Friday, February 14, 2014

Not one easy leg today

Started with a 5:00 AM van.

First flight was booked full. Ten minutes prior to departure I kept hearing a flight attendant request bell going off. The aisle was full of passengers and the Flight Attendant couldn't get to the passenger. The problem was a "passenger of size" was trying to recline his seat forcefully and broke the recline wouldn't stay upright. Our operations decided to take the seat out of service to keep the schedule going. The passenger was removed.

The Captain worked on the paperwork and asked me to secure the seat. Securing the seat means pushing the seat back forward until its flat against the seat bottom cushion. I then use the seat belt to secure it in place. Not hard. I've seen it done before.

Well when I pushed the seat back forward the seat recline mechanism arm that was broken was  shooting straight back into the knee space of the seat behind. Thankfully I had that passenger stand up. The metal piece wasn't removeable. Guess what happened next? We removed the seat BEHIND the broken seat from service as well. Because of one passenger breaking his seat, another is being left behind.

My leg. One of the Air Cycle Machines (we call them "packs") was inoperative. This meant we had to fly much lower than normal. Lower burns more fuel and tends to be bumpier.  Blocked out 20 minutes late. Deiced and away we went. Light to moderate chop most of the flight. The flight was heavily over blocked as we arrived just 5 minutes late.

Next flight was really short, 80 miles. Clear and a million, but a front was coming through. Really rough winds. I had to work the yoke quite a bit to land the aircraft on the runway and in the touchdown zone. The gust were random and strong. Happy to be done.

Quick turn. Gusty takeoff.

Back at the hub the winds were also high and gusting...and from the complete opposite direction than when we left just an hour prior. It was the Captains turn to have to work it down to the runway.

We landed 25 minutes early. Normally a good thing. Well today our gate was occupied. We waited on the ramp for it to clear. I noticed a huffer art attached....meaning they had no APU. We waited...and waited...and waited. Total air time for the flight was 20 minutes. We waited 45 minutes  for a gate. Finally assigned a new gate.

My crew was supposed to have 90 minutes between flights for a break. We only had 50 minutes. I grabbed a veggie burger and fries and headed to the aircraft.

I did my preflight and set up the plane. I then devoured my lunch.

A passenger got on board and confirmed our destination. The Captain stated, "Yes mam, non stop!"

As we were preparing to leave I jokingly told the Captain, "I'm getting worn....I'm only reading these checklist ONE time each, if we divert...too bad."

Blocked out on time. Bumpy takeoff due to winds.

Short hour flight. About 25 minutes out I pulled up the weather with the ACARS unit.

"Hey Phil, we got a problem." I said and pointed to the screen. The winds were a direct 90 degree crosswind at 340 at 27 gusting 34. Our crosswind limitation is 30 knots.

"You have to be kidding me." He replied.

No alternate fuel was on board. There was another airport  just 60 miles away that we serve where the winds would be right down the runway.

I used the second radio to call the tower to verify the winds. They were holding at the 90 degrees and 34 knots. Short discussion and we were diverting. Things got busy fast.

Since it was his leg he flew while I notified the dispatcher of our change in destination, reprogrammed the FMS for the new destination, pulled up weather, recomputed performance, changed the landing elevation for pressurization, made a PA to the passengers and called the out station we were headed to via the second radio to advise them that we were coming. All in about 5 minutes.

Gusty approach, but winds were right down the runway.

In and done. Time was 3:13PM. The dispatcher stated we would wait until 4PM to make any decisions. Everybody off.

The passenger who asked about the destination joked about it not being non stop while she walked off.

My crew was hungry. We walked into the terminal and sat down at a restaurant....a steakhouse. Not the place for a vegetarian. I wasn't hungry anyway.

At 4PM the winds were down to 340 at 22 gusting to 28. We had 2 knots to spare. Since we diverted to a nearby airport some passengers...actually about half...had found other ways home.

"Because I like you Phil I'm going to read all the check list ONE more time," I said to the Captain.

When I called to get our clearance I was told ,"Climb maintain 5000, expect Flight Level 240 in 10 minutes." I just laughed. The flight was 60 miles. We couldn't get to FL240 if we were empty. The dispatcher made a typo while filing.

We pushed back at 4:31PM. We only climbed to 10,000 feet.

Short flight. I picked up the ATIS 30 miles out. Winds were 340 at 27 gusting 35.

"Phil you're not going to believe this but the winds kicked back up to a 34 knot direct crosswind." I said.

He was in disbelief. We were banging up against a duty clock. Where ever we landed would mean we would be illegal to take off again due to duty regulations.

Thankfully we had 4000 pounds of fuel on board. We ran the numbers and figured our bingo fuel was 2300 pounds. Our alternate was the airport we just left.

I advised the approach controller we couldn't land. He let us fly an extended downwind to discuss options. We decided we would make our own hold at the final approach fix to see if winds would die down.

The Captain made a PA and told it like it was.

Each time we went inbound we'd ask for the winds. The winds in the area were odd as there was a smoke stack under our pattern that was gently blowing. The winds at 3000 feel AGL were just 17 knots.

The third time inbound the winds were 340 at 25 gusting to 30.

I immediately requested a visual approach. Cleared.

It was a smooth ride until about 1.5 mile final. Passing over a river I could see the rough water from the winds. We got kicked around a bit but the Captain really worked the yoke to make a very nice landing.


So we thought. A master caution went off for a bleed air subsystem. Another write up.

We thought we were done.

We then waited a record 32 minutes for the hotel van.


Tomorrow is just 3 legs....hopefully.



  1. I think maybe you covered this earlier, but with the new rules, does this mean your off-duty time doesn't start until you arrive at the hotel? That's good for this situation if so! (Noticing how you put "Done" after waiting for the hotel van...)

  2. The new rest rules are good. I must have the opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted rest. Thus all over nights are now 10 hours minimum with most being scheduled for 11 hours. My duty ends at block in for FAA purposes. My rest starts 15 minutes after that.


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