Wednesday, February 6, 2013

It's just a scratch

I had a great four days off. Grew a decent start of a beard even.....which was promptly shaved yesterday so  I could go back to work.

Every now and then I think about having a mustache. A "neatly trimmed mustache, that does not interfere with the oxygen mask" is allowed. I think mustaches make a guy look cool....or like a 70's porn star....nothing in between. So far I have avoided one.

Decent 4 day trip. Same Captain as last month, new cabin crew.

Rock, paper, scissors to see who would do the first leg. Rock beat paper so I flew the first leg.

Small airport with charted approaches only to the north runway. I thought that was odd. I had been there once before about a year ago. We landed to the north so it was no big deal.

I wondered why there were no approaches to the south. A check of the NOTAMS and charts showed why...prohibited airspace due to a military base. Ahhh.

Nice flight. My Captain knew the airport well. He pointed out a building and a road that, if I turned south of them, would keep me about a mile outside the prohibited air space. This would give me about a 3 1/2 mile final.

Approached the airport from the south. Approved for left or right traffic. It's easier for right traffic since I was flying.

I descended to 2000 AGL and slowed to 200 knots to comply with class C airspace.

On downwind I picked up the building and road to stay south of. Looked like a tighter pattern than I was used to.

I turned well inside of the building. Rolled out wings level about 800 AGL and called for final flaps. Decent landing.

While bags were being unloaded a Ramper noticed a scratch. He brought it up to my attention on my post flight.

It was a 1 inch scratch about 9 inches under the cargo door. I didn't notice it on my first pre-flight as the baggage loader arm blocked that part of the aircraft.

I told my Captain and we looked in the logbook for a previous write up. Nothing.

In reality we were 99.9% sure the scratch was not an issue. The plane has over 700 documented hail strikes! The problem is my airline has taken more and more power from the flight crews over the years. We can no longer hold boarding (for when we know a repair will take a while) any more for example. All we can do is report the facts and someone else decides. My Captain wrote it up and called operations.

Being a small airport the local mechanic was sitting on his home....on his farm....20 miles away.

Forty minutes later the mechanic arrived. Ironically he used to be a mechanic for my airline 10 years ago. It took him longer to do the paperwork than inspect the scratch.

All 4 passengers boarded and we left....50 minutes late.

Quick flight. Weather moved into the hub while we were gone. Instrument approaches in effect. Long 22 mile finals!

Arrived 47 minutes late. Quick 20 minute turn and we blocked out 22 minutes late.

Overnight was another small old plane went to big new one...almost all small, single runway airports.

One issue I have is small airports typically have more general aviation traffic, part time control towers and limited options for landing if there is only one runway.

I respect general aviation pilots, the problem is a few give the rest a bad name by not broadcasting position reports, flying non-standard patterns and such. If a Cessna pops a tire on the runway at a small airport, we might not have enough fuel to reach another airport. We only carry 45 minutes of extra fuel. That 45 minutes is calculated at FL300 most of the time. Once we are down low that is maybe 25 minutes of fuel.

Last night there was no traffic. Approached from the south. Had to land to the south so we took the long way around. If we had landed to the north we would have been on time. Instead we blocked in 6 minutes late.

Same overnight I had all last month. Last month I arrived in the day time and left in the morning. This month I arrive at night and leaving in the daytime.

The hotel van has always been there.

We walked van. I called and got the famous, "he's about 5 minutes away," speech.


Normally the van is a 2012 Honda Odyessy EX. I'm a car guy...I know cars. Last night it was a white Chevy full size van. Odd.

Then I realized why the van was late. The hotel was picking up some of our passengers in addition to us. Why come early for us if they have to wait for passengers anyway.

No big deal. Boarded the van with 5 other passengers. Day one done.


  1. "Rock beat paper..."

    You're doing it wrong.

  2. Doh! I see my error....yeah paper beat rock...either way I lost....ha!


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