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.


  1. ever been on the VATSIM network? for Flight Simulator

  2. Just curious, was the other plane a CRJ?
    I mean both the times you guys tried to fly as fast as possible, but they got there first.. meaning they too were trying hard to beat you guys? ;) maybe they had a more powerful airplane?

    Wow, i loved the part that you guys were trying, it adds humor to the job :)

  3. Nope, never been on VATSIM. I looked into it once...too complicated to get started. Passed on it.

    Yup the other plane was a company CRJ. We think they were trying to beat us as they were running "on time" and arrived early. Eh.


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