Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Flying with the spoilers out

I got back from Hawaii on Thursday morning. All day Thursday I was in a fog.

Every year since 2008 I have gone to the North American Autoshow in Detroit. It's my annual pilgrimage. To be open...I go to about 5 autoshows a year....only a few different cars at each one. Eh.

Anyways the public show ended the following Sunday. I had a 3 day trip starting Saturday. Decisions.

Go Friday or don't go at all.

The loads on my airline/mainline partner looked great going there, but only marginal coming back. I had to get back.

I keep in touch with a lot of pilots I met while at ATP. They work for various other regionals. I hit one up to check the loads on another airline I could use as a backup. Marginal as well.

Marginal + marginal = let's go in my book.

To get there as early as possible I jump seated offline (offline = not my airline or mainline partner) to Detroit as the offline flight got me in 40 minutes earlier.

I hopped in a rental car (I love National Emerald Isle!) and was at the show by 10:10 AM. Great show.

By 1PM I was done. Headed back.

The offline direct flight back left at 3:10PM. I was sitting in the gate area at 2:00PM. No agent at the desk.

I checked in with my wife and played on my Kindle Fire.

Around 2:20PM a pilot walked up to the counter and set up camp. He was waiting for the gate agent. I was in plain clothes.

Panic set in. I politely asked if he was jump seating or deadheading.

For offline jumpseaters it's first come first served. He would get the jump before me if the flight was full.

Sure enough an earlier flight cancelled. My marginal flight was now overbooked. Crap. The agent arrived and gave him the jump.

I had 3 hours till my online flight and 4 hours until the next offline flight. Both were overbooked because of the cancellation. To make matters worse...a good amount of snow was to fall in about 2 hours.

Time to strategize.

I stood infront of a bank of departure monitors looking for a way out. I would be two legging it home.

Each time I saw a flight that I could make time wise I would check the loads from that city to my home. I finally found a way.

Of course I had no way of quickly checking the loads for the offline flight.

A flight was set to leave at 3:50PM to a city I could connect in. I quietly stood in the line to speak with a gate agent. Four other pilots in line. Thankfully one saw my crew ID around my neck and let me know they were all deadheading. Nice.

The flight was delayed. The new arrival time gave me 40 minutes to connect to my flight home.

Boarded up. I was in the jump seat. I always get the odd look from passengers when they see me in plain clothes turn left onto the flight deck instead of right into the cabin.

Before pushback they were overweight for takeoff by 300 pounds. Partially due to extra bags...partially due to me being in the jump seat. They worked it out but knew they had another problem...landing weight.

Their dispatcher gave them 1000 pounds of taxi fuel assuming there would be delays from the snow. The snow hadn't started. They only burned 300 pounds on the taxi.

Once at cruise they realized they were 1500 pounds over max landing weight. Ninety minute flight....out went the flight spoilers.

With the spoilers out and thrust levers up fuel burn increased dramatically....as did the noise.

Thirty minutes out and they were still 400 pounds over. They descended early and put flaps out in addition to the spoilers. Turning final they were finally right at landing weight. Done.

At the gate I thanked them for the ride and walked quickly to my next gate. Old airport....I had to exit and then re-clear security.

Walked on board with 20 minutes to spare.

Got home around 8:30PM.

Work the next day began at 7:10AM.

Day one was normal. Nothing too exciting.

Day two was normal until the hotel leg.

Weather at the overnight was crap. Given an alternate. Huge group of old folks on board who came off an 18 day cruise. They had a lot of bags. Way more than average.

For a full flight the average cargo load is around 2400 pounds. For that flight the weight was 2900 pounds. The extra 500 pounds plus the alternate meant we had to leave 1 passenger (an employee non-rev) behind. Before we left the gate we were 90 pounds UNDER max landing weight.

Captains leg. About 40 minutes out we realized we were 800 pounds over. This was due to a 110 knot tailwind. Time to work.

Early descent and spoilers out for us as well. With the tailwind we ended up putting gear out at as well. Delayed vectors and a few turns later we burned off the excess. Done.

Day 3 of the trip goes from the outstation to the hub back to the same outstation then back to the hub. I flew the first two legs.

First leg fine.

For the second leg we left the gate being 150 pounds under max landing. Tailwinds. Six hundred pounds over. I got to play the same game. Landed 50 pounds under max.

It was also my first time landing on snow in the new plane. The weather was :

28020G26KT 1 1/4SM -SN BR BKN006 OVC012 M01/M02 A2949

Landing runway 31. Slight crosswind while landing on snow. Mostly uneventful. The new plane feels different than my last, wobbly mains even in dry conditions.

I love my schedule this month. Easy 3 day trip. Just 3 cities and 10 legs! Next month my schedule is crap. I have 18 days off...but the trips are horrible.

Off for two days. I go in for an overtime day trip Thursday...off Friday then my last awesome 3 day trip starts on Saturday.

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