Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Leaking fuel and a double dead head later

Day 2 of the last 4 day of the month. Same 4 day trip I've done all month...except I finish early on day 4 due to a 30 in 7 conflict.

Day 1 was easy as always. This week my Captain started the trip as I started last week. Good plane, good weather and a very new (fresh out of training!) cabin crew member.

This particular cabin crew member worked at my mainline partner in the 80's. She left to be a cop for 20 years....and has come back to a regional for benefits. Talk about the long way around.

Uneventful first two legs.

The leg to the overnight was interesting.

Filed at FL290.....for a fairy long 580 NM trip.

I mentioned this to my Captain and he also thought it was odd. I hit up and looked at the turbulence charts and wind charts. A small section of moderate on the way...winds were favorable higher.

We agreed we would ask for FL370.

Before we took off...we had to get out of the ramp.

The ramp controller last night was the same lady who had us waiting 45 minutes to push at the beginning of the month. She was new then...and still having problems.

An airline ramp is a very busy place. Planes, trucks, baggage carts, cars and more all moving around.

Gates space is at a premium. Every inch is used. Flights come in and out all day long.

The ramp controller has to coordinate aircraft coming onto the ramp, pulling into a gate, pushing back from the gate and exiting the ramp. The controller has to be able to "see into the future" and make fast decisions. This lady can't do this.

Parked at gate 11. Gate 10 had a flight leaving at the same time. Gate 12 left 5 minutes later.

Gate 10 called to push right before me. He was told to hold as there was a line of planes waiting to come in and there was a flight leaving the ramp behind us.

This was a clear VFR night...average traffic.

I called to push to get in line. She cleared us as soon as exiting traffic cleared. Odd. Gate 10 called again...also cleared.

At this point the flights waiting to come in chimed in asking when they could park, because when we pushed we blocked them from getting in.

During the push I started the number 1 engine. The Captain monitored the push back.

Once done we ran a checklist and overheard gate 12 calling for a push. We both looked up and said "No!" at the same time.

"Cleared to push on 12." said the ramp controller.

"Mam if gate 12 pushes they will block us on 11 and gate 10 from taxiing out." I responded.

"Oops. I'm sorry, I already cleared them, I guess you will have to wait." she said.

She then cleared gate 14 to push.

We finished the checklist and shook our heads.

We waited for 3 minutes for gates 12 and 14 to finish their checklist. We then all taxied to the same ramp exit point. We then all taxied to the same runway for takeoff.

Normally we are spaced out.

The more experienced ramp controllers would not have had a line for aircraft coming in. They also would have pushed us on 11 and gate 10 then had 12 and 14 WAIT for us to taxi and then push them. This way there wouldn't be a traffic jam on the ramp and then the ramp exit and then the taxiway and then the runway.


Pockets of moderate chop climbing out. Smooth at FL370 for a bit. We had a good 5 minutes of moderate turbulence. We started down for the arrival anyway.

Winds were reported as 310 at 15. Landing runway 4. Ninety degree crosswind. Fine with me.

I set up the VNAV to cross the FAF at 2000 feet which is the normal glideslope intercept altitude for the ILS. Visual approaches were being reported on the ATIS, but I always back up my visual with an approach if able.

Smooth descent....but I noticed we had a big tailwind...a 45 knot tailwind at 10,000 feet. My descent rate wouldn't work unless I put out some drag.

Out went flaps and flight spoilers. Engines idled.

Two miles before the FAF I had the aircraft slowed to 200 knots and was able to stow the spoilers. This complied with Class C restrictions on speed and my own criteria on being smooth and stable.  Still descending.

Gear and remaining flaps went out. Still had a 20 knot tailwind at 2000 feet.

At 1000 feet my airspeed was 130 knots on the dot...but my ground speed was 140 knots due to the tailwind.

By 500 feet the wind came around and was finally a 15 knot crosswind.

My landings are always better with a crosswind. Add in nighttime...well let's just say it was...wait for it.......................................legendary.

Blocked in 3 minutes late (remember the time wasted on the ramp!) at 9:43PM.

Walked into the hotel at 10:15PM.

Very short 8 hour 30 minute overnight.

Great breakfast.

Back in the hotel van at 6AM.

Finished my preflight at 6:20AM. Departure was 7:10AM.

Boarded up and ready at 6:50AM....when one of our ramp personnel came up to the flight deck.

"Would one of you mind coming out here, I think we have a problem." she said.

We both went outside. Underneath the number 1 engine was a pool of liquid. Fuel leak.

It was not there on my preflight.

The ramp personnel stated it started a few minutes AFTER we started the APU.

No bueno.

All passengers off.

Today was just a 2 leg day with 35 minutes in between.

The estimated time for departure was 8AM. Very optimistic.

Sure enough things went south fast.

There was another flight from another airline that had a mechanical problem. Small airport, just one mechanic. We were in line for repair.

I whipped out my Ipad and connected to the free wifi from the terminal and relaxed in my seat on the flight deck.

My Captain took a seat in the cabin.

At 8:10  AM my Captain came up and said we were all doing a double dead head. One of them on another regional carrier.

My mainline partner has more than one regional carrier.

In my 5 years here I've never dead headed on anyone but my own airline or my mainline partner.

This other carrier doesn't have a great reputation. They have very low pay and moral.

To each their own but if I was working for this other airline I would be making $7000 LESS a year than I make now....flying the exact same airplane...or even a larger one as they have the same pay rate for First Officers regardless of aircraft. Bleh.

The first deadhead was on my airline. We'd be connecting through another hub.

We all left the plane and went up to the terminal.

Around 9AM the station manager requested us to go back to the plane and fire up the APU as the mechanic thinks he fixed the leak.

My Captain and I had nothing better to do so we obliged.

Sure enough about 4 minutes after the APU started the fuel started to drip from the left engine. The APU starting wasn't the issue, what was likely the issue was the fuel system being pressurized.

We shut everything down.

Deadhead one went fine.

During the 30 minute connect time I called the overnight hotel and let them know we would be 1 hour late to make sure the van was waiting when we arrived.

Deadhead two was interesting.

It's very odd walking on to a plane painted like the one I fly, but it belongs to a different airline.

It was interesting to see how differently they operate. Small things like announcements and such....very different.

I survived.

We all went out to the curb and the van was there. We all hopped in and the driver left the airport.

Van drivers are nice....but they rarely check to make sure they have the correct crew. I've heard stories of crews walking out, hopping in a van only to get to the hotel and realize they were at the wrong hotel.

We were in the right van as I've stayed here the last 3 weeks.

About 2 miles away his phone rings.

"Yeah I have the crew on board. What do you mean they are waiting at the airport?"

Yep...the crew that flew us in stays at the same hotel. The van driver simply picked up an aircrew. We have the same number of crew members. He's seen me the last 2 weeks. Similar uniforms. Easy mistake.

Back we went.

A little awkward when they got on board.

My overnight is 17 hours versus 18 hours.

Tomorrow is still 2 legs....Friday is 1 leg instead of 5. I might go see the new Denzel Washington movie "Flight" Friday.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Five years later

Today is my official 5 year anniversary of being at my airline.

I still remember sitting in my office chair at home back in March 2006 playing Microsoft Fight Simulator. In front of me was a flying magazine opened to an ad for All ATPs.

At the time I was working for a software company making decent money, but I wasn't happy. I had just changed jobs as my previous job was fixing computers in the retail field. It was me, a tool box and a work van (actually a Pontiac Aztek!). I wasn't happy at all. That job was supposed to be temporary. I got it after being laid off as a teacher in 2001. Four years later I was still there. The move to the software company was supposed to be a step up to a more professional job.

It was more professional...but I wasn't happy. Heck I was miserable.  My wife knew it

Anyway back to sitting in that chair.

My wife walked in and asked what I really wanted to do. I told her I wanted to fly.

She said then go fly. I told her it was just too expensive.

She said to either go fly or shut up about it and that she would help pay the way.

In May of that year I went up for my first flying lesson.

It's been a bumpy 5 years.

I've been up...I've been down...both physically and emotionally.

I flown all around this country, Canada and Mexico.

I've landed in 30 knot+ direct crosswinds that challenged all of my abilities.

I've flown with Captains that taught me a thing or two about flying and the industry....both good and bad.

I've been awake for 20+ hours and been so tired that I didn't remember landing....or what city I was in.

I've lost count of the number of hotel rooms I've stayed in....but I do know The Hyatt Place and Doubletree hotels are my favorite.

I've taken my family to all four corners of the United States, Hawaii, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Germany, and the Caribbean.....for next to nothing. My wife and I have traveled in First Class seats that normally cost $5,000 and paid just $200.

Hopefully 5 years from now I will be at a major airline....or at the least a Captain at my own.

Finally a quote from an episode of Louie which had Joan Rivers as a guest star.

This is Joan Rivers talking to Louie about the comedy industry....but it fits many other jobs including flying:


"Listen.  I wish I could tell you it gets better. but it doesn’t get better.  You get better.  You think it’s been easy? I’ve gone up, I’ve gone down.  I’ve been bankrupt. I’ve been broke.  But you do it. And you do it because…because we love it more than anything else. That’s why you’re doing it.  You want a real job, honey, there’s a million things you can do.  But what we do is not a job…sounds so stupid…what we do…is a calling , my dear.  We make people happy.  It’s a calling."



Sunday, October 28, 2012

Would have been great to have a camera

Fairly normal 4 day....until the last day which was 5 legs long.

First two legs were mine. Departed a few minutes early from the overnight. Nice flight.

Snapped a few photos of the sunrise and weather below us.

[nggallery id=60]

I really like flying with this Captain. Learned quite a bit and I have found I'm a much more precise pilot when I fly with him.

He has gotten me into a "fuel game". The flight release is a very long form with a lot of information. Rarely...actually never...have I seen anyone read all of it. Most of the release is filled with NOTAMs about every unlit tower within a few miles of the airports on the release.

I'm all for safety, but I don't need to know about an unlit tower, two miles east of the airport at 200 feet. If I am flying that low that far from the airport I have more things on my mind than an unlit tower.

Anyways in the main body is performance data.

Data such as fuel burn per segment, estimated time to reach cruise and so on.

This Captain is meticulous about tracking how long it takes to reach cruise, how much fuel was used at each way point and so on.

I love a challenge and started trying to beat the numbers. It's not easy as ATC controls altitude assignments. A few times we pulled into the gate early and ahead on fuel....a double win!

The first leg on day 4 was this way. We pulled into the gate 15 minutes early and 400 pounds OVER our projected arrival fuel.

The next leg was to the airport with only the shortest runway open. There was no approach to the south and two approaches to the north.

Weather was forecast to be 600 OVC and 1 SM visibility at our ETA. The inbound plane was late. I brought up the low visibility to the Captain to make sure we could shoot an approach and had an alternate.

I pulled out my charts. With a GPS approach we could descend to 500 AGL....good enough. The release showed both a takeoff alternate and a destination alternate.

Delayed a bit.

Normal takeoff.

The ATIS reported 800 OVC and 2 SM visibility. Better.

Arriving from the north. Vectored past the airport to shoot the approach to runway 32.

Gusty winds above the cloud deck. The approach controller gave a heading of 350 to join. I could tell that wouldn't work to join prior to the FAF. I asked the Captain to request a heading of worked. Busy approach slowing down and configuring.

We heard another flight being cleared for takeoff and that a "regional jet was on a 2 mile final". That was us.

Broke out at 800 feet AGL as see a the other flight SLOWLY turning the corner to line up for takeoff.

I was just 3 to 4 knots faster than approach speed so I couldn't slow down much more. Things would get ugly quick if he was past V1 and we had to go around.

"If we have to go around request an immediate turn to the east instead of straight ahead," I told my Captain.

"Acey I need you on the roll, traffic is an RJ on a mile and a half final." said the tower to the departing flight.

He was on the roll and took off as we passed through 400 feet. A little close for me in IFR conditions. Would have been great to have a camera to record the video of us landing as he was taking off.

I've had this situation before at really busy airports like LGA, ORD and DCA....but always in VFR conditions.

Minimal flare for landing with such a short runway (4999 feet). In and done.

"Way to whoa is up there, turn left at the end and contact ground 121.9" said the tower.

"Yeah that was exciting. Left at the end, ground point 9." I responded.

Next two legs we his. Moderate chop and turbulence on leg 4 of the day.

As pilots its easy to forget that some of the passengers on board might not be used to turbulence. My Captain asked that I make a PA. NO biggie.

I explained where we were, that the turbulence shouldn't last much longer and that we would be on time.

Sure enough we were early. Twenty minutes early and ahead on fuel.

My leg back. Same moderate turbulence. Arrived 30 minutes early and ahead on fuel. Right now it's easy for both as the schedules are built for deicing and thus if we don't deice we will be early.

Arrived to have my wife and daughter waiting outside.

Off till Tuesday.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

I know where the bar is

Same trip this week that I did the last two weeks. I'm back to having my regular line Captain. Everything has been uneventful....which is good.

A friend asked if I get bored going to the same places each week. I thought for a moment....nah.

I like knowing where the hotel van picks me up, where the good food is and where the bar is. Not that I'm a big drinker...but it's nice to know on 18+ hour overnights.

I do this trip one more time next week. I start on Tuesday and Finish on Friday the 2nd.

My next trip continues into November. When my bids closed my November schedule was built and the first full trip in November starts on Sunday, November 4th.

My current trip is rear loaded, meaning the heaviest flying day is day 4 with 7 hours 40 minutes of flying. This entire trip is worth 19 hours 30 minutes.

My trip on the 4th is worth 23 hours and is front loaded, meaning most of the flying is on the first part of the trip. This created a 30 in 7 conflict.

Airline pilots can't legally fly more than 30 hours in a rolling 7 day period. To "fix the glitch" scheduling pulled me off the end of my next trip.

So instead of flying 7 hours 40 minutes on day 4 next week, I just fly on leg in from the overnight at 1 hour and 45 minutes. I get paid for the full 7 hours 40 minutes. Not too bad. It is kinda wasteful to have two 18 hour overnights back to back and just one leg in. Eh.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

From North Dakota to Florida and back up to Ohio in one day

Bids closed for November.I got what I wanted for the most part.

I have 17 days off including Thanksgiving and partial weekends.

I have 3 four day trips and one 2 day trip. Total value is just 73 hours. Fine with me. My line from this month carries over into next month anyway.

My first two 4 day trips are the same....

Day 3 of the trip I go from North Dakota make two stops, hit Florida for an hour then head up to Ohio for the night. From on extreme to another. Very odd trip. That day is scheduled to block 7 hours and 59 minutes. I bet I will go over 8 hours...especially if I have to de-ice.

Should be interesting.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Things not to do when I'm a Captain

I'm happy this trip is over. I can't wait to be with my line Captain again next week.

The guy I flew with was nice....and he mostly meant well...but more often than not....things didn't go well.

I won't go into full detail....just going to cover the icing on the cake.

The last day was a 5 leg day. Longest day of the trip.

The first 3 legs the last day were full of just inconsideration on his part. One of my pet peeves is guys who get a new frequency, swap and IMMEDIATLEY broadcast instead of waiting to see if someone is already talking. My Captain swapped and broadcast IMMEDIATELY every time...stepping on someone else 1/3rd of the time. He would then get annoyed that he had to repeat himself.

The Captain is a commuter.

We were scheduled to arrive back in base and be done at 4:45PM. His commute flight home was at 5:05PM. If he missed it the next flight wasn't until 9PM.

I took leg 4. We had swapped planes right before this leg. I quickly set up my side and we were ready to push 7 minutes early.

The main door was closed and I realized I had not plugged in my headset.

I plugged it in and could not hear myself. I checked the plug and hot mic switch. Nothing. Crap.

My Captain wasn't happy...he wanted to hurry up as he wanted to make his 5:05PM flight home.

I quickly grabbed the company headset....nothing. I tried mine again...then the company. Suddenly I could hear myself...with the company David Clarks....ugh.

"Fine I will wear the David Clamps." I said. I then called for pushback clearance and away we went.

Normal takeoff.

Company policy states I must wear a headset with a boom microphone below FL180.

At 18,200 feet I swapped back into my Bose A20s. I still couldn't talk through my microphone, but I was much more comfortable.

The Captain was the non-flying pilot so he was on the radio with ATC, If I had to talk to ATC I could use the hand mic. I could talk to my Captain reasonably well by just looking at him.

Filed for FL330. Climbed to FL370 and flew faster. Scheduled to arrive 20 minutes early.

Very gusty winds down low. Winds were 300@25G35. Landing runway 35.

Once again I swapped into the David Clarks...err David Clamps before going below FL180.

I picked up the runway 30 miles out.

I briefed my approach as always. My every briefing before...heard none of it. The proof was always a few minutes after my brief he would ask, "What runway are you landing on again?"


Bumpy approach.

I don't like to "hot rod" it in. Some guys, this Captain being one of them, like to fly as fast as possible  and attempt to slow down at the last possible moment while on final approach. This often results in :

1. Being unstabilized per company ops

2. Eating up a lot of runway

3. Slamming on the brakes due to eating up a lot of runway

4. A rough and noisy ride for the passengers

5. All of the above

I will keep the speed around 200 knots max until 7 miles away or  2500 AGL for a STRAIGHT in approach at an outstation with no other traffic around....that's my comfort zone.

On this approach I slowed a little early as I was a little high. I called for the first setting of flaps and for the gear to be lowered.This annoyed him.

"It sure seems far out to put the gear down." he said.

Decent landing. Blocked in 10 minutes early.

It was all about him as he tried to rush everyone to leave early.

Blocked out 5 minutes early.

Only plane departing.

We were holding short waiting for the cabin to call up stating they were ready.

"Go ahead and tell tower we are ready." said my Captain.

"I'm still waiting for the cabin to call." I said.

"It's fine we will just roll up slow." he replied.

I was not comfortable with it.

"She should be ready in a minute." I replied.

He then keyed the mic and told tower we were ready.

Right then the cabin called up. Done.

He made a shallow climb above 10,000 feet. He flew at a much higher speed than normal...because he wanted to get in early.

This ate up a lot of fuel. This also caused us to not reach FL230 , a normal transition from low altitude controllers to high altitude controllers, until way past our normal point.

ATC advised we would have to level off at FL230 for a few minutes due to crossing traffic. If we had been on climb profile I know we would have been well above FL230 and likely clear of traffic.

This annoyed my Captain and he keyed the mic and said, "We can't be down here for to long as we don't have to fuel for it."

I just rolled my eyes.

Eventually we climbed to our filed altitude.

I compared our actual fuel burn to the planned fuel burn...we were about 400 pounds short. This is partially due to the shallow climb and partially due to being stuck at FL230 for a while.

Planned to arrive 30 minutes early. My Captain called the cabin and let them know HE would be the first person out the door when we arrived.

Again we would be arriving at 4:15PM instead of 4:45PM. His commute flight was at 5:05PM. More than enough time for him to make his commute flight home that was on OUR airline and from OUR terminal.

Visual approaches. Cleared to land on the outboard runway, normal ops for my home airport. He asked me to ask for the inboard. I did. Approved and we were recleared to land on the inboard.

He hot rodded it. Landed almost 4000 feet down the is an extremely long runway...but still.

Blocked in at 4:20PM. He tried to rush out the door but in doing so shutdown the plane incorrectly and had to turn it back on.

He then quickly left he cockpit around 4:25PM and stopped passengers so he could get off...for a 5:05PM commute fight....2 gates down.

I finished up my duties including the post flight.

The employee bus stop was 9 gates away toward his commute flight.

I walked past his gate...he wasn't there. Down by my exit to the employee bus I saw him walking toward me....big drink he just bought in hand.

I learned a lot from him as I learn from every Captain. Most of what I learned is what not to do when I am a Captain.

I look forward to having my regular line Captain next week. He is much older than me and his 5X my flight hours. He does things slow and methodically. This is fine with me as I can always tell what's next. I don't have to worry about what's next.

Happy to be off for a few days.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

It works better when it's warm

Nice overnight. Rained. Being a First Officer I carry an umbrella. Very few Captains they don't have to do preflights.

I've been to this hotel at least 10 times. My first time here the van driver mentioned a pizza place with cheap pizza and beer. The first time I was there I walked down the street, turned right and saw the sign for the pizza place. The sign sticks far out from the building.

I walked to the first door I saw under the sign, went in and was surprised at how dark it was. I then saw a sign stating "cash only" and left as I didn't have much cash beyond van driver tips.

Fast forward to last week. I went to the same door, sat at the bar and was more than surprised to NOT see pizza on the menu. Odd. I ate a really good burger.

Rewind to last night. I went to the same sign...then looked about 5 feet to the left....there was another door...with the name of the pizza place ON THE DOOR. I went in...awesome pizza and beer. It was 2 fo1 slices and 1/2 off beer! Great meal and drinks for $10.50. Yeah I went to the WRONG place the first two times. I went to a regular bar....there was a reason there was no pizza on the menu! Hello Captain errr....First Officer Obvious!

Slept great. My series of alarms (I'm a little paranoid and set 3 alarms 1 minute apart....I've never needed more than one...bleh) began to go off at 5:20AM. Van time was 6:10AM. No breakfast of any kind at this hotel.

Arrived at the airport at 6:25M. Departure was set at 7AM.

This airport is a little backwards.

I can go out to the ramp without a code, key or ID. However once on the ramp I can't get back in without an ID  to swipe and associated code. Thus the gate agent has to wait for me.

Preflight done. Cold soaked plane. Outside temp was 40 degrees. No heater was attached (even though it was supposed to be attached per company policy!).

I was stowing my bags as my Captain powered up the plane. The screens, lights and sounds started to come alive.  I took my seat and noticed my MFD was black. I tried adjusting the rheostat....nothing.

I mentioned it to my Captain but he was engrossed in his Iphone.

No circuit breakers were popped. Hmm.

Basic troubleshooting was to power the plane off and back on. I tried that. Nothing.

"Hey Darrell, do you want us to write this up and  call out contract maintenance or give it a few minutes?" I asked.

No response.

The agent asked if we were ready to board. I stated no that we had a mechanical issue and to please plug in the pre-conditioned air to warm up the plane.

I turned on the dome light....and then pointed at my screen and asked again.

That got his attention. He tried powering off the plane again. Nada.

He tried using the APU for power vs ground power. Nada.


We both thought it was simply cold. It's a CRT monitor...old school. They work better when warm. Not knowing for sure was the problem.

Mechanic called. Plane powered off. Away we went for breakfast.

As we passed the boarding area my Captain explained to the line of passengers the situation and that we would go as soon as the screen was operating.

We returned to the cockpit and ate breakfast. The air in the plane decently warm but still mostly cold soaked.  We tried powering up the plane again. Still dead. Powered back down.

Mechanic arrived at 7:35AM. We powered up the plane and showed him the dead MFD. We then stepped out and finished breakfast while sitting in cabin seats.

I was sitting in 5C when the mechanic, who had been up there 3 minutes, said "hey it's working again."

I leaned into the aisle and was shocked to see the MFD working!

Sure enough the plane had warmed up enough that the connectors and contacts touched and all was well.

I took my seat in the cockpit and turned the brightness up and down a few times. Fine. We then powered the plane down and back up. Fine. All this because the ground crew didn't connect the pre conditioned air!!!!

Blocked out an hour late. Originally we had a 35 minute turn then off to the overnight. The overnight has just 3 flights a day.

The first was ours at 9:55AM, the second is 3:55PM and the last is 8:55PM.

Scheduling pulled us from our 9:55AM flight and put us as dead heads on the 3:55PM flight. That meant a 6+ hour sit time!

My wife works a few miles from the airport. I texted her to see if she wanted to meet for lunch. Done.

Blocked out 8:05AM. Estimated to arrive at 10:10AM. They could have delayed the 9:55AM

My leg. Flew a little fast. Landed at 9:52AM. In the gate at 10AM.

I walked straight out to the employee bus.

My phone was scheduling. They left a voicemail stating they "had more flying for me". They mentioned flying a turn during my sit.

Contractually I am not obligated to carry a phone....or do any other flying in this situation. It was of little benefit for me to do the flying.

The flight I was pulled from was worth 1 hour 50 minutes. I was pay protected for it.

The turn they wanted to add on during my 6+ hours sit was worth 2 hours 5 minutes.

If I did the turn the net result would be 15 minutes extra pay as I get the greater of the two. No thanks.

Nice lunch with my wife.

Now sitting at home. I will head back up to the airport around 2:40PM.

I truly hate despise deadheading. Just not my thing.

My original 18 hour overnight is now just 12 hours. Still 5 legs tomorrow.

Time to watch some!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Geek in the with more...less!

This site is now at a new host. You should notice faster loading less waiting time. You're welcome. Feel free to click on the banner ad at the bottom every now and then. Hosting isn't expensive...but it does cost. Gracias.

Same trip as last week. Different Captain. My line Captain traded the trip. The new Captain is much more laid laid back for me.

I don't have that "warm and fuzzy" and "everything is covered" feeling with the new guy. I'm more on edge and watching everything that's going on much more so than normal. Don't get me wrong I'm laid back....this guy is REALLY laid back.

Time to bid for November. I know I can hold Thanksgiving off...but  I doubt  I can get back into my 3 day trips.

I discussed my plan with my wife as we have family coming in town from the 8th thru 12th. I also still have to bid so I'm off two weekdays to hang out with my daughgter.....and somehow still get Thanksgiving off.

My bidding priority will be:

1- Weekends off

2 - 3 day trips working Tuesday-Thursday

3. 3 day trips working Monday - Wednesday

4 - 4 day trips with starts after 4PM working Monday thru Thursday

5 - 2 day back to backs

6 -4 day trips working Monday thru Thursday


Two day back to backs are new for me bidding wise. I figured if  I can't get my 3 day trips or 4 day trips with late starts (late so I can hang with my daughter till my wife gets home) then I might as well go for two day back to backs as we will have to pay for 4 days of day care regardless.

A two day back to back is as it sounds. I work 4 days but only away from home for 2 nights. It's more driving to and from the airport so it's not good for commuters or those that live far from the airport.

Bidding closes this weekend. Hoping for the best.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Familiar voice

Nice four day. I didn't care for day 4 being a 5 leg day.

Day 3 was in a small town.

The night before I Googled things to do in this city. Number 1 was DRIVE to the bordering state to gamble. Wow.

Long drive to the hotel. On the way the van driver gave a nice speel on places to eat nearby. He then said, "And you will find another key in your packet with the number 310 on it, in that room is free beer, wine, tortilla chips and salsa for you guys."

Free beer?

The free beer ended up being Natural Light. Still free. Never actually had one before. was as expected.

Day 4 started with a 5:30AM van.

Arrived at the airport at 5:50AM. Plane at 6:00AM.

After getting clearance I heard  someone say good morning and used my name....over the clearance frequency. I replied, "Who is this?".

"It's Andrew." former student. He was flying the United Express RJ parked right infront of me. Small world.

The first two legs were mine.

First leg to base was easy.

The next...not so much.

Headed to a larger...small airport. Three runways. The longest runway is 8000 feet long, next is 5001 feet long....the shortest is 4999 feet long.

Guess which runway was the ONLY one open?

The 4999 feet long one!

There are no charted approaches to the open runway. None.

I briefed a visual approach backed up by with the PAPI.

Nope...PAPI was noted out of service on the ATIS.

Ok I briefed a visual approach like this.

"This will be a visual approach to runway 4. I will back up my glide path using the 3 to 1 rule using the on site VOR. The runway is 4999 feet long and the performance manual states I need 2700 feet to stop using no thrust reverse credit. I plan on using thrust reverse just in case. Touchdown elevation is 80 feet. In the event of a missed approach or go around plan on 1500 feet and right traffic back to runway 4. I plan on a right exit at the end of the runway. Any questions?"

Cleared to 2100 feet. Hazy. Saw the airport 8 miles out.

Using the 3 to 1 rule I wanted to be at 2400 feet 8 miles out. I was lower...fine.

I started calling for flaps, then gear, then final flaps.

At 3 miles out I was 1100 AGL. A little high.

At 1 mile I was at 400 feet. This was fine as the VOR wasn't at the end of the runway.

I made a somewhat shallow approach and made a minimal flare landing. Touched down about 900 feet down the runway.

Quick on the brakes and I initiated thrust reverse. With 2000 feet left the plane was slowed to 80 knots and I transferred control to my Captain. Done.

Fairly early. Due to the short runway only regional jets were able to land and depart.

Another airline was very weight restricted and transferred 9 passengers to my airline.

We had the performance but had to do a static takeoff.

A static takeoff means we hold the brakes, add full power, then release the brakes.

Up and out.

Plane swap.

Last turn was interesting.

The dispatcher planned the flight at FL270. There was moderate chop. We climbed to FL370...smoother ride and we saved fuel. Thankfully we were light enough that the 800 pounds of fuel saved didn't put us overweight for landing.

In and out quick. My leg back. Once again filed at FL280....we flew at FL360 and saved fuel and time. Blocked in 20 minutes early.

Off for 3 days....then I do the same trip again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

RVR Club

The first rule of RVR club? You don't ask about RVR!

Kidding of course....kinda.

On day two of my trip.

Day one was three legs. I took the first, my Captain took the next two.

Easy day. He flew a little fast to the overnight as it was just 8 hours 30 minutes long.

Scheduled arrival time was 9:40PM. We blocked in at 9:32PM. Every minute counts.

This morning started early of course. I did have a dream I woke up an hour early full of energy. Then I really woke up at 5:05AM...and I was really tired.

Downstairs for breakfast at 5:40AM. I have become very good at making Belgian waffles. Seriously. I know just the amount to pour in. I twist the handle of the waffle iron like a pro. If I get furloughed I WILL apply at the nearest Waffle House!

In the van at 6AM. Airport at 6:20AM. Blocked out 6 minutes early at 7:04AM.

Two leg day, both were mine.

Long flight. A little tired.

An hour out weather was reported as: 02007KT 1/2SM BR OVC003 18/17 A3009

ILS approach. The temperature dew point spread was concerning. It was still early...once the sun started to heat up the ground the temperature and dew point would likely merge.

I briefed the ILS approach to the runway closest to the arrival termination point.

The approach controller advised to expect the approach I briefed. Then it happened. RVR and vis started dropping...but only on one side of the airport.

They quickly put all regional jets on the other side and all mainline on the near side. Reason? Mainline has a higher percentage of CAT III and CAT II trained and equipped air crews and aircraft.

We were given a new approach.

I promptly setup and briefed the new approach.

Set up for a downwind. As we checked in we heard a request for the RVR.

"RVR landing is 1800, midpoint 1200, rollout 600"

Now to be fair we didn't hear who requested it....or for what airport it was for. By the chart we needed 1800...for all points.  Since we didn't know which airport it was for we assumed it was for somewhere else.

We did notice the lack of aircraft checking in though.

ATC slowed us to 160 knots. First set of flaps went out.

Lined up for a 18 mile final. Told to contact tower at the FAF.

We played the game by the book.

Autopilot on.

I called for the flaps 45 at the FAF and the before landing checklist.

By the time it was done we were about .1 miles inside of the FAF.

My Captain contacted the tower.

"Cleared to land, landing RVR 1800, midpoint 800, rollout 600."

Since we were INSIDE the FAF we could continue the approach, and as long as we had the required elements in sight we could also land.

At 500 feet I was on approach speed at 138 knots.

At 240 feet my Captain called the approach lights in sight. I could then continue to 100 feet above touchdown zone elevation.  I clicked the autopilot off and prepared to go around.

At 130 feet he called the runway in sight. I looked up and saw a very foggy runway. I also noticed the plane was slightly right of course. A quick glance down I noticed the needles were dead centered.

I made a shallow bank to the left and kept my eyes on the centerline lights. Touchdown.

The visibility, as expected , went down during the roll out. Tower could not see us, they were using position reports and ground RADAR.

We cleared the runway. Only on other regional jet landed after us for 50 minutes. Everyone else diverted.

We were happy to have been on time and landed. If we had arrived at the STAR termination point 5 minutes later we would have diverted ..on minimum rest...and had a very long day.

Forty minute turn. RVR was up to 4000 for the next takeoff. Planes were arriving again.

Easy leg to the overnight.

During the flight I passed my 3000th hour of flight time. Sounds like a lot...but seeing as I've been at my airline for almost 5 years...and came here with 550 hours...not really. That's about 500 hours a year. This is mostly due to me being THE bottom guy for 2 years and sitting reserve.

Just one more warning. I'm working on the back end of this blog...might be unavailable for a few hours one day. No need to worry.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


One thing I really like about my job....being flexible.

Most professional people (like my wife!) work Monday-Friday. If you have kids you know most Doctors and Dentist for kids are open....Monday-Friday.

My daughter's second dentist visit was yesterday at 11AM. Lucky for me I work Tuesday evenings thru Friday afternoons. I had the day off.

I enjoy having weekdays and weekends off. Getting things done is much easier on weekdays. I can take care of my daughters health, my cars health and the health of my home...all without taking a day off work.

This months schedule isn't the best for me. One of the worst of the month. I start my trips Tuesdays at 4:3oPM and finish Fridays at 4:45PM. Yup 4 day trips.

I do the same trip every week for the rest of the month. It's a 3-2-2-5 trip worth 19.5 hours.

The first night is a reduced rest overnight. Just 8.5 hours of "rest". I don't care for it and I've tried trading this trip sequence for the rest of the month, but there is nothing to trade with.

The next two overnights are each 18 small three horse towns. They were one horse towns, but the horse met another horse...had a kid. Hmmm yeah I'll keep my day job as a pilot instead of a comedian.

This site might be unstable the next two days. I'm moving web host. It could be seamless....but it likely won't.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Different Generation

Happy to be back on the line.

I've done 2 three day trips this month. Both fairly easy.

I do 4 more four day trips...not looking forward to them.

The Captain on my last trip was a really nice guy...but we were generations apart.

He learned to fly in the Army. He flew both helicopters and airplanes.

I learned to fly at AllATPS. I flew both Cessna and Piper.

I enjoyed his stories of flying through various European countries.

Fairly boring flying lately...which is a good thing I guess.

I did have a funny/WTF moment.

Last week I was flying through a bit of rain. Full ILS approach. Weather was rain, 400 foot ceilings and 1/2 mile visibility.

Well my Captain called the runway at 300 feet. The rain was heavy on the arrival end of the runway. I had the runway pavement, lights and marking all in sight....till about 10 feet.

At 10 feet we entered very heavy rain. I could only make out faint runway lights.

"Well crap," I said.

It was much safer to land than go around. Any go around would result in the plane touching the ground anyway.

I eased it down to a nice landing. Broke out of the heavy rain into just rain. By the time we turned off the runway it was very light rain.

We all deadheaded back. The First Officer of the next leg was a former student of mine. I joked that I would be giving him a line check from my seat.

Been kinda quiet lately. Will try and write up a general posting later.

By the fifth year anniversary of being at my airline is coming up at the end of the month. Five