Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Using Peter to Fly Paul

I was only on reserve for 3 days during this stint. It gets much worse next time as I will be on 5 off two on 5 off three.

Another domicile has been running out of First Officers on a daily basis. Scheduling has been borrowing First Officers (and Captains) in my domicile to cover flights in another. Thus using Peter to Fly Paul. I think it's clever.

Sunday I signed in for afternoon airport reserve at 2PM. It was a pretty quiet day for the most part.

Around 4PM I noticed a 3:30PM departure had returned to the gate. A little odd as it wasn't showing a mechanical delay. I walked by the gate and spoke with the First Officer. During taxi out they hit the brakes to slow down, hit a patch of ice and slid. They then went back to pavement as which time the tires grabbed hard. The Flight Attendant went flying forward and hit a seat on her way down to the floor. No serious injuries, but everything had to be checked out. The flight then left about 40 minutes later (after finding a flight attendant who was good for the entire trip).

At 4:45PM I was called for an assignment. Deadhead to an outstation on mainline (arrive 9:15PM). Overnight at a hotel, then in the morning fly to a different hub (depart at 6:45AM) and deadhead back home on mainline. Fine.

This particular out station was just 15 miles from my parents house. Originally I had 9 hours 15 minutes for the overnight, too short to call my dad for dinner. Before I left I confirmed which hotel to call when I arrived. There are a list of hotels on a website, but just wanted to confirm. Sure enough I was not staying at the main hotel listed.  I wasn't staying at any of the listed hotels. I was staying at a Hilton Garden Inn. The crew scheduler gave ME the phone number to call. I asked if I needed a voucher (to allow the hotel to bill my airline). He stated no. Hmmm fine.

The deadhead went fine. I arrived and called the hotel. Missed the first van. Made the second van. I walked into the hotel 25 minutes after landing. No reservation. They had no crews from my airline staying there and had no contract with my airline. Back on the phone. Scheduling screwed up big time. I was to stay at a regular Hilton. My request to stay where I was failed. Back to the airport then off to the correct hotel. This was eating into my rest time. Safety first.

I arrived at the correct hotel at 10:20PM. When I walked into my room I called scheduling and simply stated, "The current time on my watch is 10:29PM. My rest starts now. Vans from the hotel run every 30 minutes. I will be on the 6:30AM van and will likely walk into the airport at 6:45AM. Good bye."

I did not want to give them a chance to question my choice for 8 hours of rest behind the hotel door. The flight would indeed be late as I would be walking into the airport at departure time.

The next morning my phone rang at 6:00AM. I have my Google Voice account setup to block all phone calls except from my wife between 11PM and 6AM. Scheduling left a voice mail stating I was not to arrive at the airport until 6:45AM. I knew this. They knew I knew this as I told them. If I had answered the phone it would have interrupted my rest and I could have asked for additional sleeping time.

I caught the 6:30AM van. Full of passengers. I cleared security at 6:50AM. Walked down the jetbridge to an already boarded up airplane at 6:55AM.

Light load, 20 passengers. Captain did the preflight. I simply stashed my overnight bag and took my seat.

As previously stated I had never flown out of this airport as a pilot, many times as a passenger though.

I went through my flows and morning test. We then discussed the taxi expectation. I had never flown with this Captain before. He warned me that there would be 4 frequency changes between the ramp and the runway....which was just 150 yards away. I laughed as I thought he was kidding.

Checklist done I called for push back. I was told they had my request and to contact clearance delivery. Hmm reroute? Okay I called clearance delivery. Clearance delivery said they understood we were ready to leave and to contact ground for push. I called ground. Finally cleared to push. Blocked out 22 minutes late.

Taxi instructions were somewhat overly complicated. More turns than we felt were needed. Sunday mornings are not very busy.

His leg. Away we went. Smooth ride.

Being winter, there was heavy snow at the hub. Vector here, vector there, we joined the conga line for the runway.

Tower advised, "fair braking for the first 2/3rd's of the runway. Braking deteriorated rapidly after that." Nice.

Broke out of the clouds at 500 feet to see a snow covered runway. Indeed the last 1/3rd was almost entirely white. Proper firm landing and we stopped in the first 2/3rds. No gate. Off to a holding area.

Got to the gate and found out my deadhead home cancelled. There are 12+ flights a day between the two hubs...only mine had cancelled. Nice.

After 3 1/2 hours the next flight (which was delayed by 90 minutes) took off. Seat in the back. Almost got First Class.

Arrived home and was done.

Monday I was the only First Officer available. I was given afternoon airport standby. This makes little sense as I was not good for an overnight as I was off the next day.

After dropping my daughter off at day care I headed to the airport. As soon as I signed in my phone rang.

The scheduler stated I was being junior manned. I was to deadhead to a different hub, fly to a reduced rest overnight, fly back to that same hub and deadhead home. Expected time back at home was 1:35PM. Problem.

My wife and I only pay for day care 3 days a week. Part time. This week they were expecting us Monday, Wednesday (my day off but I picked up a 6 hour overtime turn), and Friday.

I accepted the assignment and called my wife to see if she could work from home. Sometimes she can. Not this week. Spoke with my Chief Pilot. He told me to advise them I have a child to care for and could not accept the assignment. I also called my union rep to see if there were any repercussions. He stated I could be given a "failed to report for an assignment." This would stay on my record forever. Ugh.

I called scheduling back and told them the situation. They pulled me off the trip and put me back on standby. No marks on my record. Nice.

I was never called again last night. This morning I look at the flight they wanted me to do. The flight left 3 hours late due to the reserve Captain arriving 2 hours late. They arrived 3 1/2 hours late. The morning flight has been pushed back 4 hours (as they appear to have smartly requested 8 hours behind the hotel door).  If I had done that flight I would not be home in base until at least 5PM today.

This was the first time I had to refuse an assignment due to needing to care for my daughter. I am sure it won't be the last. Family comes first.

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