Thursday, June 30, 2011

Earning the paycheck

Day 4 started normally. We were all in the hotel van at 5:40AM. First leg was the Captains'. Low clouds at 800 feet AGL required an approach. While enroute I bet him he couldn't make a particular taxiway. He made it. Never been a guy with 28,000 hours that he can't do something. Ha.

Four hour sit. I left the airport area to find food to save money and stretch my legs.

Next leg was mine. One leg and I was to commute home.

Normal takeoff. Full flight. I decided to climb to FL390 to clear some weather. Nice ride. But then things started happening.

Center controller gave us a new clearance to avoid weather near the destination airport. I pulled up the ATIS....Here is the METAR I saw about 30 minutes out.

292053Z 15009KT 10SM SCT080 BKN130 BKN200 33/04 A2997 RMK AO2 SLP050 T03280039

Not horrible.. they were landing south. Huge temperature/dew point spread....high pressure....good.

I turned on the weather RADAR. Sure enough there were several cells between my plane and the airport...with the weather moving toward the airport.

Given a clearance to descend. Captain had the cabin prepare for landing early. Moderate turbulence, ice, snow and then rain from FL280 to 17000 feet.

We were under virga at 15000 feet. Still being knocked around enough that it was hard too see the gauges. Due to microburst activity and wind shear only one runway was open. All departures were on a ground stop. We were being vectored for runway 26.

On final this was the weather that came over the ATIS:

292134Z 19015G21KT 10SM TS SCT080CB BKN130 BKN200 32/01 A2999 RMK AO2 TSB32RAB16E25 OCNL LTGCG VC S TS VC S MOV NE P0000

Landing runway 26. A decent crosswind but not horrible.

Number 3 in line for landing. Number 1 was a regional jet, reported a 40 knot loss and went around. Number 2 was a 737 who, upon hearing the 40 knot loss, also chose to go around. Then it was our turn.

The autopilot was guiding the plane down. I could see the runway looked good. But I made a promise to my wife that I would not make the news....and always come home.

I clicked off the autopilot and told my Captain I was going around. He gave me a look of disappointment. He wanted me to try it. No thanks.

Once over the approach end and climbing we hit the wind shear. Speed dropped 30 knots. I was quick with the thrust levers and had them in max climbing power to maintain speed.

Tower was busy keeping all three planes separated then back off to approach control.

All arriving traffic was stopped after my go around.

Moderate turbulence enough that I decided to hand fly versus let the autopilot be in control. Flight director was still being used.

"Ding!" The cabin called to advise a passenger was having trouble breathing. They were administering oxygen and would keep us advised.

Approach advised it would be "20-30 minutes" before the airport started taking arrivals. We only had 15 minutes of hold fuel. Time to divert.

We were given an initial heading and clearance. I turned to the heading while the Captain programmed the FMS.

Still hand flying and dealing with occasional wind shear and moderate turbulence.

"Ding" The passenger was now unconcious. The Captain advised approach. They stated our alternate was 25 minutes away while our destination was 8 minutes away. He could get us into our initial destination if we wanted to try. Winds were now 190@20G30. No wind shear detected. I agreed to try and turn back.

Things got very busy. I still had the ILS frequency tuned in. I switched to the NAV2 radio while the Captain setup the FMS.

The airport is surrounded by farm land. Just prior to the runway I could see a clear stream of calm blowing dust. About a mile before it was a near brown out due to blowing dust. The front was moving through.

Winds aloft were very high. I don't remember as my eyes were outside the entire time.  Turning final I told my Captain, "Keep an eye on me alright?"

I knew he would of course.

I called for flaps and gear quickly. Passed the FAF at 180 knots on glide slope. Engines were idled. Plane being tossed around.

Finally able to get the third setting of flaps in. passing 1900 feet AGL. One more flap setting left. My speed suddenly increased rapidly. Still hand flying I flew through it, staying on glide slope and had my left hand on the thrust levers waiting for the other side.

Once I saw and heard my speed drop off my left arm pushed the thrust levers forward.

Runway in sight for the entire approach. Finally at 700 feet the speed was low enough for the final flaps setting.

More speed fluctuations due to wind. My Captain was steadily calling out my speeds, "+10, +5, on speed, watch it, -5, on speed"

Crossing the end of the runway he said "+10, long runway."

I began using right rudder to align the nose with the runway while adding in left aileron. It took me 3500 feet but I was finally happy with everything and eased it down. I still had 8500 feet of runway left.

Once on the ground I had to use full left aileron to keep the plane on the runway. The Captain grabbed the tiller and thrust reversers.

Finally slowed down.

Tower said, "Good job, paramedics standing by at your gate. Taxi at your discretion."

No other planes landed after us for over 20 minutes. I would later find out why.

Once clear of the runway I took a breath and it all hit me. Suddenly all the stress went streaming to my lower back. For about 10 seconds I felt as though I couldn't move. Exhaled.

The paramedics were indeed waiting for us. Passenger was awake and able to walk off. Several passengers praised my flight attendant and the Captain who were standing in the flight deck door area. My Captain quickly stated that he was only on the radios and that it was the First Officer who landed the plane. Attaboy.

My Captain said I did a great job and that he wouldn't have let most of the FO's he flys with even try it. I did my post flight. No damage to the plane.

On my way up the jet bridge the outbound Captain approached and asked it I was the Captain (don't know why he didn't notice my 3 stripes). I said no and he kept walking. Nice.

The Captains discussed the weather. The outbound Captain was a recent upgrade and very cautious.

I saw the outbound FO and he asked if I knew that the winds were now gusting to 63 knots.

Here is the METAR after we landed:

292153Z 19021G63KT 6SM DU SCT080 BKN130 BKN200 31/01 A3002 RMK AO2 PK WND 20063/2149 TSB32E47RAB16E25 PRESRR SLP071 P0000 T03060011

I stated we were told the wind was gusting to 30 when we landed. Max demonstrated crosswind is 25 knots.

We talked a bit before he headed down to the plane.

I was now wondering about my commute home. Surely it would cancel. To my surprise it was only 30 minutes late. Even better the gate agent put me in first class. Nice.

In theory I am off for 7 days. I say theory because I picked up extra flying this weekend. The airline is VERY short on First Officers and is offering premium pay to pick up extra flying.

At the time it looked good...a 2 day trip worth 11 hours and commuteable on both ends  Problem...the morning flight up is now oversold. I'll worry about that tomorrow.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Long legs

Over the last few months I've been bidding for trips that have long legs. The thinking being the fewer legs the less work. Seemed like a good idea.

By long I mean 3 hours +. That's a long time to be sitting in the cockpit.

My average trip since April has been a 4 day trip worth 22 hours over 10 legs. That's 10 takeoff and landings.

This current trip started well. The Captain is a guy I flew with a few times. He's almost 63. The picture perfect definition of a crusty captain. Many don't like flying with him. I don't mind it. He has a good sense of humor, but he is definitely showing his age.

I took the first leg. Company pilot on the jump seat who slept most of the trip....oddly quiet.

Vectored to final. I was doing 250 knots and enjoying the scenery. I blinked and realized I was 2 miles from the FAF.....cleared for the visual. Company ops require to be stabilized by 500 feet for a VFR approach.

I popped the spoilers and stayed level. I then began adding flaps quickly while descending. Gear down full flaps and spoilers still hanging out as I passed through 1000 FT AGL. Engines were idled.

By 600 feet I was 10 knots over V-Approach. Right at 500 feet I stowed the spoilers and was right on speed. No way I would try that as a new guy.

I managed my best landing of the year. We could barely feel the wheels touch the ground.

My Captain made a joke about my "speed racer" approach and smooth landing.

During his landing back at the hub he also greased it on. Challenge was on!

During deplaning a passenger approached my flight attendant and stated he saw a "wire hanging off the flight spoiler on the left wing". He clearly was a pilot or knew about planes as most would say "a wire hanging off the wing".

The Captain and I both checked it out. Sure enough a retaining cable was loose. It's only used in case of full mechanical failure. An hour later it was fixed. We left 30 minutes late.

I commuted up early that morning. The Captain started his commute before me. Long day.

Mach .83 and FL360. Tired. I managed another greaser. Captain joked that I was trying to show him up.

Arrived at the hotel at midnight. I started my day 18 hours prior.

Eleven hour overnight.

The next morning came early. All of us slept in.

Easy day. Just one turn back to the same overnight. A long turn....6 hours 50 minutes of flying.

Left on time. Arrived early. Captain bounced it on. I was winning. Scheduled 40 minute turn. We had 45 minutes. Sounds like a lot....but it's not.

As passengers were deplaning I was busy programming the FMS for the return flight. I was done before the last passenger was off. After 1700 hours flying the same plane, I've got it down.

I left to do the post flight, relive myself, grab food and check my schedule. Before I was done with the last item boarding started. Away we went.

Normal flight until approach was controlling us. Due to spacing they gave us a heading of 130. Fine. Then cleared direct to a fix that was on a heading of 060. We were at 34,000 feet. The plane does half banked turns at that altitude....half standard rate. The controller came back during the turn and was upset at our slow turn and gave us a new heading of 360. The Captain replied that "these planes have a set turning rate in RVSM and at this altitude". The controller said, "yeah I know".....almost like it was our fault. Whatever.

Cleared for the approach. Much to my Captains chagrin I made an average landing. Tie game on the landings.

On the hotel shuttle was a crew from Air Canada Jazz. The First Officer sat next to me and we chatted it up. He was shocked to hear my airline can schedule 8 hour over nights. They get 10 minimum. That change is coming for us soon. Can't wait.

This overnight was 12 hours. Once in my hotel room (which was smaller than the night before...same I never left.

Up early the next day. I bring oatmeal packets and used the coffee maker for hot water.

The hotel van was 9 minutes late. We made our way through security and boarded up....and left 8 minutes late.

We "made up" the time in the air and landed 20 minutes early. Easy to do on a 3 1/2 hour flight. Captain made an average landing. I was now up 1.

Two hour break. We all headed to the employee cafeteria. Breakfast done we did our on thing before the next flight.

After my preflight I saw my flight attendant quickly walking away from the plane. I asked why..."someone puked in the aisle!" Nice. There are air sickness bags in front of every seat. Eh.

Blocked out 30 minutes late. On a 50 minute flight it's impossible to make up that much time.

Arrived 30 minutes late. I was about 5 knots fast (within limits!) "over the fence". I floated a bit and finally eased it down. Average landing. Even score.

Tomorrow is just 2 legs and I commute home. I am supposed to have 8 days off before my next flight. I put in for a 2 day commutable trip on Saturday worth 11 hours. The company is short on staffing and is paying a premium for pilots to pick up extra flying. I hope to get that trip.

I used to like the long flights...but I don't care to just sit for up to 4 hours. I stretch my legs a few times and stand up on occasion to keep the blood flowing. It's nice to have fewer legs....but I might start mixing it up with shorter legs every now and then.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Commuteable....but then there's the commute

My next 4 day is fully commuteable...on paper.

I have to report by 4PM. Seems easy enough. I have over 10 flights to get me there before that between 2 airlines. Problem...full flights.

The only "open" flight is at 8:30AM. I will arrive in base just before noon. I get to find something too do between then and 4 PM. After that I do 3 legs (worth 5 hours) and get to my overnight 11PM.

Days two and three are just 2 legs each worth 6.5 and 4.5 hours respectively.

Day four is three legs finishing at 3:40PM giving me 7 flights to get home.

After that I am off for a while. My line for next month doesn't start till the 8th. I'm debating picking up over time. It will all depend on how lazy I am.

The ATP RJ program is ramping up again. The Director of training contacted me about getting back into teaching the course. Think I will take him up on it for a few days. I can make more more there in one day than I can flying. Anyone thinking about going? I heard American Eagle will pay for the course for those with 500/50 total time. Of course one must sign a 2 year contract with the airline.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Crazy day....and lucky I'm not qualified to fly every plane in the fleet

Today is day 4. One leg to base then I commute home. That's what was planned....really it was on paper. Eh.

Departure was scheduled for 3:30PM with a 6:45PM arrival in base. My commute flights home were all full due to weather. It wasn't looking good.

Around 10AM I checked my schedule. My flight cancelled. I (along with my Captain) were deadheading on a 12:20PM flight. I called him and we agreed on a 11:45AM van (short drive).

We arrived at the airport at noon. Plane running late. Then a totally unforseen problem. Due to the hot and high airport AND having two alternates...the plane was restricted by 14 seats. In my 3 years I have only been weight restricted once....and that was just one passenger.

The flight wasn't full, but with the 14 seat restriction they were asking for volunteers. It's complicated, but as dead headers...on this day we were standby.

My Captain called the dispatcher to see what's up with the weight restriction. The Captain flying the flight was a guy I knew well. They both worked on the weight restrictions. The flying Captain was able to get 800 pounds of relief by using different alternates. That allowed all the passengers...but us on. It left without us.

The worst part was that was (due to cancellations) the last direct flight to base.

The gate agent then became a miracle worker. He booked us on a connecting flight....THROUGH WHERE I LIVE! First class (for the first flight) no less on mainline.

Once in base the connecting flight to my base was full. No worries, I wouldn't be going.

On taxi out we saw the flight on our airline still on the hour later. Something was up.

The Captain and I both had First Class seats. Short flight. Once on the ground the Captain checked his schedule. He was Junior Manned to fly the next morning. As was I...from where we just left. Scheduling THOUGHT we were on our own airline flight and not on the mainline flight. That flight had cancelled due to a mechanical.

Now we were in quandry. I won't get into all the contractual details, but we were both holding the upper hand. He headed off to commute to his home. I got on the phone with scheduling.

Forty five minutes later (I had time to take the employee bus to my car and drive 90% of the way home on hold!) they picked up. I was then assigned to deadhead back on a flight leaving in 20 minutes. No joy. I stated I needed dinner. Given a flight leaving 3 hours later.

Once home I assessed the situation. They wanted me to dead head back for an 8 hour overnight. Then fly to a different base in the morning and deadhead to my base and then I would commute home. All for junior man pay, which while nice, isn't worth it too me.

After feeding my daughter and eating dinner I called back. During the hold time I noticed there was no Captain on the trip. My Captain got out of it.

Around minute 30 on hold I saw there was a Captain who had been reassigned. He was flying in late tonight was would be given 8 hours of rest. The flight would go out 3 hours late. This meant if everything worked perfectly I would get home around 11PM tomorrow night. Ugh. Getting tired.

An hour after I first called they picked up.  I asked why they couldn't reassigned the Captain and First Officer who were flying in tonight. While he found an answer I was on hold again. Then I noticed the tail number and equipment type of the flight. Ding! It was a different fleet type, one that I am not currently qualified on. I got out of it and was able to "surface" my way home. Scheduling is supposed to return me to base (and get pay me for it). I can opt to find my own way...but no pay. Since I was already at home...done deal.

If I had done my original flight I would still be in base as the flights have been full and mainline jump pilots have taken the jump seat. I got very lucky today.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Whole lotta flying

Yesterday was day 2 blocked for 4 legs at 7.5 hours.

Eleven forty  AM van for a twelve fifty departure. We stay in the "airport" hotel...but it's a long damn drive.

First two legs were mine. We had an hour sit between them.

Uneventful 1st leg. Arrived early and decided to visit the "roach coach" that sits behind the crew room. Cheap, good food. Didn't get

Next leg was a short hop. A little over an hour block. Hot. Over 100 degrees. At 500 feet my Captain called "V approach, sink 4oo". Only a slight crosswind under 10 knots.  This meant, while I was on approach speed...I was making a shallow approach. Normal sink is between 500 and 700 depending on ground speed.

I pulled the power back and bit and increased the descent rate. Back on track by 200 feet AGL...but now I had a different issue, slightly fast.

Long runway. I floated more than I have in a while with the mains touching down 3000 feet down the runway. I'm normally on the ground in the first 2000 feet. Eh.

No ground air meant we ran the APU the entire time. Full flight back, but I was done flying for the day.

Short flight back. Busy airspace. It's interesting to join final with a 777 off your wing for the parallel.

After landing I checked my bid for next month. I'm always slightly disappointed.

I got what I wanted for the most part.

My trips start with a 2PM report time and finish at 11:30AM. Easy to commute on both ends. The line value is low at just 73 hours. I might pick up a high value 2 or 3 day to make up. I have a full 14 days off scheduled, but I will have more as I have vacation at the end of the month.

I wanted to work Wednesday thru Saturday. I got Thursday thru Sunday instead. Eh.

It appears the Captain that I was too fly with next month is retiring or for whatever reason not flying as his name is on the award of the line only, not on any of the flights. Bleh.

After the third leg I was ready to be at the hotel. Already flew 5 hours. Two hour break before the last 2 1/2 hour flight.

Blocked out early. Half full. Long flight. Smooth flight until the arrival. Moderate turbulence.

The ATIS was reporting just one of the 6 runways was open for landing. The one that was open was on the far east side of the airport. We were coming from the west. I was on the radio and requested a straight in to one of the "closed" runways. Denied due to noise abatement. Ugh.

While being vectored for final my Captain asked for a closer runway that paralleled the runway in use. Approach called tower, approved. This saved us a good 10 minutes.

Nice landing, shorter taxi and done. Blocked in having flown 7 hours 32 minutes with a 12 hour duty day.

Overnight is 15 hours. Just two legs today with a 2 hour break in between.

Tomorrow is just one leg. I'm already planning my commute home. I have 3 flights on mainline plus two offline flights to get home. At best I will arrive at 10PM...worst 1AM. Either way my family will be sleep.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I'm just not a fearless commuter

This trip started with an 8:30AM sign in on Sunday.

Of course I'm still commuting so I had to plan ahead.

The commuter policy requires at least 2 flights that will get me to my base on time. Sunday morning there was only one flight that would get me there on time.

I looked Saturday and that morning flight was open. It was scheduled to arrive at 8:05AM....leaving 25 minutes to sign in.

"Real" commuters would have risked it. I'm not fearless. Instead I took the last flight up Saturday night. This way I would be well rested and there on time.

I was able to spend the entire day with my family. When I left my daughter was going to bed. So little time lost.

This is a trip I traded into as my line for the month was crappy. This trip is much better. Twenty two hours of flying in just 10 legs.

The first turn was to DCA. I haven't been there since last July 4th.

I reviewed the security and arrival procedures. Full flight plus a jump seater. My leg.

The arrival has several step down fixes with specific crossing altitudes. Nothing hard, just keeps me on my toes.

Given the Mount Vernon visual to runway 1.

The controller turned us just south of Mount Vernon. We got a nice view of the prohibited area.

Airport in sight as well as the Woodrow Wilson bridge.

The runway isn't terribly long or short at 6900 feet. The missed approach procedure can be busy to avoid flying over P-56.

I made a very nice landing and used minimal braking to make to N1 taxiway. Done.

Quick turn and back to base. The Captain and I decided to trade at the outstations so the next two legs were his.

The flight to the overnight was long. Full again plus a jump seater. Due to weather we got three reroutes. Still arrived on time. Nice long 18 hour overnight.

Today is 4 legs with the last being back where I am now. Arrive after midnight for 15 hour overnight.

Tomorrow is just two legs with Wednesday being a single leg back to base.

My seniority is moving up. I'm within 300 numbers of being able to upgrade to Captain. This means I should get serious about updating my logbook. I have been half assed about it for awhile. Not updated since August of 2010.

I have one more trip this month starting on Sunday. That one is fully commuteable starting at 6PM Sunday and finishing early on Wednesday.

For next month I set my parameters for commutability above all else. I requested sign ins after 1PM and to finish before 5PM. I'll know what I get in a few hours.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Commuted home in daylight....for the first time

Day 4 started early. Four AM alarm clock for a 5 AM van. I normally don't get up that early, but I wanted to make myself breakfast (instant oatmeal with the coffee maker!) as it was a long day.

Clearing US customs THEN Canadian security seemed backwards. Seems like I should clear Canadian security first. Bleh.

Blocked out on time. Half full.  Captains leg.

Huge line of weather between us and the hub. Rather than go around we climbed over. If we had been full we would not have been able to go over and would have been forced to go around the weather.

Rain and low clouds at the hub had the potential to slow operations down. Thankfully it was early and the weather was already on it's way out.

Blocked in almost 20 minutes early leaving an hour till the next flight.

I called my wife as I knew she was in the car driving to work. I then spent a few minutes reading up on news stories and sipping an extra large Dunkin Donuts coffee.

For whatever reason this Captain was tired from when he joined us on Day 2. The short overnight on Day 2 was a valid reason for being tired but the long (17 hour) overnight on the last night should have been plenty. I myself went to bed at 8:40PM to make sure I was well rested. He was dragging for the entire trip.

I had the middle leg. Beautiful day once clear of the weather. While on downwind at 11,000 feet approach advised we would be vectored for a short approach. I slowed to 210 and began dirtying up the plane. Given a descent to 3000 feet. At 210 knots, flaps 20 and flight spoilers sticking out the plane descended at 2600 feet per minute.

After being vectored for a base turn I called the airport in sight. I noticed the runway was extremely bowed. The approach end was reported at 990 feet while the departure end was 1015 feet. Huge U shape. I took that into account during the flare as it could end up in a sooner than expected touchdown using the runway as guide.

Worked out fine. Taxi'd in 15 minutes early. Lunch time!

Grabbed lunch and ate in the cabin. One of the rampers had taken a seat in the cabin too cool down. It was 98 degrees outside. The ground air was really kicking as the cabin was a chilled 68 degrees. We chatted about work, life and kids. Thirty minutes prior to push I was back up front loading the last flight.

I used to cringe flying out of this particular airport. Just too damn confusing, mostly because it was foregin to me. On this day it was fine.

Our efforts to get back super early were thwarted by traffic due to weather. Originally we would have been 30 minutes early arriving at 12:00PM. This would have been great as I hoped to catch a 12:55PM flight home.

Landed at 12:21PM. Gate at 12:25PM. The Captain had a 1:05PM flight. He told me I could head out and he would get the post flight as my flight was earlier. I didn't give it a second thought.

We parked RIGHT infront of the crew room. I stashed my kit bag and headed for the next gate. Arrived at 12:40PM. There was another pilot listed. I knew him...a very senior Captain.

Sure enough he walked up. "I thought you retired or had died," was my greeting. He laughed. He was in a hurry himself as he blocked in a few minutes after me. Boarding was already in full swing. His name was called for the flight deck jump seat. I would be rolled over to the next flight at 1:40PM.

On my way to the gate, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a pilot I thought I recognized from my time at ATP. Big crowd, I didn't stop.

A few minutes later that same pilot was at my gate. Sure enough it was him. I introduced myself. He flew for a different regional and was hoping to get a ride home. Once he saw me he knew I would get the jump before him (I'm an online jump seater since I fly for the mainline carrier flying the flight and thus have priority over him). We chatted a bit then I began looking for a way for him to get home.

Since I fly for the mainline carrier I can see some passenger load data and nonrevs on flights. I gave him a few ideas and then my name was called for the flight deck jump seat.

Boarding was going very slowly as the gate agent was being strict on carry on bag sizes. The majority of passengers overpack. They stuff their carry on bags to the brim and then stuff them into the overhead bins. The problem is behind the bins are the overhead light bulbs that shatter when the pressure on the bins reaches a certain point.

Several passengers were upset as ,"their bag always fits". TSA and airport security were called to supervise.

First stop was the flight deck where I formally asked for a ride home. No problem. I then stashed my roller board (which fit without stuffing....I know how to pack) and headed back out to the jet bridge to stay out of the way.

Also on the jet bridge was a jump seating flight attendant.

Boarding finished. There was an open seat in first. The gate agent said there were 50+ standbys, but the boarding process took too long and she didn't want to delay the flight. The jump seating flight attendant took the seat in first. I was fine with it was it was her airline and the flight attendant jump seats are much more uncomfortable than the flight deck jump seat.

The jet bridge pulled away and the crew got the final passenger count. The Captain was upset to hear there was an open seat with so many standby's. If he had known there was an open seat he would not have allowed the jet bridge to be pulled. Eh.

I walked off the plane at 4:50PM. My wife and daughter picked me up at 5:00PM. It was my first time commuting home with the sun shining and with them awake!

She drove me home to change clothes and then we all headed back to the airport as my mother in law was passing through on her way back home.

Two more trips this month. I'm done with Canada....for now. Bidding closes in a few days for July. I think I am going to preference working Saturdays OR Sundays and being able to commute to and from on working days. This will almost certainly mean the crappy 4-5 leg days eastern seaboard flying. Eh.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Can't catch a break

Day 2 was long. After arriving 30 minutes early I had that lovely 5 hour sit.

Next leg was looking good. Boarded on time. I pulled up our clearance. Original departure time was 2100Z. Due to flow control our departure time was 2243Z. Ugh. Duty day was already scheduled for 13 hours 40 minutes.

That was the first issue. Next was after we announced our delay a passenger stood up and said she had a tight International connection and wanted to know if she should find a different way.

She was a top tier passenger. She called the executive desk and they arranged for her to fly on a different airline nonstop. Pays to be important.

While this was playing out I walked to the back of the plane to the lav (walk of shame). Several passengers watched "shouldn't you be at the other end of the plane?"

On my way back another lady stood up and jolted off the plane. Hmmm k.

After back in the flight deck I saw the lady on the jet bridge yelling it was too hot in the plane, there was no air and the flight crew was being rude. I checked the cabin temp and it was a chilled 71 degrees, air blowing from the packs was 64 degrees. Not cold and plenty of air flow. I guess we were being rude because of the flow delay?

She did play the, "When I fly Southwest they are never this rude!" Nice.

My flight attendant is former Boston cop. He needed no help from us. Yadda, yadda, yadda she took her seat.

We pushed out 50 minutes late. Given taxi instructions to a runway where we waited. And waited. Finally 93 minutes after scheduled departure time we took off.

The flight ended up being over blocked. Even with en route slowdowns and turns we landed just 25 minutes late.

Big airport. First time there for me. The operations confused me a bit. I had to call on 5 different frequencies between the runway and the gate.

Quick turn. My leg. One departure runway...20 planes in line. So much for that 13 hour 40 minute duty day.

Finally given takeoff instructions. Flew fast. Nice landing. Off to the hotel.

We arrived an hour late. Originally a 9 hour 15 minute overnight. Now down to 8 hours 20 minutes.

Exhausted. Arrived at the hotel at 11:30PM. I called scheduling and told them (I stopped asking a long time ago), "My crew had a long duty day. We are just now arriving at the hotel. The vans run every 30 minutes. We are taking 8 hours behind the hotel door. We will be on the 8AM van. I estimate we will arrive on the curb at the airport at 8:15AM." The scheduler confirmed and that was it. Departure time was 8:35AM.

Short night. None of us slept well. Arrived at the gate at 8:20AM to find another plane on the gate. Glad we didn't arrive on time.

Blocked out at 8:50AM. Another over blocked flight as we arrived on time. Long taxi in.

Finally it was my leg again. One leg to Canada.

Uneventful flight. Flew fast. Looooooong walk to customs. Long walk to the hotel van. Happy to be rested.

Glad I brought my own router....yep only wired in the room.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blame Canada

This four day trip is only commutable on the back end. The trip started with a 6:05AM Monday morning.

I finish at 12:30PM Thursday. When I commute home it will be the first time for me to commute home when my wife and daughter are still awake.

Commuted up fine Sunday night.

Same hotel. When I got to my room I noticed a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door...and I heard voices inside. Hmmm.

Back down to the front desk. They called the room, no one answered. I was given a new room.

Sleep at 10:20PM. Alarm went off at 4:15AM and I was on the 4:30AM bus.

I cleared security at 5:05AM and had 15 minutes to spare to sign in for my trip.

The Captain was new too the plane. He has been a Captain for a few years, but on a different aircraft.

During my preflight I noticed the nose strut was low, but within limits.

Boarding done. Ready to push....then everything came to a stop. The nose strut was too low for the ground crew to attach the strap to pick up the nose and push us back. Due to the weight of the passengers and cargo, now the nose was below limits. Mechanics called. They arrived and agreed. Everyone off the plane.

Thankfully it was early and there was a spare plane at the next gate. I walked over and did everything all over again. Blocked out 55 minutes late.

I've done very little international flying. How little? Well I've only used my passport once in 3 1/2 years.

This was just a turn, but I will be back on day 3 for an overnight.

My leg. On final I noticed the Candaian runway markings are very different than the US markings. The runway number was very small, no side markings and the center markings were different.

Quartering tailwind landing. The Candains use different phraseology than the United States. The "ramp" is an "apron" and so forth.

As long as we stayed on the plane (or in my case with the post flight in the footprint of the plane) there was no need to clear customs. Thrity minutes later we were taxiing out.

Told to "line up and wait" on runway 6. Very quiet on the radio. Final was clear.

After about a minute we were cleared for takeoff. I finished the before takeoff checklist and tower came back, "Flight 939 are you rolling?" I replied, "Yes Flight 939 rolling now."

I looked down at the TCAS and saw a target at 600 feet right behind us. Apparently a plane was on final for runway 6. They must have been on a different frequency as we never heard them.

Before we reached V1 we heard tower to tell them to "pick them up and go around." Again we didn't hear the other plane. This confirmed that he was indeed on another frequency (many airports have multiple tower frequencies).

They went around, we proceeded normally.

Once back at the hub we had a 45 minute turn....and another plane swap. Thankfully it was again one gate over.

Same cabin crew but a new Captain. A really new 30 hours in the airplane new.

His leg. Long flight....almost 3 hours followed by a 17 hour overnight.

My leg back today. Arrived 30 minutes early. Didn't matter as I have a scheduled 4 1/2 hour sit before my next flight. This is part of my line.

Today my duty day is scheduled for 13 hours 40 minutes. Total flying is 7 hours 15 minutes. Tonight I have just 9 hours and 15 minutes of "rest". Tomorrow is just two legs with my ending back up in Canada.

One thing odd about Canada....few hotels have Wifi in the rooms. Mostly just wired. Me being me I packed an old wireless router.I'll be able to keep in contact with my wife via QIK video which uses Wifi. One thing I hate about international flying is being out of touch. Flying a 777 across the pond is not something I would envy right now....too much time cut off from the world.

This sequence I'm on is part of my bid line. I traded away 3 of the 4 trips as I don't care for the long sit or Canadian overnight. My other sequences are all in the United States and have no more than a 2 hour sit. Sitting around makes me tired. Stil got another 2 hours before I leave.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wings to Fly

Wings to Fly

By: David A. Morris


I was there once, as he pointed from the sky,

I was there once, with longing tears in my eyes-

Not so very long ago from runways end I would stare,

gazing at the planes as they approached, wishing that

I was there. -

I was there once, with the fever of the sky,

I was there once, but now I have my wings to fly.-

I was there once, where that young man quietly stares,

I was there once, saying those same prayers.-

i have not since lost the wonderment of what I saw,

Somehow longing anxiously within myself, pining impatiently,

yet respectfully in awe. -

Yes, I was there once, before I learned to fly,

and in time he will say pointing from the sky.

I too was there once, but now I have my wings to fly. -


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Successul commute.....for the most part

So this episode left off with me sitting in an airport.

This was a hub for another airline. Most of my passengers were flying on my flight then connecting to go somewhere else. With the delay many would miss their connections. I've stopped feeling bad about passengers missing their connections. Don't get me wrong, I will fly as quickly and safely as possible to help, but they could have likely bought a direct flight from where we were.

The plane landed at 5:20PM. My Captain informed me of an issue.

Our tail anti collision strobe was inop. An MEL had been issued which required to flight to be done by civil twilight. We had to be on the ground in 3 hours thirty minutes. The flight was blocked for 2 hours 50 minutes. About 40 minutes to spare.

My leg. Two alternates and a full plane meant a max weight takeoff.

I climb at a very shallow, but fast rate to make up time. Ten minutes after takeoff our dispatcher advised if we had still been on the ground we would have cancelled as our hub was in a ground stop.

Cruising at Mach .80 (it wouldn't go any faster!) at FL370. Life was good. There was weather ahead, but it looked like we were on top. Then it happened.

"Due to airspace saturation descend and maintain FL290". We were more than an hour out. Thankfully we had a lot of fuel and the dispatcher changed our flight plan so we had just one alternate.

No we were heading INTO the weather. We had a choice to fly 200 miles out of the way or pick our way through the line. There was a hole showing on the RADAR. Not a big hole....but a hole.

I navigated around the storm clouds using the RADAR and my eyes. Here is the hole I flew through.

Once clear it was just light chop.

On descent into the airport I hit another 5 second wake turbulence from an invisible aircraft. At least I'm consistent.

Full ILS approach. Runway came into view at 400 feet.

We landed with 30 minutes to spare before sunset.

Plane put away. I had to find a way home.

I had three flights...really just two as one was leaving as I walked up the jetbridge.

My Captain missed his flight that literally passed as as we taxied into the gate area. He was headed to a hotel.

With my kit bag stashed away I called my travel wife. She filled me in on the gates and delays. Two hours till the next flight.

Dinner, sitting and more sitting. I saw a pilot I knew who is senior to me at the gate. We talked about the normal stuff (rumors, commuting, crazy Flight Attendants) and then the inevitable....he would get the jump before me. The good news was he was upgrading to Captain at the end of the month, so there would be one less pilot in front on me on my plane.

Turns out we both were denied the jump as a mainline pilot snagged it. Rush to the next gate.

Thankfully the flight was so delayed (90 minutes late) that most of the original passengers had given up. Every non-rev (over 30!) got real seats.

I had been awake for 19 hours at that point. Two and a half hours 1:30AM...the plane pulled into the gate. Home at 2:10AM.

Looking back, next time I think it would have been easier to head to a hotel and fly home in the morning. I slept until 10 AM today. If I would have gone to a hotel and slept, then commuted this morning I would have walked in the door around 9:30AM. Eh.

Time to head out with my family. Commute back down tomorrow night.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Unintended Airport Appreciation

Day four. Just two legs. A scheduled 3 hour 40 minute sit in between.

First leg was interesting.

We were told to "position and hold" after a 747-400 freighter took off. The Captain and I both started our clocks for the 2 minute wait.

After just one minute we were cleared for takeoff. "Tower we would like to wait another minute for wake turbulence avoidance." I replied.

With a sigh, "Fine let me know when you are rolling, cleared for takeoff." the controller responded.

The 747 used every inch of runway. We were half full and I knew we would use much less. Safety first though.

Normal takeoff. No turbulence.

Two hours thirty minutes later I was flying the descent to cross a fix at 12,000. Around 15,000 feet we hit wake turbulence. Bad.

The plane started rocking, rolling and sliding. I grabbed the yoke and followed through for about a second before the autopilot said a virtual, "screw this it's all yours" and clicked off.

I fought to maintain wings level for 20 seconds with one hand on the yoke and one on the thrust levers. Finally it subsided.

The Captain asked approach, "What are we following?" The response.....a 737. The 737 had descended quickly...and dirty....causing the wake turbulence. Nice.

After all that fun I navigated around a small weather cell.

Winds were reported at 150@10. Landing runway 27. On final my MFD was showing 110@15.....a pretty good tailwind.

Once over the fence I nosed it over to try and shorten the float caused by the tailwind. Eh. About 3500 feet down the runway the mains smoothly kissed. If it had been a shorter runway (it was 10,0000 feet long) I would have forced it down earlier.

We put the plane away and then I ate lunch with my dad. While sitting there I checked my flight status...delayed. Then delayed more. Now leaving at 5:30PM instead of 3:40PM. I have two flights to get home now. Both were open earlier. Now are overbooked. Bleh.

Not sure if I mentioned this before, but all this commuting crap will end in September. I'll explain more as September approaches.....but at least I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 3

Today is day 3 of a 4 day. Just one leg whole 2 hour twenty five minute leg. This is followed by an 11 hour overnight then two legs tomorrow...then home.

My Captain is interesting.

On the first leg I was on the flight deck early. When he arrived he said his name and said, "Unlike most guys around here I do everything strictly by the book."

I learned a long time ago that when a guy says that.....well let's just say no one does everything strictly by the book..but guys who say it...are likely farther from it.

I took the first two legs. Gusty approach. Squirrelly landing. Next one was better. After the mains touched I watched several small birds fly under the plane. Thought for sure I just made roasted bird. Post flight inspection found no guts. Bleh.

He took the hotel leg. Flew fast. Arrived early. Crappy hotel. Long drive and not much around it.

Day two was the longest. Four legs. First leg was 3 hours long blocked. Got a nice view of the fires over Arizona. I published a few on my twitter feed.

After landing we had a quick turn for a 98 nautical mile flight. My leg. Weather wasn't horrible at the next airport, but it required an approach.

Due to terrain there was no ILS...just a localizer with step downs. I haven't flown a localizer only approach last SIM in January. Before that it was my pervious SIM.

Broke out 200 feet above mins. Takeoff to landing was 19 minutes. Another quick turn. Slowed down by wheel chairs though. Several elderly people needed assistance. My leg out.

After back at the HUB we had a two hour break. We were scheduled to keep the same plane. I left my stuff on the flight deck. Everyone else packed up fearing a plane swap. I left a note on the yoke, "If you need to move my stuff call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX", then left to find food.

I decided to eat dinner in the cabin. It was quiet and cool. Ninety minutes later the crew was back and boarding began.

Tomorrow I get back in my base at 6:15PM. I have 3 flights to get home. My next trip starts at 6:00AM Monday. I couldn't trade it away and will have to commute up Sunday night. Eh.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Back to work

I've enjoyed six days of not working. Lots of family time. We all non-rev'd to see my dad. Interesting experience with TSA.

On the first TSA screening the agents tested my daughters baby bottles for bomb making materials and I was able to wear my belt. On the second screening the agents didn't touch the backpack with the baby bottles (all filled with 4 ounces of water like before) and I had to take my belt off. I was wearing my crew ID both times. I asked the supervisor at the first airport about the inconsistencies we experience with TSA screening and our daughter. The supervisor stated we should get the same treatment at all airports. Bleh. Not true. If I had bee

Tomorrow it's back to work.

My original line for this month started at 6AM on Mondays and finished at 12:10PM on Thursdays. Only commutable on the back end, but I had weekends off.

I trip traded a bunch. I only do one of my original trips.

I traded into a trip starting tomorrow that is commutable on both ends. I start at 3PM Tuesday and finish at 6PM on Friday. I have 5 flights to get there and 4 to get home. Should be easy.

The trip is concidentally the same trip I did as my line in April. Not too bad. It's a 3-4-1-2 trip. Having just one leg on day three is kind of a waste. Get all dressed up for one whole leg.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Bringing work home

I have a room in my house just for me. It's a nice set up. I have an Xbox 360, 42 inch plasma on the wall, nice surround sound, a decent gaming rig connected to the TV (Mostly play FS2004!) and more. Since my daughter was born I haven't gone in there much.

There was a huge very nice leather sectional couch in there. Took up a lot of room. Didn't need it in there.

Yesterday a pilot friend of mine posted that he bought a set of used airline seats off craigslist for a steal. I wanted them. I put the sectional on Craigslist and had it sold in an hour. Today I rented a truck (as sometimes a Prius won't cut it!) and bought some seats of my own.


My wife gave me "the look" while I bought them, on the way home and as she helped me carry them into my room. She doesn't get it. Tis okay.

Now I won't say I will be in my man cave more often, but when I do....well I think it's cool.

Mostly open

I approve just about every comment that makes sense....even those that are negative against me or my choices. Why? Well I like open and free discussion. Last night a comment was posted about a post I wrote about a particular book. The comment was from the author. His comment was:

"Do you still want to hold a negative review against "XXXXX" for not being a book that is a very accurate account of the regional airline lifestyle?? Seems to me like you are repeating/living everything I wrote about that you were very quick to 'put down'. I find your blogging comical in that you weren't able to relate with my personal autobiography that has been positively reviewed by many...."

I approved the comment and then posted my own stating that I did not slam his book in any portion of my post. I even cited part of my original post about his book where I wrote;

" I was able to relate to many of his experiences as I went through some of  them on my journey from my cubicle to the cockpit."

I then asked him a few questions. He responded back with:

"Well then, glad you are coming around and 'seeing the light'. For your daughter's sake, I hope in a couple years time, you'll further see what is truly important in life. Thanks for your support and thoughts, stop by and introduce yourself at the EAA fly-in this year where I will be autographing books."

He didn't answer a single question. I'm not really sure if he even read the post I wrote about his book as I didn't slam it. The only thing remotely negative I said was;

"I’m 70% done with my current book, XXXX ,and I am not sure if I will finish it."

I got to thinking about the whole exchange and discussed it with my wife. The comments he posted made no sense as I didn't slam his book at all. I think he posted just to sell more books so I removed his and my own comments.

It wasn't easy removing his comments as it went against my "free and open exchange" but I felt it was best.