Saturday, December 17, 2016

Cute Baby Captain

I'm currently sitting in a La Quinta in Indiana. I arrived at 10 AM via a deadhead from my base. I was called at 4:20 AM for this assignment. Departure time....6:15 AM....tomorrow of course. Waste of a day.

So far I have just over 200 hours as Captain, but only 60 hours as Captain in my current aircraft. The FAA requires new Captains (affectionately known as Baby Captains) to have 100 hours as Captain in type aircraft before being allowed full reign. Until I get 100 hours all my landing minimums are 100 feet higher and 1/2 SM longer than charted. So the average ILS is 200 foot and 1/2 SM....I need 400 feet and 1 SM.

Last week I picked up a Mexico turn on overtime. I've been flying to and from Mexico for 6 years and rarely needed an instrument approach.

A few hours prior to departure I checked the weather. It was 1/2 SM mile and 200 foot variable. It was expected to rise to 800 and 1 mile around the time of my arrival.

About 40 minutes prior to departure I had no flight plan. I called the dispatch office and reminded them I'm a baby Captain. They transferred me to the dispatcher working my flight. He said things should be fine. I asked for an extra 1000 pounds of fuel for contingency in case I had to hold for the weather. He had already given me 20 minutes of hold. The extra 1000 bought me another 10 minutes.

My First Officer was brand new to the airline, thus he had never been to Mexico. I told him I would fly down as Mexico is a little different than the United States. There are different speed restrictions, airspace requirements and dealing with non RADAR environments. Not major, but it would be better for him to watch before doing.

We were a bit delayed but finally left the gate. I headed down and flew planned speed to conserve fuel. I'd rather have more fuel and arrive a bit late than lower fuel and arrive early (and possibly have issues).

About 80 miles out we were slowed to 180 knots. Quite slow. I called for one setting of flaps to increase lift and reduce the deck angle. Hard IMC. We were vectored around and slowed down.

Initially assigned a VOR approach to runway 11. Ceiling was 600 broken with 1 SM visibility. Mins for the approach were 400 and 1 SM. I was legal by 100 feet.

Brought in a bit high I configured early. Just 1 mile before the Final Approach Fix approach cancelled our clearance. The preceding aircraft went missed due to no runway in sight. They were going to use the ILS for 29....with a tailwind. Minimums were 250 feet (350 feet for me) and 1/2 SM.

Vectored around. I briefed the approach while the First Officer set up the FMS. Brought in a little tight which was fine as there were mountains all around.

Shooting down the localizer blind. One thousand feet AGL there was nothing but clouds. Same at 500 feet. Even though I'm a baby, if the runway environment comes into view I can go lower than 350 feet.

Four hundred feet my First Officer said nothing. My right thumb was hovering over the Go Around button. Right after the GPWS said "approaching minimums" my First Officer said, "approach lights in sight". I said "continuing" and turned off the autopilot. I looked up and could make out runway end terminating bars and the first 1000 foot or so of runway lights. In and done.

During the turn the weather got worse. ATIS was reporting 200 foot variable and 1/2 SM.

While holding short (no ILS critical area in Mexico...a little odd) we watched for arriving flights. We could see nothing until they showed to be 100 foot AGL on our TCAS. Flight visibility is different than ground visibility.....but was tight.

The flight back was mostly normal. The STAR for the hub is a descend via meaning there are assign altitude and speed restrictions. My new aircraft is VNAV capable and has auto-throttles. But in order to make the restrictions everything has to be setup properly.

Getting close I asked my First Officer if he was aware of the restrictions. He said he was.

I give new First Officers a lot of slack. The great Captains I flew with did the same for me. Give them slack and let them solve the problem....but retain some rope so you can fix things if needed.

When the next restriction required almost 4000 feet per minute I finally intervened. I guided him through it (we needed full speed brakes for about 15 miles) but we made the restrictions...and he learned something.

For now I will attempt to find something to do. I have extreme doubts.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Heavy Snow

I'm currently enjoying the homeless shelter AKA one of our crew rooms. I am supposed to be flying a bunch of passengers back from Omaha, Nebraska right now.

This is day 4 of a lovely 5 day reserve assignment.

Ironically I had an overnight in the base I previously commuted out of. Today started with a 1:40 PM departure to Omaha. It's also the first real snow of the season.

The aircraft had just come in so the light snow that was falling was just beginning to adhere to the aircraft when boarding started. By the time boarding was complete the ATIS was reporting regular snow, not light snow. We got in line for deicing.

After about 40 minutes everything lined up and deicing started. Then a new ATIS came out....heavy snow. There are no FAA guidlines for holdover times for heavy snow. A holdover time is the time he aircraft should be protected by the anti-icing fluid. Even though an aircraft can LIKELY take off after being sprayed with deicing and anti-icing fluid, there are no guarantees.

Once I saw the heavy snow I called the deicier and told him he should stop and save his fluid. I made a PA to the passengers explaining in plain language the situation. They had been on board for over an hour at this point. The next update from the airport wasn't due for another hour. After discussing the situation with my dispatcher, company operations and my crew it was decided we would deplane the passengers (passenger bill of rights folks you're welcome).

After about 30 minutes the decision was made in operations to cancel the flight. About 20 minutes after ATIS came out....light snow.

The flight could have been reinstated, but it wasn't. Instead I had a 5 hour break until my flight to the overnight. It should still go as the snow is getting lighter. The problem operations wise aircraft and crews are all over the place. My aircraft is supposed to arrive at 6:30 PM. Or departure is 8:05 PM. The problem is the aircraft has been sitting at an outstation delayed for 3 hours. Not sure when that crew will time out.

Winter is definitely here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Better...and worse...but mostly better

I'm settling in quite well to driving to work again. I don't miss commuting at all.

It's nice to not have to stress about what assignment I will get which would directly affect when I would have to leave home to catch a flight. Now I can just drive. No matter what I get....I can drive...just 15 minutes away.

That said my current base is growing. I would have been more senior if I had stayed commuting. This is a temporary pain. By next March I will have 50+ pilots under me. For now...I work Thanksgiving.

The flying has been fine. I've flown to both Canada and Mexico so far. No emergencies or major issues yet. I'm still disgruntled with my company....but there are very few regional pilots that love their company.

I passed my 9th year last month. I got a decent pay raise. I'm currently at $84 an hour. It sounds like a lot....but a good friend at Delta on the 717 gets over $200 an hour as Captain...and his plane holds maybe 20 more seats.  It's still a lot of money.

Next March I hit the big 4-0. Forty years old is a big deal as I have to get an FAA medical exam every six months instead of every year. I can skirt the rule by getting a medical BEFORE my 40th birthday and thus can wait until my 41st for my next one. The rule is roughly any medical AFTER turning age 40. Hey I can save $70.

I'm flying with a lot of new hires. My airline has majorly increased new hire pay.

My first full year as a new hire I made $31,000 all in. Now new hires make $60,000. More than double. Good for them....but man they will never know the struggle.

I will make another "How much does a regional pilot make after xxxx years" at the end of the year. This will be a hybrid year as I began getting Captain pay back in April.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Aim to exceed

I'm currently in the Motor City on my second (and should be final) IOE trip.

The first trip was just under 10 hours. I need at least 15 to finish as I am a transitioning Captain. When I was a new Captain I needed 25 hours.

The first trip was fairly easy. I was thrown to the wolves right away with a 28 knot gusty direct crosswind landing. I am happy to report crosswinds in the 175 are much easier than the CRJ.

I was quite nervous when I went through my initial Captain flight in April. Now it's just natural.

The first IOE Captain said I was doing very well for how little time I had in the plane.

This new IOE Captain said he'd sign me off after just the second flight, but I only had 12 hours total. It's a great feeling to exceed expectations.

I won't say I'm an excellent pilot, I just prepare well and have a well thought out way of flying.

Tomorrow it's one flight to the HUB and then to Baltimore. I plan on taking a series of buses and trains to the National Mall in DC. It's a 20 hour overnight and I don't plan on spending it all at the airport hotel.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Another Type Rating

Back at home. Simulator training complete.

The training wasn't "easy". I didn't feel stressed until the check ride (Maneuvers Validation in AQP world). It was normal, but odd to feel relaxed until that point.

The training was very different than my previous two. The training was NOT set up for new hires. A lot is skipped over and is assumed. My partner struggled the entire time, but also passed.

While in training a pilot I met up with many years ago (thanks to this blog!) was also there. Turns out he is an instructor for the same aircraft, but a different airline. Aviation is a small world. Nice chance meeting. I'm sure we will cross paths again.

For now I have two weeks off! Normally this would be great, but after being on the ground so long, I really want to fly. The timing works out well though as my wife has to travel next week for work. Since we have zero family in town, we both can't travel at the same time so it's nice that I'm off until the 14th and she comes back on the 13th.

In theory this should be my last new aircraft until I get picked up by the majors. Hopefully.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

One week down in the simulator

Starting week two in the simulator for my new aircraft.

Partially because I have 5000 hours airline time and partially because I'm a's gonna very well.

My sim partner isn't having such a relaxed time.

My new aircraft, ERJ-175, is much more advanced than my last. At the end of the day an airplane is an airplane, but mastering the technology is a whole different story.

In the past I would fly a non-precision approach via the "drive and dive" method. It wasn't very accurate, and required a lot of work.....but's how it was done.

The ERJ-175 has VNAV and can calculate a Flight Path Angle to have a constant rate of descent. Due to a myriad of issues I can only use the VNAV to the Final Approach Fix. From the FAF inbound I have to use FPA. Not terribly complex, but it must be done. I get it. My First Officer does not.

I feel bad for them, but they actually chose this aircraft. They could have gone to a more basic jet, but for whatever reason they chose the 175. The 175 is a lot of aircraft for a new hire being their first jet.

This week I have 3 simulator events then a Manuvers Validation then a Line Operating Experience ride. The MV is the actual "check ride" while the LOE is another phase check.

So far I'm feeling very well. There are some quirks to the 175 I don't like (I have to push down on the tiller to steer and the seat doesn't go back as far as the last jet), but overall it will be better than commuting.

More later.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Top of Descent

I'm halfway through my training for my new aircraft.

My First Officer is a new hire. Not the youngest but it's their first airline gig. Prior to my airline my First Officer flew corporate.

The new aircraft is much more sophisticated than my previous two. The new plane is a ERJ-175.

The new tech for me included coupled V-NAV, Auto-throttles a CCD (device like a mousepad used to control the screens) and emergency slides. There's more but those are the biggies.

I've taken the written exam and have my oral exam at the end of the week. After that it's off to a different city for simulator training.

I should be back on the line and in the air in October.

In August I attended my last job fair (I think). I'm done paying for them. I'm making good money, live in base and am a Captain. I might just hang out for a bit.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

My last dog and pony show....I think

Sorry for the lack of updates. Commuting makes me want to enjoy as much possible off time as possible.

I'm currently on vacation in the Outer Banks. When I get back I have 4 more days commuting then I hit long term training for a new aircraft.

Yesterday I left the vacation house at 4:50 AM, drove 90 minutes to Norfolk, hopped a ride to Chicago, rented a car, drove to the Westin, attended a job fair, drove back to the airport, hopped a ride back to Norfolk (ironically in the same tail number and same seat!) and pulled back into the vacation driveway at midnight.

I think that was my last dog and pony show.

I had a few minutes face to face with recruiters from Delta, United and American. There were other airlines there, but none that interested me.

Since I fly for free my total cost was $150 to attend the job fair plus another $100 for a rental car and gas.

Over the last two years I've spent more than $900 on job fairs.

In reality I don't want to commute the rest of my life. My family has a great house, my daughter has a great school and friends she enjoys. I can't see us moving just for my job. That means getting a job with my mainline partner since they have a base where I live. So all my focus will now be on getting a job with them.

I have about 150 hours of turbine Pilot In Command time. I should be flying again in October. Once I hit the line again I will be flying much more than I do now.

Back to vacation.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

No such thing as an easy commute

August 23rd...when my commuting will cease.

Until then I, like many flight crew members around the country (and maybe the world), commute.

Each day there are 11+ flights I can pick from to get to and from work. The aircraft seating capacity varies between 140 and 260+ seats. Most are between 140-160. Sounds easy...but most flights are full...and there are lots of commuters and dead heading flight crew.

I am getting more senior. In May I had 4 people under me. I now have 16. When I transfer next month I will have 30.

Being more senior I can get the "better" reserve trips. Trips that start later (allowing me to commute in same day) and end earlier (allowing me to commute home that day).

This week I had a 9PM sign in on day one and finish at 6:30 AM on day 4. I'm only on reserve 4 days.

Getting to work seemed easy enough. Per my contract I have to give myself two flights to get to work on time. This meant a 5:40 PM flight and a 6:30 PM flight. Both were very open.

Well there was weather. Delays. The 5:40 PM flight started with a 30 minute delay...then 45 minutes. I alerted crew scheduling. They said to keep them informed. The 6:30 PM flight was showing on time. I debated and felt the 6:30 PM flight (a 777) would leave before the 5:40 PM delayed flight.

They were in different terminals.

I rushed to the 777 flight...only to see passengers deplaning! They were now an hour delayed. Crap. I rushed back over to the 5:40PM flight which was suddenly boarding. I called scheduling and told them I would miss my sign in time by 25 minutes. To my surprise they were I was the only Captain available.

We left at 7PM and landed at 9:25 PM. My departure was 9:45 PM. I checked on the rest of my crew and they were very delayed.....not arriving until 10:45 PM. So much for feeling rushed.

They arrived and we left. Every leg so far (today is day 3) has had issues....mechanical or weather.

Today is one flight in and a deadhead to an overnight. Tomorrow is one leg to the hub.

As far as getting home the direct flight is almost full....I might two leg it on wide open flights.

Looking forward to August.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Two legger

I've had a lot of vacation recently. I spent a week in Paris at the start of the month and spent a week at home this week.

The day after my vacation ended I had 4 days of reserve. I am getting more senior (15 below me!) and was able to get an easy 4 day trip. I just had to commute to base.

Normally travelling on weekends is easy. The weekday flights are full of business travelers. Well with the booming travel industry today was hard.

I didn't have to report to my base until 3:50 PM. In order to get there I had to leave my house at 7:30 AM.

My first commute attempt via a direct flight was a bust due to a mainline jump seater. The next flight was a bust due to a coworker getting the jump seat (jump seat procedures vary by airline....thus is complex). At this point it was 10:05 AM. I had a back up two leg commute which I didn't want to take....but it was my only viable option.

As luck would have it the two leg option left just a few gates down. It seems several non-revs were using this route as the standby list was quite long. I was given an exit row seat along with several other crew members.

Up and away we went. Quick 90 minute flight.

Leg two was leaving at the gate next to my arrival gate. The flight originally had 35 open seats. It was down to 13 as revenue passengers were being routed through here as well. I was number 14 on the list.

The last seat left was the most upright, thinly padded seat on the airplane...the flight deck jump seat. It happened to be on the same aircraft I currently fly.

I settled in and was thankful it was just an hour and ten minute flight.

Once in I had lunch and took a moment to type this up.

The trip is a 1-2-2-1. It was originally 3-2-2-1 but another pilot sliced the first two legs off and flew them as overtime.

Speaking of overtime I made an effective $222 an hour this week.

On one of my vacation days I picked up 7 hours and 30 minutes worth of flying. It was a little nutty as I left home at 5:20 AM, commuted up on a 6:50 AM flight, flew 3 legs, deadheaded back to base, then commuted home on a 10:30 PM flight. I pulled into my garage at 12:45 AM. It will be great when I am paid for it. I made as much in one day as I used to get in 15 days as a First Officer.

Time to go be a Captain.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Still a baby Captain

Two months later and I'm still a baby Captain.

I did use some of my new Captain money to take my family to Paris. That was my kiddos 3rd time to Europe...and she's only 5.

As far as being a Captain it's about what I thought it would be. The worst part is dealing with being a low seniority pilot commuting to reserve. Commuting kills quality of life...add in reserve and it's that much worse. Thankfully I knew this going in and will only be commuting until mid-August at worst.

Right now I'm sitting in an airport in Ohio waiting for an aircraft to be fixed. Once it's fixed I have to do a functional flight check to make sure it's really fixed (it was grounded for stiff ailerons). Once it's fixed I am supposed to fly it back to my base.

The flight was originally supposed to leave at 8PM....then 9PM....right now it's 9:30 PM but the mechanic stated the aircraft won't be ready until 10PM. Yeah...Left hand and Right hand aren't in agreement.

I think in reality the aircraft will be ready at 10:30 PM. We will do a functional flight check around 11PM....return by 11:30PM. If it passes the aircraft will be fueled up and maybe signed off around midnight. At best I will get to a hotel room by 1AM. The only solace will be I will be illegal for reserve there's that.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Yeah....I'm a bad commuter....and I hate it...but we already knew that

Oh bad. Commuting to reserve is worse.

Readers who've been around for a few years (like 5+) may remember I was a forced commuter for 5 months straight...and hated it. I swore I'd do everything to avoid it....yet here I am....commuting. At least I'm being paid better.

This week I had to do something I really didn't like. I had to commute up the night BEFORE reserve.

My 5 day reserve block started on Friday. Thursday evening my daughter had her belt test for her Martial Arts class. I didn't want to miss it. The test was at 6 PM. The last flight I could catch was 8:15 PM. My report time was 7:15 AM. The earliest I could get a direct flight in the morning wouldn't put me on the ground until 7:30 AM. I had to go in the night before.

She earned her orange belt at 6:35 PM. I hugged her, congratulated her and headed to the airport. The flight was oversold and I was planning on sitting in the jump seat. Thanks to the TSA and their inept screening process  I was able to get a real seat! I feel bad for passengers, especially those with children as the lines are the worst I've ever seen.

I got to my hotel room at 11 PM. The 7:15 AM show time came quickly.

Thankfully it was just one leg to the overnight. The overnight was actually to the airport I flew out of as a passenger many times as a kid. It was very cool to by the Captain of an airliner flying into the airport I first flew out of as a kid.

What made it more special was seeing my wife and daughter waiting in the window of the terminal. They flew down as I had a 20 hour overnight.

I told my crew I'd meet them at the plane in the morning. I joined my family and headed off to a rental car.

We had a great dinner and visited the Johnson Space Center for the day. A bit of weather moved in. This caused a flight to cancel...which caused the next days flights to get full. My family was going to have a problem getting home.

Thanks to the TSA again my family got on. All of us have TSA Precheck so they zoomed through while I used KCM.,

Day 2 of my trip was long but easy. It was 3 legs with the last being a dead head on the same aircraft I flew in to an out station.

I arrived in base at 4:00 PM. Normally scheduling has the next day assignments done by then. There was nothing for me. I called and asked if they had any open overnight flights ( to avoid possibly having to pay for my own hotel in base). They had nothing, so I headed to a hotel.

As I was checking in I saw my assignment for the next day....a 6:15 AM deadhead to my old base (also where I live!). If I had known that I would have just gone home that night and slept in my own bed. It was 5 PM...I was tired. I checked the direct flights and they were all full...I just checked in to the hotel.

This morning I woke up way too early. The deadhead left one time. The lines for security at 5:30 AM were ridiculous. Lots of passengers missing their flights.

Just one leg to the overnight again. I have two flights tomorrow and two the next. All are in and out of my old base.

I can deal with the commuting for now as it will be short lived. In August I go back to training to train on another jet to be based at home again.

Commuting is not for the faint of heart...or those that have busy families. When I get a job at a major I will either move to the new base if there is no hope of being based at home. It's just not worth it to be a lifetime commuter. I can handle it for 3 months.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Awe.....what a cute baby Captain

I'm on day 5 of a 6 day reserve trip. Six days....longest trip of my 8 1/2 year career.

As a new Captain I have restrictions on what kind of weather I can land in. It's known as being a "baby" Captain. To keep it simple I can't land with less than 1 mile visibility and 300 foot ceilings. Most ILS approaches go down to 1/2 miles and 200 foot ceilings.

It's ironic that my First Officers can land at 1/2 and 200. When I was a First Officer I could land at 1/2 and 200, but because I'm new to the left seat it's now 1 and 300. This new restriction applies to me and thus my First Officer as well.

As luck would have it I have had low ceilings almost every approach. Last night was the lowest.

KHPN was reporting 1 and 400 when we left the hub. It was supposed to stay that way for our arrival.

About 45 minutes out the most recent ATIS reported 1 1/2 and 400. Good enough.

The runway at KHPN isn't terribly long at 6500 feet. It was raining. Our charts stated we needed 4000 feet of pavement to land (this included landing 1000 feet down said 4000 foot runway as airliners plan on).

My leg.

My First Officer has been at the airline for 4 months. Very sharp.

As we were shooting down the ILS there was nothing but clouds. Passing 1000 feet...nothing. Passing 500 feet nothing. I expected him to say "approach lights in sight continue" shortly after 500. Instead I heard nothing. Passing 400 I got a little nervous, but the preceding CRJ landed fine.

Finally at 300 he said "approach lights in sight continue!". I clicked off the autopilot and then he said "runway in sight, 12 o'clock!". I looked up to see the runway lights on full intensity.

My eyes took a moment to adjust from the dark cockpit to these extremely bright runway lights. I gently kicked over the nose and planted the mains just past the 1000 foot markers. Max reverse and slight braking brought us to taxi speed with 1500 feet to spare. Exciting.

I'm glad it worked out as it would have been a little awkward (but the right thing to do) to divert because I'm a new Captain.

Beyond that this trip has been fine. I've had 4 different First Officers. All but one have been great. The one that wasn't was new and thought it was okay to recite checklist from memory. It's not. He missed things. I corrected him and asked him to read the physical checklist. He didn't. I corrected him again. No change. Eh.

Today is one flight to the hub then a ferry (no passengers, cargo or Flight Attendants) flight to an out station. Tomorrow morning is another ferry to the hub and I'm done.....for two days...then I'm back for 5 more days.

My baby Captain status goes away after 100 hours in the left seat. So far I have 30.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

First Trip Irony

Today is my first full day as a Captain. I commuted up this morning on a 7:30 AM flight to be in position for my 10 AM -Midnight call out period.

Lucky for me Sunday flights are light and I got an aisle seat for my commute. Boarded up early...then rain moved in. Then lightening. Delayed.

We didn't end up leaving until 8:40 AM. Right before we left I called scheduling and let them know I won't be able to answer the phone at 10 AM but would be at the airport well before my contractual 2 hour call out period. They understood.

I used the WiFi in flight to monitor open flights. Sure enough a few opened up. I was #3 to be called. I was assigned a trip while I was in the air but of course had no way to return a phone call and confirm it. The trip was full of irony.

I was assigned to dead head BACK to the hub I commuted from and work two flights back to my current base. It would have been too convenient to have been assigned that early this morning. It was actually contractually impossible. I could have been assigned it last night, but it wasn't open. Bleh.

As of now it is supposed to leave at 12:44 PM.  I arrive back in base at 9:20 PM. I get to buy my own hotel as I am on reserve tomorrow as well.

In reality the flight is delayed by 2 hours. Who knows what will happen the rest of the day. This is a new adventure...being a Captain and commuting. I haven't been on reserve in 5+ years. At least I'm being paid well know.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Slam and robbed

I completed my first trip from the left seat. It was uneventful and low stress. The fact that I have a little over 2000 hours in the plane (from the right seat) helped a lot even though I haven't flown it in 4 years.

Originally I was supposed to start my trip from my current base (10 miles from my house), but scheduling changed things around and I was now starting out of my new base (hundreds of miles away).

Both the Captain and I had to deadhead up the night before. The training department arranged my flight and hotel.

The flight was fine. The First Class Flight Attendant even gave me a huge bottle of water AND a warm chocolate chip cookie during the flight. Very nice gesture.

Everything was fine until I reached for my bag that was under the seat in front of me. The passenger in front of me got air sick...really air sick...and vomited all over themselves and the seating area....including the floor. Yep the top of my bag was covered in vomit. I cleaned it off the best I could for the moment.

I tried washing it out in the sink. It helped a little.

My first flight was to Little Rock, Arkansas. Taxiing the real plane was interesting, it was nothing like the glass smooth simulator. The visuals were of course different. Keeping the plane on center line. The instructor told me to keep the line "going through my right leg" it's kinda like driving.

Up and away we went. Smooth flight.

Arriving from the north, the airport was landing north. This meant a downwind arrival.

The instructor was big on energy management. A nice long and smooth descent. VFR conditions.

I turned final and lined up for runway 4L. Winds were about 10 knots out of the east. Things looked decent until short final when he said I was about 5 feet too far left....sight picture was off for me.

I thought the flare was good....but the concrete and struts thought otherwise....slam! It was a firm and slightly jolting landing.

The IOE Captain debriefed me. The aircraft is difficult to land smoothly even for season pilots.

He took the next leg and made a very nice landing. The Flight Attendants said "that was better." I let them know it wasn't mine....they replied, "oh".


The flight to the overnight was short, but it was my first dose of weather and alternates. We had to print a second release after the dispatcher decided to add more fuel.

The next approach was to Columbus, Ohio. Very nice approach. The flare looked perfect....yet another slam. The instructor said I got robbed as he thought it was going to be a greaser.

Shortish overnight. Day 2 was one short flight and two longs flights. My last landing was very good.

After my deadhead home I was ready to relax. Two days off and I start again Saturday.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Captain Check Ride - Satisfactory

It's done. Eight years, 6 months and 23 days after starting at my airline I've finally made Captain. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't hard.

The stress level was much lower since I had flown the aircraft before as a new hire. That was a double edged sword as I didn't study as hard as I would have if the aircraft had been new to me.

The check ride started with a pre-flight inspection via a slide show. I did very good except I had one error. It was satisfactory (the highest possible rating....only passing rating).

My First Officer was a check airman. He would be perfect, but could provide ZERO assistance. If I made a mistake he could not say anything. This is what annoys me about 121 check rides.

The ride started in JFK. I taxied out to the runway, low visibility takeoff. I climbed out and was cleared for air work.

Steep turns are something that is never done in the real aircraft. I only practiced them twice in the simulator. It's an odd maneuver as the aircraft warns of high bank angles by stating "Bank Angle!" over the speakers. A bit startling.

Mine last night were not perfect, but satisfactory. I was a little high...a little low....a little fast....but satisfactory.

I then did three approaches to stalls, clean, takeoff and landing. All done fine.

Our destination was suddenly closed and we were directed back to JFK. Low visibility operations were in effect, Category II approach.

My aircraft has no HUD so Category  II approaches are a little funky. The First Officer flies to approach while I look outside. If I see the runway I take over and land. If I take over and have to go around I fly the missed approach. If I don't see the runway he flies the missed approach. The ceiling and visibility were right at minimums.

Sure enough I saw the approach lights and runway right at 100 feet. I quickly stated "landing" and pushed the First Officers hands off the thrust levers. Done.

We were then zapped back out and flew the approach again. This time when I took the controls to land I was given a go around due to a truck on the runway.

On the climb out a bird entered the left engine. Checklist were run and we entered a hold. During the entry the First Officer was running the checklist and I failed to notify ATC of entering the hold, minor but I corrected it.

Emergency declared we headed back in for a GPS 22L approach into JFK on the remaining engine. Weather came up for minimums.

Short final another truck came on the runway (dang airport vehicles!) and we were sent around.

This is where I almost made a fatal error.

The missed for 22L is straight to one fix then a turn to another for a hold. A single engine missed is a little more busy than two engines. I forgot to call for lateral navigation right away. In the real world the First Officer would speak up. Last night all he could say was "well there goes Foler!". I thought "that's odd for him to say that."

I looked down and quickly called for nav mode. Thankfully I was within tolerances.

Vectored back in for a single engine ILS. Landed finally.

Taxied to the end for another takeoff. Had to abort due to some red light. Lined up for another. On this one the engine flamed out at V1. Climbed out and ran a came back.

Weather cleared and we were told to slow for traffic. Flaps failed. Final approach was a no flap landing.

In and done.

I was deemed worthy of Captain.

I now have a few days off. It's been a crazy week as Monday I got a nail in my car tire. Normally not an issue but my tires are unique (BMW I3...they make only 1 brand and model of tire for my car) and there are none in the entire state. It was a "nice" birthday gift as I also turned 39 Monday.

The day of the check ride I broke a huge piece of glass in the house and cut my finger. It all seemed small though as I was handed over my new license.

Next is one more simulator (line flight in real time) then I get to fly the real aircraft.

For the time being I will be a commuting Captain, but a bid just closed...and I should hold Captain in my current base.....but on yet another entirely new to me aircraft. Yep....collecting type ratings.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Smoked filled flight deck

Day 3 of simulator training. My First Officer is progressing well. The instructor is the same instructor I had when I was a new hire.

After each 4 hour sim session there is a debrief over what happened during the sim session. Thankfully the items I made mistakes on were very light. I credit the 8 years of being a First Officer and my 4 years experience on the same aircraft from the right seat. My First Officer has only been at the airline for a year. He is brand new to the jet.

Today involved emergency descents, DME arcs, and localizer approaches.

My first approach was runway 2 at KSGF with the glide slope inoperative. During the climb out from the missed approach (tower told me to go around AFTER the mains touched the runway) we got a cargo fire. It got busy as I called for the aircraft to be cleaned up, fire check list run and entering a hold. The holding fix was just 6 miles north of the airport.

ILS 2 chart

The First Officer had just finish running the cargo fire checklist when I crossed the holding fix. I declared an emergency and took over the radios. Right then the Flight Attendant called stating the cabin was filling with smoke.

The simulator has a smoke function. The flight deck began filling with smoke. We donned oxygen mask. We were then given the runway 14 approach glide slope inoperative with the SGF transition. How appropriate as that was the holding fix from the last approach. I had the First Officer run the smoke removal checklist.

ILS 14 chart 

We exited the hold and were quickly at the BVRLY fix to do a hold in lieu of a procedure turn. No time to hold and wait for the smoke checklist to be complete I turned final and began descending.

I told the First Officer to tell the Flight Attendant we are 3 minutes from landing, will be evacuating on the runway and the signal would be emergency lights on and seat belt sign off.

Runway in sight I was slightly right of course. I corrected and planted the aircraft on center line. Maximum braking and reverse. The instructor came over the radio and said "DO NOT EVACUATE". He knows me and knew I was going to take the situation to the end. Ah it was fun anyway. He cleared the fire.

I taxied to the gate and we were done.

Tomorrow is yet another adventure.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Oral passed

Passed my Captain oral yesterday. The day before that I passed the systems written with a 99. I missed one tricky question.

The oral went okay. I stumbled on two easy questions. During an oral exam the examiner will not acknowledge right or wrong questions. They just take the answer and move on....probing more if needed. As long as I kept talking, the event wasn't over.....just like as long as the sim keeps moving...the ride isn't over.

The examiner was satisfied with my knowledge. It is a double edged sword being in the right seat for 8 years. Over this time I filled my bucket with a lot of knowledge.  A few years ago I stated I was ready for Captain after 4 years. I was wrong.

Next up is the simulator. I have a 8:30 AM showtime. I'm looking forward to flying the jet I was first hired into....for now a simulator will do.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Kryptonite for Pilots

I haven't flown in a month.

Every weekday I've been in an office building from 7 AM until 4 PM. Being confined all day in a building if kryptonite for pilots. I left an office job to come here!

Ground school is almost over. Oral on Wednesday. I start simulator training on Friday. Looking forward to settling in to my new seat.

It helps lower the stress immensely that I've flown the aircraft before and am very familiar with the aircraft and systems. This whole systems ground school has been more of a review than an introduction.

The four other pilots in my class are all fairly new, been on property for barely a year. This is a lot more stressful for them.

Friday, February 19, 2016

My memory is good

So the first day of Captain training....and I was the only student in the class...again.

For the last few years, for various reasons, I have been either the only student in recurrent training (twice) or with just one other student.

Yesterday I just laughed when I found out I was the only Captain upgrading this week. The first day was "Captain Day". It's a class where you are told how to lose your job how to be a Captain.

Today I arrived on day one of aircraft day. I'm the only Captain with 4 First Officers. They, like me, are coming from another aircraft.

Going through the manuals I remember quite a bit. It's been 4 years, but a lot came back to me. Going through the Captain flows I'm feeling very comfortable. Of course it's only day one.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

It's Over

In theory I'm done sitting in the right seat of a regional jet. I flew my last flight yesterday.

I am supposed to start computer based training for my next aircraft next Wednesday. In reality I've been studying for a month.

My last turn was uneventful. The Captain was hired just 6 months before me, but has been Captain for almost a year. Timing is everything.

For now I will post the first photo of my "old" plane. I'm looking forward to the view from the left seat.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


I’m currently sitting in a very comfortable business class seat on a 777. The nose is pointed toward home. 

This is my last full month as a regional First Officer. I start training as a Captain next month. That day can’t come soon enough.

Being a Senior First Officer has it’s perks and negatives. The perks are I get to fly the trips that I find most desirable .For the most part I work only when I want and where I want. This month that meant late starts on Wednesdays and early finishes on Saturdays. This is really what my wife wanted. 

Ideally being in the top 10% I’d be flying day trips. Due to a myriad of things beyond my control, all I can pick from are four day trips.

The first trip of the month was all up north. This week I flew all down south. South is preferable in the winter as it means warmer temps and less of a chance of having to deice.

The trip started okay. Flying with a very senior Captain I’ve flown with before. When I say senior I mean it. He was hired 30 years ago and has enjoyed the life of a Captain for 29 of those years. He’s very set in his ways and tends to ignore input from First Officers. 

Contrary to the belief of new hires, if things go wrong on the flight deck both pilots do a carpet dance (AKA head down to the Chief Pilots office or FAA questioning). I take my tickets seriously. I refuse to put up with foolishness. I make Captain decisions and recommendations even though I sit in the right seat. I don’t step on toes, but I don’t take it and deal with it either. Most of the time this isn’t an issue. With this guy it is.

Several times over the trip I had to repeat myself as he ignored things I stated previously. This could have been my takeoff briefing, aircraft condition, weather ahead or just about anything else I discussed. It was tiring to say the least.

Today is day 4. It started with a 3AM wakeup call for a 4AM van for a 5:05AM departure. Early.

We arrived and hoped to get the 3 legs done quickly before deadheading home. We were flying in and out of an airport where we used to have a base, but it has since closed. 

It was very foggy outside with just ¼ SM visibility. Enough for takeoff but not to return. When I finished my preflight I was stowing my jacket when the Captain asked ,”Hey what’s the minimum oil we need to start an engine?” I replied, “8 quarts… much do we have?” 

“Yeah I think that’s right, let me look it up.” he stated. I knew I was right….he likely knows I’m right...but he’s looking it up? Why ask? 

We were about 1 quart low. The crew that brought the plane in last night likely knew it was low, but failed to let anyone else know. Delayed. 

There aren’t many mechanics around at 5 AM on a Saturday. I let the station manager know via the radio. The Captain, sitting right next to me, asked if I would let the station manager know. Yep.

He then called our operations and got the ball rolling on getting a mechanic. ETA was 6AM. I again let the station manager know. 

We only had 50 minutes to connect to the next flight. Since we had no base, there were no reserves to call to staff it, they would simply have to delay the flight. 

Then things got worse. Weather at the hub was ⅛ SM. I was supposed to fly three flights and then spend 2 hours sitting around until my deadhead flight. After returning to base I planned on rushing home, packing a backpack, and heading back to the airport to catch a flight over to Detroit for the North American International Autoshow. I go every year. As planned I’d get in at 10PM, hotel by 11PM meaning I’d be awake for 20 hours. That was all in question.

The mechanic arrived early. Again it was just oil. Weather at the hub was ¼ SM mile and expected to improve. Surprisingly there was no CAT II approach. We could still takeoff and at worst head to an alternate. At best the weather would improve. We are allowed to takeoff if the weather is below mins now BUT expected to improve by the ETA.

I asked the Captain if he would like to board since it was just oil. He declined. He wanted to wait until the oil was done. Fine.

Oil done. I asked if he wanted to board. He declined. He now wanted to wait until the mechanic was done with the logbook. 

Finally all done. The weather was holding at ¼ SM. He said he wanted to send a message to the dispatcher about the weather. Earlier he called….now he uses text. His commute flight home wasn’t until 2:30 PM. He had no hurry. Ten minutes later he said we could board. Boarding started. This is about 45 minutes after the oil had been completed. If we had boarded then we would have been in the air by now. 

The dispatcher called the station. She wanted to delay the flight as weather had dropped back to 1/8SM. And so it began...ground stop for an hour. Then another hour….then another hour.

At 9:20 AM weather was up to ½ SM. Another airport close by was at ¾ SM.  After letting the Captain know, I asked if he wanted to at least board. Not yet. Fine.

I was beginning to get tired. All hopes of connecting to my deadhead flight and getting to Detroit were gone. I asked a buddy who works for Delta about a direct flight from the hub I was flying to. He said it looked decent. Going direct meant I’d have to wear something in the suitcase of clothes I’d been toting for 4 days, but at least I could see the show.

Getting more tired. I checked and saw that I was going to be illegal at 2:05PM. This was due to FAR 117. 

At 9:31 the ground stop was lifted. Half of the passengers had given up and left the airport. After getting the clearance we were told our window for wheels up was 9:58 to 10:02. 

Being on a regional jet is a plus sometimes as there are fewer passengers to board. We loaded up and taxi’d out at 9:50. The Captain turned to plane ontp runway 29 and I took over the controls at 10:00 AM. Away we went. 

Smooth air. Most of the early morning diversions were international flights. Since most were "heavy" it took a awhile to get the refueled and filed. I know at least one that had to be recrewed as the pilots timed out. 

I expected to be slowed enroute, but there were no delays. I made a decent landing and we went straight to an open gate.

The inside of the terminal was crazy busy. My deadhead flight was already delayed by 2 hours. I decided to try and go standby on an earlier flight that was delayed until my original flight departure time. It worked. I scored a business class seat. 

I walked off the plane at 3:05 PM. I pulled in my garage at 4PM. I then quickly packed a backpack, kissed my family and pulled out of the garage at 4:25PM. At 5:50PM I was sitting in a First Class seat waiting to depart for Detroit. 

After a nice dinner and a few cocktails the flight landed in frigid Detroit. 

The Autoshow was great. I arrived before it opened and saw everything I wanted in 3 hours. 

Glad it all worked out. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

I'm supposed to be on top right now

I'm bidding in the top 5% in my current status. Normally I'd be on top.

Years ago the top guys held cushy 18 day off day trips worth 85-90 hours. Life was good. Due to various reasons almost everyone at my airline is flying 4 day trips. Local pilots hate 4 day trips.

I got my top pick of the crappy 4 day trips. How crappy ? Well my line is under 68 hours. I get paid 72 hours (which is the contractual guaranty). In previous months I had lines as low as 50 hours. This sounds great as I get paid for more than I fly. It's not great though as I have just 14 days off. Years ago pilots had more hours and more days off.

Enough complaining. Winter is in full effect. I've deiced a lot lately. I used to bid Mexico flights in winter to avoid deicing, but a good chunk of the Mexico flights have been given to another regional.

I'm still slated to start training for my Captain seat next month. A new airplane and a new seat. My hopes of bidding out before I start are fading. I should still be able to bid bad to base before the end of the year though.

While sitting in the airport between flights a fellow pilot who recently upgraded stopped by. He mentioned his desire to never commute. He's staying at my airline until he gets picked up by my mainline partner. Family first. That's something I stressed in the past and I still agree with. My commuting stint should be short lived. Famous last words eh?