Friday, March 2, 2012

Flat, featureless terrain

Two day trip. Kinda rough.

Scheduled for 9.5 hours of flying. Just two cities. A 1 and 5 trip meaning one leg on day one and five on day two.

The trip started at 1:35PM. Late arriving inbound meant we pushed at 1:50PM. I took the outbound leg.

I used to be apprehensive about taking the first leg with a new Captain. I always wanted to see how HE operated. Now I don't care. I know what I'm doing. I fly within the safety margins of my flight manual. Nothing special....well a little special.

Normal takeoff. The overnight was at a city in the middle of nowhere. Literally.

The airport is surrounded by flat, featureless, sandy terrain. The runways are light grey. Sunny day.

Winds were at 220@20G30. Landing runway 28.

I loaded up the GPS approach as there was no ILS.

Thirty miles out I was at 10,000  and just waiting for a descent. Cleared to 3000 and given a heading to intercept the final approach course for a visual approach.

I spun the VS speed down and idled the thrust levers. Nice 250 knot descent. I then began looking for the airport. Nothing.

Five miles from the FAF I slowed to 200 knots. The plane was on a 20 degree intercept....the runway was just 10 miles away. I saw nothing.

Finally as I was allowed to be vectored through the approach course the runway was in sight. Way down there. Hmmm.

The Captain advised we had the airport. Off went the autopilot, out went the spoilers, flaps and gear. I got to do some of that crazy pilot stuff.

Five miles out I was just about 2800 feet AGL. Normally I like to be about 2000 feet AGL. Thankfully I slowed early.

Semi-steep descent. Engines were idled until 900 feet AGL when I finally slowed to approach speed. Decent landing. Rolled out a little long as I didn't feel like jamming on the brakes. Done.

Boring 15 hour overnight. Literally nothing around the hotel except for a 7-11.

Next two flights were for the Captain. The first was normal. The second was back to the same featureless airport.

Another regional was coming in to the same runway I landed on the day prior. They were being vectored in for a straight in approach.

We heard approach asking if they saw the airport, "12 miles at 12 o'clock."


At 10 miles.


"If you don't call the airport by 8 miles I will have to turn you off and give you vectors for the GPS approach."

At 8 miles they called the airport. Funny how that works.

Similar winds.

Next up was a Cessna Cardinal...then a military T-1 (looks like a Beechcraft biz jet) then us.

The Cardinal was cleared for a visual and asked to keep his speed up as long as practical.

The T-1 was advised to slow down.

We were told to slow to 170 and expect to be vectored through the final approach course.

Short vector and we were cleared for the visual.

The Cardinal switched to tower.

Approach advised the T-1 the Cardinal had slowed to 70 knots on a 4 mile final.

My Captain heard this and slowed to approach speed while on a 8 mile final.

The T-1 was told to go around as it had 80 knots overtake on the Cardinal and just 3 miles behind.

Fine with us.

We were switched to tower just as the Cardinal cleared the runway.

We were then cleared to land while on a four mile final BUT, "traffic 11 o'clock , 2 miles T-1 on a tight left base."


Sure enough we looked over and saw the T-1 wing high. This was just stupid. There were several T-1s in the pattern.

The T-1 was cleared only for a low pass. Why they couldn't go behind a jet carrying passengers?!?!?!

Gusty wind. The T-1 was blown well off centerline.

We reached 500 feet when it finally crossed the threshold and began a low pass....being tossed around.

The Captain and I were just astonished at how dumb this was. If we had to go around it could get ugly fast.

Thankfully it ended well....I am still here to type about it.

Next two legs were mine. Double plane swap at the hub.

The first plane was going to be late. Given a new gate and plane.

The Captain had printed the release before the swap. But neither of us thought about it.

New plane still late. Tried to turn it as fast as possible. Already scheduled for a 12 hour 30 minute duty day. I didn't want it any longer.

Preflight done I began setting up the plane and began going over the paperwork and maintenance log as did the Captain. Tail number didn't match the paperwork due to the plane swap. He left to reprint the release. I kept setting up the plane. Done. Pushed back 20 minutes late.

Right before taxi the Captain took a moment to re-examine the logbook. Glad he did. There was an error in a sign off by a mechanic.

A repair was done earlier in the day. The mechanic failed to put down how long it took him to do the repair. A minor mistake, everything else was correct. The problem is our flight manual states that the box stating how long the repair takes must be filled out. Pilots have been pulled into the training center for additional training for flying planes with such small discrepancies. Just a single digit was causing the issue.

Mechanic called. Ten minutes later he was standing on the flight deck with us. Thankfully we were able to get everything taken care of without returning to the gate. Took off 20 minutes late.

Decent tailwind. Vectored in for a visual. Called the airport on the downwind. Another gusty crosswind approach. Put the nose down about 1 foot downwind of centerline....which annoyed me.

More issues.

It was a VFR day at the outstation and the hub. No weather in between. Somehow we were weight restricted. More specifically runway limited.

Every airport is unique. Various obstsacles on and around the airport factor into how heavy a plane can takeoff and still meet all performance requirements. People a lot more intelligent than I (engineers with pocket protectors are what I see in my head) work the numbers and print them on a chart for me to use.

The runway was a decent 8000 feet long. Not terribly hot outside. Yet we were runway limited.

It really blows to be sitting on the flight deck and hear a gate agent call passengers names off. I knew what was going on. The passengers likely did not.

Four passengers were pulled off the flight. One man was from another country and spoke poor english. He was very confused about why he couldn't go on the flight. He asked why they couldn't ask someone else. Someone "heavier" as he was a "small man". That's not how it works.

My airline assumes all adults weigh the same. All kids weigh the same. Kids are roughly half an adult. Addtionally a 2 year old kid as a lap child weighs nothing. But the same 2 year old kid with a paid ticket weighs as much as a 10 year old kid. Fuzzy math.

In the end 4 passengers and 7 passenger bags were left behind. I called VR with 3000 feet of runway left. I'm guessing there were vertical obstructions causing the weight restrictions.

Blocked in 30 minutes late. Flew exactly 8 hours. Tired.

Off until Wednesday when I start my nice 3 day trips for March.

Going to the zoo with my daughter today. Hopefully I'll find time to type up a blog this weekend about the small dots I've noticed on my right arm. The arm closest to the window while flying 40,000 feet closer to the sun.

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