Thursday, December 29, 2011

So close...but sick

Easy day trip. Flew with a Captain that was new to me. It was 5 hours of talking about planes, cars and kids....oh we each flew a leg as well.

Nothing exciting...which is how flights should be.

After getting home though I started to not feel so hot. Seems my daughter brought a gift home for me....a cold.

Had to call in sick tomorrow. First time calling in sick in months. I still get paid for my overtime trip. Hope to be better by Saturday.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011 with photos!

Today was supposed to be an easy trip. One turn. Easy. It's VFR. Easy. Bleh.

I had an 11:15 report time. My daughter wasn't feeling the best so we kept her out of daycare. My wife went to work early in order to get off early. How early? She woke up at 4AM. Yeah.

My wife met me at the terminal at 11:05AM. We made the swap and then I headed inside. Signed in and off for snack for the trip.

My initial gate was number 56. Then it changed to gate 59. Then it changed to gate 61...all in less than 15 minutes. Reason? Plane swaps.

The initial plane was at gate 56. We would have been on time. But then the plane at gate 59 broke and they were already late. They gave the crew at gate 59 our plane at gate 56. They then gave us the plane at gate 59 with a delay. I guess they realized it would be a while and instead assigned us the plane coming in to gate 61.

We were due out at 12:00PM. The inbound was due in at 11:49AM. Yeah so much for easy.

Finally onboard at 12:10PM. Problem...the cap for the potable water connection is missing....water is dripping out. Mechanic called.

Finally blocked out at 12:39PM with 11 passengers on board. We had an hour sit at the outstation scheduled. Most of that was gone.

My leg. Lots of turbulence in the area. So bad we descended from FL370 to FL290 to find smooth air. Thankfully we were tankering an extra 3500 pounds of fuel and were able to fly that much lower. Every now and then the dispatcher runs the numbers to see if it's cheaper to tanker fuel (take more than needed) than it would be to buy it at the outstation. For most airlines fuel is always cheaper in the Hub.

The outstation is in close proximity to a few mountains...I call them mountains...maybe they are just hills. Made for nice scenery.

[nggallery id=53]

Decent landing. Blocked in 26 minutes late.

Twenty minutes later (it seemed like much longer) and we were being pushed back for the return flight with just 30 people on board. We actually blocked out 16 minutes early.

Turbulence again at FL280 for the return. Descended to FL260. Thankfully the dispatcher planned for us to fly low so fuel wasn't an issue.

Busy at the hub. Assigned 22R initially. On about a 2 mile final tower asked if we could take 22L so a 747 could depart on 22R. Fine with us....except for the 737 taking the runway on 22L.

Cleared to land. Descending through 500 feet the 737 just started rolling. The 737 rotated just as we crossed the threshold. Close.

Landed 24 minutes early. Then it happened. Congestion on the ramp. Yadda ,yadda, yadda, blocked in 8 minutes late. Since we left early I went over block. All in I went 24 minutes over block time...not too bad on overtime.

Tomorrow I go back for another turn...hope it's easier.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Making money

Living in base and being a line holder gives me the ability to (almost) write my own pay check.

My line for December was initially valued at 83 hours. Of that 83 hours 22 hours involved a 4 day trip that starts on December 31st. I traded around and ended up with 65 hours before any overtime to be flown in THIS calendar month.

I picked up a lot of extra flying. I'm very picky on extra flying in that I won't do overnights as it takes away from my time at home. My wife works Monday-Friday. We pay for daycare 3 days a week whether we go or not.

Thru careful scanning I was able to add on overtime flying to the front or back of a few trips. Over the next 3 days however I was able to pick up a lot of extra flying.

My 4 day that starts on December 31st was changed as my mainline carrier changed the schedules for January. Every flight from January 1st on is different. Because I was already awarded a line based on certain flight times I get that pay, but will not have to do most of the flying. How much less? Well 18 hours less. All I do is one leg to the overnight on the 31st and one leg back the next day. I will fly 2.4 hours and get paid for 22 hours.

Over the next 3 days I picked up overtime day trips each day. Tomorrow is worth 4 hours, Thursday is worth 5 hours and Friday is worth 7 hours.

Now for math. I've mentioned in the past I failed College Algebra. My professor gave a me a "C' since I was a Journalism major....and literally went everyday. In 5 years of college I missed just 11 days. Not too bad.

Anyway as of today I will be paid for 128 hours of flying but only fly 92 hours. The difference is the 4 day trip on the 31st that was chopped up as well as a few flights that cancelled. This could be my best month ever.

Back of the napkin math shows I will be paid $5,120 before taxes and excluding per diem. I should have another $500 or so in per diem. If I can keep this going I could make a lot of money next year. I think it's a special case though. I DO hope to get paid for 85-95 hours a month though.

Note to self...take more photos while flying. I carry a camera every trip...I need to start taking it out.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My last reduced rest overnight? Maybe.....

My 3 day trip went well. Ended kinda funny.

The first overnight was at a very small outstation. How small? The tower opens at 9AM and closes at 9PM. We arrived 10 minutes early at 9:25PM and were scheduled to leave at 7:20AM. We are the only airline that serves the airport.

The original overnight was scheduled for 8 hours and 50 minutes. Let's take a close look at that.

We were scheduled to block in at 9:35PM so let's assume we were on time.

After blocking in our pay clock stops. We run the parking checklist as the passengers get off the plane. That normally takes 5-10 minutes depending on the load.

I then have to do a post flight inspection. That takes between 3-5 minutes.

My rest "started" 15 minutes after blocking in. So normally when I finish the post flight I am "resting".

We then ran the terminating checklist. Normally the Captain does this while I am doing my post flight.

After the plane was shut down we walked out to the curb. Thankfully the van was waiting.

The keys for our rooms were in the van. Saves time. Van time already scheduled for 6:25AM.

I walked into my room at 10:25PM.

Quick wind down and I'm in bed by 10:50PM.

Fell asleep around 11:20PM.

Alarm went off at 5:45AM.

Downstairs by 6:20AM.

In the van at 6:25AM.

Stepped into the airport at 6:35AM...which is the time my "rest" stopped.

In that 8 hours 50 minutes of rest I had about 6 hours of sleep...which is pretty good considering I normally don't sleep well on short overnights.

We blocked out right on time at 7:20AM. Ten hours and twenty minutes later (including 6 hours of flying) I was once again on "rest" for a decent 13 hour overnight.

Day 3 was originally just one leg into base. I added on four (that's a 4!) more legs of overtime. My duty day was scheduled for 13 hours and 15 minutes. Total flying was scheduled for 7 hours 50 minutes. Three plane swaps. Three different crews. Long day.

The flying went fine. A somewhat humourous last leg.

I had an hour break between the 3rd and 4th legs. I grabbed lunch and sat down near the gate. I saw a pilot in a First Officers jacket near the gate and assumed he was a commuter/jump seater.

After finishing my lunch I checked in with the gate agent to let her know I was heading down to the plane. The pilot in the First Officers jacket was still there with a flight attendant. The pilot introduced himself and stated he was the Captain, but left his Captain jacket in this crashpad. He lived locally but was based elsewhere. He was a very recent upgrade....and for the first time in my career....he was younger than me.

I can only imagine what it looked like for two "First Officers" to walk down the jetbridge. I'm sure most passengers have no idea what 3 or 4 bars mean.

The flight went fine. I had my first stiff crosswind on landing.

A crosswind landing in a Cessna 172 is flown much the same as in a regional jet. The biggest difference is that you don't "slip" a jet. You crab into the wind until the last 50 feet or so and begin to kick it over. It's a tricky maneuver in both a 172 and a regional jet.

In gusty winds I personally give up any attempts at greasing it on and just plant the mains onto the ground....which is what I did.

I'm off until next Friday. I picked up a 7 hour day trip on overtime. I then come back on Saturday (yup New Years Eve!) for a 4 day trip.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's Apple's fault

I had a nice long blog post about my last four day. All typed up using a bluetooth keyboard and my Ipad. Then for whatever reason the app crashed...there is no autosave on the app. Blog lost. Blame Apple. Well maybe the Wordpress app.

I might rewrite it. Eh.

Right now I'm on day 2 of a 3 day. I traded into it in order to get Christmas off. It worked but I lost some hours.

My original trip was a 20 hour 3 day. The new trip is a 9 hour 3 day. Ouch right? Well I added on 4 legs on day 3 to bring it up to 17 hours. Not too bad.

For January I preferenced 3 day trips starting on Saturdays. I got exactly that. I wanted to work Saturdays to maximize my vacation. Next month I will preference partial weekends off.

The line I was awarded is worth 83 hours with 18 days off! Since I have vacation I have 21 days off. Not too shabby.

I am almost up to 100 hours in the new plane. I'm getting more comfortable. Still working on the landings. Everything else is fine.

Again the lack of a post over the last few days is all Apple's fault. Well I guess I could carry a to blame someone else.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Glad I don't commute anymore

I'm supposed to be in a Hyatt Place right now. That's my FAVORITE hotel for overnights.

My 4 day trip started yesterday. The trip is a 3-4-2-3. Meaning 3 legs the first day, 4 legs the second day and so on.

Captain took the first leg and I took the second. A little weather was in the area on the return. I haven't landed at night in this plane much. Flared a bit high....floated 3000 feet down the runway. Uncomfortable. Still getting used to the "site picture" at night. I have 68 hours in type so far.

Once on the ground we were advised our overnight cancelled. Of all the flights on the departure board...ours was the only one that cancelled.

My wife dropped me off earlier in the day, so she had to wake up  my daughter and pick me up. Not a big deal, but it's a risk we take when I don't drive.

This morning I was advised I would dead head out to where my overnight was and pick up my schedule from there. The dead head flight left at noon.

At 10;30AM as I was preparing to leave I was called and told a reserve was flying the outbound leg and they reassigned him to fly my leg back. Fine...more time at home.

I still get paid for everything. I could use the hours though. Eh.

So now I leave at 4:18 PM and do 3 legs. Tonight is a 9 hour a Hilton...nice hotel...but it's no Hyatt Place! Bleh.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2 days off

Finished my 4 day. Nothing terribly exciting...just lots of ups and downs. Only one mechanical issue. Last leg at an out station, a seat in front of the exit row reclined...and it's not supposed to.

My cabin crew didn't find this out until we got to the outstation. No one sat in those seats on the way out.

Twenty minute delay while the Captain filled out paperwork (I of course helped out by looking up MEL numbers and such). Blocked in base just 5 minutes late. Not too shabby.

Due to all of my trip trading I'm only off 2 days before my next 4 day. Originally I was off 3.

My next 4 day was supposed to go through the base I used to commute to. I was really dreading it as I had a 3 plus hour sit. Bleh.

I traded it away for a different 4 day trip. It starts later in the day so I have most of Wednesday off. The negative is it ends with an international turn. This means I have to clear customs before I can go home. Bleh.

After the next 4 day I have 2 days off before an easy 3 day trip. Then I have a lot of time off.

Very happy with my Bose A20 headset. Pretty sure they are a keeper. Over 40 hours of flight time so far on the original batteries.

Walked into my hotel room on the last trip...I liked the here ya go.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I'll take that 4 day and make it 3

Today was supposed to be day 2 of a 4 day. Because of a 30 in 7 conflict my first day (just one leg to the overnight) was removed.

Day 2 was supposed to be one leg back to base then one leg to the overnight again. I joined the trip leg to the overnight.

I met the Captain at the gate. I flew with him 2 years ago on a different plane.

I'd been to the outstation before, but only on turns. The hotel is a 50 yard walk from the terminal.

Being a TRUE airport hotel...not a lot of food options.

The hotel is a Hilton. Very nice, but expensive for food options.

I walked back to the airport to scout for food. Nothing outside security. I asked a TSA agent if I could go through security and get dinner. My crew ID was in my pocket. No problem. Kinda.

The security line was short, but they were sending everyone through the "nudie" machine. I get enough radiation flying at FL370, I don't need anymore.

When it was my turn I stated I was opting out. The agent seemed confused and stated I would get a pat down. Fine with me.

They pointed me to the "public" screening area. No dice. I requested a private screening. If they are going to play these games might as well go all the way.

Private pat down done I grabbed dinner. Done.

Tomorrow is a 4 leg day. Sunday is just 3 legs.

After that I'm off for 2 whole days. My own doing as I trip traded a lot.

My next trip starts in my base but flies through another base that I used to commute to. I'm seriously debating trading that trip. I really hate the other base/airport. After that 4 day I'm off for 2 whole days and then start a 3 day. Once done with that 3 day I'm off for 9 days....which includes Christmas.

I'm really looking forward to Christmas with my family. It's my daughters first "real" Christmas as she was just 4 months old last year. I've already purchased way too many toys for her. I was spoiled by my parents, only passing it along.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Worn out

Day 2 of the three day was rough. It started off fine, but got worse fast.

As stated in the last post I had a 3 hour sit after arriving from the overnight so I went home and ate lunch. I then drove back to the airport.

Departed on time after dealing with minor maintenance. My leg. Long line of weather to fly through. Bounced around a decent amount.

Made my first direct crosswind landing in the new plane. Not too bad. Just different than my last.

Small out station. My Captain had not been there in a year or so. I had never been there before. We had no idea where to park as the ground crew was all contract so looking for our ground equipment wasn't an option. The ground controller was new and wasn't sure. Thankfully another airline crew pointed us to gate A3. Nice.

Twenty-six minutes later we were being pushed back for the next leg. Back through the same line of weather. It was way past old.

Weather at base was rainy and cold. Winds shifted 1000 feet off the ground. On final we had a 35 knot quartering tailwind. Once under the clouds it turned into a 15 knot headwind.

Blocked in five minutes over scheduled block time. Still 26 minutes over for the day and still 19 minutes over in order to avoid a 30 in 7 conflict.

One hour sit. Kept the same plane. Dinner.

Blocked out on time. We hoped to fly just block to pad my 30 in 7 conflict. It wasn't too be. We had a 136 knot tailwind! There was no hope of flying block...we would be early.

There was a small chance of having a long taxi if the runway we assumed would be in use due to winds was indeed the one being used. wasn't too be.

The Captain landed on the runway with the shortest taxi distance to the gate. Blocked in 15 minutes early. I had a longer overnight.

When we blocked in we had flown 7 hours and 41 minutes that day and been on duty for 12 hours 47 minutes. I had been awake for 15 hours.

Tired and cold.

I slept decently.

The next morning started a little late...which was nice. Because of the over blocking scheduling had to fix my 30 in 7 conflict.

I had hoped they would drop the last turn and I could go home early. Nope. Instead they pulled me from the first two legs of my next trip on Thursday.

That trip starts at 7PM with one leg to a reduced rest overnight. In the morning I was scheduled to fly back to base and then fly out to the next overnight.

Instead I start my trip on Friday afternoon. I still get paid for the first two legs. It's a win/win. Another night at home and 6 hours of pay.

The inbound plane was early. No snow. Blocked out 4 minutes early. My leg.

I hand flew till just over 10,000 then turned on the autopilot and relaxed a bit.

A decent windy and rainy landing. Blocked in 21 minutes over due to congestion and being slowed enroute.

Scheduled 2 hour 25 minute sit.

Delayed by an hour. The inbound was being ferried in. Crap.

I was supposed to finish at 8PM. My wife and daughter were flying in at 8:15PM. The plan was for me to get the car from the employee lot and meet them in baggage claim.

It was time for plan B. I moved the car from the employee lot and parked at the terminal. Expensive, but much easier on my wife and daughter.

We initially blocked out exactly an hour late. Then we noticed the parking brake system wasn't showing the parking brake being engaged. No bueno.

The Captain tried resetting the brake. No change. Time to call a mechanic.

Meanwhile we checked the weather at the outstation......

00000KT 1/4SM FG VV002 13/12 A3011 RMK AO2

Not good. Below landing mins. The Captain requested a second alternate.

Yadda,yadda,yadda....blocked out 1 hour 42 minutes late.

Decent ride. Long flight.

We kept an eye on the weather hoping it would improve. An hour out it was still 1/4 mile visibility. We discussed diversion options

Option 1 had the following weather:

18009KT 4SM -DZ BR OVC002 16/16 A3012 RMK AO2 P0000

Option 2 had this weather:

16006KT 10SM FEW009 BKN100 18/17 A3014 RMK AO2

Option 2 was better. On top of that the Captain stated option 2 had a better hotel.

The Captain briefed the flight attendant. She wasn't happy about it, but understood.

To make things more complicated there were 2 unaccompanied minors on board.

We decided we would plan on going to our destination for now. If the ATIS was still under mins 100 miles out we would hold or divert.

Somehow things improved...just barely. Twenty minutes out we pulled the following weather:

04003KT 1/2SM FG VV002 12/12 A3011 RMK AO2 SLP194 T01220122

Right at landing mins for the ILS. The temperature and dew point being the same means really crappy visibility.

Tower reported the RVR at 2400. We needed 1800. RVR is Runway Visual Range. The value means how many feet down the runway you can see.

The Captain called the approach lights right at 200 feet.

I clicked off the autopilot and kept my eyes on my PFD. At 120 feet he called the runway.

I looked up and saw the piercing bright runway lights shooting through the fog.

Smooth landing and the Captain took over.

Eighteen minutes later we were being pushed back again. RVR was down to 1800. We only needed 600 to takeoff.

Very slow taxi as it was very hard too see.

Thankfully arriving aircraft helped clear the fog off the runway. It was a beautiful sight seeing them break through the clouds at night and trial off water vapor as they landed. Would make a beautiful photo....but cameras aren't allowed during sterile operations.

Holding short we could no longer see the tower....or anything beyond runway.

Arrivals done, it was our turn.

It was very spooky accelerating and not being able to see more than 2000 feet infront of us.

Long flight back. Tired. Worn. At least it was smooth.

Arrivals into base were busy. Initially we were given the furthest runway from our gate. About 5 minutes out we were given the closest runway...but there was a catch.

In order to slip into the flow we had to fly fast.

The smooth and calm flight changed to bumpy and fast. Then came ice and thus cowl and wing anti-ice protection which hinders the ability to slow down while descending.

We broke out 1500 feet above the ground. Blocked 90 minutes late. That day we had flown 7 hours 49 minutes, on duty for 12 hours 40 minutes and awake for 14 hours 30 minutes.

Dead tired.

Over the 3 day trip I flew 22 hours 58 minutes. Originally scheduled for just 21 hours 20 minutes.

My wife and daughter were waiting outside the terminal in my car.  Very happy to see them.

This morning I woke up sore. I'm sure it was a mix of long working days, shortish overnights and I probably didn't drink enough water.

I have three days off thanks to my 30 in 7 conflict. Going to enjoy every moment of it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Working for a living

Forgot what it's like to work for a living. Ouch.

I fly a smaller plane now. Smaller plane = more legs per day...for the most part.

Doing a 21 hour 3 day trip. Day one was 5 legs including an international turn to start. First flight had a fuel readout MEL. We had to use measuring sticks to verify the fuel quantity. Time consuming.

Blocked out an hour late. And so it began.

Lots of weather. Bumped around most of the flight to and from. Heavy wind and rain during my landing. Cleared customs on the return leg. Takes time. My crew then had to change terminals. Due to being an hour late getting back we had only 45 minutes to connect instead of an hour and forty five minutes. Hungry.

I learned long ago to not rush and take care of myself first. I grabbed a sandwhich and headed to the plane. Raining.

Boarded up including a cockpit jumpseater. Closed up. Ding! The flight attendants phone got soaked with water and was inop. Delayed.

Blocked out 45 minutes late. More weather. Light to moderate turbulence the entire flight. Still getting comfortable in the plane and the avionics. I Dodged storms the best I could.

Another windy and heavy rain on approach and landing for me.

There were no passengers for the return leg so we had a very fast 20 minute turn.

Same moderate turbulence on the return leg. All the turbulence was wearing on us physically and mentally.

It would have been nice to keep the same plane to the overnight, but it wasn't to be. We parked at gate 56 and were leaving out of gate 55. Fine.

Swapped, boarded up. Then DING! a flight control malfunction posted. Delayed more. Yadda, yadda, yadda blocked out an hour and 7 minutes late. Short flight.

Still got knocked around. We blocked in having flown 7 hours and 21 minutes. Ugh.

Due to the overtime I picked up on Friday that went 30 minutes over block,  I was now in a 30 in 7 situation.

I can only fly 30 hours in a rolling 7 day period. When I blocked in Saturday night I was scheduled for 29 hours and 57 minutes. Close. If I went over I would be removed from flying but still paid for it.

Nine hour overnight. I was exhausted mentally and physically.  Was supposed to be 10 hours 30 minutes.

This morning we blocked out 7 minutes early. It looked like the 30 in 7 wouldn't be an issue.

Another gusty and heavy rain landing for me. Due to weather the ramp was clogged. And then it happened. We went over block by 18 minutes. I was now scheduled for 30 hours 12 minutes.

Scheduling advised they would keep an eye on me as I still had 3 legs left. I could still under block enough. Hmmm bet it won't happen.

I have a 3 hour sit. Since I live close I came home for lunch. Great perk of living in base and close to base.

Working for a living....still love my job though.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Well played indeed

By the time I finish this blog post I will have completed my reserve stint.....having flown zero reserve hours.

This is in stark contrast to the last 4 years when I was on reserve. I was abused....errr used constantly. Lots of dead heads. Lots of ferry flights. Lots of sitting around. I was the bottom guy.

Being near the top of the reserve list,  life is much better. I can control when I work or if I work...for the most part. I was on call each's just that my phone never rang.

If I use Enron math I made $140 per flight hour this month. How? I flew 22 hours during my training on the new plane, yet I'm paid for 75 hours a month for being on reserve. I did state it was Enron math.

I'm looking forward to flying out of my base again. I haven't flown locally in 8 months. All the frequencies I had memorized are gone. It's almost like starting all over again. I'm sure it will come back quickly.

My wife and daughter are flying out to see family for the weekend. Would be nice to join them....but duty calls. This will be my one year old's 31st and 32nd flights.

My Bose A20 headset arrived. I tried it on in the living room. The passive noise cancelling is MUCH better than my Telex ANR 500 and QC15s. Once I turned on the ANR I could no longer hear my TV which was being played at a very reasonable volume through a 5.1 surround system. I'm looking forward to trying it out tomorrow morning.

Beyond is good. Ready to start flying again regularly....and driving to and from work regularly. Commuting is done....for now.