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.



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