Thursday, February 11, 2010

This could work

Right now I am sitting in the operations area of an outstation. This "situation" started last night.

I was off yesterday. I was looking at open trips last night and saw an "easy" turn. The flight left at 7:25AM and returned to base at 1:50PM. Not bad. As is I was assigned reserve at home starting at 4AM. This trip would be coming my way with a 4AM wake up call. I decided to avoid the call and asked scheduling for the trip. Turns out that was a bad idea.

I was assigned the trip late last night. This meant my duty day started at 6:40AM.

My crew is VERY senior. They are all in the top 1% of seniority here. I am in the bottom 10%.

The Captain is a nice guy who does IOE. I flew with him once over a year ago. He flies a homebuilt RV-8 and gliders in his off time. Three world records have his name on it for gliders including a distance record. The guy knows some stuff about flying.

We blocked out on time and made taxied out to the deicing area. This is when the comedy started.

At my hub we deice either while exiting the ramp or right next to the runway. I prefer the runway as it normally helps with holdover times. A holdover time is the time between when the anti-ice is first applied and when the plane has too be airborne. We figure out this time via various charts depending on conditions outside and the type of fluid used.

This morning deicing was being done next to the start. As we pulled up we were number 4 for deicing. It looked good. Light snow was falling. Visibility was around 3/4 mile. This could work. Then I remembered who was doing the deicing.

Twenty minutes after lining progress had been made. We were still number 4. After another 5 minutes we were finally guided into position. This could work.

The checklist requires the plane to be setup a certain way. One thing we have too do is turn off the packs....the air conditioning. Today was no different. One thing that helped was the light load...just 31 warm bodies. If we had been full it would have been too stuffy and we would not have made it two hours. If we had been more empty it would have been too cold. Thirty-one warm bodies was perfect.

There was more than two inches of snow on the wings. The deicer was having a heck of time removing the packed in snow. One third of the way through....he ran out of Type I deicing fluid.

Planes were stacking up in line for deicing including a Fedex Airbus. Three RJs take up the same amount of space as one Fedex Airbus. The Airbus was flanked by 3 Fedex deicing trucks. Because my airline was having problems deicing, it was decided for all of us too move and get the Airbus started.

It had now been 45 minutes since we left the gate. We had 2 hours 15 minutes until we had to either take off or return to the gate due to the Passenger Bill of Rights.

After another 20 minutes of being moved around we were lined up next to the Airbus. The deicing truck was back. They slowly applied Type I....and then Type 4. This could work.

While they were deicing the snow began to fall....heavy snow. The Captain and I began working on our holdover time. We both agreed...35 minutes. This could work.

Type IV was done. The deicer came over the radio, "Aircraft 141 your aircraft has been deiced...blah,blah,blah...your holdover time began 35 minutes ago." The Captain and I both looked at each other. We tried to explain that we couldn't take off due to our holdover time expiring. The deicer either didn't get it...or didn't care.

Thankfully the dispatcher was on the ball and we had more than enough fuel to sit on the ground with an engine running for 3 hours before hitting our min takeoff fuel number.

Thirty minutes later....yes thirty minutes later.......we were being deiced again. The snow was falling very heavy now. Holdover time was still 35 minutes. Once the deicer was done we were advised our holdover time began 26 minutes ago. The runway was less than 40 yards away....but it seemed like it was a mile.

The Captain started the other engine while I called back to the flight attendants and let them know we would be leaving soon. I then made a PA. The passengers had been standing up, walking around and on their phones for hours. All needed to be stopped.

I then went into my taxi flow. Cabin ready, engines fired up, checklist done, we lurched toward the runway with 4 minutes till we exceeded our holdover time...again. This could work.

We were number one holding short with one plane on the runway. Due to low visibility the tower was staggering departures and arrivals.

Finally they were gone and I read back, "Position and hold." This could work.

The clock was ticking. Literally at the last second....we were cleared for takeoff. Another minute and we would have had to return to the gate.

Being light we cruised at FL410. Nice view. We got several short cuts.

We blocked into the gate 4 hours and 25 minutes after we blocked out. The flight is blocked for 2 hours.

Our deadhead flight back also took 2 hours to get from the ramp, be deiced and takeoff. Right now the flight back is full...overfull. My entire crew is dead heading and is on standby.

As is I am going to have a 13 hour 20 minute duty day. If I stayed with my 4AM reserve I would have a 16 hour 10 minute duty day. Illegal.

I told the gate agent to assign my seat last. I would not mind at all if I stayed the night here. Being so junior on reserve, as long as I am not in base, they can't abuse...I mean screw...I mean reassign me.

Another hour at least until the flight arrives. Still showing full. This could work.

----- in a hotel room. Didn't work. Scheduling has no idea what to do with my crew. Let the fun begin.

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