Sunday, June 9, 2013

No More 5:20AM report times

Ugh....On my first 2 day trip of the month.

It's a fairly high value trip at 11 hours.

It's a 5-3 trip. Five legs on day one, 3 legs on day 2. I finish at 12:35PM on day 2.

Today started with a 5:20AM report time...on a Sunday! I contemplated trading it for something with a later start time, but I didn't want to drop the 11 hours down to anything under 10 hours. I kept it obviously.

I packed my bags and had them ready last night then took a shower. This morning my alarm went off at 4AM. By 4:20AM I was out the door.

Quick stop at McDonalds and I was off to the airport. By 5:10AM I was in the crew room signing in for my trip. Tired.

It was so early even Dunkin Donuts was closed. I thought to myself, "What kind of nut job wants to fly out at so early on a Sunday morning....I guess I will find out when we all leave."

At 6:00AM we pushed out 5 minutes early with 2 passengers on board. One was a non-rev. Contrary to popular belief airlines can not cancel a flight due to lack of passengers. I have flown empty before....rare...but it happens. Regional airlines are almost all "fee for departure". This means we profit the same full or empty. The major airline pays for the fuel and other items and they take the loss for an empty flight.

Weather. Storm moving in from the west. We had a lot of fuel on board. Holding short a flight in position asked to wait a bit for the weather and pulled off. We were told to line up and wait and take a look using our eyes and RADAR. It looked fine to us as we were headed west. Instead of a normal RNAV departure we were given an immediate heading of 090.

Normally we wait until 400 feet AGL to turn. We can turn before that altitude but it must be less than a 15 degree bank. Almost as soon as the wheels left the ground my Captain, who was flying the leg, began a shallow turn to the right. A few bumps during climb out. My coffee in the cup holder started splashing. I picked it up as my hand was a better shock absorber.

We were soon in the clear. We knew that we'd have issues coming back to the airport though.

Arrived to find our gate occupied. It was another regional that does flying for my mainline partner. They've had reliability issues lately. Lot of late flights. So many that my airline has been called in to cover flights.

Delayed. Ground stop at the hub. After 55 minutes we blocked out. We were at max weight for the longest runway in question. I deal with various weights for takeoff. There is the maximum structural weight (the most the plane can weigh), the runway limit (to be able to accelerate to V1 and abort), and climb limit (get to VR, pop an engine and take off avoiding obstacles.) We were runway limited.

Our books state I must use a maximum power takeoff (as opposed to normal reduced power takeoff) and perform a static power setting (holding the brakes while revving up the engines to takeoff power). Up and away. Given a long route for weather.

After about 10 minutes one of the arrival gates opened up. We took it. Then it happened. Weather got horrible at the hub. Holding.

We had a decent amount of fuel. I pulled the power back early but it wasn't enough. After 6 laps in the hold, about 25 minutes, we hit bingo fuel. At bingo fuel we had enough fuel to reach our destination, fly to the alternate and fly for 45 minutes. At bingo we had to head toward the hub or divert. We diverted.

Our alternate was only 10 miles away. I pulled out the charts and briefed my approach. Easy landing.

Ironically our alternate was the same airport my next turn was supposed to serve. That flight and the return flight cancelled.

Once in another flight from my airline diverted as well. We were on a hard pad and not a jet bridge.

Initially my Captain wanted to keep the passengers on board as it would be just 45 minutes. The problem was a storm was moving toward the airport. The airport personnel stated once the storm arrived they would be inside and unable to deplane passengers. With that news MOST passengers got off. The only passengers on board were unaccompanied minors.

Unaccompanied minors are the responsibility of the Flight Attendant until we reach our destination. There were 3 on board today. Girls ages 8,10 and 12. It was easier to keep track of them on the plane than in a crowded terminal.

An hour an forty minutes later we left. Quick flight. I attempted to grease it on....and did so...twice. Apparently I kissed to ground once...pulled back just a little too much and kissed again. Not a big deal.

Plane swap. With the cancelled turn we had just one flight left.

Blocked out 47 minutes late. Climbing out, both the Captain and I began to really feel that 5:20AM report time.

Getting tired.

Winds at the out station were high at 260 at 18 knots gusting to 30 knots.

The long runway is 7300 feet long and is runway 17. I've only used to long runway. The short runway is 5300 feet long and is runway 30.

I planned on using 17 as it was longer. My Captain brought up using 30. It was only a 40 degree crosswind. The performance charts stated I needed a 4200 foot long runway to safely stop. I pondered and agreed. Runway 30 was a straight in approach.

My adrenaline was up as it always is during gusty landings. It's a rush seeing the "short" runway ahead as I hand fly a plane with 48 people on board at 141 knots.

No nonsense approach. Around 40 feet the gust dropped and the sink rate increased rapidly. I brought up the power and pulled back a bit while kicking the nose over to the right and adding left aileron. Like butter.

Once down I quickly applied maximum thrust reverse and moderate braking. We were at at taxi speed with a little over 2000 feet to spare ahead.

The feeling after exciting landings is hard to describe. Kinda euphoric.

We climbed into the hotel van with a few passengers from our flight.

Once at the hotel I was starving. Headed to a restaurant next door. While in line one of the passengers from the van walked in. He asked if I was eating solo and asked if I wanted company. For the first time ever I had dinner with a passenger. It was a nice change.

Tomorrow starts with a 5:10AM van. Once done I come back Tuesday afternoon at 2:30PM and finish at 2:30PM on Wednesday....a much better start and stop time.

No more 5:20AM report times for me......until the next time I see a high value trip....but then that will be the last time.....until the next time.  Ha!

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