Monday, January 27, 2014

Spirit of travel

I had a great week at Disney World with my family. One would assume Florida would be warm. One would be wrong. During the week the high was 71 while the average was 50. Cold.

Still had fun. It was really neat to take my daughter on the same rides I rode as a kid. She didn't care much, but it was special for me.

Getting there was pretty easy as my wife and daughter had "real" tickets while I non-rev'd. I took the early morning flights to and from as they were the most open.

Beyond flying and computers...another passion I have is automobiles. One of the many perks of the job is being able to travel on my free time.

I've been making the trek to the North American Autoshow in Detroit, Michigan every January that I've been at my airline. January is not the best time to visit Michigan as it is winter.

My vacation this year overlapped with the autoshow except for the last weekend.

My family had "real" tickets on an 11 AM flight Saturday morning returning from Orlando. My plan was to make it to Detroit by that afternoon.

Disney hotels offer a "Disney Magical Express" bus transport from the on site hotels. The require a 3 hour lead time before the flight...this meant a 4AM bus for me. Early.  I checked all of our luggage. This would make it easier on my wife as she only had to manage our daughter and not the luggage and our daughter.

The 7 AM flight was full of nonrevs as is typical. I snagged a seat in First Class. Smooth flight. I took the employee bus to my car and then drove back to the terminal for our luggage.

A quick drive home to shower and pack a backpack for the overnight trip to Detroit. I normally just make day trips to the show, but due to flights, times and load factors I had to overnight it. I decided to pack my jump seat documents just in case I needed a plan B.

I parked our car in short term parking near the their expected arrival gate.  A few minutes later I was in a nice aisle seat headed to Detroit.

Detroit was cold...snowy cold. Normally my drive is 24 minutes from National rental car to the Cobo center. I normally go on weekdays. This trip took over an hour as there was heavy traffic near the Cobo center.

I spent two glorious hours drooling over cars, trucks and SUVs.

Since my family travels for free, my wife and I have been big on hotel points. Our program of choice is Starwood Preferred. I mentioned that because I stayed at the Detroit Airport Four Points by Sheraton...for free...well 2,000 points free.

It was a little odd staying at an airport hotel not on a trip. There were quite a few flight crews there.


Sunday morning I had the option of taking a 6:20AM flight or a 8:00AM flight. Both direct flights.  I decided to sleep in and take the 8:00AM flight. I was at the gate by 7:15AM......then it happened. Delayed due to a mechanical until 8:15AM. Seemed a little odd. I began looking for a plan B and C. There were no other direct flights on my mainline partner for hours. I could take  a two legger on my own airline or look offline.

I noticed there was a Spirit flight leaving at 8:35AM. The current time was 8:05AM. At 8:09AM the gate agent announced the plane had gone "out of service". The flight wasn't cancelled, but there was no time posted on when it might be fixed.

Not wanting to stay in Detroit, I left the gate area headed to Spirit. I didn't have much hope of getting on as it was less than 20 minutes prior to departure.

I approached the gate and noticed both agents busy. I calmly waited and when one was done asked, "I know it's almost departure time, but is there any chance I can jumpseat on this flight?"

She said no problem and I handed over the required items (which I normally don't carry and only brought with me on a whim). At 8:25AM I had a boarding pass for a seat in the back. I knocked on the flight deck wall and asked the Captain for a ride. He greeted me with a big handshake and welcomed me aboard.

The seating on Spirit is very tight. Thankfully it wasn't a full flight. Still the most uncomfortable seat on the plane beats the most comfortable seat sitting in the terminal watching a flight you want to be on leave.

Another succuessful trip to the North American International Auto show. Hopefully next year my family can come along. My wife went to Michigan State University. Every year she wants to come along with me....and every year something comes up.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hello Facebook

It appears someone has put a link of Facebook to my page "Who's in the Cockpit". It's been seen by over 2000 unique computers sent by Facebook. Just curious if anyone could post the link to the Facebook page/group where the link is? Or just shoot an email to .


Curious Geek wants to know

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Who's in the cockpit?

Yesterday American Eagle Airlines changed it's name to Envoy. They were the last regional that had their name on the side of the plane in "big letters". Found this on a message board:

"So who do you fly for?"
"I fly for Envoy."
"Oh, never heard of them."
"Well, our paint is new."
"Is this a private airline?"
"No, it's what you used to know as American Eagle."
"Oh, so like that plane there?" [points to E175]
"No, that's Republic."
"No, THAT one." [points to same plane]
"No, that's still Republic."
"No, THAT one that says American Eagle on the side." [points to same plane]
"Yeah, that's the new American Eagle like me, but not the old American Eagle."
"So you fly for American Eagle?"
"No, I said I'm Envoy."
"Seriously, man, what does your AIRPLANE say on the side?"
"It says American Eagle."
"I thought Republic's said that!"
"Well, Republic, DOES do that sometimes. So does SkyWest and Expressjet. So does Envoy."
"Do you even know what you are talking about? Are you really a pilot?"
"I am a pilot for the former American Eagle Airlines, now Envoy, now American Eagle."
"You are seriously confusing. How do I buy a ticket on Envoy?"
"Go to the American Airlines website."
"American Eagle's"?
"No, American."
"How do I check in for an Envoy flight"?
"Go to the American Airlines ticket counter."
"So you are telling me that you work for The Company formerly known as American Eagle Airlines, now Envoy, now American Eagle, kinda like SkyWest that I check in to either at a United, Delta, US Airways, American Airlines, or Hawaiian Airlines ticket counter, though here now American Eagle, kinda like Republic that I check in at a US Airways, American, or United ticket counter, though here now American Eagle, but you are under American Airlines"?
"Ok, let's keep this simple. If I check in for an American Eagle flight at, go to an American Airlines ticket counter, talk to an American Airlines representative, go to the American Airlines concourse where my ticket says American on it, as does my plane...then who bears the brunt of responsibility if there is an accident"?
"You mean American, right?"
"No, American Eagle. Envoy."
"I thought you were American?"
"We are under American. Listen, when Continental Flight 3407 went down, it was actually Colgan kinda Continental 3407. The CEO said...'We did not train those pilots. We did not maintain those aircraft. We did not operate the aircraft. But we expect them to be safe. We expect the Federal Aviation Administration to do its job.' American wants our skills, our services, our money, our profits, but not our faults, too. If we do good, American takes credit. If we do bad, it's Envoy's fault. Got it"?
"No, I'm the general public. I do NOT get it."
"Then management has done its job properly."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Expressjet held the line

Several regional airlines are under pressure from management to do their jobs for less. Expressjet voted this morning and sent a clear message to management.....they will not lower the bar. Skywest, American Eagle and Republic are up next.



Monday, January 13, 2014

Questions answered. What does a regional pilot make after 6 years?

It's that time again. Every year I lay it all out on the table on what I made the previous year. This is by no means gloating as....well regional pilots don't make a lot of money.

I got a pay raise in October 2007 to year 7 pay. I make approximately $42 per hour now.

Total Wages, Tips and other Compensation - $42792.90

Total Federal and State taxes - $4666.01

Total per diem - $4965.58

Total 401K contributions by my employer - $2364.46

Total money in my benefit including hourly pay, per diem and 401K for 2013  - $50,122.94

In 2013 I flew a total of 758 hours. I didn't pick up much extra flying. I'm going to guess maybe 30 hours over the course of the year.  I took almost 4 weeks off for vacation. Overall it was a pretty good year.

Last year I thought I would be Captain within 18 months...I have another 6 months to get a Captain award or I'm going to be wrong. Eh.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Pooh, Tink and RVR

Trip started with a 11:30 AM report time. I met the Captain at the gate. Nice guy I've flown with once before. He's fairly senior and has no plans on changing airlines. He will retire as a regional jet Captain.

He took the first leg out. Next two were mine. Day 1 was 7 hours of flying.

The leg to the overnight was a decent 2 hour flight. My airline has been playing musical Flight Attendants lately. The one for the overnight had her preferred name as "Tink". Yup.....Tink.

Winds at the out station were 040@10. Ceilings were 3500 feet. I had the option of a straight in for runway 4 or a short downwind for runway 32 right. Runway 4 was 6000 feet while 32R was 8200 feet. There was thin patchy snow reported on runways and taxiways. The performance chart showed I only needed 4700 feet of runway to stop. I opted for runway 32R. If anything odd happened I'd have plenty of room to spare. I entered a left downwind and a quick sweep to final. Done.

As I walked into the terminal I thought "this doesn't look familiar at all, guess I've never been here."

Short ride to the hotel. Once I walked in it seemed familiar. I had been here before, back when it was a 8 1/2 hour overnight. Foggy memory.

This sequence has all early starts. The first morning was a 7 AM van. Me being me....I always wake up on my own way before the alarm clock.

Light snow falling. Deicing was needed.

Quick flight to O'hare. The Polar Vortex that shut down the airport last week was gone. Easy (for Chicago) approach to runway 28 Center. Arrived 10 minutes early.

I then had 3 hours of airport appreciation.

Being in Chicago I stopped by Burrito Beach for a vegetarian burrito. It was good...but stained my shirt. For the first time in 6 years I had to pull out the backup shirt I carry.


Snow began falling. The ramp was covered in orange slush. Doing a preflight in a ramp covered in Glycol is no bueno. Glad I don't do it everyday or I'd have to buy shoes much more often.



The Flight Attendant for my second leg was nicknamed "Pooh"....yes like Winnie the Pooh.

Being a deicer is a thankless job. Most deicers I see have no face protection. Every now and then they have goggles. I couldn't do it. Being hit with hot glycol all day long. Yuck. One perk is the cool name. At every airport the guy in the bucket is called "Iceman".


After being hit with Type I (deicing fluid) and Type IV (anti-icing fluid) we were on our way. With light snow the charts said we had 45 minutes of protection. We were off the ground in 20 minutes.

Got to the overnight early.

Day 3 was supposed to start with a 4:30 AM alarm for a 5:20 AM van. Me being me I was up at 3:35 AM. I always wake up early when I have an early show.

My two legs. Both approaches were ILS's to mins.

During the second approach we got a master caution for "Access Doors" right when I called for gear down. Thankfully it went away. Could have been the high winds in the clouds caused a sensor to be off for just a moment.

Day 4 started with a 5:30 AM van time.  Three legs worth 7 hours 45 minutes. Just two 35 minute turns meant I will be in the flight deck seat nearly non-stop.

The first leg was my Captains. Long flight blocked for 3 hours 20 minutes. Due to local weather, high headwinds, and destination weather we departed the gate with full fuel tanks.

Weather at the outstation was crap. Reporting 1/2 mile visibility. The ground was so foggy tower advised to notify him when we were ready as he couldn't see us. Taxiing around very slowly we made our way to the runway. Due to the low visibility we had a takeoff alternate as we could not return due to 100 foot ceilings.

"Cleared for takeoff, turn right heading 270, I'll turn the lights on high for you." stated the tower.

As the Captain lined up the plane on the runway it was just like we were in the sim. Runway Visual Range was reported as 2000 but it looked like maybe 800. We only needed 600 for takeoff. That number is how far down the runway we can see. The runway was equipped with center line lighting which is very valuable when screaming down the runway at 140 MPH.

Standard takeoff.

During climb out we had to dodge weather while level at 12,000. We couldn't climb higher for a while as there were aircraft holding for nearby airports. We got some pretty good jolts of turbulence while picking our way through weather. About 40 miles out we were cleared up.

Shortly after leveling off at FL340 we got a master caution, one of the packs had gone offline. The pack in question was primarily for the flight deck air conditioning but is needed for pressurization of the entire aircraft.

I ran the checklist which called for turning it off manually, setting the temperature selector to "12 o'clock" (not hot or cold) and waiting 3 minutes while monitoring the cabin pressurization.

After 3 minutes I reset everything.....and it was still offline.

We then had to descend to FL240 as that's the max altitude for single pack operation. Not even 1/3rd through the flight, we discussed the need to divert for fuel. We can normally manage 2-4 thousand foot changes no problem....but 10,000 feet is huge.

Conicidentially the airport my Captain commutes from was just 90 miles ahead.

"We can head to Nashville" he said.

"Ha, convenient eh? Too bad we will be 3000 pounds over max landing weight if we did." I replied.

We sent a message to our dispatcher and our thinking about diverting. The dispatcher worked the numbers and said we could continue to our destination legally but we would use up all of our hold fuel and wiggle room. We would arrive with just the reserve fuel. The weather at the hub was now VFR and expected to stay that way.

The Captain and I agreed to continue on, but if things started looking iffy at all there were several airports we serve that we could stop off for fuel.

It all worked out and we landed with a little over reserve fuel on board. It helped the hub went from IFR to VFR.

New problem was we were scheduled to keep the plane for the next turn. Since it only had one pack that wasn't an option. My Captain commutes and hoped to make a 2:40PM flight home. Our scheduled arrival time as 2:30PM.

Plane swap.

The next plane was originally fueled to go on a much longer flight. Rather than waste time and effort defueling, the dispatcher "worked up" the need for an alternate and gave us an hour of hold fuel. The numbers only worked due to a very light passenger load.

"Do you mind flying it up so I can fly it back and have my commute fate in my own hands?" asked my Captain.

"I get paid the same either way." I replied.

It turns out we needed some of that fuel as it was constant moderate chop at our planned altitude. Down we went for smooth air..burning up the hold fuel.

Out station had 700 foot overcast. Winds on the ATIS were 300@9. There was an ILS to runway 3 or a GPS/RNAV to 33. The taxi from runway 3 is much shorter. That combined with an ILS and longer runway meant I picked runway 3 for the approach.

We picked up a little ice during the approach. Tower cleared us to land, but advised winds had picked up and were now 300@20G25. I had not had a good crosswind during landing in a while.

The nose of the plane was pointed toward the wind, meaning a good deal left of center of the runway. Approach speed was 135 knots or around 155 MPH. Just over 10 feet above the runway pushed the right rudder forward and put the left aileron down. Took a little wiggling but I flew the plane right onto the runway centerline. Done.

Blocked in 14 minutes late. We had a full load leaving.

Cold...but no snow.

Fairly quick turn and just 24 minutes after the cabin door opened, it was closed and we were on our way home.

Being so full we had to perform a max performance takeoff to have enough speed and altitude to meet terrain clearance.

Up and away we went.

My Captain asked for as much "wiggle" fuel as possible. The extra fuel and a 100 knot tailwind meant we were estimated to be 45 minutes EARLY.

We got several short cuts.

"I'm not sure who you paid off....but it's working." I told my Captain.

Lined up for final I tried one more short cut. We were cleared to land on the outboard runway. Being VFR I could tell there was no one waiting for takeoff on the inboard runway.

"Any chance we can land on the right?" I asked tower. A moment later we were cleared to land on the inboard.

Four day trip done. We blocked in 40 minutes early at 1:50PM.  I still get paid for the full block time and the Captain had time to drop off his kit bag, get lunch and still make his 2:40PM commute flight home.

It's only the 12th day of the month, but  I have no flights planned. I might pick up something next week....or I might just enjoy time at home.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

I'm not tired anymore

Starting this month I won't be tired's about time.

In the past I would have just 8 1/2 hours to leave an airport and return. Very little sleep. Now I have at least 10. The more important number is 8 hours of opportunity for sleep.

The rules are quiet different than the past and I'm still digging into them. My union has an app that helps figure out legalities. This morning for example I had a 4:15AM report time. In the past I could work until 6:15PM. With the new rules I could not work past 2:15PM. Much better.

Just finished a 4 day trip. I took lots of notes on how not to be a Captain. The guy I flew with is 64 years and 11 month old. On his way out. On more than one occasion I had to speak up and stand my ground to protect myself as I have 28 years of flying left.

I have just one 4 day trip left for the month.

This morning was just one leg in...done at 8:00 AM. Time to hang out with my family....almost like a day off.