Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hey what's that noise?

Back from Vegas. For the first time ever I came back even!

Before that my last 4 day was fine until day 4.

Overnighted in a "new to me" city. College town. Found some decent vegetarian Mexican food .

Early morning departure. First two legs were mine.

The first was easy. A quick 27 minutes off to on. Aircraft swap.

The next aircraft was down for maintenance the night before. Nothing major just minor bonding straps replaced. The day before that it was down for an oil smell in the packs.

We were the first crew to fly it that day. Everything seemed normal on taxi out.

The Captain steered the aircraft onto the runway and I said "my aircraft".

Normal takeoff roll....until right after the mains left the runway.

As soon as the gear came up a loud "whooshing" sound entered the flight deck. Even with my noise canceling headphones it was loud.

"What's that noise?" I asked while keeping my eyes on the PFD.

"Not sure, wait...we're no pressurizing." stated the Captain.

A quick scan of the overhead panel showed everything was normal. The pressurization section of the EICAS read a different story.

"We're going back." stated the Captain.

The Captain, whom was pilot monitoring as well, asked to stop our climb at 6,000 feet instead of the assigned 10,000 feet. I had already shallowed my climb but was at 6,500 feet when it was approved. I clicked off the autopilot and made a slow descent down. The cabin was holding at sea level instead of being totally unpressurized and equalling aircraft altitude.

We were fueled for a 2.5 hour flight and were over max landing weight. We could exceed the max landing weight in an emergency, but we both agreed this wasn't really an emergency.

There was no immediate danger. The cabin altitude was holding at 0 feet, the pressure differential was well within limits,  there was no apparent breach of the pressure vessel and everything appeared to be functioning normally except the pressurization system.

We needed to burn 2500 pounds of fuel to get below max structural landing weight. There was no way we had enough fuel to fly to our destination unpressurized.

Out went the gear and flaps while the thrust levers went up. The approach controller did a great job vectoring us around the Bravo airspace and staying clear of arrivals and departures. We flew around for about 40 minutes.

The Captain made a PA early on about our situation.

Once we burned enough fuel we were brought in for an approach. We were just below max landing 100 pounds below. Heavy on the controls. Normal landing.

As luck would have it we parked next to another aircraft that wasn't due out for 4 hours. A fairly quick hour later and we blocked out again. This is one advantage of flying on a "legacy" carrier...spare aircraft and options. In that hour the dispatcher reworked the flight plan, the ground crew unloaded all the bags and reloaded all the bags, fleet clerks restocked the galley, the gate agent performed the first flight of the day security checks, the fuelers loaded on the required fuel, my crew shutdown and started up two different aircraft. All in all...pretty quick.

I was somewhat annoyed as I was supposed to be done at 2PM, head home and come back for a 10PM flight to Vegas. With the delay it was looking more like 4:30PM. Add in that I got up at 4:30AM....long day.

The turn was normal...just long. Blocked back in at 4:27PM. Just about two and a half hours late.

My wife and I caught the 10PM flight to Vegas. It's still odd to just walk on to any flight we want....for free. We even park for free.

Free was a big word for our trip. We used points from our Capital One card to pay for the rental car. We then used our Harrah's Total Rewards points to pay for the hotel and tickets to see Penn & Teller (we used to gamble a lot and had a lot of stored up points). The first morning we were both up $150, but by that night we were down. By morning 2 were were really down. We then both had a great evening and were back to being even!

With all our points we spent less than $100 out of pocket for a weekend in Vegas.

March was great for me. I flew 89 hours and 37 minutes. I will be paid for more than 103 hours.

April is set to be 90 hours of flight and 95 hours of pay.



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