Thursday, November 29, 2012

First time in 10 years

Done with my last 4 day of the year. Well unless I trade a 3 for a 4 day next month.

Days 1 and 2 were easy.

Enjoyed a bonus night at home with my family. Once again I am glad I don't commute. If I was a commuter I would have had to pay for a hotel.

I say that, but my Captain is a commuter. He commuted home to spend a few hours with his family before commuting back and paying for a hotel.

Days 3 and 4 were decent.

Day 3 started with a 7:35 AM departure. My leg. Weather in route. An area of thunderstorms. Nothing new for me. My Captain however.....

He was previously based where the weather was almost always VFR. A little rain....but no storms or crazy weather.

First hour was normal. The last hour was busy.

During the initial descent we entered the clouds and stayed in the from FL240 to just 400 feet.

I used the RADAR to navigate around cells.

"I'm glad it's your leg," said my Captain "I haven't turned on the RADAR in the plane in almost 8 years." he continued. He also had not had to shoot a "real" approach in a few years. We shoot approaches in the sim, but on the line I might shoot an approach twice a month in the summer, more often in the winter.

Weather on the field was reported as Winds 190@14, 500 OVC, rain, 1 SM visibility...landing runway 17.

We were following a mainline 737. They gave a few PIREPS including a 30 knot tailwind until about 800 feet and it turned into a headwind.

"I will configure early and be ready for the wind shift" I told my Captain.

Caught the localizer and glide slope 8 miles out. Moderate chop but nothing horrible.

My MFD read a 35 knot quartering tailwind.

VREF was 130 while VAPP was 138. I was hovering around 140 knots during descent.

Passing 1000 AGL I added 4 more knots to be ready for the wind shift.

Sure enough around 800 feet things got a little squirrely.

I clicked off the autopilot and continued the approach.

I could sense the relief in my Captains voice when he said, "runway in sight 12 o'clock."

I looked up and replied "Going visual, landing."

Runway was 7800 feet long. Performance charts showed I needed 4800 feet to stop with no thrust reverse credit.

No nonsense landing. I simply set it down and immediately started braking and applied full reverse. The anti-skid system kicked in and I just kept the same pressure. Anti-skid is like ABS in a car. When it activates you aren't supposed to let up on pressure. Just hold it.

He called, "80 knots" with 3000 feet to spare. I stowed the thrust reversers and gave him the aircraft.

By the time we left the front had come through. Winds were now out of the north.

His leg. Much smoother ride on the climb out. Arrived on time. I took the leg to the overnight.

Easy 1 hour flight. Straight in approach. Done.

Day 4 started with a 5 AM van. Early. Cold. Below freezing.

While traveling to the airport we passed a few car dealerships. I noticed the frosted over windshields. Yep....we'd have to deice.

Set for a 6AM departure.

I put on my gloves (that I have somehow kept up with for 5 years!) and did my preflight. The entire plane had a good layer of frost and light ice on it.

Boarded up and blocked out 5 minutes early. Short taxi to the deice pad.

There are two types of fluid used in deicing. One to get rid of ice (Type I fluid) and one to keep new ice from adhering (Type IV fluid).

Since there was no active precipitation we only needed deice and not anti-ice. Even with deicing we have limited anti-icing protection. I carry charts on board that show how long we can go with each fluid type based on the conditions outside.

The deicer must have been new as he blasted the windshield with Type I fluid. This isn't ideal as we don't have windshield washer fluid to clear it. Type IV fluid is worse as it's a thick gel type substance.

After deicing we made our way to the runway. Precautions have to be made before turning on the packs (air conditioning for the cabin). Deicing fluid gets all over the plane including the inlets for the packs. We have to wait a few minutes and let the inlets blow out as much deicing fluids as possible. If we turn the packs on to early the cabin could be filled with smoke and a nasty smell from fluid being ingested and sent into the air stream.

This delay would come into my favor.

Everything done. We were the only aircraft moving on the airport property.

At 6:22 AM we began the takeoff roll. After I called "rotate" I smelled it. Deicing fluid. A little had made it's way into the air stream. No smoke though.

Supposed to arrive at 7AM, do a quick turn and then head back out at 7:35AM.

Ideally it could be done if we kept the same aircraft, for whatever reason we had a plane swap.

I used the FMS to send a message to the dispatcher seeing if we could keep the plane. Denied.

ETA was 7:12AM. The was the time we would land. Add a 6 minute taxi and 8 minutes for the people to deplane....we would not depart on time.

Someone somewhere saw this....and fixed the glitch.

They pulled us all from the next flight!

We blocked in at 7:13 AM. We had one minute to spare before being late according to the Department of Transportation. Airlines are given 14 minutes of scheduled arrival time to still report being "on time".

My entire crew were commuters. They all scurried off the find an earlier flight home. I hopped in my car and was on my couch by 7:55 AM. Not to shabby.

Off till Sunday. Going to hit the LA Autoshow this weekend.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pattern work

Sitting on my couch watching TWIT.Tv. Supposed to be sitting in a La Quinta hotel room in the middle of no where.

On day 2 of a 4 day.

Day 1 was long. First turn was 5 hours. I then had a two hour sit. The next turn was a short 1 hour 40 minutes. Then an hour sit. Final flight was 50 minutes block also with just 34 minutes air time. Three different Captains.

The last Captain of the day was new to my base. I played tour guide again. I don't mind it. He had never flown out of my base before so he needed a little extra guidance especially with local ramp procedures and such.

Arrived on time. Nice 10 hour overnight at a maintenance base.

This morning at breakfast my phone rang. Crew scheduling was calling. I thought "eat my fresh omelet or talk to scheduling."

I finished my omelet.

I use Google Voice for my voice mail. I read the transcribed voicemail. Seems as though the plane was written up last night and needed a check flight before flying revenue service. Ok.

My crew joined me at my table. We discussed the scheduling change.

We were supposed to do one leg to base, quick turn and one leg to the overnight.

With the check flight we were pulled from the overnight. We'd all be going home when done.

Arrived at the airport. Plane was parked on the ramp.

I used to do a lot of check flights when I was on reserve. I recalled the process. My Captain hasn't done one in 10 years.

Took a bit to get through the paperwork and fire up the plane.

The crew that brought the plane in wrote it up stating the plane yawed abruptly when the gear was lowered.

Dispatch filed us a round robin flight up to FL320. We discussed it and felt a few laps around the pattern would be best as it was just a landing gear issue.

I took the leg.

Mechanic was on board just in case.

With an empty airplane we hit V1 and VR within 2000 feet. Pattern altitude 1500 AGL.

We agreed we'd do one low pass and then a full stop.

It was fun doing pattern work again. The first time I lowered the gear , I asked for it in a turn. Didn't feel anything. Low pass.  Went around.

The next time I asked for the gear to be lowered on downwind. There was a 40 knot crosswind at 1500 AGL. The plane indeed yawed. We raised the gear and it yawed again. Hmmm.

Cycled again. Still yawed.

Turned base. yaw.

We assumed it was yawing due to the left gear coming down slightly faster than the right. When the gear caught the 40 knot crosss wind it yawed the plane a bit.

I turned final. Cycled again and it slightly yawed in the opposite direction.

Verdict...normal given the very high winds aloft.

Normal landing.

Paperwork and we boarded up for one leg to base.

Arrived an hour late.

Happy to be home. I still get paid for my flights.



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I could have held it...but

Bids are out for December. I'm working on Christmas day, but I didn't have to.

I put a higher priority on having 3 day trips working Sunday thru Tuesday than being off Christmas day. If I had stuck with 4 day trips I could have easily been off Christmas day as pilots junior to me were given those lines.

I'm content with it. I think I've only been away from home one Christmas which happened my first year on the job.

Back then I was sent out of base for my initial training on the aircraft. I had an overnight in Indianapolis, Indiana. Yup very boring as everything was closed, it was snowy and...well I was away from home.

Since then I've always been at home. I think the 2nd Christmas at my airline I was on reserve on Christmas day but never used. The 3rd Christmas I was off as I took two months off to hang out with my daughter (FMLA).

Last year I held Christmas off no problem.

As is I think I can trade my trips around to still have Christmas off. If not I finish my trip on Christmas day so we can just have a late Christmas.

My line is only worth 72 hours so it's a very low value line. I will likely trade the trips anyway to get a few more hours.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Under Pressure

On day three of my last four day I was a bit stuffy. Assumed it was allergies.

Pilots can't take just anything while on the job. I've learned (through research Here's one site ) what I can take and still fly. The easy way to rule items out are if they include terms like, "May cause Drowsiness, Don't operate heavy machinery, Don't take with alcohol, Don't take while flying an airplane."  I've never actually seen that last one....but I bet it's out there.

I took an over the counter decongestant from a local Wal-Mart. Felt better. Used a little Afrin nose spray as well.

The next morning I thought I was fine.

Captains leg.

Climbing up to altitude I felt pretty good. No congestion or stuffiness.

Descending though....ugh.

Pressure. I watched the cabin rate monitor descend. I was happy when it reached it's final altitude.

I wiggled my jaw and yawn a bunch to clear my ears. A little better.

Once at the gate though I banged out sick.

That was Saturday.

Sunday I felt no better.

Last night I was sneezing and a little congested.

Supposed to do a very easy 2 day trip today.

Banged out sick again.

Off till next Sunday.

It is much easier being "sick" in base versus commuting. I would hate to be congested and try to commute one requires special permission to non-rev after calling in sick as my company assumes it you're to sick to work then you;re to sick to nonrev.



Friday, November 16, 2012

You're not from around here eh?

Four day trip. Day one was a killer.

Five legs and 7 hours 55 minutes of flying in a 12 hour duty day.

I had a 8:40AM report time. This meant I could eat breakfast with my daughter then take her to daycare.

Even after two years, it's not easy to drop her off some days.

My daughter is a genius...yeah I know every parent thinks that....but my daughter is pretty smart. She's picked up on the routes to various places like Target, the park, daycare and sometimes the airport. She hasn't learned plane models yet....but can identify an airplane, point and shout "airplane!".

She also knows when I have on my uniform I'm leaving for a few days.

She was quiet for most of the trip. As I picked her up she clung to me a little tighter. Once I put her down and kissed her cheek she let loose. "Daddyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, Daddyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!" crying and wailing. It still isn't easy walking away.

My Captain is new to my base. For the last 11 years he has been based elsewhere and rarely flew through here. I've been based here for almost my entire 5 I know the lay of the land.

Since this is a hub for us ATC has coded terminology to reduce frequency congestion. Instead of saying " taxi to runway 26 via Golf, Victor 2, Sierra and Charlie" they use a coded phrase such as "Runway 26 via the green route". There are pages in our books stating what the "Green Route" is. I know all the routes by heart.

My Captain does not. No biggie. I clued him in.

Being "from here" also came into play for arriving back into base as to which runway to expect. I generally can guess.

I took the first leg out. Quick 25 minute (air time) flight. Once parked things got weird. We swapped flight attendants. In my 5 years I've never swapped flight attendants at an out station. Most of the time the cabin crew and cockpit crew have the same schedules.  We fly the same flights and have the same overnights. This helps keep things simple...if one of us is late...we are all late. Not this week.

Captain took the leg back into base. We had another flight attendant swap.

Lunch time. I grabbed a burger and headed back to the cockpit.

Just as I took a bite,  a man standing in the doorway said, "Hey don't eat that, I brought the entire crew BBQ."

I turned around and saw a guy in plain clothes, but with a company ID, standing there.

"Yeah right." I said and proceeded to take a bite.

"No seriously, I'm a must ride new dispatcher. I'll be right back with the food." He said and disappeared.

Sure enough a minute later he handed me a huge brown paper bag full of BBQ. I mean full as in BBQ beef sandwich, fries, pinto beans, banana pudding, pickles, onions and BBQ sauce. All for me. He had a bag for each of us!

He was new at my airline, also a career changer. Part of his training is he must have 4 hours in the jump seat to see how line operations work. He was a commercial pilot, but never worked for an airline, he flies for fun. After a few years as an architect he had enough....and got his dispatcher license.

Now our next turn was blocked for exactly 4 hours. We had a 70 knot tailwind for the return flight which was already overblocked by 20 minutes. Hmmm.

Normal flight out. Once at cruise I dug into my meal. Stuffed.

We blocked in 4 minutes late meaning we had 4 minutes to spare on the way back..

My leg. Slow taxi. Waited for a few general aviation planes which normally annoys us.....but today it helped pad the time. Normal takeoff. Once at cruise the FMS showed us arriving 25 minutes early. I pulled the power back to long range cruise. Still showing 10 minutes early.

I planned on landing on the south side of the airport. We park on the north side which is at least a 10 minute taxi. It would be close.

Don't ya know it we were given a north side runway. I planned on landing long to eat up a few minutes. It worked. We blocked in 3 minutes early which gave him 4 hours and 1 minute in the jump seat . Perfect.

Another cabin crew swap. This was our 4th flight attendant in 4 legs.

Long flight to the overnight. Getting a little worn. Flew fast. Arrived on time thanks to headwinds. Eighteen hour overnight. The cabin crew was once again leaving on a different flight than us....they only had a 10 hour overnight.

Day 2 was pretty easy. Just two legs. We of course swapped flight attendants again in base.

On the way to the overnight the frequency was very congested with flights asking about ride reports and weather. We were 39 miles from the airport at FL250. I had been waiting to request a lower altitude since we were 60 miles out.

"Cleared to FL240" responded the controller.

"Tell the Cabin to prepare for landing." stated my Captain. I made the PA.

Quickly given a frequency change. The next guy cleared us to 13,000 feet. Time to strap in as at this point we were just 20 miles away at FL210.,

Captains leg. Out went the first setting of flaps, the speed brakes and then the landing gear. We descended at almost 5000 feet a minute until reaching 8,000 feet. It wasn't a straight down descent but rather a shallow banking descent. With a turning descent the g-forces are lower. Passengers likely had no idea we were descending so rapidly.

Airport still in sight. Cleared for a visual and then cleared to land. Here's where it got kinda comical.

A female voice cleared us to land.

Not a very busy airport.

We stopped on the runway and prepared to do a 180 as there were several taxiways closed.

"Tower is a 180 ok here so we can taxi back to Delta?" I asked.

No answer.

I asked again....3 more times.....with pauses in between. No answer.

My Captain chimed in to make sure it wasn't my radio.

A male voice....very out of breath, responded, "180 approved taxi to the ramp via Delta."

The Captain and I both chuckled.....things that make you go hmmmmmm?

Nine hour overnight.

Day 3 was also two legs. Both mine.

During the first landing things were normal till about 50 feet. Winds were reported calm. On my MFD they showed to be a 9 knot direct crosswind FROM the left.

Well between 100 feet and 50 feet....somewhere in there....they became a 6 knot tailwind.

The right wing dropped quickly around 50 feet. The nose had been pointed to the left, into the wind, while the plane tracked down the center of the runway.

Now to plane was flying to the left since the wind was gone.

I countered the right wing dropping while easing the plane back to the right and onto center line. A quick goose of the power and all was right with the world. Even greased it on.

Surprisingly we KEPT the cabin crew. Quick turn.

Quick flight to the overnight. Landing runway 32....but runway 14 was a straight in. Requested and approved for runway 14. Just a 6 knot quartering tailwind. Former military the runway is ridiculously long for a regional jet.

Once below 200 I shallowed up the approach. Made a very flat landing. Done.

Now a 19 hour overnight. Tomorrow is just three legs. Then off for one....and come back Monday for a day trip.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Germs from the cabin

Exhausted. The last trip really wore me out. Partially due to flying 8 hours in one day and partially because I got sick on the trip.

I was supposed to fly the same sequence two times in a row. I traded the next one...and I am glad I did.

Days one and two were okay. Day three though was rough.

Started in cold and breezy Fargo, ND. One quick hop to base and we had an hour sit. During the taxi in I saw a 10+ line of aircraft waiting for takeoff. Hmmm.

Plane swap.

The next aircraft had a very recent windshield repair on both sides of the cockpit. This meant there was speed tape surrounding the edges of the windshield.

Speed tape looks like duct tape...but is many times more adhesive.

It did look odd during my pre-flight seeing all the speed tape around the windshield.

My leg. Cold and windy. I told my cabin crew that it might be a while before we takeoff due to the long line I saw on taxi in.

Wouldn't you know line. Caught the cabin a little off guard when I called back to tell them to prepare for takeoff.

Speaking of my cabin crew....they got me sick. On day one the lead flight attendant was sneezing, but stated it was allergies. Well she handled the galley and thus handled everything passed up to the cockpit (water, soft drinks, coffee...etc).

By day 3 I was starting to sneeze. I have allergies as well. Primarily to dogs (my wife has 2) dust, and pollen. I don't encounter much of my main allergans on the road so I don't always take my allergy medicine during trips.

Anyways low clouds and breezy takeoff on leg 2. During the climb out I heard a large "whack" on my right side. I looked over to see a stream of speed tape that had come off and was stuck on the side window.

"Nice," I said and pointed it out to my Captain. We both looked at the engine instruments. Both were still indicating normal so if any tape was ingested it didn't affect anything. Pressurization systems also indicated normal readings.

The tape was mostly to protect the liquid adhesive used to secure the windshield. The tape wasn't holding the glass in place.

Normal flight. Another bit of the tape flew off...again no issues.

On time arrival.

The plane was supposed to go right back out, but the tape needed to be repaired. The next crew wasn't upset about the delay as they might get out of their next turn.

We had another hour sit.

When we blocked out the plane we brought in was still being repaired. Due to lack of staffing that crew still had to do their turn...just 90 minutes delayed.

Long flight down to Florida.

Thankfully no delays. There was a storm just off Florida that caused moderate chop/turbulence during the flight.

While in cruise I attempted to listen to AM radio via our ADF radio for election updates. AM radio signals travel much further than FM. We would have a locked on signal only to have it fade as we were traveling 500+ MPH.

Also while in cruise I studied the airport diagram for the next airport. I had never been there before and it was a fairly large airport.

I studied the ramp area and copied down the frequencies I needed.

Normal landing. There is always a little stress when landing at an major International Airport for the first time. Add in night time....more stressful.

Clearing the runway we were headed straight toward a 747. Thankfully it was going to turn before taxiing over us. I was busy cleaning up the plane while contacting tower, ground then ramp.

The ramp area was very busy. Parked and done. Another plane swap and 80 minute sit. Getting tired...and a little more sneezy. By this point we had already flown 5 hours 40 minutes.

My leg out. A little easier time taxiing out as it was getting late and thus not very much traffic.

Same turbulence.

Once at cruise I really started to feel the wearing of a long day and possibly getting sick. I ordered up a coffee and Diet Coke from the cabin to help me perk up. Started to have body aches.

Being so late there wasn't much air or radio traffic. Long periods of darkness and hearing nothing. Caffeine helped keep me focused.

We were over fueled by 700 pounds. I took full advantage of the extra fuel to fly a little faster. Glad I did.

VFR at the out station. The runway had been retrofitted with the new LED runway lights. They are brighter than incandescent. They also look odd....kind of distracting.

Tired. Bordering on fatigued.

Decided to let the autopilot fly it down to 200 feet and then I took over. Firm landing. Happy to be done. We had flown 8 hours 5 minutes.

By the time we got to the van we were all worn out.

I walked into my hotel room and was in bed quickly.

Eleven hour thirty minute overnight.

Thankfully day 4 as just one leg into base.

We were all dragging getting back into the hotel van.

Easy leg.

My captain flew faster than planned. Arrived 35 minutes early. So early in fact that I walked in my front door at our scheduled arrival time!

I felt worse after getting home. Surely sick. Germs from the cabin. At least I am off for a week.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A trip through Chicago O'Hare

In the post that follows I mention Chicago O'hares airport diagram, Bullz Arrival and O'hare departure . Here's a link to all the FAA charts on 


I loathe O'hare. Seriously. Lots of reasons why...I'd type forever to list them all. I will just stick to my top 3.

Reasons why I loathe O'hare airport:

1. At every other airport except O'hare when you clear the runway you WAIT for instructions. At O'hare you keep moving until you hear otherwise, just don't cross a runway

2. When leaving O'hare you first must call "Metering". You then wait as the Outbound ground controller gives you taxi instructions. Sounds easy right? Well on most days the ground guy is talking non-stop. You have to be at the ready. If you missed can't "ask for a read back" as he has moved on to the next guy. You simply wait until he notices you aren't moving and calls you again.

3. It's an odd, and a little unsettling, feeling to takeoff and land as aircraft takeoff and land TOWARD you. More on that in a second.

My trip started with one leg from base (12:20PM departure) to an outstation where my crew had a 2 1/2 hour sit. In a hub we have crew rooms. At out stations we have food courts.

We all hung out in the food court. As luck would have it another crew from a different regional was also enjoying their 3 hour "airport appreciation" time.

We all grew a little tired sitting around. Add in the time change. The next two legs were uneventful.

Then it was off to O'Hare.

Captains leg. It was VFR at O'hare which helps reduce the crazieness. Filed via the Bullz Three RNAV Arrival from Mason City. Chicago was landing to the east on runways 9R,10 and 4R. They were departing 32L, 4L, and 9R.

We were told to expect runway 10.

Approach turned us left and right while descending. Lined up for runway 10 outside of CARLE and told to contact tower at BUGSE.

As we reached the 7.3 DME fix, also known as BUGSE,  I called tower, "Cleared to land runway 10, plan to exit Mike 3." tower responded.

My Captain was flying. I looked over at my airport diagram and told him Mike 3 was the first highspeed exit to the left and it was right after passing the end of runway 32.

Nice landing. Rolled out on M3.

Now things get busy. I have to call our operations to verify the gate is open on our radio #2. The Captain has to monitor radio #1 and prepare to go eastbound on Mike if the gate wasn't open.  While doing all of this I am running my after landing flow.

Gate was open. I then heard ground call us and ask if our gate was open.

I replied that it was open and was told , "Mike, Foxtrot, Alpha to the gate."

I was still running my flows when I switched to the ramp controller on radio #2.

As my Captain turned left on Alpha I called the ramp,

"2831 approaching top of the alley"

Ramp responded. "East line in, hold at the top"

If you look at the airport diagram for Chicago O'Hare you will see the terminals and each one has a letter. For most of the terminals there are two taxi lines to allow aircraft to taxi in or out without hitting each other.

We were assigned the "east line". When we pulled in there was another aircraft facing us on the east line preparing to leave. The west line had 4 planes deep waiting to leave.

A very tightly coreographed game of chess was involved getting the aircraft in front of us to move over to the west line so we could proceed to the gate.

Done. Blocked in on time.

Short break and then it was time to leave.

Assigned the O'hare Six Departure to Petty. Still using runways 4L, 9R and 32 for departure.

After I called Metering I listened in on outbound ground.

I heard our flight number, "Runway 4L via Alpha, Alpha 10, Bravo,  Juliet to Whiskey"

No time for me to respond.

The Captain started taxiing while I began my flow.

Having different frequencies for inbound and outbound ground frees up congestion, but can create issues as we have no idea where the plane infront of us, or getting ready to taxi across our path, is going.

Passing Alpha 8 we were told, "You have a 10 minute delay for a wheels up, taxi 4L via Bravo to Echo hold short 4L at Echo".

Fine....and this time I could read it back!

Busy taxiways.

Holding short I was just in awe at how congested this place is.

There was an aircraft in position on 4L. Another aircraft just took off from 9R.

As soon as the aircraft on 9R passed through the intersection of 4L the aircraft on 4L was told, "Cleared for takeoff no delay, aircraft on 1 mile final runway 9R".

As soon as the aircraft on 9R landed another aircraft was put into position on 9R and another on 4L. The process repeated.

Ten minutes was up and it was our turn. It's very odd to be lined up on a runway with another aircraft lined on up on crossing runway. As soon as he crossed our intersection it was our turn. Away we went.


The overnight airport was reporting 4000 foot ceilings and 4 miles visibility. Using ILS 5.

I briefed the approach and stated I'd likely be visual for most of it.

Winds were 45 knots at 3000 feet. The approach controller must not have been aware as we were on a heading of 300, then given a turn to 360 to join the localizer and cleared for the approach. I turned the heading bug and armed the approach at the same time. We blew right through the localizer due to 45 knot tailwind.

The approach controller made it seem like we screwed up. My Captain advised of the late turn he gave and the current winds. No response. Whatever.

On glideslope and localizer. Passing through 3000 feet nothing but clouds and rain. Same through 2000 feet.

"Shouldn't you see the runway or ground by now?" I asked as my eyes were scanning the instruments while his were outside.

"Yeah you would think huh? Nothing yet."

We did a second crosscheck of our instruments. We had the right localizer frequency, it was tuned to the correct course and the morse code was correct.

Clearing 500 I was preparing to go around.

Clearing 300 feet "runway in sight 10 o'clock" said my Captain.

"Got it, turn on my wiper to high." I requested.

Very windy and rainy. No nonsense landing, I just put it down.

Clearing the runway I advised tower that we broke out at 300 instead of 4000.  They thanked me for my PIREP. Bleh.

We were in the hotel van at 11:30PM. Hotel by 11:55PM. Long day...especially with the time change.

I woke up at 6AM as I couldn't sleep anymore as my body thought it was 7AM. Yep....awake for 18 hours.

Glad to be done with O'hare.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Yellow lights and the FAA

I had more time in hotels than I did in the cockpit on my last trip.

On day 3 it was just two legs.

Now this was my day to fly....but since day 2 was just dead heads I assumed my Captain would take over. Nope.

When I got back from  my preflight the flight director was pointed toward me. I switched it back, thinking it was an oversight. Nope he said, "your day to fly, I got to sleep in the back on my day". Fine.

Before the first flight in a "new (to me)" aircraft I am required to review the maintanence logbook. I'm required to look at the last 4 days at a minimum. This is to get me acquainted with current MELs, trending issues and to make sure all open issues are addressed.

On day 3 the logbook was really "clean" meaning no write ups in the last 4 days that were mechanically related. Good.

Normal takeoff.

On the initial climb out around 1000 feet my beautiful view of the countryside was interrupted by a flashing yellow Master Caution light and a "ding!"

The right side pack (a "pack" is an industry term for the Air Cycle Machine....the unit that provides conditioned air (hot or cold) to the interior of the plane and helps with pressurization) was reporting to be overloaded.

We are allowed to fix the obvious without FIRST referring to a checklist. I was still hand flying so my Captain simply reset the pack. The right side pack primarily provides conditioned air to the cabin.

After it reset all was fine....for about 20 seconds...then another Master Caution and ding. Same issue.

He cancelled the caution and whipped out the checklist.

The checklist stated to turn off the pack for 3 minutes and set the temperature knob to the 12 o'clock position. After 3 minutes turn the pack back on and see what happens. If the pack went offline again then it can't be reset again.

Well after 3 minutes he reset it....and it went off line again. Crap.

With only one pack we can't climb to our maximum altitude per the aircraft operating manual. This meant flying at at lower altitude...and thus a higher fuel burn.

Luck was on our side in that the dispatcher filed us for a much lower altitude anyway due to turbulence at the higher flight levels.

The checklist stated we would have to fly at FL240. We were planned at FL280.

The dispatcher reran the fuel numbers and we were fine on fuel. We'd be landing with the absolute bare minimum on board, but we were legal. A little more luck on our side was that the airport was in a easterly flow and we were approaching from the we would go straight in.

We let the cabin crew know the temperature might be a little off and to let us know if it was too warm or cold. The left pack primarily cools the cockpit. There is a tube that connects the left and right sides. With one pack air from our pack...and our temperature setting, would be sent through the tube to cool the cabin. No complaints thankfully.

Normal landing although we did get another Master Caution about low fuel level during the taxi in. Yeah we had that little fuel on board.

We assumed we would get assigned a different aircraft for our next flight due to the altitude restrictions. Nope..same aircraft.

My leg again.

The out station has a lot of Military and Coast Guard traffic. We were slipped into the pattern behind a Coast Guard Casa HC-144A. I only know this because My Captain is a former Army Helicopter pilot and thus knows just about every military bird in the sky.

Easy approach and done.

Long overnight. I played a lot of ATCSimulator 2.

Normally flight crews schedule their own van times for the morning. Sometimes hotels have preset times that we can pick from.

This morning the flight left at 6:25AM. For the last 4 weeks we had a 5:30AM van time arriving at the airport at 5:50AM.

Apparently some of my coworkers have been taking 5:40 vans and later arriving at the plane at 6:10AM....causing a delay. In the eyes of the FAA one minute late is the same as 10 minutes late for a departure. For an arrival we can be 14 minutes late and still be "on time". Funny math....Enron had funny math too.

Because of my coworkers being late my airline has imposed a 5:20AM van time. Fine.

Arrived at the GATE at 5:50AM as we breezed thru security. No agents! Very annoying to be forced to be at the airport early and have no way to access the jetbridge and thus the aircraft.

The agent arrived at 5:55AM.....bleh.

After my preflight my Captain informed me two FAA inspectors would be riding along.

"That fine I have all my certificates and my manuals are up to date." I responded.

Some guys get worked up about the FAA. Mostly the guys that don't fly by the book, do their updates on time or both. I always fly like I have the FAA in my jump seat anyway. Nothing changes for me.

During the inspection of the cabin a flight attendant found a tray table laying on a passenger seat. The tray was broken.

This upset my Captain and myself. If it was on the seat that meant the previous crew (who brought the plane in last night) likely knew about it....and left it out so we would find it. The proper thing to do was to write it up and MEL it. It sucks having to write up a MEL before heading to the hotel....but it's part of the job. They dropped the ball.

We found out about the table a moment before the inspectors walked on board. Nice timing.

I handed over my medical and pilot certificate to one inspector while the other went to inspect the outside of the plane. He then inspected the inside and the other copied down my Captains information.

My Captain and I then both worked to fill out the proper paperwork for the MEL of the tray table. We finished it all at 6:15 AM. Then it happened.

"Captain the overhead bin at row 5 won't close." was heard from the cabin.

My Captain was still working on his morning systems testing.

"Do you mind going to look at it?" He asked.

"No problem." I responded  and went back to look.

Sure enough it wouldn't close. I pushed and pulled and pressed. Nothing. I was about to give up when it finally latched.

Many passengers were watching me.

"Glad I had my Wheaties this morning." I said as I walked back to the cabin. A few chuckled.

We finished up the checklist when one of the inspectors let us know he would be riding up front with us.

My Captain briefed the inspector on our emergency equipment while I got the clearance. After all was said and done we blocked out 8 minutes late.

Normal flight. The inspector was fairly quiet. Arrived 10 minutes early.

I was done. Headed home and saw the movie Flight. More on that later. Right now I have some long overdue play time with my daughter.