Day 2 of a 2 day. My last 2 day was bad...arrived after midnight on day 1 when I was scheduled to arrive in the 10PM hour. Day 2 wasn't much better.
This week....it's just as bad.
It's a very easy 3 and 1 two day trip worth 8 1/2 hours.
The first turn was fine. I took the leg out. Flying near Chicago so it wasn't normal, but it was fine. Once we neared the outstation.....well actually 150 miles before we neared the outstation....we were brought down low....16,000 feet low. We were then passed from Approach Controller to Approach Controller. I think we went from Moline Approach to Rockford Approach to Madison Approach. All because Chicago Center is still down.
My leg. Stiff direct crosswind. Nice landing.
Quick turn was quicker as we were late due to the rerouting.
Madison clearance wasn't getting any clearances from Chicago center. Instead they filed minimal clearances to get us out of the area. Once out, another center would give us a full route clearance to the destination.
In our case we were given direct Rockford direct Moline direct destination and to maintain 10,000 feet. In reality we knew we would not be going direct and at 10,000 feet, but that's what we had to plan for in case we lost communication.
Fuel tanks were topped off. A contingency fuel stop was planned. Away we went.
We stayed low at 14,000 feet until clear of Moline then up to Flight Level 360. No fuel stop needed. In fact we had 2400 pounds of extra fuel on board. Still below landing weight.
Now most pilots would fly faster to help get the passengers, whom are already late, to the hub as quickly as possible. The guy I'm with loves his paycheck down to the minute. He flew at slightly slower than planned Mach. I brought it up, he said he'd like to save the fuel. I asked if he understood we had 2400 pounds more than needed including a hefty buffer. He did. No change.
Once on approach frequency we were assigned the runway furthest from the gate. This would be a 10 minute taxi for most Captains, but a 15 minute taxi for this Captain. I asked for a runway closer in. Approved. The Captain looked at me and said, "I guess you don't want me to make any money eh?"
I told him I just wanted to get the passengers in as quickly as possible and to get to our overnight at a reasonable time.
In and done. Quick turn. Called the wife. Captain left to get food. Boarding started.
The Flight Attendant asked for the APU to be turned on as the cabin was getting warm. No problem. If I'm hot I fix the issue. I used to wait for the Captain, but most appreciate coming back to a comfortable cabin.
The aircraft was operating on GPU (Ground Power Unit which is attached to the jet bridge) power.
I verified all the switches were in the correct position. I then started the APU. That's when the craziness started. All screens but the EICAS went dark. The cabin went dark. Crap.
The GPU had dropped off line. The APU failed to start.
I turned off the APU, deselected the GPU and tried again. This time the APU started, but there was an audible clicking noise from the circuit breaker panels.
"Turn on the emergency lights." I told the Flight Attendant.
I then studied the overhead panel. Something wasn't right. With the APU on everything should be powered. I tried basic troubleshooting. Nothing.
I turned off the APU and then left the flight deck to ask the rampers to pull the GPU power entirely as I felt that was causing the problem.
Back in the flight deck I tried again to start the APU. No dice. Not starting. We were now on batteries only. I turned all power off....but a few screens remained on. Electrical gremlins were playing around.
The emergency lights are for emergencies. It was night and without the emergency lights the cabin would have been nearly pitch black. The lights only last for 15 minutes max. It had already been at least 5 minutes.
Captain still not back from getting food.
"Hey Doug, make a PA and get everybody off the plane." I said.
Doug is very senior and is one of the top Flight Attendants at my airline. In fact he might be the top as far as service. He serves drinks with a linen table cloth and has an extreme attention for detail. Passengers consistently praise him even after a major delay. Basically he knows what he is doing.
In the middle of deplaning the Captain arrived quite startled.
"What's going on?" he asked. I explained. He questioned my deplaning the passengers. I again explained that there is an electrical anomoly going on as all switches were off but the aircraft remained powered. He looked at the overhead panel and tried the same steps I had. No change.
With all the passengers off a mechanic was called. When they arrived they seemed quite confused as it made no sense for the aircraft to be powered on with everything in the off position.
It seemed doubltful we would be taking that plane out. I collected my things in preparation for a swap or cancel.
After about an hour they replaced a relay box and used a portable GPU. Everything seemed normal.
Blocked out 2 hours late. Almost a 2 hour flight. Blocked in at 4 minutes past midnight instead of 10:05 PM as scheduled. Tired.