Tuesday, June 15, 2010


One advantage airline pilots have over mere mortals....moving our works days around.

As I have blogged about in the past, I have a baby on the way. I've made all but one prenatal appointment with my wife. To do this I have been moving my reserve days around. If I were a line holder I could have done the same by swapping trips around.

Due to my moving my days around, I was on regular reserve Monday instead of my "normal" airport standby. I was assigned a horrible trip. It's known as the "repo trap".

Originally I was assigned the following with a sign in time of 8:45AM and the first departure at 9:30AM:

Flight 1 - Ferry a plane from my base (call it Fargo) to a maintenance base...(call it Omaha).

Flight 2 - Test another plane via a local flight around Omaha

Flight 3 - Fly that plane back to Fargo (assuming it passed the test flight)

Flight 4 - Ferry another plane back to Omaha

Flight 5-  Deadhead home to Fargo getting in around 6PM

Not great...not bad ....but this is a repo trap. I've done these before and have been caught in a loop between the two cities for 4 days!

Monday morning I checked my schedule. Changed. Now deadheading to Omaha, but everything else was the same. Eh...fine.

The Captain I was flying with isn't my favorite guy. He's very much all about himself and is hard to get a feel for.

The first deadhead went fine. Arrived in Omaha at 10:34AM. We hitched a ride to the hangar via a company truck...single cab....I sat in the middle.

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Ah the life of a pilot.

Once there....the plane wasn't ready. Big surprise.

The test flight was needed as "creaking noises" were being heard by flight attendants in the galley area. The plane was due for an interior freshening so it was assumed that ripping out and replacing most of the interior fixed the issue. I decided to travel "light" today and brought my netbook which I keep in a very small case. I keep my Bose QC2's and UFlyMike in my "real" laptop bag. This meant I had to use the company supplied David Clamps.

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At 11:51AM we blocked out for the test flight. Captain's leg. Plan was to fly up to  9000 feet and stay in the area around the airport.

Just prior to V1 a Rudder Fault message (not a caution or warning) popped on the screen. No reaction required. During climb out however things got worse. Stall Fail caution. Then the standby instruments started failing. The good news? No creaking sound. Back to the airport we went. At 12:19PM we blocked back in. Lunch time.

We walked over to the terminal. I had brought along a small lunch bag, but wanted something warm. Hot pretzel sandwich called my name. I finished my meal while the Captain waited on his. He was in the middle of eating his when his phone rang...at 1:19PM....from "unknown". Scheduling.

I learned long ago to never answer a call from "unknown" while on a trip...especially on reserve. He answered.

Scheduling wanted  us on the 1:40PM flight (boarding now!) to deadhead back to Fargo, sit around, and ferry another plane to Omaha. Again the Captain was eating lunch. He could have easily said he would call them back when done eating. Heck he could have easily NOT answered his phone! Nope. He got his lunch to go. We then got a ride back to the hangar to get our bags, a ride back to the terminal, through security and on the plane which was now being held for us. The flight blocked out at 1:45PM. At 2:35PM we were back in Fargo. My schedule had been changed again.

Headed to the crew room to check some contract stuff.

I have been assigned airport reserve for most of the last 18 months. I know it well. It was my understanding scheduling couldn't force me out of my "line".  As is they were going to have me overnight in Omaha and thus forcing me "out" of airport reserve on Tuesday. I called scheduling. After being placed on hold for a while they came back stating the could indeed force me into an overnight. I asked the Chief Pilot. Same story. Now I was in a corner.

If I called in fatigued (I wasn't at that point...but I was tired) I would have to be back at the airport at 6AM for airport standby. If I kept flying I would overnight in Omaha, deadhead home Tuesday morning and then who knows what. Damned if I fly. Damned if I stay. I flew.

At 4:20PM we were blocking out to ferry a plane to Omaha. On climb out the tower noticed our very high rate of climb and said, "Pretty light today eh ? Have fun and contact departure". We were a scant 50,000 pounds....25,000 pounds under max takeoff weight.

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At 5PM we blocked into Omaha (Captain flew fast).

Next flight...another test flight. Same plane that failed earlier. My turn. Plan was to fly an extended pattern and make sure everything worked. The Mechanics found the issue. During the two weeks the plane was in for maintenance the pitot tubes weren't covered. Bugs got in. All clean now.

We blocked out at 5:54PM. Light. Having not flown in a while I decided to actually hand fly it. Flew up to 6000 then made a wide 180 for a downwind. No issues.

High rate of descent with everything hanging out I made a tight approach. Very nice light weight landing. Blocked back in at 6:12PM.

Thirteen minutes later at 6:25PM we blocked back out for Fargo. Scheduling had cancelled the last ferry flight. I would be sleeping at home.  My leg. Flew fast.

Another nice landing at 7:09PM. Blocked in at 7:13PM. Not going home. The ferry flight was reinstated. One MORE ferry flight back to Omaha for an overnight. Getting tired.

I grabbed some food and sat down. I pulled up the RADAR on my phone. Storms moving toward Omaha. Nice.

The flight was scheduled to leave at 8:15PM. At 7:40PM my phone started ringing...."unknown". I didn't answer. After the third call I answered. "First Officer, where are you ? The Captain is waiting for you on the plane." I advised I was eating dinner and would be there when I was done. For whatever reason he was in a hurry. I was not. Rushing gets you no where fast.

At 8:15PM we blocked out. Storms moving in all around the area. Long lines for takeoff. Somehow we got rushed to the front of the line. Other planes waiting had to turn back to the gate for more fuel.

Growing really tired now. RADAR full of colors....weather was indeed moving in. Heavy rain just north of the Omaha airport.

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Captain bounced it onto the runway at 8:53PM. I pulled out my phone to call the hotel. Had to really think about where I was. I scrolled through my contacts before I finally zeroed in on the correct hotel name. I was at that point passed tired. I was fatigued. I had done 7 legs. I called the hotel while he went to print out the hotel vouchers. I checked my schedule. They had me on a 8AM deadhead flight. Less than 9 hours at the hotel. No thanks. I called scheduling and had them put me on the 9:30AM flight. I know I needed more than 9 hours of rest.

At 9:30PM I was sitting in the back of the hotel Lincoln Town Car (beats a Chevy van!) headed to the hotel. Called my wife as I knew she would be going to bed soon.

I walked toward my hotel room at 9:50PM. I had to recheck my hotel room number twice. I was clearly more than tired.

This morning I hitched a ride to the airport with the crew of the 9:30AM flight. Once back in Fargo I was released until tomorrow. Good as I am still tired.

Middle of the month and I have flown a whole 5 hours. Talked to a buddy in another base who's junior to me. He'll be holding a line AGAIN next month. More days off. But commutes.

Back to the airport at 6AM.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a day. Thanks for sharing it with us.


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