Thursday, July 18, 2013

This is an odd way to start an approach

Done for the week. I had two 2 day back to back trips worth 21 hours total.

The first two day was painless, I paid for it on the second trip.

The second trip was a 3 and 3. Pretty easy in theory.

I took the first leg, very short hop to a college town. Well normally it's easy. Lots of weather around.

Level at 17,000 feet my Captain got the ATIS. I saw on his face it wasn't good.

Heavy rain, thunderstorm in the vicinity, winds were 120@12 gusting 20, 800 overcast and a mile and a half visibility.

The only approach was a GPS. Fine with me.

I briefed the approach then we descended toward the airport. Once on with approach things got odd.

Us: "Good afternoon Flight 5620 level at 4000 with Bravo requesting the RNAV 16"

Approach: "Flight 5620 in the event of a missed approach turn left heading 040 climb maintain 3000 and call me back on this frequency,"

I told my Captain that it was a little odd to get missed approach instructions before being cleared for an approach. He agreed.....then we realized why. Wall of water...right over the airport. It was an odd sight as the rain was just over the airport property. A half mile north, east and west were all beautiful.

I stated I would shoot the approach as the storm was moving north/northwest and maybe it would move out in time.

Once on with tower it got worse.

Tower: "Flight 5620 cleared to land runway 16, be advised heavy rain just started on the field, winds 120@15"

On a two mile final I saw nothing. The missed approach point was the end of the runway.

"This isn't going to work, going missed." I told my Captain.

With that I pushed the thrust levers up and began a left banked turn.

Approach wasn't surprised to hear us. We had plenty of fuel on board, enough to hold for over an hour...or simply make the 120 mile flight back to base.

We were given vectors that formed a big box. Just five minutes later the field was VFR.

Back on an approach we thought we were good to go. Nah, there was a Cessna 172 that was VFR only waiting out the weather. Tower put him in front of us.

I began slowing to approach speed. Thankfully a non event.

Once on the ground we saw 4 other regional jets from another airline waiting on the ramp. They had all diverted.

We unloaded and were given an hour ground stop due to weather.

Lucky for our passengers we had just started. Unlucky for one of the other of the First Officers timed out (max duty day).

Quick flight back. We originally had a 10 hour overnight. With the more than an hour ground stop it was down to 8 hours 30 minutes.

By the time we got to the overnight we were tired. Since we had 7 hours 45 minutes of flying on day 2 we needed 9 hours of rest. Scheduling adjusted our "show" time in the morning to give us exactly 9 hours of "rest".

Of course the "rest" started 15 minutes after blocking in. During that time we were all still on the jet bridge as there were 5 passengers needing wheelchairs and the wheelchair service was slow.

I got about 6 hours of sleep. Not horrible.

Day 2 was 5 legs. The first 3 weren't too bad. The last two were long.

The last flight was to Rapid City, South Dakota. The airport is 6 miles southwest of a military airport.

I've been there a few times. This was my Captains first time.

We called the airport in sight while still 17 miles out and were cleared for the visual approach. Runway 14 was the active.

Captain: "Are you sure that's the airport and not the bigger one?"

Me: "Yep, the airport diagram shows all buildings on the west side of the airport the military base (the one he thought was the correct airport) has everything on the east side of the runway."

Captain:"Hmm, ok....still looking for the crossing runway to make sure."

Once closer he saw the narrow runway 5/23.  Unfortunately he was a tad high at this point. He had to really work it to get it down and still meet stabilized approach criteria. Done.

We blocked out 14 minutes early. For the leg back we asked, and were given, RADAR vectors to Mount Rushmore. It is just a few miles west of the airport.

Level at 10,000 feet everyone on the right side of the plane got a decent view of Mount Rushmore. Once done we were off to the hub.

Our FMS estimated arriving 40 minutes early. This was welcome news for everyone on board. Well weather happens.

Given a big turn for spacing. Then slowed. Finally cleared in and cleared to join the localizer for an ILS. I thought everything was golden.

"Approach clearance cancelled due to weather, turn left heading 060 and climb and maintain 4000." came streaming into my ears.

This wasn't a missed approach or a go around as we weren't on a published segment yet.

Given vectors for another runway and put in line.

Winds were 090@21G26. Landing runway 16.

I was dead on speed crossing the threshold. At 50 feet I began idling the engines. The thrust levers were idle by 30 feet....but the plane still wanted to fly as the gust kicked up and pushed us higher.

"Damn thing won't settle, engines are idled." I said.

"Gotta get'er down in the zone." said my Captain. I knew that and he knew I knew was just a crappy place to  be. About 3500 feet DOWN the runway (which is over 12000 feet long) the mains finally touched the runway. We were still 25 minutes early.

Well the final straw was the was closed. The airport authority closes the ramp when there is lightening close to the airport. All regular employees are forbidden from walking on the ramp.

This meant there was no one to park we thought.

We stopped short of the gate and made a PA. A few minutes later we saw two managers marshaling a plane in. Managers are allowed on the ramp even when the airport authority closes it. They were only parking the planes and chocking them so passengers could get off. All bags would stay on board. We were happy to see them.

We blocked in right on time. Done till Sunday.

I do have one more issue. My paper medical left my possession sometime this week. I have a temporary from my airline so I'm legal to fly. The issue is I can't leave the 48 states...and my next trip is an international overnight. I'm going to make sure I can't find it. If all else fails I can trade it to stay domestic, but I will likely be out a few hours.

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