat. Minor issue with my medical.

My medical listed my weight at 224 pounds but the company information listed it at 222 pounds. If I ever lost my paper medical the company could request one from the FAA, but if the information the company supplied didn't match it wouldn't go through. I fixed the glitch later in the day.

Fairly normal flight. In cruise we talked about company rumors and such. My captain briefed the expected approach. All normal until the approach controller advised the glide slope was out. A thin layer of clouds negated a true visual approach.

He briefed the localizer minimums. Done.

As luck would have it I picked out the runway 12 miles away while 5000 AGL. Visual approach it was.

Line check complete. Two hour sit.

Next leg was mine. Quick one hour flight.

The outstation is in the middle of nowhere. Fairly low use airport.

Winds were 060@10. I briefed an approach to runway 10. Then the ATIS advised runway 34 was in use. Visual approach.

I've been to this airport several times. Not once have I been able to find the airport more than 10 miles out. The terrain is all flat, no trees,  and all the buildings on and around the airport are at most 3 stories.

Today was no different.

Vectored for a downwind. Then told to turn off course for "sequence". There was a general aviation plane also being vectored for an approach.

Now I respect GA, but this was a bit crazy.

We were turned away for 5 miles. When we were turned back in we were 15 miles out and told to "Slow to approach speed".

Approach speed? At 15 miles out? For ONE general aviation plane?

I began slowing from 250 knots and called for the fist two settings of flaps. Normally it's the first setting of flaps, gear and the remaining flaps. I didn't want the noise and drag of the gear, I wanted to lift and drag from the flaps.

Approach speed was 138 knots. I didn't slow that slow...but close to it.

Turned in for a final....a 12 mile final. I had the GPS approach loaded as a back up for situational awareness.

Assigned a heading of 330. Again landing runway 34. My Captain saw the airport. I was still looking for it.

Assigned a heading of 345. I finally saw the airport at about 7 miles.

Switched to tower. The Cessna that we were following was clearing the runway! All that vectoring and the Cessna was, in my opinion (again I'm not an air traffic controller) never an issue.

Decent landing. Done.

Tomorrow starts early with a 6 AM van ride for a 6:55AM departure. Four legs with an overnight on the beach.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for another great post.  The "What I do" button is cool, but I don't know where you get the idea about common belief that the F/O is but a chair-warmer.  Anyone with the moxy to find this (great) blog and read more than once knows that F/Os do about half of the flying.  Still, glad to see the 'co-pilot' term retired.  At the front end it is supposed to be Team Work and smart pilots do it that way. 
    Of course, there is a reason for everything.  I don't understand why the Check Airman would sit in back on the outbound leg and then 'check' on only the inbound.  Why not 'check' one of you in each direction or the captain on two legs?  Seems inefficient, but there must be a reason.  Accurate paperwork is a nice thing, who can be concerned about a 2# variance in body weight?  (Normal fluxuations between physicals can be that much or more.) Again, there is a reason for everything - I guess.  I had to about ATC's re-routing you to accommodate a Cessna.  You'vev been flying long enough to know that ATC lives in their own little world and their actions often defy siple logic.  Perhaps the controller was a newbie, shaking in his boots, or knew something about the Cessna pilot's ability that you did not.  We'll never know.  A jet's convenience or fuel economy considerations just don't make onto their radar.  Count your multiple blessings, sir.  The best is probably living with 15-20 minutes of your base.  You spend more nights at home than most F/Os, often even in the middle of a 4-day line.  Life is good and you write a darn good blog.  Thanks.  -C.


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