Monday, October 12, 2009

Not fast enough

This was originally started Saturday October 10th...finished on the 12h...might be my longest post ever

Right now I am sitting in the waiting area of a very small airport. I will sit here for 3 hours.

This trip started with a phone call at 5:20PM yesterday for a 5:50PM departure to the overnight. Over the past 3 months I have only stayed overnight in 2 different cities. This one is my favorite...awesome rooms and breakfast.

Prior to departure I made a PA and announced that we are about to depart to the other city I have stayed in.....I quickly corrected myself.....I'm sure a few passengers had a momentary feeling of "WTF?!?!?"

The flight left a few minutes late. Captains leg. We were running late. We were scheduled for 9 hours rest. According to the FAA 9 hours rest is "normal". Again rest begins 15 minutes after landing until 45 minutes prior to departure. At least 30 minutes of that time is eaten up in the airport/hotel van.

The plane has one MEL. One of the TRU (Transformer Rectifier Unit) fans weren't working. No performance degradation. No crew action required. The only notification we had that a TRU fan was out was an EICAS message.

On the way I did update a few charts. The most recent update was huge!

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We arrived 3 minutes late....we were now on reduced rest. Somehow I slept decently. Rare for short overnights.

This morning I ate a big breakfast. I saw that my schedule had been changed. Instead of just flying to base they added on a turn. It was a quick turn, 1 hour each way. I was to be done at 12:20PM. Foolishly I planned on being home at 1PM to meet a guy about a TV I am selling via craigslist.

At 6:30 AM we all piled into the hotel van. By 6:40 AM we all cleared security. The Captain was printing the paperwork so  I went down to power up the plane. When the CRJ is powered up all kinds of lights flash along with a ton of Warning, Caution and Status messages appear on the screens. It's normal. As systems complete self test and buttons are pressed, the messages go away. With power on I went out for my preflight. Boarding started.

I sat in my seat and called to get the clearance. Afterwards I went thru my flows....then I saw it.....a status message that didn't belong...."ADG FAIL".

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The ADG is an Air Driven Generator. It is housed in the nose of the plane and is designed to pop out in case of engine generator failure (click here for a Wikipedia about ADG's). This is a "no go" item if posted while on the ground. If it is posted in the air, no action is required. Not good.

Boarding had finished. Once the Captain arrived I told him of the message. He looked at me and said, "that's it, we aren't going anywhere anytime soon."

He had this same problem in the same plane a few days ago. The fix took 8 1/2 hours. I advised the front flight attendant that we would likely be deplaning and he passed it on to the rear flight attendant. I was frustrated. We tried powering the plane off and on (the cabin had lights and power the entire time). No change. We tried starting the APU thinking maybe the gate power was causing an issue. Nope.

I know the ADG door was closed on the walk around. There wasn't a whole lot I could do. I grabbed a flashlight and headed out to see if there was anything out of the ordinary. As I stood and faced the cabin, 50 faces all seemed to be staring at me.

While outside I gave the heads up to the ground crew that we had a problem that was a no go item and it would likely be a while to fix. This allows them to preplan to handle 50 upset passengers.

Once back inside the Captain was on the radio with the airline maintenance line. A contract mechanic was on the way. Departure time was upon us. THe Captain made a PA to inform the passengers that we had a problem and that we would keep them advised. Meantime the station manager arrived in the cockpit. He asked if we could hold off deplaning until 8AM as he doesn't have the staff to handle deplaning along with handling 2 other outbound flights. The time was 7:20AM. The Captain and I didn't feel comfortable with keeping the passengers on for 40 minutes. Then an airline operations voice came over the cockpit speaker stating the flight was cancelled and too deplane. The decision was made. The passengers were all rebooked on other airlines. We waited for a mechanic and instructions.

We were informed we would be ferrying the plane to base. This would have been great as I would get out of the next turn AND would be home early. Nice. Then they came back that we would be ferrying the plane to another airport as our base mechanics are already overloaded. So much for plans.

Due to weather en-route we were scheduled to fly 3 hours for a normal 2 hour 20 minute flight. The Captain and I needed food. The plane needed much more fuel. Time was 9:40AM by this point. The Burger King started lunch at 10AM. We decided to wait. I headed back over to the gate.

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I helped a family of 4 who had questions about their flight and connections. I recently taught myself a few commands used by gate agents. This was mostly self serving for when my wife I and non-rev. After helping them I turned around to look back at the plane. Then it happened.

The fueler was adding needed fuel for the ferry flight. The CRJ has 3 fuel tanks. One in each wing and a center tank. All fuel is normally dispensed thru a single point on the right side of the plane under high pressure. The computer directs fuel from there to the appropriate tank.

While watching a normally boring process fuel began gushing out from the right wing. The fueler stopped fueling, but it was too late. Something bad had happened. There wasn't a lot I could do but inform the Captain who had just purchased his lunch. He headed to the plane. I ordered my food.

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I met him in the plane. For some reason the computer didn't open the transfer valve to allow fuel to the left wing. We were being fueled up to 15100 pounds of Jet A. Each wing holds at most about 7400 pounds. The right wing was showing 7530 pounds, the left wing 7000 pounds and the center 200 pounds.

We shut the APU down. We were on gate power at that point. The area got busy fast. Several fire trucks rolled up followed by airport operations.

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A large gentleman ran over in front of the plane and turned off two breaker boxes. There went the gate power. We then turned off the battery master and headed up to the gate.

A good crowd of passengers was standing at the window looking at all the excitement. I found a power outlet and spent 30 minutes or so on line. Two hours later the fuel had been cleaned up.

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One of the flight attendants was reassigned to deadhead to base on the next flight. The other flight attendant was flying with us to the maintenance base.

We were to still fly to another airport and have 30 minutes to make a deadhead flight. Too bad for us the ground crew was busy with other flights. We pushed out at 12:19PM.

This airport is decently busy. Class C. The ground/tower controller (same person) seemed a bit overwhelmed. They were crossing flight numbers and call signs. It's not worth assuming they were talking to me when they used my call sign but the wrong flight number. Had to correct them twice.

Eventually we lined up on runway 28 and I advanced the thrust levers to the takeoff detent. In a little more than 3000 feet, the 58000 pound plane took flight.

According to our FMS we were to land at 1:55PM. The deadhead left at 2:10PM. There was a chance!

I climbed at 310 knots. Being so light the plane easily maintained 1000-1600 feet per minute all the way to FL400.

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I then cruised at .83 Mach.

ATC gave us a few short cuts, but 80 knot headwinds were too much to battle.

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The winds were gusty out of the south. The ceiling was 900 overcast. This airport has one ILS on runway 35. On runway 17 there is only a localizer back course.

In my nearly 1000 hours in the CRJ I have yet to shoot a back course approach in the real plane. I think I did a back course in the sim.

I briefed the approach, set up the approach in the FMS and tuned in the localizer. With a click of the b/c button the plane intercepted the localizer. I spun the V/S  wheel down to 800 feet per minute to reach MDA.

We broke out of the clouds at 900 feet. I had the runway AND the plane that was to be our deadhead in sight. I chopped the power to idle at 40 feet. The very light plane then floated a good 1000 feet. I finally flew it onto the runway.....not smooth at all....but we were once again in contact with the earth.

As we taxied to the hangar our deadhead flight began taxiing  out...11 minutes early!! Apparently my flying at 83% of the speed of sound was futile. We missed our connection anyway.

We parked the plane and headed over to the terminal to wait 3 hours for the next flight. On the way we passed thru the hangar where a CRJ was getting a heavy check. Most of the interior and many exterior panels/parts were removed. I snapped a shot of an exposed engine. I actually remember a few parts. The big rectangle toward the front (left) is the FADEC.

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For some reason the flight attendant that came along with us was sent to a hotel to deadhead out in the morning. The Captain and I were the ONLY non-airport personell in the airport. We sat in the lobby as TSA closed down between flights.

After about 90 minutes into waiting for the deadhead I happened to notice a ferry flight leaving at 5PM back to base. We had 10 minutes before they were scheduled to leave.

The Captain and I high tailed it across the airport, thru the hangar to the flight. Thankfully they were running late.

The ferry flight Captain had no problem with us tagging along. There was one problem....stairs...or lack there of.

The ferry plane didn't have air stairs attached. We had to use a ladder to climb aboard. No biggie. I was happy to be going home.

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I snapped a few photos from my "1st class" seat on the ferry flight.

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We lifted off the ground at 5:25PM and touched down in base at 5:55PM. I was home by 6:40PM. The second deadhead we were waiting on didn't pull into base until 7PM.

This was a rough day especially for just one leg!

1 comment:

  1. What a day! Thanks for the detailed post. Glad the fuel spill didn't turn into anything worse...


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