Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Funny numbers

On day 3 of my first multi-day trip in almost a month.

I have 3 day trips this month. Each is worth 18 hours and 40 minutes of pay/flying.

My wife was happy to see me go. I get irritable when I don't fly. When I'm home more I tend to leave a mess behind me. My wife and I met on Match.com back in 2002. We have little in common...still wondering how I came up in her search.  We're the odd couple with her being Felix.  Whatever we work.

Day one was kind along as it started with a 2:20PM departure. The Captain is a guy I've flown with in the past. He took the first leg and I took the last two of the day. The flight to the overnight was to a small airport in the middle of no where. The tower closes well before scheduled arrival time.

Arriving from the south we had a 30 knot quartering tailwind. I planned my descent to be at pattern altitude (1500 feet for jets) just south of the airport. Worked out fine.

It's rare to fly a pattern at an airline. Most of the time we are on vectors, nature of the business.

Flying a pattern in a jet is no different than flying a pattern in a Cessna 172. The only tricky part was I was flying a left downwind and thus could not see the airport from my right seat. The Captain called when I was abeam and I replied with the first setting of flaps.

I glanced at my MFD which had the GPS approach loaded as a backup and began a shallow descent. Once we were right between the final approach fix and the airport I began my base turned and called for the gear.

The quartering tailwind had pushed me a little closer to the airport, even with my crab, than I liked so  my base leg was short.

Winds at the airport were 120@15. Runway 17 is 7000 feet long while runway 13 is 6000 feet long. Runway 13 would have been fine, but it required a much longer taxi, thus I picked Runway 17.

Easy landing. The overnight was a little over 9 hours. Not horrible.

Day two was fairly long with a scheduled 7 hours of flying with 4 legs. The first two the Captain flew. Bumpy weather and ILS approach to the hub. A few bumps and clear skies to the out station.

This one out station always creeps me out as its the location where Comair 5191 crashed.

Quick turn. While boarding the gate agent came up to the flight deck.

"Hey guys I need some help, we are 30 pounds overweight." she said.

"No problem, I will stay behind" I joked.

The Captain and I looked at our fuel numbers. We agreed we would burn off the extra fuel and still be able to complete the flight safely.

I call this funny numbers as we assume all adults are the same weight and all kids are the same weight. Additionally every suitcase under the 50 pound weight limit is recorded as 30 pounds. Those over 50 pounds are recorded as 60 pounds. I can go on.

We had to burn 220 pounds of fuel. We agreed to start both engines right away and leave the APU on for takeoff. Our engines burn 400 pounds per engine per hour at idle on the ground. The APU burns about 135 pounds per hour on the ground.

We blocked out and began our taxi. Ground told a Bonanza to follow us.

"Ground we need to burn some fuel so we will be happy to follow the Bonanza." I stated.


While taxiing to runway 4 we noticed the Bonanza having a hard time staying on center line. Then it stopped and we saw why. Flat front tire.

Meanwhile we had about 80 pounds to go. The Bonanza was stuck next to the departure end so we back taxied into position. Straight forward takeoff.

Fuel looked great until we got about 40 minutes out and began hearing flights getting holding instructions. We were approved to slow down.

Looking at the fuel we had enough fuel for one turn in a hold....that's it. The remaining fuel would allow us to fly to the destination, alternate and 45 minutes thereafter.

Thankfully it worked out that we didn't have to hold.....but we weren't done with delays.

At big airports there is a position called the Final Monitor. The job of the Final Monitor is to assure spacing is good between aircraft, especially on IFR days. The Final Monitor can over ride and talk over tower controllers.

On final for an ILS. Spaced 5 miles apart from the aircraft ahead. We were told to hold 170 till the final approach fix. I was dead on speed. Right at glide slope intercept the Final Monitor came on.

"This is the Final Monitor, approach clearance cancelled. Turn left heading 040 maintain 4000."

Not sure what the reason was for, I clicked off the autopilot and made a smooth left turn. Once back on heading I asked for the autopilot to be turned on and flaps to be retracted.

We were vectored back in for another approach. This time behind a 777. Nice eh? The extra vectoring ate up the extra fuel. One more delay and we were obligated to head to our alternate.

Thankfully the approach was easy.

Plane swap.

The next plane was late. Raining. When it arrived I went down the jet bridge while passengers were deplaning in hopes of a quick turn.

The pilots were still in the flight deck with the door locked after all passengers had left. A Flight Attendant grabbed his bags and said, "It might be a while, IOE"

IOE stand for Initial Operating Experience. Someone was getting trained...and I guess things didn't go well.

I did my detailed pre-flight...and they were still locked in the flight deck. They came out 20 minutes after arriving. So much for a quick turn.

With the rain and low clouds, departure was staggering aircraft for takeoff. We left the gate with 350 pounds of extra fuel.

Once in line we shut down the second engine as we were down to just 200 pounds extra.

Tower rattled off the sequence. When we were number 4 I started the APU and then the second engine. Doing a crossbleed start would have saved fuel, but with an aircraft right behind us a crossbleed wasn't an option.

When I pushed the thrust levers up we had 40 pounds of fuel over min takeoff. Close.

Ironically the time spent waiting for takeoff was longer than the time spent in the air. Arrived late.

Day 3 was supposed to start with a 5:15AM van and terminate with a 5:50PM arrival.

Around 8:50PM last night was I was trying to fall asleep my phone rang, it was the Captain. He told me our morning flight cancelled. We now had a 1:30PM van for a 2:20PM departure and we would be done at 3:30PM. Score!

Hoping next week is smoother.

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