Saturday, May 30, 2009

One team?

Last night my Captain advised crew scheduling that the local station personell could not handle our ferry flight until 8AM due to the morning kickoff revenue flights. Crew scheduling insisted my crew be at the airport at 5:30AM which put us on reduced rest. We arrived at 5:30AM to find our plane still in the hangar and the station personell busy with getting out the morning flights. So here we sit. Just like we told scheduling. We were put on reduced rest unnescisarily. This is ridiculous.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Never make plans....

I had plans to go out with my wife tonight. This morning it was looking like I wasn't going to make it. Then it looked like I would. Then it looked bad again.

I signed in for my flight at 10:45AM. I met the Captain in the crew room. The last time I flew with him was almost a year ago. Really nice guy.

Deciding who flies the first leg of a trip is up to the Captain. Most don't care. This Captain had an interesting way of deciding. On the PFD in the CRJ there is a little arrow the points to the pilot flying. This arrow is more than just an arrow, but for this discussion...just points to who is flying. The arrow is controlled via a XFR button on the Flight Control Panel. He pushed the button on and off and told me to tell him when to stop. When I did it was pointing my way. My leg. Cool.

The climb out was normal for the first part. Somewhere around FL280 our conversation about Craps was disturbed by a single chime and a flashing yellow light....Master Caution. The ED1 screen had a yellow PROX SYS CHAN caution. Before I could even reach for my checklist, ED2 filled up with 5 status messages covering left and right FADEC computers, left thrust reverser and a calibrated airspeed system problem. Yowzers.

I handed the plane over to the Captain and started with the  PROX SYS CHAN caution checklist. After that checklist I ran the others. Thankfully all of the other checklist were "no action required". With all of these issues I might mis-connect to my overnight and make the party with my wife.

The rest of the flight went normally. We discussed the left thrust reversers system and I would use extra caution during landing. Thankfully they both worked normally.

Once in the gate it started. It being miscommunication. After an hour a contract mechanic (my airline doesn't have a maintenance base here) showed up. The crew scattered for food. After another hour things were looking okay. During the 3rd hour we were told it would be another 4 hours. My contract states any delays over 5 hours at an outstation means the crew gets a hotel. Off we went.

An hour after arriving at the hotel we were called back to go move the plane. Someone called me earlier and told me they needed the plane moved. When we left the plane we told the mechanic we were leaving. He said he would work on the plane at the hangar. One would think he would tell us he needed the plane moved. He just told us bye and we left. Nice. So the Captain and went back to the airport and taxied the plane to the contract hangar. Once we parked, the personnel who are authorized to move the plane arrived. Nice timing.

As is we are staying overnight and will ferry the plane back in the morning. Once we get back there is nothing else yet assigned to me. Hopefully I will be released. Crazy day.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Flying when I would rather not

I am on reserve for the next two days. I then get Sunday off and then work reserve 6 more days. Originally I was to work Sunday. If I had then I would be on for 10 days in a row...illegal. The periods between two months is really hard for my airline. Pilots schedules can conflict with flights, duty days and flight time legalities. Some pilots on reserve purposely bid schedules giving them a 7 day conflict. Why? An extra day off! I get 11 days off per month on reserve. If I am illegal to work one of those days (due to a 7 day conflict or what not), I get a day off with full pay. This month I get 12 days off instead of 11. Nice.

Tomorrow night my wife is going out with some friends on a party barge. She wanted me to go. Being the most junior pilot I figured I would get airport standby again tomorrow. Nope. I got an overnight. So much for going out with my wife.

The trip isn't two bad. I do three legs tomorrow followed by a reduced rest overnight and an early morning arrival back in base Saturday. Once I get back I will have to be given a flight right away or released. I will likely be released...hopefully.

This morning an email was sent out to all pilots in my domicile concerning next months schedules. Scheduling advised pilots flying the other planes in my domicile should have no issues getting approval for days off and schedule changes. All pilots flying my aircraft...well...too bad. Not good. I was planning on attending my wife's cousin's wedding. Not looking likely.

Time to go pound sand about having to work tomorrow. Still better than sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours. Although my cubicle gig was 7AM to 4PM...weekends off...proper lunch breaks...but the view sucked. Eh.....still need to update my logbook.

Know when to go around!

Just found a link to this video. If a safe landing and rollout and can not be achieved...go around!

Neat Concorde Video

I saw this on another aviation board. Pretty neat 10 minute video of the Concorde descending and landing. The video has views from both the cockpit AND the outside of the aircraft.

Flying again.....

Back on the line. Signed in for airport standby at 5:59 minute to spare. Being gone for 8 days, I had a lot of manuals to update.

A buddy of mine who worked at the same ATP location as me was also sitting ready. When I walked in the crew room he was slumped over sleeping in front of his laptop. Odd. I took a seat next to him and began updating my manuals. He woke up and said he as happy to see me. His laptop was having issues.

Over the next hour I updated my manuals and helped him troubleshoot Windows XP. I finally got him back up and running. Another reason to buy a viruses. Prior to flying I spent 8 years in the computer industry troubleshooting hardware and software. I know more about computers than I do about flying (I have been a geek for 20+ years!).

As soon as he was up and running my phone rang. I was assigned a flight leaving in 25 a gate 20 gates away. Nice.

After I gathered my things I made my way. I arrived 15 minutes to departure. The front flight attendant looked familiar. She asked if I was the pilot she talked to a few months ago on a subway up north. Then it clicked. My wife and I were on a day trip on a subway when a lady saw my crew tag on my laptop bag. I mentioned my airline and she said she worked for the same one in my base. I have not seen her since. The Captain is a guy I have flown with a few times. Nice guy, former chief pilot. He already did the preflight and called a mechanic to inspect one of the fan blades on the right engine. There was a good chunk of a blade bent. I made my nest and relaxed. The rear flight attendant came up to the cockpit. I have flown with her a few times as well. We spent a few minutes chit chatting before the plane was signed off as ready to go.

He gave the first leg to me. I haven't flown in 8 days. Doesn't seem like much....but it kinda is.

Being a beautiful VFR day I wanted to enjoy to view. Around 7000 feet I turned the plane east (following the RNAV departure) and turned the autopilot on. The sun was shining right into my eyes thru my sunglasses...annoying.

We spent the next 30 minutes getting back up to speed on what was going on with each other. I have flown this route so many times I could do it by landmarks....well maybe not at FL310...but probably a little lower.

The winds were out of the south and we were coming in from the south. This meant we would have to fly a downwind. We were 5 minutes late so I leveled off at 10,000 feet and flew at 310knots until I was about 5 minutes from the airport. I then idled the thrust levers and slowed to 250 knots and then began descending at 1700 feet a minute to be at 5000 feet just east of the airport.

Once on the downwind I slowed to 210 knots and began setting up for landing.

As I turned base we were under the clouds and could see the airport. We were cleared for a visual approach to 22L. Runway 22L has a displaced localizer for the ILS. Most flights I will use the ILS as a backup to what I am seeing outside. This morning I had the ILS tuned in, but kept my eyes mostly outside as the displaced localizer gives conflicting information. For most landings, 60% power on the N1 gauges will hold very close to approach speed. This morning that wasn't happening. When I had 60% N1 I was 15 knots fast. Odd. I pulled the power to too slow. I crossed the fence 5 knots fast. Ehhh....I started correcting from a right crosswind and then floated a g00d 2700 feet. The runway is 9300 feet long. I made a squirrely landing and popped out the thrust reversers. Decent....giggly landing.

After 30 minutes we pushed out again. Captains leg. This airport is odd. Turbojets are assumed to be ready to go when they reach the end of the runway. We can sit there all day without them talking to us. In order to leave we have to call and let them know we are ready. Whatever.

The flight was fine. Once I returned I was assigned to sit the rest of my ready reserve stint. I have 1 hour 45 minutes left.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Back to work

Tomorrow is my first day back in 8 days. I have enjoyed my time off. In addition to doing absolutely nothing (like today!), I traveled with my wife to her home to visit her side of the family. I am very relaxed and have no desire to go back to work!

As it stands now, next month I am still the most junior pilot in my status. Next month I have a straight reserve line. On days where both morning and afternoon airport standby shifts are covered, I will either sit at home with full pay or go fly. I am a betting man and will bet that I will be sent to another base for flying at least once next month. Probably more than that.

Tomorrow morning....morning airport standby.

I put in request to move my days around next month. My wifes cousin is getting married and we would like at attend. She works a "normal" job and can get the days off (its over a weekend). All of my request to move my days around were denied....due to staffing levels. The reason? My airline doesn't have enough pilots. Nice.

Hopefully I can resubmit it later and get it approved.

Time to pack. Leaving the house early tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Where am I?

Had a great weekend with my in laws. Being able to travel whenever wherever rocks!

Today my slot machine arrived! Yes I bought a slot machine. Well I didn't my wife bought it for me. I have spent all day setting it up. Why did I want one? Gambling is my favorite hobby.

Back to work on Thursday. Should have something worth reading to post tomorrow...for now...more slot machine!

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Friday, May 22, 2009

FAA Probes Trainer of Commuter Pilots

I've always been more than a little skeptical of Gulfstream International. For those that don't know they are a flight school and an airline. Those wishing to be pilots can pay Gulfstream an ungodly amount of money for training and then be "hired" as a First Officer getting paid an extremely substandard rate to fly commercial flights for Continental Connection. The "best" part of the deal is that Gulfstream International has pilots on furlough right now. So while furloughed pilots sit at home, other pilots are being "hired" to fly. This makes me sick to my stomach. For a while I have heard rumors of the airline pencil whipping the flight time logs of pilots to make them "legal" to fly. The pilots personal logbooks showed them ILLEGAL to fly. The pilots were forced to fly by the airline threatening them with their jobs if they refused.

Here is a photo of one of Gulfstreams Beech 1900s in Orlando. I took this photo back in January when my wife and visited Disney for a week.

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The Beech 1900 is a great plane. One of my students is flying one for an airline out of Denver.

An airline that has trained many of the nation's commuter pilots -- including the captain of the Continental Connection flight that crashed near Buffalo, N.Y., in February -- faces a possible $1.3 million government penalty for alleged crew scheduling and maintenance violations.

The Federal Aviation Administration accuses Gulfstream International Airlines Inc. of faulty record keeping and substandard aircraft maintenance. Congressional investigators, who conducted their own probe into the airline, allege the company falsified flight time records and forced crews to fly more hours than federal rules permit.

The carrier, and its affiliate, Gulfstream Training Academy, provided training and initial airline experience to Marvin Renslow, the captain of Continental Connection Flight 3407. Fifty people died in the Feb. 12 crash of the plane. The FAA has notified Gulfstream that it could face the penalty, giving Gulfstream 30 days to respond to the allegations, according to a filing Gulfstream made with the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this month. After that period, the FAA will decide whether to assess the penalty.

Robert Brown, chief financial officer of Gulfstream International Group Inc., the parent company of both the airline and the training academy, said Thursday the company intends to submit evidence refuting the alleged FAA infractions. He said the company would offer additional information to demonstrate that no violations occurred. Mr. Brown declined further comment and referred questions to the company's chief executive, David Hackett, who didn't return calls.

Capt. Renslow had flunked a number of proficiency checks as a private pilot and while training at Gulfstream, and he failed at least one other flight test while he was at Colgan Air Inc., the airline that operated Flight 3407, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Investigators say all of the plane's systems appeared to have been functioning well and that the crash was the result of pilot error. They are examining whether Capt. Renslow was adequately trained on emergency equipment installed to protect against an aerodynamic stall on the Bombardier Q400 turboprop plane, according to testimony.

Pilots in the two previous fatal U.S. commuter crashes -- both caused by pilot error -- also spent time at either Gulfstream International Airlines or Gulfstream's training operations, according to reports by the NTSB.

The FAA said Gulfstream Academy relinquished its certificate as an FAA-approved flight training school on May 12, the day the NTSB opened a public hearing on the Buffalo crash. Not having the certificate limits the type of training the academy can offer.

The proposed possible FAA penalty and other troubles confronting Gulfstream, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., reflect broader concerns about the safety of commuter airlines, which account for 51% of all commercial U.S. flights. Gulfstream International's shares Thursday were up 2.1% to close at $2.90 on the American Stock Exchange. The shares are up 93% for the year to date.

Major carriers increasingly rely on commuter airlines to ferry passengers to airline hubs from smaller cities. Regulators and federal safety experts are examining whether pilots at some of these commuter carriers receive sufficient training. They are scrutinizing whether independent training institutes such as Gulfstream Academy produce pilots with sufficient skill and experience to fly the growing number of turboprops and jets at these smaller airlines.

Some of the questions about Gulfstream go to the heart of another safety concern: pilot fatigue. Gulfstream, which primarily serves Florida and the Bahamas, and some routes through Cleveland, flies routes for Continental Airlines Inc., UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines Inc.'s Northwest Airlines unit.

According to congressional investigators, the FAA's probe of Gulfstream Airlines was touched off last summer by pilots who claimed they had been fired or threatened after they raised safety concerns about flight schedules that exceeded the maximum number of hours allowed by federal regulations.

Some pilots claimed they had been punished for refusing to fly substandard aircraft, including planes allegedly dispatched in stormy weather with inoperative systems such as weather radar, according to congressional investigators. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, according to one of these investigators, began looking into the allegations after some of the pilots said their previous efforts to raise the issue with the FAA's office responsible for investigating so-called whistleblower complaints had stalled.

House investigators interviewed witnesses, who claim that Gulfstream engaged in systematic falsification of records to cover up flight schedules that exceeded maximum hours allowed under federal rules.

One retired Gulfstream official, according to a House investigator, alleged that when pilots were asked to fly trips which they believed would put them in violation of federal rules, airline schedulers routinely used a second set of flight-schedule books to hide the excess flight hours. The House committee raised the issue with the FAA last summer in response to pilots' concerns that their allegations had not been properly vetted by the FAA, according to congressional investigators.

In response to questions from The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, the FAA said the alleged crew overscheduling stemmed from a failure to accurately transfer data from manually generated aircraft logbook records to an electronic record-keeping system. "The discrepancies resulted in scheduling crew members in excess of daily and weekly flight-time limitations," according to an FAA release. An agency spokeswoman said, "We didn't find any evidence of deliberate action" to falsify records.

A June 2008 inspection, according to the FAA, revealed that "unapproved automotive air-conditioner compressors" were installed on certain aircraft between September 2006 and May 2008. The airline grounded the affected aircraft and replaced the suspect compressors with approved aviation parts.

In October 2004, a Pinnacle Airlines regional jet without passengers crashed outside of Jefferson City, Mo., after the two pilots flew too high, induced an aerodynamic stall and both engines flamed out. Both aviators were killed. The captain on that flight was a captain at Gulfstream Airlines from 2000 to 2002, and the first officer attended Gulfstream Academy in 2002, then flew as a first officer for Gulfstream Airlines, according to the NTSB.

In August 2006, 49 people died when a Comair regional jet took off from Lexington, Ky., on the wrong runway which was half the length of the one it was supposed to use. The first officer was the sole survivor. He joined Gulfstream Airlines in 1997 as a captain, then was a simulator instructor before joining Comair, a unit of Delta Air Lines, as a co-pilot.

Write to Andy Pasztor at and Susan Carey at

Just enough seats

My wife and I are visitng her family up in the northwest. The flight here had just enough seats for us. Our backup plan of using my mainline partner to connect to Southwest wasn't needed.

My mother in law thought we were crazy as we discussed our options of getting here. My mother in law had  "real" ticket and thus a real seat. Right before the flight closed out we got 2 of the last 3 seats on the plane. Another employee got the last seat. My wife got a decent aisle seat while I got a window seat in the last row of the plane.

I had to play "carry on cop" and move peoples carry on bags around in the overhead bins. So many passengers carry on two large carry on bags and store them both over head. Also they put smaller bags that could easily fit under their seats in the overhead bins. Yesterday there was a lady with TWO comforters in the plastic bags which had a bunch of other personal items walking infront of me. I politely told her one of those needed to go under the seat in front of her. Since I was in uniform, she complied with my request.

After finding room for my wifes carry on I had to move more stuff around for my carry on.

Once I found my seat I realized I had one snack bar for the multi-hour flight! As is common now, my airline sells food on board. During the service I attempted to buy a snack, but the flight attendant refused my money and gave it to me gratis. Nice.

Going to enjoy the day. I'll get back with answers to some of the comments left a little later.

My wife and I love our non-rev benefits. Being able to travel and see friends and family whenever we want is awesome. This is especially important with my in laws as they are spread out between both coast of the United States!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Non-Rev Travel...a game the whole family can play!

My mother in law is in town this week. She is going home tomorrow and my wife and I planned on going on the same flight to spend Memorial Day weekend with her family. We have been watching the flight for the past month. Four weeks ago the flight had 30 open seats. Two weeks ago there were just 15 open seats. Last week coach was oversold and there were just 9 open seats in First class. This morning there were just 4 open seats in First Class. Right now there are 5 employee standby passengers. One too many...kinda.

I can ride the jump seat. I would rather not as it's a four hour flight! With such a lack of open seats we need a backup plan.

My wife is very well versed in planning trips via non-rev travel. Last year she used Southwest to connect to my mainline partner to get home. A few months ago we both needed the help of Southwest airlines to get out of Las Vegas to connect to my mainline partner to get home. Everything went smoothly.

Tomorrow we are again putting Southwest airlines into our backup plan.

Since I am a pilot I can ride Southwest for free. My wife needs a ZED pass. I explained ZED here. The only problem is the original flight with my mother in law leaves at 9:30AM. The flight we need to fly to connect to Southwest leaves at 7:30AM. We will have to make a judgement call by 7AM to either head to connect to Southwest or use my mainline partner to fly direct.

I don't mind flying out to connect to Southwest. They are the easiest airline to list on as the system is totally automated and will give me a "good" or  "bad" status as to if we will get on or not.

My mother in law thinks we are crazy. We spent the better part of an hour working various websites checking connect times, loads and more. We are quite the team. True we could buy *real* tickets on my mainline partner using my employee discount....but what fun is that?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hitting the ground running

Today is my day 6. This means I can't legally work tomorrow. I am off for 8 glorious days starting tomorrow.

I was assigned morning airport standby again today. The plan was to sleep as much as possible...mull around the airport....and drive home. So much for plans.

As soon as I signed in I had an email that I had an assignment. I checked my schedule. What a mess!

I was assigned a deadhead to one outstation...lets call it Peoria. Then I was to ferry a flight from Peoria to Bloomington. Once in Bloomington I was to ferry ANOTHER plane to another crew base and then deadhead home on our mainline partner back to my base. Holy ball buster batman!

The crew for my first deadhead was in the crewroom. I let them know I would be in the back and then left for coffee and breakfast. Whenever I deadhead on my airline I board before passengers as I like to store my kit bag in the cabin. My suitcase normally rides in the cargo compartment as it won't fit in the overhead bins on the CRJ. This morning the front flight attendant let me put my suitcase in the front closet as she was on a day trip and didn't bring a suitcase. Nice.

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view from my seat in row 17 on my morning deadhead

The deadhead was fine. The flight was pretty empty and I had the back of the plane to myself. As soon as we pulled up to the gate I saw the ferry plane waiting. I could see a Captain inside. He is based at another base and was in the outstation overnight. His original First Officer deadheaded out last night.

As soon as I got off the plane, the ground crew advised the Captain was waiting for me. Within minutes I was walking across the ramp to the ferry plane. The plane had a flap failure last night and was signed off as repaired early this morning. The airline needed the plane in Bloomington ASAP for a flight to a hub.

The Captain and I had to do all the cabin safety checks normally performed by the flight attendants. No big deal...but it took a while as took us a while to find some items.

Within 30 minutes we were taxing out for the 138 mile trip to Bloomington. The flight plan was to fly at just 16,000 feet. That's the lowest I have flown for a flight....ever. The Captain took this leg which was fine with me as I wanted to fly the longer leg anyway.

With clear VFR skies we both enjoyed the view from "down low". Within 25 minutes of take off we are on final for runway 16. The plane was very light. The CRJ700 is a tricky plane to land smoothly when it's loaded with passengers. When it's's extremely tricky. He manages an average landing for being so light.

After we pull up to the gate we see a full crew approaching. They were taking the plane to the hub. We deplane and wait about an 10 minutes and then the plane we are supposed to take parks in the back of the ramp. I think it's odd that the airline wasted the fuel for us to fly here and then ferry another plane when the original crew could have just used the second plane we were going to ferry. Whatever.

They pull out and the Captain and I walk out to the next plane we are to ferry out.

I have done a lot of ferry flights in my time at my airline (about one a month on average). Every time we need ballast (extra weight) in the front cargo compartment to keep the plane in C.G. On the first ferry the Captain said we didn't need ballast. Again on this one he said the same. He worked the weight and balance and I took his word.

This was my leg. We were filed at FL410 to base. This particular base is located at an airport I despise. I hate it. Each time I go there I get headaches. When I first started I was sent to this base in the middle of winter. I had no winter coat, gloves or long underwear. I was miserable. On top of that this airport operates in a manner the exact opposite from how every other airport in the country operates. I hate this airport.

For takeoff I debated using full takeoff thrust....but I didn't want to waste fuel and more importantly I didn't feel like rocketing up in the sky at 5000 feet per minute. Even with the use of Flex thrust we climbed out at 4000 feet per minute.

Within 20 minutes we are leveling off at FL410. There was an extreme LACK of wind today. The wind readout on my MFD was sometimes blank. Lots of still air. The highest I saw at altitude was 20 knots. Most of the time the jet-stream has winds of 70-120 knots way up there. Odd.

As we near the base I begin the descent. I referred to my arrival charts a few times to make sure I have all the speed and altitude restrictions programmed in.

Before long we are being vectored in for a downwind to runway 24. Runway 24 is being worked on and has a 3000 foot displaced threshold. The ILS glideslope is out. There have been at least 3 incidents of aircraft landing ON the displaced threshold in the last week. Not good.

We were told to follow a 737 on final and I turned to start a base. I followed the PAPI down while dealing with a stiff 20 knot crosswind. The view outside bothered me as I could see where the runway *used* to end. I had to keep my eyes on the PAPI and the end of the temporary runway.

Remember what I said about ballast and C.G.? The Captain stated we didn't need ballast. I never worked the weight and balance so I can't say for sure how close we were, but the plane didn't "feel" right on approach. It felt very ass heavy.

I was right on speed and dealing with the crosswind, displaced threshold and ass heavy plane. At 50 feet I began kicking out the nose and correcting for the crosswind. By 10 feet I pulled out the power. On most ferry flights, when super light, the plane floats. Today with the ass heaviness feeling that didn't happen. I made the hands down worst landing ever. We bounced at least twice...maybe three times. Ouch.

Once clear of the runway the craziness started. At this airport you keep moving until told to stop or you get to where you are going. You may or may not talk to a ground controller. Ugh. I get through it.

As soon as we pull up to the gate another crew is there waiting to take the plane out. I grab my stuff and head for my deadhead home. On the way I have time to grab a small chicken wrap.

Deadheading on my mainline partner means I have the chance to ride in First Class for free. I list for it, but it's it is.

The flight is completely full. I board right after First Class even though my group boarding number on my boarding pass is the last group to board. I stowed my bags and quickly begin eating my little snack. I had not eaten in almost 6 hours. Starving.

Two hours later the plane lands in base. My ready reserve stint was supposed to be 6AM to 2PM. My deadhead flight landed at 4PM. I was in my car by 4:30PM and home by 5PM. Long day.

Off for 8 days. Worry not I have a bunch of stuff I wanted to write about that I hope to get posted during the next 8 days. Bids close tomorrow as well. Good times.

Time to spend time with my wife. She turns 30 today. Still looks 16. I'm a lucky man.

Monday, May 18, 2009

New email address

Been a little slacking lately. Along with the new website name (UPDATE YOUR BOOKMARKS GEEKINTHECOCKPIT.COM!!!!) I have a new email address.

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On time! Time to buy a lottery ticket

The day started at 4:30AM. I woke up before my alarm clock like normal.

By 5AM the crew was in the van and on the way to the airport. The airport was surprisingly busy for a Sunday morning. We boarded up a full 70 people and rolled out of the gate ON TIME.

The Captain I flew with is really nice guy that I enjoy flying with. He's been at the company for 21 years. Flying has never been a love of his, it's just something he is good at.

He offers the first two legs to me and I accept. The tower is just now opening up so I give a call for our clearance. The woman in the tower sounds really young. She has been here for at least a year as I am used to hearing her voice. Within a few minutes we were lined up with runway 13 and he gave the controls to me.

The runway is "only" 7000 feet long. I put in a "flex" power setting which reduces engine wear and fuel usage but still guarantees all performance requirements. Just past the 4000 foot mark I heard "V1 rotate" and I began lifting the nose into the sky.

One of the nice things about early morning flights is being able to watch the sunrise faster than normal. We were headed east at 500MPH so within a few minutes the sun went from on the horizon to well above it.

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The weather was VFR (what a change!) and before long we were on a downwind for runway 36. The downwind started 210 knots at 11,000 feet above the runway. Approach advised if we could get down quick we could be vectored inside of a 777. I enjoy a challenge and break from the norm.

I was already at flaps 8. I called for flaps 20 and then hit the "Speed" button to begin descending at 210 knots to our next assigned altitude of 4000 feet. Once the descent began I fully deployed the flight spoilers as the "range to altitude" bar showed the plane leveling off well past the final approach fix. With the fight spoilers fully extended and flaps 20 we were descending at 4500 feet per minute. The nose was pointed down at a decently steep angle. Who needs Six Flags?

Passing through 5000 feet we were cleared to turn left heading 090 and descend to 3000 feet, which is the final approach fix altitude for the ILS approach. After the plane finished the turn we were given a visual approach clearance. I stowed the flight spoilers, switched to green needles, armed approach mode, and disconnected the autopilot.

I turned left to line up with the runway and continued the descent. Off to my left and about 5 miles was my house. It would be neat to have my wife monitoring the radios and watch/film one of these dive and drive approaches.

The plane crossed the threshold on speed and I touched down just past the 1000 foot markings. During my approach breif I told the Captain I wouldn't be using reverse thrust as we had to taxi toward the end anyway. By not using reverse thrust it makes for a much nicer landing and roll out. The passengers aren't thrown forward against their seat belts.

We pulled into the gate 15 minutes EARLY! We didn't even try to be early. Nice.

The next flight left an hour after arrival. Thankfully we kept the same plane. There were only 14 passengers going out this time (but 70 coming back, so the airline couldn't send a smaller plane).

There were reports of moderate turbulence above FL300. The dispatcher filed us for FL270, which is really low. I reviewed the flight release and saw we would land with just the FAA required fuel, which is about 2200 pounds. I feel more comfortable landing with 3000 pounds. A "go around" takes at least 1800-2300 pounds of fuel. We were headed to a smaller airport with a good amount of general aviation traffic. If a Cessna didn't clear the runway in time or anything else seemingly benign happened we could be put into a bad position. With only 14 people on board our takeoff weight was 56,000 pounds. We could easily climb up to FL410 and save fuel.

The takeoff to the outstation was fun. Even with a flex takeoff power setting we rocketed off the runway and passed through 10,000 feet within 3 minutes. After getting reports from controllers and seeing beautiful clear skies ahead, we climbed to FL390. The ride was smooth until we began our descent when we ran into continuous light chop, but nothing bad.

In an attempt to save fuel I planned for a 4.0 degree descent into the airport area. This allowed a near flight idle descent while keeping the speed up around 300 knots.

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The initial descent from FL390 began at a slow 700 feet per minute. We were given descend to FL340 with a PD (pilots discretion) to FL290.

We were vectored for a near straight in approach to runway 5. As is typical with a light weight plane (just 52000 pounds) I was planning a slightly tricky landing. The speed cards we use had settings for every 1000 pounds from 54,000 to 75,000. Between 50,000 and 53,999 we use the 54,000 pound card. This means being slightly faster (only 1 or 2 knots....but it makes a difference) than the actual weight. I learned early on not to carry any extra speed when landing light.

Crossing the fence I was at 128 knots (VRef was 124). I slightly reduced the thrust and began the flare at 50 feet. The landing was pretty decent for being so light.

After pulling into the gate I looked at the fuel gauge. Instead of landing with 2200 pounds we had 3800 pounds. By climbing high and descending steeply we saved 1600 pounds of fuel. Of course I won't see any of this money on my next paycheck, but it still feels good.

A company ERJ landed a few minutes after us. We were again 20 minutes early. For some reason the station boarded them up before boarding us. Instead of leaving on time....or even early...we left 2 minutes late. I didn't let it phase me as I knew we were ready on time.

This was the Captains leg. We were again filed for a low altitude, but quickly climbed up (after flying through some rain clouds that came out of no where!) to FL360. As was becoming common place we arrived 20 minutes early and with much more fuel than planned. For the first time in a while all my flights for the day were on time for departure and EARLY for arrival. I should buy a lottery ticket!

Today I have airport standby. When I walked into the crewroom I passed a Captain I knew who gave me the heads up that his First Officer has not signed in yet. He was flying the first flight out at 6:45AM. Instead going to sleep I waited around and kept checking in on the flight to see if he signed in. He did, right at the last second.

After sleeping for 2 1/2 hours I made my way to the terminal for coffee and a bagel. I don't think I will be flying today. Wouldn't mind though, it's a beautiful clear sky.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Worked too hard for one leg

I only had one leg today. Simple hour flight. Of course when things are simple...they never are.

At 9:20AM I left for the airport. I had to sign in at 10:25AM. I left a little early as I had to stop and get cash for tip money (no matter how little I earn, hotel van drivers earn less...I always tip!).

I signed in at 10:15AM and grabbed breakfast. The plane was already at the gate. It arrived earlier and had a maintenance issue. The altimeters were reading off by 150 feet between the Captain and First Officer. The issue was supposedly resolved.

After eating I made my way to the plane. The flight attendants were already on board. I did the preflight and began setting up the plane. Since I am flying more this month I am able to set up the plane without even thinking about it. It's all routine. My hands and fingers move without me thinking about it. Worry not...checklist are always used.

The Captain arrived and stated the gate agent would be bringing down the flight release. No biggie, I used the PDC (Pre Departure Clearance) to setup the route. We had 9500 pounds of fuel on board which is 3500 more than needed for the flight in VFR conditions. Of course today was IFR so I assumed the extra fuel was for alternates.

While waiting I heard a few knocks on my side of the plane. I looked down to see the fueler with a thumbs up. Hmmm...most of the time they do this when something isn't right. I gave him a thumbs up as I knew we had enough fuel. My brain began running through scenarios....why was he concerned?

The Captain and I both reviewed the logbook. There were no open issues. Something wasn't right.

The flight release came down and then we saw the issue. The flight release showed the plane had a MEL on the pressure refueling system. The refueling panel display was labeled inoperative. Our logbook showed that the issue was fixed. We can't leave if the flight release shows an MEL (or doesn't show an MEL) that isn't valid. We quickly began contacting the airline and a mechanic to fix the issue. While waiting...another incident happened.

We were already delayed by 15 minutes. Suddenly I hear a commotion behind me. A passenger pushed his way off the plane (we were still at the gate). He stated he had a bad "vibe" about this flight and wanted to get off. Because he got off, the rampers would now have to go retrieve his bag. Another delay.

All said and done we left 55 minutes late. The Captain let me take it out. It was raining in base so we used full takeoff thrust (versus a reduced power setting called Flex thrust) for takeoff. With a takeoff weight of just 62000 pounds we reach V1 in about 3500 feet.

I hand flew as we climbed at 3000 feet per minute. Passing through 225 knots I pulled the thrust levers back into the climb detent and called for the climb checklist.

Being so late I made a high speed climb. The ride was mostly smooth. Weather at the outstation was reported as thunderstorms and rain. Enroute we noticed our altimeters were off by more than 130 feet. Mine was showing correct (as I was the flying pilot) while the Captain and the standby altimeter were showing 150 feet higher. The problem had apparently not been corrected.

About 20 minutes out I setup the plane for the ILS approach. I briefed the Captain on the descent. There was a small cell between us and the airport that I had to work around before being vectored for the ILS. As we passed through 8000 feet we both had the airport in sight. There was considerable rainfall outside the outer marker but we could easily make it in with a visual approach.

I miss pure visual approaches. Being able to fly in on my own terms is rare in the busy airspace I normally fly into.

I called for flaps 1 then 8 and began a base turn. Turning final I called for flaps 20 and gear down. The approach was looking great.

Passing through 800 feet I was at flaps 45 and looking good. The airport is a former military base and thus has a very wide (200 feet) and long (13500 feet) runway.

I began my flare at 50 feet. The width of the runway got to me and I pulled to power to idle at 10 feet and made just an average landing when it could have been stellar . The wide runway made it seem that I was higher than I really was.

Being a long runway I used very little reverse thrust and let drag slow us down. The terminal was at the other end of the airport anyway.

After parking the plane (35 minutes late!)  the Captain wrote up the altimeter issue again. I checked later and the return flight to base left 3 hours after we arrived as they waited for a resolution to the altimeter issue.

Tomorrow I have three legs. Hopefully all goes well.

One of the consequences

Sitting in a hotel room on an overnight. My wife is attending a baby shower for one of our friends and a seperate baptism party for another friend....all while I sit in a hotel room.

One of the consequences (and there are many) of flying for a living is missing important events. I have manged to be home for the really important ones (wedding anniversaries) while I have been gone for others (Christmas my first year....Thanksgiving my second). There are many other events I would like to have the ones today. My wife has gotten used to explaining why I am not with her.

I just read an article about regional airline flying (read it here I have gotten used to quite a bit of life as a pilot.

After arriving at the outstation I made my way to the hotel van with the crew and hopped on board. I then walked into my hotel room and changed clothes. After relaxing for abit I thought about food. The van leaves at 5AM tomorrow. I hadn't eaten lunch yet. I figured budget wise it was best to eat one big lunch/dinner combo. Around 3PM I headed down to the hotel restaurant and at a bigish meal. Afterwards I thought about a snack for later. Early on I learned to pack snacks. I only have two. I will eat one now and save the other for breakfast.

This hotel has no breakfast. With a 5AM van I will have to sustain myself on a fiber bar and coffee until we arrive in base. If everything is on time I have 45 minutes between arriving in base and leaving again. In reality that means I have about 20 minutes to sneak off the plane and grab food before the next turn.

There have been many times I have flown hungry. On days with delays  I contemplate either running for food or trying for a closer to on time departure. I haven't forgotten that the passengers paid good money to be transported from point A to point B in a safe and timely manner. My manual states crews won't be penalized for taking a break in base for meals and such. Eh.

I have it better at my airline than many of my counterparts. I have friends at other airlines that have it much worse. Lower pay and worse working conditions. A friend of mine has a schedule this month that I would go crazy if it had been assigned to me.

All month he is assigned a CDO (Continuous Duty Overnight). He starts duty late at night and flies one leg to an overnight. The time between his arrival and next departure is less than 8 hours. The FAA requires at least 8 hours between duty periods, hence the CDO. I believe he is given a hotel room for the 6 hours between flights. This is good for maybe 4 hours sleep at MOST. He then has a very early departure back to base and is off until the next night....where he does it all over again.

I can't fathom how he can adjust to such a sleep schedule.

Have I flown fatigued? Well the term fatigue is defined by the individual. I have flown tired. I've never dozed off in the cockpit. There have been days where I have slept in the hotel van on the way to the hotel and then crashed once I got to the hotel room. The glamorous life of a pilot isn't what it used to be.

The crash of Colgan 3407 is turning on lights all around Washington D.C. Regional pilots have more take offs and landings per day than mainline pilots. The most critical phases of flight are taking off and landing. In one view regional pilots are likely more proficient at taking off and landing since they do it more. Another view is regional pilots are exposed to more incidents where things can go wrong (critical phases of flight) than mainline pilots. Hopefully things will change. There are many issues that regional pilots have to deal with that aren't seen as much at the mainline level. Regional airlines are pushed harder to do more than mainline pilots because they risk losing the contract with the mainline airline. My airline is better than most and I am thankful for  that. Of course some day being the best regional is like being the least fat kid at a fat camp.

Friday, May 15, 2009

From Standby to Test Pilot to.....screwed

*There are likely spelling and/or grammatical issues in this post. I did my best....but am quite tired....will review it tomorrow morning and polish it up.

I left home at 5:15AM bound for the airport. I was assigned morning airport standby. After parking at 5:30AM in the employee lot I waited 5 minutes for the employee bus. At 5:55AM the bus pulled up to my stop. Sad that it takes longer to get from the employee lot to the terminal than it does from my garage to the employee lot.

I signed in and then went straight to the ready reserve room. After dawning my headphones and placing my cell phone on my chest,  I slept until 9:30AM. This would turn out to be a really good thing.

I woke up and chit chatted with another FO on my plane before heading up for coffee.

Coffee is my friend. The best deal on coffee is a few gates away. They offer free refills for everyone. After I enjoyed my first cup while surfing the Net I topped off my cup and headed for my spot.

As soon as I sat down my phone rang. There was a plane at the hangar that needed a functional flight check. The plane was down due to needed excessive aileron trim in order to fly straight and level. Hmmm this could be interesting.

I made my way to the crewroom and met the Captain. I had never flown with him before. His truck was parked at the terminal so we hopped in and drove to the hangar. We could have waited for the airline to give us a ride, but we figured we would help out and get there ASAP.

After finishing up the paperwork we headed to the plane. I have done a few flight checks. Sometimes the mechanics come along...sometimes they don't. I get nervous when they DON'T come along. Why don't they trust their repairs. ? Today the mechanics both came along.

The plane had an inoperative APU. Being hot outside we wanted to start an engine ASAP. The cabin temp was already up to 88 degrees! With the external air cart connected we fired up the left engine. A few minutes later we were taxing out. While doing the flight control check I noticed the controls were centering much more firmly than normal. On the CRJ there is no physical connection between the yoke and the flight controls. It's all fly by wire. The Captain tested them, they just felt tight, but not abnormal.

We had to really think about the taxi instructions as the Captain hasn't taxied from the hangar in months and I never have. We figured it out and were soon lined up for takeoff with both engines running and the cabin still at 80 degrees. Ugh.

The Captain gave a takeoff briefing and we agreed that if anything went wrong we could easily abort above V1 as we were so light we would be at V1 within 2000 feet of starting the takeoff roll.

Sure enough the 80 knot call came right away followed by V1 at 124knots. On climb out we were doing more than 4000 feet per minute. No trim issues. Departure saw how fast we were climbing and gave us 15,000 feet instead of 10,000 feet. We reached 15,000 feet within 4 minutes of takeoff.

After flying around for a few minutes straight and level we were both happy with the repairs. No issues found. The plane was supposed to go out as soon as we returned. The flight crew for that flight was waiting on us to get back. We wanted to hurry up and return the plane.

I called ATC and advised the flight check was done. While being vectored I used the ACARS to advise the company we were coming back and the plane was going to be signed off.

We pulled up to the gate and began shutting down the plane. While the Captain took care of the paperwork, I headed outside for the post flight inspection. Once done I shook the Captains hand and headed up the the terminal. The time was 1:05PM.

I used a computer at the gate to check for open flights and bid for flight assignments for tomorrow. While there my phone rang, it was crew scheduling. The scheduler seemed a bit confused but after 2 minutes he assigned me the next flight using the aircraft we just brought it. Why?

Well the original crew was supposed to do a turn and then fly to an overnight for a reduced rest overnight. The turn was leaving so late that they would mis-connect for the overnight or be so late that they would have less than minimum (8 hours) rest for the overnight. Instead they stuck me and the Captain on the flight. We both started at 6AM. If everything went as planned we would return at 7:40PM. More than 12 1/2 hours on duty. Hmmm.

The flight was supposed to leave at 11:40AM. The delayed time was 1:27PM. There was no APU or external air on the plane. The cabin was surely warming up. Meanwhile my favorite flight attendant walked up, she was going on the turn with me. I can never say it enough how important flight attendants are, especially ones as awesome as this one.

The flight attendant and I headed to the plane. The Captain was on his way to the hangar to get his truck and his suitcase. I advised the flight attendant of the hot cabin and left to get lunch.

Once I returned I saw the flight attendant preparing the an 84 degree cabin! I asked her to take a break, but she kept working. She is so positive about everything.

I called operations for external cooled air to be attached to the plane. The time was 1:30PM. We still had just one flight attendant. A few minutes later the cooled air was attached....with two 90 degree kinks in the hose! The temperature of the cabin was up to 88 degrees. We would need to start an engine and soon if we wanted to board. Boarding a hot cabin is a no no and I won't do it. The Captain arrived and we started the right engine. The right pack, which is primarily fed by the right engine, provides air the to the cabin. After cooling the cabin down to a balmy 82 degrees we began boarding. The next flight to the same city was leaving at 2:05PM. If they beat us there we would be delayed as there aren't enough gates for us both to pull up at the same time.

At 2:11PM we were being pushed out of the gate. The 2:05PM flight was taxing out. They were ahead of us. They would then take off 5 minutes ahead of us. The Captain and I agreed to fly as fast as possible to try and pass them. It was my leg.

I planned to climb at 320 knots versus 290 knots. We had plenty of extra fuel. I flew fast the entire flight. We cruised at Mach .83 which is the fastest we can legally go in RVSM airspace. We saw the other flight out our window 15 miles ahead. We could never catch them!

As we neared the outstation we were slowed down. We wouldn't beat them. We were told the localizer inbound and maintain 6000 feet and 210 knots on the speed. I called for flaps 8.  Even 40 miles out we saw the airport. Over the radio we heard a plane inbound with smoke in the cockpit. Not good. The controller was busy with them as we closed in on the airport. The approach controller gave us 5000 feet. The field elevation was 800 feet. We passed over the outer marker for the runway at 5000 feet! He forgot about us. He quickly came back to us and told us to contact tower.

Tower quickly cleared us to land and that we were following Southwest 3 miles ahead. We were advised we were overtaking by 50 knots! I pulled out the flight spoilers and called for "gear down, flaps 20". I lowered the nose and began quickly losing altitude. I was less than 5 miles from the end of the runway and had to lose 4000 feet!

Slowing to 180 knots I called for "flaps 30". The flight spoilers were still fully deployed. We were descending at more than 1800 feet per minute. Slowing past 170 knots I called for "flaps 45". Just over 1900 feet I retracted the flight spoilers and was just above glideslope. I added power for the first time in over an minute!

Right at 1000 feet AGL I was stabilized. This is important as if I wasn't stabilized I would have to go around.

Southwest was touching down. Spacing looked good.

The winds were 020@9 knots. I was landing on runway 6. Everything looked good until 20 feet when a wind gust pushed the plane up. I worked the plane a bit and made a decent landing at the edge of the touchdown zone.

Because the other flight beat us we had to wait it out for 20 minutes until another gate opened up. I made a PA about the delay.

After we pulled into the gate I went up to the terminal to check my schedule for tomorrow. While there I helped out a few customers. I really enjoy helping people. It's in my nature. The flight back was over 2 hours delayed. People were upset. Most were understanding. One gentleman came up and asked why we were delayed. I explained the mechanical issue and the flight test and that we flew here as fast as possible. I was being honest and nice. The passenger came back with, "yesterday it was weather and today it was mechanical. Good story, whatever," and walked away. I was shocked! He then stood a few feet away and complained to other passengers. There was nothing I could say to make him happy.

Once back on board I warned my favorite flight attendant about the rude passenger. I can't imagine anyone being rude to this flight attendant. She loves her job and it shows. She takes such good care of me and the Captains I fly with....she is like a mother. Did I say Flight Attendants are vital? They are!

With the cabin temperature rising we needed to start an engine again. This time we started the left engine. The cockpit was over 88 degrees while the cabin was 82 degrees. After push back we started the right engine. The flight that beat us in....beat us out.

The flight back we flew as fast as possible. The other flight beat us by 10 minutes this time. We pulled into the gate and parked at 8PM. We were beat....14 hours on duty. If I had not slept this morning I would have been extremely exhausted instead of just really damn  tired.

I didn't bother calling crew scheduling to get released. I wasn't able to fly anywhere anyway. I did check my assignment for tomorrow. I bid for a 4 day trip. I got awarded a 2 day trip. Boo. My mother in law is coming in town Sunday. The 4 day trip would have had me away until the day before she left. Oh well.

It's Miller time boys. I have strong feelings about fatigue and scheduling which I may go over tomorrow or soon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Learning from others mistakes

The NTSB is in rare form right now with Colgan 3407. In the past, these inquiries and meetings about crashes took at least a year to come together. Somehow they are having these meetings just 3 months after the crash. The media is making a big deal about the Captain having failed 5 checkrides. Most of the population has no idea what a checkride is and how easy it is to fail one for something VERY minor. A pilot trains for many hours and sometimes months for a single hour to day long event called a checkride. One small mistake (depending on the examiner) and it's game over. My wife gets this. Most people do not. They think "5 failed checkrides?!?!!? OMG Why was he hired?".

Learning from other people's mistakes is something I not only encourage....but practice! I watch many TV shows about air disasters (Seconds From Disaster and Air Emergency are my two favorites!). I also read a lot of books on airline history. has a huge selection of such books. I buy them used for under $10 a piece. I really liked Hard Landing.

I've spent the day reading documents from the NTSB about Colgan 3407. I have read the cockpit transcript, viewed the animation video and more.

The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) is one device that is sometimes in the back of my mind. If I ever have a "bad day" at work and don't come home....what will be my last words? What will investigators, fellow on the transcript? Eh.

I am going to post two links. They both work! I say this because the NTSB site is being bombarded right now and I had to hit reload SEVERAL times in order for the pages to load.

To view an animation recreation of the accident go here:

To read to CVR transcript go here:

Lest I forget....I am a First Officer

The last day of the trip was just three legs. At 5AM the crew climbed into the hotel van and left for the airport.

The first flight of the day has all of us preforming various checks associated with the first flight of the day. One of these checks failed.

The flight attendants tested the lavatory smoke detector...and it failed. The books state that if the smoke detector is is the lavatory. Being the first flight of the day, most passengers sleep anyway. The gate agents made several announcements that there would be no lavatory on board. We left the gate just 6 minutes late.

Rewinding a bit. Before I left the hotel, I checked the weather on my laptop. There was a line of weather from the outstation to base. I saw a way around it by back tracking about 80 miles and flying around the backside of the storm.

After lining up on runway 4 the Captain applied takeoff thrust and away we went. As we climbed up we both switched on our weather radar.

[singlepic id=112 w=320 h=240 float=center]

ATC advised that is we turned right heading 210 we would avoid most of the weather. The our flight plan had us flying a heading of 090. The Captain looked out the window...then his radar and told me to convey that we would be deviating left and right, but on the current heading. He wanted to pick his way around the storm. I mentioned that going around the back side of the storm wouldn't be a bad idea. He had his mind set. ATC came back again advising to head south. The Captain replied that he wasn't going to let ATC control his plane.

The ride through the storm was rough. With all the bumps, precipitation, and cold air involved I had turned on the continuous ignition (in case of a flameout), wing anti-ice (to keep the wings clear), cowl anti-ice (to keep the cowls clear of ice) and turbulence mode on the autopilot (to reduce the corrections made by the autopilot due to the turbulence.) Lightening was lighting up the sky all around us. After about twenty minutes we finally were in the clear.

[singlepic id=113 w=320 h=240 float=center]

[singlepic id=116 w=320 h=240 float=center]

[singlepic id=117 w=320 h=240 float=center]

[singlepic id=118 w=320 h=240 float=center]

After getting back to base I called up a mechanic to take a look at the lavatory smoke detector. They didn't have time to fix it and just MEL'd it. Once they left I noticed a yellow EICAS message that normally isn't there....ICE DET FAIL.  I tested the Ice Detection system before we left this morning. I know it worked fine. It was likely a glitch. I tried turning on and off the windshield heat and probes....the message would go away...then come right back on. Another call to the mechanics. Once they arrived we simply did a CTRL,ALT, DELETE maneuver and the message was gone. Basically we powered the plane off and back on. Simple glitch.

The storms were now between us and our next turn. ATC was giving radar vectors to track a radial outbound. Eventually we turned north. I was able to find a 3 mile wide hole to sneak thru. Once clear the ride was nice.

The weather at our next outstation was VFR. Clear skies, calm winds and unlimited visibility.

I made a better than average landing after having to slow way down to keep from overtaking an ERJ ahead of us. I was trying to keep my speed up as we were running very late and I knew the passengers (and me!) needed to use the restroom.

Thirty minutes after arriving we were headed home. The Captain flew at Mach .83 the entire way. We were initially filed to go more than 350 miles out of the way due to the storm. The storm had since moved out of the way. If we didn't fly fast (and thus burn more fuel) we would have been over max landing weight. As we were being vectored for final we were right at 66,980 pounds....just 20 pounds shy of max landing weight.

I was exhausted after getting on the employee bus to go home. This four day trip was rough on me. I was so tired I went to bed at 9PM last night and didn't get out of bed till 8:30AM today.

Tomorrow I am flying to Vegas for the day. I am driving down to Golden Valley, AZ to look at a slot machine. Should be a fun day.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hijacking report at Miami International Airport is false alarm

Hijacking report at Miami International Airport is false alarm

The report of an American Airlines flight hijacked at Miami International Airport Monday afternoon turned out to be a false alarm, authorities said.

A pilot of American Airlines Flight 535 from San Juan, Puerto Rico had inadvertently switched the plane's transponder frequency to a frequency ''that indicates a hijacking,'' said Tim Smith, an airline spokesman.

Fighter jets from Homestead Air Force Base picked up the plane and escorted it into MIA.

The flight, with six crew members and 148 passengers, landed around 1:42 p.m. and was moved to a holding area at the airport.

The alert from MIA officials prompted an immediate and massive response from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and Miami-Dade police, who dispatched dozens of police cars and special response units to deal with the potential hijacking incident.

The plane was inspected on the tarmac and authorities determined the passengers and crew were in no danger.

''This is definitely unusual,'' Smith said.

Becareful when paying for flight training.

Flight training can cost a lot of money. Be very careful choosing a flight school. Never pay all the money up front! Jet University recently closed it's doors and took several students money with them. The school I went to (ATP) takes the tution in chunks. Each part is due at a set time. This way the student is protected in case they change their mind or if ATP folds.

Flight School Grounded, Students Allege Fraud


Dozens of students at a Fort Lauderdale flight school say they lost tens of thousands of dollars after the program they registered for was grounded.

They told CBS4 News Reporter Joan Murray that when they showed up for class at Jet University on Friday located at the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, the owners announced they were shutting their doors.

One affected student is Anna Pelevina who says she paid $70,000 with the hopes that she would receive an FAA license and employment as a pilot at the end of the program. Instead, all she got was debt.

"We have been wanting to do this since we were kids. It's our dream," Pelevina said referring to herself and her fellow students.

Students came to Jet University from around the nation and the world.

Travis Middleton says he moved here from Wisconsin to fulfill his dream.

"I'm devastated. I'm out $70,000 and no one else will be willing to give me a loan," he said.

Students say they were misled by the owner Heath Cohen. CBS4 News contacted Cohen by phone. He said his business partner decided to shut the program down.

The partner denies that and says he sunk $300,000 of his own money into the business. He wants a full investigation.

Meanwhile, the students say they are taking their case to Florida's Attorney General. They have since met with a private attorney to discuss ways they could resolve the issue.

(© MMIX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

One more night

On my last overnight. Ready to be done.

This morning started early. I woke up at 4AM. I never sleep well on reduced rest overnights. I went down to eat breakfast at 4:50AM. At 5:00AM I was in the back of the hotel van on the way to the airport.

After clearing security I made my way down to the plane and began my morning routine. I had the plane all set up when I realized I didn't have my clearance yet! I had used our flight release to setup the plane. After a quick call to ground, problems were solved. I had the leg out. Weather at the base was 2SM vis and 200 foot ceilings. The Captain called the approach lights at 200 feet. I saw the runway soon after. I wanted to redeem myself after pounding the plane into the runway the day before. I made a very, very, very nice landing. I even gave myself an "attaboy" with a PA after parking at the gate.

The next flight out was textbook.  We only had 9 passengers. Captain landed and we taxied into the outstation.We turned the plane (passengers and bags off, passengers and bags back on) in just 18 minutes at the outstation! It seemed like longer.

While at the outstation, my wife sent me a text that my next flight had changed to a different aircraft. This meant I would be deadheading. She was going to fly on my flight for the first time with me at the controls. Afterward we were going to have lunch and then she was going to fly back home. After a few text she decided to still come along as she was hungry. One of the many benefits of this job is being able to bring my wife along to eat lunch/gamble/explore the city while on a trip.

The flight back to base was full and had a jumpseater in the cockpit from United. We all chit chatted en-route. He was getting furloughed in the fall after 10 years with the company. He was happy to have enough notice to find something else.

Once back in base (and another stellar landing!) I met my wife at the gate for the flight to the overnight. My crew would all be deadheading. A very nice gate agent gave my wife and I exit row seats together. I hate deadheading. I like to see the view out the front window. Oh well.

After landing my wife left to get the rental car and I met her soon after. We had a very nice lunch and she hung out with me at the hotel until her flight was supposed to leave. The flights were delayed. This is the second time my wife has tagged along with me. The first time was a few months ago.

The overnight then was 18 hours long on a Sunday. The city I overnighted in had a casino. We love to gamble. We rented a car and had a great time gambling. I would be flying the first flight out the next day. Before we left to the overnight, the return flight had 40+ open seats. When we got back to the hotel the flight was full. A flight had canceled that night and all the passengers rolled over to the morning. I tried to reassure my wife that the first flight of the day is the most missed flight as passengers sleep in/decide to take a later flight/just don't show up.

In the morning we drove to the airport and dropped off the rental car. The rest of the crew was taking the hotel van. The ground crew were a little confused seeing a First Officer arrive by himself. I prepped the plane for the return flight before the crew arrived. The plane sat right in front of the departure gate and I could see my wife from the cockpit. She sent me a text that ALL the passengers showed up and she wouldn't be getting on. Feeling bad for my wife I went up to the gate and gave  her my laptop bag. The passengers gave us an odd look. Here was this pilot giving his laptop bag to some passenger? Yeah. My wife then sat in the airport for 12 HOURS missing 7 other flights! A flight attendant who was commuting to work (and also getting bumped off flights) saw my wife sitting there and asked if she worked for the airline. After a few minutes the flight attendant realized she knew ME and told my wife that if she didn't get on a flight she could stay the night at her house. Airline people take care of each other. Thankfully they got on a flight home.

Tonight my wife is sitting in the airport as I sit in the hotel. The flights are delayed but she will get home. She got to see a little excitement as a passenger was hauled off the inbound plane in handcuffs.

Tomorrow I have an early 5AM van again. Just three legs and I am done with this trip. I have really enjoyed the crew. I am off for two days before one more 6 day reserve stint. After that I am off for 8 days!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fixed the glitch

Up at 4:30AM. Three turns and then I fly my wife to lunch at my overnight.

I fixed the comment glitch associated with the new domain name.

It's too damn early....slept maybe 6 least it's a short day. Done at 12:35 today. And I keep the same plane for all 4 turns!


At another hotel for a short overnight, so this will be brief.

Captain flew both legs. I will take 3 of the 4 tomorrow. We wanted to change it up to keep one guy landing at the outstation and the other at base.

While in the base we had to do a plane swap. Thankfully our next plane was one gate over. After getting on board and pre-flighting the outside, I noticed a circuit breaker panel placard missing. Behind both pilots in the CRJ are rows of circuit breakers. They each have labels that slide in and out detailing what each circuit breaker does. One of them on my side was missing. The placard missing was level with where my kit bag slide in and out of the storage hole. I looked all around the cockpit thinking it slid off when the last FO left. No joy.

I called a mechanic. Thirty minutes later (20 minutes after departure) he arrives. Looks..."yep it's gone". Twenty minutes later we had a new one.

On the takeoff roll we have various items we abort for prior to V1. At V1 we abort for very few things. Today right after the wheels left the ground we got a single "ding" followed by a flashing caution light and an associated EICAS message...."Display Cool". The CRT's in the cockpit are cooled by fans. One set on the ground, another set in the air. The fans that normally turn on while airborne failed. A quick flick of the wrist and I activated the "flight alternate" fans which is the ground set. Having this go off right after V1 was a little startling. A lot is going on at that moment. All handled fine.

The flight was fine. We had two dogs in the back cargo compartment. There is a switch I call the "dead puppy switch". If I don't turn it on....whatever pets we have in the back will likely freeze to death. As part of our checklist we always turn it on after takeoff. What the switch does is allow conditioned cabin air (after it's been passed through all the smells associated with the cabin) to enter the cargo compartment. During the summer I will turn the switch on before we leave the gate to keep the pets at a comfortable temperature. Anyway here is a picture of the "dead puppy switch".

[singlepic id=111 w=320 h=240 float=center]

I have yet to kill a pet (I always check). Time for sleep. Van comes in 8 hours.

Name change!

I am sure you noticed the name of the site has changed. The old URL will continue to work for a while, but go ahead and update your bookmarks.

US regional airlines under scrutiny

This is a short (6 minute) video discussing fatigue in the United States regional airline industry. One day regional pilots will have more than 8 hours to leave a cockpit, walk thru an airport, wait for a van, ride to the hotel, try to sleep, get back in the van, drive to the airport, walk thru the airport and leave. All in just 8 hours. It will likely be blood legislation sadly.

So far so good.....

I met the Captain and crew at the gate. The Captain is a nice old guy....been here too long...been flying too long...just here for the paycheck.

The previous crew advised us that the ACARS printer wasn't working and that a mechanic was on the way. We use that printer to print out our clearance, ATIS and more. Not vital...but it reduces the workload. After waiting 5 minutes past departure time I called maintenance again. Still on the way. Prior to starting flying I used to fix thermal printers during my 4 year's working for NCR. Thermal printers are VERY reliable. I figured I would give it a quick cleaning with a sanitizing napkin. Tada! Printer was working fine. We still had to wait though because the problem was still written up in our maintenance logbook. The mechanic signed it off and we were on our way.

I took the first leg out. Weather caused us to take the "scenic" route, meaning the long way around. The ride was mostly smooth until we got closer to the outstation. We were at FL370 getting bumped around. ATC advised lower was better. We tried FL350...worse. We the climbed to FL390...much nicer. Here is a track of our altitude and times from The first number is the time, then ground speed, followed by altitude.

15:31 526 37000 level

15:32 532 37000 level

15:33 532 37000 level

15:34 557 36500 descending

15:35 557 35600 descending

15:36 552 35000 descending

15:37 552 35000 level

15:38 530 35000 level

15:39 517 35000 level

15:40 517 35700 climbing

15:41 517 36900 climbing

15:42 517 37900 climbing

15:43 507 38400 climbing

15:44 501 38900 climbing

15:45 501 39000 climbing

15:46 501 39000 level

After leveling off a FL390 we were happy. The descent down was bumpy, but nothing too bad.

We were running late as always. Approach vectored us for a visual approach to runway 28R. Once cleared they advised us to "stay on our side" as another plane was landing on 28L. The controller then told the other plane to stay on "his" side. We kind of laughed as though the two planes were kids...."Mom that plane is getting on my side!"

I made a decent landing and 30 minutes later we were headed back to base.

The weather was still crap between us and base so we took the long way around again. Clouds are beautiful things and I take quite a few photos of them.

[singlepic id=98 w=320 h=240 float=center]

[singlepic id=101 w=320 h=240 float=center]

[singlepic id=104 w=320 h=240 float=center]

Our route took us around most of the bad stuff. One towering cloud passed just off to the was almost as though the dispatcher knew it would be there and planned us around it.

The clouds were very interesting as we descended into base. The sun was setting sending streaks of sunlight through the clouds.

[singlepic id=105 w=320 h=240 float=center]

After the Captain landed we had to wait for about 10 minutes for a gate. The weather caused delays which meant no gates for us. As we were waiting I overheard a flight calling into operations about a passenger issue.

The passenger was on his way to a funeral. His connecting flight was the last flight out for the night and scheduled to leave in just 20 minutes. The flights would be 23 gates apart! The pilot was asking our operations to help out by having a motorized cart waiting to escort the passenger to his flight and, if possible, hold the outbound flight. Operations wasn't being very corporative. Sometimes I think airline personnel forget what it's like to be human. I have no doubt the crew of the outbound flight would wait if they knew about it. I hope he made his flight.

We had about 50 minutes before the next flight. Thankfully we were keeping the same plane.

This morning when I left home I left my Zune MP3 player at home. My amazing wife noticed it and sent me a text. I replied to her while at the outstation that if she didn't mind she could bring it up to me between flights. She did. I couldn't ask for a more supportive wife.

[singlepic id=107 w=320 h=240 float=center]

just a photo of my headset hanging up...the hanger is nice..but has really worn out the top headband....oh the problems of being a pilot ;-).

Weather had moved in big time between us and our overnight. We were assigned a RNAV SID, but told to expect vectors.

Before departure I asked the Flight Attendant for a Diet Coke and a cup of ice. I placed it next to me and forgot about it. Barreling down the runway I rotated the aircraft at 130 knots and heard a sliding then crashing noise on my side. During takeoff my attention is outside the aircraft. The noise got my attention for just a split second. After getting the gear up the Captain asked what the noise was. I let him know. Right at 600 feet (minimum altitude for the autopilot on climbout), I called for "autopilot on". I have never called for the autopilot so low before. Thankfully the Diet Coke can was still closed. Just had to clean up a little ice.

After making the first turn we were told to turn right heading 300 and track the 285 radial outbound.

It's very rare we use VOR's as primary navigation. We both tuned in the VOR and setup the proper radial. As a backup I used the FMS to draw a radial line from the same VOR. Below is a dim photo of my MFD and PFD as we were flying outbound. Notice all the "colors" on the MFD....the storm clouds.

[singlepic id=109 w=320 h=240 float=center]

We had a nice hole to fly through. On both side of us were towering thunderclouds with nearly non-stop lightening. The ride was amazingly butter smooth. I made a shallow, high speed climb, to stay under the shelf of the thundercloud.

I already ranted about the landing in "Damn Cessnas".

After we left the plane I called the hotel. This isn't required as they are supposed to keep track of our arrival times. We were right on time so they should have been waiting. They weren't there. The rep said he was on his way in a "Black Mercedes". Hmmm okay. After 15 minutes (our contractually agreed maximum time) I called again. Now we were told to look for a white full size van...that just pulled up. We piled in. The van driver drove down to the next door to pickup another crew from another airline. This other airline is known for having hotels bend over backward for them. This annoys me. The other crew wasn't all there and said they would wait. Good.

After arriving at the hotel the manager apologized for the van mix up and gave us all vouchers for free breakfast in the morning. Score!

Today I sit around in the city till 3PM. Just two legs today. Short overnight tonight(9 hours from arrival to departure). Tomorrow my wife is planning on flying out with me to my next overnight. There is a really good restaurant in the town we both want to visit. My flight has plenty of open seats and there are two flights back after dinner for her to fly back home that are also very open. Should be fun.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Damn Cessnas!

At the overnight. Coming into the airport I was doing 220 knots on downwind. We were following a Cessna Caravan on a dogleg to final. I slowed to 200 knots and was at flaps 8 turning base. Turning final I was down to 170 knots flaps 20. Tower advised we were overtaking the Caravan by 100 knots. I slowed to approach speed and flaps 45. The Caravan knew we were right behind him. At 500 feet AGL he was still on the runway. Captain and I were both ready for a go around.I was right at approach speed at 133 knots. Finally at 250 feet he cleared the runway. I landed right on the 1000 foot markings and bounced slightly. Nice. Oh well. The Caravan was just passed the hold short line when I touched down. He apologized....he stated he could have made the first taxiway, but didn't know how close we were. Eh. Plane will fly again. Took a lot of photos today. Will post tomorrow.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Questions Answered: FAA Medicals and My airline

Is there a company requirement regarding your medical?

There is a lot of criteria involved in getting a FAA Medical. I am not...and will never be an authority on the subject. Every person has unique circumstances that could disqualify them from getting a medical. Additionally someone might have an issue which they think MIGHT disqualify them when in reality it doesn't.

My airline requires pilots to be examined by an FAA approved medical examiner (AME):

  • Captains - once each six months if over age 40 or once each 12 months if they are under 40

  • First Officers - Once a year

As far as which class of medical is required; Captains must always have a First Class Medical. First Officers are required to have at least a Second Class Medical Certificate. It is my responsibility to have a current First Class Medical Certificate prior to the beginning of Captain training.

My first experience with an AME was horrible. I was getting ready to start training at ATP. I used to find an AME. Just my "luck" there was one less than a mile from my house. I made an appointment for the next day. At the time I drank a lot of coffee, smoked and never exercised. ATP recommended me getting a First Class Medical to make sure I would qualify for one later down the road. I have qualified for one every time since.

When I arrived the Dr. seemed "off". He had not done a flight physical in quite some time. After the eye test and getting my vitals, he told me my blood pressure was borderline high. At the time it was 140/95. Yeah...high. I explained that I had a really stressful day at work and had chugged down a bunch of coffee right before I came.

The next thing I knew I was laying on a table getting my chest shaved! I was 29 years old and he was getting ready to give me an EKG exam! The results were to be transmitted to Oklahoma, City and I would be notified if the medical would be denied. I paid the $195 for that exam!

I left there even more stressed out. All my life I wanted to be a pilot. Suddenly the door was closing. Saying I was a little depressed would be putting it lightly.

Everything turned out okay. My blood pressure was border line hypertension.

With diet, coffee, exercise, and quitting smoking, I am now down to 118/75. No drugs needed. Okay coffee wasn't part of my lowering of blood pressure...but I refuse to give it up! Every other week there is a story on the news about the benefits of coffee!

Since then I found a better AME. My current AME is a no-nonsense doctor. He charges a flat $35 and is very efficient. Many pilots at my airline use him.

As far as my health. I wear contacts. That's about it. I don't take any medications. And with my blood pressure under control....I'm just an average guy.

A word of caution for those that think they might have a disqualifying condition. Don't go to an AME to find out. If you get examined by an AME for purposes of getting a physical, they must report the results to the FAA. A better way to find out is to use the's way easy to find information. Okay so it's no where near easy....but it's better than it used to be. Another way is to anonymously ask an AME. How so? Well has a Ask A Flight Surgeon. Before asking a question, just browse what has already been asked. Chances are there is someone out there with the same issue.

One thing I don't care about the FAA medical process is the piece of paper it's printed on. I have a "Costanza" wallet (Seinfeld reference). My wallet at any one time has receipts dating back several years. No reason why. Ignorance really. My friends often make fun of my huge's painful to sit on. There isn't much money in there.....just crap. Anyways keeping track of this little slip of paper is a challenge for me. I am going to look into laminating my next medical. I haven't lost a medical slip yet...but I've gotten close.

My current medical expires on the 16th. I am going in on the 12th to get a new one.

Starting tomorrow...gone for 71 1/2 hours....

So I bid for a 4 day trip starting tomorrow and was awarded the trip. The 4 day trip was my LAST choice. For most flight crew members, 4 day trips are for commuters. Those living in base prefer 2 or 3 day trips as we get more nights at home. Oh least I get to fly.

Below is a schedule for the 4 day trip. Well it's kind of my schedule. I changed the flight numbers and city codes...but the actual flight times are the same. I will use the city codes listed below in explaining my schedule. I also removed extra information such as total flight time, hotel information and ground time (time between flights). The first two letters are the day, the next set of number is the flight number, then there are the city code pairs followed by the departure time and then the arrival time.

FR 931 FAR-PSP 1335 1715

FR 932 PSP-FAR 1745 1940

FR 933 FAR-MSP 2055 2200

D-END: 2215L REPT: 1530L

SA 847 MSP-FAR 1615 1720

SA 173 FAR-GRR 1910 2015

D-END: 2030L REPT: 0500L

SU 491 GRR-FAR 0545 0650

SU 393 FAR-MSP 0725 0825

SU 532 MSP-FAR 0855 1000

SU 137 FAR-MKE 1110 1220

D-END: 1235L REPT: 0515L

MO 500 MKE-FAR 0600 0705

MO 421 FAR-DEN 0750 0935

MO 396 DEN-FAR 1005 1205

D-END: 1220L

TOTALS BLOCK 1800 LDGS: 12 T.A.F.B. 7130

I start tomorrow at 13:35 (1:35PM). I first do a Palm Springs (PSP) turn. The flight arrives in PSP at 17:15 and leaves at 17:45 back to Fargo. Most turns at most regionals is just 30 minutes. When I first started that seemed so fast. Think about it. We have 30 minutes to land, park at the gate, get all the passengers and bags off, clean and restock the plane, fuel up, get all the new passengers and bags on, set the plane up for departure and then actually depart! In just 30 minutes!

After getting back from Palm Springs (PSP), I have an hour and 15 minutes before my flight to Minneapolis St.Paul International Airport for the overnight. My day ends tomorrow night at 22:15 local time in Minneapolis. My day end (D-END) time is always 15 minutes after ACTUAL arrival time. So if we are early we have a longer over night, if we are late...well you get it.

Saturday I spend the day in lovely Minneapolis until 15:30 when my crew should be at the airport for a 16:15 flight back to Fargo. Once we arrive in Fargo we have 1 hour 50 minutes until the departure to Grand Rapids for the overnight. Saturday night my day ends at 20:30. Saturday is a pretty easy day...just 2 legs.

Sunday we wake up early. We have to be at the airport at 05:00 for a 05:45 departure to Fargo. Once we get to Fargo we do a quick Minneapolis turn before heading to Milwaukee for the overnight. Sunday is a 4 leg day ending at a reasonable 12:35.

Monday we start early again, having to be at the airport at 05:15 for a 06:00 departure to Fargo. Once in Fargo we have 45 minutes before doing a Denver turn and being done. I finish Monday at 12:20. Total flight hours is set for 18 hours. There will be a total of 12 landings and I will be away from base for 71 hours 30 minutes.

I looked at the crew I am flying with. I only know the front Flight Attendant. The Captain I believe I have seen before, but never flown with. Something new.

Once I get back Monday I am off the new two days. This is a good thing. My medical runs out May 16th! I made an appointment for a medical exam Tuesday morning. Hmm I need to write a blog about medicals. When I got my first one the doctor scared the crap out of me and charged me an outrageous $195!!!!! Since then I found a better FAA Medical Examiner and only pay $35! More later. I have to run to the airport. I left my overnight bag there...I have no idea if I have 4 days worth of clothes in it.