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.


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