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.