Friday, September 28, 2012

Welcome back the line Kotter...err...Geek

My last flight on a real plane prior to yesterday was in August. Of course it's almost October.

I spent the morning packing my bag and checking my kit bag. Took me a while to remember how to pack.

Whenever I go out on a trip I pack the exact same clothes every week. Same shirts, jeans, least until the seasons change.  This makes it easy for packing and washing. I get home and wash everything in one load together. When done it all goes back in the suitcase. I keep it simple.

Problem was I had been off so normal clothes were spread about. I think I packed it all again.

Since I knew the first hotel was in the middle of nowhere I packed food. Thankfully it has a fridge and microwave in the room so I can have warm food. There is ONE Chinese food place nearby and that's it.

My flight WAS to leave at 1:35PM. I arrived early and headed to the crew room. Chatted up with a few guys before heading to the plane.

The First Officer who brought it in advised there was a write up on the main cabin door seal squealing. Hmm k.

The gate agent then advised my Captain was on his way. His commute flight was late and he was rushing over.

I assumed it would be a quick fix. Ahhh assumptions.

I stowed my bags and did my pre-flight. On my way back up two mechanics were coming down.

"We should be done with the work in an hour to an hour and a half. We have to replace the main door seal," one of them told me.

Hmmm k.

I thought a plane swap was coming. A quick call to operations and our fate was sealed (pun intended). No plane swap.....we would have to wait it out.

To add insult to injury the ARINC radio system for ACARS was for my airline. ACARS is a very nice tool to have on the line as it automates the sending of data and information from the plane to operations and back. Since it was down we'd have to go back to the old fashioned way of using voice and paper.

My Captain arrived and I let him know about the delay. He was happy and upset. Happy to have time to relax. Upset that he just rushed through the airport for no reason.

About 40 minutes in the mechanics had replaced the main cabin door seal. Now they needed to test it by pressurizing the plane to 8000 feet. Out I went.

Thirty minutes later they were done.

Blocked out at 3:18PM.

Captains leg. Two hours later we blocked in to the outstation.

Next two were mine.

Quick turn. Just 17 minutes after blocking in, we blocked out. Full load both ways.

Moderate chop with occasional moderate turbulence in route while at FL360. The center controller stated the ride was the same higher and lower. Ugh.

A little tired. There was a can of Diet Coke next to me...closed...wanting to be opened. I dare not open it while in moderate.

About 25 minutes from landing the ride smoothed out.

I blindly opened the can then POW. Something metallic scrapped my fingers. It was the lid of the can. The part that was supposed to be inside the can was vertical. No cola spilled out. I guess all the turbulence shook it up just enough to cause the lid to explode out, but that's it. Bleh.

Visual approaches. At 1500 feet I had a 12 knot tailwind. The surface winds were reported to be a quartering headwind. Wind shear was coming up.

The preceding aircraft reported a 15 knot gain followed by a 15 knot loss at 500 feet.

My first landing in a month and I get to deal with this.

I briefed I would add 10 knots in case the shear got worse.

Sure enough around 600 feet I got a big burst of airspeed. The plane wiggled around a bit. A few seconds later the speed died off.

I kept it under control and set the mains down with about 1000 feet left of the touchdown zone.

Thirty minute turn. Originally it was a 2 and a half hour sit.

I did my post flight, called my wife, grabbed dinner and set up the plane all in that time frame.

Quick flight to the overnight.

The airport is fairly small and we were the only airline. Tower closes early.

Thankfully there were no other planes to worry about and we blocked in on time.

Today it's just two legs. Both will be flown by my Captain. I will take the first two legs tomorrow.

Happy to be'd be nice to be on time today though.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Back to the line

Tomorrow I start a 3 day trip. It was a 4 day but because I worked the last 3 days it created a 7 day conflict.

This morning I finished my last simulator training for the day. It was a very early show...4:30AM. Whenever I know I have to get up early I never sleep well. Sure enough I woke up on my own at 3:10AM.

LOFT, or Line Oriented Flight Training, benefits new hires who came from general aviation more than "seasoned" pilots. Reason being new hires from general aviation have likely never been above 10,000 feet or dealt with a swept wing aircraft at high altitude.

The flight was done in real time. A few issues enroute.

My Captain is an assistant chief pilot in another base. She flies about once a month. She took the first leg.

At FL290 we hit moderate turbulence that was strong enough to kick off the autopilot. Because we were in RVSM (Reduced Vertical Separation Minimumairspace, we had to go down as one of the requirements is a functioning autopilot.

A few more small issues and she landed at an outstation. Break.

My turn. The instructor showed us a few emergency situations such as hydrualic failures, electrical issues and flight control issues. We didn't have to run all the checklist but he wanted to show what it would look like and what equipment we had left.

I was given a visual approach. At about 50 feet I hit moderate wind shear. I went into the profile by adding full thrust and trying to escape the wind shear. Our profile calls for leaving the plane configured as is as changing the configuration could make things worse. It took a bit but we escaped.

We repositioned and the Captain took off. Severe wind shear at 150 feet. We sunk to just 50 feet before escaping. Eye opening stuff.

Next we went up to FL350 and pretended we had descended from FL370 and forgot to add thrust.

The plane stalled and I recovered...but not before dropping almost 3000 feet. Once again eye opening.

Happy to be out of the sim and I'm looking forward to flying again. I haven't flown since August. There might be a local NOTAM posted for me returning to the skies...ha!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Germany.....the beer, the cars....the speed

My family had a great time in Germany. The long flight annoyed my daughter. Halfway back she turned to me and said, "I want to go outside please"....she's just 2 years old.

I rented a BMW 525D wagon from Sixt. It was my first time driving a BMW and a diesel. I loved both.

From Frankfurt we went to Nuremburg to Munich to Dachau to Hohenschwangau to Rothenburg, to Heidelberg to Stuttgaurt to and then back Frankfurt.

We drove 1600 Kilometers and got 39.1 MPG. I drove 200 kilometers per hour on the autobahn and was passed several times. Crazy!

I drank a lot of beer. Only once did I order a "Radler"....which is beer with lemonade. I did it by mistake. After a few sips I told my wife, "This beer is really tart." She then smiled and said, "Yeah you ordered a Radler." Hmmm yeah I had a few before that.

Aside from computers and flying...I love cars. Driving around Germany I was like a kid in a candy store. I loved looking at all the cars I only see in magazines. European cars have much more style than cars sold in the United States.

After getting back home we were all exhausted. I proclaimed we were done flying long trips for the rest of the year. I was debating a flight to Tokyo next November for the Motorshow. Eh....dunno....I think my daughter would start hating flying if I took her on a super long trip.

Here are a few photos from the trip.

[nggallery id=59]

I guess my passengers are safer now?

I'm back.

I've had a really good career until this month. I passed every check ride the FIRST time.

I've now been humbled.

As a pilot I like being in control. I always want to succeed. It's hard to throw my hands in the air and say "I can't do it."

I should have.

Earlier this month the air conditioner in our house went out. Hot house....while in training for my ATP.

I bought a portable unit which kept one room cool...but it was fatiguing. Trying to study while dealing with repairmen and worrying about the cost was stressful.

On a Friday night I had my final training in the simulator. The next day I was to have my oral. I walked out of the sim at 2:25AM (Saturday morning). I got home and tried to go to sleep. Woke up around 8AM. Not a lot of sleep. Oral was at 4PM.

I was tired....I was exhausted. My mentality was "I have to get this done so I can do my ride before vacation!"

The oral went bad quick. I was fatigued. Busted....for the first time in my life.

Sunday I was "retrained".

I slept and relaxed. Passed the oral no problem Monday. My check ride was set for Tuesday morning...early....6AM show time. Slept decently...but not great...again the house was warm except for the bedroom. All of us (Wife, daughter, dogs and me) in one room overnight.

I arrived and began the paperwork. Problem....I forgot my logbook.

Thankfully I live 5 miles from the training center. My wife saved the day by rushing the logbook up. My daughter wasn't too happy.


The ride began ok. Departed LGA and enroute to JGK.

Low vis takeoff. Did a SID. Then my air work. Clean stall, departure stall and approach stall done fine. My steep turns were decent.


I did a 2 engine ILS to a missed. Perfect.

Then it happened.

I was north east of the JFK VOR. I was cleared direct to the JFK VOR and told to hold NORTH EAST on the 040 radial.

This is where it went bad.

Rather than use CRM I tried to do it on my own. I was stressed and nervous.

I tuned in the VOR and headed toward it. The heading was 225. I then drew out the hold on a piece of paper.

I drew it wrong. I drew it to hold on the 225 radial....holding southwest.

You can guess what happened next. I crossed the VOR....tried to make a parallel entry....and the sim stopped.

My world just turned upside down. I felt like I was in a flat spin. Two one week. I'd gone 5 years with zero bust.

It was a very rough morning.

Stressed beyond belief. I checked my blood pressure....I was in the pre-hypertension range.

I called my union rep in charge of training. He helped calm me down.

My airline uses a point system. Anything more than 3 points and you could be let go. An oral bust was .5 points. A sim bust was 1 point. I was now at 1.5 points.

I needed to clear my head.

AC was fixed for good that day.....$3200 for a new compressor and coil. Ouch.

Left for vacation on Thursday (separate write up soon) not knowing if I would have a job much longer.

Arrived back on Saturday. Retraining set for Monday. Jet lagged but free of stress.

Thankfully the training was early in the morning. This was good as Germany is UTC +5 so I was used to being awake when I am normally used to being sleep.

Training went very well. The instructor was wondering why I failed in the first place.

This morning I showed up for my check ride. Because I had 2 bust on the same event the FAA was there to monitor.

I am happy to say it went very well.

Started at JFK. Normal takeoff. I then did the GPS 31L approach from CHANT. No runway. Missed Approach. The missed is a little tricky as it's 2000 to a fix then 3000 for a final altitude. Then did ILS 4R. No runway. Missed approach. On climb out the left engine failed. Back around for a single engine ILS 4R. Landed.

Lined up for 22L. At 81 knots my PFD failed. I commanded the abort. Done.

Took off 4R. Lost an engine at V1. Ran the profile and thankfully it restarted. Back around for LOC 31R approach. This one was a little tricky as the Missed Approach Point is based on time. Landed. Done.

Another takeoff. On climb out the flaps jammed. Came back around for a no flap landing on 31R. Easy...and done.

Check ride passed. I guess my passengers are safer now that I have an ATP?

The only debrief items were I was a little slow on the single engine missed. Not out of range as I climbed at V2, but I should have asked for a different speed.

Additionally for the single engine ILS I should have been a little more pro-active in the my approach briefing. I simply stated "It's the same approach but just reduced flaps". Eh.

I am happy to be done. I have a LOFT (Line Oriented Flight Training) tomorrow morning (4:30AM!!!) and then I'm back to the line Thursday.

It really sucks that I will have to explain why I failed my ATP check ride for every airline interview for the rest of my life. I should have realized I was not fit to fly and called in fatigued. It's a lesson I will have to own up to for the rest of my life.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

One more thing

This should start at 46 minutes 9 seconds. Off to Germany.


Ok the ABOVE link starts at the right spot. This previous window does forward to 46 minutes 9 seconds...or watch the whole thing...great show !


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gone for a while

My issues outside of flying are affecting my judgement and thus flying. Going to be sitting out for a while. This sites not going anywhere, but won't be updated likely until the end of the month.

Gotta get my head straight.



Monday, September 10, 2012

Too much on my plate

So last week our home AC went out. We live in an area where ya gotta have AC.

I've been dealing with repairmen since then. It got so warm I went out and spent $400 on a portable AC unit I can wheel around the house. We did spend one night in a hotel it got so bad.

All this time I was in and out of the sim and studying. I was juggling sim, studying and getting my house fixed. Trying to do it all.

On the day of my oral I was fatigued....but didn't know just how fatigued.

Sunday morning I got home from the sim at 2:40AM. I fell asleep around 3:30AM. I woke up around 9AM. Not a lot of sleep.

Warm house. Repairmen in and out. Tired. I should have just fatigued the oral. The check airmen stated, "Once you click here the oral begins, don't click if you aren't physically ready."

I clicked. I was in the "complete the mission" mentality. Up to that point I had never failed a checking event.

I failed. On things I knew. I just couldn't come up with the answers. It was like I was drunk...nothing made sense. I understood the questions....easy stuff like what I do when I walk into the flight deck for the first time of the day. Things I have done 3 to 4 times a week for a year....I could not explain.

Once I got home and rested I realized I was fatigued....but it was to late.

Sunday I was "retrained". Four hours in a briefing room going through the remainder of the oral items including what I missed. The instructor corrected me on a few minor items and signed me off.

This morning....I had my McGriddle.

This afternoon I went back to the training center...and aced it.

My sim is now tomorrow morning with a 5AM show time. I'm glad my local McDonalds is open 24/7.

Wednesday night I go in at 8:30PM from a 10PM sim for a Line Oriented Flight Training session...or LOFT. It's two real flights done in real time from start to finish....with lots of issues to deal with.

I finish that at 2AM Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon....I head to Germany.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

It was a good streak

Private Single Engine Oral and Flight - Passed First Time

Private Multi-Engine Oral and Flight - Passed First Time

Instrument Multi-Engine Oral and Flight - Passed First Time

Commercial Multi-Engine Oral and Flight - Passed First Time

CFI Initial Multi and Instrument Oral and Flight - Passed First Time

Commercial Single Engine Oral and Flight - Passed First Time

CFI Single Engine Oral and Flight Passed - Passed First Time

Part 121 Initial Regional Jet Oral and Flight - Passed First Time

Part 121 Regional Jet Recurrent Oral and Flight = Passed First Time

Part 121 Regional Jet (different equipment) Oral and Flight- Passed First Time

ATP Oral - Failed....First Time


I had a great streak. Just had a bad day. Messed up on stuff I should have known. No one to blame but myself. Waiting on the phone call from the training center for what's next. Would be nice to get it all done before vacation....not sure it's possible.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ground portion of recurrent : passed

As expected I passed the ground portion of my First Officer ATP course.

Next up....the sim. Studying my profiles and flows. The new to me maneuvers are steep turns, zero flap landing and a right seat aborted takeoff.

Back to the books.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

First day of recurrent

First day of recurrent training.

Since I'm getting at an ATP I had to do a little more prep.

I use Logbook Pro for my logbook. I had to figure a way to print it all out.

When I interviewed I bought paper and a leather binder from the Logbook Pro website. I have no one to impress this time so I decided to go cheap(er).

I tried printing out pages on my own. After about 30 mess up's I went to Fedex Office (Formerly Kinkos). The issue I had was the length of the rows went across two pages.

After trying to explain what I wanted the employee printed out samples. Nope. He didn't get it. After looking at the pages...we formed a plan, two pages printed on each 11 X 17 piece of paper. He printed them out and bound them for me. Total of 38 pages....2956 hours....$14. Done.

Running a little late I stopped by a conveince store for recurrent supplies. Energy drinks, chips and Skittles...done.

Show time was noon.

It took me a bit to find the right classroom. Big building. I knew a few pilots in the room.

The first day was spent covering Fatigue and CRM. All of us were very vocal about Fatigue.

The Powerpoint was showing examples of fatiguing schedules and how we should not be flying them. The problem? We have them every month!

Things like long sits, short overnights followed by long duty days and fluctuating duty start times. The presentation was saying don't do this...but we don't have a choice. Annoying.

During a break I got my schedule for the rest of training. I'm not too happy.

The next three days are 7:30AM to 4:30PM. All classroom.

I'm off Wednesday.

Thursday and Friday I have a 8PM show time for a 10PM till 2 AM sim! My oral is 4PM Saturday and my checkride is at 10PM Sunday till Midnight.

During the fatigue presentation it was explained that we aren't very alert or productive during our normal sleeping 10PM till 6AM. Bleh. I'll get through it.

My examiner for my checkride is the same examiner I had last year. Very fair and easy going guy. I have no idea who the guy who is running my oral.

Time for sleep.