Tuesday, October 29, 2013

About that pay raise

Day 3. I joked this morning in the hotel van that I was going to work harder today since I get an extra $0.53 an hour. Yeah....about that.

First two legs were mine. First was super short with just 23 minutes off to on. The second leg was long. Due to weather we had an alternate.

Enroute the weather at the destination was bad. Like zero visibility bad. We slowed down.

Thirty minutes out conditions didn't improve. We ran the numbers. We had 15 minutes of hold fuel. Literally 3 minutes before we were going to reach bingo fuel the visibility came up to right at minimums....1800 RVR. We headed in.

At 300 feet my Captain saw nothing. At 200 feet he saw the approach lights. I clicked off the autopilot and continued down. Right at 150 feet he called the runway. I looked up and saw a foggy mess. Easy landing.

Quick turn.

Captains leg.

The takeoff roll began normally. I called 80 knots and he replied. All was normal.

VR was 133 knots which is just over 150 MPH. Right at VR the plane began to vibrate severely. We looked at each other. I said "rotate".

He rotated the nose into the air and the vibration stopped. Everything seemed normal on the EICAS.

On climb out I advised tower, "I think we blew a tire on takeoff."

Tower replied ,"Roger what are your intentions."

I looked at my Captain and he pointed up.

"We are going to continue." I replied.

We were 6000 pounds over max landing weight. It was safer to continue and burn off the fuel than land. Tower couldn't verify our landing gear condition as the tower was fogged in.

Emergency declared.

At cruise I made a PA advising passengers of the strong vibration they felt and that we thought we blew a tire. Everything would be normal on landing except the presence of fire trucks.

Over the next two hours we had plenty of time to discuss the situation and the possible outcomes. I had the abnormal gear extension checklist at the ready in case the nose didn't come down.

We would land as soft as possible and keep the nose off the ground as long as possible.

On final we shot the ILS. Breaking out about 900 AGL we saw the runway lined with Fire Trucks.

We touched down on the mains very softly. The nose was kept in the air until it finally rotated down and the vibration started again.

Once down we came to a stop and the nose gear was inspected. The Fire Trucks stated the tires looked normal.

We looked at each other. We taxied off very slowly...flanked by Fire Trucks.

Thankfully it was just a blown tread on the right nose gear. There was no way we could have known that from the flight deck.

Off to sit for 2 hours before one more turn.

1029131256Guess I earned my $0.53 extra eh?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Six years later

Six years later. I joined my airline on October 29, 2007. It was a long time coming all things considered. I day dreamed of flying for an airline since I was in 6th grade. That was when I first encountered Microsoft Flight Simulator. At the time it just didn't seem possible. I had no idea how to get started so I stayed with my second passion...photography.


Over the last 6 years I have flown more than 3300 hours across the United States, Mexico, and Canada. I have flown through all kinds of weather. I've endured the stress of landing in a stiff crosswind during a heavy rainstorm and of course many more landings in beautiful VFR weather.


I've been so exhausted that I've arrived at the gate not having remembered landing. I guess it's like driving to work the same way everyday and not remembering it?


I've come to despise and avoid reduced rest overnights. The airlines have abused a rule made to help schedules continue in case there was weather. Reduced rest overnights were never meant to be scheduled. Having just 8 hours from the time I walk off the plane until I'm supposed to be back on the plane is dangerous. In reality that's maybe 6 hours of sleep as travel to and from the airport is considered "rest".


I've spent two and a half years away from home.....I paused when I thought about that. Since I'm gone an average 3 nights a week that's at least 900 nights spend in hotels. I collected hotel keys for a while....huge stack I'll take a photo of this week and post. Why? I don't know.


I've been able to take my family to all four corners of the Continental United States, Hawaii, Japan, Germany, parts of the Caribbean, Mexico and more.


It's been a life changing 6 years.


My wife has thankfully supported me through this journey. It hasn't been easy, it would have been worse if it were not for her. When my daughter was born it became a little more challenging juggling work and family life. I didn't like that right after she was born I was temporarily based thousands of miles away...for months. But we made it work. I was able to take more than 2 months off to bond with her though.


Three years later my daughter knows when I put on my uniform that I'll be gone for a few days. She says ,”are you going to the airport to work in the sky daddy?” Once I arrive back home I can't get her off my lap....and I enjoy every minute of it.


Would I do it all over again? After all I still haven't made as much per year (excluding per diem!) than I made at my old IT job. Without a doubt yes. Money isn't everything. I have friends that think otherwise. To each his own. My family lives a good life. We have little debt and still have  enough toys and money to keep us happy.

In the last 6 years I have flown 3300 hours at my airline. I was hired with 554 hours total time. Taking 3300 hours and dividing by 6 equal 550 hours a year. Kinda low. Considering I've spent a full 5 months in training, 3 months off with my daughter and 11 weeks on vacation....eh still low. I remember thinking I would fly close to 1000 hours a year. So far this year I've flown 630 hours. My highest month was July with 85 hours and the lowest was August when I took 2 weeks off with 45 hours.

So what's next? Well hopefully I can slide to the left seat before October 29, 2014. I feel pretty good it will happen.



Sunday, October 27, 2013

I was getting ready to blog

And then this happened.....Sunday morning with my daughter.....should have time later this week.




I never thought Barney could be more annoying..until I saw him on a 100 inch screen. It's all my fault. We were watching Caillou when Barney started...and I didn't grab the remote fast enough. I need a Master Warning Light for Barney then I know I would have reacted quickly!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Funny numbers

On day 3 of my first multi-day trip in almost a month.

I have 3 day trips this month. Each is worth 18 hours and 40 minutes of pay/flying.

My wife was happy to see me go. I get irritable when I don't fly. When I'm home more I tend to leave a mess behind me. My wife and I met on Match.com back in 2002. We have little in common...still wondering how I came up in her search.  We're the odd couple with her being Felix.  Whatever we work.

Day one was kind along as it started with a 2:20PM departure. The Captain is a guy I've flown with in the past. He took the first leg and I took the last two of the day. The flight to the overnight was to a small airport in the middle of no where. The tower closes well before scheduled arrival time.

Arriving from the south we had a 30 knot quartering tailwind. I planned my descent to be at pattern altitude (1500 feet for jets) just south of the airport. Worked out fine.

It's rare to fly a pattern at an airline. Most of the time we are on vectors, nature of the business.

Flying a pattern in a jet is no different than flying a pattern in a Cessna 172. The only tricky part was I was flying a left downwind and thus could not see the airport from my right seat. The Captain called when I was abeam and I replied with the first setting of flaps.

I glanced at my MFD which had the GPS approach loaded as a backup and began a shallow descent. Once we were right between the final approach fix and the airport I began my base turned and called for the gear.

The quartering tailwind had pushed me a little closer to the airport, even with my crab, than I liked so  my base leg was short.

Winds at the airport were 120@15. Runway 17 is 7000 feet long while runway 13 is 6000 feet long. Runway 13 would have been fine, but it required a much longer taxi, thus I picked Runway 17.

Easy landing. The overnight was a little over 9 hours. Not horrible.

Day two was fairly long with a scheduled 7 hours of flying with 4 legs. The first two the Captain flew. Bumpy weather and ILS approach to the hub. A few bumps and clear skies to the out station.

This one out station always creeps me out as its the location where Comair 5191 crashed.

Quick turn. While boarding the gate agent came up to the flight deck.

"Hey guys I need some help, we are 30 pounds overweight." she said.

"No problem, I will stay behind" I joked.

The Captain and I looked at our fuel numbers. We agreed we would burn off the extra fuel and still be able to complete the flight safely.

I call this funny numbers as we assume all adults are the same weight and all kids are the same weight. Additionally every suitcase under the 50 pound weight limit is recorded as 30 pounds. Those over 50 pounds are recorded as 60 pounds. I can go on.

We had to burn 220 pounds of fuel. We agreed to start both engines right away and leave the APU on for takeoff. Our engines burn 400 pounds per engine per hour at idle on the ground. The APU burns about 135 pounds per hour on the ground.

We blocked out and began our taxi. Ground told a Bonanza to follow us.

"Ground we need to burn some fuel so we will be happy to follow the Bonanza." I stated.


While taxiing to runway 4 we noticed the Bonanza having a hard time staying on center line. Then it stopped and we saw why. Flat front tire.

Meanwhile we had about 80 pounds to go. The Bonanza was stuck next to the departure end so we back taxied into position. Straight forward takeoff.

Fuel looked great until we got about 40 minutes out and began hearing flights getting holding instructions. We were approved to slow down.

Looking at the fuel we had enough fuel for one turn in a hold....that's it. The remaining fuel would allow us to fly to the destination, alternate and 45 minutes thereafter.

Thankfully it worked out that we didn't have to hold.....but we weren't done with delays.

At big airports there is a position called the Final Monitor. The job of the Final Monitor is to assure spacing is good between aircraft, especially on IFR days. The Final Monitor can over ride and talk over tower controllers.

On final for an ILS. Spaced 5 miles apart from the aircraft ahead. We were told to hold 170 till the final approach fix. I was dead on speed. Right at glide slope intercept the Final Monitor came on.

"This is the Final Monitor, approach clearance cancelled. Turn left heading 040 maintain 4000."

Not sure what the reason was for, I clicked off the autopilot and made a smooth left turn. Once back on heading I asked for the autopilot to be turned on and flaps to be retracted.

We were vectored back in for another approach. This time behind a 777. Nice eh? The extra vectoring ate up the extra fuel. One more delay and we were obligated to head to our alternate.

Thankfully the approach was easy.

Plane swap.

The next plane was late. Raining. When it arrived I went down the jet bridge while passengers were deplaning in hopes of a quick turn.

The pilots were still in the flight deck with the door locked after all passengers had left. A Flight Attendant grabbed his bags and said, "It might be a while, IOE"

IOE stand for Initial Operating Experience. Someone was getting trained...and I guess things didn't go well.

I did my detailed pre-flight...and they were still locked in the flight deck. They came out 20 minutes after arriving. So much for a quick turn.

With the rain and low clouds, departure was staggering aircraft for takeoff. We left the gate with 350 pounds of extra fuel.

Once in line we shut down the second engine as we were down to just 200 pounds extra.

Tower rattled off the sequence. When we were number 4 I started the APU and then the second engine. Doing a crossbleed start would have saved fuel, but with an aircraft right behind us a crossbleed wasn't an option.

When I pushed the thrust levers up we had 40 pounds of fuel over min takeoff. Close.

Ironically the time spent waiting for takeoff was longer than the time spent in the air. Arrived late.

Day 3 was supposed to start with a 5:15AM van and terminate with a 5:50PM arrival.

Around 8:50PM last night was I was trying to fall asleep my phone rang, it was the Captain. He told me our morning flight cancelled. We now had a 1:30PM van for a 2:20PM departure and we would be done at 3:30PM. Score!

Hoping next week is smoother.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day Trippin'

Three, one day trips in a row. Not my cup of tea.

Even though I drive a car that gets 48 MPG....and live just 10 miles from the airport....I don't care for driving to and from the airport everyday.

The first day trip was Sunday. One 5 hour domestic turn. Being a Sunday my wife dropped me off and picked me up. Nice to have a driver!

Monday and Tuesday were 4 leg days. Both had a trip across the border.

Last month I was approved for the Global Entry program. It was $100....not cheap, but I get to breeze thru customs AND get TSA Precheck when I travel in normal clothes.

I flew with the same Captain both Monday and Tuesday. Very senior but relaxed. He's 59 and hoping to stick around 2 more years before retiring.

It's been years since I have overnighted out of the country. I don't get any additional money for flying internationally. It's more of a hassle as I can't bring the same food I would for domestic trips. The same rules apply for a turn, but since I never leave the footprint of the plane there is less to worry about. Any food I bring can be eaten before I arrive back in the United States.

I used Global Entry for the first time on Monday. Amazingly simple.

Off for four days.  I start my October line 3 day trips on Sunday.

There's been a good amount of movement at my airline lately. Hoping this time next year I will have a fourth stripe...or maybe a gig at a major. I took the first step of moving on by applying to a Major airline next week. I'm one of hundreds of regional First Officers, but if I don't apply....they can't say no.,

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Good for another year

I'm good for another year before I have to fly the simulator again.

My training was different than in the past.

Until this month I was given one  sim session to get trained on things I do everyday and many things I don't. I've never lost an engine on takeoff (or any other time), had a fire, lost an engine on go around or stalled the real airplane. After that session I was given a check ride and tested on all of those items. It was a "bet your job" event as if a pilot fails more than once they could be let go. Seems kinda silly to be TESTED on things I never do.

The training department wanted to change things up. They wanted to test on things pilots do everyday and TRAIN on things they don't do everyday. Makes more sense eh?

One might think it's easier.....and it is if one flies by the book. If a pilot is sloppy and informal day to day then they will have problems. Things like turning the autopilot on by reaching for it versus asking for it to be turned on, not using checklists,  landing fast or improperly setting up the aircraft.

Before my  check ride I had an oral. I prepped for it like I always do...and yet somehow I've missed the same question the last 2 years. It's a simple question and I gave the answer that , according to the check airman, every pilot gives. Hopefully I will have it down next time.

Right after the oral another check airman poked his head in and stated the sim was "available early." This meant a crew failed the check ride.

The Captain I was paired with was waiting outside. I told him the oral was very straight forward and went to get a snack. I was told to come back in 30 minutes. I was back in 20 minutes and surprised to see the door open. The check airman and a FAA rep (who has been present at every step) were there. Apparently the Captain had a bad morning and was in no mood for the oral. Thankfully they were able to call another Captain to come fly with me in the sim.

The FAA rep stated the first 2 crews (there are only 5 crews in the new training program) had failed the check ride. My heart began racing.

"But don't worry, I haven't seen anything in you that would cause me to think you will have a problem." stated the FAA rep.

My heart just kept racing.

The flight was set up as a flight from Boston to LGA. I'm not familiar with Boston and only been to LGA a few times. To add on more stress it was winter...snow...slush....yeah great.

I could have elected to be the pilot monitoring but chose to fly.

The flight was to be treated as a real revenue flight. All emergencies and situations that come up must be dealt with unless the instructor interrupts. We had a few MELs to deal with including my FMS was inop (it was actually working, but for the sim we had to play along and comply with the MEL).

On climb out I noticed a fuel issue. Somehow we lost over 1000 pounds of fuel in 2 minutes.

I brought it up to my Captain. We discussed it and decided we didn't have enough to be legal for our alternate. Additionally we didn't want to continue the flight with a possible fuel leak. Right before I was going to announce we were headed back to Boston the instructor stated it was a simulator problem and to continue the flight. Okay.

Everything was real time. The weather at LGA was borderline good for an ILS to runway 22. After passing the Final Approach Fix RVR dropped to 800. Since we were inside the FAF we could continue. I knew this meant a go around was likely. Sure enough I heard  "Minimums! Minimums". I pushed the thrust levers up and began the go around profile.

Weather was not going to improve. Time to head to JFK which was our alternate. Due to congestion we were given holding instructions. Told to hold west on the DPK 270 radial.

This is what I had a brain fart on last year...a basic...basic...basic...hold. We were about 15 miles north of the VOR. I briefed the hold and asked the Captain to set it up in the FMS as a back up. Well he made himself busy with other things and said he would get to it. Not sure if he was told to not set it up or not beforehand.

I entered the hold manually. Once on the outbound leg we were broken off and given vectors for an approach into JFK.

Basic approach. Once on the ground a little confusion set in. I've been to JFK in the past....but it's been a long while. The Captain had never been there. A little confusion finding the gate and ramp procedures. Again this was a real flight so we had to do everything we would normally do.  Done.

I was the first to pass the new training program.

After a break we were back in the sim for advanced maneuvers. This is where we were TRAINED on things like CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain), Wind Shear (increasing and decreasing), Stalls and more.

One eye opening maneuver was the high altitude stall. While at 36,000 feet he had me idle the thrust levers and just wait. This was simulating descending from a higher altitude, leveling off and not adding power.

It was hard watching the airspeed bleed off. I was told to let it go to the pusher. Once the pusher activated I grabbed the yoke and pulled back and added full thrust. My first pull was too aggressive as the plane entered a secondary stall. I had to let the nose stay below the horizon and gently pull back. We lost 1600 feet during the recovery.

Another stall was the approach to landing stall while in icing conditions....and at MDA....a la Colgan 3407. Once level at MDA he told me to idle the thrust. Once again I cold recover during the pusher. We were just 500 feet above the ground in the clouds....with the ice protection on. Once the pusher activated I added full thrust and grabbed the yoke. This time we only lost 100 feet.

This sim session was very eye opening.

Once done I saw the next crew waiting for the simulator. I told them both the news about the first two crews and that I was the first to pass. Both were a little shocked.

I have a really good schedule this month. I was awarded a line with 19 days off. Due to training I have 20 days off. Not too shabby.