Thursday, December 27, 2012

Made it home

After realizing I wouldn't make it home, I made my way to the hotel bar and met up with on my of my cabin crew. They were brand new and confused about what was going on scheduling wise and what they needed to do. I gave them a crash course on reserve.

While chatting a UPS crew sat next to us for dinner. I mentioned my  issue getting home. They offered a ride to Louisville and then I could connect there for a flight home. I thanked them and would have used that option if the plane for the next morning had not made it in.

I went to bed early.

Around 11PM my phone rang. It was my wife, the fire alarm at the house was going off. Me being a geek I have the entire house wired up with security cameras. I VPN'd into my house took a look. No fire or smoke visible.

Fire Department came. Apparently we have a faulty smoke detector. They are all wired together so when one goes off, they all go off.

By the time they got there the alarm stopped. After looking around they left.

Two hours later my wife called again. Alarm going off. I searched online for a way to disable them. She finally found a ladder and begin taking them down. She knew when she found the faulty one as the other alarms stopped.

After that I didn't sleep well.....nor did she.

I woke up at 5AM. I caught a 5:40 AM van to the airport with two other airline crews.

Departure was set for 7AM.

The plane had a MEL'd APU. The ground power unit wasn't working properly. A mess.

Delayed. Finally able to start an engine. Then it started snowing.

The only way out for me was on the jump seat. I took it.

Then they had a problem with performance. For whatever reason there wasn't enough performance for runway 21, the runway in use. They could use runway 3....if they burned off 200 pounds. Not an issue since we had to deice.

Deiced and away we went. Two plus inches on every taxi way.

Runway braking action was reported poor. Aborting would not be a good idea.

Thankfully the takeoff was smooth.

Two hours later I walked off the plane and outside to my wife who was waiting for me.

Kinda crappy I spent 2 days in a hotel....two days I should have been at home. As is I have just tomorrow off before I head back for a 3 day trip Saturday.

Happy to be home.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Another day in a hotel

My deadhead home cancelled. Another night in a hotel. First time in 5 years I've been in this kind of a jam.

I pack for one extra day...always. Never two.

While sitting in the hotel bar I met a crew from UPS who offered a ride home. It'd be a two leg commute. As is the inbound flight from my airline made it in so I have a ride home in the jump seat tomorrow morning. If not I would have taken them up on the offer. Crappy being stuck....but it is what it is.

However.....I still love my job.

A white Christmas

I celebrated Christmas two days early on Sunday morning as I had to go to work Sunday afternoon. Supposedly easy three day trip.

My normal crew for most of the trip. My Captain did somehow pull off getting Christmas day off so I ended up having a reserve Captain for half the trip.

Days one and two were long....8 hours flying each day but easy. My whole crew felt like we were just living in the plane as we were in the same physical plane for almost 11 hours after all was said and done.

On day 2 my Captain went home and the reserve filled in. Since I had already flown 7 hours and 3 legs that day I offered up the last leg to the reserve Captain. He took it.

Short flight, but really bumpy due to weather. We had not expected the weather as the ride in earlier was fine. My cabin crew attempted a service. I called back and let them know to sit down as it wasn't safe.

Arrived to the hotel at 11PM....tired.

Next day more weather came into base. Delays started mounting.

Very high winds all around. The inbound was 30 minutes we were 30 minutes late. Instead of departing at 12:30PM we left at 12:58PM.

Winds were 280@25G35....taking off runway 33. Gusty. My leg.

Fairly smooth takeoff roll. At around 400 feet we cleared the hills around the airport and got rocked around a bit.

Weather at the base was:

33025G33KT 1/2SM SN FG SCT005 OVC015 00/M02

Landing runway 1L.

Fairly smooth ride down the ILS.

Broke out around 1400 feet. Previous arrival reported that around 500 feet things got "squirrely". Steady snow and gusting winds.

I turned the autopilot off around 900 feet. I don't trust it with windy conditions.

Approach speed was a blazing 148 knots. Sure enough at 500 feet the winds shifted. We got rocked and rolled. Up, down, left and right.

I fought to stay on localizer.

Around 350 feet things settled down. The nose was pointed far to the left and we were slightly left of course.

I corrected.

I left the power up until about 10 feet. I kicked the nose to the right and aileron left. Down.

Visibility was dropping fast. Tower couldn't see us. We couldn't see them.

Amazingly there was an open gate.

The snow fall increased. It took 45 minutes from when we parked to get the door open as there was a problem moving the jet bridge. Finally blocked in at 2:42PM.

Normally on Christmas day my company puts out a big Christmas dinner. Cancelled this year due to weather. Nice.

Last turn for my trip was supposed to leave at 2:30PM. Not going to happen.

Deicing trucks were breaking down. Operations placed a 30 minute gate hold on all departures. Delays started getting worse...and gates filling up as flights were coming in....but none going out. Soon every gate had a plane attached.

More delays. Flights still arriving...with no gate to pull into.

Four o'clock flights had taken off since I arrived.

By five o'clock several flights stuck out away from a gate were reporting they were reaching the 2 hour mark. One more hour and fines start.

Mechanics were called in to taxi planes off the gate.

It wasn't enough. To avoid the fines vans and buses were sent out to planes around the airport. Passengers and crews were off loaded...the planes were literally abandoned.

Six o'clock came. My cabin crew had enough and called in to be taken off the flight.

Around 6:30PM I checked my schedule. I was taken off the flight to the overnight and a new First Officer was assigned. I was then sent an email stating I was junior manned to fly back the next day. Problem was they never had me getting to the overnight.

I called scheduling. They were in meltdown mode. I calmly explained the situation. The agent was a new idea what was going on with my schedule or our contract. Finally fixed.

Junior Manning manning in it's most basic definition is being forced to work when you're supposed to be off.

I always pack an extra days worth of clothing and supplies.

My wife wasn't happy I wasn't coming home, but she understood.

In the month actually...this will end up paying off...literally.

I will get my full 20 hours pay for my 3 day trip.

For the junior manning today (December 26th ) I will get paid time and a half.

Additionally I picked up a 5 hour turn to be flown on this morning (I had planned on being home last night). Since I was pulled from that flight, I still get paid for it.

When the dust settles I will get an extra 9 hours pay....or roughly $400 for working an extra day.

The only problem now is figuring out what time I will get home.

When weather hits like this crews and planes are all out of place. Getting everything back up and running is rough.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I don't want to alarm you, but there is a piece of the plane missing

Crazy easy 3 day trip last week.

I flew with the Captain 5 years ago....I think. He looked familiar.

Weather was nice, easy flying on day one.

It was a 4 day for the rest of the crew. The original First Officer dropped the rest of the trip after the first day.

One leg to the overnight. Very small airport in a town where the main industry is cattle.

Walking off the airplane I immediately smelled manure. It was thick in the air. Nice.

Long overnight. The hotel is nice, but older. They give airline crews 2 free adult beverages plus all guest get free soup and salad bar. Yep free dinner!

The overnight was 15 hours long. Nice.

Day 2 was 4 legs long, 7 hours 20 minutes of flying. Nothing to exciting.

Day 3 started off interesting. During my preflight I noticed a landing gear door was missing. Gone. Hmmm.

When I reached the cockpit I told my Captain, "I don't want to alarm you, but there is a piece of the plane missing."

"Yeah I see that in the log book, I think we're restricted to 250 knots." he replied. The missing piece was noted before it arrived the night before. We have a manual on board that states the restrictions in place when a piece of the plane is missing, called a Configuration Deviation List. I read through the requirements, just gotta fly slow.

Thankfully we had just three legs.

Winter is here, but thankfully we didn't have to deice. The flight schedules are padded for deicing, which adds about 10-15 minutes to a flight. I'm glad we didn't have to deice as we'd be flying much slower than normal due to the missing gear door.

Still finished the day 20 minutes early.

My next trip starts on Sunday.....and finishes Tuesday. Yup I work Christmas day. It was either work Christmas day and get 3 day trips or have it off and get 4 day trips for the month. I picked the 3 day trips. We will just celebrate Christmas Sunday morning before I leave.

Next month I'm back to 4 day trips. I start late on Mondays and finish early on Thursdays.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

High Flight

Not mine....just something I found funny

High Flight

with FAA Supplement (And abject apologies to John Gillespie Magee, Jr.)

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth (1), and danced (2) the skies on laughter silvered wings. Sunward I've climbed (3) and joined the tumbling mirth (4) of sun-split clouds (5) and done a hundred things (6) you have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung (7) high in the sunlit silence (8). Hov'ring there (9) I've chased the shouting wind along (10) and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air (11). Up, up the long delirious burning blue (12), I've topped the wind-swept heights (13) with easy grace, where never lark, or even eagle (14) flew; and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space (15), put out my hand, and touched the face of God (16).

FAA Footnotes:

1. Pilots must insure that all surly bonds have been slipped entirely before aircraft taxi or flight is attempted.
2. During periods of severe sky dancing, crew and passengers must keep seatbelts fastened. Crew should wear shoulder belts as provided.
3. Sunward climbs must not exceed the maximum permitted aircraft ceiling.
4. Passenger aircraft are prohibited from joining the tumbling mirth.
5. Pilots flying through sun-split clouds under VFR conditions must comply with all applicable minimum clearances.
6. Do not perform these hundred things in front of Federal Aviation Administration inspectors.
7. Wheeling, soaring, and swinging will not be attempted except in aircraft rated for such activities and within utility class weight limits.
8. Be advised that sunlit silence will occur only when a major engine malfunction has occurred.
9. "Hov'ring there" should be taken as a highly reliable signal that a flight emergency is imminent.
10. Forecasts of shouting winds are available from the local FSS. Encounters with unexpected shouting winds should be reported by pilots.
11. Pilots flinging eager craft through footless halls of air are reminded that they alone are responsible for maintaining separation from other eager craft.
12. Should any crewmember or passenger experience delirium while in the burning blue, submit an irregularity report upon flight termination.
13. Windswept heights will be topped by a minimum of 1,000 feet to maintain VFR minimum separations.
14. Aircraft engine ingestion of, or impact with, larks or eagles should be reported to the FAA and the appropriate aircraft maintenance facility.
15. Aircraft operating in the high untresspassed sanctity of space must remain in IFR flight regardless of meteorological conditions and visibility.
16. Pilots and passengers are reminded that opening doors or windows in order to touch the face of God may result in loss of cabin pressure.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


My family will be moving soon. My wife and mother in law decided that our current 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 2000 square foot house....isn't enough for my family of 3. Hmmm k.

We are moving a whole 4 miles away to a new community going up. One thing I was concerned about was airplane noise. I live within 15 miles of my base. I know the departure procedures and routes. I made sure the new house wouldn't be under the departure or arrival corridors. Thankfully it's not.

The house is about 3 miles north of a major turning point on several departures and about 5 miles north or arrival corridors. Should be good.

I bet I'm in a very minority of people who study such things before buying a house.

One perk of the new place (a giant 2700 square foot house!) is a I get my own media room. A true man cave. Nice.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Just call me George

Day two was cold. Really cold.

Long ride to the airport. Small town, no highways....few "nice" hotels.

In bound was late. I sat in the operations room behind the counter.

We are the best airline at this airport....because we are the only airline at the airport. Two flights day to and from.

One of the agents handed me our flight release. I scanned it for fuel and weather information...and totally skipped the MEL section.

Day two was a 2 leg day. Both mine.

I handed the release to my Captain.

"Uh oh, no Autopilot or Yaw Damper." he said.

"Yeah right, Mr Funny guy!" I replied.

"No really look." he said as he handed me the release.

Sure enough both the autopilot system and yaw damper systems were out of service. I would be hand flying it all the way to base.

Without an autopilot we can't enter RVSM airspace (FL290-FL410).

I was not looking forward to hand flying for a 1 hour 40 minute flight, but it was what it was.

Most of the time planes without autopilots are put on super short legs (under 40 minutes), today was an anomaly.

My Captain offered to help out if I needed a break.

The lack of an autopilot had us both off a bit during the climb out, we got through it.

I trimmed the plane out at FL280 and there we were.

Even perfectly trimmed out I had to apply small corrections up and down.

I propped my right leg up to support my wrist a bit.

About an hour into the flight I took a minute or two break for water and handed the plane over to my Captain.

Without an autopilot I couldn't do much beyond stare at my PFD. A moment of distraction could mean traveling up or down a few hundred feet.

Wrist was getting tired. Decent landing at base. Plane swap.

The next plane had no MELs.

I called for the autopilot at minimum engagement height.

Very short 8 hour 45 minute overnight.

De-iced in the morning. With light snow we had 23 minutes to get off the ground with only being deiced and no anti-ice fluid applied.

During rotation the snow got much heavier. If we had been delayed a few minutes more we would have had to been deiced again.

One leg into base today and done.

I picked up a 4 1/2 hour turn tomorrow on overtime.

More later.

Lightening Crashes...but not my plane

Interesting day one of a three day trip. Five legs.

Captain took the first. Gusty (20+ knots) crosswinds were standard fare for the day. Wicked cold front moving across the county.

First approach winds were 220@20G35. Longest runway is runway 15. Runway 23 was into the wind, but just 5800 feet long. We chose to land into the wind.

Gusty, bumpy approach....done.

My turn. We can land on Runway 15, but my company ops specs state we can't take off from Runway 15. Gusty departure for me.

Taking off in a jet with a crosswind is the same as taking off in a Cessna with a crosswind.

My Captain turned the plane onto the runway and stated "your aircraft."

I replied, "My aircraft," and turned the yoke into the wind.

VR was set for 135 knots. The faster we accelerated the less aileron deflection I needed. At VR I rotated the nose into the air. Around 25 feet, which is about the height of a row of trees next to the airport, the wind intensified a bit. A little rock and roll.

The front was more developed. A wall of weather with holes. We'd have to go 400 miles north to go around, or find a hole and go through the roughly 10 mile thick weather.

Autopilot on, I had one hand on the thrust levers and one hand on the yoke.

RADAR showed a good sized hole. A few bumps....and then it happened. Lightening.

"That was close," I said, "But everything still looks normal."

"I think we got hit, did you hear that pop?" replied my Captain.

I wear a Bose ANR headset. It blocks out some small sounds....and a lot of wind noise. I didn't hear the pop.

Winds at the hub were 320@18G25. Landed runway 31. Winds at 2000 feet were over 45 knots. With an approach speed of 138 knots....the ground speed was hovering around 100 knots. Cessna slow.

Plopped it onto the runway.

The last person to get off the plane was a very southern gentleman, "Y'all know we got hit by lightening right? The wing was smoking for a bit." he said. We said we thought we got hit and would go investigate. "Now I'm going out of this same gate in about an hour, it's going to be a different plane right?" he asked. We assured him it would be.

On my post flight I saw the wing tip. No doubt it was the exit point. I looked all over the nose for the entry point, but couldn't find it.

Mechanics called. We had a 2 hour sit.

Next three legs were just full of bumps and crosswinds. Overnight winds were the worst. Weather was clear skies, winds 330@30G35, temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit!! Seven! SEVEN!

This morning the temp outside is 1......1....ONE.

I don't do cold. I need to start bidding more southerly.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Three day trip....just right

I enjoyed my last 3 day trip. My Captain and I got along just fine and I found a flight attendant is also a pilot...a commercial instrument pilot actually.

It was a 5-4-3 trip. Five legs day one, four on day two and three on day three. The trip ended at 10PM. I haven't had a trip end that years.

On day one, during one of the longer legs, my Captain had to use the lav. Policy is for another crew member (normally a flight attendant) to come up to the flight deck and sit in the jump seat. This is in cae the remaining pilot become incapacitated, the other pilot can still access the flight deck.

I noticed the flight attendant really scanning the screens....more so than just looking. Sure enough she is a commercial pilot with her instrument rating. She had recently sold her own plane and was getting ready to get her dispatcher license. After at least 10 years as a flight attendant she has had enough. Dispatchers at my airline top out in the low six figure range.

I've only had a small handful of flight attendants who were pilots in the last few years, very few commercially rated.

The trip was fairly uneventful.

On day two, while hanging out in the crew room I left behind my Nexus 7 tablet. I just finished chatting with friend who is a junior Captain. I made it all the way to my gate when I got a text asking if I left a tablet behind. Doh! On the way back to the plane I realized the snap on my ID holder was open...and my Crew ID was missing...with just 15 minutes to departure.

I figured it likely fell off in the cockpit as I got up. Walking down the jet bridge another Captain had my ID in his hand, a ramper found it. I'm getting old and forgetful eh?

On day three the day started with what I thought was an 11:30AM van. The hotel was in a downtown metro area which means no free breakfast and any food around was expensive.

I found a coffee house and had a decent breakfast. On the way back to the hotel I pondered getting an 11AM van and getting lunch at the airport. The flight to the hub was 3 hours long.

I should have gone early.

When I went down for the 11AM van...I was the only one there. The van driver stated the rest of the crew took an 11AM van. They tried to call me but I was out. A note on my door would have been nice.

Rushed to the airport and through security. I got to the plane at 11:50AM and we blocked out at 12;05PM...a few minutes early.

Long flight. Thankfully I always carry snacks.

Two hour sit. The last turn STARTED at 5PM. None of us were in the mood to fly. Four hours later we were back in base. Tailwinds and light loads helped us arrive 30 minutes early.

One perk of 3 day trips is I have 4 days off between trips instead of 3 days. More time with the kiddo.