Friday, May 23, 2014

Nonrev games

Our flights to Hawaii looked great. Both were nice and open. Boarded on time in a row together. Delayed. A passenger broke a lens covering for an emergency exit sign. Delayed.

An hour later we pushed.

Missed our first connection.

Made the next but I "had" to ride in First Class while my family rode in coach. My daughter is too young for First Class for non-rev.

It was all worth it.

Good morning from Maui.




Monday, May 19, 2014

The games management plays

Just read an email from my company that shows just how childish and disrespectful grown adults can be.

Over a month ago the pilots of my airline said NO to working for less money. We are already operating under a concessionary contract. We refuse to work for less while the airline is profitable. Very profitable. They wanted cuts because OTHER regionals are willing to work for less.

Since then they seem to be taking pride making us feel bad for having pride. Lots of little things. Tomorrow is a medium thing.

The email stated a brand new aircraft we COULD have been flying if we had voted in concessions will be only display at our largest base...right next to the runway most of us use for departures.

The aircraft in question is flown by another regional. This regional voted in concessions. The big kicker is....THIS REGIONAL HAS NEVER SERVED my base. They are flying this aircraft in just to display it in a secure area away from the public...but in full view of all other aircraft.

Childish mind games.

Perks to small towns

Day 2 of a modified 4 day.

Taking my family to Hawaii for a week starting on Wednesday. I was supposed to finish my trip on Wednesday afternoon. I requested to drop the Tuesday overnight and all the Wednesday flying...surprisingly it was approved.

Same trip as last week. No weather to contend with which is nice. Same crew as well. Nice flying with the same people each week as we know how we all work and can have more fun.

Currently on an overnight in the middle of nowhere. Small town.

I've been here a few times. I know the Minneapolis  controller "owns" the airspace from 4000 to FL 410. Much larger than normal...but it's not a very busy area. While at FL360 I planned for an engine idled descent all the way down the traffic pattern altitude.

At busier airports this isn't possible as they step us down. Sure enough we were cleared down to 5000. When the VNAV read 3500 feet per minute to reach traffic pattern altitude abeam the airport I idled the engines and nosed the plane over. Smooth descent all the way to around 13,000 feet. I did have to deploy the speed brakes to comply with 250 under 10,000.  It worked perfectly.

We picked up the airport 10 miles out and were cleared for a visual and handed off to tower.

There are perks to small towns. The tower isn't very busy (only open day time). As we approached from the south he simply worked us into the traffic pattern with general aviation aircraft.

I entered the left downwind and had a smooth descending pattern....somehow managed to grease it on to boot.

The runway was 7000 feet long. One of my pet peeves is pilots who jam on the brakes to make an exit. I see it as unprofessional as it scares the crap out of some passengers. I get jamming on the brakes to avoid leaving the runway surface....but not to make an exit.

I simply lowered the nose and applied even braking pressure. We slowed to 60 knots with 2000 feet to spare. The Captain took over and we exited at the end. A few passengers even stopped by for the smooth flight and landing.

Another perk of this overnight...crew cars! The hotel allows us to use their hotel vehicle (old but decent Chevy HHR). It's nice to have options for food and entertainment.

Tomorrow is just 3 legs. Once I'm done I should have my schedule for June as bids close tomorrow.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Fit to fly for another year

Passed my 1st class medical.

I was going to take it on Wednesday. The appointment was made and I was all set after my trip. When I came home I wasn't feeling so hot. A little stressed due to work (lots of uncertainty going on with my employer). Some news had been handed down.

Back in 2006 when I got my first medical ever  I was overweight, smoked, drank and never exercised. I had no idea what a medical was. Ten minutes in I was laying on a table prepared for an EKG. My blood pressure was borderline high at 148/95.

Since then I've lost a lot of weight, gave up smoking and exercise 4-5 times a week.  My average rate was down to 125/75.  I measure myself at least twice a week.

Last Wednesday I was above my average and cancelled the medical.

The thought of not passing a medical stressed me out more.

Since I'm headed to Hawaii next week I figured I'd try again today (Friday). I passed. I was still higher than my average today at 130/85, but within the range. The nurse said max for a 1st class is 150/96.

Being a commercial pilot is always on of the list of top stressful jobs. If they specified "for a regional airline" I'm sure it would be number one.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Former Student watching me fly

Day 3 of a 4 day. My overnight last night cancelled so I got to sleep in my own bed.

My wife took advantage of me being home and left for work early. She has a flexible schedule and can just about set her own hours.

This morning I ate  breakfast with my daughter. Funny thing happened though. While sipping my coffee and watching Robin Meade the channel suddenly changed to Bubble Guppies. I looked over at my daughter who had a big smile on her face. My three year old daughter used her Ipad to change the TV from Headline News to a DVR recording of Bubble Guppies. I was proud and confused as I don't know how to do that. I was a little annoyed as I like watching Headline News in the morning. Bubble Guppies stayed on and I told her "Well played". She didn't get it.

I helped my wife out by dropping her dog (I have computers...she has dogs) off at the Doctor for a teeth cleaning at 7:30 AM. I then dropped off my daughter at daycare at 7:50 AM. By 8:35 AM I was preflighting my aircraft for a flight to Cedar Rapids.

Captains leg up. Routine flight.

I went up to the terminal to stretch my legs between flights. I saw a former student (whom also works at my airline), standing in the boarding line.

He got stuck last night due to the weather. He was deadheading and was hoping to exchange his jump seat pass for a regular seat as there was a Fedex pilot trying to jump seat.

I shook both their hands and hoped they would both be on board.

It wasn't going to happen. The Fedex guy was left behind as the cabin was full of paying passengers.

My former student is crazy tall, a good 6 foot 5. I joked about him folding himself into the jumpseat.

It was a little odd having someone I know...a former student at that, watching me fly.

Once in cruise we talked about cars (I'm still eyeing a BMW I3....any BMW salesmen reading this?), computers, traveling and of course the state of our careers.

I mentioned how two friends of mine got hired by Jetblue and Delta recently. They are 31 and 28 respectively. The Delta hire will be #2 in seniority when he retires. Amazing.

Tomorrow is a quick three legs. After I'm done I go in for my yearly medical.

My switch to being vegetarian (with heavy vegan influences...basically I eat cheese if it's already on an item), exercise and other healthy lifestyle choices has dropped my weight almost 30 pounds from last year. Should be a non-event.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Musical Captains

I don't care for deadheading. Just not my thing.

This month I have 2 trips that start with a 3 hour dead head.

The Captain for the trip is a "friend" of mine on Facebook. She posted she was sick last week. I responded she had better be well by Sunday.

When I left home she was still on the flight. I arrived at the dead head gate and saw my Flight Attendant. I've flown with her a lot and we get along well.

"Nice to see you again, guess we are playing musical Captains for a while eh?" she said. I was a bit confused. After checking the schedule we had two different Captains for our 3 legs that day. My Captain called in sick.

The first Captain was a reserve who was being reassigned at the last minute. Our departure was set for 2:20PM. He didn't arrive until 2:30PM. We blocked out at 2:33PM.

Long flight.

Quick turn. I never stepped foot in the terminal. I assumed the reserve Captain wanted me to fly since he'd been flying all day. Nope. He was also an IOE Captain and wanted to fly as he'd been sitting right seat for new Captains a lot. Fine with me, I get paid the same either way.

Long flight back.

Once back in base I shook his hand and headed to the next aircraft with my Flight Attendant. We saw a Captain headed UP the jet bridge. Broken aircraft. Delayed. Things weren't horrible as a new aircraft was towed over and we left 30 minutes late.

This new Captain was also reserve. Only a year senior to me. He left who would fly up to me since it was my leg. I chose to fly.

Crazy cold front blowing across the midwest. The 30 minute delay really put a kink in the flight plan as weather was closing in on the out station.

Normally we fly at flight level 280 for this flight as it's only an hour. Last night we were at flight level 360 to save fuel as it would be iffy getting in due to weather.

Sure enough at flight level 360 we had a great view of the weather. A lot of lightening, sometimes nonstop for several seconds.

The outstation was showing clear per the ACARS weather report with winds stiff out of the south.

I briefed a visual approach to runway 21 backed up by the GPS. If weather got hairy or if it didn't feel right I stated we'd head straight to the alternate. To conserve fuel and have "out" options I setup the VNAV for a constant 3000 foot per minute descent to be level at 1500 feel AGL 5 miles from the outstation.

The outstation is only served by my airline. Tower was closed so we'd likely be the only aircraft in the area.

Before starting down I tuned in the VOR located at our alternate. I put the needle in the background on the MFD and looked off in the distance. Nice and clear there.

About 90 miles out I started our descent. A few bumps but nothing bad. The lightening show was intense though.

The Captain called our operations staff using our second radio to get an idea on the weather. Tower was closed and the only weather was an ASOS.

Station staff are "trained" to observe basic weather. They stated the lightening was to the west and north. We were coming in from the south.

My descent planning worked perfectly. Abeam the departure end of runway 21 we were at 1500 feet AGL and at 200 knots on a left downwind.

I called for the first setting of flaps. The Captain let me know when I was abeam the approach end of runway 21. Since I sit on the right side of the aircraft I can't see much to the left. I flew straight for a few seconds then called for gear down then began a descending base turn.

On base I could see the flashing lights of the REILs. Final setting of flaps  and I turned final. I couldn't have planned it any better. Nice two mile final and at 700 feet AGL right on the PAPI.

On final, the wind direction changed drastically from 270 @20 to 180@15.

Runway was a decent 7000 feet long. I briefed a wet runway and would use thrust reverse. Required runway length was 4800 feet. No nonsense landing. In and done.

Decent overnight.

Today was supposed to be two legs.

The first left on time. Captains leg. A little deviations for weather but we arrived on time.

I said goodbye to the reserve Captain and met up with my line Captain. We headed down to the aircraft to get ready. I had unpacked my side of the cockpit, preflighted, loaded the FMS and completed my scan when she came up and said she delayed boarding. I checked the RADAR on my Ipad...yep stiff line of weather from Texas to Illinois.

After about 35 minutes of delays operations took control and cancelled the flight.

My daughter was pleasantly surprised when I picked her up from daycare. She actually did a double take.

Tomorrow I am scheduled to do 3 legs along with 3 on Wednesday.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

That name looks familiar

Whenever I have an early start I set multiple alarms. My wife thinks I'm nuts, but most of the time I set 3 separate alarms 1 minute apart. I rarely need them.

Well the night before my last trip I only set two. I thought I set two. In the morning at 4:29AM my wife asked if I was getting up. Glad she did. My phone had locked up so no alarm. The other alarm wasn't activated. Better go back to three.

I made it to work with time to spare as I had a 5:40AM report time.

Two day trip worth 8 hours. The Captains' name looked familiar to me, but I couldn't place it. When he arrived at the flight deck I recognized him, he was the Captain I spent 3 days with stuck at a hotel due to weather. We can laugh about it now.

First turn was just an hour each way. Descending into the area I flew less than a mile away from the house I grew up in. Would have made for a great photo...but the FAA and sterile cockpit rules. Sigh. We were twenty minutes early without trying.

Quick turn. Once back in base we were again 20 minutes early. Entering the ramp we had a last minute gate change. This was odd as the original gate was open. The new gate was occupied.

The reason for the change was another aircraft had a mechanical. Rather than move the people and bags to a new gate they wanted us to park there so they could use our aircraft.

It took 24 minutes to move the aircraft off the gate and for us to park. Arrived 4 minutes late.

The flight to the overnight was 2 hours.

Long 18 hour overnight in a hotel in the middle of nowhere. Plenty of time to exercise and relax.

Day two was an easy 3 legs. Only excitement was the arrival on leg 2. It was to an outstation close to a military base. There are only charted approaches to the north as the military base north of the airport. Winds were stiff out of the south which meant a visual approach. No big deal except we were number 2 following a 172.

We had to keep it slow and tight to avoid the military airspace and give room for the 172. It was fun and different.

Happy to have a drama free trip.

Off for 3 days.

Monday, May 5, 2014


Relaxing week or so. One great perk of this job is being able to set my own schedule.

May is an odd month. I have a single day trip, two 2 day trips and 2 four day trips.

My original two day last week didn't fit well with day care and the schedule my wife likes to keep. Part of our lifestyle is only paying for daycare 3 days a week. Doing this saves over $4,000 a year.

The schedule from last month was a Sunday thru Wednesday 4 day. My last trip finished last week on Wednesday. The first 2 day was supposed to start on Friday at noon. No bueno for keeping daycare to just 3 days.

I traded the trip for a 5:30PM start instead. The new trip was worth 3 hours less, but fine with me as it was just 2 legs versus 6. As a bonus I got to take my daughter to the zoo.

Today I had a simple 5 hour day trip. Just two legs. I did have a somewhat early 6:40AM report time, however I was finished by 12:30PM as we arrived early.

Tomorrow I have a two day trip with 5:40AM report time. It's an easy 8 hour two day with 6 legs finishing at 11:30PM on Wednesday.

It's nice having the ability to work when I want to for the most part. It comes with seniority. The latest update shoes me still in the top 25% in base. The problem is it's a shrinking base. We're down over 11% in staffing from a year ago.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A little humor

Saw this on a Facebook post. Saw way to many links referencing it to credit the original writer. 

- A good simulator check ride is like a successful surgery on a dead body.
- Asking a pilot what he thinks about the FAA is like asking a tree what it thinks about dogs.
- An airline pilot is a confused soul who talks about women when flying, and about flying when he's with a woman.
- The only thing worse than a captain who never flew as a copilot, is a copilot who once was a captain.
- Experience is gained through making mistakes. Mistakes are caused by a lack of experience
- Hand-flying an ILS in a gusty crosswind is easier than adjusting the shower controls in a layover hotel.
- A smooth touchdown in a simulator is as exciting as kissing your sister.
- Most airline crew food tastes like warmed-over chicken because that's what it is.
- Everything is accomplished through teamwork until something goes wrong . . . . . then one pilot gets all the blame.
- Standard checklist practice requires pilots to read to each other procedures used every day, and recite from memory those which are only needed once every five years.
- A crew scheduler has to be the kind of person who wakes his wife at midnight to carry out the garbage, then sends her back to let the cat in.
- Unlike flight crew members, jet engines stop whining when the plane arrives at the gate.
- A dispatcher's desk has never run out of fuel.
- An FAA investigation is conducted by a few non-flying experts who take six months to itemize the mistakes made by a crew who had six seconds to react to the emergency.