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.


  1. Sounds like a busy time was had by all.....

    Tell me, do you ever play tricks on the new FAs? Like they do on a building site - sending out the new hire to buy some Elbow Grease, or Polka Dot paint? (if you have never seen it, google "Two Ronnies Fork Handles sketch")

    I do enjoy your posts, thanks for sharing!

  2. google...



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