Friday, May 31, 2013

Par for the course

Interesting crew this week. My Flight Attendant was brand new to my airline. Super new. It got interesting.

My Captain was fairly senior. He didn't want to talk much. He was very much so here for the paycheck and not much else. It was a little annoying at times as he'd hop of out the plane, grab his bag, and head up the jet bridge right away during plane swaps and overnights. Normally the crew leaves together. Eh.

I warned them both that, after the first day, we would likely never be on time, we'd have to deal with weather and at least a little craziness. I was more than right.

Day 1 was fine. I took the first leg and he took the next two. We arrived 11 minutes EARLY to the overnight. Nice start eh?

Day 2 started with a delay. Originally we had an 11:55AM van. With the delay I called everyone and told them we'd take a 12:30PM van. Instead of departing at 12:50PM we were scheduled to depart at 1:30PM.

The inbound arrived a little earlier than planned and we actually left at 1:20PM. My leg. Normal flight for the most part. Flew a little fast and arrived just 9 minutes late. The next flight to Detroit left 2 minutes early. Storms in the area so we had an alternate. My leg.

Minimal ground delays as we were routed past 15 planes in line as we had a wheels up time.

About 20 minutes in we were slowed for traffic. We were 10 miles in trail of a Delta 737. Our RADAR was full of yellow and red targets. Delta requested 40 right for weather. Approved. My Captain quickly asked for the same....but we had to standby. Cabin was already prepared for landing. About a mile shy of the "red" on the RADAR we were finally given 40 degrees right. I smoothly turned off the autopilot and rolled the plane into a right turn. Wasn't fast enough as we nipped part of the cell. Vectored back around.

Approach advised we'd have a 25 mile final. Vectored toward another cell. Due to traffic we had limited room to move, but were cleared to descend. I made a quick descent and slight turn. It didn't matter. Bumped around a lot. Moderate turbulence, heavy rain. After maybe 2 minutes we were in the clear at the Minimum Vectoring Altitude. I looked to my right and saw a huge radio tower below.

Once on final we thought we were through the rest of it. It wasn't to be.

Assigned ILS Z 22R. Gusty winds at 190@20G30 with a ceiling of 800 feet. Seemed ok.

Tower cleared us to land but advised to use caution for wake turbulence as a 767 was taking off prior to our arrival.

Well passing 600 feet my Captain saw nothing. At 400 feet the runway was in sight. I went visual but kept an eye inside.

At 300 feet very heavy rain started and the wind picked up.

"You got it?" Asked my Captain.

"Yeah but I think we are going to loose the runway." I replied.

Tower came on with a windshear alert.

At 200 feet I could barely see the approach lights.

"Crap." I said.

At 100 feet our fate was sealed.

I pressed the go around buttons and said "Go Around! Set Max Thrust...."  and continued the go around profile.

Tower was still giving the windshear alert. We hit a bit of the shear as even with full power and at 12 degree nose up attitude we began to drop airspeed for a moment.

When tower finished my Captain advised we had gone missed approach.

"Roger, you are less than 3 miles from the 767, I need a right turn to 280 climb and maintain 4000." Tower responded.

I began turning as soon as I heard the heading. My Captain replied and dialed in the heading.

"That got ugly really quick, contact Approach on 124.05" Tower continued.

Approach advised we'd be kept in tight. My Captain made a PA about the weather and go around.

The weather passed quickly. We were VFR 10 miles out. Much easier landing.

"Good job, that front passed through right before you came and was gone by the time you were handed off to approach, sorry about that. Two left turns and contact ground point 8." stated tower.

We just had bad timing.

Apparently we had a few nervous fliers on board. The go around didn't help. A few air sickness bags were "used". Quick turn. The weather had passed by the time we left.....but it doesn't mean we were done with it.

Once back at the hub we had a 45 minute sit with a plane swap.

The flight to the overnight was supposed to be easy.

Well weather started moving in. Big time.

We didn't notice until after we blocked out that we only had 15 minutes of taxi fuel. We had 35 minutes or more for the last turn. Minimum takeoff fuel was 5975 pounds. We blocked out with 6300 pounds on board.

Rain and lightening all around. Flights were lined up on several taxiways. We were number 19 for takeoff. It wasn't looking good.

I shutdown the APU and we taxied slowly on one engine. It wasn't going to be enough.

Using the FMS head I used ACARS to send a message to our dispatcher that we wanted to use some of the 800 pounds of "hold" fuel and to lower our minimum takeoff fuel. Normally we have about 400 pounds of hold fuel (enough for 15 minutes....sometimes).

Done. Our new minimum takeoff was 5600 pounds. We inched forward. The storm was just nuts.

Thankfully we were headed westbound. All east and northbound flights were on ground holds. Several flights reported they'd have to go back for more fuel. The problem was they were in line...and getting out of line was tricky.

The ground controllers did a great job moving the planes around.

When we were number 3 for departure I started the other engine. Fuel was at 5790.

When we were number 1 tower stated,

"I need to get another flight out in front of you. Taxi across the runway and make a 180 on Sierra."

"Ok, we are really tight on fuel." I responded.

Thankfully it was just one flight. When we lined up we had 5700 pounds of fuel on board. Away we went.

Quick vectors and away we went. Lots of bumps. The FMS showed us landing with just 2000 pounds of fuel. Below 1600 pounds the gauges turn red. That was enough fuel for a go around....and that's about it. If we stayed high we could fly around for 45 minutes though.

My Captain made very delayed descents to save fuel. Using flight idle as much as possible. It worked. Landed with 2200 pounds of fuel....47 minutes late.

Decent overnight. The next day we were delayed again, but only left 18 minutes late. First two legs were mine. Weather deviations and flow delays abound...but blocked in just 9 minutes late.

Two hour sit.

Somehow the next turn went ok...we left 14 minutes late, but arrived 5 minutes early. The flight is way over blocked. Quick turn and we left 7 minutes early and blocked in a whopping 25 minutes early.

Another two hour sit. The overnight flight had 7 jumpseaters (mix of Pilots and Flight Attendants) from 3 different airlines. As a courtesy each pilot stopped by and asked for a ride. All had seats in the back.

Already facing a 9 hour overnight, my Captain flew fast and we arrived 25 minutes early!

And now a word about my Flight Attendant. She's REALLY new.

Here's a few things:

1. She assumed my regional and our mainline partner are one in the same (i.e. she can fly a CRJ one week and an Airbus the next)

2. She had no idea how long each flight was (even though its on her schedule)

3. She came down for breakfast 2 minutes before van time and was truly upset we were walking out the door

4. When we called back stating it would be bumpy for 5 - 10 minutes she asked she could serve afterwards

5. She called up when we hit unexpected turbulence after it being smooth and asked why we didn't warn her

6. When my Captain used the lav she came up front. She was surprised I wasn't hand flying the plane. We were at 36,000 feet...and had been for a while...the autopilot is required to fly in RVSM


The last hotel for the trip was a Hampton Inn with those creepy "Duvet Covers & Sheets Are Clean For Your Arrival" notes. Decent nights rest. Great breakfast in the morning.

First two legs mine. Delays leaving as the gates were full with other flights that had mechanical issues. My aircraft was towed into the gate at 8:02AM for an 8:20AM departure. We actually almost made it work departing at 8:22AM. Gusty winds on arrival.

For the first time in a long time....maybe ever....I bounced the landing. Not badly. Touched down once...slightly back up and down again....more of a skip I guess. I blame the gusty winds and the slightly forward CG of the plane. Surprised me.

The last turn of the trip went ok with us getting back into base 20 minutes early.

I'm happy I'm done for the month as this 4 day trip was just bad.

Off for 3 days then back to work Monday evening.

Time for some Doc McStuffins playtime with my daughter.

Monday, May 27, 2013

And now...something completely different

I got my schedule for's something I've never done before. I could love it...or REALLY hate it.

For June I will primarily be working 2 day back to backs. One perk is I'm home more often. One negative is I drive to and from the airport more often.

My first trip of the month is a 3 day trip Monday-Wednesday. The rest of the month (for now...I might trade around) I fly two day trips. I start a two day trip on Sunday and finish on Monday. I then go back on Tuesdays and finish on Wednesdays. This works because I live close to the airport. If I lived far away or was a commuter it would be disastrous as I'd spend a lot of time and money going to and from or would be paying for hotel rooms.

The driving is what most concerns me. True I live less than 10 miles from the airport...and drive a Prius....but it's still driving.

I had a great weekend in San Francisco. We were there for a funeral for my grandmother in law, but made the best of it. We went to a Giants game, hung out with family and visited the Tech Museum in San Jose.

My daughter learned two new airplane types while waiting at the airport. She already knew 777,737, and ERJ. She learned the term Airbus and MD80. She can't tell the difference yet, but will point and say one of the types she knows.

Little more than 2 weeks left in my current house. I'm happy I was able to bid around the closing dates for both houses. I might trade around a bit to have more time off after the move though.

Enough for now. Time to pack up and prep for my last 4 day trip for a while. Same trip from the last two weeks.  I have no hope of it going maybe it will?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Delayed Part 2

 *Forgive typos...wrote this while sitting in coach next to a almost 3 year old. 


Day 2 started with a delay....of course.


We had 4 legs and had to deal with a lot of weather.


Blocked out on leg 1 at 12:53PM. Minimal delays and we blocked in a few minutes early at 2:27PM. We then had almost a 3 hour sit....was supposed to be 2 hours.

Blocked out at 5:53PM. Immediately hit with a ground delay for the DTW. Eventually we made our way to the runway and away we went.


Detroit is under major construction. I figured we would land on 22R. Nope we got 2lL which made for an incredibly long taxi. I talked to three different ground controllers and 2 ramp controllers to reach the gate.


Decent 26 minute turn and it was my turn to fly.


Most of the time we have the FAA required fuel on board and maybe a little extra. This dispatcher loaded us up with 700 pounds of taxi and contingency fuel for possible delays. We had none.


This meant we were going to be overweight for landing by 500 pounds. Time to get creative.


I climbed with a high rate of speed, but a low climb rate. That helped a little. Each time we got a descent I started down right away and quickly. That helped a bit....but it wasn't enough.


Once on approach my Captain told the controller we needed to burn fuel. Thankfully the approach controller wasn't overloaded and gave us vectors for a big 'S' turn. I put the first setting of flaps out. My Captain advised the cabin of what the plan was so they wouldn't get freaked out when the gear came out. Flight attendants use the gear coming down as a clue that we are about to land.




Snapshot of the fuel burn turn. The Dashed line is our intended path. The green line is what we actually did.

Once that was done the gear went down and me flaps went out. I then raised the thrust up as we descended.


Once we were about 100 pounds over max landing we headed in since we knew we would burn it off on approach. These are all “funny” numbers as every carry on bag and person is an assumed weight.


Being heavy I waited a bit longer than normal to pull all the power out. Congested airport. The process is to land and take the first high speed exit and join the conga line.


Down and off.


Gate occupied. Off to wait it out on a hold pad.


Blocked in over an hour and twenty minutes late. Forty minutes later we were headed to the overnight.


Easy flight. Lots of turbulence...but easy. Arrived to have no hotel van waiting. I now it's a 12 minute drive. I called the hotel and was placed on hold for 3 minutes. I was then told the van was on it's way.....ETA 10 minutes. They didn't leave until I called.


By the time we got to the hotel it was midnight. Van time was 11 AM. Tired.

We got to the airport thinking it would finally be an easy day. We had 4 legs that day.


The inbound was on time. The problem was there was weather.....ground stop at the hub. Delayed.


Once we returned to the hub we originally had a 2 hour sit then a quick 2 hour turn....another hour and forty minute sit and then a quick flight to the overnight. For those visual it was like this



ABC-PPP 12:05 – 1:50PM

PPP-DEF 3:50 – 4:50PM

DEF-PPP 5:20- 6:15PM

PPP-GHI – 7:55-10:15PM


Well we didn't leave ABC until 2:56PM and arrived at 4:53PM. We thought they would pull us from the next turn as we already had a short 9 hour overnight in GHI. Nope. Due to weather they were just running everything late.


After an hour sit we blocked out for DEF at 5:59PM. Short delay and we arrived at 6:38PM. Quick flight.


Hoping to get a decent nights rest we tried for a quick turn. Well we had a quick turn, but another ground stop until 7:05PM.


Tower gave us a break and we left “early” at 7:04PM. My leg.


Being a short flight ATC told us to go fast and they would work us into the stream.


Arrived at 7:36PM. We hoped to keep the same plane and just blast off to the overnight right away. Nope.


Plane swap.


The inbound wasn't due in until 8:55PM. An hour light. We were now facing an 8 hour overnight.


Loaded up at 9:20PM. Fifty passengers plus a very tall mainline jumpseater. I felt bad for him as we was all folded up in the jumpseat. He was happy to have a seat going in the right direction (home!).


Problem. We were nose heavy. Normally they would pull the jumpseater to save time. This isn't the best course of action, but if it means being on time the powers that be demand it. Since we were already late we were loaded up with ballast (dead weight) of 120 pounds. Again funny math.


Blocked out at 9:32PM. We were number 14 for departure. My Captain and I already discussed that we would not being doing a normal 8 hour overnight. We wanted 8 hours “behind the door.”


With a regular 8 hour overnight the clock starts 15 minutes after block in and stops 45 minutes before departure.


I will give an example


In theory we could block in at 10PM and have to be back at the airport 6:15AM. Even at best that's maybe 6 hours sleep. We needed more.


Once again we were a little overweight for landing. Only a few miles of flaps down were needed and we were good.


Winds were 220 @ 9. I had the option of runway 18R or runway 27. I normally land 18C. I chose runway 27 as it meant a much shorter taxi. I'd rather deal with a quartering tailwind than long taxi. Runway 27 was 12,000 feet long. I only needed 4100 according to the performance charts.


Nice landing .Rolled to the end.


We were all dead tired.


Originally scheduled for a 8:20AM depature.


Arrived at the hotel at midnight. My Captain told operations we would be on a 8:30AM van and we'd likely be at the gate by 9:00AM.


Thankfully they don't argue when we state we need more rest.


I slept like a rock.


We all had a really good breakfast to start the day.


Arrived to the gate at 9:00AM. Right away we had an issue. The GPU (Ground Power Unit) was causing electrical glitches with the plane. No rampers in sight. I had to track one down to turn off and disconnect the power. Done.


Blocked out at 9:35AM. Being so late operations pulled us from our next turn. Just one leg in. Day 4 had to be easy right?


Long line for takeoff. Weather, reroute, turbulence....but we arrived at 11:03AM.


We were spent. There was no way I could safely operate another flight again.


Off for 3 days. Headed out for a funeral for my wifes grandmother. My airline has emergency passes for situations like this. We used them as it's Memorial Day Weekend.


Happy to rest for a bit.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Delayed Part 1

Currently sitting at the gate waiting for weather to lift. I figure I could hammer out some words.

Day one started bad.

I was supposed to do 3 legs. A turn and return to the same city for the overnight.


I met my crew at the gate. First time meeting them all.

First leg was mine. Long line of weather north to south over most of the United States...and headed for the out station.

The dispatcher stated if we left on time we could beat the weather. That was great for the outbound flight.....but what about the return?

Sure enough we left on time. Short hour flight. RADARs on. Didn't look good.

Another flight from our airline was on frequency stating they were diverting due to weather. There was a tornado on the ground 7 miles south of the airport we both were headed to. That was enough for us.

There was another airport we serve just 15 miles in front of us. My Captain advised ATC we were diverting and asked for lower. We were cleared from FL290 down to 6000 feet.

Out went the flight spoilers and down went the nose. Clearing FL200 I put out some flaps for more drag.

My Captain was busy advising the dispatcher and the out station of our plans. The out station wasn't expecting a flight for 4 more hours.

Ironically the airport we were diverting to was the first airport I ever diverted to at my airline more than 5 years ago.

Just 12 minutes from the time we started the diversion I was on final. Easy landing.

With a diversions people want answers quickly.

We parked and as soon as the door opened the gate agent asked if we were deplaning.

Quick call to our operations and yep...deplane.

Weather headed for us now. Storm changed direction slightly.  We sat in the terminal with the passengers watching the television. Then the tornado sirens went off. We all headed to the tornado shelter....also known as the bathrooms.

Winds kicked up over 60 MPH. Thankfully no tornado.

We then had to wait out the lightening and rain.

Four hours after we pulled in we were headed out. The remaining two flights had been cancelled. We were just going to the overnight.

The airport was 56 miles away as the crow flies.....should be easy right?

The weather was gone. True VFR.

Tower was closed so I would have to get my clearance from Center. Normally easy.

Holding short of the runway there was no response on center frequency. I tried approach. Nothing. Ugh.

My Captain called our dispatcher who gave us the phone number of the Center. He called and the controller stated we had nothing on file. I'm glad we didn't take off VFR and get our clearance in the air!

He put in a basic flight plan and away we went. As soon as we turned north bound I saw the airport...yep even 50 miles away.

I entered the downwind and made a nice landing. Our 14 hour overnight was down to just 11 hours.

Slept like crap.

More later....waiting on an EDCT....and believe it or not the trip got worse.

Sunsets never get old

Having a truly crazy trip...again. Diversion, delays, MELs, burning off 800 pounds of extra fuel right before landing and short overnights......but sunsets never get old.

Full write up likely Thursday.

For now enjoy the sunset at FL240 just west of Detroit.

Sunset dtw

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Third time is a charm

Yesterday was rough. Roughest day so far this year.

Started with an 11:50AM van for a 12:50PM departure.

Arrived to the Flight Deck at 12:15PM to find the previous First Officer left his half full (or half empty) Ginger Ale in the cup holder. Thanks?

Preflight done. No issues and we blocked out 5 minutes early. Captains leg.

My Captain is new to my base and this part of the system. I gave him lots of tips on cheap food, good overnights and bad overnights.

Arrived early and was genuniely surprised to have an open gate. This was not our base, but another hub.

Two hour break. My Flight Attendant and I ate lunch together and then hung out near the gate. Getting to the crew room is a hassle we didn't want to endure.

I arrived to the flight deck at 1:50PM to find no power. Normally the external power is plugged in and turned on. During my pre-flight I found the power plugged in, but not turned on. I tracked down a ramper and he tried to turn it on, but it was out of service. Fine.

The departure was set for 2:25PM. By 2:10PM we were boarded up and just waiting. There was a MEL on the right "pack" (air conditioner for the cabin), but the left one was working fine so it wasn't a big we thought.

At 2:20PM we had our final numbers and were ready to depart. As the Captain handed the paperwork to the gate agent the left pack just quit. No caution message about over temp, over pressure or even a fail status. It just quit. I waited and tried recycling it. Nothing.

The cabin quickly started to heat up as it was 85 degrees outside and there were 38, 98.6 degree bodies inside.

My Captain called maintenance  on COM 1 while I called operations on COM 2. I wanted the external air connected to avoid the cabin heating up. The Captain was calling a mechanic.

Well the air cart was out of service for this gate. We advised the Flight Attendant and she immediately began serving water and ice.

The flight deck was worse as the sun was beaming through the windows and the avionics produce quite a bit of heat themselves.

After 10 minutes we were more ways than one. We were given a new aircraft and we were all hot.

Passengers deplaned. We shut the aircraft down and headed to the next gate just a few feet away.

Once again the external power was plugged in, but not turned on. I again asked a ramper to turn it on, thankfully it worked.

During my pre-flight I found a scratch, maybe 1 inch long, in the area around the static ports. This is deemed a critical area for RVSM operations.

I didn't think much of it as there is a detailed diagram of all scratches/dings in this area that have been previously noted and recorded.

Nothing else was found.

My Captain arrived and was going through the logbook. I began unpacking my flight kit and mentioned that when he came to the RVSM diagram there should be a small scratch on the left hand side. I truly believed the scratch was old. It wasn't.

"Are you sure it's a scratch?" my captain asked.

"Yeah, is it not noted? It's a pretty good scratch." I replied.

"No it shows clean." he stated.

We both went outside and I showed him the scratch. Not good.

He told the gate to hold boarding then once again called maintenance.

The mechanic said it would "be a while".

Yep...we packed up and left to await news.

While waiting a I met up with a buddy that is based here, but lives near me at my base.

We were in the same new hire class. He could have transferred to my base and my aircraft but decided to take the life of a commuter. It's rare we meet in person so it was nice to catch up. He said he was headed to the training center to be an instructor. More money and time at home. I've been pondering such a move now that I have my ATP I don't "need" any more Second in Command hours.

With the delay we lost our overnight as we'd be 3 hours late. A reserve crew  was assigned the overnight and three of my flights the next day.  If I had been in base I'd be going home. Since I was in a different base I'd be going to a hotel.....for 22 hours.

Finally at 6PM we had a third aircraft. We blocked out at 6:25PM. Headed for Detroit.

Even though we received a PDC (Pre-Departure Clearance, an automated clearance vs one read over the radio), we were so late our flight plan expired. Ground gave us general taxi instructions and told us to call Clearance.

I sent a message via ACARS to our dispatcher. He replied and refiled us quickly.

My Captain monitored ground while I called clearance.

I copied the clearance and then let my Captain know I was back with him as I turned down the volume on the ground frequency so I could hear clearance.

The last I heard was we were to follow another Regional Jet. He let me know we were told to monitor a specific tower frequency and pull into a holding pad.

In the holding pad was another regional for another mainline carrier, a fellow company regional jet and a mainline jet. We were all headed to Detroit.

With no estimated time we shut down the engines and used the APU for power and air.

I noticed that on the tower frequency we were monitoring we only heard traffic from the other side of the airport. That seemed odd.

One of the flights in the hold pad headed for Detroit pulled into line for takeoff. I never heard them on the radio.

I tuned in another tower frequency on COM 2 and heard traffic from the runway we were assigned. Not wanting to delay the passengers any further I asked tower how long the delay would be.

"I tell ya what, follow the Spirit Airbus to your left and you will be out of here in 3 minutes." tower replied.


My Captain immediately started the left engine. With both engines started we followed the Airbus. As soon as we pulled away both of the other flights waiting for Detroit (who had been there before we arrived) queried the tower and were told to wait as they needed 20 miles in trail.

We cut in line!

Up and away. Quick flight. Detroit is having a lot of construction at the airport. Runway 22L is totally torn up. We landed on 22R and had a really long taxi.

Thankfully we had a pretty quick turn time of just 17 minutes. My leg back.

Normal flight until final. Assigned runway 22R for landing. Winds at the surface were 040@5. Tailwind, but not a big one. The issue was winds aloft were 210@35. Somewhere between the air and ground was a big wind shift. I knew I would have a big decrease in airspeed and the nose would drop. I prepared for this by keeping the speed up, power up and trim a little nose high.

Clearing 100 feet AGL the wind began to come around. Right around 30 feet the nose dropped sharply and the plane veered slightly right. I pulled back on the yoke firmly and worked the nose back to the left. Already a shortish runway I didn't attempt to grease it on, but it happened anyway. Thrust reversers out and heavy braking we made the last high speed exit.

My Captain was reassigned to an overnight. My Flight Attendant and I were off until 7PM the next night. She had a friend in town and was headed to hang out with her. I made my way to the hotel van pickup area.

This particular base is the one I was temporarily based at a few years ago. Bitter sweet going to a hotel again.

Once I got to the hotel I had another issue. I was only covered for one night....until 1PM the next day. My show time is 6:40PM, thus I needed 2 nights. Another call to scheduling and the voucher was sent.

Today is one leg to the overnight and 3 legs tomorrow. My 4 19 hour four day is now a 13 hour 4 day trip. Still paid for 19. Hopefully the next two trips go smoothly.

Snapped a quick photo yesterday. It's still fun skimming the tops of clouds....if a little bumpy.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Well this could be interesting

Had a great vacation. I snuck out of the country for a few days by myself.

When I originally bid for this vacation we were not planning on buying a house. Once we decided to buy a house I tried to rebid the vacation as I knew we would be selling our current house during this time. Somehow there wasn't a single block of vacation available to trade with for the rest of the year.

Lucky for my family listing and showing our current house went quickly. We listed the house on a Sunday and had our first offer Monday morning. It was for $5000 under asking. We were okay with the offer as we needed to lease back to house until our new one was ready. Then Tuesday we got another offer for full listing price. Wow. Done!

Since the house was taken care of, and I had the time off anyway, I headed out of the country for a few days. Nothing spectacular. My family stayed home since I was only gone for a short bit.

My line this month is 4 identical 4 day trips. The first week I had off due to vacation.

I don't really like the trip as it leaves my base on day 1 and doesn't return until day 4. I like going in and out of my base because if there is a cancellation I can go home. It is what it is.

My trip started with a 5:30PM sign in. Since I had been out for a while, I arrived early to update my charts.

Met my crew in the plane. My Captain is new to me. I jokingly told him I'd been off for almost 2 weeks so keep an eye on me. He then told me he hasn't flown since February and I should keep an eye on him.

He took the first leg. I took the next two.

My first landing, after having not flown for a while, is always a little bleh. Sure enough it was a little rough. It didn't help that I had my seat a little lower than normal.

It's going to be a bit of a busy next 30 days. Over that time I will bid for a new month of flying, close on my current house, close on my new house and move. Still thinking of my bidding strategy for June. I'm pondering bidding reserve in hopes of not being called. I've got a few days to decide.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

On Vacation

Back to work tomorrow. Just enjoying time off. Worry not...I'll be back.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What a difference a Captain makes

Finally done. Five leg day.

My crew had a 5 AM hotel van. I left in my rental car at 4:45 AM. On the way out I told the front desk I would not be riding in the van with my crew.

I decided to get my crew breakfast. There was a McDonald's next to the hotel. The lights were on so I pulled into the drive thru, only to be greeted with a recorded message stating they were closed. Really? Small towns.

Turns out nothing was open.

I arrived at my airlines' ticket counter at 5AM. The normal van ride is 10 minutes. My crew finally arrived at 5:20AM. My Captain said ,"We didn't know if you were taking the hotel shuttle. We called your room and waited. We ended up having to take a taxi as the hotel shuttle wasn't running."

"I told you yesterday that I was renting a car and would be driving to the airport myself. I also told the front desk clerk that I was driving myself. Sorry you misunderstood." I replied. Blank stare back at me.

Blocked out 5 minutes early.

Gusty winds at the hub. My leg. Winds 340@25G30. Landing runway 33L. Base VREF was a 129 knots. We add half the steady state wind plus the full gas factor to get a V-Approach speed of 146 knots. Fast.

ILS approach. Very bumpy. Broke out around 1800 AGL. Worked it all the way down. Flew it to the ground. Done.

Quick turn. Gusty takeoff. I did a very slow rotation. Once the wheels left the ground we rocked a bit.

Hour flight. Winds were 36005KT 10SM BKN006 OVC038. Landing runway 4R. The ILS was out. The GPS approach mins were 500 feet AGL. A little tight. Gusty above the clouds. Calm below. Decent landing.

Nineteen minutes after blocking in we blocked out. Captains leg. Winds kicked up at the hub. Now 34028G34KT 10SM OVC020 09/03 A3026. Another high approach speed.

Passing over the threshold a flock of large white birds were crossing the runway. Not much to do but land.

We didn't hear any thumps or splats.

I advised tower of the birds and they passed it to the aircraft behind us.

Post flight inspection was fine. No bird guts, blood or feathers.

Plane swap. My Captain said he'd "see me later."

I assume that meant in about an hour at the next flight. Nope. He called in fatigued. Fine with me.

The next Captain was even more junior, but much more pleasant to work with.

He was much more personable from the get go. I talked more on the hour flight out than I did during the previous 17 hours of flying with the other Captain.

His leg out, my leg back. I had an all time high approach speed of 155 knots....almost 180 MPH. With a 40 knot headwind the ground speed was around 110 knots or 130 MPH.

Tower advised previous aircraft reported gains and losses of 10 knots at just 100 feet.

I worked it all the way down. Bumping up, down, left and right. Making quick power adjustments as the airspeed shot up and down. Somehow greased it right on. Done for a while.

Amazing what a difference a Captain makes.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The most non-Interesting man in the world

Day 3 of 4.

Flying with a reserve Captain. He's pretty junior. He was previously an instructor on my aircraft and spent months away from the line while teaching.

It's always interesting flying with instructors as they are used to a perfect airplane and a perfect world (the sim). Airplanes aren't perfect. The aircraft I fly at my airline all have more than 15,000 hours on them. Hours of turbulence, rain, rough landings, gusty winds....they've been around. They all fly a little differently.

He's a nice guy but has no sense of humor. None. Nadda. Not a little bit of one. I like to have a good time. I joke around to help the day go by.

At first I thought he was just tired on day one. Nope. He doesn't talk much and ignores any attempt at humor.

For example this morning at breakfast he gave a crew briefing about the weather. When he was done I said, "Rain? Well it's still dark out and I don't fly in the dark, through rain and especially not through clouds." I chuckled at the end.

He gave me a blank stare. My Flight Attendant laughed. Eh. I mentioned this to a Senior Captain friend of mine. He said the guy I'm flying with is nice, but agreed no personality.

Beyond that it's interesting watching him fly. Very sim like....which doesn't always work in the real world. I've given up trying to have a conversation. It's clear he just may be the most non-interesting person in the world. I just read the checklist and looked out the window today.

Enough of that.

My house went on the market Sunday night. We had our first offer Monday afternoon. Just a tad less than list price. Today we had an offer for full list. Waiting on the paperwork. A bit stressful as my wife is the main point of contact while I'm on the road.

I arrived at my overnight at 10:30AM today. Early. I've been to this overnight many times. It's a Holiday Inn in the middle of nowhere.  Last week I made a car rental reservation using my airline discount. Scored an economy car for $19 all in. I then made a reservation to tour a local car manufacturing plant.

Before that I ate at a local resturant then drove around a bit. I then spent 2 hours with my jaw open. I love cars. I thought I knew how cars were made. I was wrong. Seeing the robots whiz around, sparks flying, parts moving, people was fascinating. I savored every moment.

Once done I hit another local eatery before heading back to the hotel.

Tomorrow will start a little early for me. The crew has a 5 AM van. I am going to leave at 4:45AM so I have time to return the rental car

Six o'clock departure. Five legs and seven hours of flying later I will be done just before 4PM.