Friday, May 18, 2012

I want my...APU back, APU back, APU back, APU back,

Right now I am enjoying a frosty adult beverage in my favorite Samuel Adams Pilsner glass I got after visiting the Boston brewery.

Day four of my last trip was rough.

I did sleep well though...actually I slept freaking great.

The overnight hotel was on the final approach path to the main runway. Planes on glide slope passed maybe 400 feet over the hotel. Close.

We piled in the van at 6:10AM. I was doing my preflight at 6:18AM. Close.

Blocked out on time. Perfect airplane.

The first of 5 legs.

A little chop...but nothing horrible.

Blocked in early. We were supposed to keep the same plane for the first 3 legs. Pulling into the gate the ramp controller advised our plane was going out in 10 a city not on our schedule.


I hate plane swaps, especially when I don't see them coming. I built my "nest" on my side of the flight deck. Eh.

Sure enough a crew was waiting for our plane. They broke theirs. Not really. The First Officer found an issue on the preflight that would take a while to fix.

They got our plane. We got theirs.

The APU on their plane was already out of service. Now the number 2 pack (a "pack" is an Air Cycle Machine..AKA an air conditioner) was also out of service. What does this mean? A hot airplane that has to fly low.

It's summer...almost. It's still hot outside. Even on a 75 degree day the cabin can be as warm as 80 degrees while empty. Throw is a bunch of bodies with a temp of 98.6 degrees...and it gets warm quick.

For whatever reason the ground crew did not connect the pre-conditioned air so the cabin was stuffy...the flight deck was downright hot. I called our operations and requested the air to be connected. Without an APU pre-conditioned air was the only way to cool the cabin down without starting an engine.

I left to do my preflight and grab lunch. Ten minutes later the cabin was tolerable while the flight deck was still hot.

We boarded up the passengers and then waited for the huffer cart to be connected. Jet engines use pressurized air to start. Without an APU we needed an external air source....thus a huffer cart.

The huffer was finally connected. We ran the external start checklist and my Captain started the 1st engine. Done.

I engaged the number 1 pack as the number 2 pack (that primarily cools the cabin) was out of service. Thankfully we were only half full and it wasn't too hot outside.

When things aren't normal it takes a little longer to get things done. I have to remind myself to NOT do my normal flows.

During the taxi out to the runway I used bleed air from the number one engine to start the number two engine. Not hard, but it requires a little more thought than using the APU. Done.

Due to various FARs we had to fly at a lower altitude since only one of the two packs was operational. Thankfully the lower flight levels had better rides. It was my Captains leg.

Nothing exciting until final. The out station has intersecting runways. Departures were launching off runway 31. We were approaching on runway 5. Tower was staggering departures and arrivals. On short final the aircraft taking off 31 was a little slow on the roll. We were preparing for him to abort or, more likely, us to go around. Thankfully he passed through the intersection just as we passed 300 feet above the ground.

Quick turn. Once again an external air start. My leg back.

Beautiful VFR day at my hub. Clear skies, calm winds....80 degrees now. Normally makes for an easy approach. It wasn't too be....we were following a 747.

With calm winds the wake turbulence would stick around versus being blown away. I stayed high on the ILS and slightly to the right. I advised my Captain of my intention to remain high all the way to the runway and land long. He agreed.

My plan worked. Smooth all the way down. We did get a good whiff of burning rubber after touchdown which is too be expected as the 747 has 18 tires!

Third leg done. An hour sit and one more turn left.

The next plane was perfect. Nothing out of service. My leg again. Fairly short 70 minute flight. I flew a little fast as I wanted to finish early.

The out station was a former military base. Huge 200 foot wide runway. Vectored in for a left base. I was a little higher than I wanted to be as I turned final. I just idled the engines and called for gear and flaps.

I was on approach speed by 500 feet. Blocked in 15 minutes early. Done.

Last leg. We were all ready to be finished. We had already flown 6 hours 50 minutes that day.

Blocked out 10 minutes early. It was looking like we would arrive 25 minutes early....until center gave us a 90 degree vector off course. Congestion. Yadda, yadda, yadda....we blocked in 15 minutes early.

Twelve hour and thirty minute duty day....flew 7 hours and 30 minutes....I had been up for 13 and a half hours. Ugh.

My wife dropped me off on Sunday and would be picking me up. She planned on me being on time...since I was early I had time to kill. daughter does love Strawberry shakes.

Shake in hand I walked out of the terminal just as my family pulled up. Even though I was tired the instant my daughter peeked her head around her car seat and saw me I was refreshed. She was even happier when she saw the shake in my hand.

Off for 3 days. I start another dreadful 4 day Sunday afternoon. I'm soooo preferencing 3 day trips next month!




  1. Matthias KünnethMay 18, 2012 at 6:14 PM

    did i missed something? you are captain now?

  2. Not, I just stopped using Captain and started using co-pilot. Many people think the Captain dos everything and the First Officer just sits there...seriously most people think that. So using the word co-pilot makes it easier for normal people to understand that we both fly the plane and , for the most part, do the same thing...except he drives the plane on the ground, makes much more money and signs the paperwork for the airplane.

  3. Matthias KünnethMay 19, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    ok sorry :-) yes you are home the child is the captain :-) Have fun....

  4. Hi there,

    I'm guessing if it's generally short hops you're not that high anyway - but I was wondering if you suffered much of a fuel penalty for the lower altitude leg?

    D from the UK

  5. The fuel penalty for flying at FL240 vs FL360 for the one leg out was about 800 pounds higher fuel burn for the flight...or about 104 gallons....or about $600 extra added to the cost.


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