Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Carrot is still dangling

I've been posting much less lately. No real excuse for it.

Every now and then my company updates the seniority list. The union does the same, but more often. Right now my seniority number is 1290. Two years ago that would have easily been a Captain position in base near the middle of the reserve list. Today it's a senior First Officer. Reason? Shrinkage.

Reason being pilots above and below me are leaving. The airline has parked or sent aircraft thus balancing the number of pilots to the number of aircraft. Very frustrating.

In the mean time I'm just doing my job. I did have an interesting and startling event a few weeks ago.

I was the pilot flying and had leveled off at 11,000 feet on the arrival to an airport. Departing aircraft climb to 10,000 feet. The TCAS screen showed traffic all around us which is normal.

A solid blue target appeared and showed to be climbing quickly. Within a few seconds the TCAS system turned the target yellow and announced "Traffic". We both looked out and saw the aircraft, a 737, climbing quickly towards us. We assumed it would stop at 10,000 feet. Moments later the target turned red and the TCAS said, "TRAFFIC, CLIMB, INCREASE VERTICAL SPEED!"

Instinctively I clicked off autopilot, pushed the thrust levers to the firewall and smoothly pitched up. During an avoidance maneuver the VSI arc will indicate the climb amount needed to avoid an impact with a green mark. It indicated over 2200 feet per minute. I pitched up until we were in the green. A few seconds, which seemed much longer, later it announced "clear of conflict." At that point I returned to 11,000 feet while the Captain advised approach we deviated due to a TCAS resolution advisory. They simply said ok and to contact a new frequency.

Our operating book states we MUST follow resolution advisories even if we can maintain eye contact with the offending aircraft. Better safe than sorry.

A few days later the Captain got a phone call asking about the situation, not from ATC, but from our own airline.

Most aircraft are equipped with FOQA computers. Flight Operating Quality Assurance computers monitor the flight and make note of anything out of the norm such as high approach angles, high speeds and odd maneuvers. The airline rep stated there have been a rash of RAs at this airport and they are looking to fix the issue.

I'm giving up predicting when I will be Captain. Instead all efforts are being focused on getting out and to a mainline carrier.

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