Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Escape from the outstation

Finally home.....on day 5 of a 4 day trip.

Day 4 was supposed to start with a 6:30AM departure and finish around 1:30PM.

In the previous post I mentioned the outstation airport had no ILS working as the only runway with an ILS was under construction. The only instrument approaches were VOR/DME, GPS and MLS to the remaining runway.

The mins for LNAV GPS were 485 AGL. The mins for the VOR/DME were 385 AGL.

The clouds had been low for days. They were so low that two inbound flights for my airline diverted thus I had no plane to fly at 6:30AM. New departure time was 10:30AM.

Fine with my crew, we ate a great breakfast at the hotel and relaxed.

Once at the airport the waiting game started. The clouds were bouncing between 200 and 400 feet in heavy rain.

Passengers were very frustrated.

A few asked us why planes couldn't land. My Captain and I explained the situation. It helped when they could hear and see flights going missed approach (we had a clear view of the runway from the terminal).

One passenger asked if we could see the aircraft as it climbed out (on missed approach) why couldn't the pilot see the runway. We again tried to explain how quickly things happen and the safety of flight requirements.

Noon came. The plane I was to fly was still on the ground 200 miles away. Only one or two flights had landed...all from one regional I find "sketchy". Maybe they really did meet all the requirements....but every plane before and after (for over an hour) this particular regional arrived...went missed approach.

Around 2PM I got hungry. Lunch. The airport gives no discounts to pilots. I enjoyed a $8 pizza....that should have been maybe $4.

Clouds lifted around 2:30PM to 500 overcast. Flights were making it in again.

Another flight from my airline (call it flight 3000) was to arrive at 4PM. That flight was to leave as flight 3001. Another flight (call it flight 4000) was still sitting on the ground...that was my aircraft I was to fly out on flight 4001.

The problem was the crew of flight 3000 was headed to the hotel. Flight 3001 was to be flown by the crew from flight 4000.

This didn't dawn to my crew until flight 3000 was in range. My Captain quickly called operations and explained how it made more sense for us to fly the aircraft coming is as flight 3000 versus waiting for flight 4000. Thankfully they understood, but we would keep our same flight number (4001).

This upset passengers as they were told flight 3001 was leaving BEFORE flight 4001. Now the opposite was true.

I packed up all my stuff and then it happened. A gate agent said the Captain of flight 3000 advised the plane was down for a mechanical. Ugh.

Hoping it would be quick, I walked down to the flight deck.

The First Officer was there. He stated "Upon touchdown I went into reverse and the number one engine shutdown."

This was likely a FADEC issue. Still it had to be investigated by a mechanic. One of the immediate action items required by flight crews is to engage the fire suppression system. When I say engage...I mean arm,but  not fire the bottles.

Having the system engaged cuts off fuel, bleed air and hydraulics. We don't know why the engine shutdown so we cut off everything going to it as a precaution.

The Captain of flight 3000 advised my Captain of the situation and that crew left. The passengers were getting very upset.

Another flight from my airline was inbound. Not flight 4000, just another flight. There is only one gate thus they needed the broken plane moved.

My Captain and I were asked to help move the plane. More or less ride the brakes while they pushed us to a remote pad.

When I entered the flight deck I noticed that one of the fire suppression bottles appears to have been discharged. Likely done by accident as the crew left the flight deck. Not good.

I pointed this out to my Captain. We then ran some checklist and were pushed to a remote pad. If the bottle had been discharged it would be no easy fix.

Company mechanics were called to drive in from a nearby base. We were sent to the hotel with plans to ferry the plane to base at 7AM the next day.

Flight 4000 never made it in. They shot an approach, went missed and flew 3 hours back to base. Bad day for those passengers.

I spent another night in the Hampton Inn. I checked the status of the damaged plane before I went to bed. The report stated mechanics were on the way and it would be ready for a ferry flight at 7AM.

Around 2AM I woke up....same 7AM estimated return to service time. Back to bed.

At 5AM I woke up and checked. There was no longer a return to service time. Instead it stated the bottle had been blown.

I quickly called crew scheduling while packing my things.

There was a 6:30AM departure that had a few open seats. Every other flight that day on my airline was full. If I didn't make the 6:30AM flight I could end up on a 6 day trip!

The scheduler verified the plane would be down for a while and then placed my crew as  deadheads on the 6:30AM flight. This was 5:28AM.

Vans at the hotel run every 30 minutes.

I gathered my last few things and hurried to the elevator. I turned the corner to the lobby at 5:32AM. The crew was just walking out. So happy they were running late.

I briefly advised the front desk that I was leaving early, and would they tell my Captain that I left early and that we both are deadheading. We originally had a 6AM van.

The other crew was surprised to see me.

Once at the airport I called the hotel and asked for my Captains room. He was in the lobby. I explained what was going on and for him to rush to the airport. He understood.

There were 4 of us dead heading. For whatever reason the agent couldn't check us in. She tried and tried. Nothing but errors. We were all frustrated.

As 6:30 AM was quickly approaching, we asked for the Captain to be advised of the check in issue. He agreed to take the delay and wait for us.

We were finally able to be checked in at 6:45 AM.

Back in base at 8:45 AM. Off for the rest of the day and Monday before going back to work Tuesday afternoon.

Not much time off. It would be shorter if I commuted.

This is what I get for working on a weekend. Ha!


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