Yesterday was long. My Captain has been with the airline for 17 years. Yesterday was his longest day ever for two 1 hour flights!
There was a huge storm over the hub. For 2 solid hours no one landed or took off. On a good day there are 260 arrivals per hour. This meant that each hour there were at least 200 flights holding, sitting an the outstation or flying slowly enroute waiting to land.
Each hour I would call ground and ask for an update. Each hour I was told the ground stop was extended for one hour. After about 3 hours diverted flights started landing. This airport gets no mainline service. There were several 737's and a 757 waiting it out on the ramp. Passengers were getting frustrated. The weather at the outstation was awesome, clear skies, calm winds. They couldn't get a grasp on why we weren't leaving.
The airport only has 2 cafes, a sports bar and a Starbucks. I wanted coffee. I figured coffee at the cafe would be cheaper than Starbucks and taste better. Nope. I was shocked when the price was $2.50 for a 12 ounce cup. Starbucks is way cheaper. Thankfully my flight attendant made me coffee on the plane.
Around 9:30 the plane started to get hot inside. The sun was rising. I tracked down a ramper to hook up the pre-conditioned air cart. Ahh...soo we were relaxing in 72 degree cabin.
Ground stop continued. My airline has a flight every hour to our hub. There is a mix of CRJ's and ERJs. By 11 AM there were more than 250 passengers walking about. There were almost as many passengers from another airline who also flies to the hub.
I was getting hungry. The lines for food were long. By 12:30PM they ran out of food. Most passengers arrive and leave without buying much food. Nice.
A bag of Chex Mix would tide me over until we got to base. If we ever got there. The Captain and I discussed maybe flying VFR 90 miles to our overnight. Yep...our overnight was just 90 miles away. We were hoping maybe the airline would cut their loses and have us ferry the plane there as there was a crew and passengers waiting on us.
Finally at 2PM the ground stop was lifted. Now a new problem. There were two cancelled flights. Our 6AM departure had 30 empty seats. Between 6AM and 2PM more than a few passengers gave up and went home. The gate agents were very busy trying to re-route as many passengers as possible. When boarding began SEVERAL passengers were assigned the same seat. At 2:40PM they figured it all out....but we only have 58 people on board. The Captain asked why we weren't full (the waiting area was full of passengers). The gate agent asked if we wanted to wait for 12 more people. "Uh, yeah, we are already late, get as many customers on as possible!". Finally at 2:55PM they figured it all out and we left.
The next three legs cancelled and we were given a later flight to the same overnight. Once we arrived in base we had no gate. After 10 minutes we had a new gate. Then we waited another 5 minutes for a ramp crew and another 5 minutes still for a jet bridge driver. All said we didn't open the door for 25 minutes after we landed! Thinking we need to hurry up and go as our next flight left in 20 minutes, I dashed out the door to get lunch for the Captain and I. I hauled from gate 27 to gate 8. I ordered the food and rushed back. I handed the food to the Captain and did my walk around. Boarding was 1/2 done.
Back in my seat I look back and see...56 passengers. What the heck? The boarding area was overcrowded. We trickled up to 65 passengers. The gate agent came down and said "that's it". Umm no. The Captain asked for a full load of passengers. The gate agent said he was restricted to 65. The Captain and I checked our data....no reason we can't be full. I called operations, approved for 70. I went back up to the gate with a list of standby passengers from the flight attendant. There was a pilot and his wife trying to go. We should be able to get him in the jump seat and his wife in the back. When I got to the gate area it was nearly vacant. The gate agent had made an announcement when he reached 65 passengers that no more would be accommodated. All the passengers left the area for the next gate! He found 3 more. The Captain and I were not happy.
It was my leg out. We passed right by another large storm.
My leg. I flew fast...Mach .82 fast. Arriving to the outstation with the sun in our eyes, we didn't see the airport until we were 5 miles out. I was ready to be done. The final approach fix is 4 1/2 miles from the runway. The altitude on the ILS at that fix is 5300 feet. I was 6000 feet and about 1 mile inside the final approach fix.
I clicked off the autopilot and threw out the flight spoilers. Already at flaps 8, I called for flaps 20. At 200 knots I called for gear down. The runway was getting closer and I was still seeing 4 white lights. At 180 knots I called for flaps 30. At this point I was about 1200 feet. Right at 1000 feet I called for flaps 45. The speed was just under 170 knots. At 700 feet I was finally slowed to 134 knots, approach speed. I stowed the flight spoilers and made a perfectly executed crosswind landing and very smooth.
The hotel van was waiting.
This morning started at 4:30AM again. Van at 5AM. We left on time at 6AM and pulled into the gate in base at 6:55AM...15 minutes early. Three more legs to the same overnight.
Below are some photos from yesterday. Southwest diverted here. While waiting a dog was loose on the airport. I snapped a photo of him....at a bad time. Then as Southwest was leaving they had to wait for the dog to cross. Further down are photos of the weather and then my MFD during the "hotel leg".