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.

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