Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I couldn't have made it through the day

I went to bed at 9:30PM Sunday night. Way earlier than normal...didn't work. My body clock is used to going to bed around 10:30PM and waking up at 6AM. Hard to change it.

At 4:15AM Monday my alarm went off. I learned long ago to maximize sleep when I have an early show. To do this I shower the night before, pack up everything but my laptop, and go to bed. My eye's were blurry. At first I thought I slept in my contacts again. My reminders that I took them out were on my laptop. I started putting my old contacts on my palm rest before I go to bed.

At 4:25AM I left the hotel room. When I have loud neighbors I make sure my door slams. They were quiet last night. I slowly let the door close and made my way to the elevator.

Rounding the corner I must have looked tired. The front desk clerk pointed and said "Coffee is over there, if you want there is a breakfast box for you here." Nice.

This hotel is not very crew friendly. Most hotels allow crews to schedule the van time for whenever. Not this hotel. The hotel van runs at the top of the hour and every 30 minutes. If we had a choice we would have picked a 4:45 AM van time. Fifteen minutes means a lot when you're tired.

By 4:30AM we were all in the hotel van. Tired. No one talked much. I was half asleep. We were all waiting at the gate by 4:50 AM. Departure was at 5:40AM. I was off in search of coffee. I prefer Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds then Starbucks. This airport only has Starbucks and some unknown crap.

I was excited to actually be flying a plane. Again I had 6 deadheads prior to this. Enough was enough.

All 58 passengers were seated 10 minutes prior to departure. The front flight attendant asked if I needed anything. I have flown with her a few times, she has a great sense of humor. I asked if I could have the "salmon" breakfast with eggs. She laughed. Five minutes early we pushed out.

This airport has been under construction lately. One of the two main runways has been closed for a while. The good thing is the runway closest to the gate is still open. My leg.

At VR I smoothly rotated the nose into the air. The adrenaline that I build up during takeoff quickly faded during the climb out. I called for the autopilot and reached for my coffee. The ETA on my MFD looked good...a few minutes early. With that I used standard climb and cruise speeds.

The coffee was helping me stay alert. I looked down at the stream of white lights along a major highway. I'm glad I don't have to commute in a car. I hate sitting in traffic.

Descending into the terminal area we were assigned the runway closest to the gate. Nice. On final tower advised to use caution due to a departing 747 from a parallel runway.

The winds were right down the runway at 19 knots. Just 2000 AGL the winds were still 40 knots. Really strong for that low. With that strong of wind I wasn't too concerned with the wake of the 747.

I made a decent landing. Especially for having not landed in a while.

The Captain decided to not start the APU in order to save fuel and wear on the APU. We are one part of the team. The other members are gate agents and rampers.

We pulled into the gate 7 minutes early...right at 6:38AM. There was no gate agent. The rampers normally wait for the jet bridge to be attached to the plane, then attach external power. With no gate agent, they left to get bags off the plane. A minute later the gate agent arrived.

There we sat for 10 minutes with the right engine running. Finally we gave in and started the APU and shut the plane down. So much for teamwork.

We were lucky to keep the same plane for the next turn. The Captain offered me the leg. With a sip of my coffee I agreed.

A full 70 passengers were on board as we pushed out at 7:20AM. Due to morning congestion in the ramp area we didn't reach the runway until 7:45AM.

Normal takeoff. On climb out, I was feeling especially lazy and called for the autopilot before 1000 feet AGL.

Since we were running late I setup the plane to climb at 300 knots once above 10,000 feet. Instead of cruising at .78 as planned I cruised at .81. The MFD showed an ETA just one minute late. Not bad.

Winds were blowing 220 @ 10 knots. We were coming in from the east. The tower assigned us straight in runway 26. Nice.

A few miles directly east of runway 26 were two crop dusters. The tower advised us of him. They tried calling them...they never responded. Sure enough the popped up on TCAS. One with a mode C. One was only a target.

I stayed a little high until the Captain could find both of them. He did. I then started getting the plane dirty. Just 2000 AGL I realized I needed more than flaps 20 and gear to slow down. Out went the flight spoilers. Finally by 1000 AGL the spoilers were stowed and flaps at 45. Looking good.

The ILS was loaded up as a backup, but I was looking outside for guidance. The runway is just over 8000 feet long. Plenty as the performance charts stated that we only needed 3500 feet. Of course that number assumes landing on the 1000 foot markings and literally slamming on the brakes and maximum thrust reverse.

Just short of the runway I dipped slightly below the glideslope. While correcting for the crosswind I eased the plane down to the runway. I idled the thrust levers at ten feet and kissed the runway. Nice.

I deployed the maximum reverse thrust and slowly began braking. Done.

After parking at the gate the front flight attendant told me we had a few celebrities on board. A few members of a famous musical were coming along although most of them were on the next flight.

The station has no GPU or belt loader. We left the APU burning during the turn. Because they had no belt loader it took much longer than normal for the bags to be taken off and reloaded.

We pushed out 15 minutes late. Captains leg.

On the way back I discussed how nice it would be for the next turn to downgrade to a smaller plane. He stated that last week (this is his line, he does the same sequence of flying each week) that the last turn was two hours late, he didn't finish the day until 7PM. VERY long day.

After parking at the gate (5 minutes late) I stored my bags in the crew room and went out to find lunch. I had 3 hours till the next turn.

Stomach full of Mexican food (guilty pleasure) I waited in the crew room. A friend of mine (who helped me get a job at ATP teaching the RJ course) walked in. He just commuted in from seeing his girlfriend (one of my former students...small world eh?). He sat down and we discussed the latest rumors and theories.

While waiting I kept an eye on my schedule. At 11:40AM I noticed the last turn dropped off my schedule. I instantly called scheduling. Released. Awesome.

In hindsight I'm glad this happened. At 4PM I was so tired I couldn't think straight. I don't think I would have been safe completing that flight.

Still working on a write up on the 4 days prior to this.

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