Thursday, December 27, 2012

Made it home

After realizing I wouldn't make it home, I made my way to the hotel bar and met up with on my of my cabin crew. They were brand new and confused about what was going on scheduling wise and what they needed to do. I gave them a crash course on reserve.

While chatting a UPS crew sat next to us for dinner. I mentioned my  issue getting home. They offered a ride to Louisville and then I could connect there for a flight home. I thanked them and would have used that option if the plane for the next morning had not made it in.

I went to bed early.

Around 11PM my phone rang. It was my wife, the fire alarm at the house was going off. Me being a geek I have the entire house wired up with security cameras. I VPN'd into my house took a look. No fire or smoke visible.

Fire Department came. Apparently we have a faulty smoke detector. They are all wired together so when one goes off, they all go off.

By the time they got there the alarm stopped. After looking around they left.

Two hours later my wife called again. Alarm going off. I searched online for a way to disable them. She finally found a ladder and begin taking them down. She knew when she found the faulty one as the other alarms stopped.

After that I didn't sleep well.....nor did she.

I woke up at 5AM. I caught a 5:40 AM van to the airport with two other airline crews.

Departure was set for 7AM.

The plane had a MEL'd APU. The ground power unit wasn't working properly. A mess.

Delayed. Finally able to start an engine. Then it started snowing.

The only way out for me was on the jump seat. I took it.

Then they had a problem with performance. For whatever reason there wasn't enough performance for runway 21, the runway in use. They could use runway 3....if they burned off 200 pounds. Not an issue since we had to deice.

Deiced and away we went. Two plus inches on every taxi way.

Runway braking action was reported poor. Aborting would not be a good idea.

Thankfully the takeoff was smooth.

Two hours later I walked off the plane and outside to my wife who was waiting for me.

Kinda crappy I spent 2 days in a hotel....two days I should have been at home. As is I have just tomorrow off before I head back for a 3 day trip Saturday.

Happy to be home.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Another day in a hotel

My deadhead home cancelled. Another night in a hotel. First time in 5 years I've been in this kind of a jam.

I pack for one extra day...always. Never two.

While sitting in the hotel bar I met a crew from UPS who offered a ride home. It'd be a two leg commute. As is the inbound flight from my airline made it in so I have a ride home in the jump seat tomorrow morning. If not I would have taken them up on the offer. Crappy being stuck....but it is what it is.

However.....I still love my job.

A white Christmas

I celebrated Christmas two days early on Sunday morning as I had to go to work Sunday afternoon. Supposedly easy three day trip.

My normal crew for most of the trip. My Captain did somehow pull off getting Christmas day off so I ended up having a reserve Captain for half the trip.

Days one and two were long....8 hours flying each day but easy. My whole crew felt like we were just living in the plane as we were in the same physical plane for almost 11 hours after all was said and done.

On day 2 my Captain went home and the reserve filled in. Since I had already flown 7 hours and 3 legs that day I offered up the last leg to the reserve Captain. He took it.

Short flight, but really bumpy due to weather. We had not expected the weather as the ride in earlier was fine. My cabin crew attempted a service. I called back and let them know to sit down as it wasn't safe.

Arrived to the hotel at 11PM....tired.

Next day more weather came into base. Delays started mounting.

Very high winds all around. The inbound was 30 minutes we were 30 minutes late. Instead of departing at 12:30PM we left at 12:58PM.

Winds were 280@25G35....taking off runway 33. Gusty. My leg.

Fairly smooth takeoff roll. At around 400 feet we cleared the hills around the airport and got rocked around a bit.

Weather at the base was:

33025G33KT 1/2SM SN FG SCT005 OVC015 00/M02

Landing runway 1L.

Fairly smooth ride down the ILS.

Broke out around 1400 feet. Previous arrival reported that around 500 feet things got "squirrely". Steady snow and gusting winds.

I turned the autopilot off around 900 feet. I don't trust it with windy conditions.

Approach speed was a blazing 148 knots. Sure enough at 500 feet the winds shifted. We got rocked and rolled. Up, down, left and right.

I fought to stay on localizer.

Around 350 feet things settled down. The nose was pointed far to the left and we were slightly left of course.

I corrected.

I left the power up until about 10 feet. I kicked the nose to the right and aileron left. Down.

Visibility was dropping fast. Tower couldn't see us. We couldn't see them.

Amazingly there was an open gate.

The snow fall increased. It took 45 minutes from when we parked to get the door open as there was a problem moving the jet bridge. Finally blocked in at 2:42PM.

Normally on Christmas day my company puts out a big Christmas dinner. Cancelled this year due to weather. Nice.

Last turn for my trip was supposed to leave at 2:30PM. Not going to happen.

Deicing trucks were breaking down. Operations placed a 30 minute gate hold on all departures. Delays started getting worse...and gates filling up as flights were coming in....but none going out. Soon every gate had a plane attached.

More delays. Flights still arriving...with no gate to pull into.

Four o'clock flights had taken off since I arrived.

By five o'clock several flights stuck out away from a gate were reporting they were reaching the 2 hour mark. One more hour and fines start.

Mechanics were called in to taxi planes off the gate.

It wasn't enough. To avoid the fines vans and buses were sent out to planes around the airport. Passengers and crews were off loaded...the planes were literally abandoned.

Six o'clock came. My cabin crew had enough and called in to be taken off the flight.

Around 6:30PM I checked my schedule. I was taken off the flight to the overnight and a new First Officer was assigned. I was then sent an email stating I was junior manned to fly back the next day. Problem was they never had me getting to the overnight.

I called scheduling. They were in meltdown mode. I calmly explained the situation. The agent was a new idea what was going on with my schedule or our contract. Finally fixed.

Junior Manning manning in it's most basic definition is being forced to work when you're supposed to be off.

I always pack an extra days worth of clothing and supplies.

My wife wasn't happy I wasn't coming home, but she understood.

In the month actually...this will end up paying off...literally.

I will get my full 20 hours pay for my 3 day trip.

For the junior manning today (December 26th ) I will get paid time and a half.

Additionally I picked up a 5 hour turn to be flown on this morning (I had planned on being home last night). Since I was pulled from that flight, I still get paid for it.

When the dust settles I will get an extra 9 hours pay....or roughly $400 for working an extra day.

The only problem now is figuring out what time I will get home.

When weather hits like this crews and planes are all out of place. Getting everything back up and running is rough.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I don't want to alarm you, but there is a piece of the plane missing

Crazy easy 3 day trip last week.

I flew with the Captain 5 years ago....I think. He looked familiar.

Weather was nice, easy flying on day one.

It was a 4 day for the rest of the crew. The original First Officer dropped the rest of the trip after the first day.

One leg to the overnight. Very small airport in a town where the main industry is cattle.

Walking off the airplane I immediately smelled manure. It was thick in the air. Nice.

Long overnight. The hotel is nice, but older. They give airline crews 2 free adult beverages plus all guest get free soup and salad bar. Yep free dinner!

The overnight was 15 hours long. Nice.

Day 2 was 4 legs long, 7 hours 20 minutes of flying. Nothing to exciting.

Day 3 started off interesting. During my preflight I noticed a landing gear door was missing. Gone. Hmmm.

When I reached the cockpit I told my Captain, "I don't want to alarm you, but there is a piece of the plane missing."

"Yeah I see that in the log book, I think we're restricted to 250 knots." he replied. The missing piece was noted before it arrived the night before. We have a manual on board that states the restrictions in place when a piece of the plane is missing, called a Configuration Deviation List. I read through the requirements, just gotta fly slow.

Thankfully we had just three legs.

Winter is here, but thankfully we didn't have to deice. The flight schedules are padded for deicing, which adds about 10-15 minutes to a flight. I'm glad we didn't have to deice as we'd be flying much slower than normal due to the missing gear door.

Still finished the day 20 minutes early.

My next trip starts on Sunday.....and finishes Tuesday. Yup I work Christmas day. It was either work Christmas day and get 3 day trips or have it off and get 4 day trips for the month. I picked the 3 day trips. We will just celebrate Christmas Sunday morning before I leave.

Next month I'm back to 4 day trips. I start late on Mondays and finish early on Thursdays.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

High Flight

Not mine....just something I found funny

High Flight

with FAA Supplement (And abject apologies to John Gillespie Magee, Jr.)

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth (1), and danced (2) the skies on laughter silvered wings. Sunward I've climbed (3) and joined the tumbling mirth (4) of sun-split clouds (5) and done a hundred things (6) you have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung (7) high in the sunlit silence (8). Hov'ring there (9) I've chased the shouting wind along (10) and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air (11). Up, up the long delirious burning blue (12), I've topped the wind-swept heights (13) with easy grace, where never lark, or even eagle (14) flew; and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space (15), put out my hand, and touched the face of God (16).

FAA Footnotes:

1. Pilots must insure that all surly bonds have been slipped entirely before aircraft taxi or flight is attempted.
2. During periods of severe sky dancing, crew and passengers must keep seatbelts fastened. Crew should wear shoulder belts as provided.
3. Sunward climbs must not exceed the maximum permitted aircraft ceiling.
4. Passenger aircraft are prohibited from joining the tumbling mirth.
5. Pilots flying through sun-split clouds under VFR conditions must comply with all applicable minimum clearances.
6. Do not perform these hundred things in front of Federal Aviation Administration inspectors.
7. Wheeling, soaring, and swinging will not be attempted except in aircraft rated for such activities and within utility class weight limits.
8. Be advised that sunlit silence will occur only when a major engine malfunction has occurred.
9. "Hov'ring there" should be taken as a highly reliable signal that a flight emergency is imminent.
10. Forecasts of shouting winds are available from the local FSS. Encounters with unexpected shouting winds should be reported by pilots.
11. Pilots flinging eager craft through footless halls of air are reminded that they alone are responsible for maintaining separation from other eager craft.
12. Should any crewmember or passenger experience delirium while in the burning blue, submit an irregularity report upon flight termination.
13. Windswept heights will be topped by a minimum of 1,000 feet to maintain VFR minimum separations.
14. Aircraft engine ingestion of, or impact with, larks or eagles should be reported to the FAA and the appropriate aircraft maintenance facility.
15. Aircraft operating in the high untresspassed sanctity of space must remain in IFR flight regardless of meteorological conditions and visibility.
16. Pilots and passengers are reminded that opening doors or windows in order to touch the face of God may result in loss of cabin pressure.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


My family will be moving soon. My wife and mother in law decided that our current 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 2000 square foot house....isn't enough for my family of 3. Hmmm k.

We are moving a whole 4 miles away to a new community going up. One thing I was concerned about was airplane noise. I live within 15 miles of my base. I know the departure procedures and routes. I made sure the new house wouldn't be under the departure or arrival corridors. Thankfully it's not.

The house is about 3 miles north of a major turning point on several departures and about 5 miles north or arrival corridors. Should be good.

I bet I'm in a very minority of people who study such things before buying a house.

One perk of the new place (a giant 2700 square foot house!) is a I get my own media room. A true man cave. Nice.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Just call me George

Day two was cold. Really cold.

Long ride to the airport. Small town, no highways....few "nice" hotels.

In bound was late. I sat in the operations room behind the counter.

We are the best airline at this airport....because we are the only airline at the airport. Two flights day to and from.

One of the agents handed me our flight release. I scanned it for fuel and weather information...and totally skipped the MEL section.

Day two was a 2 leg day. Both mine.

I handed the release to my Captain.

"Uh oh, no Autopilot or Yaw Damper." he said.

"Yeah right, Mr Funny guy!" I replied.

"No really look." he said as he handed me the release.

Sure enough both the autopilot system and yaw damper systems were out of service. I would be hand flying it all the way to base.

Without an autopilot we can't enter RVSM airspace (FL290-FL410).

I was not looking forward to hand flying for a 1 hour 40 minute flight, but it was what it was.

Most of the time planes without autopilots are put on super short legs (under 40 minutes), today was an anomaly.

My Captain offered to help out if I needed a break.

The lack of an autopilot had us both off a bit during the climb out, we got through it.

I trimmed the plane out at FL280 and there we were.

Even perfectly trimmed out I had to apply small corrections up and down.

I propped my right leg up to support my wrist a bit.

About an hour into the flight I took a minute or two break for water and handed the plane over to my Captain.

Without an autopilot I couldn't do much beyond stare at my PFD. A moment of distraction could mean traveling up or down a few hundred feet.

Wrist was getting tired. Decent landing at base. Plane swap.

The next plane had no MELs.

I called for the autopilot at minimum engagement height.

Very short 8 hour 45 minute overnight.

De-iced in the morning. With light snow we had 23 minutes to get off the ground with only being deiced and no anti-ice fluid applied.

During rotation the snow got much heavier. If we had been delayed a few minutes more we would have had to been deiced again.

One leg into base today and done.

I picked up a 4 1/2 hour turn tomorrow on overtime.

More later.

Lightening Crashes...but not my plane

Interesting day one of a three day trip. Five legs.

Captain took the first. Gusty (20+ knots) crosswinds were standard fare for the day. Wicked cold front moving across the county.

First approach winds were 220@20G35. Longest runway is runway 15. Runway 23 was into the wind, but just 5800 feet long. We chose to land into the wind.

Gusty, bumpy approach....done.

My turn. We can land on Runway 15, but my company ops specs state we can't take off from Runway 15. Gusty departure for me.

Taking off in a jet with a crosswind is the same as taking off in a Cessna with a crosswind.

My Captain turned the plane onto the runway and stated "your aircraft."

I replied, "My aircraft," and turned the yoke into the wind.

VR was set for 135 knots. The faster we accelerated the less aileron deflection I needed. At VR I rotated the nose into the air. Around 25 feet, which is about the height of a row of trees next to the airport, the wind intensified a bit. A little rock and roll.

The front was more developed. A wall of weather with holes. We'd have to go 400 miles north to go around, or find a hole and go through the roughly 10 mile thick weather.

Autopilot on, I had one hand on the thrust levers and one hand on the yoke.

RADAR showed a good sized hole. A few bumps....and then it happened. Lightening.

"That was close," I said, "But everything still looks normal."

"I think we got hit, did you hear that pop?" replied my Captain.

I wear a Bose ANR headset. It blocks out some small sounds....and a lot of wind noise. I didn't hear the pop.

Winds at the hub were 320@18G25. Landed runway 31. Winds at 2000 feet were over 45 knots. With an approach speed of 138 knots....the ground speed was hovering around 100 knots. Cessna slow.

Plopped it onto the runway.

The last person to get off the plane was a very southern gentleman, "Y'all know we got hit by lightening right? The wing was smoking for a bit." he said. We said we thought we got hit and would go investigate. "Now I'm going out of this same gate in about an hour, it's going to be a different plane right?" he asked. We assured him it would be.

On my post flight I saw the wing tip. No doubt it was the exit point. I looked all over the nose for the entry point, but couldn't find it.

Mechanics called. We had a 2 hour sit.

Next three legs were just full of bumps and crosswinds. Overnight winds were the worst. Weather was clear skies, winds 330@30G35, temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit!! Seven! SEVEN!

This morning the temp outside is 1......1....ONE.

I don't do cold. I need to start bidding more southerly.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Three day trip....just right

I enjoyed my last 3 day trip. My Captain and I got along just fine and I found a flight attendant is also a pilot...a commercial instrument pilot actually.

It was a 5-4-3 trip. Five legs day one, four on day two and three on day three. The trip ended at 10PM. I haven't had a trip end that years.

On day one, during one of the longer legs, my Captain had to use the lav. Policy is for another crew member (normally a flight attendant) to come up to the flight deck and sit in the jump seat. This is in cae the remaining pilot become incapacitated, the other pilot can still access the flight deck.

I noticed the flight attendant really scanning the screens....more so than just looking. Sure enough she is a commercial pilot with her instrument rating. She had recently sold her own plane and was getting ready to get her dispatcher license. After at least 10 years as a flight attendant she has had enough. Dispatchers at my airline top out in the low six figure range.

I've only had a small handful of flight attendants who were pilots in the last few years, very few commercially rated.

The trip was fairly uneventful.

On day two, while hanging out in the crew room I left behind my Nexus 7 tablet. I just finished chatting with friend who is a junior Captain. I made it all the way to my gate when I got a text asking if I left a tablet behind. Doh! On the way back to the plane I realized the snap on my ID holder was open...and my Crew ID was missing...with just 15 minutes to departure.

I figured it likely fell off in the cockpit as I got up. Walking down the jet bridge another Captain had my ID in his hand, a ramper found it. I'm getting old and forgetful eh?

On day three the day started with what I thought was an 11:30AM van. The hotel was in a downtown metro area which means no free breakfast and any food around was expensive.

I found a coffee house and had a decent breakfast. On the way back to the hotel I pondered getting an 11AM van and getting lunch at the airport. The flight to the hub was 3 hours long.

I should have gone early.

When I went down for the 11AM van...I was the only one there. The van driver stated the rest of the crew took an 11AM van. They tried to call me but I was out. A note on my door would have been nice.

Rushed to the airport and through security. I got to the plane at 11:50AM and we blocked out at 12;05PM...a few minutes early.

Long flight. Thankfully I always carry snacks.

Two hour sit. The last turn STARTED at 5PM. None of us were in the mood to fly. Four hours later we were back in base. Tailwinds and light loads helped us arrive 30 minutes early.

One perk of 3 day trips is I have 4 days off between trips instead of 3 days. More time with the kiddo.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

First time in 10 years

Done with my last 4 day of the year. Well unless I trade a 3 for a 4 day next month.

Days 1 and 2 were easy.

Enjoyed a bonus night at home with my family. Once again I am glad I don't commute. If I was a commuter I would have had to pay for a hotel.

I say that, but my Captain is a commuter. He commuted home to spend a few hours with his family before commuting back and paying for a hotel.

Days 3 and 4 were decent.

Day 3 started with a 7:35 AM departure. My leg. Weather in route. An area of thunderstorms. Nothing new for me. My Captain however.....

He was previously based where the weather was almost always VFR. A little rain....but no storms or crazy weather.

First hour was normal. The last hour was busy.

During the initial descent we entered the clouds and stayed in the from FL240 to just 400 feet.

I used the RADAR to navigate around cells.

"I'm glad it's your leg," said my Captain "I haven't turned on the RADAR in the plane in almost 8 years." he continued. He also had not had to shoot a "real" approach in a few years. We shoot approaches in the sim, but on the line I might shoot an approach twice a month in the summer, more often in the winter.

Weather on the field was reported as Winds 190@14, 500 OVC, rain, 1 SM visibility...landing runway 17.

We were following a mainline 737. They gave a few PIREPS including a 30 knot tailwind until about 800 feet and it turned into a headwind.

"I will configure early and be ready for the wind shift" I told my Captain.

Caught the localizer and glide slope 8 miles out. Moderate chop but nothing horrible.

My MFD read a 35 knot quartering tailwind.

VREF was 130 while VAPP was 138. I was hovering around 140 knots during descent.

Passing 1000 AGL I added 4 more knots to be ready for the wind shift.

Sure enough around 800 feet things got a little squirrely.

I clicked off the autopilot and continued the approach.

I could sense the relief in my Captains voice when he said, "runway in sight 12 o'clock."

I looked up and replied "Going visual, landing."

Runway was 7800 feet long. Performance charts showed I needed 4800 feet to stop with no thrust reverse credit.

No nonsense landing. I simply set it down and immediately started braking and applied full reverse. The anti-skid system kicked in and I just kept the same pressure. Anti-skid is like ABS in a car. When it activates you aren't supposed to let up on pressure. Just hold it.

He called, "80 knots" with 3000 feet to spare. I stowed the thrust reversers and gave him the aircraft.

By the time we left the front had come through. Winds were now out of the north.

His leg. Much smoother ride on the climb out. Arrived on time. I took the leg to the overnight.

Easy 1 hour flight. Straight in approach. Done.

Day 4 started with a 5 AM van. Early. Cold. Below freezing.

While traveling to the airport we passed a few car dealerships. I noticed the frosted over windshields. Yep....we'd have to deice.

Set for a 6AM departure.

I put on my gloves (that I have somehow kept up with for 5 years!) and did my preflight. The entire plane had a good layer of frost and light ice on it.

Boarded up and blocked out 5 minutes early. Short taxi to the deice pad.

There are two types of fluid used in deicing. One to get rid of ice (Type I fluid) and one to keep new ice from adhering (Type IV fluid).

Since there was no active precipitation we only needed deice and not anti-ice. Even with deicing we have limited anti-icing protection. I carry charts on board that show how long we can go with each fluid type based on the conditions outside.

The deicer must have been new as he blasted the windshield with Type I fluid. This isn't ideal as we don't have windshield washer fluid to clear it. Type IV fluid is worse as it's a thick gel type substance.

After deicing we made our way to the runway. Precautions have to be made before turning on the packs (air conditioning for the cabin). Deicing fluid gets all over the plane including the inlets for the packs. We have to wait a few minutes and let the inlets blow out as much deicing fluids as possible. If we turn the packs on to early the cabin could be filled with smoke and a nasty smell from fluid being ingested and sent into the air stream.

This delay would come into my favor.

Everything done. We were the only aircraft moving on the airport property.

At 6:22 AM we began the takeoff roll. After I called "rotate" I smelled it. Deicing fluid. A little had made it's way into the air stream. No smoke though.

Supposed to arrive at 7AM, do a quick turn and then head back out at 7:35AM.

Ideally it could be done if we kept the same aircraft, for whatever reason we had a plane swap.

I used the FMS to send a message to the dispatcher seeing if we could keep the plane. Denied.

ETA was 7:12AM. The was the time we would land. Add a 6 minute taxi and 8 minutes for the people to deplane....we would not depart on time.

Someone somewhere saw this....and fixed the glitch.

They pulled us all from the next flight!

We blocked in at 7:13 AM. We had one minute to spare before being late according to the Department of Transportation. Airlines are given 14 minutes of scheduled arrival time to still report being "on time".

My entire crew were commuters. They all scurried off the find an earlier flight home. I hopped in my car and was on my couch by 7:55 AM. Not to shabby.

Off till Sunday. Going to hit the LA Autoshow this weekend.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pattern work

Sitting on my couch watching TWIT.Tv. Supposed to be sitting in a La Quinta hotel room in the middle of no where.

On day 2 of a 4 day.

Day 1 was long. First turn was 5 hours. I then had a two hour sit. The next turn was a short 1 hour 40 minutes. Then an hour sit. Final flight was 50 minutes block also with just 34 minutes air time. Three different Captains.

The last Captain of the day was new to my base. I played tour guide again. I don't mind it. He had never flown out of my base before so he needed a little extra guidance especially with local ramp procedures and such.

Arrived on time. Nice 10 hour overnight at a maintenance base.

This morning at breakfast my phone rang. Crew scheduling was calling. I thought "eat my fresh omelet or talk to scheduling."

I finished my omelet.

I use Google Voice for my voice mail. I read the transcribed voicemail. Seems as though the plane was written up last night and needed a check flight before flying revenue service. Ok.

My crew joined me at my table. We discussed the scheduling change.

We were supposed to do one leg to base, quick turn and one leg to the overnight.

With the check flight we were pulled from the overnight. We'd all be going home when done.

Arrived at the airport. Plane was parked on the ramp.

I used to do a lot of check flights when I was on reserve. I recalled the process. My Captain hasn't done one in 10 years.

Took a bit to get through the paperwork and fire up the plane.

The crew that brought the plane in wrote it up stating the plane yawed abruptly when the gear was lowered.

Dispatch filed us a round robin flight up to FL320. We discussed it and felt a few laps around the pattern would be best as it was just a landing gear issue.

I took the leg.

Mechanic was on board just in case.

With an empty airplane we hit V1 and VR within 2000 feet. Pattern altitude 1500 AGL.

We agreed we'd do one low pass and then a full stop.

It was fun doing pattern work again. The first time I lowered the gear , I asked for it in a turn. Didn't feel anything. Low pass.  Went around.

The next time I asked for the gear to be lowered on downwind. There was a 40 knot crosswind at 1500 AGL. The plane indeed yawed. We raised the gear and it yawed again. Hmmm.

Cycled again. Still yawed.

Turned base. yaw.

We assumed it was yawing due to the left gear coming down slightly faster than the right. When the gear caught the 40 knot crosss wind it yawed the plane a bit.

I turned final. Cycled again and it slightly yawed in the opposite direction.

Verdict...normal given the very high winds aloft.

Normal landing.

Paperwork and we boarded up for one leg to base.

Arrived an hour late.

Happy to be home. I still get paid for my flights.



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I could have held it...but

Bids are out for December. I'm working on Christmas day, but I didn't have to.

I put a higher priority on having 3 day trips working Sunday thru Tuesday than being off Christmas day. If I had stuck with 4 day trips I could have easily been off Christmas day as pilots junior to me were given those lines.

I'm content with it. I think I've only been away from home one Christmas which happened my first year on the job.

Back then I was sent out of base for my initial training on the aircraft. I had an overnight in Indianapolis, Indiana. Yup very boring as everything was closed, it was snowy and...well I was away from home.

Since then I've always been at home. I think the 2nd Christmas at my airline I was on reserve on Christmas day but never used. The 3rd Christmas I was off as I took two months off to hang out with my daughter (FMLA).

Last year I held Christmas off no problem.

As is I think I can trade my trips around to still have Christmas off. If not I finish my trip on Christmas day so we can just have a late Christmas.

My line is only worth 72 hours so it's a very low value line. I will likely trade the trips anyway to get a few more hours.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Under Pressure

On day three of my last four day I was a bit stuffy. Assumed it was allergies.

Pilots can't take just anything while on the job. I've learned (through research Here's one site ) what I can take and still fly. The easy way to rule items out are if they include terms like, "May cause Drowsiness, Don't operate heavy machinery, Don't take with alcohol, Don't take while flying an airplane."  I've never actually seen that last one....but I bet it's out there.

I took an over the counter decongestant from a local Wal-Mart. Felt better. Used a little Afrin nose spray as well.

The next morning I thought I was fine.

Captains leg.

Climbing up to altitude I felt pretty good. No congestion or stuffiness.

Descending though....ugh.

Pressure. I watched the cabin rate monitor descend. I was happy when it reached it's final altitude.

I wiggled my jaw and yawn a bunch to clear my ears. A little better.

Once at the gate though I banged out sick.

That was Saturday.

Sunday I felt no better.

Last night I was sneezing and a little congested.

Supposed to do a very easy 2 day trip today.

Banged out sick again.

Off till next Sunday.

It is much easier being "sick" in base versus commuting. I would hate to be congested and try to commute one requires special permission to non-rev after calling in sick as my company assumes it you're to sick to work then you;re to sick to nonrev.



Friday, November 16, 2012

You're not from around here eh?

Four day trip. Day one was a killer.

Five legs and 7 hours 55 minutes of flying in a 12 hour duty day.

I had a 8:40AM report time. This meant I could eat breakfast with my daughter then take her to daycare.

Even after two years, it's not easy to drop her off some days.

My daughter is a genius...yeah I know every parent thinks that....but my daughter is pretty smart. She's picked up on the routes to various places like Target, the park, daycare and sometimes the airport. She hasn't learned plane models yet....but can identify an airplane, point and shout "airplane!".

She also knows when I have on my uniform I'm leaving for a few days.

She was quiet for most of the trip. As I picked her up she clung to me a little tighter. Once I put her down and kissed her cheek she let loose. "Daddyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, Daddyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!" crying and wailing. It still isn't easy walking away.

My Captain is new to my base. For the last 11 years he has been based elsewhere and rarely flew through here. I've been based here for almost my entire 5 I know the lay of the land.

Since this is a hub for us ATC has coded terminology to reduce frequency congestion. Instead of saying " taxi to runway 26 via Golf, Victor 2, Sierra and Charlie" they use a coded phrase such as "Runway 26 via the green route". There are pages in our books stating what the "Green Route" is. I know all the routes by heart.

My Captain does not. No biggie. I clued him in.

Being "from here" also came into play for arriving back into base as to which runway to expect. I generally can guess.

I took the first leg out. Quick 25 minute (air time) flight. Once parked things got weird. We swapped flight attendants. In my 5 years I've never swapped flight attendants at an out station. Most of the time the cabin crew and cockpit crew have the same schedules.  We fly the same flights and have the same overnights. This helps keep things simple...if one of us is late...we are all late. Not this week.

Captain took the leg back into base. We had another flight attendant swap.

Lunch time. I grabbed a burger and headed back to the cockpit.

Just as I took a bite,  a man standing in the doorway said, "Hey don't eat that, I brought the entire crew BBQ."

I turned around and saw a guy in plain clothes, but with a company ID, standing there.

"Yeah right." I said and proceeded to take a bite.

"No seriously, I'm a must ride new dispatcher. I'll be right back with the food." He said and disappeared.

Sure enough a minute later he handed me a huge brown paper bag full of BBQ. I mean full as in BBQ beef sandwich, fries, pinto beans, banana pudding, pickles, onions and BBQ sauce. All for me. He had a bag for each of us!

He was new at my airline, also a career changer. Part of his training is he must have 4 hours in the jump seat to see how line operations work. He was a commercial pilot, but never worked for an airline, he flies for fun. After a few years as an architect he had enough....and got his dispatcher license.

Now our next turn was blocked for exactly 4 hours. We had a 70 knot tailwind for the return flight which was already overblocked by 20 minutes. Hmmm.

Normal flight out. Once at cruise I dug into my meal. Stuffed.

We blocked in 4 minutes late meaning we had 4 minutes to spare on the way back..

My leg. Slow taxi. Waited for a few general aviation planes which normally annoys us.....but today it helped pad the time. Normal takeoff. Once at cruise the FMS showed us arriving 25 minutes early. I pulled the power back to long range cruise. Still showing 10 minutes early.

I planned on landing on the south side of the airport. We park on the north side which is at least a 10 minute taxi. It would be close.

Don't ya know it we were given a north side runway. I planned on landing long to eat up a few minutes. It worked. We blocked in 3 minutes early which gave him 4 hours and 1 minute in the jump seat . Perfect.

Another cabin crew swap. This was our 4th flight attendant in 4 legs.

Long flight to the overnight. Getting a little worn. Flew fast. Arrived on time thanks to headwinds. Eighteen hour overnight. The cabin crew was once again leaving on a different flight than us....they only had a 10 hour overnight.

Day 2 was pretty easy. Just two legs. We of course swapped flight attendants again in base.

On the way to the overnight the frequency was very congested with flights asking about ride reports and weather. We were 39 miles from the airport at FL250. I had been waiting to request a lower altitude since we were 60 miles out.

"Cleared to FL240" responded the controller.

"Tell the Cabin to prepare for landing." stated my Captain. I made the PA.

Quickly given a frequency change. The next guy cleared us to 13,000 feet. Time to strap in as at this point we were just 20 miles away at FL210.,

Captains leg. Out went the first setting of flaps, the speed brakes and then the landing gear. We descended at almost 5000 feet a minute until reaching 8,000 feet. It wasn't a straight down descent but rather a shallow banking descent. With a turning descent the g-forces are lower. Passengers likely had no idea we were descending so rapidly.

Airport still in sight. Cleared for a visual and then cleared to land. Here's where it got kinda comical.

A female voice cleared us to land.

Not a very busy airport.

We stopped on the runway and prepared to do a 180 as there were several taxiways closed.

"Tower is a 180 ok here so we can taxi back to Delta?" I asked.

No answer.

I asked again....3 more times.....with pauses in between. No answer.

My Captain chimed in to make sure it wasn't my radio.

A male voice....very out of breath, responded, "180 approved taxi to the ramp via Delta."

The Captain and I both chuckled.....things that make you go hmmmmmm?

Nine hour overnight.

Day 3 was also two legs. Both mine.

During the first landing things were normal till about 50 feet. Winds were reported calm. On my MFD they showed to be a 9 knot direct crosswind FROM the left.

Well between 100 feet and 50 feet....somewhere in there....they became a 6 knot tailwind.

The right wing dropped quickly around 50 feet. The nose had been pointed to the left, into the wind, while the plane tracked down the center of the runway.

Now to plane was flying to the left since the wind was gone.

I countered the right wing dropping while easing the plane back to the right and onto center line. A quick goose of the power and all was right with the world. Even greased it on.

Surprisingly we KEPT the cabin crew. Quick turn.

Quick flight to the overnight. Landing runway 32....but runway 14 was a straight in. Requested and approved for runway 14. Just a 6 knot quartering tailwind. Former military the runway is ridiculously long for a regional jet.

Once below 200 I shallowed up the approach. Made a very flat landing. Done.

Now a 19 hour overnight. Tomorrow is just three legs. Then off for one....and come back Monday for a day trip.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Germs from the cabin

Exhausted. The last trip really wore me out. Partially due to flying 8 hours in one day and partially because I got sick on the trip.

I was supposed to fly the same sequence two times in a row. I traded the next one...and I am glad I did.

Days one and two were okay. Day three though was rough.

Started in cold and breezy Fargo, ND. One quick hop to base and we had an hour sit. During the taxi in I saw a 10+ line of aircraft waiting for takeoff. Hmmm.

Plane swap.

The next aircraft had a very recent windshield repair on both sides of the cockpit. This meant there was speed tape surrounding the edges of the windshield.

Speed tape looks like duct tape...but is many times more adhesive.

It did look odd during my pre-flight seeing all the speed tape around the windshield.

My leg. Cold and windy. I told my cabin crew that it might be a while before we takeoff due to the long line I saw on taxi in.

Wouldn't you know line. Caught the cabin a little off guard when I called back to tell them to prepare for takeoff.

Speaking of my cabin crew....they got me sick. On day one the lead flight attendant was sneezing, but stated it was allergies. Well she handled the galley and thus handled everything passed up to the cockpit (water, soft drinks, coffee...etc).

By day 3 I was starting to sneeze. I have allergies as well. Primarily to dogs (my wife has 2) dust, and pollen. I don't encounter much of my main allergans on the road so I don't always take my allergy medicine during trips.

Anyways low clouds and breezy takeoff on leg 2. During the climb out I heard a large "whack" on my right side. I looked over to see a stream of speed tape that had come off and was stuck on the side window.

"Nice," I said and pointed it out to my Captain. We both looked at the engine instruments. Both were still indicating normal so if any tape was ingested it didn't affect anything. Pressurization systems also indicated normal readings.

The tape was mostly to protect the liquid adhesive used to secure the windshield. The tape wasn't holding the glass in place.

Normal flight. Another bit of the tape flew off...again no issues.

On time arrival.

The plane was supposed to go right back out, but the tape needed to be repaired. The next crew wasn't upset about the delay as they might get out of their next turn.

We had another hour sit.

When we blocked out the plane we brought in was still being repaired. Due to lack of staffing that crew still had to do their turn...just 90 minutes delayed.

Long flight down to Florida.

Thankfully no delays. There was a storm just off Florida that caused moderate chop/turbulence during the flight.

While in cruise I attempted to listen to AM radio via our ADF radio for election updates. AM radio signals travel much further than FM. We would have a locked on signal only to have it fade as we were traveling 500+ MPH.

Also while in cruise I studied the airport diagram for the next airport. I had never been there before and it was a fairly large airport.

I studied the ramp area and copied down the frequencies I needed.

Normal landing. There is always a little stress when landing at an major International Airport for the first time. Add in night time....more stressful.

Clearing the runway we were headed straight toward a 747. Thankfully it was going to turn before taxiing over us. I was busy cleaning up the plane while contacting tower, ground then ramp.

The ramp area was very busy. Parked and done. Another plane swap and 80 minute sit. Getting tired...and a little more sneezy. By this point we had already flown 5 hours 40 minutes.

My leg out. A little easier time taxiing out as it was getting late and thus not very much traffic.

Same turbulence.

Once at cruise I really started to feel the wearing of a long day and possibly getting sick. I ordered up a coffee and Diet Coke from the cabin to help me perk up. Started to have body aches.

Being so late there wasn't much air or radio traffic. Long periods of darkness and hearing nothing. Caffeine helped keep me focused.

We were over fueled by 700 pounds. I took full advantage of the extra fuel to fly a little faster. Glad I did.

VFR at the out station. The runway had been retrofitted with the new LED runway lights. They are brighter than incandescent. They also look odd....kind of distracting.

Tired. Bordering on fatigued.

Decided to let the autopilot fly it down to 200 feet and then I took over. Firm landing. Happy to be done. We had flown 8 hours 5 minutes.

By the time we got to the van we were all worn out.

I walked into my hotel room and was in bed quickly.

Eleven hour thirty minute overnight.

Thankfully day 4 as just one leg into base.

We were all dragging getting back into the hotel van.

Easy leg.

My captain flew faster than planned. Arrived 35 minutes early. So early in fact that I walked in my front door at our scheduled arrival time!

I felt worse after getting home. Surely sick. Germs from the cabin. At least I am off for a week.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A trip through Chicago O'Hare

In the post that follows I mention Chicago O'hares airport diagram, Bullz Arrival and O'hare departure . Here's a link to all the FAA charts on 


I loathe O'hare. Seriously. Lots of reasons why...I'd type forever to list them all. I will just stick to my top 3.

Reasons why I loathe O'hare airport:

1. At every other airport except O'hare when you clear the runway you WAIT for instructions. At O'hare you keep moving until you hear otherwise, just don't cross a runway

2. When leaving O'hare you first must call "Metering". You then wait as the Outbound ground controller gives you taxi instructions. Sounds easy right? Well on most days the ground guy is talking non-stop. You have to be at the ready. If you missed can't "ask for a read back" as he has moved on to the next guy. You simply wait until he notices you aren't moving and calls you again.

3. It's an odd, and a little unsettling, feeling to takeoff and land as aircraft takeoff and land TOWARD you. More on that in a second.

My trip started with one leg from base (12:20PM departure) to an outstation where my crew had a 2 1/2 hour sit. In a hub we have crew rooms. At out stations we have food courts.

We all hung out in the food court. As luck would have it another crew from a different regional was also enjoying their 3 hour "airport appreciation" time.

We all grew a little tired sitting around. Add in the time change. The next two legs were uneventful.

Then it was off to O'Hare.

Captains leg. It was VFR at O'hare which helps reduce the crazieness. Filed via the Bullz Three RNAV Arrival from Mason City. Chicago was landing to the east on runways 9R,10 and 4R. They were departing 32L, 4L, and 9R.

We were told to expect runway 10.

Approach turned us left and right while descending. Lined up for runway 10 outside of CARLE and told to contact tower at BUGSE.

As we reached the 7.3 DME fix, also known as BUGSE,  I called tower, "Cleared to land runway 10, plan to exit Mike 3." tower responded.

My Captain was flying. I looked over at my airport diagram and told him Mike 3 was the first highspeed exit to the left and it was right after passing the end of runway 32.

Nice landing. Rolled out on M3.

Now things get busy. I have to call our operations to verify the gate is open on our radio #2. The Captain has to monitor radio #1 and prepare to go eastbound on Mike if the gate wasn't open.  While doing all of this I am running my after landing flow.

Gate was open. I then heard ground call us and ask if our gate was open.

I replied that it was open and was told , "Mike, Foxtrot, Alpha to the gate."

I was still running my flows when I switched to the ramp controller on radio #2.

As my Captain turned left on Alpha I called the ramp,

"2831 approaching top of the alley"

Ramp responded. "East line in, hold at the top"

If you look at the airport diagram for Chicago O'Hare you will see the terminals and each one has a letter. For most of the terminals there are two taxi lines to allow aircraft to taxi in or out without hitting each other.

We were assigned the "east line". When we pulled in there was another aircraft facing us on the east line preparing to leave. The west line had 4 planes deep waiting to leave.

A very tightly coreographed game of chess was involved getting the aircraft in front of us to move over to the west line so we could proceed to the gate.

Done. Blocked in on time.

Short break and then it was time to leave.

Assigned the O'hare Six Departure to Petty. Still using runways 4L, 9R and 32 for departure.

After I called Metering I listened in on outbound ground.

I heard our flight number, "Runway 4L via Alpha, Alpha 10, Bravo,  Juliet to Whiskey"

No time for me to respond.

The Captain started taxiing while I began my flow.

Having different frequencies for inbound and outbound ground frees up congestion, but can create issues as we have no idea where the plane infront of us, or getting ready to taxi across our path, is going.

Passing Alpha 8 we were told, "You have a 10 minute delay for a wheels up, taxi 4L via Bravo to Echo hold short 4L at Echo".

Fine....and this time I could read it back!

Busy taxiways.

Holding short I was just in awe at how congested this place is.

There was an aircraft in position on 4L. Another aircraft just took off from 9R.

As soon as the aircraft on 9R passed through the intersection of 4L the aircraft on 4L was told, "Cleared for takeoff no delay, aircraft on 1 mile final runway 9R".

As soon as the aircraft on 9R landed another aircraft was put into position on 9R and another on 4L. The process repeated.

Ten minutes was up and it was our turn. It's very odd to be lined up on a runway with another aircraft lined on up on crossing runway. As soon as he crossed our intersection it was our turn. Away we went.


The overnight airport was reporting 4000 foot ceilings and 4 miles visibility. Using ILS 5.

I briefed the approach and stated I'd likely be visual for most of it.

Winds were 45 knots at 3000 feet. The approach controller must not have been aware as we were on a heading of 300, then given a turn to 360 to join the localizer and cleared for the approach. I turned the heading bug and armed the approach at the same time. We blew right through the localizer due to 45 knot tailwind.

The approach controller made it seem like we screwed up. My Captain advised of the late turn he gave and the current winds. No response. Whatever.

On glideslope and localizer. Passing through 3000 feet nothing but clouds and rain. Same through 2000 feet.

"Shouldn't you see the runway or ground by now?" I asked as my eyes were scanning the instruments while his were outside.

"Yeah you would think huh? Nothing yet."

We did a second crosscheck of our instruments. We had the right localizer frequency, it was tuned to the correct course and the morse code was correct.

Clearing 500 I was preparing to go around.

Clearing 300 feet "runway in sight 10 o'clock" said my Captain.

"Got it, turn on my wiper to high." I requested.

Very windy and rainy. No nonsense landing, I just put it down.

Clearing the runway I advised tower that we broke out at 300 instead of 4000.  They thanked me for my PIREP. Bleh.

We were in the hotel van at 11:30PM. Hotel by 11:55PM. Long day...especially with the time change.

I woke up at 6AM as I couldn't sleep anymore as my body thought it was 7AM. Yep....awake for 18 hours.

Glad to be done with O'hare.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Yellow lights and the FAA

I had more time in hotels than I did in the cockpit on my last trip.

On day 3 it was just two legs.

Now this was my day to fly....but since day 2 was just dead heads I assumed my Captain would take over. Nope.

When I got back from  my preflight the flight director was pointed toward me. I switched it back, thinking it was an oversight. Nope he said, "your day to fly, I got to sleep in the back on my day". Fine.

Before the first flight in a "new (to me)" aircraft I am required to review the maintanence logbook. I'm required to look at the last 4 days at a minimum. This is to get me acquainted with current MELs, trending issues and to make sure all open issues are addressed.

On day 3 the logbook was really "clean" meaning no write ups in the last 4 days that were mechanically related. Good.

Normal takeoff.

On the initial climb out around 1000 feet my beautiful view of the countryside was interrupted by a flashing yellow Master Caution light and a "ding!"

The right side pack (a "pack" is an industry term for the Air Cycle Machine....the unit that provides conditioned air (hot or cold) to the interior of the plane and helps with pressurization) was reporting to be overloaded.

We are allowed to fix the obvious without FIRST referring to a checklist. I was still hand flying so my Captain simply reset the pack. The right side pack primarily provides conditioned air to the cabin.

After it reset all was fine....for about 20 seconds...then another Master Caution and ding. Same issue.

He cancelled the caution and whipped out the checklist.

The checklist stated to turn off the pack for 3 minutes and set the temperature knob to the 12 o'clock position. After 3 minutes turn the pack back on and see what happens. If the pack went offline again then it can't be reset again.

Well after 3 minutes he reset it....and it went off line again. Crap.

With only one pack we can't climb to our maximum altitude per the aircraft operating manual. This meant flying at at lower altitude...and thus a higher fuel burn.

Luck was on our side in that the dispatcher filed us for a much lower altitude anyway due to turbulence at the higher flight levels.

The checklist stated we would have to fly at FL240. We were planned at FL280.

The dispatcher reran the fuel numbers and we were fine on fuel. We'd be landing with the absolute bare minimum on board, but we were legal. A little more luck on our side was that the airport was in a easterly flow and we were approaching from the we would go straight in.

We let the cabin crew know the temperature might be a little off and to let us know if it was too warm or cold. The left pack primarily cools the cockpit. There is a tube that connects the left and right sides. With one pack air from our pack...and our temperature setting, would be sent through the tube to cool the cabin. No complaints thankfully.

Normal landing although we did get another Master Caution about low fuel level during the taxi in. Yeah we had that little fuel on board.

We assumed we would get assigned a different aircraft for our next flight due to the altitude restrictions. Nope..same aircraft.

My leg again.

The out station has a lot of Military and Coast Guard traffic. We were slipped into the pattern behind a Coast Guard Casa HC-144A. I only know this because My Captain is a former Army Helicopter pilot and thus knows just about every military bird in the sky.

Easy approach and done.

Long overnight. I played a lot of ATCSimulator 2.

Normally flight crews schedule their own van times for the morning. Sometimes hotels have preset times that we can pick from.

This morning the flight left at 6:25AM. For the last 4 weeks we had a 5:30AM van time arriving at the airport at 5:50AM.

Apparently some of my coworkers have been taking 5:40 vans and later arriving at the plane at 6:10AM....causing a delay. In the eyes of the FAA one minute late is the same as 10 minutes late for a departure. For an arrival we can be 14 minutes late and still be "on time". Funny math....Enron had funny math too.

Because of my coworkers being late my airline has imposed a 5:20AM van time. Fine.

Arrived at the GATE at 5:50AM as we breezed thru security. No agents! Very annoying to be forced to be at the airport early and have no way to access the jetbridge and thus the aircraft.

The agent arrived at 5:55AM.....bleh.

After my preflight my Captain informed me two FAA inspectors would be riding along.

"That fine I have all my certificates and my manuals are up to date." I responded.

Some guys get worked up about the FAA. Mostly the guys that don't fly by the book, do their updates on time or both. I always fly like I have the FAA in my jump seat anyway. Nothing changes for me.

During the inspection of the cabin a flight attendant found a tray table laying on a passenger seat. The tray was broken.

This upset my Captain and myself. If it was on the seat that meant the previous crew (who brought the plane in last night) likely knew about it....and left it out so we would find it. The proper thing to do was to write it up and MEL it. It sucks having to write up a MEL before heading to the hotel....but it's part of the job. They dropped the ball.

We found out about the table a moment before the inspectors walked on board. Nice timing.

I handed over my medical and pilot certificate to one inspector while the other went to inspect the outside of the plane. He then inspected the inside and the other copied down my Captains information.

My Captain and I then both worked to fill out the proper paperwork for the MEL of the tray table. We finished it all at 6:15 AM. Then it happened.

"Captain the overhead bin at row 5 won't close." was heard from the cabin.

My Captain was still working on his morning systems testing.

"Do you mind going to look at it?" He asked.

"No problem." I responded  and went back to look.

Sure enough it wouldn't close. I pushed and pulled and pressed. Nothing. I was about to give up when it finally latched.

Many passengers were watching me.

"Glad I had my Wheaties this morning." I said as I walked back to the cabin. A few chuckled.

We finished up the checklist when one of the inspectors let us know he would be riding up front with us.

My Captain briefed the inspector on our emergency equipment while I got the clearance. After all was said and done we blocked out 8 minutes late.

Normal flight. The inspector was fairly quiet. Arrived 10 minutes early.

I was done. Headed home and saw the movie Flight. More on that later. Right now I have some long overdue play time with my daughter.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Leaking fuel and a double dead head later

Day 2 of the last 4 day of the month. Same 4 day trip I've done all month...except I finish early on day 4 due to a 30 in 7 conflict.

Day 1 was easy as always. This week my Captain started the trip as I started last week. Good plane, good weather and a very new (fresh out of training!) cabin crew member.

This particular cabin crew member worked at my mainline partner in the 80's. She left to be a cop for 20 years....and has come back to a regional for benefits. Talk about the long way around.

Uneventful first two legs.

The leg to the overnight was interesting.

Filed at FL290.....for a fairy long 580 NM trip.

I mentioned this to my Captain and he also thought it was odd. I hit up and looked at the turbulence charts and wind charts. A small section of moderate on the way...winds were favorable higher.

We agreed we would ask for FL370.

Before we took off...we had to get out of the ramp.

The ramp controller last night was the same lady who had us waiting 45 minutes to push at the beginning of the month. She was new then...and still having problems.

An airline ramp is a very busy place. Planes, trucks, baggage carts, cars and more all moving around.

Gates space is at a premium. Every inch is used. Flights come in and out all day long.

The ramp controller has to coordinate aircraft coming onto the ramp, pulling into a gate, pushing back from the gate and exiting the ramp. The controller has to be able to "see into the future" and make fast decisions. This lady can't do this.

Parked at gate 11. Gate 10 had a flight leaving at the same time. Gate 12 left 5 minutes later.

Gate 10 called to push right before me. He was told to hold as there was a line of planes waiting to come in and there was a flight leaving the ramp behind us.

This was a clear VFR night...average traffic.

I called to push to get in line. She cleared us as soon as exiting traffic cleared. Odd. Gate 10 called again...also cleared.

At this point the flights waiting to come in chimed in asking when they could park, because when we pushed we blocked them from getting in.

During the push I started the number 1 engine. The Captain monitored the push back.

Once done we ran a checklist and overheard gate 12 calling for a push. We both looked up and said "No!" at the same time.

"Cleared to push on 12." said the ramp controller.

"Mam if gate 12 pushes they will block us on 11 and gate 10 from taxiing out." I responded.

"Oops. I'm sorry, I already cleared them, I guess you will have to wait." she said.

She then cleared gate 14 to push.

We finished the checklist and shook our heads.

We waited for 3 minutes for gates 12 and 14 to finish their checklist. We then all taxied to the same ramp exit point. We then all taxied to the same runway for takeoff.

Normally we are spaced out.

The more experienced ramp controllers would not have had a line for aircraft coming in. They also would have pushed us on 11 and gate 10 then had 12 and 14 WAIT for us to taxi and then push them. This way there wouldn't be a traffic jam on the ramp and then the ramp exit and then the taxiway and then the runway.


Pockets of moderate chop climbing out. Smooth at FL370 for a bit. We had a good 5 minutes of moderate turbulence. We started down for the arrival anyway.

Winds were reported as 310 at 15. Landing runway 4. Ninety degree crosswind. Fine with me.

I set up the VNAV to cross the FAF at 2000 feet which is the normal glideslope intercept altitude for the ILS. Visual approaches were being reported on the ATIS, but I always back up my visual with an approach if able.

Smooth descent....but I noticed we had a big tailwind...a 45 knot tailwind at 10,000 feet. My descent rate wouldn't work unless I put out some drag.

Out went flaps and flight spoilers. Engines idled.

Two miles before the FAF I had the aircraft slowed to 200 knots and was able to stow the spoilers. This complied with Class C restrictions on speed and my own criteria on being smooth and stable.  Still descending.

Gear and remaining flaps went out. Still had a 20 knot tailwind at 2000 feet.

At 1000 feet my airspeed was 130 knots on the dot...but my ground speed was 140 knots due to the tailwind.

By 500 feet the wind came around and was finally a 15 knot crosswind.

My landings are always better with a crosswind. Add in nighttime...well let's just say it was...wait for it.......................................legendary.

Blocked in 3 minutes late (remember the time wasted on the ramp!) at 9:43PM.

Walked into the hotel at 10:15PM.

Very short 8 hour 30 minute overnight.

Great breakfast.

Back in the hotel van at 6AM.

Finished my preflight at 6:20AM. Departure was 7:10AM.

Boarded up and ready at 6:50AM....when one of our ramp personnel came up to the flight deck.

"Would one of you mind coming out here, I think we have a problem." she said.

We both went outside. Underneath the number 1 engine was a pool of liquid. Fuel leak.

It was not there on my preflight.

The ramp personnel stated it started a few minutes AFTER we started the APU.

No bueno.

All passengers off.

Today was just a 2 leg day with 35 minutes in between.

The estimated time for departure was 8AM. Very optimistic.

Sure enough things went south fast.

There was another flight from another airline that had a mechanical problem. Small airport, just one mechanic. We were in line for repair.

I whipped out my Ipad and connected to the free wifi from the terminal and relaxed in my seat on the flight deck.

My Captain took a seat in the cabin.

At 8:10  AM my Captain came up and said we were all doing a double dead head. One of them on another regional carrier.

My mainline partner has more than one regional carrier.

In my 5 years here I've never dead headed on anyone but my own airline or my mainline partner.

This other carrier doesn't have a great reputation. They have very low pay and moral.

To each their own but if I was working for this other airline I would be making $7000 LESS a year than I make now....flying the exact same airplane...or even a larger one as they have the same pay rate for First Officers regardless of aircraft. Bleh.

The first deadhead was on my airline. We'd be connecting through another hub.

We all left the plane and went up to the terminal.

Around 9AM the station manager requested us to go back to the plane and fire up the APU as the mechanic thinks he fixed the leak.

My Captain and I had nothing better to do so we obliged.

Sure enough about 4 minutes after the APU started the fuel started to drip from the left engine. The APU starting wasn't the issue, what was likely the issue was the fuel system being pressurized.

We shut everything down.

Deadhead one went fine.

During the 30 minute connect time I called the overnight hotel and let them know we would be 1 hour late to make sure the van was waiting when we arrived.

Deadhead two was interesting.

It's very odd walking on to a plane painted like the one I fly, but it belongs to a different airline.

It was interesting to see how differently they operate. Small things like announcements and such....very different.

I survived.

We all went out to the curb and the van was there. We all hopped in and the driver left the airport.

Van drivers are nice....but they rarely check to make sure they have the correct crew. I've heard stories of crews walking out, hopping in a van only to get to the hotel and realize they were at the wrong hotel.

We were in the right van as I've stayed here the last 3 weeks.

About 2 miles away his phone rings.

"Yeah I have the crew on board. What do you mean they are waiting at the airport?"

Yep...the crew that flew us in stays at the same hotel. The van driver simply picked up an aircrew. We have the same number of crew members. He's seen me the last 2 weeks. Similar uniforms. Easy mistake.

Back we went.

A little awkward when they got on board.

My overnight is 17 hours versus 18 hours.

Tomorrow is still 2 legs....Friday is 1 leg instead of 5. I might go see the new Denzel Washington movie "Flight" Friday.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Five years later

Today is my official 5 year anniversary of being at my airline.

I still remember sitting in my office chair at home back in March 2006 playing Microsoft Fight Simulator. In front of me was a flying magazine opened to an ad for All ATPs.

At the time I was working for a software company making decent money, but I wasn't happy. I had just changed jobs as my previous job was fixing computers in the retail field. It was me, a tool box and a work van (actually a Pontiac Aztek!). I wasn't happy at all. That job was supposed to be temporary. I got it after being laid off as a teacher in 2001. Four years later I was still there. The move to the software company was supposed to be a step up to a more professional job.

It was more professional...but I wasn't happy. Heck I was miserable.  My wife knew it

Anyway back to sitting in that chair.

My wife walked in and asked what I really wanted to do. I told her I wanted to fly.

She said then go fly. I told her it was just too expensive.

She said to either go fly or shut up about it and that she would help pay the way.

In May of that year I went up for my first flying lesson.

It's been a bumpy 5 years.

I've been up...I've been down...both physically and emotionally.

I flown all around this country, Canada and Mexico.

I've landed in 30 knot+ direct crosswinds that challenged all of my abilities.

I've flown with Captains that taught me a thing or two about flying and the industry....both good and bad.

I've been awake for 20+ hours and been so tired that I didn't remember landing....or what city I was in.

I've lost count of the number of hotel rooms I've stayed in....but I do know The Hyatt Place and Doubletree hotels are my favorite.

I've taken my family to all four corners of the United States, Hawaii, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Germany, and the Caribbean.....for next to nothing. My wife and I have traveled in First Class seats that normally cost $5,000 and paid just $200.

Hopefully 5 years from now I will be at a major airline....or at the least a Captain at my own.

Finally a quote from an episode of Louie which had Joan Rivers as a guest star.

This is Joan Rivers talking to Louie about the comedy industry....but it fits many other jobs including flying:


"Listen.  I wish I could tell you it gets better. but it doesn’t get better.  You get better.  You think it’s been easy? I’ve gone up, I’ve gone down.  I’ve been bankrupt. I’ve been broke.  But you do it. And you do it because…because we love it more than anything else. That’s why you’re doing it.  You want a real job, honey, there’s a million things you can do.  But what we do is not a job…sounds so stupid…what we do…is a calling , my dear.  We make people happy.  It’s a calling."



Sunday, October 28, 2012

Would have been great to have a camera

Fairly normal 4 day....until the last day which was 5 legs long.

First two legs were mine. Departed a few minutes early from the overnight. Nice flight.

Snapped a few photos of the sunrise and weather below us.

[nggallery id=60]

I really like flying with this Captain. Learned quite a bit and I have found I'm a much more precise pilot when I fly with him.

He has gotten me into a "fuel game". The flight release is a very long form with a lot of information. Rarely...actually never...have I seen anyone read all of it. Most of the release is filled with NOTAMs about every unlit tower within a few miles of the airports on the release.

I'm all for safety, but I don't need to know about an unlit tower, two miles east of the airport at 200 feet. If I am flying that low that far from the airport I have more things on my mind than an unlit tower.

Anyways in the main body is performance data.

Data such as fuel burn per segment, estimated time to reach cruise and so on.

This Captain is meticulous about tracking how long it takes to reach cruise, how much fuel was used at each way point and so on.

I love a challenge and started trying to beat the numbers. It's not easy as ATC controls altitude assignments. A few times we pulled into the gate early and ahead on fuel....a double win!

The first leg on day 4 was this way. We pulled into the gate 15 minutes early and 400 pounds OVER our projected arrival fuel.

The next leg was to the airport with only the shortest runway open. There was no approach to the south and two approaches to the north.

Weather was forecast to be 600 OVC and 1 SM visibility at our ETA. The inbound plane was late. I brought up the low visibility to the Captain to make sure we could shoot an approach and had an alternate.

I pulled out my charts. With a GPS approach we could descend to 500 AGL....good enough. The release showed both a takeoff alternate and a destination alternate.

Delayed a bit.

Normal takeoff.

The ATIS reported 800 OVC and 2 SM visibility. Better.

Arriving from the north. Vectored past the airport to shoot the approach to runway 32.

Gusty winds above the cloud deck. The approach controller gave a heading of 350 to join. I could tell that wouldn't work to join prior to the FAF. I asked the Captain to request a heading of worked. Busy approach slowing down and configuring.

We heard another flight being cleared for takeoff and that a "regional jet was on a 2 mile final". That was us.

Broke out at 800 feet AGL as see a the other flight SLOWLY turning the corner to line up for takeoff.

I was just 3 to 4 knots faster than approach speed so I couldn't slow down much more. Things would get ugly quick if he was past V1 and we had to go around.

"If we have to go around request an immediate turn to the east instead of straight ahead," I told my Captain.

"Acey I need you on the roll, traffic is an RJ on a mile and a half final." said the tower to the departing flight.

He was on the roll and took off as we passed through 400 feet. A little close for me in IFR conditions. Would have been great to have a camera to record the video of us landing as he was taking off.

I've had this situation before at really busy airports like LGA, ORD and DCA....but always in VFR conditions.

Minimal flare for landing with such a short runway (4999 feet). In and done.

"Way to whoa is up there, turn left at the end and contact ground 121.9" said the tower.

"Yeah that was exciting. Left at the end, ground point 9." I responded.

Next two legs we his. Moderate chop and turbulence on leg 4 of the day.

As pilots its easy to forget that some of the passengers on board might not be used to turbulence. My Captain asked that I make a PA. NO biggie.

I explained where we were, that the turbulence shouldn't last much longer and that we would be on time.

Sure enough we were early. Twenty minutes early and ahead on fuel.

My leg back. Same moderate turbulence. Arrived 30 minutes early and ahead on fuel. Right now it's easy for both as the schedules are built for deicing and thus if we don't deice we will be early.

Arrived to have my wife and daughter waiting outside.

Off till Tuesday.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

I know where the bar is

Same trip this week that I did the last two weeks. I'm back to having my regular line Captain. Everything has been uneventful....which is good.

A friend asked if I get bored going to the same places each week. I thought for a moment....nah.

I like knowing where the hotel van picks me up, where the good food is and where the bar is. Not that I'm a big drinker...but it's nice to know on 18+ hour overnights.

I do this trip one more time next week. I start on Tuesday and Finish on Friday the 2nd.

My next trip continues into November. When my bids closed my November schedule was built and the first full trip in November starts on Sunday, November 4th.

My current trip is rear loaded, meaning the heaviest flying day is day 4 with 7 hours 40 minutes of flying. This entire trip is worth 19 hours 30 minutes.

My trip on the 4th is worth 23 hours and is front loaded, meaning most of the flying is on the first part of the trip. This created a 30 in 7 conflict.

Airline pilots can't legally fly more than 30 hours in a rolling 7 day period. To "fix the glitch" scheduling pulled me off the end of my next trip.

So instead of flying 7 hours 40 minutes on day 4 next week, I just fly on leg in from the overnight at 1 hour and 45 minutes. I get paid for the full 7 hours 40 minutes. Not too bad. It is kinda wasteful to have two 18 hour overnights back to back and just one leg in. Eh.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

From North Dakota to Florida and back up to Ohio in one day

Bids closed for November.I got what I wanted for the most part.

I have 17 days off including Thanksgiving and partial weekends.

I have 3 four day trips and one 2 day trip. Total value is just 73 hours. Fine with me. My line from this month carries over into next month anyway.

My first two 4 day trips are the same....

Day 3 of the trip I go from North Dakota make two stops, hit Florida for an hour then head up to Ohio for the night. From on extreme to another. Very odd trip. That day is scheduled to block 7 hours and 59 minutes. I bet I will go over 8 hours...especially if I have to de-ice.

Should be interesting.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Things not to do when I'm a Captain

I'm happy this trip is over. I can't wait to be with my line Captain again next week.

The guy I flew with was nice....and he mostly meant well...but more often than not....things didn't go well.

I won't go into full detail....just going to cover the icing on the cake.

The last day was a 5 leg day. Longest day of the trip.

The first 3 legs the last day were full of just inconsideration on his part. One of my pet peeves is guys who get a new frequency, swap and IMMEDIATLEY broadcast instead of waiting to see if someone is already talking. My Captain swapped and broadcast IMMEDIATELY every time...stepping on someone else 1/3rd of the time. He would then get annoyed that he had to repeat himself.

The Captain is a commuter.

We were scheduled to arrive back in base and be done at 4:45PM. His commute flight home was at 5:05PM. If he missed it the next flight wasn't until 9PM.

I took leg 4. We had swapped planes right before this leg. I quickly set up my side and we were ready to push 7 minutes early.

The main door was closed and I realized I had not plugged in my headset.

I plugged it in and could not hear myself. I checked the plug and hot mic switch. Nothing. Crap.

My Captain wasn't happy...he wanted to hurry up as he wanted to make his 5:05PM flight home.

I quickly grabbed the company headset....nothing. I tried mine again...then the company. Suddenly I could hear myself...with the company David Clarks....ugh.

"Fine I will wear the David Clamps." I said. I then called for pushback clearance and away we went.

Normal takeoff.

Company policy states I must wear a headset with a boom microphone below FL180.

At 18,200 feet I swapped back into my Bose A20s. I still couldn't talk through my microphone, but I was much more comfortable.

The Captain was the non-flying pilot so he was on the radio with ATC, If I had to talk to ATC I could use the hand mic. I could talk to my Captain reasonably well by just looking at him.

Filed for FL330. Climbed to FL370 and flew faster. Scheduled to arrive 20 minutes early.

Very gusty winds down low. Winds were 300@25G35. Landing runway 35.

Once again I swapped into the David Clarks...err David Clamps before going below FL180.

I picked up the runway 30 miles out.

I briefed my approach as always. My every briefing before...heard none of it. The proof was always a few minutes after my brief he would ask, "What runway are you landing on again?"


Bumpy approach.

I don't like to "hot rod" it in. Some guys, this Captain being one of them, like to fly as fast as possible  and attempt to slow down at the last possible moment while on final approach. This often results in :

1. Being unstabilized per company ops

2. Eating up a lot of runway

3. Slamming on the brakes due to eating up a lot of runway

4. A rough and noisy ride for the passengers

5. All of the above

I will keep the speed around 200 knots max until 7 miles away or  2500 AGL for a STRAIGHT in approach at an outstation with no other traffic around....that's my comfort zone.

On this approach I slowed a little early as I was a little high. I called for the first setting of flaps and for the gear to be lowered.This annoyed him.

"It sure seems far out to put the gear down." he said.

Decent landing. Blocked in 10 minutes early.

It was all about him as he tried to rush everyone to leave early.

Blocked out 5 minutes early.

Only plane departing.

We were holding short waiting for the cabin to call up stating they were ready.

"Go ahead and tell tower we are ready." said my Captain.

"I'm still waiting for the cabin to call." I said.

"It's fine we will just roll up slow." he replied.

I was not comfortable with it.

"She should be ready in a minute." I replied.

He then keyed the mic and told tower we were ready.

Right then the cabin called up. Done.

He made a shallow climb above 10,000 feet. He flew at a much higher speed than normal...because he wanted to get in early.

This ate up a lot of fuel. This also caused us to not reach FL230 , a normal transition from low altitude controllers to high altitude controllers, until way past our normal point.

ATC advised we would have to level off at FL230 for a few minutes due to crossing traffic. If we had been on climb profile I know we would have been well above FL230 and likely clear of traffic.

This annoyed my Captain and he keyed the mic and said, "We can't be down here for to long as we don't have to fuel for it."

I just rolled my eyes.

Eventually we climbed to our filed altitude.

I compared our actual fuel burn to the planned fuel burn...we were about 400 pounds short. This is partially due to the shallow climb and partially due to being stuck at FL230 for a while.

Planned to arrive 30 minutes early. My Captain called the cabin and let them know HE would be the first person out the door when we arrived.

Again we would be arriving at 4:15PM instead of 4:45PM. His commute flight was at 5:05PM. More than enough time for him to make his commute flight home that was on OUR airline and from OUR terminal.

Visual approaches. Cleared to land on the outboard runway, normal ops for my home airport. He asked me to ask for the inboard. I did. Approved and we were recleared to land on the inboard.

He hot rodded it. Landed almost 4000 feet down the is an extremely long runway...but still.

Blocked in at 4:20PM. He tried to rush out the door but in doing so shutdown the plane incorrectly and had to turn it back on.

He then quickly left he cockpit around 4:25PM and stopped passengers so he could get off...for a 5:05PM commute fight....2 gates down.

I finished up my duties including the post flight.

The employee bus stop was 9 gates away toward his commute flight.

I walked past his gate...he wasn't there. Down by my exit to the employee bus I saw him walking toward me....big drink he just bought in hand.

I learned a lot from him as I learn from every Captain. Most of what I learned is what not to do when I am a Captain.

I look forward to having my regular line Captain next week. He is much older than me and his 5X my flight hours. He does things slow and methodically. This is fine with me as I can always tell what's next. I don't have to worry about what's next.

Happy to be off for a few days.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

It works better when it's warm

Nice overnight. Rained. Being a First Officer I carry an umbrella. Very few Captains they don't have to do preflights.

I've been to this hotel at least 10 times. My first time here the van driver mentioned a pizza place with cheap pizza and beer. The first time I was there I walked down the street, turned right and saw the sign for the pizza place. The sign sticks far out from the building.

I walked to the first door I saw under the sign, went in and was surprised at how dark it was. I then saw a sign stating "cash only" and left as I didn't have much cash beyond van driver tips.

Fast forward to last week. I went to the same door, sat at the bar and was more than surprised to NOT see pizza on the menu. Odd. I ate a really good burger.

Rewind to last night. I went to the same sign...then looked about 5 feet to the left....there was another door...with the name of the pizza place ON THE DOOR. I went in...awesome pizza and beer. It was 2 fo1 slices and 1/2 off beer! Great meal and drinks for $10.50. Yeah I went to the WRONG place the first two times. I went to a regular bar....there was a reason there was no pizza on the menu! Hello Captain errr....First Officer Obvious!

Slept great. My series of alarms (I'm a little paranoid and set 3 alarms 1 minute apart....I've never needed more than one...bleh) began to go off at 5:20AM. Van time was 6:10AM. No breakfast of any kind at this hotel.

Arrived at the airport at 6:25M. Departure was set at 7AM.

This airport is a little backwards.

I can go out to the ramp without a code, key or ID. However once on the ramp I can't get back in without an ID  to swipe and associated code. Thus the gate agent has to wait for me.

Preflight done. Cold soaked plane. Outside temp was 40 degrees. No heater was attached (even though it was supposed to be attached per company policy!).

I was stowing my bags as my Captain powered up the plane. The screens, lights and sounds started to come alive.  I took my seat and noticed my MFD was black. I tried adjusting the rheostat....nothing.

I mentioned it to my Captain but he was engrossed in his Iphone.

No circuit breakers were popped. Hmm.

Basic troubleshooting was to power the plane off and back on. I tried that. Nothing.

"Hey Darrell, do you want us to write this up and  call out contract maintenance or give it a few minutes?" I asked.

No response.

The agent asked if we were ready to board. I stated no that we had a mechanical issue and to please plug in the pre-conditioned air to warm up the plane.

I turned on the dome light....and then pointed at my screen and asked again.

That got his attention. He tried powering off the plane again. Nada.

He tried using the APU for power vs ground power. Nada.


We both thought it was simply cold. It's a CRT monitor...old school. They work better when warm. Not knowing for sure was the problem.

Mechanic called. Plane powered off. Away we went for breakfast.

As we passed the boarding area my Captain explained to the line of passengers the situation and that we would go as soon as the screen was operating.

We returned to the cockpit and ate breakfast. The air in the plane decently warm but still mostly cold soaked.  We tried powering up the plane again. Still dead. Powered back down.

Mechanic arrived at 7:35AM. We powered up the plane and showed him the dead MFD. We then stepped out and finished breakfast while sitting in cabin seats.

I was sitting in 5C when the mechanic, who had been up there 3 minutes, said "hey it's working again."

I leaned into the aisle and was shocked to see the MFD working!

Sure enough the plane had warmed up enough that the connectors and contacts touched and all was well.

I took my seat in the cockpit and turned the brightness up and down a few times. Fine. We then powered the plane down and back up. Fine. All this because the ground crew didn't connect the pre conditioned air!!!!

Blocked out an hour late. Originally we had a 35 minute turn then off to the overnight. The overnight has just 3 flights a day.

The first was ours at 9:55AM, the second is 3:55PM and the last is 8:55PM.

Scheduling pulled us from our 9:55AM flight and put us as dead heads on the 3:55PM flight. That meant a 6+ hour sit time!

My wife works a few miles from the airport. I texted her to see if she wanted to meet for lunch. Done.

Blocked out 8:05AM. Estimated to arrive at 10:10AM. They could have delayed the 9:55AM

My leg. Flew a little fast. Landed at 9:52AM. In the gate at 10AM.

I walked straight out to the employee bus.

My phone was scheduling. They left a voicemail stating they "had more flying for me". They mentioned flying a turn during my sit.

Contractually I am not obligated to carry a phone....or do any other flying in this situation. It was of little benefit for me to do the flying.

The flight I was pulled from was worth 1 hour 50 minutes. I was pay protected for it.

The turn they wanted to add on during my 6+ hours sit was worth 2 hours 5 minutes.

If I did the turn the net result would be 15 minutes extra pay as I get the greater of the two. No thanks.

Nice lunch with my wife.

Now sitting at home. I will head back up to the airport around 2:40PM.

I truly hate despise deadheading. Just not my thing.

My original 18 hour overnight is now just 12 hours. Still 5 legs tomorrow.

Time to watch some!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Geek in the with more...less!

This site is now at a new host. You should notice faster loading less waiting time. You're welcome. Feel free to click on the banner ad at the bottom every now and then. Hosting isn't expensive...but it does cost. Gracias.

Same trip as last week. Different Captain. My line Captain traded the trip. The new Captain is much more laid laid back for me.

I don't have that "warm and fuzzy" and "everything is covered" feeling with the new guy. I'm more on edge and watching everything that's going on much more so than normal. Don't get me wrong I'm laid back....this guy is REALLY laid back.

Time to bid for November. I know I can hold Thanksgiving off...but  I doubt  I can get back into my 3 day trips.

I discussed my plan with my wife as we have family coming in town from the 8th thru 12th. I also still have to bid so I'm off two weekdays to hang out with my daughgter.....and somehow still get Thanksgiving off.

My bidding priority will be:

1- Weekends off

2 - 3 day trips working Tuesday-Thursday

3. 3 day trips working Monday - Wednesday

4 - 4 day trips with starts after 4PM working Monday thru Thursday

5 - 2 day back to backs

6 -4 day trips working Monday thru Thursday


Two day back to backs are new for me bidding wise. I figured if  I can't get my 3 day trips or 4 day trips with late starts (late so I can hang with my daughter till my wife gets home) then I might as well go for two day back to backs as we will have to pay for 4 days of day care regardless.

A two day back to back is as it sounds. I work 4 days but only away from home for 2 nights. It's more driving to and from the airport so it's not good for commuters or those that live far from the airport.

Bidding closes this weekend. Hoping for the best.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Familiar voice

Nice four day. I didn't care for day 4 being a 5 leg day.

Day 3 was in a small town.

The night before I Googled things to do in this city. Number 1 was DRIVE to the bordering state to gamble. Wow.

Long drive to the hotel. On the way the van driver gave a nice speel on places to eat nearby. He then said, "And you will find another key in your packet with the number 310 on it, in that room is free beer, wine, tortilla chips and salsa for you guys."

Free beer?

The free beer ended up being Natural Light. Still free. Never actually had one before. was as expected.

Day 4 started with a 5:30AM van.

Arrived at the airport at 5:50AM. Plane at 6:00AM.

After getting clearance I heard  someone say good morning and used my name....over the clearance frequency. I replied, "Who is this?".

"It's Andrew." former student. He was flying the United Express RJ parked right infront of me. Small world.

The first two legs were mine.

First leg to base was easy.

The next...not so much.

Headed to a larger...small airport. Three runways. The longest runway is 8000 feet long, next is 5001 feet long....the shortest is 4999 feet long.

Guess which runway was the ONLY one open?

The 4999 feet long one!

There are no charted approaches to the open runway. None.

I briefed a visual approach backed up by with the PAPI.

Nope...PAPI was noted out of service on the ATIS.

Ok I briefed a visual approach like this.

"This will be a visual approach to runway 4. I will back up my glide path using the 3 to 1 rule using the on site VOR. The runway is 4999 feet long and the performance manual states I need 2700 feet to stop using no thrust reverse credit. I plan on using thrust reverse just in case. Touchdown elevation is 80 feet. In the event of a missed approach or go around plan on 1500 feet and right traffic back to runway 4. I plan on a right exit at the end of the runway. Any questions?"

Cleared to 2100 feet. Hazy. Saw the airport 8 miles out.

Using the 3 to 1 rule I wanted to be at 2400 feet 8 miles out. I was lower...fine.

I started calling for flaps, then gear, then final flaps.

At 3 miles out I was 1100 AGL. A little high.

At 1 mile I was at 400 feet. This was fine as the VOR wasn't at the end of the runway.

I made a somewhat shallow approach and made a minimal flare landing. Touched down about 900 feet down the runway.

Quick on the brakes and I initiated thrust reverse. With 2000 feet left the plane was slowed to 80 knots and I transferred control to my Captain. Done.

Fairly early. Due to the short runway only regional jets were able to land and depart.

Another airline was very weight restricted and transferred 9 passengers to my airline.

We had the performance but had to do a static takeoff.

A static takeoff means we hold the brakes, add full power, then release the brakes.

Up and out.

Plane swap.

Last turn was interesting.

The dispatcher planned the flight at FL270. There was moderate chop. We climbed to FL370...smoother ride and we saved fuel. Thankfully we were light enough that the 800 pounds of fuel saved didn't put us overweight for landing.

In and out quick. My leg back. Once again filed at FL280....we flew at FL360 and saved fuel and time. Blocked in 20 minutes early.

Off for 3 days....then I do the same trip again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

RVR Club

The first rule of RVR club? You don't ask about RVR!

Kidding of course....kinda.

On day two of my trip.

Day one was three legs. I took the first, my Captain took the next two.

Easy day. He flew a little fast to the overnight as it was just 8 hours 30 minutes long.

Scheduled arrival time was 9:40PM. We blocked in at 9:32PM. Every minute counts.

This morning started early of course. I did have a dream I woke up an hour early full of energy. Then I really woke up at 5:05AM...and I was really tired.

Downstairs for breakfast at 5:40AM. I have become very good at making Belgian waffles. Seriously. I know just the amount to pour in. I twist the handle of the waffle iron like a pro. If I get furloughed I WILL apply at the nearest Waffle House!

In the van at 6AM. Airport at 6:20AM. Blocked out 6 minutes early at 7:04AM.

Two leg day, both were mine.

Long flight. A little tired.

An hour out weather was reported as: 02007KT 1/2SM BR OVC003 18/17 A3009

ILS approach. The temperature dew point spread was concerning. It was still early...once the sun started to heat up the ground the temperature and dew point would likely merge.

I briefed the ILS approach to the runway closest to the arrival termination point.

The approach controller advised to expect the approach I briefed. Then it happened. RVR and vis started dropping...but only on one side of the airport.

They quickly put all regional jets on the other side and all mainline on the near side. Reason? Mainline has a higher percentage of CAT III and CAT II trained and equipped air crews and aircraft.

We were given a new approach.

I promptly setup and briefed the new approach.

Set up for a downwind. As we checked in we heard a request for the RVR.

"RVR landing is 1800, midpoint 1200, rollout 600"

Now to be fair we didn't hear who requested it....or for what airport it was for. By the chart we needed 1800...for all points.  Since we didn't know which airport it was for we assumed it was for somewhere else.

We did notice the lack of aircraft checking in though.

ATC slowed us to 160 knots. First set of flaps went out.

Lined up for a 18 mile final. Told to contact tower at the FAF.

We played the game by the book.

Autopilot on.

I called for the flaps 45 at the FAF and the before landing checklist.

By the time it was done we were about .1 miles inside of the FAF.

My Captain contacted the tower.

"Cleared to land, landing RVR 1800, midpoint 800, rollout 600."

Since we were INSIDE the FAF we could continue the approach, and as long as we had the required elements in sight we could also land.

At 500 feet I was on approach speed at 138 knots.

At 240 feet my Captain called the approach lights in sight. I could then continue to 100 feet above touchdown zone elevation.  I clicked the autopilot off and prepared to go around.

At 130 feet he called the runway in sight. I looked up and saw a very foggy runway. I also noticed the plane was slightly right of course. A quick glance down I noticed the needles were dead centered.

I made a shallow bank to the left and kept my eyes on the centerline lights. Touchdown.

The visibility, as expected , went down during the roll out. Tower could not see us, they were using position reports and ground RADAR.

We cleared the runway. Only on other regional jet landed after us for 50 minutes. Everyone else diverted.

We were happy to have been on time and landed. If we had arrived at the STAR termination point 5 minutes later we would have diverted ..on minimum rest...and had a very long day.

Forty minute turn. RVR was up to 4000 for the next takeoff. Planes were arriving again.

Easy leg to the overnight.

During the flight I passed my 3000th hour of flight time. Sounds like a lot...but seeing as I've been at my airline for almost 5 years...and came here with 550 hours...not really. That's about 500 hours a year. This is mostly due to me being THE bottom guy for 2 years and sitting reserve.

Just one more warning. I'm working on the back end of this blog...might be unavailable for a few hours one day. No need to worry.