Friday, March 13, 2009

The joy of the unknown

One of the "interesting" aspects of airport standby is not knowing where you will put your head down each night. Some (most really) nights I sleep in my own bed (preferred!). Last night I went to bed in the Northeast United States.

Today is my day 6. I can't legally work tomorrow. On day 1 this week I was sent on an Ohio overnight. For day's 3 and 4 I went home each night. Yesterday I was watching the flights and saw the "storm" brewing.

There was weather over most of the mid-west yesterday that was delaying flights. Two overnight flights caught my attention. One to Arkansas and the other in the Northeast. The one to Arkansas was resolved quickly, but the one in the Northeast got worse.

The original crew was going to fly from Arkansas to the hub and then out to the overnight. They originally had 45 minutes between flights. Problem was the inbound plane to Arkansas that they were to fly out was an hour late. As is was they were going to arrive in the HUB 1 minute prior to their next flight. If the delay to the outbound is under 20 minutes I have seen the airline keep the original crew. However one hour prior to the departure for the flight to the Northeast,  all the crew members were pulled off the flight. I knew I was going to get called.

I was sitting in "my office", which is a secluded part of the airport where I relax and browse the Internet or watch movies. Once I saw all the crew members pulled off, I began packing up my stuff. When my phone rang I answered it with, "The is First Officer Byrd, I would love to fly the 7:30PM departure tonight!" The crew scheduler laughed and said she was surprised at how fast I find the open flights. I reminded her all I do is watch open flights, movies and browse the Internet.

This particular overnight is in a very nice hotel. The problem with nice hotels is they don't offer anything extra for free. No free breakfast, snacks, Internet (they do comp it for crew it's kinda free) or even fresh made coffee. The more average hotels that we stay at offer all those items mentioned and more!

I made my way over to the crew room to grab my bags and print out my schedule. I had flown with this Captain once before, really nice guy.

Once back up in the terminal I needed to grab something to eat for breakfast and lunch the next day. There was a brand new cafe that appeared to be open. I rushed over only to find they aren't truly opening until Saturday. The cafe is going to have fresh, healthy food....not the norm for airports. I did grab a menu and am looking forward to the Kickin' Thai Chicken!

I ended up grabbing a sandwich and muffin from Starbucks. It would have to do. The overnight was 14 hours long.

The original crew would be arriving at 8PM. We were scheduled to leave at 7:45PM. We were 15 minutes late due to our inbound plane running late and a minor maintanence issue. We pushed out of the gate right at 8PM.

The flight out was fine. I took the leg up and flew a little faster than scheduled. The moon was extremely bright last night, almost blinding. I did my best to take a photo. Here are two of the best.



Despite flying at Mach .81 we were still 30 minutes late arriving. The normally somewhat busy airport was quite vacant last night. The winds were light out of the north and the clouds were overcast at about 4000 AGL. I briefed the approach and we began looking for the airport. Finding airports at night in a big city isn't easy.

The Captain picked up the airport as I was on a left base about 4 miles from the final approach fix for the runway. I agreed and we were cleared for a visual approach. I kept my speed up until the last second. Two miles from the final approach fix I began slowing from 250 knots to 230 knots.

Once I hit 230 knots I began calling for flaps. I clicked off the autopilot and turned final right over the final approach fix. Right at 1100 feet and 180 knots I called for gear down. If we don't lower the gear by 1000 feet AGL we get a caution light. By 800 feet all the flaps are down and I am flying the plane down to the runway.

With my firm landing in the back of my head I arrested the descent smoothly at 20 feet and eased the plane down. I greased it on about 1500 feet down the runway. Much nicer.

I am glad winter is over for most of country and there was no snow on the ground. After my post-flight the crew and I made our way through the terminal to the hotel van.

Today all I do is a return flight and I am off for two days.

The bid packets for next month came out yesterday. The afternoon airport standby doesn't have weekends off like it did this month. Hmmm. Not good.


  1. I'm confused - your 4 Mar entry has you saying that deadheading is considered duty - this leg is your day 6 - you are not allowed to work 7 days , but you are flying home tomorrow - how come ?

  2. I wrote this the day of the return flight (day 6). I got in late on the 12th. The return flight didn't leave until 2PM. Sorry for the confusion.

  3. Wow - quick or what - anyway I got it now - thanks


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