Monday, May 30, 2011

Don't hit the mountain

Today is day four. One leg in...and it's delayed.

Day three is the longest day. Four legs. The overnight airport is next to a mountain. Normally we land on runway 8 which is a straight in approach TOWARD the mountain. The missed approach involves a steep climbing 180 degree turn to avoid hitting the mountain.

Most of the time the winds are blowing over the mountain and favor runway 8. Last night was odd. Runway 26 was the favored runway.

My leg. There is no charted approach to runway 26 due to terrain. It was all visual and seat of the pants.

I briefed the approach and included that I would have my terrain RADAR on and keep it as tight as possible to avoid hitting the mountain. Planes and mountains don't mix. Cleared for the visual.

The winds on the ground were reported as 220@23. At 2000 feet AGL they were 180@54. This made for a tricky traffic pattern.

The Captain called out the winds as I turned left base. The right side of my terrain RADAR was sprinkled with yellow and red (meaning terrain just below and above my altitude). I made a very tight turn to final were there winds at 1000 feet were 190@40.

Over the runway the winds finally came around to 220@29. At 50 feet I began "kicking" the nose over to align with the runway. The high wind made for a very smooth touchdown.

The terminal was near the approach end of runway 8 thus I used no thrust reversers or brakes (10,000 foot runway) during rollout.

Today is go home/end of the month day. Original arrival time was 6:30PM. That would leave me two flights to get home.

The inbound is delayed. Our new arrival time is 7:45PM. Leaving me just one flight to get home. And it's full. Yay?

As of right now I've flown 77 1/2 hours this month. All time record for me.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sometimes it all just works

Day 2 of my four day is just 3 legs for a total of 6.5 hours. Easy day.

I flew both legs on day 1. The Captain took the leg out. All normal until on final when a departing aircraft reported a 25 knot gain due to wind shear. Long runway. His landing was uneventful. We were 35 minutes early. Looooong sit.

Not hungry. Just sat in the flight deck and read my new book.

Boarding started early. Too early as the rear flight attendant wasn't on board. Boarding halted. She came back. The gate agent "forgot" she wasn't on board.

Blocked out 20 minutes early. My leg. I ate dinner (crew meal) at FL380 while watching the sunset. Busy airspace. Lined up for a 40 mile final. We were assigned 180 or better till the final approach fix. No problem...I did 210. Crossing the FAF I slowed down. Tower advised we were cleared to land but we were 70 knots FASTER than the 737 we were following. Uh.

Clicked off the autopilot and leveled off. I called for the final flap setting and quickly slowed to approach speed. The 737 cleared the runway as we were at 500 feet. Non issue.

Once blocked in we were supposed to do a plane swap. We shut everything down and then walked into the terminal at 8:45PM. My flight attendant noticed the plane we brought in wasn't going out until 11:45PM. Our flight was supposed to leave at 9:50PM but was delayed till 10:30PM due to a late arriving plane. This made no sense.

My Captain called the equipment coordinator and asked if we could keep the same plane we brought in "so we can have an on time departure and get our customers home on time". The coordinator agreed. It helped that my Captain lives in the city we were overnighting in. He REALLY just wanted to get home.

Late. Neither one of us really wanted to fly. With the use of Crew Resource Management we decided I would fly. Not really. We played rock, paper, scissors and I lost.

Only 20 passengers. The departure procedure requires crossing fixes UNDER a certain altitude. Due to the light weight I put in the maximum assumed temperature as to have the lowest takeoff thrust. Even then we hit VR in 2500 feet. After I cleared the altitude restrictions I pitched up and climbed at 3900 feet per minute from 5000 feet up to 19000 feet. Eventually leveled off at FL270.

The arrival has several crossing fixes that involve crossing below on some fixes and above and below on other fixes. Also speed restrictions. Being late approach cancelled all the speeds. Three hundred twenty knots it was.

Finally slowed to 250 knots crossing 10,000 feet. Approach cleared us to 4,000 and advised we could do a short approach. I dirtied up the plane and we dropped like a rock. Decent landing and off to the hotel.

Today is a 4 leg day followed by one leg in tomorrow.

Once done I am off for a week! My wife wants to go somewhere. I'm not sure. Kinda miss being at home.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A broken record...commuting sucks

Today is Friday. I have a report time of 2:10PM for a 3PM departure.

Yesterday I looked at all the morning flights I could commute on for Friday morning. All were already overbooked. If I took a chance it would be jumpseat on Mainline at best. Of course a mainline pilot could bump me off the jumpseat.

This would also mean getting up at 4:30AM to make it to the gate by 5:15AM for the first departure at 5:40AM. If I did that I would be awake for 20 hours. Not the best.

I decided to look at flights leaving Thursday night. Due to weather there was just ONE mainline direct option....overbooked and three pilots (mix of mainline and one of my company pilots) already listed for the jumpseat. Ugh.

I then looked at flying anywhere, buying a hotel and commuting Friday morning. Expensive, but cheaper than losing 22 hours of pay if I had to use the commuter policy. Nothing looked good.

Meanwhile my wife had just come home from work and my daughter wasn't in the best of moods. Stressing.

The mainline flight left at 7PM. Since there were mainline jumpseaters I didn't even try. I looked at going offline.

There was another flight on the same plane I fly by another carrier leaving at 7:50PM. The time was currently 6:20PM. I can't see loads for offline flights so I posted a request on Facebook for my friends who fly for the other airline to check for me. Time to go.

I grabbed my bags (which I thankfully packed hours prior) and kissed my family goodbye. Just like last week I had to commute up a night early.

By the time I got to the offline gate it was 7:20PM. Thankfully the flight was delayed. I noticed a Flight Attendant from my mainline partner also looking to jumpseat.

I got a response from a friend who stated there were no other pilots listed, but the flight was full. The wait began.

I listed with the gate agent who was very nice. This was my first time ever commuting on this carrier. I wasn't sure of the procedure. Apparently listing at the gate is normal. The flight was delayed by 90 minutes.

The mainline Flight Attendant couldn't jumpseat as there is no agreement between her airline and the express airline. It would later not matter as the flight was full and the two flight attendant jumpseats were occupied by the crew.

Plane arrived. I stood back. The Captain walked off, saw me waiting, and asked if I had a seat. I stated I did not and might be riding up front with him. No problem was his response.

Boarding started. I made my way down the jet bridge and formally asked for a ride. Once approved I took my seat. Since it was the same plane I fly I knew my way around and how to operate the jumpseat.

Three hour flight. Really uncomfortable jumpseat....the back is totally vertical. Ugh.

I did notice several procedural differences between how they fly the plane and how my company flies the plane. I also noticed my airline equips the plane with more equipment.

Landed. I thanked them for the ride and then was a bit lost as I wasn't used to their terminal. Finally found my way. Hopped on the hotel van and off I went.

It might get boring hearing me complain about commuting, but hopefully it's eye opening. It's not easy. There are very few "easy" commutes I know of.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Airplane mode does not equal off

Little rant coming on.

Whichever electronics maker first coined the term "Airplane Mode" should be forced to give all flight attendants $100. Why? Because many passengers say, "Oh it's in airplane mode so it's okay". It's not.

Flight attendants are governed by FAA policies. Advisory Circular 91-21.1B has the in's and outs. The basics is everything must be off. Nowhere in the circular is "Airplane Mode" mentioned. Off is off.

Unless you are an expert in electronics and have tested each device you carry to make 100% certain nothing is emitting from the device while in airplane mode, just turn the damn thing off. Hmm no not good enough....just turn the damn thing off.

It irks me when, right before or upon landing, I hear the clicking in my headset from GSM cell phones searching for a signal (CDMA doesn't do this). Is your life really that important you can't wait 30 second for the plane to clear the runway? Don't get me started how annoyed I get when I am in the cabin (deadheading/nonreving) and I see passengers turn on their cell phones right before/during touchdown.

I love electronics. I travel with a cell phone, Ipad, a Kindle and a Zune HD. All are turned off while I fly. Heck it saves battery life!

So in closing....dear traveling public turn your devices all the way off. Dear electronics makers....stop using the term "airplane mode."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Trip trading

My last trip ended normally. We had a pilot from Great Lakes in the jump seat on the last leg. She jump seated on my flight two weeks ago.

One of my students went to Great Lakes when I came to my airline. He is a Captain on the 1900. Still I am making more than $12000 a year more than him even though I am a First Officer. True he is building turbine each his own.

Once done I began my commute home. Or so I thought. Massive cancellations. I had 3 flights to get home. Two of them, which were full, cancelled. Not looking good

On my way to the crew room I saw a friend of mine from ATP who is at another regional. He was Fedexing himself home. Fedex is very nice to commuters. You can call and literally reserve a seat. The negative is they aren't at the terminal. He has to take a cab around the airport to the cargo ramp. He has a direct flight to an airport near both of our houses. If I wanted to fly to my home airport it would be a two leg commute. Even then it parks at the cargo where near the terminal. No thanks...for now.

I made my way to the crew room, dropped off my bag, then went back up to the terminal.

After finding an unused gate I began looking for a way home on the computer. I know the basics of our reservation software. While standing there several passengers came up to ask questions. To passengers anyone behind a computer must be a gate agent. I answered the questions the best I could, ending with, "I'm a pilot so I can't do as much as a gate agent." Most understood. One lady was upset that I couldn't rebook her on another flight. Bleh.

I looked at two leg commutes. I know that there are red eye flights out there. If I could connect to one I could fly all night and get home in the morning....not having to buy a hotel room.

No good. Everything was overbooked or cancelled all together. I had one flight home to try.

The standby list for passengers was over 120 people long. I only saw one other pilot listed for the jump seat. I knew his name and I knew he was senior to me. If he showed up I would be staying the night on my own dime.

Delayed. The gate was very busy as there were twice the number of passengers as seats on the plane.

I did see a few mainline pilots waiting around. They weren't listed for the jump seat so I assumed they were deadheading. I hoped they wouldn't take the jump seat and give up their real seat.

Boarding started. A little chaos ensued as a few non-english speaking passengers attempted to board with standby vouchers. They didn't understand why they couldn't board. Then a few seats were double booked at some passengers were rebooked at outstations. Finally boarding was done. I was the only pilot there.....jump seat it was.

Late night flight. The flight crew was tired as they had been delayed all day and had to circumvent thunderstorms on the flight home.

As uncomfortable as the jump seat was I did sleep a bit.

I walked off the plane at 1:30AM. The terminal had passengers strewn about sleeping as their flights had cancelled. I was glad to be home.

Yesterday I recovered from being tired. I only had a few hours of sleep before my wife left for work and my daughter woke up. As tired as I was I was happy to spend time with my daughter.

Next month my schedule is not very desirable. I was able to trade one crappy trip for a better trip. I hope to trade all of my trips. Time will tell.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I keep forgetting things

I normally pack the same items for each trip. For the last two trips I have forgotten something Apple Bluetooth keyboard. This is the reason there are large gaps between postings.

This week I reminded myself three times to grab the keyboard....forgot it again. I am using the on screen keyboard on my iPad for this post, it will likely be short.

Due to impending weather and full flights I decided to leave for my trip Thursday afternoon instead of Friday morning. This meant two things.

1 - I had I one less night at home with my family

2 - I had to buy my own hotel room

I listed on a 4:40pm flight. I didn't get on until 6:30pm due to more senior pilots getting the Jumpseat on the 4:40pm and 5:30pm flights. I did score a real seat though....even if it was a middle.

Once in base I made my way to the hotel.

Friday morning I checked the flights, glad I left Thursday. Storms came through and several flights cancelled. I would likely not have made it up before my report time.

Once again my front flight attendant couldn't commute up, we had a reserve. He is brand new to my airline and was born in 1990....I feel old.

First leg was fine. Moderate chop for most of the fight as we worked around the weather.

Normally we have a two hour sit after the first leg. Due to weather we were now facing a 3 hour sit.

The gate agents smartly left the gate area as there were several upset passengers due to the delay. My crew ate then hung around the gate. We helped passengers as best we could. Most had connections to overseas flights. Our 7:45pm flight pushed out at 9:30pm. We thought being so late we would go straight out. Nope. We were number 16 for departure. Forty minutes later we were airborne.

Our final altitude was FL380. Congested airspace due to weather. Planes were holding all over. All westbound traffic was restricted to FL260 for 300 miles. We looked at our fuel numbers. It wasn't looking great. We could make it fine legally, but our landing fuel was down to an estimated 2700 pounds, my "feel good" number is 3000 pounds. Minimum fuel for a go around is 1200 pounds. Add in enroute delays and 2700 wasn't great.

We finally climbed higher and eventually made it to Fl400. Thinner air and lower headwinds meant our landing fuel went up to 3100 pounds. Better.

Being so late we could not make up time. To make matters worse we were again assigned the furthest runway from the terminal. To add on we were given the longest taxi after landing.

I called our operations to ask if they could pass the word that we had several international connections.

Blocked in 90 minutes late. Most of the passengers likely missed their connections. I felt bad for them, but it was out of my control.

Looking forward to June. I preferenced weekends off over certain cities. I like where I fly this month. I got what I asked for. I have weekends off. My trips are only commutable on the back end. I start my trips at 5am on Mondays and finish at 2pm Thursdays. I will have to commute up Sunday evenings and home in time for 30 Rock Thursday evenings. Crappy east coast flying though.

My wife and I haven't had a day off together since our vacation in April. It's been a little rough, but we work through it. It will be nice to spend more time together next month. She did remark our situation is better than many. Her coworkers husband works on an oil rig. Three weeks on, three weeks off. At least we see each other weekly.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Making up time

Saturday morning my eye was fine. I bought a pair of glasses as the Doctor advised against wearing contacts for a week. I hate wearing glasses...but it does fit the geek image.

My trip leaves my domicile on day 1 and doesn't return till day 4. Ironically my first trip out of my domicile cancelled due to weather. I kind of wasted a sick call. The rest of my crew was dead headed to the overnight.

Scheduling "fixed" my schedule for me to catch up with my trip. They had me dead heading to the overnight city Saturday morning and flying right away. I could have jumpseated to my overnight city Saturday morning bypassing the deadhead except for one minor detail. My kit bag was in my domicile crew room.

I jumpseated up on a 7:55AM flight. Delayed by an hour. I arrived with enough time to grab my kit bag, breakfast and run onto my deadhead. I would end up flying 2800 miles as a passenger.....7 1/2 hours before I started flying on the flight deck. My duty day started in my domicile and was scheduled for exactly 14 hours.

After arriving in the outstation my first real flight was delayed. I grabbed dinner. With the delay I was looking at a 15 hour duty day...being awake for 20 hours.

Blocked out 50 minutes late. Captain took the first leg and flew fast. He was able to shave 17 minutes off the block time. Scheduled ground time was 40 minutes. We did it in 26 minutes. My leg back. Flying fast, but we got slowed down due to traffic. After several turns we blocked in 7 minutes under block....but only 14 minutes late. Once again scheduled for 40 minutes ground time, we did it in 28 minutes thus blocking out just 2 minutes late. Between the three legs we made up 48 minutes of delays. We landed at the overnight 5 minutes early but waited 11 minutes for a gate due to a late arriving mainline flight at our gate. All in all I was only awake for 19 hours after we blocked in.

Sunday wasn't much better. We were given an aircraft with a MEL'd APU. It's worth mentioning the outstation was in the desert. Hot. Cabin temp reached 30 degrees Celsius, 86 degrees Fahrenheit, before we got an engine started.

Having to use an external air cart normally leads to delays. The inbound crew was late due to having to use an air cart, thus we blocked out 27 minutes late as well. Of course we worked hard to make it up.

Four leg day. Forty minute turns. By the third leg we were back on time. The 4th leg to the overnight was the longest. We were all a little worn from having to deal with no APU in hot climates. The ground air conditioning units were barely able to keep up with the outside temps during the turns. The plane has a recirculation mode which, when used, can be a double edged sword.

Using recirculation mode on the ground  increases the airflow coming out of the gaspers and vents so passengers "think" they are cooling off. In reality it's just recirculating the cabin air which is being warmed by all the 98.6 degree bodies. Turning off the fan reduces the airflow out of the vents making people "think" they aren't cooling off. Eh.

Day 2 done just past midnight. Day 3 was one leg in. Last week we only had 19 passengers. This week we were full, only because the earlier flight cancelled. Eh.

[caption id="attachment_1970" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Nice photo except for my water sweetener reflection...kind of makes sense though being a shot of the desert....maybe?"][/caption]


Blocked in at 6:05PM. Thirty minutes early. I debated rushing over to get a 6:45PM flight home. Just wasn't up to it. I took my time and took the 7:55PM flight instead.

I'm done cheating gravity for 3 days.

Friday, May 13, 2011

One Eye'd Pilot ?

Back in 2007 I was hired at my airline. On the night after my first day I scratched my cornea. I arrived on day two wearing an eye patch. Lots of stares and glares. A friend of mine said, "Yeah they are getting pretty desperate for pilots, now hiring one eye'd pilots." Nice eh?

It healed. Minor issue.

Yesterday I scratched the cornea on my other eye. I had a suspicion I did it again as it felt like there was something in my eye that I couldn't flush out. I tried over the counter eye wash. Nada.

I hoped it would heal by this morning so I could commute up. No go. Called in sick. Went to the Doctor. Diagnosed with the same issue. Given eye drops.

The good news is this case is much more minor. Last time it was painful for 3 days. I can almost see normally out of it this time. I'm going to see how I feel in the morning and debate calling in sick again.

The problem is my trip leaves my domicile on day 1 and doesn't return till day 4.

To cover the first part of the trip they put a reserve on it. He flies my day 1 and dead heads home tomorrow after my overnight. I am supposed to deadhead from my domicile to meet up with my crew at the out station. As is it will be a 14 hour duty day...down to the minute.

Problem....I don't live in my domicile thus I will commute up tomorrow morning. I will spend 7 hours on airplanes as a passenger before I get to the outstation. It would be nice if I could go straight there....but my kit bag is in my domicile. Boo.


Preparing for another 4 day

I have a standard setup for 4 day trips. It works for the most part, but could always use tweaking based on the hotels.

My trip this month has me in two different hotels than the three I stayed in last month. One new one offers free breakfast and a microwave while the other two offer nothing in the way of free food or food prep.

As mundane as I think it is, some might wonder what goes in a suitcase to survive 4 days/3 nights on the road.

I'll start with non clothing since it might be more interesting?

Eight packets of instant oatmeal - easy to make using the coffee maker...I bring my own spoons can be breakfast or a snack

One instant Macaroni and Cheese - cooked at the hotel with a microwave

One tuna lunch kit - for a snack/meal in a pinch

Ten packets of fruit snacks - healthier than Skittles

Four fiber bars  - filling and healthier than Snickers

That ends the for my tech

One Roku XD Box + HDMI cable - new this trip, I don't watch much "real" TV

One Asus WL-330gE router - can take a wireless signal in and rebroadcast another (needed because the Roku box can't click "OK" I will use my Ipad/Phone initially on the connection)

One iHome iHM60 Rechargeable Mini Speaker - better speaker than the Ipad or my phone

Back up alarm clock

Back up headphones - super cheap kind as I break/mispace them often

Backup charging cables for my Zune HD, IPad and HTC Thunderbolt. Main set kept in my messenger style laptop bag

For tolietries I carry

Shaving gel, aftershave and razor

Toothpaste + toothbrush


Enough contact lenses for a week (I wear dailies)


One back up work shirt


Polo style shirt

Three undershirts

Two "out and about" t-shirts

One workout shirt

Workout shorts

Walk around shorts

Socks and underwear for 5 nights...just in case

Running shoes

Finally I carry an umbrella...didn't know where to place that.

All of this goes into a standard carry on bag.....and it's not overstuffed. It's all about how you pack.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Seniority helps

Day 3 and 4 of my trip went normally for the most part. Day 4 was one leg and done. Blocked out early...then tower called. There was something hanging out of our cargo hold. I called company and we waited for the message to be passed down to the rampers. They came out. We shut down the engine and they fixed the issue...luggage strap was hanging out of the door. Now we were late.

We flew fast. Fast enough to be 35 minutes early. Blocked in at 6PM. There was a 6:45PM flight I could commute home on. After my post flight I headed straight to the crew room and stashed my kit bag. On my way up the stairs a Captain I knew stopped me, "If you're trying for the 6:45PM flight don't bother, it's delayed till 8:20PM." Nice. While I was inbound a flight had cancelled. The flights were now all overbooked.

I made my way through the terminal. My phone rang. It was a buddy who is also based here and commutes. He has been commuting for 2 years.

I met him at the gate. He wasn't too happy to see me as I am senior to him by 9 numbers. Same hire date. Being senior meant I had jump seat priority. We chit chatted as we kept an eye on the standby list. Wasn't looking good.

Departure time came. It was a lucky day for the both of us as we somehow scored seats in the cabin. At least two other pilots junior to us had to "duke it out" for the jump seat. Three and a half hours later we were home. Both of us commute back Friday.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The bad part about holding a line

This is my first full month of line flying. I met my crew on Friday. This month I'm flying a larger plane that requires 2 flight attendants. The Captain I knew from recurrent training last year. The front flight attendant looked familiar, she recognized me as well. The rear flight attendant was new to me, and the airplane.

First day was easy. Six and a half hours of flying in just two legs. After the first leg we had a two hour break. I hoped to get dinner at a nifty mexican restaurant I liked. It closed 10 minutes before I got there. Eh. Mc Donalds it was.

On the way to the overnight I mentioned to my number one (front) flight attendant that there was a casino nearby. She got excited and wanted to go with me....when we got there.

Long flight. Chasing the sunset. Tired. I was exhausted by the time we got to the hotel. Thirteen hour duty day plus my 3 1/2 hour commute. Ugh.

The trip is all late starts. Day two started at 3PM. Three legs, another 6 and a half hours of flying. Delayed by 20 minutes. Three flights with 40 minute turns. We made up the 20 minute delay on the first flight. Lined up for 35L. A Southwest 737 came diving in fast enough for 35R to set off a TCAS alert. I looked over my shoulder and saw him. No issue.

On the flight back we were ahead on time and gas. Our ETA was 20 minutes earlier than planned. I hoped to have time to grab dinner. Due to traffic we were assigned the furthest runway from the terminal versus the "normal" one much closer. Eh.

My Captain is a nice guy, former cop who still works part time on his days off. He has one annoying quirk. Brakes. He's brake happy. On his landings...on my landings....taxiing around. I've mentioned it, he says that's just the way he taxis. My number one and him have known each other for years. She gives him a hard time about it as well. It could be worse....he could smell funny.

We blocked out 10 minutes early for the overnight. Captain was ready to go....because he was going home.

He travels very light. Just a backpack and kit bag. He commutes up on day one. We have one overnight then on the second night he goes home. He repacks the backpack on day three for one overnight. Day four ends with his commute back home. I could never travel with just a for him.

His leg. We flew extremely fast. Landed 28 minutes early. Short taxi. Shutdown the plane and he was gone. My flight attendants and I found our way to the van.

Speaking of my flight attendants, my number 2 and I don't get along. She just seems to be "right" about everything and expects everyone to wait on her. For example on the first overnight the hotel shuttle is a shared van service. She thinks we should have private transportation. Day two we were 28 minutes early. She thought the hotel van should be waiting on us no matter how early we are. My front flight attendant smokes. She stepped out during a 40 minute turn to smoke. The rear flight attendant came up to me and mentioned how inappropriate and rude it was to step out and smoke without tidying up the front of the plane. Never mind that the front flight attendant has been here for years and knows exactly how much time she needs to do her job. Sure enough she got back, freshened up herself and the area with 10 minutes to spare before boarding started.

The bad part about having a line? I have the same crew all month. Kinda hoping the rear flight attendant trades out of the rest of the trips. Eh.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Family that travels

Dropped my wife and daughter off at a gate tonight. They are off for a weekend with family. Tomorrow I head out for another 4 day. I would like to have gone with them, maybe next time.

I bid to work weekends to save on day care. My wife has a normal Monday thru Friday job. She took off Friday to have a 3 day weekend and thus can travel. For June I am going to bid weekends off and she is going to move her schedule around to work one weekend day so we can have a little more time together.

We have lost track of how many flights my daughter has been on in her 8 months on this earth. It's over 16 flights. She's visited every corner of the United States. Pretty seasoned traveller. To recognize this I bought her a shirt:


In the past I worked for a cable company and got free cable TV and Internet. At the time that was great. Now travel is one of the best perks I can think of.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Done with that overnight

This month I had overnights in a city known for having one of the worst TSA checkpoints in the country. Sure enough it was. I'm glad I only had to go through it twice.

Next month I have a similar trip as this month, but not that overnight!

This month I did 4 day trips starting at 3PM on Fridays and ending at 6:30PM on Mondays.

Next month I start 3PM on Fridays and end at 6:35PM on Mondays.

The 4 day is a 2-3-4-1. Meaning 2 legs on day one, 3 legs on day two, 4 legs on day three and just one leg on day 4.

Once again I bid for late starts and working weekends. I prefer late starts as it helps avoid reduced rest overnights. It does make it harder to enjoy an adult beverage as, by the time I get in, most bars are closed. I don't get drunk mind you, just a beer once or twice during a trip.

For June my wife is going to move her work schedule around a bit and I am going to try to bid for weekends off. Will be interesting.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Easier Trip....and good news

On day 3 on my 4 day. Much easier than last time. No weather and the fact that I did most of this trip last week means a little less stress.

My report time to start my trip was 3PM on Friday. The commute flight is 3 hours long thus I had to leave by noon to make it.

The direct flights were all pretty full. I wanted to play it safe so I decided to take an early flight.

I was going through the motions in the morning getting my bags to my car and getting my daughter ready. I planned on taking a 7:55AM flight. While at her daycare my daughter got a little upset when she saw me leave. I hung out for a few minutes and played with her before leaving. It will only get harder for the both of us as she grows up. She'll be 9 months old next month.

Those extra few minutes meant I missed the 7:55AM flight. I instead planned on the 8:35AM flight. Got a seat, across from another pilot from my airline.

We were both new to commuting. She had been living in base for years and holding a nice line. Now she too was commuting. We both hate it. She didn't have to be there until 2PM, but like me was playing it safe.

I hung out in the crew room, sucked down an extra large Dunkin Donuts coffee....ate breakfast....ate lunch....sucked down another coffee. Finally go time.

I checked the flight details and noticed a crew member was deadheading on my first turn. Odd. Why deadhead to and from ? I check further and realized he was a brand new pilot. Zero flight hours at my airline. The training department had scheduled him to sit on the jump seat and observe a flight before starting IOE the next day.

The Captain was again new to me. When the jump seater arrived I helped him out a bit stashing his bags. I remember what it was like on my first day. Everything moves fast and I was way behind.

Normal flight. Beautiful day. My first time to this outstation. It's part of my line, but I haven't been there this month due to cancellations and vacation.

Normal turn. After push back the rampers disconnected and walked away. When I called the ramp tower to taxi we were told we could not taxi from our current position. The ramp has a line that we must be pulled up to and on to taxi as there is a risk of damaging men and equipment behind the plane. I called the rampers back, they weren't happy, but they pulled us 40 feet up to the line. Done.

During both flights the new hire asked a lot of questions. The sim and the real world are close, but there are a lot of details left out.

Back in base we had a 2 hour break. Dinner.

Long day. We blasted off for the 2 hour flight to the overnight. High winds right down the runway. At 3000 AGL the winds were so strong we had a 80 knot ground speed. That's Cessna slow.

I hit the hotel bed hard at 12:20AM. I woke up 19 hours prior.

Day 2. The hotel buffet looked sketchy. I carry plastic spoons, instant oatmeal and instant mac and cheese as back ups. They pack easy and come in handy often. Oatmeal it was.

That afternoon the inbound plane was late. Thus we were late. Headed west the 100 knot + headwinds meant it would be impossible to make up any time.

The next outstation has a complex STAR that leads right into the approach for the runway. It's still odd to be cleared for an ILS while 100 miles out.

Because we were late it was another quick turn. The next flight was just 98 NM again. The flight is so fast it's just an exercise in running checklist. After the turn was done we had a 2 hour break again. Dinner.

Called my wife and had a video chat with our new phones. We switched from T-Mobile to Verizon. Now using Thunderbolts. We started using Android with the T-Mobile G1, then Nexus One and now Thunderbolt. Video chat worked great. Dinner.

Long day. Light load. Up to FL390. The whole crew was tired. It was an 11 hour duty day, but I had been up for 17 hours.

Today is easy. One leg to the overnight.

During my bidding I requested late starts to avoid reduced rest/short overnights. This seemed like a good idea, but 2 of my 3 overnights arrive after midnight. Makes for bad sleep patterns, especially in different time zones each night.

Finally good news. In September I am scheduled to be back in my old base. Thus this commuting should come to and end.