Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It's ok, we will go around

It's currently morning of day 2 of my 4 day trip. I got in to the hotel at midnight....woke up at 6:30AM today on my own. It's a time that programmed into me as that's what time my daughter has woken up (on her own as well) for...well her whole life. Van time is 1:30PM.

I went down to the lobby and made another perfect Belgian waffle. If I ever get furloughed I will apply at a hotel to be their Belgian waffle maker. I've perfected the pouring of the batter, the quick snap of the griddle and the delicate extraction of the waffle to make a tasty and perfect breakfast. Almost every hotel I stay at has a waffle maker in the breakfast area.

I've flown this same trip 3 times this month. This is the 4th. I've stayed in the same hotel rooms (rooms 310. 303 and 159) each week. Kinda creepy staying in the exact same hotel rooms....but also comforting.

My Captain and I switch who starts the trip each week. This week was my week. Full flight on the first leg. Gusty day. Arriving at the out station, winds were 340@14G21.

The longest runway at 8200 feet is runway 27. Runway 33 is 6100 feet long. I pondered using runway 33 as it's right into the wind......but I liked the extra distance offered by runway 27. Crosswind landing it was.

I'm a firm believer in the worse the conditions the better the landing. Reason being is when it's clear and calm I relax more and end up jamming it on.

When there is wind, low visibility or both....I think more....and work harder.

Sure enough it was like butter.

"Well thanks for setting the bar so high for the rest of the trip," said my Captain.

"Eh, I got lucky." I responded.

After clearing the runway my arms, hands and fingers started dancing around the cockpit. The after landing flow is so ingrained I have sometimes completed the flow without thinking about it. Of course I always back up my flow with a checklist.

The next two legs were his. A whole 5 passengers on the second leg. Seems low but it's 4 more passengers than we had a few weeks ago.

Arriving into the terminal area we were given a 90 degree turn for spacing. We went 24 miles off course before being turned back. As payback we were given the runway closest to our gate.

"You're following traffic, one c'lock 6 miles a 757 at 3000 feet." stated the approach controller.

On that clear, nearly full moon night, it was easy to spot.

"Traffic in sight," I responded.

"Follow the 757, cleared visual 33L, speed your discretion." responded the controller.

We were level at 4000 feet and doing about 200 knots. My Captain made a wide turn and lined up to the left of the localizer to mitigate wake turbulence.

"He sure does look like he's flying really slowly." I stated.

"Yeah UPS is normally pretty quick." replied my Captain.

At my home airport UPS parks at the far end of the runway. They normally fly the approach quickly, land and use minimal braking to get to the end of the runway as quickly as possible.

For whatever reason this guy was going really slow.

We were on a 10 mile final doing 170 knots and gaining on the 757. Normally flights into my hub are assigned 180 knots to a five mile final. Not tonight.

I asked tower for the inboard runway hoping to avoid spacing issues between the 757 and us. Denied.

My Captain called for flaps, gear and the before landing checklist.


Flying just 130 knots on a 8 mile final. The 757 was barely 3 miles ahead....maybe 2 and a half.

"This is going to be close." I stated.

"Ah it will be fine. " said my Captain.

The 757 had landed and was taxiing VERY slowly down the runway.

"UPS 824, traffic on a mile final do you have the next left turn?" queried the tower.

No response.

"UPS 824 take the next right high speed, traffic inside of a mile final." stated the tower.

"UPS 824, UPS 824 take the next right exit traffic, inside of a mile final." commanded the tower.

"Go around, heading 340." stated the tower.

Up and around we went.

"You okay with 3000 feet?" I asked the tower.

"Heading 340, maintain 3000." stated the tower.

"UPS 824 do you require any assistance?" asked the tower.

"Tower UPS 824 do you mind if we taxi to the end" asked the 757 pilot.

"UPS 824 I've been trying to call you several times, since you didn't respond I had to send traffic around." stated the tower.

"Sir we didn't hear anything." stated the 757 pilot.

"Well the aircraft behind you heard me, the aircraft taking off next to you heard me and the aircraft in position can hear me." stated tower.

"We didn't hear anything sir." state the 757 pilot.

"Heading 340, 3000 contact departure 126.57" stated tower.

We were buzzing over peoples houses at 3000 feet. We went right next to my house.

Worked back into the pattern we tried it again.

The fuel tanks flashed yellow. We are given the FAA required amount of fuel and a tiny bit extra. The go around cost us that bit extra.

Uneventful landing. Instead of being 20 minutes early, we arrived just 5 minutes early.

Go arounds are cause for paperwork at my airline. I had an hour break so I typed up the incident report.

The flight to the overnight was scheduled for a 10:40 PM departutre. The release called for us to tanker 1600 pounds of extra fuel called ferry fuel. The dispatcher weighs the cost of fuel at the out station vs carrying the extra fuel from the hub. If it's cheaper to tanker and we can land under max weight we will tanker.

I was sitting in my seat reading a story on Autoblog.com when I saw hands waving at me from below. It was a fueler. He motioned me to come down. Due to a possible overweight situation we would be de-fueling us, taking away the 1600 pounds of ferry fuel. Fine.

Quick flight and done.



Thursday, March 21, 2013


Started the day flying a regional jet. Five legs later I came home to this...........


Birthday Cake


Thirty six years ago today I was brought into this world. It's Fascinating to think of the hundreds of people I've encountered and the times we've shared. I'm grateful for my parents who raised me to work hard and laugh , my beautiful wife who pushed me to do what I love, an amazing daughter who is intelligent beyond her years and the people I surround myself with whom I call friends. I've been given so much that it seems greedy to ask for gifts. Great day indeed

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Bridge

I was hired under a "bridge" program. Back in 2006-2007 airlines were hurting for pilots. The minimum flight experience was dropped from the typical 1000-1500 hours to just 500 hours...or fewer. The fine details were that the pilot had to meet certain expectations.

The general consensus is that safety and skill are directly correlated to the number of hours the pilot has flown. There are flaws in this thinking just like most theories.

For example Joe might have 1400 hours of flight time while Chris might have just 600 hours. One might assume Joe is a more experienced pilot than Chris.

However Joe flew almost all of his 1400 hours in Class E airspace in Nebraska flying between his two family farms. Chris has flown all of his time in and under Class B airspace.

Anyways back to bridge programs.

Back in 2007 I was a CFI at ALLATPs. At the time they gave CFIs who instructed for (I think) 250 hours, a free RJ course.

By completing the RJ course I was eligible to be hired by my airline with just 500 hours total time and 100 hours multi-engine time. On my first day at my airline I had 570 hours and 240ish hours of multi-engine time

Fast forward to today. Pilots now need to meet ATP minimums (1500 hours total time plus other requirements) to get hired by an airline.

One might think the bridge programs are a thing of the past. Nope.

Republic Airlines has set up a program where a CFI will be interviewed while teaching students and, if it goes well, will be given a conditional offer of employment. The CFI keeps building hours. Once they meet the ATP requirements they simply show up for training. No further interview required.

American Eagle takes the Republic deal and ups the ante.

American Eagle has "Pipeline Instructor Program". The CFI interviews and then gets hired. Yes HIRED by American Eagle.

The CFI keeps teaching students while getting medical, dental and vision benefits as well as travel privileges on American Airlines and American Eagle.

It will be interesting to watch the airlines think of ways to attract new pilots.

Of course the Captains I fly with are somewhat bitter towards these low requirements. Many worked crap jobs flying boxes, possibly filled with rubber dog poop, around the country to build up the 3000 hours to get hired by a regional airline.

Times they are a changing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

No Pressur....ization!

I'm currently on my couch at home on Day 3....more on why in a bit.

Day one was pretty easy. My Captain is a commuter and had to take a two leg commute to get to work. I offered to let him take the first leg and I would take the last two since he already had a long day.

My flight attendant was interesting. She worked for Delta airlines in the 80s and 90s. She retired, finished raising her kids and enjoyed retirement, but she missed being in the air. Last year she joined my airline. I was in awe at how professional and caring she was, not that most of my flight attendants aren't, but she went above and beyond most.

On the first overnight we got to the hotel just before midnight. Around 12:30 AM I heard a fire alarm going off. It wasn't in my room, but it was close.

I figured there was no commotion....and no fire trucks....so I was safe.

The noise got louder. I looked out the peep hole. No smoke...no one moving. I called the front desk, no answer.

Still no commotion or fire trucks. I just ignored it and went to bed.

The next morning I learned the source. My flight attendant made popcorn in her microwave. She said it started smoking after just a minute, filling her room. The windows don't open so she had to go downstairs and get a fan from the front desk to blow it into the hall. Her entire room reeked of burned popcorn. I could smell it on her clothes. Thankfully she was going home that day.

We hopped into the hotel van at 1:30 PM for a 2:30 PM departure.

The inbound was early. The crew advised us the pressurization system was MEL'd. We would be flying around unpressurized.

Normally the maximum cabin altitude is 8000 feet. This means the air in the cabin is as thin as it would be if you were standing on top of an 8000 foot mountain (8000 above sea level).

The cabin pressuization system will keep the cabin altitude as low as possible for as long as possible. When the need to raise the altitude arises it the system will do so at the lowest rate possible to stay within limits. This allows our bodies to slowly get used to the pressure.

Being unpressurized the cabin altitude would be at or slightly lower than actual aircraft altitude.

Due to various regulations the highest cabin altitude we can fly around passengers without supplying them supplemental oxygen is 10,000 feet.

We would be keeping this plane for the first three legs. They were all SCHEDULED for under an hour.

Since we would be flying lower we would burn more fuel. Extra fuel loaded, we blocked out early. My Captain made a PA about the pressurization system and away we went.

Since we were unpressurized the cabin altitude would rise as quickly as we climbed.

Normally the initial climb rate for the aircraft is 2500-3500 feet per minute. If we did that unpressurized it would be very painful on our ears.

I advised the tower of our situation and they passed the word along to departure. We would be climbing no faster than 1000 feet per minute.

Even at that rate it was not very comfortable.

Normally the flight is flown at 17,000 feet. That day it was 9,000 feet. Very bumpy flight down low at 250 knots.

Approaching the Bravo airspace I advised approach of our situation. They understood and gave us an early descent. Once again my Captain kept the rate under 1000 feet per minute. Blocked in 15 minutes late.

Quick turn.

Blocked out 4 minutes late.

Normal departures out of my base are of the RNAV variety. They almost all involve a climb to 10,000 feet quickly. We couldn't do that comfortably.

We were given a non-RNAV departure to the south as the airport was in a south flow.

During taxi out the ATIS changed, now a north flow. We queried ground to make sure the departure routing was still valid. The chart had provisions for a north bound departure, but it is almost always given for a south flow. They said it was fine.

Checklist and flows down we were told to "line up and wait" (I miss position and hold!). There we sat. For three minutes while flights stacked up next to the runway.

"5733 continue holding in position, we are still working with departure on getting you out of here." stated tower.

After another 2 minutes, "5733, sorry about this, taxi down the runway, left on Bravo, left on Sierra, left on Alpha and hold short runway 33R, departure can't figure a way out yet." said the tower controller.

Nice. Down we went.

There are two other busy airports nearby for general aviation (lots of business jets) and another busy airport with business jets and airline traffic. We were a problem.

Ten minutes later we were told to line up and wait again.

Slow climb as we were vectored around other airports. Very odd flying so low for so long. Finally out of the Bravo airspace.

Blocked in 15 minutes late.

Boarded up quickly. Closed the door and then my Captain advised the passengers of the pressurizaiton issue. Once he was done we got a "ding" from the cabin. A passenger wanted off.

She was a nervous flier. My Captain made another PA stating the aircraft has redundant systems and he wouldn't be flying the plane if it wasn't safe. No joy, she wanted off.

Jet bridge reconnected, she got off.

Blocked out 10 minutes late. My leg. Another slow climb.

I pulled the power back very early to comply with Class C speed restrictions and a slow climb.

Away we went.

Approach controller didn't care for us throwing off the normal RNAV arrivals as we approached the Bravo airspace.

Given an early descent. Arrived 25 minutes late.

Two hour sit.

Quick flight to the overnight. Another MEL'd airplane. Nothing major, but it required a maximum power takeoff instead of the normal reduced power takeoff.

The out station airport has a 200 foot wide runway. I've landed on it several times...but never a greaser. A light airplane + night time + wide runway....always throws me off. It wasn't rough....but it wasn't smooth. I get paid the same either way.

Day 3 was supposed to be four legs to the overnight.

The first two were standard. I was supposed to fly legs 3 and 4 while my Captain had the first two legs.

For leg 3 we blocked out 10 minutes early. After running the engine start checklist we heard, "4599 the airport is closed, a Piper just ran off the side of the runway."

Winds were 120@10. The only open runway was 17L. Apparently a student pilot had some trouble and ran off the side of the runway. No injuries, but the runway was closed.

Tower advised the runway should be open in under 30 minutes.

My Captain felt it was better to  keep the passengers on board.

So we sat. Dispatch was advised of the issue.

Just 18 minutes later the Piper was being towed to the FBO.

Blocked out 20 minutes late. We only had a 35 minute turn to the overnight.

My leg. Climbed shallow to make up time. Twenty minutes out we got the mixed news. We were pulled from our overnight. Operations decided with a possible 30 minute delay and only a 35 minute connect time, it was better to staff the flight with reserves to get the flight out on time.

The rest of my crew commutes.

Our ETA was just 5 minutes late.

Blocked in 6 minutes late. My Captain asked scheduling to leave us on the overnight. To late. The flight was restaffed and boarding a few gates down.

I went home, they all went to a hotel. We all get paid.

Four legs tomorrow.

Happy I live in base.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Flying with my grandparents

Done with my 4 day. I'm looking to trade my trips on weeks 3 and 4. Reason? Just don't care to fly with the Captain on my line. He's pretty much here just for the paycheck. Not much regard for anything or anyone else. The seat belt sign never turned off on any flight...even in glass smooth air. He didn't want to be bothered with it. It's his ship....I have no control over that aspect.

There's more than just that. Not going to get into the nitty gritty but I will just say, he can't handle the physical demands of this job as well as he used to.

I don't wish to spend 8 more days on the flight deck with him. He traded out of next week before our last trip started. Fine by me.

My entire crew this week was over 60. Quite the age gap as I'm 35 years old.

The trip was fairly routine. Lots of short legs.

I did have a revelation of sorts on the employee bus though. I am ready to be a Captain.

I knew I wasn't ready on day one....or even after 3 years.....but I know I'm ready now. The only thing holding me back? Time.

Enough for now....time to go read Curious George and the Ice Cream Surprise to my daughter.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I don't know about March

Only the second day of my 4 day trip....and I'm not happy.

I am scheduled to have the same 20 1/2 hour four day trip all month. The trip is a 3-4-4-5 trip. This means 3 legs day one, 4 legs on days two and three and 5 legs on day 4.  I loathe 5 leg days.

Day one started with a 5PM departure. The first turn was the longest in the trip at 4 hours 5 minutes. The rest of the legs are under an hour and a half.

Years ago when I flew a larger plane I typically had 3-2-2-3 trips worth 24 hours. Easy trips.....long legs....less work. Of course I was displaced out of that plane. I could have stayed on the plane if I chose to commute. I chose to live in base vs commute. Thus I now have trips with more legs and shorter stage lengths, but I can drive home at the end of my day versus stress over making a flight.

I'm pondering trading around the rest of the month.

Day one ended at midnight. Quite late. Don't care for flying so late at night.

My Captain this month is a nice guy. Very senior, quiet and reserved. Not much in common, but it's fine.

My wife and I have discussed me moving on to another airline. Right now I'm content. I'm not ready to chase a paycheck and mess up my quality of life.

One bright side of March....I turn 36 this month.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Gonna break in a new Captain next week

February is done. With the end of the month ends my two months with the same Captain (except for one trip).

It was nice flying with the same guy. As a First Officer I have to play a chameleon with each new Captain. The Captain runs the flight. He sets the tone. Though we have procedures and policies we all must follow, every Captain is different. Some Captains like to have the clearance printed out, folded and placed between two EICAS screens so we can all see it. Others don't care. Some Captains will push back and start the engine during the push and then shutdown the APU. Others will push back, have me start the engine and leave the APU running. Some insist on a full departure briefing on every departure even though the book says I can use an abbreviated briefing after the first full briefing. I take mental notes on the first two legs with each Captain so I can get a feel for him/her.

My last trip was fine. My Captain recently got an Ipad and had a lot of questions on how it worked. I helped him out. I showed him some short cuts and tips. I couldn't resist having some fun.

"Kurt, now shake it up and down quickly." I said.

"What does this do?" he asked.

"Nothing, but it looks funny." I replied.If you can't have fun at work, then you're doing it wrong.

It was day four. Three legs for me, but just one for him.

My Captain has a check ride coming up next week. We had been discussing systems, profiles and company ops questions the entire trip. We both learned a few things as we bounced questions off each other. We would be in cruise and I'd ask.

"So Kurt, what happens when this button is pressed." I would ask pointing to the overhead panel. He would do the same for me.

About an hour out this morning I mentioned my next Captain (for the two remaining legs) name was Courtney. My Captain asked about the last name and I confirmed it.

"Oh man you are going to like flying with her. She is a five foot nine blonde from Norway. Young, fit and really fun to fly with." said my Captain.

We blocked in a few minutes early  and he headed home to study a bit more.

My next Captain arrived. HE was a six foot five black guy, I started laughing.

"Man Kurt told me you were a five foot nine blonde lady." I said.

"Oh you flew with Kurt, that guy is funny. He got ya didn't he." He replied.

This Captain is very junior. I like flying with junior Captains as they know what it's like as a First Officer. My job is very busy on the ground as I have to set up and configure the plane while the Captain is taxiing.

We had a good time.

During the flight down I joked about the crew chaser tracking my down a few months ago.

The crew chaser works with crew scheduling to track down pilots for reassignments and junior manning. He also works with management to hand out terms of service pins/awards...and random drug test.

Several months ago he was waiting on the jet bridge as my flight pulled in. The rest of my crew were all reserve, but were illegal for any additional flying due rest requirements. I was still fresh.

I got really worked up as I didn't feel like being reassigned.

After the passengers were deplaned I walked out ready to be junior manned. I was wrong...he was there to give me my five year pin...two months early.

I jinxed myself.

As we pulled in on day four, I once again saw the crew chaser. After we blocked in my Captain and I both checked our schedules on our phones. Nothing new.....he was there for a randoom drug test.

As luck would have it, the test was for me.

Ten minutes later I was blowing into a breathalyzer and given a pee test. I blew a 0.0. I have nothing to worry about as I don't take any drugs beyond allergy medicine and avoid poppy seed muffins (after seeing a Seinfeld Episode!). I also respect my airlines alcohol policy which is much more restrictive than the FAA policy.

Last week a Skywest pilot was pulled from flying after the hotel turned him in to the authorities. That pilot blew a .035. Anything below a .04 is legal per the FAA. Still he could be fired from his airline.

I have two whole days off before heading back to work on Monday. I work the same 20 hour trip Mondays thru Thursdays in March. Hope the breaking in the new Captain goes well. ;-)