Monday, April 14, 2014

More drama

Same 4 day as last week. Just like last week, day 1 was full of drama.

The first leg out was mine. The Captain I was flying with was new to me. He was only doing the turn.

Before we left the gate I told the Captain about my drama with this particular out station.

Last year I declared an emergency and diverted when a microburst landed on the approach end of the runway while turning final. The emergency was due to low fuel as we landed at alternate airport with less than 5 minutes of fuel on board.

Also last year I got stuck for 2 days due to low weather (and no ILS) and the inbound flight having an engine fail on rollout.

Last week I diverted on the way back due to weather.

This week was another one for the mental logbook.

While boarding the Flight Attendant let us know a passenger was boarding with an oxygen machine. It's somewhat common for passengers to use personal oxygen machines on board. They have to meet specific guidelines and the passenger is responsible for its operation and use.

We were scheduled to leave on time and expected no delays.

Normal flight for the first hour and then we get a call from the cabin from a very senior Flight Attendant.

"Can you guys plug in the oxygen machine battery for a passenger?"

"Um, no...we don't have any power outlets up here." we replied. She should have known that as she's flown the same aircraft for over 10 years.

"Ok, well the passenger with the oxygen said her battery is running low and she didn't charge her spares in the airport. She just thought she could charge it on board" stated the Flight Attendant.

And so began the drama.

This passenger was 65 years old. She was travelling with her adult daughter who just happened to work for my major airline partner.

A few minutes later another call. The passenger in question isn't feeling well and wants us to divert.

The Flight Attendant states she is breathing fine but seems anxious.

The Captain then radios our dispatcher who connects us with a Physician on call. The Physician is given the details about the passenger including how much of her own oxygen she consumed. He recommended giving her our portable oxygen bottle on board.

The Flight Attendant gives the passenger our portable oxygen bottle, the passenger feels better right away. The implications of this one passenger not being responsible and verifying she had enough battery power were yet to be felt.

The passenger requested paramedics meet her at the gate at our destination even though she was feeling better. The reason? SHE WOULD HAVE NO OXYGEN TO USE WHEN SHE GOT OFF THE PLANE.

To review:

1. She knew she was going on a 3 hour flight

2. She knew her battery was already low and the SPARES were dead

3. She knew she'd need oxygen at her arrival

4. She didn't care at all

I said she....but her adult daughter who worked for an airline knew as well. They should have planned this out and had prior arrangements at the destination.

We landed and paramedics met the flight. The lead paramedic was shocked when he was told she wanted paramedics solely because she had no oxygen to use in the airport and for the ride to her destination. He questioned why they didn't plan ahead.

Because our only spare portable oxygen bottle was used below a usable level it had to be put out of service for the return flight.

We had to fly at a maximum of FL250 for the return flight as we had no spare oxygen (part of the MEL for the aircraft) instead of the planned FL360.

Because we were flying 11,000 feet lower we needed more fuel, 1200 pounds more fuel. This meant being topped off. Warm day. The fueler stated he couldn't top us off and was about 90 pounds low. Topping off normally requires overwing fueling and not pressure refueling. He had pressure refueled us initially to the lower amount and had to come back when he was told we needed more.

Because we were nearly topped off and already had two alternates we were now weight restricted. The dispatcher reworked the alternates to save fuel. We had to leave two paying passengers behind as we were just 150 pounds under max takeoff weight. Side note, it doesn't matter how much you actually weigh, airlines use standard weights.

It gets better. The buffer between release fuel (what we had at the gate) and min takeoff fuel (what must be in the tanks at the start of the takeoff roll) was just 180 pounds. Facing a long taxi it was tight.

Adding one more ounce of was getting hotter. Outside temp was 26 degrees Celsius. At 28 degrees Celsius we would have to shed another 400 pounds.

Thankfully it all worked out. We took off with an "extra" 50 pounds over min takeoff and landed with just the required alternate and reserves...and not a drop extra.

Got a new Captain for the overnight. Now on day 2.

Sitting in a hotel room pondering bidding for Captain. More on that tomorrow.



  1. It would be nice if the airline could bill this woman for the extra fuel used, plus the cost of re-accomodating the bumped passengers. Sadly, it seems this is unlikely to happen :(

  2. Holy Crap.. Now that is a bunch of BS.... Especially when you have a daughter with you that works in the same industry(regardless she should have known to charge her batteries, this is her life, not an ipod, kindle, or ipad)... She should have known the trouble this was going to cause.. And if you try to bill the "older" lady every person with a sign and a beef to grind will make the airline seem like the villan and she will end up getting her tickets refunded and some coupons for future travel... That was crazy! On a side note since you are doing a healthier life style now, what happens on check ride day??? We need to get you some recipies for homemade healthy McGriddles... LOL :)

  3. I haven't even thought about checkride day! I had a slight panic moment when I read your comment. I have no idea. I got physically ill when I ate meat without knowing it. Man....this will require a lot of thought.

  4. OMG! I must agree with the two prior responders' thoughts. In fairness, "There is *always* more to the story," I am convinced that you, your crew associates and your airline were HAD. That airhead (oxygen head?) was most likely trying to set you up for a nasty claim or tort case. The ideal choice wold have been to simply deny her boarding, but of course you cannot do that. Your airline got screwed, you know it and let's move on. Working level crews, even captains cannot fix this kind of problem in the instant, so deal with it and move on. Your captain make the only choices that were available to him and yes, your company got screwed. I too would love to see that idiot billed for the excess costs, but it won't happen. Perhaps the company can bar her from future flights. Probably not, but it would be a good 'Business Decision.' I won't speculate about this woman's other obvious traits, but I don't think my guesses would be wrong. Ouch.


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