Friday, December 11, 2015

Airport Smart

Currently sitting at Einstein Brothers in the airport. Reasons being they offer free coffee refills...and I'm tired.

It's day 4. It's 7:09 AM and I've already been up for almost 4 hours. Today started with a 3:30 AM wake up for a 4:30 AM van for a 5:30 AM departure. The flight was just 98 nautical miles. Think about that for a second.

Most passengers also had to wake up at 3:30 AM. Or arrival time was scheduled for 6:20 AM. The 50 minutes block included anticipated deicing (didn't need it, mild winter), taxiing out, the flight and taxiing in. 

It's 98 NM....maybe 110 miles if driven on the ground. At even 60 MPH those passengers could have DRIVEN to the hub faster. Blah. I'm tired. 

I have 2 hours to relax before I head to Colorado for my last turn. It's a very unproductive 14 hour 4 day trip. I spent 30 hours on an overnight (known as a lost day as I only get per diem). Enough complaining.

My upgrade training is scheduled to start on February 16th. I am estimated to be complete with IOE mid-April. Most pilots finish before that. Seeing that I have flown the other jet before, it should be fine. 

I'm hoping that the next vacancy bid will be out before January 31st. If it is I plan (and hope) to be able to bid a Captain slot in my current base. It would be ideal. No idea if it will happen. 

For now I will enjoy my free coffee refills. When I was very junior I'd sit here for hours on airport standby. I learned then about both the free refills AND how it's cheaper to order a bagel and add egg than it is to order a bagel sandwich with egg and cheese. I don't care for cheese and by order this way (vs asking them to hold the cheese) I saved $3. I got coffee, egg and cheese bagel on cinnamon sugar (it's odd...don't judge) and a french toast bagel for the less than an egg and cheese sandwich cost alone. It pays to be airport smart. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Funny Numbers.....not so funny situation

Most of the time my little plane....barbie jet as I call it...can take all the passengers, bags and fuel safely from point A to point B.

Every now and then weather or a MEL comes into play and complicates things.

Right now I'm sitting in a Hampton Inn in a crappy city in no where anyone should live USA. I have one leg home tomorrow for Thanksgiving.

Last night, about forty minutes before departure, the gate came down and asked if she knew we were weight restricted....but one passenger. I said I wasn't and then took a look at the numbers. Sure enough due to low ceilings at the destination we had an alternate of flying all the way back to the Hub. It was a short one hour flight. The Captain was away getting dinner.

I told her I would see what I could do. The restriction was that we were landing weight limited. To keep things easy lets use the following:

Basic Empty Weight 40,000 lbs
Release Fuel: 6996 lbs
Minimum Takeoff Fuel: 6450 lbs
Maximum Landing Weight: 55,000 lbs

Actual fuel on board at the time was 7100 pounds. I immediately started the APU. I transmitted exactly 6996 pounds to the "load room". The load room is really a computer system that works out weight and balance. I then called the load room over the radio and inquired about the weight restriction. They stated they planned on 2500 pounds of cargo due to several military passengers. There were 47 paying passengers waiting.

My airline assumes each passenger weighs 184 pounds in winter (they weigh 10 pounds less in summer). Kids weigh 76 pounds. They were restricting it to 46 passengers due to all the cargo. Taking the above numbers they planned on a takeoff weight of 57,964 pounds.

En-route fuel burn + taxi = 2980 pounds. Taking a ramp weight of 57,964 - 2980 fuel burn = 54,984.....or 16 pounds to spare.

Taking things further the airline assumes each checked bag weighs 30 pounds unless it is marked heavy (being over 50 pounds) then they assume it weighs 60 pounds. My barbie jet overhead bins can't take normal carry on bags. The bags checked plane side are assumed to weigh 20 pounds. If the bag is able to be brought on board and stowed it weighs zero pounds. Keeping up?

The one passenger that was going to be left behind was going to his Grandmothers funeral. He had problems getting to the airport and missed his earlier flight. If he was denied boarding the airline owed him NOTHING.

We had no control over checked bags. We could "control" kids on board and valet bags that aren't checked plane side.

The Flight Attendant was very forgiving on bags being brought on. If they could safely fit she let them on. Nine minutes to push we got the final numbers. We were 240 pounds under PLANNED weight.

I called the load room and asked why the passenger wasn't on board. They stated they didn't want to take a delay. I looked over at the Captain and he said, "if you don't mind can you run up there and bring the passenger back with you." At this point we had 7 minutes.

I bolted up from my seat and sprinted up the jet bridge. There alone in the boarding area was a very upset twenty-something guy. I just pointed to him and said, "Hey, let's get you to where you need to be."

He was surprised as was the gate agent. She quickly began typing. Thankfully he only had a backpack. The Flight Attendant told him to sit where ever he wanted. The agent rushed down the final paperwork and we blocked out with 2 minutes to spare.

We weren't done though. We had a very short taxi and didn't use all the planned taxi fuel. I had to fly in fuel burning mode to make sure we were below 55,000 pounds on landing. With a shallow climb and early descent I was 100 pounds under while 20 miles out.

It's all funny math. The plane knows how much it weighs. On final approach I've had situations where I needed much less thrust than normal as we are lighter than we think we are. I've also needed much more thrust as we are heavier than we think we are. The low speed awareness cue is very telling. The margin between VREF and the TOP of the low speed cue (not stall speed!)  is normally 5-10 knots. Sometimes it's 1 or 0 knots. That's when we are heavier than we think we are. Nonetheless we have to abide by the funny numbers.

In and done. I then spent ALL day at a hotel. Tomorrow is a very early 4:15 AM van for a 5:15 AM departure and a 6:09 arrival. I'm then off until the 7th.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Seniority has it's privileges

Being a Senior First Officer is like having a REALLY nice Yugo. Yeah it's nice....but it's a Yugo.

Part of my seniority is getting just about everything I want schedule and vacation wise.

For December I got my 2nd choice of line. Out of more than 280 lines....I got my second choice. Not too shabby.

I combined the lazy December schedule with a lazy November schedule. I'm able to take more than 13 days off in a row without using vacation.

This will all change next year. I will be 10 from the bottom Captain wise....and commuting. Hopefully I can bid back to base as a Captain before Fall.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Eight Years Later

I passed my 8 year anniversary last week. Eight years! I thought I'd be close to 7000 hours total time as I figured all pilots fly as much as possible. Nah. I'm right around 5200 hours total time. I was hired with just in 8 years I've flown about 575 hours a year. Not a lot. Of course I've taken a good 16 weeks of vacation....almost 4 months. Plus I took a few months off when my daughter was born. Blah.

It's good I was awarded an upgrade as I'm topped out on the First Officer pay scale. Yep no more money for me until I upgrade.

I have been crafty in getting paid for more than I fly. So far this year I've flown 507 hours but have been paid more than $46,000 in non-taxable income (thus I'm excluding my per diem). That equates to almost $92 an hour. This is more than double my actual pay. The discrepancy is due to bonuses, overtime pay and "blood money".

The "blood money" was paid out due to my pilot group signing a new contract with the company. we agreed to concessions in exchange for new planes and a bonus check. It was a bad idea, but what's done is done. I get another payout when I upgrade to Captain.

I'm guessing I will hit training in February.....could be earlier. Posting should begin to pick up again. The last few months have been quite boring really.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Back to where I started

After almost 8 years I will finally be moving to the left seat....I got the upgrade.

I was awarded Captain in the aircraft I was originally hired on. It's not the aircraft I currently fly. There's more....I will be commuting.

Bidding on a new status is complicated. I played the cards just right to get my upgrade in a way that I can bid out whenever I can hold Captain in my current base. Normally at my airline if you CHOOSE to upgrade to a current Captain seat you are locked in for 2 years. This is to help the airline recoup the training cost.

When I bid for my upgrade I picked all Captain seats in my current base. I then stated if I was displaced I would like to hold Captain in an another base. That's what happened. I was first awarded Captain in my current base, but due to more senior pilots being displaced out of my current base, I was displaced to another base.

Training should start in January and I should be on the line in March. It's been a long time coming.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Yes I know as the year has gone on I've blogged less and less. No real reason.

In the most recent Captain bid I could have held another base. I bypassed.

I would have been the most junior Captain meaning absolute horrible quality of life. My airline gives reserves 11 days off a month. In reality having to commute to another base I'd be at home 8-9 days a month. Not worth it to me.

Every airline has rumors. The latest is there will be another Captain bid soon with vacancies in my base. I hope it comes out soon as I get no further pay increases as I'm at the top of the First Officer pay scale.

I currently bid number 50 in base. I'm number 70ish overall in the company.

Beyond that I am no longer the union Communications Chairman. Due to some politics I was not re-elected. It annoyed me at first, but I've come to grips with it, back to a regular line pilot.

More to come..........

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another Career Fair

I've been busy this month.

We finished an amazing vacation in Hawaii on the 9th. My family had real seats on a direct flight home. Being a pilot I was going to jumpseat.

Glad we had real seats as the direct flight was booked full with 20+ non-revs. Thankfully I was the only pilot.

Being a long flight there were 3 pilots, 1 Captain, 1 First Officer and 1 relief pilot.

For takeoff and landing I sat in a First Class seat designated for rest for the pilots. After takeoff the bell rang and they were ready for me to occupy a Flight Deck Jumpseat.

Being a wide-body there was a lot of room, but still a stiff jumpseat. I settled in and closed my eyes. About a minute later all the lights in the flight deck came on. They turned them on to help them stay awake. So much for me sleeping.

They were a nice crew. Every two hours or so they swapped turns in the crew rest seat. I did snag a meal.

Once home we all slept a bit. The next day I headed to DC for the OBAP yearly Convention and Job Fair.

My eyes were set on Virgin America, JetBlue, Delta, and United.

I made good inroads with Virgin America in April. I spoke with them again and reaffirmed my enthusiasm. When I spoke with JetBlue I was a little nervous and botched the answer to the question , "What are our core values?" I brushed it off and came back the following day to the same JetBlue rep and apologized for not remembering them and then recited them verbatim.

My talks with Delta were nice. They have slowed down hiring due to construction on their simulator building. They said I had great qualifications, but it may take time for them to call me.

United was by far the worst experience for me. The Captain interviewing me said I had good experience and "maybe in a few years when you've been Captain for a while," that I'd be ready for United. It was quite a crushing experience.

I left there feeling a bit down but I'm not going to let one persons opinion deter me.

For now I'm keeping my applications up to date and working on my interview skills.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Flew a Cirrus!

I'm on vacation with my family in Maui. Hawaii for a week or so. This is my 3rd time to Maui. Each of the first two times I planned on renting a plane for a tour. Each time "something" happened.

This time I wanted a sure thing and contacted Maui Flight Academy for a Molokai tour. It was pricey....but everything in aviation is expensive...add in Hawaii and it's even more expensive.

They use a Cirrus G3 for tours. I told the instructor I was an airline pilot and he took 10% off. I haven't flown a General Aviation aircraft in 8 years. I've never flown a Cirrus period. This was also the first time to have my family onboard with me at the controls. 

The flight went well. After taxiing a few few for a run-up, the instructor gave me the controls. For the first time in 8 year I taxied around an airport....I forgot what that was like! 

Rotating at 70 knots was odd as the first speed I normally call out is 80 knots with rotation occurring around 130 knots. 

The flight went well. The airspace is fairly busy with airliners and helicopter tours milling about. 

Our first stop was Molokai. Very short and scenic airport. After a brief tour we headed over the other side of the island and back to Maui. I put my daughter on my lap to let her fly, but she wasn't into it. I was surprised as she's eager to fly at home on flight simulator. 

We flew right by our beach house so the rest of the family could see. 

Below is my approach into OGG. It was gusty (as is common in Hawaii). I give the landing a 7 out of 10. I flared a bit high. After 5000 hours in jets it's hard to go back to a different sight picture. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

It's been a while

I haven't been posting as much as I used to. I've been pretty disgruntled with my employer and thus don't like to think about it more than I have to.

This week I bid a trip that transited the east coast for a change. The trip included a JFK turn.

I haven't been to JFK in 4+ years. It's a busy airport with a lot of International carriers. I was pilot monitoring for the leg inbound. It was VFR at the airport, but we were assigned the VOR/GPS 13L approach for traffic flow purposes.

Most know that LGA and JFK airports are very close together. It's impossible to have a straight in approach to runways 13L/R as it would cut right through LGA airspace.

We were vectored over the top of LGA at 13,000 feet. We were  9 miles in trail of an Emirates Airbus A380. ATC vectored us in a descending right spiral. They snuck in an AeroMexico Connect Embraer 190. Fine with us as it gave more space between us and the Airbus A380.

The approach is fairly simple. We were told to maintain 3000 until established and cleared for the approach.

Soon after the clearance we were told to slow to 170.....then 160....finally 150. The AeroMexico Connect plane was not following the speed clearance it was given so it backed things up. Beautiful clear day.

There are "lead in" lights installed for pilots to see the turning path to the runway in low visibility. Still it was a severe clear day.

After passing ASALT we descended to 1500 which is required per the procedure. I could see the E190 ahead and lower. Passing the Canarsie (CRI) VOR we descended to 800 feet. I still saw the E190 ahead and the airport to my right. I mentioned to the Captain that "AeroMexico seems to have lost the airport." They were very low and had passed the 13L centerline.

Tower came on frequency and told AeroMexico to turn right heading 130 and asked if they saw the airport. They said they did....the turn to final was well below 500 feet. They didn't get wings level until passing the threshold. We were close behind and thought for sure we or they were going around. In reality it should have been them as they appeared to be very unstable.

We were on short final while they were still on the runway. Tower told them to exit the high speed and continue on Bravo. No answer. Tower gave the command two more times before getting an answer. They were clear just in time for us to land safely.

It was a tricky landing as winds were 200@15 which is a pretty decent crosswind for a turning approach.

Even though English is the official language of aviation around the world, it is not the first language for most pilots around the world. This is very apparent at any International airport. I'll be nice and say that ATC is staffed with very patient people. They often have to slowly state request multiple times and hope to get an intelligble answer.

We were 30 minutes early thanks to an overblocked flight. I found some lunch and took my time eating.

The leg back was mine. We were only number 8 for takeoff from 13R. Easy takeoff and departure.

About 40 minutes into the flight the Flight Attendant called and stated an overhead panel fell down on to a row of passengers. Thankfully no one was injured. Lucky for us we were headed to a maintenance base.

I landed 40 minutes early. Gate occupied by what I thought was an aircraft from my company. When I heard them call for push I realized it was indeed an aircraft I had personally flown many times.....but has since been given to another airline to fly. That really burned me inside even though I have no control over it.

The panel was fixed and we had one more leg to the overnight.

Today is 5 legs including a turn to an airport with just a 4800 foot will be my shortest runway at my airline yet.

Friday, June 26, 2015

I don't like MGM

Finally done with a 4 day trip. I don't like 4 day trips.

This month I'm paired with a super senior Captain. He's number 14 in seniority and is 64 1/2 years old. He's been a Captain for over 25 years.

I've flown with enough 64 year old Captains to know I don't want to be a 64 year old Captain. This is generalizing but most are forgetful, very tired and are just here for the pay check. Customer service is very low on their list.

I slogged through the first two days just fine. Tons of annoying many to list.

Before we left for the overnight I mentioned there was a lot of weather in the area as I was looking at the RADAR. He wasn't concerned.

Descending into the area we were greeted with a wall of lightening out the front window and a sea of red on the RADAR.

He was flying. I switched to approach and overheard the approach controller telling another RJ about the gusting winds and the report of severe and moderate turbulence from an aircraft on final.

There was no way through the wall of red. We got vectored north. The Captain wanted to "give it a shot". I advised I was not comfortable with the weather and wanted to head to our alternate. He gave me a "really?" look and agreed.

The other RJ reported being beat up pretty good and decided to head back to ATL as they were low on fuel.

I checked the weather for our alternate. It was also bad with Thunderstorms. I then scanned the en-route chart for somewhere else we could head to that was in range and had our airline on site. Finally found one. Away we went.

My seat was busy coordinating the diversion with ATC, Dispatch and the station personnel. I worked up the fuel numbers and we had plenty. I advised my Flight Attendant and then made a PA to the passengers.

Landed fine. Once parked the Captain said he was done for the night as he didn't want to deal with the weather. It was only our second leg.

I checked the weather and MGM was clearing out quickly and there was nothing behind it.

The station personnel asked what the plan was. The Captain looked at me and said, "aren't you tired ? Don't you want to go to the hotel?"

I told him I was fine as it was just our second leg and, with the weather clearing out, I'd like to get the passengers home. He gave me another "really?" look.

He made a PA for the passengers to deplane and that we weren't going anywhere. The station personnel weren't happy as they'd had to stay very late giving out hotel vouchers and would have to move the aircraft as we weren't parked on our airlines gate.

I then asked the Captain if he would give it 30 minutes as the weather was indeed moving out (I showed him on my phone) and it would take over an hour to get a hotel anyway. He reluctantly agreed.

Sure enough the weather moved out. We boarded back up and eventually left.

Both our diversion and destination airport Towers had closed. Once we were close to MGM we heard the other RJ flight back. Landed fine. Tired.

We arrived at the hotel and given keys. We went to the rooms only to find they were occupied.  Our rooms had been sold to walk in guest. We all went back down and given new keys. Those rooms were dirty. All of them. We were then offered one dirty room, one smoking room and a suite. I gave the suite to my Flight Attendant. The Captain and I asked for a new hotel. Eventually given rooms next door. I hit the bed hard as it was 1AM. Van time was 6PM.

The next day the new hotel stated the original hotel would not pay for the rooms past noon. I was still tired. I left the original hotel know if they forced us to move we would have to delay or cancel the flight as it would interrupt my required rest. They eventually agreed to let us stay. This should have been the end of it. Later in the day the new hotel stated the old hotel wanted us to WALK over to be picked up for the hotel. There's no sidewalk between the two. I'd have to walk on a busy highway for about 200 yards to get there.

About 30 prior to van time I called back and asked to speak with the manager. I then  stated "this phone call is being recorded. I want to verify where you will be picking up the flight crew you left without hotel rooms last night?" The manager sheepishly stated they would pick us up at the new hotel.

I have never liked the MGM overnight. The best thing about it is the Hyundai plant tour.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Carrot is still dangling

I've been posting much less lately. No real excuse for it.

Every now and then my company updates the seniority list. The union does the same, but more often. Right now my seniority number is 1290. Two years ago that would have easily been a Captain position in base near the middle of the reserve list. Today it's a senior First Officer. Reason? Shrinkage.

Reason being pilots above and below me are leaving. The airline has parked or sent aircraft thus balancing the number of pilots to the number of aircraft. Very frustrating.

In the mean time I'm just doing my job. I did have an interesting and startling event a few weeks ago.

I was the pilot flying and had leveled off at 11,000 feet on the arrival to an airport. Departing aircraft climb to 10,000 feet. The TCAS screen showed traffic all around us which is normal.

A solid blue target appeared and showed to be climbing quickly. Within a few seconds the TCAS system turned the target yellow and announced "Traffic". We both looked out and saw the aircraft, a 737, climbing quickly towards us. We assumed it would stop at 10,000 feet. Moments later the target turned red and the TCAS said, "TRAFFIC, CLIMB, INCREASE VERTICAL SPEED!"

Instinctively I clicked off autopilot, pushed the thrust levers to the firewall and smoothly pitched up. During an avoidance maneuver the VSI arc will indicate the climb amount needed to avoid an impact with a green mark. It indicated over 2200 feet per minute. I pitched up until we were in the green. A few seconds, which seemed much longer, later it announced "clear of conflict." At that point I returned to 11,000 feet while the Captain advised approach we deviated due to a TCAS resolution advisory. They simply said ok and to contact a new frequency.

Our operating book states we MUST follow resolution advisories even if we can maintain eye contact with the offending aircraft. Better safe than sorry.

A few days later the Captain got a phone call asking about the situation, not from ATC, but from our own airline.

Most aircraft are equipped with FOQA computers. Flight Operating Quality Assurance computers monitor the flight and make note of anything out of the norm such as high approach angles, high speeds and odd maneuvers. The airline rep stated there have been a rash of RAs at this airport and they are looking to fix the issue.

I'm giving up predicting when I will be Captain. Instead all efforts are being focused on getting out and to a mainline carrier.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Text book windshear

On day 1 of a 3 day. It's a very easy 1-2-1 worth just 9 hours.

Day one was a late start with a 5:50 PM report time. I spent the day doing stuff around the house and reviewing my application for United. 

I arrived to the airport early. The two gates next to mine were full of passengers. All were being flown on another regional carrier for my mainline partner. The other regional is known for dirt cheap operation...and it shows. Both flights were very late. Passengers were all upset. 

Bravely I stood behind a computer and begin looking up information on my flight. Passengers see employees behind a computer as a sign that they can ask anything. I help the best I can.

I told them what I knew about their delays and their options. They were upset but appreciative. 

After my preflight I began setting up the plane. Forty minutes to departure and I had yet to see the rest of my crew. A little odd.

Thirty minutes prior I became a little concerned....but not overly so. I finished setting up the FMS, verifying performance and fuel....then headed back up to the gate.

There I found my crew. None of them had SIDA badges and there was no gate agent around. My home airport requires a SIDA badge (special badge issued by the airport) to access the jetbridge. Getting the badge is optional and can be a burden. 

I verified their IDs (since I had never met them before) and let them down. 

We boarded up and left a few minutes late. I took the leg down.....south of the border again.

A little bit of weather to work around. In Mexico airspace it's rare to have traffic around so getting approved for off course routing is easy.

Descending into the airport area we checked the weather. 

210040Z 17002KT 13SM SCT040TCU SCT200 27/M01 A3011 RMK 8/202 ISOL

We were arriving from the north. The plan was to join the VOR/DME arc from a transition and land on runway 17. It would be an short arc. 

Everything was textbook until we turned final. Tower advised winds at the surface were 350/4. 

There is a good amount of terrain around the airport. With a 4 knot tailwind things were fine given the very long 9000 foot runway.

I monitored my descent and speed and mentioned I'd be ready for the windshift.

It was night, but we could see the runway clearly.

Passing 1000 feet AGL we hit a brief, but moderate rainshower. I called for wipers. Wipers on I could again see the runway clearly.

Around 600 feet we left the rainshower and the bottom dropped out of the airspeed and altitude. This coincided with red flashing lights and "Windshear! Windshear!" over the speakers and in my headset.

"Escape! Go Around! Set max thrust......." I stated...just like the sim.

The airport sits at 6200 feet MSL. Thankfully we were lightly loaded as the little RJ gave it all she had to escape the windshear. We only lost 80 feet or so during the escape maneuver. 

Like I briefed we went straight ahead, climbed to 9000 and prepared to hold over the VOR. 

Tower advised we would continue outbound and do the VOR to runway 35. The Captain verified the procedure and told me what to do as I was hand flying.

"Intercept the 210 radial outbound and then left turn back in," he said.

Once established outbound I clicked back on the autopilot and took a breath.

Turning back in I noticed there was no VASI on this runway. The Captain programmed in the VOR approach into my FMS. With the approach loaded I had a pseudo glideslope to follow. Gusty approach, but with a quartering headwind. In and done.

Today is two legs back to a different city in Mexico. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Street Captain

This "pilot" shortage is getting more and more apparent.

I was recently offered to interview for a "Direct Entry Captain" position. You read that right...start over at a new Captain.

The airline in question is PSA. They are a wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines Group. They, along with Envoy (formerly American Eagle) and Piedmont, perform most of the regional flying for American Airlines.

PSA has been on a huge growth spurt lately. New airplanes from the factory and, soon to be, aircraft from Envoy. PSA agreed to work for less money than Envoy....and Envoy is paying the price.

Direct Entry Captain positions are also known as "Street Captains". Here's how it works.

Say there are 1200 pilots on property. To keep it simple there are 600 Captains and 600 First Officers.

A Direct Entry Captain would be pilot number 1201. They would be junior to every pilot on property. For whatever reason PSA has run out of First Officers capable of upgrading to Captain. One of the many requirements to be Captain is 1,000 hours of Part 121 (airline) flying time.

Since I have almost 5000 hours of 121 time I easily qualify for that requirement.

This new Direct Entry Captain would be a Captain in all respects......except seniority. The Direct Entry Captain would likely be on reserve for years as First Officers above him on the seniority list upgrade. Additionally the Direct Entry Captain has no protection of his seat. If there is one displacement then they will very likely be pushed to the right seat until their seniority can hold Captain.

Who takes these Direct Entry Captain positions? Well those who are junior Captains looking for a change. Possibly a First Officer years away from upgrade at their current airline. Also those who are gamblers.

I am none of those.

For those who want to take the risk....good luck.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Under Pressure

Finally home after a grueling 4 day trip worth 24 hours. It was a 3-2-2-3 trip with all overnights south of the border.

Staying in Mexico means I have to alter what I bring. Customs in Mexico is very nonstandard from station to station. They have been known to try (and sometimes succeed) to fine crew members for bringing in too many electronics as they think the crew members are going to resell them.

I am a geek.

I normally travel with 2 Ipads (1 is an EFB), a chromebook, a nexus 7, Roku box, two routers and a Google Chromecast.

I am also a vegetarian. I normally travel with fresh fruit (apples mostly) and veggies for the first two days (broccoli and carrots mostly). For Mexico I could bring none of that.

The first two overnights were fine. No issues in customs.

For the third overnight we were given a plane with an inop automatic pressurization system. This is a MEL I read about, but never thought I would encounter. Manually controlling pressurization is a taxing job. We have to manually control the outflow valve to release pressure in the aircraft and control the cabin altitude.

Captains leg down. It was a tedious job controlling the valve with a potentiamotor. The good thing was the field elevation at the destination was a lofty 7300 feet MSL. Cabin altitude at FL370 is 8000 feet. Pretty easy to modulate.

In Mexico passengers press a button before leaving customs. If it turns green they simply leave. If it turns read they have their bags searched. Flight crews can not press the button. It's some Mexican customs rule that every crew member have their bags searched by hand. Every bag. Every crew member.

Going through customs I had a liquor mini I purchased on the first overnight in my bag. A liquor mini! The agent pulled it out and set it aside. She then went through every other bag. Nothing else found.

I told her, in Spanish, that I forgot I had it. She said it's okay but to follow her. I knew what was coming next...a shakedown.

She asked for my passport and photocopied it. She then started typing up a form. I've heard about this form from coworkers. It's all in Spanish and is an admission of guilt and includes some type of fine.

All of this for a liquor mini that's well within personal use guidelines set forth by Mexican customs that was given to my airline.

A Flight Attendant had a 36 hour overnight and is a heavy smoker. Before leaving the US she bought a carton of cigarettes at Duty Free. The same station tried to fine her $200 for not declaring the cigarettes. Mind you we are not given ANY form in which we can declare anything. After over an hour they forced her to pay $100 and get the money from an ATM. She offered to leave the cigarettes with them. Not an option.

After about 10 minutes, which my crew only knew I was detained but not why, a man came in speaking only in Spanish. I picked up a bit but a woman came in and said, "You can not have this. We will let you go this time, but you can not have liquor, cigarettes, or cigars."

I left. I think they "let me go" because they felt I would have refused all fines/bribes and would ask to go to jail (other crew members have said the same). A judge must be called before someone can be arrested. They would not risk their jobs calling a judge to arrest a crew member for al liquor mini.

Truly ridiculous and a scar on the face of a beautiful country.

Shortish overnight in a beautiful hotel. Long van rides to and from, which is the norm as airports are all far outside of town.

Beautiful departure next to TWO active volcanoes. First two legs were mine. Lots of weather to contend with.

We arrived at the outstation late due to weather. The ground crew did an amazing job and we blocked out on time. When I called for taxi the bad news started.

Center was delaying our departure for 15 minutes. Not horrible. We taxied out and waited. Then more bad news....ground stop for 30 more minutes. We shut the engines down. I let the passengers know the bad news.

Eventually we left. We worked around the weather and made up a lot of time. We landed just 15 minutes late.

Pulling into the gate I was exhausted. 7 hours and 45 minutes of flying will do that to ya. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a bald guy.....a crew chaser.

A crew chaser is the guy you never want to see. Ours is a really nice guy....but he only delivers bad news. He either junior mans, extends or delivers drug test notices.

The Captain was sure the drug test was for him since we were both not legal for more flying. I knew it was for me. Sure enough it was for me.

For random drug test we must be escorted over to the testing facility at the airport. No stopping along the way. I really wanted to go home.

It took about 30 minutes. I'm paid for a whole 15 minutes.

I got home about an hour later than planned. I haven't done a full four day trip in months.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Missed it by that much

I missed the Captain bid by 7......just seven. I actually held Captain on paper during the vacancy and was displaced during the displacement bid. The only good thing is I'll be headed to a new aircraft.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Job Fair

Last Thursday I attended my first job fair.

The job fair was a large part of the OBAP (Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals). Contrary to the name, OBAP is open to anyone interested in Aerospace.

The event began at 7 AM Thursday so I flew up very late Wednesday night. To save money I slept in the airport. Kidding. I burned 4,000 SPG points for a room at a Four Points. I also used points for a rental car, though I could have (and maybe should have) used the free hotel shuttle.

I met up with a long time friend from ATP. He's at Jetblue now, looking for something bigger.

OBAP is much larger and more involved than I thought. They are huge on being a volunteer.

After some very informative morning sessions I waited for my turn in the job fair room. Entry was by seniority. Seniority is ruled by when you signed up. I signed up the week before....I had time to kill.

I chatted up some fellow pilots. Most were regional pilots but there were a few pilots just starting out.

When it was my turn my first stop was Virgin America. I did okay with the pre-interview. I feel okay about it. I then hit up Frontier and did horribly. I was tired at that point as I waited outside for 2 1/2 hours.

United was there unofficially. I spoke with a few United pilots who gave me tips on improving my resume. All said I have enough flight time, I just need to make myself stand out.

I left a little defeated as I hoped to land solid interviews. At least I know what I need to do to get an interview. I'll be attending the next conference in August. I plan to bring my A game then.

Still waiting on the Captain bid results.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I'm becoming a Princess

Seniority is everything in aviation. Seniority determines pay, vacation, schedules and overall quality of life.

I've been at my airline for 7 1/2 years....all in the right seat. This may change next week as I've bid for Captain. That's for later.

Lately I've been using my seniority to fly what I want to fly. Mostly this means long flights (for a regional) and as few legs as possible. I don't like flying more than 3 legs a day.....I've become a princess.

This week I have a 2 day trip that's a 5 and 1 followed by a dead head home.

I've flown with the Captain a few times in the past. He's quirky but fine.

The first turn was 4 hours total. He took it out. I then flew back to base. The third leg was a quick 70 nautical mile flight. We taxied almost as long as the time in the air. Up and down.

The fourth and fifth legs were his. I was beat on the flight to the overnight. Descending into the airport area we were cleared for the visual. Mostly clear skies. We did have a 20 second encounter with heavy snow at 3000 feet.

Once on the ground I was worn out. Over 7 hours of flying.

Day 2 is one short hop to the hub and I get to sprint to my deadhead which starts boarding as we are scheduled to pull into the gate.

Wednesday I will be working on union NewsBlast all day before hopping a flight to Vegas.

Thursday I will be walking around the OBAP career fair talking to major airlines hoping to score a new job. My eyes are set on United and Virgin America. Wish me luck on scoring a job OR at least holding Captain next week.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Always pack a suitcase

I'm currently sitting in a Marriott hotel in Alabama. I'm supposed to be cooking up scrambled eggs for my kiddo.

This week I picked up 10 3/4 hours of extra flying. Two day trips.  Five hours and a quarter hours was on Thursday and 5 1/2 on Friday. Thursdays trip went fine.

Friday started okay. The original Captain (who I was looking forward to flying with) and Flight Attendant called in sick for the trip. I had a reserve crew.

We blocked out on time. He took the first leg. Weather. Slight delays as Clearance was issuing reroutes to aircraft waiting to takeoff. Away we went.

Weather at the out station wasn't horrible with 1200 broken and 3/4 mile visibility...except it was a localizaer approach. We needed 1 mile visibility. Our alternate was our hub.

Getting closer the front was passing through. The visibility was 3 miles and winds shifted so we could use the ILS. Fine.

While being vectored for the approach the winds shifted again and we had a 10 knot quartering tailwind. Clouds were still low and the visibility was just 1 mile. We discussed it and planned on landing with a tailwind on the ILS was better than a headwind with the localized as we could go lower with the ILS.

In and done. This was the first of four legs. We planned for a quick turn. Once boarded we were told there was a "Call for Release" program in effect. This meant that the Center controllers needed to meter the aircraft arriving and would sequence us in. My leg. Up and away we went with a minimal delay.

Mild turbulence. In and parked close to on time. Plane AND terminal change.

Originally we had 50 minutes between flights. With the delays we had just 30. I've been around long enough to know when I need to slow down and eat.

I stopped by a Subway and snagged a Veggie Delight Chopped Salad. I get every single option which makes it a steal for $6.

Blocked out a few minutes late. No delays on the departure which was good as there was a huge line of weather moving in from the west. We were headed east.

Great tailwind. At cruise I ate my salad and chatted up the Captain. It turns out he was an Offensive Lineman for the University of Michigan. My wife went to Michigan State. I told him he went to the "wrong" school.

Choppy ride at FL310. We tried FL350...worse. We went down to FL270. Better.

Mild weather in Alabama. With the winds coming from 120 at 9 knots I figured they'd be using runway 15. Nope runway 33. Another tailwind approach. The tailwind through my planning off a bit and I had a firmish landing...which made my Captain laugh as my previous landing was butter smooth. "At least I know you're human," he replied as I had been flying very smoothly until that point.

Once at the gate and parked I whipped out my Ipad to send out a Union email. I then did my postflight and called for clearance. That's when the fun started. ground stop. The first delay was just 35 minutes. We figured it'd be best to board up and be at the ready if the ground stop was lifted. It wasn't.

The next ground stop was pushed until 9PM. My Captain had to be off the ground by 9:02 PM to be legal under FAR 117. He started his day earlier than I did.

After several phone calls we ended up cancelling. Long ago I learned to always bring a suitcase. Never assume you will always come home even if it's "just" a day trip.

I was being Junior Manned to fly the next day. At first it was a 8 AM departure and I'd be done by 10:30 AM. We were annoyed but content. On the way to the hotel they cancelled that flight and assigned us a 2 PM departure done by 4:30 AM. That annoyed us.....our entire Saturday was shot.

I had bought a box of eggs that morning as my daughter asked for scrambled eggs Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon was to be spent going with my family to a friends birthday party. I'd miss all of that.

The Captain had planned to be home last night to go to his kids soccer and baseball games. He'd actually gotten the day off of reserve to attend those functions. He'd miss all of that as well.

The Flight Attendant just wanted to commute home and sleep in her own bed.

For all of this I get 4 hours of extra pay or 200% actual flight time, which ever is greater. Given the short flight I will get 4 hours pay....roughly $170. Not worth it really. I do get another day off this month that I get to pick. Eh.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Flying a lot more

I've been flying a lot more lately. This is due to me loving what I do and to make more money. The company recently started paying 150% pay for any extra flying done and 200% pay when they are really short handed.

This month alone I've picked up almost 20 hours of extra flying. The flying was all done on weekdays where I would have otherwise sat at home. That extra flying will be worth about $1300 at my current pay rate.

Beyond that there's a vacancy bid open at my airline. Not holding my breath as it's being run with a displacement bid. My airline is closing yet another base.

When I started back in 2007 there were 8 pilot bases. By the end of the year there will be just 2. Thankfully I live in the largest base that should be safe from being closed.

When a base closes all the pilots are displaced. They are pushed out to the remaining bases. The pilots from the closed base can choose any seat their seniority can hold. Junior pilots in other bases often get shuffled around. It's a huge game of musical chairs.

I won't be displaced as I'm a very senior First Officer. There are less than 50 First Officers company wide that are senior to me. There are over 1000 First Officers junior to me.

The bid closes next week.....results will be out about a week after that.

Monday, April 6, 2015

First time here....hope it's my last

April is here! Time flies.

On a two day trip. Flying with a Captain I have not flown with in 4 years. Back then we were both on a larger, more powerful, all together better aircraft. Now we are both flying another plane solely due to quality of life. To fly the better plane we'd have to commute.

We both talked about how much we truly despised the current plane. When you've had the sucks to go down 5 levels.

The first day was three legs. He's an old school guy and always takes the leg out. No biggie. I took the next two. The first two flights were uneventful. The last was normal except for the last 5 minutes.

Headed to HPN...White Plains, New York....filled with uppity folks who despise regional jets but don't want to drive to JFK/LGA to fly a "big plane".

With a 130 knot tailwind we were projected to arrive 50 minutes early. The flight is a bit overblocked as the NY airspace can be congested.

The reported winds favored a straight in landing to runway 16.  As we got closer the ATIS stated runway 16 was in use. There was a light 5 knot direct crosswind.

I briefed and setup my descent for a straight in approach. Passing 11,000 feet we were told the airport was being turned around and now runway 34 was in use.

This would add 5-7 minutes to the flight, but still early.

On the downwind the approach controller stated we were number 3 and would be following a Gulfstream at 12 o'clock, 4 miles and 1000 feet below.

The NY airspace is busy. It was a clear night but with all the ground lights we did not feel confident following the aircraft we thought SHOULD be the Gulfstream. We advised we were looking for it.

On base I saw the airport and felt confident I could keep it in sight. Cleared for the visual and assigned 170 knots.

The Gulfstream was in clear view 3 miles ahead.

Once we switched to tower frequency we heard our flight and told to slow down as there would be a departure between the Gulfstream landing and our landing. We had not been cleared to land, only to "continue".

At 1000 feet AGL the Gulfstream was still rolling out. I told the Captain that I didn't think this was going to work. I mentally went through the go around profile. With the departing aircraft I included the possibility for the instructions to include a turn.

At 700 feet the Gulfstream was just still clearing the runway when Tower cleared the aircraft holding in position to takeoff.

The Gulfstream cleared by the time the departing aircraft started rolling.

At 500 feet the aircraft ahead was airborne.

Nice and soft landing followed by moderate braking and done. So I thought.

The HPN airport only has 4 gates. They will not assign a gate to a flight until they land. A bit odd. We were assigned gate 2. In and done. So I thought.

We were still 40 minutes early. We walked out to the curb to wait for the van. Being so early there was no van waiting. We saw another crew and asked where they were headed, happened to be the same hotel. They were concerned if we would all fit (7 total crew members between us). I called the hotel and asked if the vehicle was large enough. The hotel insured it was.

We talked a bit and watched a JetBlue crew walk past. I told the other crew they should all get in first since they arrived first.

The van arrived. We walked out to see Jetblue hopping in. We told them that we had all been waiting and both of us had called. They didn't care. We let the other crew hop in and we had to get a cab. We thought we were almost done.

We walked over to a cab and hopped in. We told the driver where we were going. He started shaking his head and took our bags out....not telling us why. He said we had to call our own cab as cabs are prearranged.

It took 4 minutes to get through as the line was constantly busy. I was told I had to pay via credit card and over the phone. Fine.

30 minutes after landing we were in the cab. The 7 mile drive cost $33! The hotel paid me back in cash on check in. Finally done.

Today is 3 legs with a deadhead on mainline home.

Monday, March 30, 2015

More flying please

April is almost here.

My airline, like many regionals, is having a problem with having enough qualified pilots in the RIGHT seat. First Officer attrition is higher than Captain attrition as First Officers on the bottom of the list are bailing for other Regionals with a shorter upgrade time. The often repeated "chasing the upgrade" race.

Upgrade times at airlines are very fluid. The posted upgrade times are whenever THAT guy chose to upgrade. For example lets look two pilots. Bryan hired March 30, 2007 and Chris hired March 30, 2008.

Years go by and Bryan is a senior First Officer with a big vacation planned this year AND a baby on the way. He knows he will need time for both. The CBA at his airline states upon reaching Captain all vacation must be rebid as a Captain instead of a First Officer. Since he's a senior First Officer he can hold the best vacation weeks during summer. Most junior pilots get January-February vacation followed by August-October.

A vacancy bid is opened and Bryan could hold Captain. He decided to bypass for quality of life. Chris puts the bid in and gets the award. Suddenly "upgrade" time drops by 1 year....even though it's somewhat artificial.

Every airline has First Officers who choose not to upgrade.

Today I had a 777 First Officer on my jump seat. He's been at my mainline partner for 25 years. He works 9 days a month as a First Officer and enjoys great quality of life. He can hold narrow body Captain on anything in the fleet. He's staying a First Officer due to quality of life.

That said.... I hope to be Captain soon.

In the meantime I will be content in "making" Captain pay as my airline is paying First Officers double time for picking up extra flying.

My strategy going forward will be to bid low time lines with a lot of days off with the plan to pick up extra flying on days off. It's a gamble as there could not be extra flying to be had....but I'm a betting man.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

So what's going on?

March has been busy. I turned a year old (now 38!) and will celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary tomorrow.

I had two really great trips this month. I purposely bid overnights in the Bahamas. Aside from my first 4 day trip, my only other overnights were in the Bahamas. It was like a paid vacation!

My flight arrived at noon and left the next morning at 7:30 AM. I had a great crew and we treated the overnight as a vacation. We had lunch and beverages at the hotel before going out and exploring and enjoying local food and beverages.

Looking forward things are bumpy for my airline. We are shrinking...and fast. I'm hoping to upgrade soon, but not holding my breath.

I did test the waters by applying to other regionals. Within 35 minutes of applying I had a phone call from a recruiter from a regional looking to set up an interview. Within 5 hours I had another phone call from a second airline offering a class date stating I have plenty of experience and could upgrade within 2 years.  Both would mean cutting my pay in half and having to commute. I will ponder it, but will likely not go.

Over the years I've enjoyed very good quality of life by living in base. I've spent countless and valuable extra time with my family I could not have had if I commuted. That has come as a sacrifice as I would have been a Captain elsewhere. It's a price I had to pay and glad I did.

Things might change soon though as my wife was given notice that her job of 13 years will no longer exist locally come the end of the year.

Being a pilot I can live just about anywhere and commute. Since she is the primary bread winner (till I upgrade) we are considering a move. She's a DNA Forensic Scientist (with a Masters degree if anyone knows a great gig opening!) so she has a job in demand, just not much locally.

That's all for now. I don't want this site to go stale. I will try more updates soon.

Monday, March 16, 2015

I'm still here

If you are seeing this then you correctly typed instead of I'm working on getting both working.

I've moved the site to blogger. It's free. The last host was costing me $130 a year. Pricey for a blog.

I'm still a senior albeit disgruntled First Officer. The upgrade time was 7.5 years. I hit 7.5 years next month. I doubt I will upgrade before fall.

More later. A lot going on outside of flying right now.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Well isn't that special

Day 3 of a 4 day. So far I've only done one of my original flights. Weather has dessemated my schedule.

My original trip was decent but got back at 9PM on Saturday. It was just a single leg in. I had no desire to sit in a hotel all day on a weekend. I traded into a new trip that finishes at 3:30 PM Saturday. It was a 3-4-2-5 trip. Better.

This winter has been brutal.

My trip started on Wednesday. On Tuesday my trip started to fall apart. I had just one leg to the overnight.

Twenty minutes to departure and there was no Captain. I saw him name on when I signed in and know who he is....he just wasn't here. Ten minutes to go he arrived. There was an issue with him signing in.

Blocked out 20 minutes late. After deicing we took off 50 minutes late. My leg.

The outstation was reporting heavy snow, 1000 foot ceilings and 1/2 mile visibility, gusting winds and they were using the 7000 foot runway instead of the 8000 foot runway as the shorter runway had an ILS. We had two alternates.

The plane I was flying had no APU and only one operable thrust reverser.

I haven't flown much this year. The aircraft I fly is authorized to land with full or reduced flaps. I prefer reduced flaps as it uses less fuel, quieter and is easier to grease on.

With the inoperable thrust reverser, snow/ice covered runway and gusting winds I elected to use full flaps.

The performance chart for reduced flaps showed needing 5000 feet while full flaps needed just 3850 feet. Both figures excluded the use of thrust reverse and were for a wet runway with good braking.

If braking action was reported "fair" we needed 7620 feet for reduced flaps and 5830 feet for full flaps. The penalty for no thrust reverse was 2238 feet for reduced flaps (a total of 9858 feet) and 1350 for full flaps ( a total of 7180).  Basically if braking action wasn't good....we couldn't land.

I had not had a full flaps landing in months. I also haven't landed on snow in months. Good times.

By the time we arrived the snow was now light and the winds had died down. I still kept the full flaps.

The runway was not plowed well and still covered in patchy ice. The Captain called the runway 2 miles out. I looked up to see a sea of white. I faintly saw the runway lights and outline.

Ice and snow obscured most runway markings. Braking action reported good.

The full flaps made for a heavy feeling yoke.

I made a slightly firm touchdown with the mains and slowly lowered the nose on the pavement and began braking. I opened the one good thrust reverser just in case. We came to taxi speed with 3000 feet left.

Long overnight. My schedule on day 2 changed a few times. Finally settled with a 6:30 PM departure for me. The Captain I flew with was reassigned and earlier departure.

The snow had stopped. Left a few minutes early. My leg again. Arrived early. I was reassigned to a different overnight.

I met crew number 3 for the week. Very Junior Captain....barely senior to me.

In order to keep the streak of good landings going I took the outbound leg again.

During my preflight I found very thin frost on the left wing. The aircraft would have easily taken off with the frost....but regulations state the top of the wing must be free of frost.

The deicing team was no where to be found. We waited 20 minutes for them to drive out to the de-ice pad. We took off over an hour late.

The next outstation was bitterly cold. Just 2 degrees Fahrenheit! They had previously had heavy snow. The ATIS reported just the approach and departures end taxiways were open. Everything in between was closed. The runway was reported as having snow and ice again.

This plane had both thrust reversers. I planned another full flap landing. In and almost done. The parking area had over a foot of snow. The ground crew never cleared it. It made for an "interesting" post flight.

As my crew walked up the jetbridge  (at 12:40 AM!) I noticed I had two voicemails from Crew Scheduling. I use Google Voice and have all Crew Scheduling calls go directly to's part of my strategy. They don't pay my phone bill so there is no reason for them to call me.

The transcription showed they wanted me to have exactly 10 hours of rest and come back to fly another flight back to base. The contract states they must have positive contact meaning two way communication.

I was already tired. The drive to the hotel took 20 minutes due to snow. At best I would have 8 hours of rest. I declined to call them back. I knew it would not be just one flight back but another series of flights.

They called twice more...straight to voicemail. I got to my hotel room and was exhausted. As I laid down my HOTEL phone rang. I just picked it up and set it back down. I knew who it was. I wasn't interested. If I spoke to them there would be no negotiating, I would have to do the assignment they had.

I slept well. I woke up and felt great. The flight they wanted me to fly was staffed with a reserve flown in from another base. It would actually leave at the same time they wanted to fly it. No loss.

So far I am supposed to fly one leg into base, go home and come back tomorrow to finish my trip.

So far.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sometimes it's good to be second

Snow and ice has really been an issue in the United States lately.

I was supposed to have of the second half of February. I didn't want to just sit around so I picked up two long day trips.

The first was last Saturday and went fine. The second was on Monday. I picked it up thinking I wouldn't actually fly. I am a betting man.

The forecast called for ice and snow. The flight was an early morning departure. I bet that the airline would cancel all morning flights due to the weather. My base has limited deicing capability as it doesn't snow much.

My contract states they have until noon the day prior to reassign me if the flight cancels. At 12:01PM if it cancels I am free and clear.

They reassigned me 10 AM on Sunday. The reassignment was a 10:55 AM departure was was just an hour flight each way. I would be paid for the original 6 hours. The kicker? I had a 3 and a half hour sit at a tiny out station before flying back.

I did my research and saw the plane I was to fly back would be overnighting so I wouldn't have to worry too much about being stranded. Fine. There was still a chance the reassignment would cancel.

Monday morning I woke up and checked the cancelled flights. Everything from 6 AM until 11:30 AM was cancelled save for 4 of them my new reassignment. So much for betting.

When I walked into the terminal area it was a ghost town. I expected a mass of passengers from the cancelled flights. Nope. Since they cancelled the day prior the only passengers were those whom slept in the airport or drove in that morning. There was no Captain yet assigned to the flight.

The flight attendant was waiting by the gate. I'd flown with him before. We talked about our "bad" luck. We both agreed that it was pointless to walk down to the aircraft until a Captain had at least been assigned. I checked the other 3 flights scheduled to go out, all were also awaiting Captains.

Thirty minutes prior a Captain was assigned. There was very little activity on the ramp as the majority of the flights had been cancelled.

I was shocked when I walked into the flight deck to find the aircraft powered up AND warm! A mechanic took it upon himself to start up the APU and warm up the aircraft. I thanked him and said it's rare to find employees that care.

We boarded up and blocked out 20 minutes late due to the late arriving reserve Captain.

It took over 30 minutes to deice. In places that get a lot of winter weather I've been deiced in under 8 minutes. Seriously.

Slip sliding down the icey taxiway. Away we went.

Small outstation. They had an ILS, but it was out of service. Normally not an issue. The weather on this day caused it to be an issue as the ceiling was reported at 600, but variable between 400 and 800 and just 2 miles visibility. The minimum altitude for the GPS approach was 600 with 2 miles visibility.

The Captain was flying and briefed the approach. It would be tight.

On vectors. Another RJ identical to ours was first on the approach. I watched them on TCAS. As we turned final I saw the TCAS target begin climbing.

"Hey I think they are going around." I told the Captain. We had approach on COM 1 and tower lower on COM 2. A few seconds later we heard them report a go around on COM 2 as they didn't see the runway, runway lights or airport environment (there are more crtieria, but that's the short version).

They requested the approach lights be turned up. Turns out they weren't turned on at all.

Our turn. The tower confirmed the approach lights were on full intensity.

We leveled at 600 and I saw brief spots of the ground. I peered out the window for the approach lights. Nothing.

Three miles from the runway I saw nothing but white. The VDP (Visual Descent Point) was 1.5 miles from the runway. The VDP is the point where a normal descent can normally be made without any abrupt maneuvers. Trying to land after the VDP normally results in an unstable approach.

Two miles out I saw nothing. We had the fuel for one more attempt before heading to the alternate.

Then I saw the strobes.

"Approach lights in sight, continue." I stated.

"Continuing." said the Captain.

With the lights in sight we can continue to 100 feet above touchdown zone elevation.

About 500 feet or so we saw the runway. In and done.

The other RJ came back around and landed 8 minutes later.

Since we were late we had just a 2 hour sit.

The airport "cafe" isn't set up for real food. All they had were frozen items one could buy and microwave. Ah the life!

We blocked out 18 minutes early. No deicing needed. Quick flight.

Airport operations were busier now. Still an icey ramp. Landed 35 minutes early but due to ramp congestion we blocked in on time.

All in I flew for 2 hours and get paid for 6. I still came out ahead.

Now I really am taking the rest of the month off.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

That was sporty

I've been off a lot this year. Between my work with the Union and being senior.....I haven't spent a lot of time in the flight deck. February is almost over and I project to fly just 25 hours.

A good two weeks was spent on vacation. I took my family to Florida for a week.

We spent 3 days at Universal, 1 day at NASA (where we watched the SpaceX launch scrubbed with 2 minutes left!), 2 days in Clearwater at the beach and two more days in Orlando going to science museums. A long time.

Right now I'm sitting in a hotel in Florida on a 3 day trip. It's a 3-4-1 trip. It was originally a 4 day but I was pulled off the last day for Union work.

Day one started with a 3:50PM report time. I spent the morning taking my car in for a software and hardware update. I love my geeky BMW I3, but it's having minor issues.

Around noon I noticed there was no Captain on my trip. The original Captain couldn't commute in so Crew Scheduling had to find a replacement.

When I signed in for my trip there was a Captain assigned, but he wasn't scheduled to arrive until 10 minutes AFTER scheduled departure time.

I walked onto the plane to see two mechanics in the flight deck and the Flight Attendant sitting in the cabin.

"Whatever broke, I didn't do it!" I said to the mechanics.

"Of course it was you, you RJ pilots are great at breaking stuff....great job security" one of them said jokingly.

They were just there finishing up a periodic check. They were making sure all light bulbs in and out of the plane worked, fluid levels were good and general check up.

I told the Flight Attendant about the tardy Captain. The gate agent came down and we agreed to not board until the Captain actually parks. No reason to have passengers sitting on the plane waiting.

I began setting up the flight deck, printing the release and everything else so once the Captain arrived it would be quick and easy.

Departure time was 4:35PM. He parked at 4:40 PM 20 gates down. Boarding was almost done when he walked on board at 4:55 PM. At 5:04 PM we blocked out. He thanked me for having everything ready to go. He took us out.

Quick up and down flight, just 25 minutes off to on. Quick turn, just 8 passengers for the return leg. Super light weight meant great performance. We reached rotation speed in less than 2000 feet.

Being so close in we were inside the approach corridor. The Approach controllers had nice rows of flights spaced out and we popped up in the middle. He vectored us around, sped up other flights and slowed others down. We merged in. In and done a few minutes late.

That Captain left and another one arrived. He's fairly senior and wasn't happy about being reassigned due to weather. Blocked out a few minutes late. Still my leg.

Headed east we had a 150 knot tailwind at FL370. Zooming.

Being winter I wasn't expecting much in the way of storms. We checked the weather on the release and it mentioned rain but that's it.

Right before I began the descent the controller warned of level 2 returns. What?!?!?! Our on board RADAR showed clear air. Being night we couldn't see much out the windows.

Thankfully there were small holes from cities that gave a hint of  where the weather was. Minor vectoring. The lower we got the more clear the on board RADAR showed the weather.

Weather at the airport was 20014G19KT 10SM BKN036 BKN050 OVC065 19/17 A2980. Landing runway 17 which is 7004 feet long.

I briefed the approach. The controller brought us out a little wide to avoid a cell.

On final we were in moderate rain. I could see the runway 9 miles out. Winds were from 220 and were a stiff 45 knots at 1800 feet.

"The ATIS made no mention of rain. I'm going to plan to use full reverse just in case." I said to the Captain. Our performance flip cards stated I needed just 4000 feet of pavement to stop on dry while 5200 on wet. Neither includes the use of thrust reversers. I like to play it safe.

At 500 feet the winds were still a stiff 30 knots but the rain had let up. I touched down normally just as the gust picked up. Ailerons into the wind with my right hand I put the thrust levers into full reverse. We slowed to taxi speed with 2000 feet left.

Pulling into the gate the rain came in heavily. We had just beat the rain. While nice...I still had to do the postflight.

Today is four legs followed by an 18 hour overnight with one leg in. Wednesday will be a waste of a day in a hotel as I get home at 9PM.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


This site will soon be moving host. So for a day or three it might show unavailable. Sorry for any problems.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Shooooo Bird

I've been quiet lately. It annoys me. Going to try to work on it. I think part of the reason for the lack of post is due to me having mostly day trips in January.

When on a multi-day trip I have a lot of downtime in hotels. With day trips I have downtime at home. At home I have lots of stuff to keep me busy.

Right now I'm on a two day trip.

I was originally headed south of the border. I was fine with it until earlier this week when the Captain changed. The Captain that picked up the trip is known around the airline as hard to work with. I've never flown with him, but I have no desire to entertain working with someone who most pilots don't like.

Instead I traded into another trip that has 2 more legs for the same amount of time. The Captain is a guy I flew with several years ago. Old fashioned and likeable guy.

It's a dreadful 3 and 5 trip worth just 9 hours 15 minutes. He took the first leg this morning. I had the next two.

During my first takeoff roll around 80 knots I saw several birds flying at and angle towards the airplane. Not worth aborting for. I simply said "shoooo birds".....and they moved.

Mostly normal flight. In just the first 15 minutes we were assigned three different arrivals. The final arrival meant a reversal of the airport arrival and departure pattern. The approach controller stated we could slow waaaaay down or expect holding. I slowed down to 250 knots at FL300.

We inched our way in and done.

Quick turn and off to the overnight in the odd state of Louisiana.

Still a vegetarian...still have problems finding places that have vegetarian options.

Google Maps is my friend. I found a greek place that worked for lunch.

Early van. Left early on leg one and arrived early. Leg 2 was back to the airport we just left. Sure enough birds swarmed during the flare. Saw no bird parts or blood on the post flight.

Leg 3 was on time. Once in we had a break for lunch.

For leg 4 I arrived to a wet aircraft. I dropped off my bags and headed out for the preflight. Upon inspecting the nose gear I saw a problem. It looked like blood all around the main gear.....but I wasn't sure.

I headed back up to the flight deck. The Captain was getting settled in. I picked up the logbook and looked for a bird or animal strike entry. Nothing. I did see an entry where a front tire was replaced a week ago.

I told the Captain what I saw and he felt it was best to have a mechanic inspect it.

Boarding started and we waited. Fifteen minutes before departure a mechanic walked up...looked around....then looked up at me with the "What damage" look. I went outside.

As it turns out what I thought was blood...was grease. A lot of grease. The mechanic said when the tire was replaced there was too much grease inserted into the axle. Once everything was finished the extra grease shot out of the side.



Learning lesson for me. Better safe than sorry.

My leg out. Rain and low clouds at the out station. Only a localizer approach.

I have never had so many bird encounters on a trip. The largest swarm of birds yet came into view at around 100 feet. We both thought for sure we'd hit a few. We didn't hear anything but, again to be safe we advised the tower who had airport operations inspect the runway. I did a very detailed post-flight.

Airport operations found nothing. I found nothing as well. Lucky indeed.

Last leg back was totally normal.

Happy to be done.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Este Bueno

For January my line consisted of all day trips except I had two overnights. Both overnights were two day trips.

My first overnight was supposed to be last Thursday, but I was pulled off for some union work. It was nice to be in the union office for two days as I was able to totally redesign the newsletter. Much more eye appealing and readable.

On Saturday I still had one two day trip worth 9.5 hours. The trip is a 3 and 3 with an overnight south of the border.

The line Captain called in sick. I've only flown with him once this month do to my trip trades and calling in sick. I learned long ago when I'm the least bit stuffy, to call in sick.

The Flight Attendant for my two day is familiar to me. Her I have flown together a few times and we got along great.

A reserve Captain was assigned. A very junior Captain. Most junior Captains are a joy to fly with as they remember what it's like to be a First Officer AND they are still getting used to their seat so they are more agreeable. Not this guy.

Normally I run the Before Start checklist while boarding is being completed. This is useful as sometimes we catch errors in paperwork, the logbook or aircraft equipment during the checklist. With the boarding door still open things can be fixed.

Before the first leg I had completed all my flows and we were both sitting their quietly. I asked if he wanted the Before Start checklist. He declined and stated he does not work for free and would not do the checklist until the door was closed and the parking brake dropped. For those that don't know my pay doesn't start until those actions are completed. The pay stops on the other end.

It takes at most 90 seconds to run the before start checklist. Ninety seconds!

So we both went back to sitting in silence. The door was closed and like a machine he suddenly started moving and doing things....almost in a rush. The plane had several MEL's. A real gem. The left pack (ours) didn't work, there was a lot of paint missing, a passenger sat on an armrest and broke it, and some how the leather seat back of a seat was ripped. We reviewed all of this..........................after the door closed. Thankfully nothing needed to be addressed.

Blocked out on time of course. Taxied out 7 minutes after blocking out. He took the first leg.

Uneventful. I had the next two legs. Same story, no checklist outside of the parking brake.

Once the brake dropped at the out station during the first turn he again "clicked on" and began moving. Rushing like before. After he was done he called for the checklist. It was completed then I reviewed the electronic closeout information. There appeared to be an issue. We were carrying HAZMAT but had no paperwork about what we were carrying.

Normally all this stuff is done with the door open. With the door open station personnell can come on board to answer questions and bring documents.

I advised the Captain that I believed we had an issue. He agreed and asked me to call the Station. Well since the door was closed....most station personnel took off for smoke breaks, knitting and sleeping. We had to ask the ramp crew via inter-phone to find someone and ask if we needed paperwork for the HAZMAT. Several minutes later we were told no paperwork was needed. The HAZMAT was a biological substance but there was no dry ice involved. Fine.

Normal leg up. Arrived to my new gate. My mainline partner has shaken things up in my base. There used to be just my airline providing regional lift in my base. Now there are two other airlines. More flights were added, but gates were taken away due to construction. This has all lead to no extra gates. If one flight runs late then the next flight for that gate will be just dominos.

After twenty minutes we parked. Running late I grabbed a decent Hummus and Veggie wrap and headed to the next gate.

Blocked out on time.

Off to Mexico.

I'd been to this overnight several times. Getting into this airport is a little easier than others as there is less terrain to deal with.

As with most airports in Mexico there is little to no RADAR coverage below 17000 feet. Thus IFR flights have to be staggered out. As luck would have it we were leading the pack.

I listened to the ATIS and heard runway 14 was in use. I verified the FMS was setup correctly. I then set up the VNAV guidance for the crossing restrictions.

Then I waited. And waited. Finally I asked the Captain to ask ATC for lower. We were 80 miles out at FL370.

"Unable due to crossing traffic." stated the controller. It's rare to see other traffic in Mexico. It's very sparse. I slowed down in preparation for the descent.

A few minutes later the traffic crossed under us. Now we were just 55 miles out.

The chart below is real. It's not terribly hard to figure out the airport, but I blocked out most details to continue to separate my airline from my blog.



It was doable, but it would be tight.

I idled the engines and spun the vertical speed down to 3500 feet per minute and deployed the speed brakes.

I had planned on crossing the NUTZZ fix at 10000.

Passing FL200 I realized I would still be high. Out went the first setting of flaps.

Mexico has speed limits. In the United States I could be screaming down at 320 knots all the way to 10,000 feet. For this airport I had to be below 250 knots by 16,000 feet. I had to shallow my descent.

Even at 15,000 feet I didn't think I would make it. Down went the gear. With the gear down I had more drag so I could increase the descent rate.

We crossed NUTZZ at 14,000 feet.

I clearly saw the airport as we crossed the 12.0 DME fix and joined the DME arc still at 10,500 feet.

Since it was VFR and there was no terrain to worry about I shallowed the descent rate and put all the remaining flaps out.

We turned final and I was just 500 feet high. Easily manageable.

Finally crossing the 4 DME fix did the engines come out of idle.

Normal approach and landing from there.

Clearing customs in Mexico annoys me a bit.

Passengers press a button on a kiosk before leaving customs. A screen will pop up saying "extra screening" or more likely "free to go".

Crews don't get that luxury.

For reasons that have never been explained to me, Customs agents go through every single bag US airline crews carry. Every single bag. Right out in the open....on a big table.

Most Mexican airports are located on the outskirts of town. The cities are sprawling. This means long van rides. This van ride was "short" at 25 minutes. I've had rides as long as 50 minutes.

The Captain filled out the paperwork for the hotel.

Super firm bed as is the norm in Mexico.

Nice free breakfast.

One O'clock van time. At noon my phone rang, I was was a "wake up call". The Captain set it up but didn't tell us about it. Fine.

I was down in the lobby at 12:50PM. The Captain was already there. I greeted him and shortly thereafter the Flight Attendant came down. She asked if we were ready. I said I was, but the Captain said he wasn't. So the Flight Attendant and I just sat in the van. A few minutes later he came out.

Clearing customs on the way out was easy. His leg. We loaded up early, but the computer system wouldn't allow us to leave until 10 minutes prior.

For 15 minutes we just sat there. We could have run checklist...but we just sat there. Finally the onboard printer started printing out our close out data. Away we went.

About 30 minutes out I sent the in range message. The printer then spit out connecting gates for passengers and flight assignments for the crew. I was (happily)  surprised to see the Captain had no assignment. He said he dropped it.

Blocked in 10 minutes early. The Captain was in a hurry to commute home and left almost as soon as the door opened. The Flight Attendant and I were happy to see him go. He was just not the norm. Not friendly and not personable.

We cleared US customs and headed to our last turn. The next Captain was also reserve. A guy we have flown with a few times. Nice guy to work with.

Quick and easy turn to the place I was born. Last overnight for the month is done.

Next month I have vacation. With my bidding strategy I work just 8 days next month. I will likely pick up some flying though as that's too much time spent at home.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Questions Answered: How much does a regional First Officer make after 7 years?

Another year is behind me. Twenty-Fifteen was interesting. Last year I made this post after getting my W2. I'm using data for this post from my last pay stub of 2014. I might come back and revise this later.

In 2015 I flew 755 hours. My total compensation from my employer was $50,661.77. Of that $44,480.32 was taxable. The difference between the two is due to medical insurance  for my family (a hefty $4,605.72), employee life insurance ($170.28) and a special 401K contribution ($450.10). The numbers don't quite add up to other trivial items such as per diem and such.

Still the total compensation isn't horrible....but I'm now topped out in pay as a First Officer. In my opinion a Professional Pilot should be earning this in their second year...not in their 8th.

Taking to total compensation and dividing by the number of hours of flight equals just over $65 an hour. My pay rate for most of the year was just over $41 an hour.

Last year I made the comment that I should be Captain in the next 18 months. Things are very fluid....but I just might meet the deadline.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Breakfast is served

December is done. Twenty-Fourteen is done. The "How Much does a First Officer make" post is coming.

The last trip of the month was fun. I had my line Captain back and a senior Flight Attendant in the back.

The Flight Attendant was new to me. Throughout the week he kept asking about my diet. I mentioned once that I was a vegetarian. Over the first 3 days he asked if I ate eggs or fish or a number of other things. I eventually said if it has a face or brain I don't eat it.

The first two nights were in cold cities.

On the third day we were headed to the airport when the Flight Attendant made a funny observation. We were the anti-stereotype crew. The Captain was a woman, The Flight Attendant a man and myself a "black" pilot. He made a joke that "a woman, a black guy and a gay gay walk into a bar." We all started laughing.

The last night was ON the beach in Florida. I had hopes for warmth.....but I was let down. It was in the 50s. The Flight Attendant for the week lived there so he went home. The Captain and I headed to the hotel. She was tired so I went out solo in search of food.

Being Florida everything on the menu at the hotel restaurant had beef, chicken or most common was seafood.

I decided to make the trek to a cafe and bar that's popular with flight crews, but that I had never visited. They had one item on the menu that was ok with me....Nachos. I did order them without on odd look....I'm used to it.

The next morning was New Years Eve. Early morning 5:20AM van.

Left on time. Normal flight with my Captain flying while I was pilot monitoring.

About halfway into the flight the call button lights up. I answer.

"Are you two ready for breakfast? " ask the Flight Attendant.

"Um well we don't really want anything from the galley." I replied.

"I'm at the door, first up is the Captains meal, I will call back for yours." he replied.

I followed our flight deck access procedures.

I then handed the Captain a tray with a HOT apple turnover, banana, apple, orange juice and a yogurt.

He called back and then handed me a carrot. I was a little confused and started laughing. He then called again and gave me a tray with an apple, banana, bag of fresh granola and an orange juice.

All of the items were purchased at a grocery store the night before. We were in awe.

We ate up and arrived on time. I could not have ended the year with a better crew.