Sunday, December 28, 2014

Last 4 day for a while

I'm on day one of my last 4 day trip for a while. Next month I have a day trip line. It works weekends...but I'm home every night except 2 where I have 2 two day trips.

The plane from last week with the engine issue sat at an outstation for 4 days before being flown under a Special Ferry Permit back to my base where it was fixed again. Haven't personally flown it so I hope for the best.

This week I'm back with my line Captain. Today was a long day with just 3 legs. We left 30 minutes late on the first leg, but thanks to a 160 knot tailwind we arrived 10 minutes early. Descending through FL290 we hit moderate turbulence. We were only cleared to FL240. Even with the engines at idle we were gaining airspeed. The Captain had the plane set up for a 1000 foot per minute descent but with the turbulence we occasionally were climbing.

Level at FL240 we were rocking and rolling. I asked for lower but was denied due to traffic. After about 2 minutes I insisted we needed lower. Given a turn and a descent.

Quick turn.

Just over 10,000 pounds of fuel loaded up. Seemed like plenty. The 160 knot wind kicked up to 180 knots....all of it on the nose. The ground speed at mach .77 was a slow 250 knots. The FMS estimated landing on fumes. We contacted the dispatcher and pulled it back to .72 mach. A little better.

We agreed if we got to a certain fix with less than 4000 pounds of fuel we'd stop for fuel at a nearby outstation. We crossed with 4100 pounds. Eh.

I was flying and used all my tricks to conserve fuel on the descent. We landed with 2000 pounds of fuel, my bare minimum.

Two hour sit.

The flight to the overnight was again in a headwind but just 90 knots. The airport is surrounded by terrain. Picked up the airport 20 miles away and was cleared to maneuver for a visual. It's a nice change to descend on my own for an approach, especially around terrain. In and done.

Beautiful sunset photo I snapped while parked with the boarding door open and engines shutdown. Just a disclaimer to protect myself.


Four legs the next two days and one on Wednesday.

Hoping for an easy, non eventful trip.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Seems like I'm forgetting something

Day 3 of a 4 day.

Day 1 was a cluster. Supposed to do 3 legs. Due to that little emergency I only did 2.

As luck would have it the EXACT same aircraft I declared an emergency in was scheduled for my one leg out on day 2. I made sure to arrive at the gate when it parked.

I asked the crew how the plane was and specifically about engine number 2. They said they saw the write up and watched it carefully. No issues.

My Flight Attendant was not happy about being on the same plane, "If that damn engine has issues again I'm going to take an axe to it." he said jokingly.

My leg out. My third female Captain of the month. Most ever in one month.

I briefed her about the issue I had and we examined the logbook. Several valves had been replaced.

On takeoff she monitored the power and all was well. Around 5000 feet I turned the autopilot on and also monitored the engine. It seemed normal.

Passing FL280 we were talking when I noticed the N2 on the number 2 engine getting higher than the number 1.

"It's happening again," I said.

This time the ITT was around 830 on number 2 and 800 on number 1. The day before ITT was 890.

Passing FL340 the ITT on number 2 was 850 while number 1 was 820.  The N1 was 1% below target while N2 was at 100%. We were exactly halfway between our departure and destination.

The Captain got on the horn with the dispatcher. She also called back to the Flight Attendant. "Now don't freak out, but the engine is having issues again. We're halfway and have decided to continue on to our destination."

Level at FL370 the ITT was well within limits. The mechanics fixed one issue, but there was still something wrong.

Normal ILS to near mins landing. The outbound crew came down the jet bridge and thought it was a minor issue. I let them know the plane wouldn't be going anywhere. They weren't happy as it was one leg in for them.

Their flight cancelled and ended up deadheading home on the next flight.

Odd overnight. Old hotel that needs updating. It was also odd as my hotel was in between 2 La Quintas. One had a Waffle House while the other had a Denny's. Very odd.

The next morning I woke up early. I was down in the lobby at 5:45 AM for a 6 AM van.

Left the hotel on time.

As we approached the TSA checkpoint at the airport,  I opened my jacket and felt for my ID. It wasn't there. I had left it in the hotel room! Second time in 7 years I have done this.

I immediately called the hotel. The rest of the crew went on to prepare the aircraft.

Thankfully the van driver returned at 6:42 AM with my ID. I tipped him $5. Departure was supposed to be 6:55 AM. I was in my seat by 6:50 AM. Delayed. The first two Ground Power Units were faulty so boarding had not started.

Blocked out at 7:05 AM. Four legs later and done.

Tomorrow I would have had one leg in and done. I added on a 4.5 hour turn on overtime. It's risky on Christmas Eve especially with weather. Here's hoping I don't get stuck.

And the aircraft with the troubled engine is still stuck at the out station....I bet it will bet there until Saturday.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Broke my motto today

When I fly with someone new I often tell them my motto, "No paperwork, No News." That pretty much covers everything. Today I broke my motto.

I started my 4 day 24 hour trip with a 7:15AM report time.

It's a 3-2-4-3 trip. It was originally 19 hours but I added a 5 hour turn on the end. Christmas gifts to pay for.

The Captain I'm supposed to fly with got in late last night from another trip and was pulled off the first turn. The reserve Captain assigned to the trip is younger than me and just a little more senior. He was running late as he had a minor mechanical issue leaving an outstation. When he arrived I had everything set up. All he had to do was sign the release and review the logbook. I knew his name from when we were both First Officers on a previous aircraft.

We blocked out on time. I decided to fly the first leg.

Every modern jet uses a computer to control engine power settings. There's no direct connection between the thrust levers and the engines. Everything goes into a computer that decides how much power we get for a given thrust lever angle, stage of flight and aircraft configuration.

For example during takeoff, the computer uses outside temperature, pressure, aircraft weight and anti-ice settings to set a target N1 setting. The N1 is the front of the engine when viewed from the nose. When I'm flying I say "set thrust" and put the thrust levers in a defined detent. The Captain then verifies the power being produced matches the power being specified. If there is a discrepancy an aborted takeoff is considered.

During the takeoff roll when I'm flying, my eyes are outside and I never look at the interior screens until the nose is in the air. Once I hear "V1, Rotate!", my eyes go from outside to inside as my PFD is my primary instrument.

Today was normal during takeoff and climbout. I don't often look at the MFD or EICAS screens until we are out of the terminal area.

While passing FL350 I noticed the number 2 engine climb power being produced was not matching the climb power being commanded.

The FADEC was commanding 92% N1 power while the engine was only producing 90.5% power. I scanned down and noticed the ITT (Internal Turbine Temperature) was at the top of the normal range and the N2 (back of the engine so to speak) was at 100%.

"Hey something is up here." I told the Captain. I thought maybe I had moved the thrust lever for the number 2 engine back a little. I moved them back and forward....nope they were in the right spot.

The higher went the higher the ITT rose while the amount of power went down a bit. I pulled the thrust levers back and we discussed the situation. Something was definitely wrong with the Number 2 engine. The Number 1 engine was producing the correct power, had a ITT 100 degrees lower and had an N2 8% lower.

We were 110 miles south of an airport that has maintenance  but just 200 miles north of our base. Since the engine was still making power and controllable we decided the safest course of action was to return to our base. The airport with maintenance was closer but had much shorter runways. Additionally we'd have to expedite down or get turned off as it was fairly close. Finally if we diverted there the passengers would be stuck till the next day as there were likely no spare aircraft available.

The Captain notified our dispatcher via ACARS then notified ATC. He handed the radios to me while he advised the Flight Attendant and passengers.

I told ATC we were not declaring an emergency just yet as things were controllable. He gave me a vector then assigned a RNAV arrival procedure. After the Captain was done with the Flight Attendant and passengers I told him what we were doing and mentioned it might be best to declare an emergency to avoid having to monitor the engine and deal with the step down fixes on the arrival. He agreed. Emergency declared and we were cleared direct to the airport vs a slightly complex RNAV arrival that had several level offs to deal with.

We began a slow descent. I used the VNAV to compute a descent rate that would require no level offs and would put me 5 miles from the airport at 1500 feet. It worked wonderfully. We did notice the lower we descended the more inline the engine parameters became.

An ILS to a visual approach were performed. I picked up the runway about 4 miles out. I saw several Fire Trucks and emergency vehicles along the runway.

After an amazingly smooth landing he took control and taxied off the runway. We then had a Fire Truck escort all the way to the gate as is normal in this situation.

Fireman lead came on board to see if we needed any help. Then several mechanics. Then a Chief Pilot. Just an hour later we had a new plane and were off again. Being so late I lost my overnight.

After we got back I had to fill out paperwork on the emergency.

A bonus is I get to watch Wreck It Ralph with my kiddo.

On another happy note I found the mythical Unicorn for next month. Day trips. More later this week.

Monday, December 15, 2014

One of my top 10 worst days

It all started at 7:48 AM Sunday morning. The Captain I'm flying with this month sent me a message on Facebook that she was calling in sick, but just for the first 2 days. My report time was 12:15PM. Surely my airline could find a Captain to fill her spot in time for an on-time departure.

I walked down the jet bridge at 12:25 PM as the inbound aircraft was parking. Just ten minutes later all passengers were off and I was working on my preflight. By 12:50 all passengers and cargo were on board.....just missing the Captain.

The reserve Captain had arrived two gates down at 12:45PM. It takes some time to park, shut down the aircraft, pack up and move on. I made a PA concerning why we were late. The Captain arrived shortly after 1PM (scheduled departure time). We blocked out at 1:12PM.

Weather. The Captain was motivated as after this turn he was going to commute home to Seattle. His leg. Gusty crosswind approach. In and done. Normal turn as the station was slow and had a lot of new employees.

Blocked out 26 minutes late. Gusty crosswind takeoff for me. Up and away we went. I tried to fly fast but weather got in the way and we landed 31 minutes late as we blocked in at 4:16 PM.

The Captain commuted home, I had 3 legs left for the day.

I checked the computer and saw the next reserve Captain had arrived at 4:20 PM 30 gates down. Original departure time was 4:40 PM. The Flight Attendant and I made our way to our plane. Since the Captain was on the ground I figured it was okay to board.

After my preflight I returned to the flight deck and noticed it was getting stuffy. Boarding was well underway. I reached to start the APU when I noticed a MEL sticker. The APU was MEL'd.

I reviewed the logbook then made a call to operations for the external air to be connected. This was 4:45PM. I watched to temp of the cabin slowly rise. It's winter and cool outside, but when 50 warm bodies fill a confined space it gets warm. Five o'clock came and still no external air. I sprang from my seat and went down to the ramp to ask what was going on. The ramper said the hose was broken. I would have appreciated if he had come and told me this OR if he said a new hose was on the way. Instead he just said the hose was broken.

I made another call to operations with the threat that I would deplane the passengers if air is not connected to the aircraft. At the gate, with no APU or engine running, all that's blowing is recycled air.

Curious about the missing Captain I checked the computer again. I should have investigated further earlier as the Captain was arriving on an international flight.....30 gates away. This meant she had to clear customs, re-enter security and then make her way to the new gate. This was a 50 minute process at best. I advised operations of this new found data.

Two minutes later a ramper is looking at me giving me the hand signals to start the number 2 engine as they had connected the air start machine. I just shook my head. No engine can be started without the Captain.

Again I went down and explained there was no Captain on board and I needed pre-conditioned air connected. Again he said the hose was broken. I saw a ramp supervisor in a tug and told him I wanted a portable air cart connected now. He said the once nearby was broken but he was looking for another cart. I said they had ten minutes or I would deplane.

The temp in the cabin was a humid 74 degrees.

At 5:24 PM an airport facilities van pulled up and replaced the hose. Finally cool air was flowing into the cabin.

The Captain arrived at 5:35 PM. I had everything set up for her arrival. She reviewed the logbook and flight release promptly. We pushed back at hour an thirteen minutes late.

Everyone has different fly styles. This Captain peaked my interest with hers. A little on the "WTF?!?!" side. One leg to the outstation and it was my turn. I will wait to reserve further judgement until I see her fly today.

We hoped for a quick turn as we had arrived at 6:41 PM instead of 5:23 PM. It wasn't to be. Twenty-nine minutes after blocking in we blocked out....almost. The airport has two runways. One was closed last week but was open this week. The automated performance computer (works numbers for takeoff including weight, temp and V-speeds) was set for runway 17L but was showing it was still closed so no data came out. It took a few minutes but we were able to get data for 17R. I've never used 17R for takeoff (last week we used 35L, same pavement but shorter taxi). Tower was a bit confused but gave us 17R.

I flew fast and landed just 25 minutes after taking off. My attempts at transporting passengers to their next destination quickly were foiled when we were told there were no open gates.

We got in a line of 10 other aircraft all waiting for gates. The flight was blocked for 50 minutes. By the time a gate opened and we parked we had blocked 2 hours and seven minutes. We blocked in at 9:17PM. My flight to the overnight was supposed to leave at 7:55 PM. With a shortage of pilots the flight was just delayed.

I packed up and headed to yet another aircraft. Ironically the aircraft I would take to the overnight was the same aircraft I flew on my first turn.

Passengers in the waiting area were happy to see me when I confirmed I was their pilot. It had been a long day. Crew scheduling called to ask if I would take the 2 hour extension of my duty day (part of FAR 117). I said I would not take an extension but would complete the flight if we got out in time. My "bingo" time was 10:59 PM. If we were off the ground by that time I would have a 12 hour duty day.

Fatigue is a serious condition. Bad decisions are made when people are fatigued. Often people who are fatigued don't know they are fatigued. I've been fatigued before. I've also been able to project in the future and estimate if I will be able to complete a flight without being fatigued.

We boarded up quickly and blocked out a 10:02 PM. Tired, but not fatigued. I drank a good amount of water and felt better.

Vectored around weather. I perked up a bit when the controller stated there were reports of moderate AND severe turbulence between FL290-FL330. I've been through moderate but never anything worse. Severe turbulence reports require aircraft inspections. We were vectored 20 miles away from that are before climbing up. Just moderate. I flew fast.

Light winds out of the south in northern Kentucky. The airport was using runways 36C, 36R and 9. I picked runway 9 as I didn't want a tailwind and it would be a faster approach. It was an ILS to a visual. Even a little tired I managed an incredibly smooth landing. The wheels just rolled onto the runway softly.

Blocked in at 1:08 AM local time. Good morning. One of my top 10 worst days.

Today it's just two legs, tomorrow is four and Wednesday has three legs. Time to rest up.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Got ice?

Flying in the winter means more flying in ice. The aircraft I fly is certified for flight into icing conditions.

On my aircraft the wings, engine cowls and tail are all heated with extremely hot air from the engines. The various probes and windshield are heated with electricity.  On each side of the aircraft nose is an ice detector. The detector is shaped like a wing and is designed to pick up ice quickly. The detector is constantly vibrating. When ice accumulates the vibrations slow alerting the ice detection system. The system automatically kicks on the heating of the wings, cowls and tail.

This is great most of the time. A problem occurs when trying to descend or climb as the hot air being tapped from the engines both robs power being produced AND increases the idle thrust rating.

When climbing this means a slower speed as there is less thrust. When trying to make a descent it means a more shallow descent as even at idle the engines are producing higher thrust. It can be tricky.

From my seat I can barely see the edge of the right wing. The only visual cues of icing are the unheated portions of the windshield and the windshield wiper arms.

Last night we entered icing conditions around 7000 feet. It was light icing at first. While level at 4000 feet it became moderate icing. Big chunks of ice had formed on the windshield wiper arm. The anti-icing system was working and the heated portions of the windshield were clear.

Cleared for an ILS to runway 27. Winds were 010@14 gusting t0 20. Nice 20 knot direct crosswind. The tower had closed for the evening. I had previously contacted our station personnel for a field report. They reported slush on the ramp but no comment on the runway.

We broke out of the moderate icing conditions at 1400 feet AGL and saw light snow. Firm touchdown by my Captain and thankfully good braking conditions.

Since we landed with ice I left the flaps down to avoid the ice and snow compacting in the flaps which could cause them to cease moving in the morning for the departing crew.

Below is a view from the flight deck after we parked.


Today is day 4.  Go home day. Three legs. Three aircraft and two 2 hour sits. I start at noon and finish at 9:30 PM.

Being the end of the year I should have a "How much does a Regional First Officer on year 8 pay make" post soon.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Four days again?

On day 2 of a 4 day. Yep.....four day trip. After months of flying two day trips and CDOs (Continuous Duty Overnights), I am back to four day trips. Four days. All to have Christmas off.

I wanted 3 day trips with Christmas off, but I couldn't hold them. What I have now isn't bad. It's just four days away from home.

The first two trips are highly unproductive trips worth just 17 hours each. By comparison I've done 20 hour 3 day trips and 14 hour 2 day  trips in the past. I want to come to work and work, not sit in hotel rooms.

The overnights are 18 hours, 17 hours and 13 hours long. More annoyance is it's a 5-2-4-3 trip. I really don't like 5 leg days as it's tiring. Running checklist over and over again. First world problems I know.

The Captain is only the 5th female I've flown with in 7 years. First time flying with her but we've passed each other often to know the others face. We get along fine. Like most Captains I fly with she lets me do my thing and is fine as long as I stay within the guidelines of our ops specs and tell her anything I'm going that might be "technique". "Technique" would be doing something non-standard but still within the guidelines. For example some pilots like to climb in Vertical Speed mode vs Indicated Airspeed  mode. Both are fine, just one is rarely used.

To start the trip she insisted we play rock, paper, scissors to see who got to pick to fly first. I won and decided to start the trip.

Over 5 legs we had 3 different aircraft. The first two each had issues we had to address one on each leg. The final aircraft was fine.

I've been blogging less over the last two months. I should say I've posted less in the last two months. I've written up a few things, but never hit the publish button. Reason being they were written out of emotion and somewhat irrational.

The regional industry has changed dramatically over the last 18 months. Thanks to airlines like PSA, Piedmont and Endeavor, airline management has lowered the value placed upon regional airlines. These airlines have stated they will do my job for less money in trade for new (or in the case of Piedmont well used) aircraft.

This has forced my management to threaten my livelihood unless I too agree to work for less money. My pilot group voted down concessions earlier this year. Then the beatings started. For 9 months nothing but bad news has come out to my pilot group. A base closure, aircraft being transferred to other carriers and cancelled upgrade classes among weekly other little punches to the group in the way of new procedures and restrictions.

The stress has taken a toll on many. One pilot had to be temporarily relieved of duty when he was caught pre-flighting the wrong plane. It wasn't even our airline, but a mainline aircraft. The stress had taken it's toll and he is getting the help he needs.

My own wife has noticed a change in me. I love what I do. As soon as the flight deck door closes I am a kid in a candy store. It's everything outside of the flight deck that bothers me.

Once again management is at our door demanding concessions. They aren't as deep as they were last time, but they are still concessions.  I believe now they will get them. It's like we are in an abusive marriage and just want the beatings to stop. Just stop and let us do our jobs.

With that said I'm going to go get breakfast. I'm staying at a Hampton Inn. I've never been to the Hamptons....but I doubt it's anything like the Hampton Inn.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Make $43 an hour sitting on your couch!

Right now I'm sitting on my couch watching TV making $43 an hour. I was supposed to be taxiing out for a 5 hour turn.

This morning I woke up in Mexico. It was planned and not some adventure gone wrong. I bid a two day trip worth 10 hours. I added on 3 hours of overtime equating to a productive 13 hour two day trip.

Day one started with me backing out of my garage at 4:40 AM. Just an hour later I was sitting inside a very cold flight deck preparing for my first turn which was on overtime.

Ideally the ground personnel connect warm air to the plane. It had been there all night. Didn't happen. I fired up the APU and turned on the heater.

During my pre-flight inspection I found a small patch of frost on the left wing. Everything else was clear.

In reality the plane would likely fly just fine with that small amount of frost (maybe 3 feet by 2 feet wide). Requirements state the aircraft must be clear of frost on top of the wing. De-icing was needed.

A ramper arrived at the flight deck and asked if we needed de-icing. I told him about the small patch. He saw the same patch and assumed the same. He said the trucks would be ready for us and we would be out quickly.

The Captain arrived and I filled him in. We blocked out with 9 passengers at 6:05 AM, five minutes early. We were the first departure of the morning. We made our way to the deicing pad to see dark trucks. No steam. No smoke from the engines. No rampers.

The wait began. Twenty minutes later the rampers arrived. Forty minutes after blocking out we were finally deiced. So much for being ready for us eh?

Nice Captain and Flight Attendant. Blocked in late and left late. I did get an extra 30 minutes of pay due to the inability of my airline to properly prepare for deicing.

I was supposed to have a plane swap before heading to Mexico. Because we were so late I was able to keep the same plane. Score one for me.

Old crew out and new crew in. Well most of the new crew. The Flight Attendant was fairly senior. I have worked with her a few times. Very nice...but crazy chatty. Like I could walk away and she would still be talking, chatty.

Five minutes to departure and there was still no Captain. The Flight Attendant stated she rode the employee bus with the Captain so she knew he was at the airport.

Two minutes before departure he arrives. He gets a little annoyed with me as I didn't fill out a form that is normally filled out by the Captain. I'm allowed to do it, but not once in 7 years and 4000+ hours of flight time have I ever done the Captain normally does it. I blow it off. I had done everything else from programming the FMS, briefing the Flight Attendant and weight and balance information.

Away we went. I took the leg down. Long but easy flight. There are very few ILS approaches into airports in Mexico. Most have DME arcs. This was no different. I began configuring while on the arc. In and done.

Long ride to the hotel.

This morning started with a 5:40 AM van time. Surprisingly heavy traffic but we zoomed around most of it.

Leaving this airport always makes me laugh. We have to go through a metal detector where EVERYONE beeps. I swear I could go though naked and still beep. We each get wanded down. The security person only spoke Spanish. I speak bad Spanish. We get through fine.

Departing also involved a DME arc. Away we went.

Right now my airline and pilot group are in negotiations. They want me to work for less money among other things. I won't go into details, but I will say morale is low and the pilot group is frustrated. This along with management not abiding by some parts of the contract have made things outside the flight deck less than desirable.

The contract I'm bound by states, and I'm paraphrasing, line holders can only be reassigned by having a member of management or a scheduling representative verbally notify the pilot of a scheduling change. Many times pilots are met at the jet bridge and handed a form and told of their new assignment. That's fine.

Descending into the airport our inbound and outbound gate information prints up. The rest of my crew was doing another Mexico turn. I was assigned something else. Well on paper anyway.

We parked on time and made our way to customs. As I cleared the Global Entry process I expected to see someone waiting for me to reassign me. No one was there. Odd.

I just assumed they changed their minds. I was hungry since we left before breakfast opened at the hotel. Off to find food. I had a wonderful Vietnamese Tofu Sandwich. Truly delightful. I then made my way to my next gate which was the turn to Mexico with my crew. Again I expected someone to be waiting for me.

On the way I picked up some bagels and saw my Flight Attendant. She said there was a new First Officer assigned. Odd I thought as it was my line.

Bagels in tow I arrived to the gate. The Captain was there. I looked at the paperwork expecting to see my name. Nope, another First Officer was assigned.

I then called scheduling. They stated they tried to call me to reassign me. I asked why no one met me to reassign me and was given no answer. Since the flight they reassigned me to had again been reassigned and they staffed my original flight with a new First Officer....I was done for the day.

I get full pay for the flight they pulled me from. I get $43 an hour for five hours of TV watching, doll house playing and relaxing.

Improper planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

I still love my job. I work with an amazing group of talented and pleasant Pilots and Flight Attendants. The climate outside of the aircraft needs to change. It's gotten so bad I've put out several applications to places that would involve commuting for the rest of my career.

For now though I will go back to episode of The Mindy Project is on the DVR.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Conga line

Done flying for the week. I was supposed to be waking up in a Holiday Inn this morning. Instead I'm on my couch as I have a union meeting today and was pulled off my overnight and remaining flights of my two day trip.

At major airports, approach controllers are tasked with sequencing arriving aircraft for landing. For the most part jet aircraft are spaced 4 to 5 miles apart. This allows aircraft of different sizes (say a 737 followed by a CRJ200 followed by a 757) to land on the same runway within 90 seconds or so of each other. I've seen 7 aircraft lined up at once for the same runway. Long finals.

Most of the time in VFR conditions we are assigned 170-180 knots to the final approach fix. This allows everyone to go fast to a five mile final then slow to approach speed.

Most of the time that works.

Every now and then someone screws up the conga line.

Someone slows to 150 before the final approach fix for whatever reason without notifying the approach controller. That causes everyone else to slow down early. The approach controllers smooth flow is interrupted. The aircraft being vectored in to get in line have to be resequenced and turned away. I've seen it where on a severe VFR day, being slowed 60 miles out.

Last night was one of those "turn left heading 270 slow to 190"....while being 50 miles from the airport.

The approach controller did their best. I was brought in higher than normal as the guy I was following was assigned 170 while I was assigned 190. The 190 was an attempt to clear the clog. Finally told to slow to 160 and cleared for the visual.

I could tell on TCAS the aircraft ahead was right at 3 miles away. I called for final flaps and the gear. The leading aircraft was also just 3 miles ahead of the aircraft in front of me.

When the first aircraft touched down the next was at 700 feet AGL. I was 1000 feet above him and 3 miles behind. I had to slow to 140 just to keep 3 miles.

"This is not going to work, one of us is going around." I told my Captain.

He agreed it didn't look promising.

I firmed up my hand on the thrust levers and reviewed the go around procedure in my head.

At 500 feet AGL the aircraft we were following was rolling out and slowing down.

Tower asked if they had the next high speed as there was an aircraft on short final.

They said they did, but seemed to be in no hurry.

At 300 feet they were angled off the runway about 2/3rds the way down. Just enough room.

Down and done. So I thought.

Being a ramper is not easy. I don't envy them. My airline is having an issue retaining rampers. I can see why as the pay is very low ($9 an hour) for the work required (lifting heavy bags in very hot and very cold weather, rain, snow and wind).

Last night there was a shortage. We were 5 minutes early but we had no gate. We got in line with 7 other aircraft waiting for gates.

It took 50 minutes. Flights were simply parking at whichever gate opened first. First come, first served is a double edged sword.

Flights get parked, but the aircraft are often not at the gate planned for that aircraft for the next flight. That means passengers, crew, bags , fuelers and more have to be updated.

Many times aircraft are routed to specific destinations for maintenance repairs overnight. Other times aircraft are routed based on MELs. For example an aircraft might have an inoperable APU and can only be sent to outstations with an external air cart.

Anyways it was a mess. I felt bad for the passengers as we went from 5 minutes early to almost an hour late.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Vacancy Giveth and Displacement taketh away

I picked up a 6 hour trip on overtime yesterday. With my recent (and final First Officer) pay increase it was worth just over $300. Not bad for a day trip.

The report time was 7:45 AM. I dropped off my daughter at daycare and headed to the airport.

The Captain I was flying with is extremely senior. Top 1% senior. This would come into play later in the day.

Back in the cabin was a very senior Flight Attendant.....also in the top 1%. I'd flown with her before. She is very sassy and likes to crack jokes. She complained that the First Officer she flew with previously was quiet and boring. She was happy I was giving it right back to her.

Blocked out on time at 8:30 AM. He wanted me to take the first leg. I get paid the same either way.

Nice flight up.

We talked about seniority and the state of the airline. He looked at my name on the flight release again and asked if I was Communication Chairman. Once I confirmed I was....he had a ton of questions and comments about what's going on with the union. I told him what I could, but with a consistent "I'm just the messenger and don't get to vote on things" tagline.

Smooth and cold landing in Madison.

I grabbed a nice pesto pasta salad for myself and a cake pop for my daughter. Back on the flight deck I noticed I had an email with the bid results.

After opening the PDF I searched for my last name. Turns out I was awarded Captain in the vacancy bid....but was displaced during the displacement bid.

Being the Communications Chairman I sent out several emails on how the vacancy and displacement process works. It was emphasized to have your top displacement choice as where you want to be if something happens. I had my current base and equipment as my top displacement choice. So after all was said and done I am right back where I started.

Another pilot just 3 numbers junior made a mistake. he was also awarded Captain, but had a different base and aircraft as his top displacement choice. Thus he will now go to training and be a commuter until the next vacancy bid. That bid could be in two weeks...or two months....or never.

Just thirty minutes after arriving, we were being pushed out.

As far as the affect on me otherwise I will be more senior in base. I'm currently in the top 22% in base. I will soon be in the top 10%.

The Captain checked out the bid results. He only looked at the top few pilots as he is very senior. Just 3 pilots coming in on top of him. He stays in the top 3% in base.

We finished our trip at few minutes late. I arrived home at 6 PM tired.  I tired myself out with all the thinking of "what could have been" if I had held Captain.

Off today. I start a two day tomorrow....with an overnight on the beach.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

When your base ceases to exist

The closing of a base. It doesn't happen often, but when it does things get difficult quickly.

Contrary to popular belief a pilot base does not have to be a hub for a major airline. One airline, Republic, likes to have non-hub bases.

Republic has pilot bases in Louisville, Kentucky; Greensboro, North Carolina; Columbus, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania among others. None of those is a hub for a major airline.

Most regional airlines do base their pilots in the hubs of their major airline partners.

Being based at a hub has it's perks. There are likely more flights at the Hub than an out station which makes it easier for commuters. Hubs also tend to have more robust services (easier de-icing, multiple runways for less congestion, more places to eat).

No matter where a pilot is based there is always a risk of a base being closed.

My airline has closed several bases since I started 7 years ago. When I started there were 8 pilot bases to choose from. Today there are 4. Soon there will be 3. Rumor is there could just be 2.

Pilot contracts vary when it comes to expenses involved with closing of a base. My airline is about average as it will pay all moving expenses (professional moving company or actual cost if you do it yourself) from your old base to your new one. The airline also gives up to 3 days off to complete your move. I know of at least one regional airline that gives pilots nothing when a base closes.

Moving when single is fairly easy. You pack up and move. When a pilot is married and has kids it gets complicated.

The pilot I'm flying with this week just moved to my base. He's been at my airline for 16 years. His base closed last year and tried commuting for a while. It was rough.

His former base had over 200 pilots plus another 130 flight attendants who were nearly all local. Overnight they all became commuters. With near record load factors, commuting was difficult as there were sometimes over 50 employees a day commuting to work. They were "fighting" for seats along with other employees who were on vacations.

For him moving was the only option. Lucky for him his wife worked from home and his kids were just graduating high school.

Rather than just move to any base he picked the largest base in the system assuming it was safe. Many of the other pilots in the base moved to the next closest base. They made an unfortunate choice as that base will soon be closing.

This next base to close has over 250 pilots and another 140 flight attendants.

When a base closes the airline runs a displacement bid. Displacement bids are like a game of musical chairs only slightly modified.

The airline is running a vacancy bid along with the displacement bid. There are an equal number of Captain and First Officer slots being added to two of the 3 other pilot bases. It looks like this



120 Fargo Captains

130 Fargo First Officers



120 Omaha Captains

130 Omaha First Officers


As I mentioned there are currently 3 active pilot bases. In addition to "Omaha" there are "Portland" and "Reno".

The pilots from Fargo can displace to ANY pilot base that their seniority can hold. Right now the commute between "Fargo" and "Omaha" is really rough as it's a popular tourist route and a lot of mainline employees commute between the two bases. Fargo to Portland is easier. Portland also happens to be the junior base.

Even though there are no vacancies posted in Portland or Reno, Fargo pilots can choose to displace to them. Once a Fargo pilot displaces to Portland or Reno, the bottom pilots at each base are forced out. They then have to choose to displace to another base. A single pilot displacement can cause countless more displacements.

I say choose, but in reality it must be pre-selected. Each pilot has to set up and maintain a displacement preference. They have to list, in order, the places they would like to go if they are displaced.

Say I was the most senior pilot in Fargo. I chose to displace to Portland. I then push out the bottom First Officer in Portland. He then displaces to Reno. He pushes out the most junior pilot in Reno who has no where to go but Omaha.

Thankfully there are enough seats for everyone to sit when the music stops. When there are more pilots than seats.....that's when furloughs happen.

I don't envy them in the slightest.

My seniority is high enough that I shouldn't be affected much. I ran the numbers and only 16 First Officers in Fargo are senior to me. This means, as long as no Fargo Captains displace to First Officer, I will have at most 16 pilots coming in above me. Since I'm based in "Omaha" I don't forecast much change as Fargo pilots will likely not displace here.

On a slightly positive note there's a smaller glimmer of hope I could slide over to the Captains seat. In addition to published vacancies, my airline has the option of back filing. Back filling is replacing pilots who retire or quit from random bases.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Seven years later

Yesterday was  the 7 year anniversary of my first day at my airline. In the last 7 years I've flown exactly 3966 hours and 36 minutes.

Before I started I naively thought I would fly close to 1000 hours a year. In reality with vacation, reserve and just life I've averaged around 566 hours a year.

I'm now topped out on First Officer pay. That means if I'm still a First Officer next year I get no extra monetary incentive.

When I started 7 years ago I made right around $24 an hour. Today I make around $43 an hour.

It's been rough. Many have had it worse.

I've learned a lot over the years. If I could give some advice to new airline pilots:

  • The roughest landings are on calm wind VFR days (as you don't try as hard).

  • Some pilots are just bitter, don't let it affect you.

  • Take something from every pilot you fly with...good and bad...learn something every flight

  • Flight attendants do more than serve coffee and give emergency demos....when the crap hits the fan they literally save lives.

  • There is a faint connection between the seat belt sign and turbulence

  • Airplane coffee all taste bad. I'd like to say it's an acquired taste...but I'd be a liar

  • Always set two alarm clocks. I've never missed a van time as I always have a backup

  • 95% of the time things go smoothly. You are prepared and trained for that other 5%

  • If the other pilot is doing something wrong. Speak up. Both of your certificates are on the line.

Not super deep thoughts. Just stuff I would have like to have told myself.

I've had a lot of ups and downs. Pun intended. I can't imagine myself doing anything else.

Each year I've said by the next I'd be Captain.'s to hoping.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Fooled them again!

I'm good for another year.

On the second day of my annual training I took my written exam. Not only did I score the top score in the class, I was the best pilot in the class! It helped that I was the only pilot in the class. The annual training is supposed to be conducted in classes of 10. Not sure what happened.

Because I was the only pilot my instructor filled in as the Captain for the simulator ride.

First day in the sim was busy. I was in the most unreliable aircraft in the world.

We started in San Francisco. Normal reduced visibility takeoff. Right at V1 as I lost an engine. Climbed out. Emergency declared, checklist run, brought back in for an ILS. Not just any ILS...the ILS to 19L.

San Francisco is surrounded by high terrain. The missed approach procedure must be executed percisely. If a pilot just flies straight ahead they will impact terrain and make the news.

Single engine ILS approaches really aren't too complicated. Once stabilized it's just like any other approach. The "fun" happens during large thrust changes....liked a missed approach.

We broke out right at mins. I looked outside and saw the runway. Right around 80 feet I heard, "Go Around! Go Around! Vehicle on the runway!".

"Go around, set max thrust, flaps 9!" I said as I pushed the thrust lever full forward. Things got squirrely fast as I had to make a left turn while counteracting the full thrust from just the left engine. It wasn't pretty but I made the turn and climbed out. Done.

Brought in again for the same approach. Vehicle was moved. Done.

More approaches including more single engine, flap failures and fires. Finished an hour early. Done.

Spent the rest of the day with my family.

Day 2 of the sim was my "check ride". Long time readers might know I'm a vegetarian. I was a vegan, but got tired of avoiding cheese. Airport food has cheese, chicken or both. I guess I'm a vegan who eats cheese ?

I said that to say this. I used to eat a (don't judge me) McDonalds Sausage McGriddle for breakfast before a checkride. That was my good luck charm. Worked for about 6 years. I choose not to eat them anymore.

Worry not I found a new one! It's called an Apple Fritter. It's full of fat and bad stuff....but no eggs!

apple fritter

I passed day one of the sim by eating one. Naturally I had one on day 2 as well.

My "checkride" was a line flight in real time from LGA to DCA. I had a different Captain who was also a check airman.

First though I had my oral. I've been studying for 2 months but was still nervous and iffy on a few questions. The examiner noted my shallow answers on a few things, but I met the standard.

The check airman I was supposed to fly with apparently didn't get the memo as he was late. Almost like a real flight I was delayed by 30 minutes. I had the aircraft set up when he arrived. If he had not arrived I would have lost my qualifications on November 1st. That meant I would have been off my next few trips with pay as it wasn't my fault I lost my qualifications.

Last year I chose to fly on my checkride. This year the Captain chose to fly. Kinda odd not flying on my checkride and I'd actually prefer to fly than be the non-flying pilot. Eh.

Minor MEL for an ice detector. Took off runway 13 with the Whitestone climb. That's a procedure I'd done a few times in the real aircraft.

Normal flight otherwise in real time. Minor en-route issues. Landing runway 19 with an LDA approach. In and done. No issues. Very easy checkride.

After that we did all the crazy stuff. Deicing, taking off on a contaminated runway, purposely flying too close to a mountain and having to escape, severe turbulence, heavy wake turbulence up high and low, stalling the aircraft high and low.

The low stall was very eye opening. It was modeled after the Colgan 3407 accident. I was flying in icing conditions, full flaps, at MDA and told to just let the aircraft stall. It's a very demanding recovery as the aircraft was just 400 feet AGL, slow and low. An aggressive recovery will cause a secondary stall.

The high altitude stall was also interesting. The aircraft dropped over 1000 feet before a recovery was complete. Being so high and slow means a very graceful recovery or a secondary stall followed by the stick pusher activation.

After that we did one more landing. On very short final the Flight Attendant call button rang followed by a baggage fire warning. Yep she was calling to report a fire in the baggage compartment that spread to the cabin.

Emergency declared. I made a full stop, heavy braking rollout and the aircraft was evacuated.

Now I'm off for 2 days. Easy 2 day on Wednesday. Day trip on Friday and I start a new month on Sunday.

Long live the apple fritter.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Do I smell funny? Or just bad luck.

Last year on the day of my check ride the Captain I had been training with called in sick. I was going through an entirely new training program. A test pilot of sorts. Up until that point no one had passed. The first two crews failed.

I was a little stressed going into the sim with a check airman as my Non Flying Pilot. Thankfully I passed.

This year I am in the first group to go back for the second part of the new training program.

I got an email last month to show up to a specific room at 8 am. This morning I arrived at 7:50 am to an empty room. This is odd as for the last 7 years there were always pilots whom arrived before me.

I thought I was in the wrong room. After checking my email again I confirmed I was in the correct room.

Seven Fifty-Five came...still just me. I was getting worried. Eight o'clock came and still no one. I went out to the break room and asked if any of the folks were there for day 1. One person instructor.

Turns out I was in a class of 2, but the other pilot had not arrived. We waited......and waited....and waited. Nothing.

As luck would have it the Captain I was supposed to be in training with...and fly with....resigned effective today.

So once again I will be flying with a check airman. Odd luck eh?

One perk...we finished way early today. Oh and I have a decent sim time....8 AM show on Saturday and Sunday!

Monday, October 20, 2014

I forgot what commuting was like

A few years ago I was forced to commute. I hated it. Going from gate to gate, checking loads.....looking for my name on the standby list. Lots of time in jump seats.

I flew up to another base for a Union event last week. My Union held an event at a restaurant for pilots and their families. The gathering was an informal gathering to allow pilots face to face time with Union reps and have their families be able to ask questions as well. Good turnout.

Getting to and from is my own responsibility. The Union pulled me off the 2 day I had and of course I get paid for it. The Union pays my airline who in turn pays me.

The event started at 5 PM. With full flights and weather I took the 8:50 AM flight up. I was able to get a real MIDDLE seat.

To get home I initially planned on a 7:25 AM flight home. I'm stayed at an airport hotel. I woke up at 4:30 AM and saw that the 6AM flight looked possible. Walked over and by the time I got to the gate it was impossible. I then walked 20 minutes to another airline. Once I arrived the flight was delayed by an hour. I then walked back to my mainline partner. The next flight went out full with a mainline jumpseater.

Next was my flight. Looked bad again. I had no where I needed to be until 3 PM. I had zero desire to sit in a jump seat anyway.

The other airline flight scheduled to leave at 6:50 AM was delayed till 7:22 AM. I mistakenly thought it as 8:22 AM.  So I ended up missing that one as well.

I'm stuck with my backup backup....Spirit. They have a very nice website for airline crews to list for flights and it shows availability. Most airlines require offline air crews to fill out a paper form or list at the gate. I've used Spirit once before. They aren't the most comfortable airline, but it beats sitting in the airport.

There were a few open cabin seats. I was able to score a "Big Front Seat". Nice ride.

Over the weekend I traveled to Fort Lauderdale for a national union event. Getting there was easy as I scored a real seat (middle of course).

Getting back was difficult.

First issue was all my fault. The hotel had no airport van service. We were told to use one specific company and they required 24 hour notice. Well I tried to make a reservation just 12 hours in advance. I thought the website let me and printed off my reservation.

The next morning I was out front at 4:25 AM waiting for the van. The scheduled pick up was 4:45 AM. At 4:40 AM I happened to glance at my print out and noticed the pick up date was October 20th. I looked at my was October 19th!

Months ago I installed the Uber app on my phone. I have never used the service. Thankfully there was a driver in the area. She dropped me off at the airport at 5:20 AM. Since it was my first ride it was free!

My mainline partner had several direct flights. Problem was they were all full. Spirit to the rescue!

The flight was overbooked by 5. There were 2 cockpit jump seats. Another offline pilot was in line behind me. When he heard it was overbooked and there was already a Spirit jump seater he got annoyed and started to leave. The agent told him that a lot of passengers miss this flight, but he still left to try another airline.

Turns out she was right. I got a window seat in the back. I would have preferred a jump seat as legroom is incredibly tight on Spirit.

I'm off for the next 3 days. I have my annual training starting on Thursday.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Where is Geek?

Busy last 10 days or so. I did an easy two day trip, then a one day trip and then I hopped on a plane to Fort Laurderdale, Florida for the ALPA Board of Directors meeting. Should be able to work on a pervious post and have it up next week.

This Board of Directors meeting is a bit over the top. The first morning I was here was eye opening. Delta, United and Alaska EACH had $4,000+ breakfast spreads for their members. My union was more fiscally responsible...we chipped in for Dunkin Donuts.

More later.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Everybody off!

Day 2 of a 2 day. My last 2 day was bad...arrived after midnight on day 1 when I was scheduled to arrive in the 10PM hour. Day 2 wasn't much better.

This's just as bad.

It's a very easy 3 and 1 two day trip worth 8 1/2 hours.

The first turn was fine. I took the leg out. Flying near Chicago so it wasn't normal, but it was fine. Once we neared the outstation.....well actually 150 miles before we neared the outstation....we were brought down low....16,000 feet low. We were then passed from Approach Controller to Approach Controller. I think we went from Moline Approach to Rockford Approach to Madison Approach. All because Chicago Center is still down.

My leg. Stiff direct crosswind. Nice landing.

Quick turn was quicker as we were late due to the rerouting.

Madison clearance wasn't getting any clearances from Chicago center. Instead they filed minimal clearances to get us out of the area. Once out, another center would give us a full route clearance to the destination.

In our case we were given direct Rockford direct Moline direct destination and to maintain 10,000 feet. In reality we knew we would not be going direct and at 10,000 feet, but that's what we had to plan for in case we lost communication.

Fuel tanks were topped off. A contingency fuel stop was planned. Away we went.

We stayed low at 14,000 feet until clear of Moline then up to Flight Level 360. No fuel stop needed. In fact we had 2400 pounds of extra fuel on board. Still below landing weight.

Now most pilots would fly faster to help get the passengers, whom are already late, to the hub as quickly as possible. The guy I'm with loves his paycheck down to the minute. He flew at slightly slower than planned Mach. I brought it up, he said he'd like to save the fuel. I asked if he understood we had 2400 pounds more than needed including a hefty buffer. He did. No change.

Once on approach frequency we were assigned the runway furthest from the gate. This would be a 10 minute taxi for most Captains, but a 15 minute taxi for this Captain. I asked for a runway closer in. Approved. The Captain looked at me and said, "I guess you don't want me to make any money eh?"

I told him I just wanted to get the passengers in as quickly as possible and to get to our overnight at a reasonable time.

In and done. Quick turn. Called the wife. Captain left to get food. Boarding started.

The Flight Attendant asked for the APU to be turned on as the cabin was getting warm. No problem. If I'm hot I fix the issue. I used to wait for the Captain, but most appreciate coming back to a comfortable cabin.

The aircraft was operating on GPU (Ground Power Unit which is attached to the jet bridge) power.

I verified all the switches were in the correct position. I then started the APU. That's when the craziness started. All screens but the EICAS went dark. The cabin went dark. Crap.

The GPU had dropped off line. The APU failed to start.

I turned off the APU, deselected the GPU and tried again. This time the APU started, but there was an audible clicking noise from the circuit breaker panels.

"Turn on the emergency lights." I told the Flight Attendant.

He did.

I then studied the overhead panel. Something wasn't right. With the APU on everything should be powered. I tried basic troubleshooting. Nothing.

I turned off the APU and then left the flight deck to ask the rampers to pull the GPU power entirely as I felt that was causing the problem.

Back in the flight deck I tried again to start the APU. No dice. Not starting. We were now on batteries only. I turned all power off....but a few screens remained on. Electrical gremlins were playing around.

The emergency lights are for emergencies. It was night and without the emergency lights the cabin would have been nearly pitch black. The lights only last for 15 minutes max. It had already been at least 5 minutes.

Captain still not back from getting food.

"Hey Doug, make a PA and get everybody off the plane." I said.

Doug is very senior and is one of the top Flight Attendants at my airline. In fact he might be the top as far as service. He serves drinks with a linen table cloth and has an extreme attention for detail. Passengers consistently praise him even after a major delay. Basically he knows what he is doing.

In the middle of deplaning the Captain arrived quite startled.

"What's going on?" he asked. I explained. He questioned my deplaning the passengers. I again explained that there is an electrical anomoly going on as all switches were off but the aircraft remained powered. He looked at the overhead panel and tried the same steps I had. No change.

With all the passengers off a mechanic was called. When they arrived they seemed quite confused as it made no sense for the aircraft to be powered on with everything in the off position.

It seemed doubltful we would be taking that plane out. I collected my things in preparation for a swap or cancel.

After about an hour they replaced a relay box and used a portable GPU. Everything seemed normal.

Blocked out 2 hours late. Almost a 2 hour flight. Blocked in at 4 minutes past midnight instead of 10:05 PM as scheduled. Tired.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Not even close

Kinda tired. Day 2 of a 2 Day trip.

Yesterday was busy. My wife was out of town for work and was supposed to arrive at 4:30 PM. My report time for my trip was 4:20 PM. Not a big deal except we have a 4 year old in pre-school and there was weather moving in. Thankfully she took an earlier flight and arrived in time to remove any worry about us both being in the air at the same time. If she had taken her original flight she would have been late.

I had a meeting at my union office in the early afternoon. The Master Executive Council chairman confirmed me as permanent Communications Chairman (yay!). I left the meeting at 2:50 PM, rushed home and left for work at 3:30 PM. When I left my flights were all on time.

When I arrived the airport train system was having issues. I decided to walk instead of wait. Arrived to my crew room to find out my first turn had cancelled due to weather. I had a nearly 5 hour sit until my overnight flight.

Then my wife sent me a message that she was stuck in traffic. The weather was passing through. Her original flight was majorly delayed. Reports of downed trees and power outages.

My wife eventually made it home and the garage wouldn't open. I figured our power was out. Normally not an issue....but we both drive electric cars. No power means no charging. My car has a backup generator (BMW I3). Since I had a long sit I decided to drive home and she could use mine the next day.

When I got home the power was back on....but since I was home I decided to wait there vs at the airport.

Enjoyed an evening with my family until 7:50 PM. My 9 PM departure was still a go...ON TIME.

I arrived back at the airport at 8:15 see my flight delayed until 9:30 PM. The inbound aircraft diverted for weather.

The gate areas were jammed with passengers. I took a seat. Nine thirty became 10 PM. A couple sat next to me and was on the phone with family upset about the delay and stated "we're leaving at 10 PM so we should be there by 11:30 PM." I hated to be negative nancy but I told them I was flying the flight and we wouldn't "really leave" until 10:40 PM as the inbound was estimated to arrive at 10 PM. They were thankful, but annoyed with the news.

The inbound did arrive at 10:20 PM....with no where to park. Finally parked at 10:50 PM.

Gate agents were very busy. The inbound Captain who was also set to fly with me stated he needed food and left to go find some. I did my pre-flight and set up the aircraft. I met the Flight Attendant at the gate before I went down to the aircraft. I figured she'd be behind me to start boarding. I sat in the plane for about five minutes by myself. I finally went up to see what was going on. She had no ID badge (optional at my airline as it's airport issued) to open the boarding door. I let her in. Boarding started soon after.

Blocked out at 11:30 PM. I took the leg out as the Captain had been flying all afternoon.

Flew fast. Landed at 12:45 AM. Blocked in at 12:48 AM. Duty stopped at 1:03 AM. Set to arrive 10 hours later at 11:03 AM for a 11:30 AM departure. Short, but is much better than the old days (last year!) of 8 hours between leaving the airport and having to return.

Five legs today.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sometimes crew members get ill

Day 3 of my last 4 day  (hopefully for a while) for the month.

The regular Flight Attendant for the line traded out of the trip this week.

I have a habit of arriving to the aircraft first. I don't try....just happens.

My report time was 5:25 PM. I left home at 4:40 PM and was sitting in the right seat of the aircraft at 5:20 PM.

The Flight Attendant arrived. She wasn't junior or senior....right in the middle.

She said she commuted in and thinks she slept funny as her neck her a bit. She said it wasn't major, just annoying.

The Captain arrived, same one I've had for the last two trips. We began setting up the flight. This would be his last trip at my airline so we decided he would fly the last leg which meant he also flew the first leg.

Normal flight. Descending into the airport area we called back to let the Flight Attendant know we were in range. She said she was in much more pain now, but would be fine once she got to the hotel.

After all the passengers left we made our way to the van. The Flight Attendant was walking very slowly behind us.

She said her neck pain was much worse and she had problems turning her head.

I asked if she had any bug bites recently (I'm not a Dr but recall something about bug bites and neck pain). She said she in fact did.

When we got to the hotel she was in tears. She said she needed help getting out of the van. I then stated maybe it's best for her to stay in the van and we could all go with her to the hospital. She protested and just wanted to take a bath. The Captain also insisted she go to the hospital. She wasn't having any of it.

The Captain then asked if she would call in sick so a replacement Flight Attendant could be sent on the flight arriving later in the evening. She insisted she would fine after she took a bath.

We went to our rooms. The Captain and I were certain we would not be leaving on time in the morning.

Sure enough the Captain called me at 10:30PM. The Flight Attendant was in the Emergency Room. Too late for a Flight Attendant to be sent that evening. We were delayed.

Instead of departing at 8:30 AM we had to wait for a replacement Flight Attendant to arrive at 9:45 AM. Being so late we lost our next turn. We pushed out at 10:25 AM. The passengers were upset at being late, but understanding that sometimes crew members get sick.

Once back in base I had a nice 5 hour sit. Home I went.

While home I watched TV, researched Solar power and did the dishes....exciting stuff eh?

The flight to the overnight was set for 4:15 PM. To get the flights back in order with the Captain taking the last flight he took the flight to the overnight.

Awesome overnight at a great hotel.

A "buddy" sent me this pic....the beautiful state of New Mexico.


Right now I am once again in a La Quinta. Tomorrow is go home day.


Monday, September 22, 2014

I don't like 4 day trips

This month I had all 4 day trips in my schedule. I don't like 4 day trips...too much time away from home, especially with the low value placed on the trips.

For September I had a single 18 hour 5 minute four day trip and three 18 hour 50 minute four day trips. That's not very productive seeing as the overnights are 12, 13 and an agonizing 19 hours long. When I come to work I want to work, not sit in hotel rooms.

October will be something completely different for me. I will be working 2 day back to backs.

I start a trip late on Mondays and finish late on Tuesdays. I then start another trip mid day Wednesdays and finish mid day on Thursdays. Works with daycare and they aren't four day trips.

This will mean more driving to and from the airport, but that should be fine. The value of the two combined trips is just 17 hours. The advantage is I won't be spending 19 hours in a La Qunita.

In addition to a change of trip type I am also going to be spending more time with Union activities.

The Communications Chairman moved to a new airline. The position is normally appointed by the top Union positions each October. I am stepping in as the interim Communications Chairman until a vote is held. I hope to show in the interim that I can do the job for the next full year.

The position is on a volunteer basis, but it won't take much more of my personal time away. If I need to work on a project I can pull myself off a trip (with pay). If I have to work on a normal off day I can pull myself off another work day to make up for it.

Finally I can put my journalism degree to great use. I've been putting it to good use with this blog.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Career Progression

Aviation is a small community. I have a group of pilots I know from ATP and friends of friends.

There are three that I "talk" with daily on Facebook. All came from ATP. They are Mike, Jake and Kyle.

Mike and Jake both started at the same regional. Both worked hard outside of flying and networked with OBAP. Outside of OBAP they both volunteered at a flight school to help aspiring pilots (those still in grade school).

Mike was awarded a Delta 737 scholarship. From that scholarship he got his type rating AND recently started at Delta 28 years old. Mike was never a Captain. He will retire #2 at Delta.

Jake interviewed at Delta as is awaiting the final judgement. He followed right behind Mike.

Kyle went to a "lower end" regional that had 2 year upgrades (back in 2007 when we all started). Well the slowdown happened. Kyle did upgrade to Captain last year. He networked and started at Jetblue a few months ago.

Then there is me. I've been sitting over in the right seat just flying....pondering if I should have been networking as well. Don't get me wrong I don't expect a job to be handed to me, but if I had been networking maybe I'd be in the right seat of something bigger.

With the uncertainty going on with my current airline I have applied elsewhere. So far I've applied at Spirit and Virgin America. I don't really want to work for Spirit for the rest of my career....Virgin America for that matter, but they are both better places to be than any regional.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

One bird died in the making of this post

On day two for a four day....currently sitting on my couch....MY COUCH.

Day one was a very late start....6:20PM departure.

My I3 is currently in the shop for a software upgrade. I'm driving a 2014 BMW 320. Totally hate it. Makes noise, vibrates, I have to use the brake pedal (the I3 has heavy regenerative braking) and it shifts gears! The autrocity! I said that to say wife worked late and dropped me off at work in her Nissan Leaf. Peaceful.

When I sign in for a trip the computer tells me how many hours I have in the aircraft and how many hours the Captain has. Most of the time the Captain has much more time. Last night I saw I had 2161 hours in this particular aircraft. The Captain has 2448. Not much difference.

I arrived and met my Flight Attendant. She is a "senior mama" meaning she's been here a while. I've flown with her before. Nice lady.

The Captain arrived and right off the bat rubbed me the wrong way.

"I see you're pretty senior, I have problems with senior First Officers." was his opening remark.

He then went on to list all of his issues. Here's what I remember.

- Don't run the taxi or before takeoff checklist until I say to

- Don't memorize checklist

- Don't level off more than 2000 feet per minute in out of RVSM or 1500 feet per minute in RVSM

- When clearing the runway don't run the after landing checklist until I say so

There was more. I was a bit offended with his issues with Senior First Officers. He had been on military leave for 10 straight years which is why he had so few hours in the aircraft.

I was waiting to run the before start checklist. Ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine nine percent of Captains run the before start checklist before the main cabin door is closed. There are reasons for this, to catch issues before the door is closed.

"I like to run checklist when I'm on the clock." He said.

And that's what we did. Fine. His leg. Away we went.

Arrived to the overnight early. We had a celebrity onboard, Woody Harrelson. Unfortunetly he refused all autograph and photo request. Boo.

La Quinta for the overnight. No my favorite....but there are worse.

Van time was set for 7:30AM for an 8:35AM departure.

I wear the same belt every week. I bought it as it doesn't beep when going through TSA. This morning I beeped. Their scanners were turned up too high.

First two legs were mine.

Easy leg in. Quick turn. Leg 2 of 4 was to Colorado. Beautiful VFR day. Approach vectored us for a left downwind. The airport was in a valley. High terrain east of the runway.

It was odd descending below the terrain. Textbook pattern. I made a very nice landing.

On rollout...around 100 knots I looked out to see a flock of birds right over centerline.

I debated taking off again and pulling a "Sully"...but there's not much water in the area.


At least one bird hit my side of the nose.

I reported the strike to tower.

Once parked the Captain let the station know we would be down for a while.

During my post flight I expected to see blood and feathers. I saw nothing.

An airport operations vehicle approached and let me know they found a Swallow, dead....but intact, on the runway.

Company policy requires a full inspection. Contract mechanic called. Our 25 minute turn would not happen.

The mechanic completed the inspection and took the logbook to finish the paperwork. Boarding started. One of the last items on the before start checklist is verifying the logbook is on board. Remember this Captain doesn't run checklist until the door is closed.

Boarding completed, the Captain handed out the paperwork and advised to close up. Just then the mechanic tapped on his window holding the log book. He almost forgot it. Checklist. Sigh.

An hour and seventeen minutes after blocking in, we blocked out.

Because we were so late we were pulled from our overnight.

My wife is on top of things and was waiting on the curb with my daughter to pick me up.

I was able to go to my daughters swimming lessons, eat dinner with her and tuck her into bed....all because a swallow and my jet shared the same piece of land at the wrong time.



Thursday, September 4, 2014

Welcome back geek

Currently sitting in a (surprisingly) nice Holiday Inn on day 3 of a 4 day.

This month I couldn't hold the 3 day trips I wanted (basically 3 day trips weekends off). So I have 4 day trips with late starts. Fits with only paying for daycare 3 days a week.

Tuesday morning I played with my daughter, ran a few errands and relaxed before passing the torch to my wife. She arrived home at 2 PM and I left for work at 2:20 PM.

Day 1 was 3 legs.  The first turn was short and the last leg was fairly long.


I arrived at the aircraft 40 minutes prior. Hot. The aircraft pre-conditioned air hose from the jet bridge had a nice 90 degree crease in it...blocking air flow. No rampers around. I learned long ago to take care of me first. Sadly the some ramp personnel at my airline have started to give up doing a good job. As long as the air hose is connected and the GPU cable is connected they feel they have done their job. Many times the air isn't turned on and/or the GPU isn't turned on. Their supervisors drive around in trucks and look for the air and power being connected. So from their eyes things are okay.

I do send emails and electronic ACARs messages that the power and/or air aren't working. Nothing changes.

I started the APU then turned on the packs.

Preflight done.  I began setting up the aircraft and reviewing the maintenance logbook. I noticed a history of issues with the emergency lighting system. In fact the aircraft was just returned to service after having the emergency lighting system repaired.

My crew arrived and boarding began soon after. One of the last items done by the Captain before closing the boarding door is arming the emergency lights. They armed fine. He then deselected the GPU and that's when we got a caution that the emergency lights weren't armed....even though they were.

Emergency lights are required and can not be deferred. Deplaned. Lucky for us there was an aircraft at the next gate ready to go.

Departed 36 minutes late, which isn't bad considering swapping aircraft, moving cargo, passengers, new flight release and everything else.

I had not flown in almost two naturally I picked the leg outbound. Quick 35 minute flight. Stiff 25 knot direct crosswind complicated with hilly terrain around the airport. Not my best landing....but the aircraft would fly again....right away....with no inspections required.

Quick 19 minute turn. Captain had the next two legs.

The Captain is on his way out. He is an IOE Captain but is giving it up as he got a job at a Major and wants to leave cleanly.

Arrived at the overnight 5 minutes early.

This overnight used to have an awesome hotel and an amazing breakfast. Well the hotel transformed into a DoubleTree...and abruptly cancelled the contract with my airline.

The hotel agreed to continue to provided transportation to a different hotel while we find a new location. Recipe for disaster.

My crew was out on the van. We called the Doubletree and they stated we had a 10:50PM pick up. We arrived at 10:25PM and hotels are supposed to monitor our flights to adjust their pick up times.

The time was 10:35PM.

We waited.

At 10:50PM no van. We called both hotels and stated we would be taking a taxi (that they pay for). Both stated the van was indeed almost there.

Finally at 11:02PM the van arrived. We were at the hotel at 11:07PM. Short ride. Someone was fibbing.

Average hotel. We were all happy to leave.

Four leg day on day 2. First two were mine.

During the first leg the Captain told me he was getting a line check today. Even though it's his line check I'm also being watched.

Better landing in base. I actually had two landings as I greased it on...went up...then rolled it on again.  Ninety minute sit. I headed to another terminal for veggie burrito.

Next flight is about an hour. Line Check Airmen met us at the gate. Really nice guy.

In the past the line check would be the outbound leg and on the inbound leg the Check Airmen would sit in the back. A problem arose that crews would make mistakes that warrant pulling them from flying status...stranding the aircraft and passengers (and the Check Airmen!). Solution was to reverse it. Only do line checks on the inbound leg.

I had the outbound leg. Easy flight. Another gusty approach. I started my descent a little late from altitude so I had to pop the spoilers and put out the flaps a little early. Worked out fine. I had to work a bit but managed another butter smooth landing.

Quick turn. Check Airman was now in the jumpseat. He did ask who was the show off who rolled it on. Nice to get a compliment.

Normal flight. In cruise the Check Airman mentioned his upcoming trip to Vegas. He BOUGHT first class tickets, a suite at MGM for a week and planning on blowing $2000 a day gambling. He's in a whole different world than the world I live in.

Line check complete. No issues.

Plane swap and off to the overnight.

Neither the Captain or I had ever been to this airport. We studied the low en-route for terrain and the airport diagram. Two runways, one 4100 feet and the other 6500 feet.

Surprisingly they had a control tower...and it was still open at 8:30 PM! We are the only airline servicing the airport.

Out in the darkness we saw a green and white beacon. There were no city lights nearby. Middle of nowhere.

Easy approach.

We walked out to see an old Holiday Inn van. Our expectations were low.

We were happily surprised with a very nice Holiday Inn. They did have the standard crappy small square pillows (WHO LIKES THESE?!?!?!?) and no regular pillows. Eh.

Had the nice and free breakfast buffet with my Captain. Now 10 AM....1:30 PM van. Gonna explore a bit.

It's great to be back.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Had a great trip to Norway and Denmark

The 7 hour difference was easy to adjust to while over there. Getting back my wife and I are tired...our four year old kiddo is wired.

I did ride on my first "Foreign" airline. I rode on British Airways for 3 of the 4 flights. The flight home was on a 747-400, my first time on such an airplane. It was interesting.

A Captains bid closed while I was on vacation. Missed it by exactly 30 numbers. If I had not given 2 weeks notice to my last employer I would have made the cut, but I am a man of my word. Hopefully next time.

Time to recover.

IMG_4201 IMG_4253 IMG_4324 IMG_4399

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Like clockwork

Relaxing at home after my 6th workday of the month. Last night I went to work for my 1st in a stint of 3 CDO's (Continuous Duty Overnights).

The Flight Attendant assigned to my line is very senior. He doesn't care to work much as I've only seen him once.

Sure enough last night a reserve Flight Attendant was assigned at the last minute.

Somehow we blocked out 7 minutes early. Captains leg.

Flight was planned at FL200. We stopped at 12,000 as it made little difference in fuel for climbing all the way up for a 90 NM flight.

Blocked in an astonishing 20 minutes early. This didn't hit me until I was filling out the paperwork at the hotel.

"Hey Jim, it's 9:50PM" I said.

"And? " asked my Captain.

"We're early...we weren't due to arrive until 9:50PM." I continued.

"Holy smokes you're right, first time all month we're at the hotel at our arrival time!" he said.

Same room 419.

Van scheduled for 5:20AM like always.

This cab driver is unique in many ways. One way is she bakes for flight crews. Sometimes a meal...often pastries. This morning she had fresh blueberry bread and chocolate bread.

I was sipping coffee and noticed it was 5:23AM.

"Hey guys, ya think we should head to the airport?" I said.

Off we went.

This station is very good. I was walking around for my preflight at 5:32 AM. Scheduled departure was 6AM.

At 5:50AM boarding was done, bags loaded, weight and balance computed....and away we went....10 minutes early. Well oiled machine...every now and then.

My leg airborne at 5:57 AM. Blasted off and immediately noticed lightening in the distance. The forecast was for scattered storms. I saw a thick line.

If the weather had not been there we would have been 35 minutes early (for a 50 minute blocked flight. With the weather we had a big detour.

We were vectored in between two minor weather systems. Heavy rain but a fairly smooth ride.


Wipers on high. We picked up the runway about 2 miles out. Lightening to the west of the runway. Lots of it. I mentioned if we went missed I would go north and then east. Thankfully an uneventful landing at 6:28AM.

With the lightening the ramp was closed meaning no one to park us. The rain and lightening got worse. Finally at 7AM a ramp manager guided us in and we parked.

After a quick bus ride I was eating donuts with my family at 7:50AM.

Done until tonight.



Monday, August 11, 2014

Room 419

It's been a while. I've been a little busy.

On June 30th I took the jump to electric and bought a BMW I3. It's my first BMW....first Electric car (my wife does have a Nissan Leaf). It's been exciting...I've been geeking out over it. My kiddo also turns 4 (FOUR!!!!) today.


As far as flying I've been a little busy....sorta. Here's how it's supposed to go:

Three nights a week I leave home at 7:30PM. I pull into the employee lot at 7:50PM, hop on the bus at 7:55PM and sign in to work at 8:10PM.

Ideally at 9PM the cabin door is closed and around 9:10PM my aircraft achieves flight.

A quick twenty five minutes later the aircraft settles down on a shortened 7000 foot runway.

At 9:55 PM I buckle into the front seat of a minivan and head off to the Comfort Inn and Suites.

At 10:10 PM I insert the key into room 419 and by 10:30PM I settle into bed.

Four fifty-five AM comes quickly and my alarm goes off.

A quick cup of coffee and an apple and I'm back in the same minivan (with the same driver!) departing the hotel at 5:20 AM.  In my bag is a freshly baked pastry as the van driver bakes overnight. I don't know when she sleeps.

I complete my detailed preflight and have everything set up by 5:45AM. The ground crew is really good and we are all buttoned up by 5:55AM.....five minutes early.

Being an uncontrolled airport I call for clearance while holding short of the runway. We blast off and are airborne at our departure time.

Not being very busy we get direct clearances and are back on the ground at 6:25AM.

By 7:10 AM I'm back in my car headed home.

All in all about 11 hours away from home. To do it all again the next night.

Now that's ideal. In reality of the 4 flights I've done only one has left the hub on time. Inbound aircraft delays, connecting baggage delays, passenger delays and weather delays. Sometimes all at once.

In the old days being late would affect the kick off flight as we needed a certain amount of rest. Seeing as my line is a continuous duty overnight there are no rest requirements. We've left the outstation on time every time.

The nights are short. I do take a nap in the middle of the day. By the third day I am quite worn out.

The Captain I'm flying with is very senior and fun to work with. Great sense of humor. We've had rotating Flight Attendants.

It is a little odd and at the same time comforting to stay in the same hotel room each 419.

I have vacation this month. Headed to Norway with the family. Any tips are greatly appreciated. I'll be flying through London Heathrow where I will have a nice 3 hour layover....great for plane spotting.

Time to take a nap.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Always the last leg

Currently sitting in the middle seat in the back of a 757 headed west. On one side is my daughter and the other my wife. Headed to visit family. We were almost left behind as the flight filled up last night. This morning the non-rev gods were kind as the flight upgraded from a smaller aircraft. Seats for all!

My three day trip this week was rough. It was a productive trip at 18.5 hours. My sign in to sign out time for the trip was just 50 hours. The first overnight was 12 hours and the second 11 hours. I like productive trips but they sure are tiring. By comparison the average 4 day trip is worth 18.5 hours. Cramming 4 days of flying into 3.

I had a realization this week. The more senior I get the more senior my crews are. Senior in both age and seniority. This week my Captain was 59 and in the top 1% while my FA was in her 60's and also in the top 1%. Huge age and social gaps. We didn't talk much, which is fine. I pondered bidding "crappier" trips to fly with folks more my age.

Days 1 and 2 were easy enough. I slept in on day 2 as we had a 10AM van. Day 3 was on the east coast with a 5:20AM van. We all downed coffee on the way to the airport.

The first two legs were mine. Before each leg the flying pilot gives a takeoff briefing. The company requires certain items to be mentioned including abort criteria.

Some runways or airports require "80 knot" abort criteria while others have a V1 abort criteria. To keep it simple, if we can abort safely after 80 knots we will, if not then we give it all she's got and takeoff.

My briefing on day 3 included, "We are not runway limited so we will abort for anything caution or warning before 80 knots, after that only for engine fire, failure or if the aircraft is incapable of flight."

Blocked out a few minutes early. Small airport. One guy appeared to be running ground, clearance and tower. Morning rush as 4 different flights were leaving around the same time.

Brief delay on takeoff as we had to wait for him to give a clearance to another flight.

The Captain steered the aircraft onto the runway. It's common for the nose gear to be slightly turned after lining up. I can use my rudder pedals to help center the wheel on center line.

"My aircraft," I stated and pushed the thrust levers forward. We used a reduced takeoff power setting as it helps save fuel, engine wear and is a little quieter.

The 80 knot call was made and all was well. Around 90 knots I saw a status message pop up on the EICAS. It wasn't yellow (caution) or red (warning) so the Captain didn't state anything.

Up and away we went.

During climb out I noticed it was a fuel system message. A possible clog was noticed and the system rerouted the fuel to the engine. Nothing major but it would have to be checked out in base.

Normal flight. We sent a text message to the dispatcher to alert the mechanics of our issue.

Once in base a mechanic inspected the fuel system. It was fine for flight but an MEL was issued. Before each flight a mechanic would have to verify the fuel system.

We blasted off for the last turn. Moderate chop as we crossed a frontal system. After over 4,000 hours in the sky I'm more than used to turbulence. I sometimes have to remind myself that passengers might not be used to it. A PA was made explaining what was going on.

Headed to Madison, Wisconsin. I'd been there a few times. I assumed with winds out of the north I'd land on runway 36 since it was the longest. After I checked the NOTAMs I noticed runway 36 was closed. Instead I planned for runway 3.

The runway is 7200 feet long. Performance calculation showed needing just 4300 feet to safely land. Easy approach backed up with the GPS. Since we were a few minutes early I slowed the aircraft to taxi speed without thrust reversers. It's quieter this way and more comfortable or the passengers. The aircraft was slowed with 2000 feet to spare. We exited at the end.

We were a little worried that a local mechanic would not be waiting for us. Thankfully the station called out a contract mechanic.

After my post flight I headed into the terminal to snag some local Wisconsin cheese....and a cookie dough lollipop covered in chocolate for my daughter.

The mechanic had already grabbed the logbook when I returned. I set up the aircraft for the final leg.

We finished the before start checklist and were waiting on the return of the logbook. The mechanic returned to the flight deck and said he was almost done.

The circuit breakers for my aircraft are both overhead and behind our seats. During the before start checklist we verify that all circuit breakers are either in or collared (in case of an MEL). The MEL for the fuel issue did not require any to be collared. When we ran the checklist they were all in.

The mechanic came back up and said he had finished his work. He handed over the logbook and disappeared. Weight and balance checks were done and the door was closed. The Captain looked at the logbook entry and noticed a mistake made by the mechanic. He'd have to return to fix it. Door reopened, mechanic called back and we blocked out 8 minutes late.

During pushback I tried to start the number one engine. I use my left hand to start while my right hand starts a clock (there are limitations on how long the starter can run). Nothing happened when I commanded the start. I thought maybe I had done something wrong so I tried again. rotation and the air to the packs didn't stop. Something was wrong.

I told the Captain who verified the aircraft was setup for start. He too tried and nothing happened. The mechanic may have forgotten to do something.

We were pulled back into the gate. We read through the steps the mechanic was supposed to perform. The very last step was to push the "start" circuit breakers back in. As we looked up they were out. When he had returned to the flight deck the first time he pulled them out. They were in when we ran the checklist. Once pushed back in the engine started normally. Issues always seem to pop up on the last leg.

Even leaving late we still arrived early.

I'm not headed out west to visit family. I'm off until next Thursday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Oldies but goodies

A little humor as I relax from a grueling trip....working on the write up...will be up later this week.

- A good simulator check ride is like a successful surgery on a dead body.

- Asking a pilot what he thinks about the FAA is like asking a tree what it thinks about dogs.

- An airline pilot is a confused soul who talks about women when flying, and about flying when he's with a woman.

- The only thing worse than a captain who never flew as a copilot, is a copilot who once was a captain.

- Experience is gained through making mistakes. Mistakes are caused by a lack of experience

- Hand-flying an ILS in a gusty crosswind is easier than adjusting the shower controls in a layover hotel.

- A smooth touchdown in a simulator is as exciting as kissing your sister.

- Most airline crew food tastes like warmed-over chicken because that's what it is.

- Everything is accomplished through teamwork until something goes wrong . . . . . then one pilot gets all the blame.

- Standard checklist practice requires pilots to read to each other procedures used every day, and recite from memory those which are only needed once every five years.

- A crew scheduler has to be the kind of person who wakes his wife at midnight to carry out the garbage, then sends her back to let the cat in.

- Unlike flight crew members, jet engines stop whining when the plane arrives at the gate.

- A dispatcher's desk has never run out of fuel.

- An FAA investigation is conducted by a few non-flying experts who take six months to itemize the mistakes made by a crew who had six seconds to react to the emergency.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Final Tally

A little more than 6 years after signing on the dotted flight training loan is paid off. It hasn't been easy.

Back in March 2006 I was sitting behind my desk playing Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004. I've never been a fan of Microsoft Flight Simulator X. I was trying to relax after sitting all day in a cubicle scanning log files for the software company I worked for.

My wife walked in the room and saw me a little unhappy. She asked what was up, even though she already knew the answer. I hated my job.

She asked what I really wanted to do. Out on the desk was a flying magazine opened to an ad for ALLATPs. I told her I wanted to fly for a living, but the cost were just too high. My wife looked at the ad and bluntly said, "Either go fly or shut up about it. I will help pay for the training."

It helped she has a really good job and that we live under our means. A few phones calls and emails later and we suddenly had a new debt of $57,990.

Because we had great credit the interest rate was a reasonable 5.75%. The payment was $482 for 15 years. We had no plans on paying that little for that long. We paid, on average, more than double.

I didn't add up all the interest (I was told there would be no math!), but a simple loan calculator showed that when I finished the loan I still paid $14,000 in interest. That's a really good used car. If I carried the loan out for the full 15 years the interest would have been more than double.

Was it worth it? Well everything in life has a value attached to it. For my family the price was worth it. I'm much happier now than I was then. We've traveled to places (often in First Class) that we likely never would have visited. We are able to visit family around the country whenever we want....and often at the last minute. For us it was a small price to pay. Working for an airline makes the world much smaller.

One could say we could have taken the roughly $71K and used that to pay for all the airline travel we've used. True...but what fun is it paying for airline tickets?


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Moving on up

With the mass exodus going on at the regional level my seniority is increasing rapidly.

I'm based in the most senior base at my airline. I've moved up 20 number in base in the last 3 months. That's 20 First Officers senior to me either upgrading to Captain, transferring out...or more likely....leaving the company.

I was in the top 26%, now I'm in the top 20%. The difference is huge.

Just a few months ago I was getting close to what I wanted scheduling wise. I'm still not getting exactly what I want...but it's getting closer.

Next month I'm headed to Norway (any tips ???? ). I get 3 weeks of paid vacation a year. Weeks are valued at roughly 20 hours. If I get awarded trips worth less than 20 hours....I get the remaining balance put into a bank for later use.

For August I requested CDOs again. The CDO (Continuous Duty Overnight) I was awarded is one of the better trips. I depart at 9PM, arrive at 9:50PM, hotel until 5:10AM, depart at 6AM and arrive back in base at 6:50AM. The flight is way over blocked as it's a 90 NM flight.

Being CDOs I'm only "burning" 8 hours of vacation time. The remaining can be used later to get more time off.

This month of flying has been interesting. The more senior I get....the more senior crews I fly with. My last trip was flown with a very senior Captain that is 64 years old....and it showed.

I truly have no desire to fly to age 65.

In geek related news I'm no longer driving a 2004 Prius. I'm now driving a 2010 Prius. We sold the 2004 Prius and leased a Nissan Leaf for my wife. It was an amazing deal. With the state incentives and money from the 2004 Prius (it has long since been paid off) the Leaf is nearly free. I'm driving the 2010 Prius until my BMW I3 arrives. It finished production this weekend...hopefully here before I head to Norway.