Tuesday, March 16, 2010

There is no runway 5L??

Had a nice week of flying. Flew 11 hours over two days....just 4 legs.

Thursday I was on reserve call out. I was called at 6:58AM for a 11:55AM sign in. A pilot called in sick (a buddy of mine from ATP no less) and I was called in to cover part of his trip. I had Friday off, so I would just be flying a turn. Another pilot was assigned the overnight.

The Captain was a guy I enjoy flying with. He recently gave me a practically new super fancy baby seat for my upcoming second officer.

He gave me the leg out. Adding up the 10,000 pounds of fuel, 33 pax (weighing approx 6,200 pounds), 1500 pounds of cargo and the roughly 45,000 pound empty weight gave a takeoff weight of 62,700 pounds. Fairly light. Being so light we discussed flying at FL410 to save fuel and have a chance of a more direct routing.

Even with a flex thrust rating of 48 degrees (flex thrust reduces takeoff power/engine wear/fuel use while meeting all required performance requirements) the plane climbed at 3500 feet per minute all the way to the initial 11,000 foot  altitude.

Passing through FL320 we had already burned more than 2000 pounds of fuel. Enough to get us to FL410.

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Up we went. Smooth ride up there so I gave a simple PA and turned off the seatbelt sign. Turning off the seatbelt sign (when it's smooth) is a huge pet peeve of mine.  I fly with some guys who never turn it off thinking that passengers ignore it anyway (which is true for some). When I fly as a passenger I mind the seatbelt sign unless it's 100% clear that the sign will never be turned off.

The outstation has two parallel runways 5L/23R and 5R/23L. I had only flown there once before....about 2 years prior and landed on 23L.  We chatted about life/flying/crap until about 30 minutes out.

After getting the ATIS is stated ILS 5L was in use. Runway 5L is a good distance from the terminal. Runway 5R is closer. A study of the charts shows only a GPS approach for 5R due to topography making an ILS impossible. No biggie.

I briefed the approach for 5L. The Captain came back and said, "Nice brief, but there is no runway 5L." I had a moment of pause. Did I brief the wrong airport? Were my charts out of date? A quick review showed my charts were up to date and that I briefed the correct airport. He then said, "You never land on 5L unless it's hard IFR (meaning down to mins). The visibility was 9SM broken 2800, scattered 1800. Hmm k.

I then re-briefed ILS 5L with  visual to 5R if it's clearly visible. I included the MSA and the towers/structures/hazards on the approach.

For whatever reason the approach controller gave us a crossing restriction to cross 75 miles out at FL240. At the time we were at FL290. After a quick check it was apparent that was impossible at we were 85 miles out. No way to drop 5000 feet in 10 miles at 310 knots! Did the best I could while keeping passenger comfort in mind. Didn't make it. From there we were given more somewhat extreme crossing restrictions that were not posted on an arrival or NOTAM. It was a small workout balancing lift/drag/speed.

After being vectored just outside the FAF we were cleared for the ILS 5L. The Captain saw the runway ahead, I could not. Descending through 3000 feet I could finally see the runway. Once on tower frequency the tower offered up 5R. With the runway clearly visible I told the Captain that was fine and clicked off the autopilot.

Landing speeds set for 57,000 pounds. Light winds. Normally a bad combo for a smooth landing. With 10,000 feet of pavement all mine I wasn't too worried about it having to force it down as only 3500 feet were required according to our performance charts. I cut the power at 20 feet and made a fairly nice landing.

This airport has changed little if any over the last 2 years. We were 10 minutes early. Tried to find food in the airport. Nothing. Lucky for me I brought snacks.

Left 8 minutes early with 24 passengers. Back up at FL400. Smooth ride and quiet up there. Decided to go topless as it was fairly quiet. Topless of course referring to taking off our headsets.

Attached to each yoke is a hand mike. On each side of the cockpit is also an overhead speaker. Most of the time on my side is a simple hand mike. On the Captain's side is a fancier model that allows them to dial a specific dispatcher/station no matter where we are. Every now and then they run out of basic models and put a "fancy" one on my side. An advantage of this is the "fancy" models have a hanger on them allowing them to be hung up for easier access. After slipping a pen into the pen holder, the mike was hung and life was good.

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The flight was normal. Arrived....8 minutes early. Funny how that works.

Friday was a day off and I was lucky enough to pick up overtime.

Overtime is very hard for me too pick up. It's all bid for by seniority. Since I am the most junior pilot at a small base...there is very little overtime to be had and very hard too get.

The overtime was a turn...long turn....blocked for 6.1 hours. Just two legs. Great overtime as it's very little work. Of course it can be boring.

For this flight the Captain was a guy who shares my passion for Android cell phones. We discuss them often. I saw him yesterday and he is getting a Nexus One. My birthday is coming up....still debating Nexus One or Apple I-Pad 32GB. Same price.

We blocked our one minute early. His leg. Gusty winds in base. Thankfully smooth enroute but wicked gusty winds at the outstation. He worked the feather light plane down to a nice landing.

Spring break is here. There were 10 unaccompanied minors on board! After the post flight I surveyed the crew if they wanted food. The inbound leg was 2 hours 40 minutes. Only the flight attendant wanted something. The only place to eat warm food that we knew of was at the far end of the concourse.

During a 30 minute turn I have to really haul both ways and hope for a short line to get there and back in time. We were 5 minutes early. I briskly walked down to the bagel shop and ordered a chicken breast sandwhich for me and a plain bagel for him. Done.

Once back in the cockpit a ramper came up and commented on the aroma from the cockpit...my sandwhich. I mentioned it was all there was too eat there. She then clued us in on the plethora of choices just to the right of the gate.....outside security. We never knew. Suddenly my sandwhich was not so great. There was a Burger King, BBQ and more....just feet away.

My turn to battle the gusty crosswind on takeoff. In the middle of most runways are lights/reflectors or "turtles" as I call them. The reflectors are used of course to visually see the center of the runway. Of course they also serve as a tactile clue that the plane is tracking the centerline. If you ever hear a bunch of thumping on takeoff or landing....it could simply be the tires hitting the lights/reflectors.

During my takeoff rolling I hit every light/reflector in the center of that runway. Annoying....but at least it was another clue that I was holding centerline.

The winds at base were now very high. So high that the airport was down to 3 runways for takeoff and landing due to the high winds exceeding many demonstrated crosswind components. This was causing flow problems.

Descending into the area we heard holding instructions being dished out. We were assigned to hold as published on the arrival at FL240. It was clear the controllers work load was very high as every now and then another voice would come on and give a different instruction. Many controllers work with another controller watching over their shoulder as a backup. Sometimes it takes a second set of eyes too see an issue/conflict.

The Captain entered the hold into the FMS. After agreeing it was correct, the command was executed. I remember teaching holding to my students as a CFI. Seems like a waste now with all the automation in regional jets. There were planes stacked every 1000 feet from FL220 to 290. Being overtime I was hoping to make extra money by going over block time.

Thankfully just one lap around and we were given exit instructions. Restricted to 250 knots...we slowly made our way in.

The winds were 260@25G34. Landing runway 24. No biggie. The high winds reduced our ground speed during approach to 101 knots. That's Cessna slow.

I kept the power in until 10 feet as I've been bit before by cutting the power early with gusty winds.

We blocked in 20 minutes early. So much for making money.

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