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.

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