Wednesday, January 20, 2016


I’m currently sitting in a very comfortable business class seat on a 777. The nose is pointed toward home. 

This is my last full month as a regional First Officer. I start training as a Captain next month. That day can’t come soon enough.

Being a Senior First Officer has it’s perks and negatives. The perks are I get to fly the trips that I find most desirable .For the most part I work only when I want and where I want. This month that meant late starts on Wednesdays and early finishes on Saturdays. This is really what my wife wanted. 

Ideally being in the top 10% I’d be flying day trips. Due to a myriad of things beyond my control, all I can pick from are four day trips.

The first trip of the month was all up north. This week I flew all down south. South is preferable in the winter as it means warmer temps and less of a chance of having to deice.

The trip started okay. Flying with a very senior Captain I’ve flown with before. When I say senior I mean it. He was hired 30 years ago and has enjoyed the life of a Captain for 29 of those years. He’s very set in his ways and tends to ignore input from First Officers. 

Contrary to the belief of new hires, if things go wrong on the flight deck both pilots do a carpet dance (AKA head down to the Chief Pilots office or FAA questioning). I take my tickets seriously. I refuse to put up with foolishness. I make Captain decisions and recommendations even though I sit in the right seat. I don’t step on toes, but I don’t take it and deal with it either. Most of the time this isn’t an issue. With this guy it is.

Several times over the trip I had to repeat myself as he ignored things I stated previously. This could have been my takeoff briefing, aircraft condition, weather ahead or just about anything else I discussed. It was tiring to say the least.

Today is day 4. It started with a 3AM wakeup call for a 4AM van for a 5:05AM departure. Early.

We arrived and hoped to get the 3 legs done quickly before deadheading home. We were flying in and out of an airport where we used to have a base, but it has since closed. 

It was very foggy outside with just ¼ SM visibility. Enough for takeoff but not to return. When I finished my preflight I was stowing my jacket when the Captain asked ,”Hey what’s the minimum oil we need to start an engine?” I replied, “8 quarts… much do we have?” 

“Yeah I think that’s right, let me look it up.” he stated. I knew I was right….he likely knows I’m right...but he’s looking it up? Why ask? 

We were about 1 quart low. The crew that brought the plane in last night likely knew it was low, but failed to let anyone else know. Delayed. 

There aren’t many mechanics around at 5 AM on a Saturday. I let the station manager know via the radio. The Captain, sitting right next to me, asked if I would let the station manager know. Yep.

He then called our operations and got the ball rolling on getting a mechanic. ETA was 6AM. I again let the station manager know. 

We only had 50 minutes to connect to the next flight. Since we had no base, there were no reserves to call to staff it, they would simply have to delay the flight. 

Then things got worse. Weather at the hub was ⅛ SM. I was supposed to fly three flights and then spend 2 hours sitting around until my deadhead flight. After returning to base I planned on rushing home, packing a backpack, and heading back to the airport to catch a flight over to Detroit for the North American International Autoshow. I go every year. As planned I’d get in at 10PM, hotel by 11PM meaning I’d be awake for 20 hours. That was all in question.

The mechanic arrived early. Again it was just oil. Weather at the hub was ¼ SM mile and expected to improve. Surprisingly there was no CAT II approach. We could still takeoff and at worst head to an alternate. At best the weather would improve. We are allowed to takeoff if the weather is below mins now BUT expected to improve by the ETA.

I asked the Captain if he would like to board since it was just oil. He declined. He wanted to wait until the oil was done. Fine.

Oil done. I asked if he wanted to board. He declined. He now wanted to wait until the mechanic was done with the logbook. 

Finally all done. The weather was holding at ¼ SM. He said he wanted to send a message to the dispatcher about the weather. Earlier he called….now he uses text. His commute flight home wasn’t until 2:30 PM. He had no hurry. Ten minutes later he said we could board. Boarding started. This is about 45 minutes after the oil had been completed. If we had boarded then we would have been in the air by now. 

The dispatcher called the station. She wanted to delay the flight as weather had dropped back to 1/8SM. And so it began...ground stop for an hour. Then another hour….then another hour.

At 9:20 AM weather was up to ½ SM. Another airport close by was at ¾ SM.  After letting the Captain know, I asked if he wanted to at least board. Not yet. Fine.

I was beginning to get tired. All hopes of connecting to my deadhead flight and getting to Detroit were gone. I asked a buddy who works for Delta about a direct flight from the hub I was flying to. He said it looked decent. Going direct meant I’d have to wear something in the suitcase of clothes I’d been toting for 4 days, but at least I could see the show.

Getting more tired. I checked and saw that I was going to be illegal at 2:05PM. This was due to FAR 117. 

At 9:31 the ground stop was lifted. Half of the passengers had given up and left the airport. After getting the clearance we were told our window for wheels up was 9:58 to 10:02. 

Being on a regional jet is a plus sometimes as there are fewer passengers to board. We loaded up and taxi’d out at 9:50. The Captain turned to plane ontp runway 29 and I took over the controls at 10:00 AM. Away we went. 

Smooth air. Most of the early morning diversions were international flights. Since most were "heavy" it took a awhile to get the refueled and filed. I know at least one that had to be recrewed as the pilots timed out. 

I expected to be slowed enroute, but there were no delays. I made a decent landing and we went straight to an open gate.

The inside of the terminal was crazy busy. My deadhead flight was already delayed by 2 hours. I decided to try and go standby on an earlier flight that was delayed until my original flight departure time. It worked. I scored a business class seat. 

I walked off the plane at 3:05 PM. I pulled in my garage at 4PM. I then quickly packed a backpack, kissed my family and pulled out of the garage at 4:25PM. At 5:50PM I was sitting in a First Class seat waiting to depart for Detroit. 

After a nice dinner and a few cocktails the flight landed in frigid Detroit. 

The Autoshow was great. I arrived before it opened and saw everything I wanted in 3 hours. 

Glad it all worked out. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

I'm supposed to be on top right now

I'm bidding in the top 5% in my current status. Normally I'd be on top.

Years ago the top guys held cushy 18 day off day trips worth 85-90 hours. Life was good. Due to various reasons almost everyone at my airline is flying 4 day trips. Local pilots hate 4 day trips.

I got my top pick of the crappy 4 day trips. How crappy ? Well my line is under 68 hours. I get paid 72 hours (which is the contractual guaranty). In previous months I had lines as low as 50 hours. This sounds great as I get paid for more than I fly. It's not great though as I have just 14 days off. Years ago pilots had more hours and more days off.

Enough complaining. Winter is in full effect. I've deiced a lot lately. I used to bid Mexico flights in winter to avoid deicing, but a good chunk of the Mexico flights have been given to another regional.

I'm still slated to start training for my Captain seat next month. A new airplane and a new seat. My hopes of bidding out before I start are fading. I should still be able to bid bad to base before the end of the year though.

While sitting in the airport between flights a fellow pilot who recently upgraded stopped by. He mentioned his desire to never commute. He's staying at my airline until he gets picked up by my mainline partner. Family first. That's something I stressed in the past and I still agree with. My commuting stint should be short lived. Famous last words eh?