Sunday, December 13, 2009

Old man winter is here

Preparing for work is now more complicated. I feel like the little brother in A Christmas Story. I don't do cold. Not my thing. After I layer up I grab my hat, gloves, and ear clips (collapsible ear muffs). Again I don't do cold.

Along with the cold comes the winter winds. Anyone flying eastbound will likely notice a much faster flight than normal. Those flying westbound will notice the opposite.

Thursday I had a nice airport appreciation stint. My shift was 2PM-10PM. Around 5PM I checked my assignment for Friday. I was assigned morning airport appreciation starting at 6AM. I saw a problem.

If I did my full Thursday 2PM-10PM shift I would have exactly 8 hours before my 6AM Friday shift started. I live close to the airport but even then I would be home at the earliest at 10:30PM. By the time I got to bed it would be 11PM. Fall asleep maybe by 11:30PM. I would then have to wake up at 4:50AM to get ready to leave the house by 5:15AM to sign in by 6AM. Maybe 5ish hours of go and potentially work a 16 hour day?!?!? No bueno.

After a quick call to scheduling they assigned me a 6AM short call time. Meaning at 6AM I had to turn on my cell phone and, if they called me, report to the airport within 2 hours. Whatever.

That all became moot at 5;50PM when I was assigned an overnight. Another FO called in fatigued. I can't blame him.

He had a sign in at 6:45AM Thursday. He then flew a 6 hour turn. Once he got back to base he was assigned a 5 hour sit to fly a flight leaving at 6:45PM to an overnight. The flight would arrive at 8PM. That's a 13 hour + work day. Of course I imagine he had been up since at least 5:30AM.

I was assigned one leg to the overnight then three legs on Friday. The Captain was the same Captain I flew my recent sim session with.

The winds were very high up at altitude last night. Thankfully we were east bound. The 150 MPH tailwind was nice...until it became time to descend.

I had flown this route countless times. The approach center, that controls the outstation, request all inbound planes cross 35 miles out at 10,000 feet. No biggie. With the tailwind though the top of descent point came much earlier than normal. The VNAV computer advised my 3.0 degree descent point was more than 20 miles earlier than normal. Down we went.

The tailwind increased as we descended. From FL310 to 2500 feet I had the thrust levers idled. This saved fuel, but also heated up the cabin as there wasn't much bleed air to cool it down. Ever notice that sometimes the cabin of the aircraft heats up during a long descent? Reason...lack of bleed air.

In addition to idled engines I had to use flight spoilers to keep from exceeding MMO.

The temp at the outstation was -10 Celsius, calm winds, and clear skies.

The ATIS stated they were landing runway 20R and 20L. We requested runway 02R so we could go straight in. We got it.

Flight spoilers out full I could see that at, 250 knots, there was no way I would make 2300 at the FAF (glide slope intercept). I had been in this situation before. It was at this same airport, same situation....and it resulted in a go around as I couldn't slow down enough to get past flaps 20. Back then I was at 1500 feet AGL, doing 190 knots, gear down, flaps 20 and flight spoilers fully extended. Around we went.

This time passing through 8000 feet I reduced the descent rate, slowed down to 220 knots and then began extending flaps. It's slow down OR go down...not both.

With flaps 20, full flight spoilers and idled engines I had the plane descending at 2700 feet per minute.  I could see it making the 2300 at the FAF wasn't going to be an issue.

Lined up for 02R I could see a traffic taking off from 20R. Kinda odd seeing a plane takeoff in your direction. Additionally another RJ was lined up to land on 20R.

I touched down a little long, but nicely. The overnight hotel is my least favorite. The hotel is so large this give us maps to find our room. An easier way would be to design a better hotel.

The morning came quick. Thankfully we had the same plane as last night. Each time I get a new cockpit I go through a disenfecting process by wiping down every switch, knob and button I might press with alcohol swaps (provided by the airline).  The ground crew had (thankfully) de-iced the plane prior to our arrival. There was just enough moisture in the cold air to frost up the plane. Since there was nothing falling we had a very long (over an hour)hold over (how long we have until we have to deice again). We actually kept the same plane for all 3 legs that morning.

Due to the deicing the windshield was full of streaks from de-icing fluid. A quick call to operations fixed the issue with a window wash.

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The winds were still high headed south from base.

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