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.


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