Monday, July 30, 2012

Making money for sitting at home

For the second time this month..heck two trips in a row...I'm getting paid for sitting at home.

Decent 4 day trip. Day two was supposed to end with a ride in a limo to a super fancy hotel that has a casino. Seriously.

Day 1 was fine. Another quiet flight deck. Very quiet guy.

Contrary to my last post about quality of life over the paycheck,  he commutes even though he doesn't have too.

He lives 20 miles from the most senior base in the company. One would think he would be based there. Nope. He can only hold reserve Captain in that base. In my base (the second most senior) he can hold a line....thus he is a commuter.

I took the first leg out. Short flight. Crazy long 13,500 foot runway. The terminal was at the departure end of the runway.

Cleared for a visual while on downwind and 4000 AGL. I called for flaps and gear and made a fairly short approach.

Since we had to go to the end of the runway regardless I was in no hurry to set it down on the ground. Extended flare and I eased it onto the runway at the edge of the touchdown zone. So soft I could barely feel the wheels touch the ground.

No thrust reversers or braking at first. We literally rolled 8000 feet before I used the brakes.

Quick turn. Tower closed.

Called for our clearance while holding short. Cleared as filed.

I gave the standard location and intention announcements over CTAF.

During climb out I called departure. He advised there was an inbound Cessna at 12 o'clock and 7500 feet MSL headed to the airport we just departed. We were cleared to 13000 feet...thankfully turning away from the airport. We still passed a little more than a mile from the Cessna. Close enough to get a yellow "Traffic!" caution from the TCAS.

Landed on time. Plane swap. Delayed.

Not good.

The overnight was scheduled for just 9 hours. I was supposed to arrive at 7:25 PM and depart at 5:25AM. That meant a 4:35AM van. Short night.

We were flying to a maintenance base. Instead of a 6:40PM departure we pushed out at 8:12PM. We'd have just 8 hours of "rest".

Enroute I heard another company flight being handed off to approach...the same approach I'd be talking to. This made me uneasy as I was sure they were headed to the overnight as well. If they didn't wait for us we would be waiting 20 minutes for the hotel van to return from dropping them off.

We landed at 8:48PM. The sole gate was occupied with the preceding flight. Short delay as we blocked in at 8:55PM. Post flight, shutdown and out to the curb. Thankfully the crew waited for us. We were in the hotel van by 9:05PM.

I slept horribly, which is a shame because the beds in this hotel are awesome!

My alarms (I use 3...all set to the exact same time...I like backups!) went off at 4:25AM. Quick shower and out to the van at 4:50AM. The van time was pushed back as we had a 5:05AM "show time" to give us exactly 8 hours "rest". My duty ended 15 minutes after arrival and starts again 20 minutes before departure, everything in between is "rest".

I don't shave if I am on reduced rest. The 4 minutes it takes to shave are best spent sleeping.  I shaved at 1PM the day prior so I had no stubble yet.

Departed on time. The initial adrenaline from being up early wore off quickly.

Being so early the radios were fairly quiet. Cleared to land on the inboard runway which is normally for departures. Arrived early. We were the first flight to arrive from my airline. Then it happened. Minor issue with the plane. Anti-ice system was offline. Not an issue as it's summer right? Well there was a small line of weather we had to deal with. To make matters worse the issue came up AFTER we boarded up. Plane swap.

Delayed again.

Instead of a 6:50AM departure we departed at 7:25AM. Not horrible. We had a 50 minute sit when we got back so it should have all worked out.

My leg again. Flew a little fast. Getting a little tired. Coffee and sugar helped a little.

Another visual approach. Told to "keep a tight pattern" as traffic was on an opposite downwind. No problem.

I love visual approaches. I kept a very tight pattern with barely a 1.5 mile turn to final. Another great landing.

Arrived 41 minutes late. Hoping for a quick turn. Didn't happen. The gate agent had a problem with the passenger count. Instead of our scheduled 9:15AM departure we blocked out at 10:04AM. Not looking good for the overnight.

In our favor was we had a scheduled 16 hour overnight. Not in our was a really good overnight.

Sure enough we got a print out on the crew connections. Scheduling pulled our overnight.

Blocked in at 11:54AM instead of the scheduled 11:20AM. Our overnight flight, which had a scheduled departure time of 12:10PM, had been staffed by reserves.

My Captain was upset. As a commuter he now has to pay for a hotel. I was indifferent. I really wanted that overnight as the hotel is super fancy....and it's a casino!

I still get paid for the flight, but not the per diem of course. The flight ended up blocking out 4 minutes late. One minute late is just as bad as an hour late in the eyes of the Department of Transportation, meaning we could have done the flight and been late. Bleh.

Tomorrow I go back and connect with my sequence with a 8:35AM departure.

I think I'm up to 9 hours of paid flight time this month for flights I won't/haven't flown.

Time to go watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with my daughter...Meeska, Mooska...Mickey Mouse! Only those with kids will understand.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Moving to the left seat, choosing when to upgrade to Captain

Back in 2007 when I was a CFI all my CFI buddies were talking about which airline had the fastest upgrade. Some had 2 year upgrades, others had 10 year upgrades while a handful were hiring "Street Captains".

Upgrades times are somewhat meaningless. I will attempt to explain why.

Lets Assume I am at an airline with 1000 pilots. The airline started with 0 pilots in 1992 and hired 50 pilots a year every year. No one ever quit, died or retired. There are 4 different bases...two are big and two are small.

The bases are:

New York - JFK - 250 total pilots - Most junior Captain is seniority number 540

Austin - AUS - 200 total pilots -  Most Junior Captain is seniority number- 398

Milwaukee - MKE - 250 total pilots - Most Junior Captain is seniority number- 560

San Francisco - SFO 300 total pilots - Most Junior Captain is seniority number - 380

The there are 500 Captains and 500 First Officers (in reality there are normally more Captains than First Officers, but for purposes of my example an even split).

One would ASSUME the top 500 pilots are all Captains. That would be wrong.

When a pilot is near the top of the First Officers in their status life is very good. The pilot has the exact schedule they want, they have all Holidays off and work more or less whenever they want to work.

This is true for top Captains and top First Officers.

At every airline there are senior bases and junior bases. The more desirable to city...the more senior the base. For most airlines New York area bases are junior as the cost of living is very high. Bases in the south are generally more senior as they cost of living is lower and the weather is nicer.

For my example I live in Austin and am the top First Officer. I am loving life. My seniority number is 530. I can hold Captain, but only in JFK or MKE. I'd be a junior Captain, commuting and working weekends and holidays. My pay would go from $45 to $70 an hour or roughly from $42,000 a year to $67,000 a year. I have zero desire to upgrade right now as I like my quality of life. I'm holding out to hold Captain in Austin.

The most junior Captain in Austin is number 398....a 2000 hire. That Captain could be a senior Captain in JFK or MKE...but again likely stays in Austin for quality of life.

End of my over simplified example.

I mentioned the term "Street Captain". When an airline expands rapidly there might not be enough First Officers who are qualified to be a Captain. In these situations airlines will hire a pilot straight to the left seat. The pilot is still junior to the most junior First Officer as far as company seniority, but they are indeed a Captain.

The "Street Captain" will have the lowest seniority for all Captains. Eventually the First Officers will upgrade and be above the "Street Captain" on the Captain seniority list.

It's risky being a "Street Captain" as they will have none of the perks of being senior....for a long time as they are still the most junior pilots at the company. Every First Officer that upgrades will go in above the "Street Captain". Most people who get hired as "Street Captains" do it for the PIC time to go on to a better airline.

Seniority is very complicated. Some First Officers never upgrade. There are a few First Officers at my airline that are in the top 15% of the total pilot group. I met one and he said he has  a very successful side business. Flying is his hobby. He picks his own schedule and does his real job on his days off. He's been holding 18 days off for years. He's topped out on pay, but is content with it.

I doubt I will upgrade at the first chance as I value quality of life over pay. I am in the second most senior base at my airline. I will likely wait it out until I can upgrade in base.  There are many who are single and value pay over quality of life. On the same note there are several who live in JFK and will upgrade before I slide over to the left seat.

Upgrading is more than better pay and a fourth stripe. Being a Captain means being responsible for every life on board the plane. The Captain is the go to person when issues come up. It's a lot of responsibility.

I know I wasn't ready to be a Captain after my first year...or even my second year.

During my 1st three years I was taking it all in and adding bulk to my buckets of knowledge, experience and skill. Don't get me wrong I could take charge if needed in an emergency, but I don't think I was ready to be a Captain.

Now I am approaching the end of my 5th year at my airline. I've flown with just about every type of Captain out there. I've learned something from all of them...good and bad. There hasn't been a flight yet that I haven't learned something about flying, being a Captain or the profession in general.

I've gone over this posting several times in an attempt to make it flow and make sense. Still looks confusing....which is okay...because working at an airline and dealing with seniority is confusing.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I didn't want to do 5 legs anyway

My last 3 day trip for a while. Next month I have ALL 4 day trips...well not all...I have one crappy 2 day trip on a weekend.

This trip has been very quiet. My Captain is just here for the paycheck. Very little chit chat in flight. In fact, beyond checklist, briefings and procedures I've maybe said 20 words...maybe 21.

Day one was one leg to the overnight. His leg. Long flight. Long 18 hour overnight.

Day 2 was 4 legs. First two were mine. I couldn't get a decent landing even if I tried to pay for it. I should really buy stock in Goodyear as I'm really abusing some tires.

During the 1st turn the boys in black were waiting for us. The Feds. An inspector asked for my credentials then accompanied me on my post flight. Non issue, just a ramp check, but unexpected.

After the second "controlled impact" with the ground I was happy to hit the button on the flight control panel that indicates my Captain is now flying.

Quick turn. Also a Lifeguard flight.

It's standard to taxi out on the #1 engine and the APU running (during the summer to keep the cabin cool). About 2 minutes before reaching the end of the runway I start the #2 engine and shut the APU down.

I started the number 2 engine and all was well. I then shut the APU down and got a master caution that the APU had failed along with an associated message that there was a problem with the APU bleed duct. Boooo.

Of course I second guessed myself on what I had done. It's all muscle memory, though I do watch my fingers dance across the control panel.

I retraced my steps and was positive I had pressed the right buttons in the right order.

Pulled over to the "run up" area for props. Not a busy airport. We ran the checklist, contacted operations, wrote up the issue in the logbook and complied with the MEL. APU was no longer an available for use.

Left the ground 20  minutes late. Thankfully we had Lifeguard priority and got several short cuts.

Back on the ground 1 minute late, into the gate just 4 minutes late. We had just 31 minutes to swap planes.

I learned long ago to take care of me and not rush to be on time. If I don't take care of myself, then I won't be able to take care of my passengers. Hungry. I needed food.

Grabbed a quick bite...kinda. I bought a hot snack, but I knew by the time I had time to eat it, the food would be cold.

I quickly, but diligently preflighted my plane, ran my flows, set up the FMS and ran the checklist.

Pushed out 4 minutes late. Ate my luke warm food in flight.

Very small airport for the overnight. So small in fact there is only room for ONE plane larger than 30 seats on the ramp at a time. Notes on the airport diagram state we can't be more than 15 minutes early or late without approval from the airport manager.

As we descended I began looking for the airport. My first time here. Sure enough it was small. Narrow 100 foot wide runway (150 is what I normally land on).

In and done.

Arrived 6 minutes early.

Small town. Only one hotel with more than one story in town...and that's where we stayed.

Thirteen hour overnight.

Right now I am supposed to be sitting the back of a hotel van (a brand new Honda Oddessy EX....which is NOT the norm) headed to the airport.

I was downstairs at 5:20AM for a 5:30AM van. The front desk clerk let me know the flight last night never made it in, they diverted due to weather. She apologized for not calling us (at 11PM). I thanked her for NOT calling me and whipped out my Ipad to check my schedule. Sure enough we were now leaving at 8AM. The good news was that I have just one leg into base and I am done. Originally I had 5 legs. I still get paid for all 5, which is the most important detail.

The reason my airline didn't call me is due to rest requirements. If they interrupted my rest then the rest clock would restart. Not a big deal at 11PM for a 8AM departure, but I am glad they didn't call as I would have been up for a while.

Next month I have most weekends off. I originally had all weekends off.

I had my preferences set for 3 day trips, weekends off and work Monday to Wednesday. After that I had max days off set.

The first few months of the year I held what I requested. Not this month.

I was awarded a line with 4 day trips, working Tuesday to Friday, weekends off, and just 13 days off.

I was not happy.

I'm still not happy.

I am getting over it.

There is a period where line holders can rework their schedule by trading trips with other crew members and uncovered trips.

I moved a single 2 day trip on August 3rd and August 4th to another 2 day trip on August 18th and 19th. I'm now working a weekend.

I moved it as to travel with my family for a mini-vacation.

Hopefully things will get better for September. Not terribly concerned though as I'm headed to Europe for a week or so anyway during my scheduled vacation.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Relitive Seniority

Seniority is everything...right?

Thought about where I am in seniority on the small scale and big scale. Here's what I found.

In my current base I'm in the top 36% seniority wise for First Officers. Back in January of this year I was in the top 30%. I've gone down as senior pilots have moved into my base due to moving bases or being displaced from Captain. Here's a look at other bases and where I would be as a First Officer:

Base B: 34%

Base B-1-: 26%

Base C: 30%

Base C-1: 5%

Base D: 30%

Base E: 54%

The -1's are on a different aircraft. For the most part my realative seniority is pretty consistent around 32%, thus I'm close to being in the top 3rd of First Officers system wide. The exceptions are the base I listed as C-1 where I would be in the top 5%...or number 4! It would be nice to be able to get the exact schedule I want, vacation I want and so on....but I'm not going to commute to get it.

Company wide I'm in the top 61% seniority wise. The most junior Captain company wide is in the top 53% seniority. I'm not too far from Captain, but I'm a long way from being the bottom guy. Considering back in October 2007 I was the bottom guy....things are looking decent.

The more senior I get in my base the better schedules, vacation and general quality of life I will get. I'm working on another blog about bidding to Captain and the big quality of life hit I would take. Should be up later this week.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Maybe he's not so bad

Grueling 3 day trip. Twenty hours of flying in 3 days.

My Captain has been a Captain at my airline since before I graduated high school. He was hired as a Captain. He's been around a while. He's 62 1/2 and hopes to retire with 32,000 hours. He currently has 29,800. He kept joking that he's building time for the "majors".

He took the first leg. Nothing exciting. He initially rubbed me the wrong way as he seemed overly..."picky".

Next two legs were mine.

Weather on the way to the overnight. Had to work around some storms. Fairly bumpy for a bit. ATC cleared us to deviate as needed and direct to a VOR when able.

I could see the build ups and holes to fly through. Rather than play the "twist the heading bug" game I clicked the autopilot off and hand flew around the cells. Clearing the last cell I turned toward the VOR and re-engaged the autopilot.

Eventually descended and cleared for a visual. I briefed to roll out long as I remembered there were at least two moms holding infants in their arms on board. Slamming on the brakes to make an exit is uncomfortable. Six hours twelve minutes of flying done.

Twelve hour overnight. I exercised and went to bed. I'm on an exercise kick. I've worked out at least an hour a day for more than a week. I can already tell I'm making progress as my collar's aren't as tight as they used too be.

Day 2 was long. Four legs with two plane swaps and one terminal swap. Swapping planes takes time and makes me grumpy. Swapping a plane + a terminal makes me really grumpy...especially when I have just 35 minutes to block in, deplane, post flight, pack up, find the new plane, preflight, load up the FMS, flows and block out.

The overnight leg was mine again. More storms to work around. Winds were 180@15G20.

The airport has two runways. Runway 13 and runway 18.

Runway 13 is 7500 feet long. Runway 18 is just 5000 feet long. The required landing distance was 4700 feet without correcting for wind. My rule is always take a decrament for a tailwind, but never benefit from a headwind. Why? Headwinds might go away and I could run out of runway. If a tailwind goes away...I land shorter. Runway 13 it was.

Gusty approach. Touchdown was nice and I smoothly brought the nose down. Gentle braking. The Captain turned off the runway with 1500 feet to spare.

Fifteen hour overnight on a different beach. Worked out, found dinner and went to bed early as day 3 would start with a 5 AM van.

Woke up at 4AM. Saw the horrible news about the shooting in Denver.

Out the door at 4:50AM. Rode on the van with a Southwest crew. Long quiet ride.

Five leg day. Blocked out 2 minutes early. First two legs were his. Middle two were mine. Last one was his.

First leg was just over an hour. I sipped my coffee and watched the sunrise. Never gets old.

During the arrival we got a DFDR caution message. For whatever reason the Digital Flight Data Recorder ("Black Box" recorder) was offline.

Blocked in a few minutes early. A mechanic fixed the DFDR issue and we thought we'd leave early as we had just 3 passengers. Nope.

There was a broken aircraft at our next destination. Fuel leak. The company wanted to dead head a mechanic. We were delayed waiting for him. After 10 minutes passed departure time they gave up and we left without him.

Quick 25 minute flight.

The broken aircraft was sitting on a gate. It was the "kick off" or first flight of the day....and it was delayed. They were full...we were already full...a lot of upset customers.

Blocked out 8 minutes early full.

Twenty six minutes after taking off I turned final for landing. Decent landing and we blocked in 8 minutes early.

Hot day. While running checklist for leg 4 we got an indication that there was smoke in the cargo compartment. The rampers were loading bags.

We did a quick fire test and the indication went out. The Captain went to visually check. No issue. Likely cause was hot APU exhaust being blown into the cargo compartment.

Blocked out on time...full + an offline mainline jump seater...a fairly large offline  jump seater.

Long flight. Blocked for 2 hours 15 minutes. Tired. We all chit chatted enroute. Ironically my Captain had more than double the flight time of the offline mainline jump seater. Ironic because many assume mainline ( Delta, United, American, US Air)pilots are "more experienced" and have more flight time than regional pilots. Not always.

Low clouds, low visibility and rain required an ILS approach at the destination. I briefed the ILS. While being vectored in we could tell the approach controller was swamped.

Bouncing around in the clouds.

I was on a heading to join the localizer. I noticed I crossed a fix 2000 feet higher than on the approach chart. I began slowing at I had 9 miles to the FAF and could make it work. Nope.

Approach controller apologized for leaving us high and vectored us back around for another approach.

My Captain called the runway in sight just inside of a mile. I clicked off the autopilot and made another average landing. The runway was 11,000 feet long and we parked at the far end...I let it roll and used food old friction to slow down...minimal braking.

Ready to be done.

Twenty five minutes after blocking in we were being pushed back for the fifth leg. Two hours and and Twenty Five minutes block. Crazy weather popped up during the arrival into the area.

The center controller changed our STAR three times in 10 minutes as a cell was expanding faster than expected. Very bumpy ride in. Lots of up drafts and down drafts.

Fifth leg done. Seven hours and forty five minutes of flying. Tired.

After blocking in I looked at my schedule for next month. I'm not happy about it.

I had been holding 18 days off, 3 day trips and weekends off until July. This month I had a mix of 3 day trips and 1 4 day trip working partial weekends.

For August....I have all 4 day trips....weekends off...but just 13 days off.

With the carry over from July (I start a 4 day on July 29th that finishes August 1st) I have 94 hours of flying for August. Too much for me.

I plan on requesting to drop at least 20 hours which is one 4 day trip giving me 17 days off and 74 hours of flying which is enough for me. It's only a it's only approved if there are enough reserves to cover the flying. a


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gonna be rough

Last trip ended fine. Nothing exciting on day 3.

My next trip is a 3-4-5 trip worth 19.5 hours. That's a lot of flying in 3 days.

On top of that I'm flying with a Captain in the top 1% of company seniority. His seniority number is just 1 digit....1 digit.

Looking forward to finishing the trip....and I haven't even started.

I debated all week trading the trip for a lower value (thus less flying and more restful) trip. Money won out in the end. I just bought a new toy (Nexus 7!) and I'm looking forward to playing with it and paying for it during the next trip.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Eeeew that smell!

Four leg day today. Seven hours of flying.

The day started with a 6AM van. We actually pulled away from the hotel at 5:55AM as we were all down early.

First two legs were mine.

Some stations we have to clear TSA, some we don't. All up to the local TSA. This airport we didn't have to...but we didn't know we didn't have to. Turned out to be an issue.

We were all at the gate at agent. Departure was 6:55AM. We waited.

An off duty agent was there dropping off her mom to nonrev. She let us through the security door leading to the jet bridge after verifying we were indeed the crew at 6:30AM.

Agents don't realize the Flight Attendants have a preflight just like the pilots. The agent arrived at 6:35AM ready to board. Umm no....not ready.

If we had bypassed security and gone through our airline ticket counter we would have gone straight to the plane and been on board at 6:20AM. Oh well..we departed on time anyway.

The flight was blocked for an hour and twenty minutes. Minor MEL with one of the engine driven generators off line. We just had to run the APU the entire flight. No biggie.

About 20 minutes to landing one of the EICAS screens went blank. My Captain and I were chit chatting when he said, "Umm that's not good."

I adjusted the reo-stat and it came back up. Then a moment later it went out again.

"Hey you smell something?" I asked.

"No...wait...yep...electrical burning smell." replied my Captain.

On went the oxygen mask and I ran a few checklist.

We were certain it was just the CRT for the EICAS failing, but no chances were taken. No smoke, just fumes.

They cleared in about 10 minutes.

The checklist required the Pilot Monitoring, in this case the Captain, to switch his MFD to EICAS so we would have the normal EICAS screen to read.

No biggie except I am used to looking slightly left during the approach to check the screen for power settings, flaps and such. I just had to look further left.

Normal landing. We were happy to switch planes for the next flight.

Normal takeoff for the next leg. We had an alternate due to weather. Two hours later were were cleeared to the FAF. I was a bit high as I was avoiding some weather. Visual approach.

I could tell I was going to be high approaching the FAF...also doing about 220 knots.

Out went the first setting of flaps and the flight spoilers. Off went the autopilot.

About a mile from the FAF I called for the gear. I crossed the FAF and turned final about 500 feet high and 180 knots.

Spoilers stowed, engines idled I called for the remaining flaps.

By 500 feet AGL I was right on approach speed. Decent landing.

Hungry. Scoured the airport for food. Nothing looked good. I reverted to my Go Picnic meal.

Two hours later we were back in base....twenty minutes early.

Departed 9 minutes early.

When I called VR my Captain rotated the nose but the plane seemed to struggle a bit. Hot weather in effect. A moment later we were airborne.

More weather to navigate.

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In cruise we discussed the takeoff issue. We suspected the bags were heavier than estimated.

I fly an RJ...the overhead bins aren't full size. Carry on bags are assumed to be an average weight. Bags checked at the ticket counter are actually weighed.

Normal landing at the overnight. Seven hours of flying done. Tired.

My last overnight on the beach for the month. Tomorrow is just 3 legs. Done by noon.

I like having time to blog on the road... definitely more information filled blogs as I remember more. Will try to do it more in the future.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

No more Co-Pilot....Got it

I added a little page at the top of the screen "what I do". Might change it over time. No more Co-pilot it.

Day one of a 3 day. It's a 3-4-3 trip worth 17 hours.  Started early as I left my house at 5:20AM. I got to the employee lot at 5:45 and was inside the crew room by 6:00AM.

The day before I noticed that a check airman was listed on the roster for my first two flights....yep line check time.

Captains get line checks often. First Officers...not so much.

Ever since Colgan 3407 there has been increased scrutiny on First Officers. I got a line check a few months ago, my first ever in my 4+ years of being at my airline. Today it was for the Captain.

I'd flown with this Captain before back in January. Nice laid back guy who crosses all the T's and dots the I's but knows how to have a relaxed flight deck.

Departure was set for 7AM. The check airman was the same check airman who gave me my initial check ride and my line check. Nice guy. He would be riding in the back on the way to the out station and in the jump seat on the way back.

Just 13 passengers on board. We were supposed to have 17.

There was a family of 4 missing. The dad went outside to have a cigarette and was stuck in security getting back into the terminal. Yet another reason not to smoke, they missed the flight.

My Captain had been off for two weeks. He wanted the first leg to knock off any rust before his line check. Okay with me.

Normal take off...then a right turn eastbound...into the sun. Sunglasses on...still annoying bright light. I tried putting on my baseball cap to block the sun. Not good enough. I lowered my seat to the lowest setting. No joy. Bleh.

Predicted weather required two alternates. Predictions were off...clear skies.

Easy approach. A little confusion finding the gate.

I'd never been there before. For 10+ years my Captain had always parked at the same gate. As we taxied toward that gate we saw all our normal ground equipment...but no personnel.

I called operations and sure enough...different gate...on the other side of the terminal. He made a U-turn and all was well.

Quick turn and the check airman took his seat. Minor issue with my medical.

My medical listed my weight at 224 pounds but the company information listed it at 222 pounds. If I ever lost my paper medical the company could request one from the FAA, but if the information the company supplied didn't match it wouldn't go through. I fixed the glitch later in the day.

Fairly normal flight. In cruise we talked about company rumors and such. My captain briefed the expected approach. All normal until the approach controller advised the glide slope was out. A thin layer of clouds negated a true visual approach.

He briefed the localizer minimums. Done.

As luck would have it I picked out the runway 12 miles away while 5000 AGL. Visual approach it was.

Line check complete. Two hour sit.

Next leg was mine. Quick one hour flight.

The outstation is in the middle of nowhere. Fairly low use airport.

Winds were 060@10. I briefed an approach to runway 10. Then the ATIS advised runway 34 was in use. Visual approach.

I've been to this airport several times. Not once have I been able to find the airport more than 10 miles out. The terrain is all flat, no trees,  and all the buildings on and around the airport are at most 3 stories.

Today was no different.

Vectored for a downwind. Then told to turn off course for "sequence". There was a general aviation plane also being vectored for an approach.

Now I respect GA, but this was a bit crazy.

We were turned away for 5 miles. When we were turned back in we were 15 miles out and told to "Slow to approach speed".

Approach speed? At 15 miles out? For ONE general aviation plane?

I began slowing from 250 knots and called for the fist two settings of flaps. Normally it's the first setting of flaps, gear and the remaining flaps. I didn't want the noise and drag of the gear, I wanted to lift and drag from the flaps.

Approach speed was 138 knots. I didn't slow that slow...but close to it.

Turned in for a final....a 12 mile final. I had the GPS approach loaded as a back up for situational awareness.

Assigned a heading of 330. Again landing runway 34. My Captain saw the airport. I was still looking for it.

Assigned a heading of 345. I finally saw the airport at about 7 miles.

Switched to tower. The Cessna that we were following was clearing the runway! All that vectoring and the Cessna was, in my opinion (again I'm not an air traffic controller) never an issue.

Decent landing. Done.

Tomorrow starts early with a 6 AM van ride for a 6:55AM departure. Four legs with an overnight on the beach.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New guy, Depressed guy and a crappy overnight

The last 4 day trip was rough...mostly because it was a 4 day trip.

My first co-pilot was brand new to a jet. He's been with my airline for years....but never flew a jet. He just finished his initial training and his flight with me was his 3rd flight without a check airman on board.

He was a very easy going guy. I offered to take the first leg as I know how it is to be a new to a plane. Mostly uneventful.  Dodged a little weather, arrived early.

During the flight back it was very apparent he was still getting used to flying above 16,000 feet.

He had a little trouble managing energy during the climb and descent. The jet I fly isn't all that powerful, but energy management must always be in play. During the arrival we were told to keep a speed of 300 knots and to cross a specific fix at 12,000 feet and 250 knots.

There is a function of the FMS that will show the required descent rate to meet the 12,000 foot restriction. Speed though...that's all up to the guy flying.

It takes time to learn descent angles and speed in a new plane. For my plane at an average weight a 1600 FPM engines idled descent = 250 knots. Increasing to 2800 FPM will get roughly 300 knots.

My copilot started a shallow descent of 1000 FPM and increased power to get to 300 knots. When he saw he needed to increase the descent rate to make the crossing restriction he pulled the power back...a lot.

We were descending at 2500 FPM and about 270 knots. It wasn't long before the approach controller asked us to pick up the speed. I could tell my co-pilot was struggling a bit so I offered up idling the engines and increasing to 3000 FPM which equaled just above 300 knots. The plane leveled off at 12,000 feet 6 miles before the fix. With engines at idle the plane will slow roughly 10 knots per nautical mile. Sure enough the plane was right at 250 knots as we crossed the fix. Done.

Next up was the approach and landing. He is still getting used to swept wing planes and jet engines. He previously had a straight wing and  turbo props. He did ok...bumpy landing, but fine.

My next Co-pilot would be flying with me for the rest of the trip. Right off the bat I could tell he was kind of a "Debbie Downer". Nice guy, but has apparently had a rough couple of years. He commuted for a bit which stressed out his marriage. He moved his family local...didn't help. Divorced. I took the leg to the overnight.  We talked a little, but most of the flying was quiet.

The tower at the out station closed at Midnight. Scheduled arrival time was 11:59PM. Approach left us high due to crossing traffic. Cleared direct to the FAF while 11,000 feet AGL and just 20 miles away.

I idled the engines and began dirtying up the plane. Spoilers and flaps out first. Passing through 3,000 AGL the gear went down. Spoilers in around 2,400 AGL while the remaining flaps went out. Visual approach. We crossed the FAF right at glide slope intercept and 20 knots above approach speed...which was fine.

Nice landing. Decent overnight. I'd been there once before. Older Ramada.

Day two was just 2 legs.

While at the gate we got a reroute for weather. More fuel needed. This fuel would later become very important. My co-pilot flew both legs.

Left the gate 20 minutes late. A few bumps during the climb, but fairly smooth. Weather wasn't as bad as predicted and we got a few shortcuts. About 40 minutes out crap hit the fan. Just as I switched to a new frequency I heard another flight ahead being given holding instructions.

After I checked in the controller advised we could expect holding as well. My co-pilot slowed down and I began looking for places to divert. There was an airport we serve 80 miles east.

Sure enough we held. With the extra fuel from the reroute + the short cuts we had 30 minutes of holding fuel. This is double what we normally have. I reran the fuel numbers to make sure.

From the holding fix I calculated we needed 850 pounds to get to out planned destination. Furthermore we needed 900 pounds to get to our alternate. Add in the 45 minute required reserve of 1300 pounds ( a crazy optimistic number) and we could burn down to 3,050 pounds before we had to divert. I added in a 200 pounds fudge factor and my Co-pilot agreed at 3300 pounds we would bug out.

Of course my numbers are only half the story. I gave the dispatcher our fuel information who came back with a 2900 pound "bingo fuel" number. I , like most pilots, err on the side of caution...3300 pounds was our number.

After about 4 laps things weren't looking good. Thirty knot direct crosswinds at our destination airport. Thirty knots it the maximum demonstrated for the plane.

A few international flights were already diverting as they wanted no part in the 30 knot crosswinds.

I went ahead and dug out my Jepp charts for the airport we planned on diverting to. Right around 3500 pounds the controller advised the winds were dying down and we could expect to leave the hold soon.

About a minute later we were given a left turn to a heading to leave the hold. Right at 3,300 pounds.

Sure enough the winds did die down, just 11 knots of crosswind. In and done....20 minutes late.

Same plane to the overnight. A reduced rest overnight at that. Left on time. Arrived on time. Just 8 hours and 40 minutes between when I finished duty and when I had to be back at the airport. Of course I "finished" duty while walking to the hotel van. My rest started just 15 minutes after blocking in.

Nice hotel. I tried to go straight to bed. Unfortunetly I'm not a robot. I got maybe 5 and a half hours sleep. Not horrible really.

Hotel van was set for 6AM. I was downstairs a little early in search of coffee. None to be had...even Starbucks was closed.

After my preflight a flight attendant handed me a cup of coffee. Still tired I tripped while walking to the flight deck. Coffee went down..thankfully it didn't hit anything important.

Another two leg day. Both mine. Mostly uneventful. Arrived at the next overnight at 11:40AM. Nice long 18 hours of rest ahead.

This hotel was right next to the airport. I had my choice of a McDonalds under renovation, a high priced Steakhouse or a gas station for food.

McDonalds it was...for lunch and dinner. I didn't want McDonalds for both, but the Gas station cafe was closed for the day. Crappy overnight as there was nothing to do in the area. Won't be back.

Day four was just 3 legs. Just the last leg was mine.

Being the last leg I planned on flying fast. It wasn't too be. Flow restrictions. We were assigned 250 knots...200 mile from the airport. Ended up arriving 5 minutes early.

Just two days off before my next trip. Just a 3 day worth 16 hours.

Haven't posted a photo in a while....snapped this on the last four day...neat rainbow effect going on.




Saturday, July 7, 2012

My "expert" opinion for the impending pilot shortage

It's a huge bet on the "pilot shortage". I think there will be a "pilots market" soon. As far as a shortage? Well it depends on how one defines shortage. Will there be two pilots on every flight deck of every US Airliner? Yes. Will the airlines be running thin on pilots with few spares? Probably. Will airlines go out of business because there aren't enough pilots? Doubtful.
Here's my opinion of the impending "pilot shortage". This opinion is all based on my Bachelors of Arts in Photojournalism AND Sociology, 10 years working in IT, almost 5 years at an airline and the fact that I recently stayed the night in a Holiday Inn Express.

I think the pool of ATP qualified applicants is going to be incredibly small. Heck my old flight school used to ONLY teach US Citizens. There are so few US Citizens signing up that they now teach a lot of foreigners. The cost (financial and physical) of attaining the experience to meet the ATP requirements are huge. The ROI for the $50K is going to be small for years. Consider that myself on year 5 pay (at a reputable airline) will make maybe $45K this year (including pay, per diem and such). Next year when I hit year 6 pay I might make $47-48K. Not a small sum...but not a lot either.

First year pay at my airline is around $26K. It's a horrible bet of $50K to make $26K eh? But of course I'm in this for the long term. Long term projections have me making $65-$70K AT MY AIRLINE when I upgrade to Captain (I'm assuming in the next 2 years...but that's an assumption).

When I go to a Major airline I'll make around $90K after the first year. First year pay at most Majors is really small. Second year pay is a huge jump.

This is a fairly wishy washy post....but there are no real experts in predicting the future of the airline industry. One "Expert" has been preaching the death of the 50 seat RJ for 10+ years. Yet there are hundreds of the flying (soon the be less, but there will always be a market for a 50 seater).  There are lots of opinions, facts, and known truths that "experts" and arm chair...errr..flight deck pilots like myself formulate.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Barely a 4 day

I start a 4 day today....kinda.

It's my only 4 day of the month. I have to report to the airport at 2:30PM. On Monday morning I am scheduled to walk off the plane at noon.

So I get most of the day off today and half the day off Monday...barely a 4 day.'s still 3 nights away from home.

The trip is worth 19 hours. It's a 3-2-2-3 trip. Each number is how many legs I will fly per day. Not too bad.

My daughter turns two next month. She gets smarter by the day.

She can pick up on the cues when I will be leaving on a trip. When I've been around for more than 2 days she gets clingy. She follows me room to room all day.

This used to bother me until I did some "pilot math".

The average middle class dad works 8-5 Monday thru Friday. He sees his kid from 6PM to maybe 8PM when the kid goes to sleep. The next morning the kid goes back to daycare.

I only work 3-4 days a week. Most of the time just 3 days. The other 4 days I see my kid all day long. True the regular dad is home every night, but I, using my pilot math, see my daughter more hours per week. keeps me happy.

There have been several articles lately about the impending pilot shortage and how pilots are a in a great position to make a lot of money. Hope it holds true. Though it doesn't really matter, it would be cool to make more money than my wife!

Finally, neat video of lightening striking an aircraft on the ramp.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Do I know you?

My last 3 day was a bit tiring, 18 hours of flying in 3 day, but at least it was productive.

I truly despise low value 13 hour 3 day trips or even worse 16 hour 4 day trips. What do I like? Well 18 hour 3 days are good...20 hours are better. For a 4 day I like 23-26 hours....but those are rare when staffing is good. When staffing is bad, trip values are higher.

The Captain for my last two trips looked familiar to me, but I couldn't place him until the last day.

He was in the training department until a few months ago. When I was in the sim last year he was one of my instructors.

Nice guy and I enjoyed flying with him. Unlike some instructors he knew how to relax and be a line pilot and not always be Mr. Instructor.

I finished my trip at 2PM on Saturday. I don't report back to work until 2:30PM NEXT Friday. Lots of days off.