Sunday, July 19, 2009

A day of not normal stuff

Doing stuff out of the norm. I had a whole day of it.

I had a pretty easy day, just a turn. This was to an untowered airport in the middle of a valley surrounded by mountains. I have flown in an out of this airport a few times. This would be the first time I would there in the summer.

My sign in time was 10:05AM. I signed in and waited by the gate for the plane. I was really hoping for an on time day.

The inbound pulled up 10 minutes early which was still 50 minutes before my departure. Nice. I headed down to plane as the previous crew left the cockpit. The Captain told me "good airplane". Which normally means "everything works". With the beautiful weather outside, a plane ready 50 minutes before could it no be an awesome day?

I entered the cockpit and did my safety scan. I always make sure certain switches are in the correct position (nose wheel steering, flaps, etc). They were. I reached up and turned on the battery master. The power came up...then off. I heard a click out of my let ear. Not good. I saw a circuit breaker popped. Grrr. I pressed it in once. I then applied just external power. In the CRJ is the external power checks out good, the external power button will illuminate. Once I turned it on, everything powered up normally. I turned off the external power and tried the battery master again. No power...and thus the curcit breaker stayed in. I turned off the battery master and just used external power. I called the maintenance department and advised them of the problem. Someone was on the way. It was all downhill from here.

The rest of the crew arrived. I advised the flight attendants that we had a maintenance issue. The Captain arrived and I showed him the logbook entry I made and the issue.

Now we waited. And waited. Departure time came and went. The gate agent came down and advised we were assigned a new aircraft....18 gates away!

Once we arrived we loaded up and pushed out 40 minutes late. Not bad all things considered.

The flight out was nice. Beautiful clear skies. The destination was an airport located in a valley. During IFR conditions there are strict procedures we have to use to get in. Today it was VFR.

Another airline was arriving, thus we weren't allowed to go in under IFR until the other airline cancelled or reported having landed. For whatever reason they were not canceling even though they knew we were waiting for them. With a clear view of the airport and the area, we cancelled IFR while flying over the airport 5000 AGL.

I made position reports as we entered the pattern. The other airline finally cancelled once they cleared the runway.

The Captain made a nice landing and we taxied in 48 minutes late.

We were scheduled to have an hour on the ground, not today.

I did my post flight and then began planning the return trip. With the high outside temp (90 degrees) and high elevation (over 5600 ft), we had to be careful with takeoff procedures and engine out procedures. After looking over the performance figures the Captain decided on an APU ECS (Environmental Control System...i.e. "the packs")takeoff.

Most of the time we takeoff with the engines powering the ECS. This does rob a little power from the engines, but not enough to make a huge difference at low elevation. With being at a high elevation and hot outside temp, we needed all the power we could get. If we lost an engine on takeoff, the performance required with one engine is enough to safely fly with engine ECS...but why risk it? Thus the APU takeoff.

We taxied out 31 minutes after arriving. On the way to the runway the Captain revised his takeoff briefing. At my airline the Captain gives the takeoff briefing regardless of who is flying. His new brief was a different takeoff method.

Most of the time I takeoff with a rolling start while increasing the power. This reduces the chance of getting FOD to the engines and is smoother on every part of the aircraft. On this takeoff he wanted to use a method "B" takeoff. In this scenario I hold the brakes and advance the power to 70% N1. Once there I release the brakes and place the thrust levers in the takeoff detent. I haven't done one of these takeoffs outside of the simulator.

Because it was an untowered field we had to get our clearance from ATC. Normal procedure is to call ATC at the end of the runway when we are ready to go. This way other IFR traffic is free to come and leave from the airport.

As we reached the runway I finished my taxi checklist and flow. I then called to get our clearance. Once done we were released to go.

After he centered the plane on the runway I stood firmly on the brakes and brought the power up. Initially I went to 60%...then right past to 75%. Grr. I pulled it back a bit and they stabilized. I then released the brakes and placed the levers into the takeoff detent.

Even at 5600 field elevation, 90 degrees and a 64,000lb takeoff we reached V1 at the 6,000 foot mark. Nice.

The departure procedure required us to climb to 8000 feet prior to any turns. This is for obstacle clearance. Once clear I made a smooth turn to the right while continuing the climb. Almost the moment the turn started we hit turbulence from all the mountains around the airport.

I left the levers in the takeoff detent until we cleared 10,000 feet and were established on our heading. Once there I placed them into the climb detent and hand flew till FL210.

Had to dodge a few build ups on the way to base. Lots of convective activity over the United States on this day.

Above 30 minutes out we checked the ATIS. The winds were 010/11 but they were using a south flow. Hmmm. Maybe they thought the winds were getting ready to shift.

As I rolled out on final tower announced, "winds 360/13 cleared to land runway 18". The Captain and I both starred at the other. Can't do it. The Captain asked the tower to repeat the winds. This time they stated "360/10". What the deal? Well out max tailwind landing limit is drum roll please..........10 knots. This is the same for just about every airliner. With the 360/10 report from the tower, we were legal to land.

My previous briefing for getting off at a certain taxiway went out the door. We would get off where ever I stopped.

I was on speed  at 133 knots on final. Of course my ground speed was much higher due to the tailwind.

I flared at my normal point of 10 feet...and floated. I ended up giving up and putting the plane down 3500 feet down the runway. Thankfully I had plenty of runway left to stop.

After we cleared the runway the next plane was cleared to land. "Winds 010/14 cleared to land runway 18". That crew also asked the tower to repeat the winds. The winds happened to reduce to 010/10. The crew advised the tower they might have to go around and wanted another wind update on short final. They floated just as long as I did and had to put the plane down, just like I did. Good times.

This was an interesting turn. It was truly a break from the norm. Which was welcome.

I have a lot going on currently. Just finished bidding for the month, working on getting my own business started, wife and I installed new floors this weekend and the biggest thing....I might be displaced out of my status.

My airline announced a displacement bid. I will go over how it works in detail tomorrow. Good times. For now...gotta work on my other sites.


  1. Quick question a little confused, you say the tower said winds 360/10 and you were cleared to land on runway 18. That means the winds are blowing north and you are landing south thus into the wind with a headwind, not a tail wind right?

  2. No, winds are blowing from the north that is to the south. Heading tells you the direction you´re flying to and the wind is read FROM where it comes so yes there was 10 knots tailwind. Correct me if I´m wrong.

  3. John, I think I can answer your question.

    360/10 means winds are coming from heading 360 degrees.

    Runway 18 means approx 180 degrees magnetic. So it was a direct tailwind. Compare this to an image of a heading indicator.

  4. KSFO, thanks I don't know what I was thinking, I wasn't visualizing a diagram with winds, and when I did I was like wow what an idiot. Stupid mistake on my part, thanks for the clarification.

  5. It seems like you're saying the tailwind caused the float, right? But if your airspeed is correct, why would it be any different from a no-wind/headwind landing - aside from the greater groundspeed.

  6. My airspeed of 133 knots was dead on. The variable was the tailwind of 10 knots. This in effect pushed the plane down the runway creating a longer flare/rollout versus a headwind which creates a shorter flare/rollout. I could have shortened the flare by dipping below the glideslope at 100 feet and just landing the plane. Even then it would have been longer than normal due to the tailwind.


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