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Old 01-27-2015, 09:16 AM   #51
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
Quote:
Originally Posted by pbot View Post
Sorry to read about the upcoming work schedule but this is a very interesting thread. Thanks for giving us an opportunity to see what goes on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Izulde View Post
Just dropping in to say I love reading this thread.

Thanks guys. I appreciate it.
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Old 01-27-2015, 10:09 AM   #52
timmae
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Chicago
This thread should be required reading for anyone who is bitching and moaning "What the heck is the pilot doing anyways... let's take off already!" lol..
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Old 01-27-2015, 11:37 AM   #53
CraigSca
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Not Delaware - hurray!
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Originally Posted by PilotMan View Post
Thanks guys. I appreciate it.

Awesome, awesome, awesome response to my winter-related questions - thanks so much. I did notice, too, but forgot to mention that a guy got out of the de-icing truck and sprayed the intake of the engines as well - again, I'm assuming to remove any accumulation from the blades.

This entire process fascinates me. I read the NTSB report on the Air Florida disaster years ago. Terrible that it takes something like that to change protocols in such a way, but wonderful to hear that there are things going on in the background that go a long way to being safer than even I had hoped.

Again, thanks for the response!
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Old 02-01-2015, 01:11 AM   #54
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
Just so you know, I do still have a job. I haven't been this long out of a plane and off of work without being in training for over a decade. It feels weird. I don't want to give the impression that this much time off is something that is normal for me or anyone really. This time next week though, I should be back to the grind. There is one more thing that might come in the way of that though. We'll see.

The last 3 weeks haven't been without effort. It's certainly been been no vacation. I've got a new appreciation for the effort that my wife goes through with my constant comings and goings. She is a phenomenal partner and I am lucky to have had her with me for the last 15+ years. Just keeping up with the normal chores, meals and school is more than enough to keep someone busy. There really is never any break from it. Ever.

While the Mrs. has been on the mend from her surgery life has gone on. I've dealt with her total care and the normal kid/school/family stuff. The hot water heater decided it was time to give up the ghost. I'm so very thankful it let us know with a nice leak at the base rather than exploding all over the basement. The last thing that anyone needs is 50 gallons of water suddenly making it's way across the basement floor. We had some warranty repair work done on the treadmill. I made the aforementioned trip to the ER. I spent one morning running around Cincinnati to get a part for the dishwasher that had quit and then spent some time getting that running again. All in the space of 3 weeks! Thank god I was able to be here and take care of it all.

Yesterday though, the Mrs. got a call that her estranged mother passed away. Arrangements are sometime this coming week, but things aren't really determined yet. This is a woman that I have no sympathy for. She was quite possibly one of the worst people that I've ever met. The distance was necessary to protect my wife and to ultimately protect our kids. I feel awful for her Grandpa, that he has to bury his oldest child. He's already very fragile. Now this week we go into a situation that we've talked about, but never came up with a good plan for how to handle it. We will be heading to the funeral this week. I will stand by my wife and I will hold my tongue. I will protect her if she needs it, but I don't expect that there will be any trouble. It's so fortunate that I have a few more days at home. If it looks like it'll interfere with my schedule next week I'll call and have myself taken off so I can take care of business here.

Just because I'm not traveling right now doesn't mean that work isn't going on. We've got our yearly vacation bidding going on right now and the deadline to get mine in is rapidly approaching. After that, it'll be time to think about how to adjust my monthly bid for March so I don't run into the same issues that I ended up with in February. Namely screwing myself by asking for too much.

I appreciate the feedback from everyone. I'm glad that you feel like you are getting your money's worth out of my writing. Thanks.
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Old 02-02-2015, 11:32 PM   #55
PilotMan
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Like everything else that's been going on I managed to get my vacation bid in at nearly the last possible instant.

We bid now for vacation time that starts from May of 2015 until the end of April 2016. Last year I wasn't senior enough to hold my vacation time until the end of March this year. Between being with 3 companies from 2012 until now I haven't actually had a paid vacation since December of 2011. Granted I've had time off that seemed like vacation time, but it's been that long since anything was official.

Again, like everything in aviation vacations are bid on seniority. Weeks are bid in blocks of 7 days all the way up to the maximum number of days that can be held off. It's kind of a mess and like the monthly schedule bids complicated and long winded. No sense in trying to explain it except that I could have all my vacation awarded or I might possibly have to bid up to 2 more times if none of my choices are available.

My bid requests are pretty straightforward. I want some to try for some time around the holidays and if that doesn't work I want something in the summer. My next week I'd like to try and get my kids spring break off in 2016. After that it's pretty much a crapshoot. I'll have to see if I have any time unawarded after this run of the bid and if I do It'll be back to the drawing board for one of the less desirable weeks that remain.
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Old 02-04-2015, 03:01 PM   #56
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
I'm having a challenging day mentally today. The funeral is set for Friday and I was asked if it would be possible for me to be a pallbearer. The family is really small and I was able to do it for my wife's Grandmother a couple years ago, but inside my head this is different. I know that they don't have many options and I know that I'm going to do it too. I'll do it for my wife and I'll do it for her Grandfather who I love and who is destroyed right now. It's just not an easy decision or it's a decision that makes me feel conflicted inside anyway. I know what the right choice is, but there are parts of me that needed some extra convincing to make it.

I love working for a company that has the resources to be able to handle an event like this without it causing a big deal. I called my manager today and was able to get my trip that was starting this weekend off. I just don't think I would be mentally ready to go on Saturday morning after what is sure to be an extra emotional, possibly tension filled day on Friday. I'm not sure I can justify leaving the Mrs. so soon after that day and then couple it with the pressures of having to take over the running of the house while she still is still recovering. I'm so thankful for this job.
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Old 02-06-2015, 08:26 PM   #57
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
Today was a long day. I'm glad the hard part is over. It was better than it could have been. But I don't think you can ever say that these things go well.
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Old 02-06-2015, 11:04 PM   #58
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
Quote:
Originally Posted by PilotMan View Post
Like everything else that's been going on I managed to get my vacation bid in at nearly the last possible instant.

We bid now for vacation time that starts from May of 2015 until the end of April 2016. Last year I wasn't senior enough to hold my vacation time until the end of March this year. Between being with 3 companies from 2012 until now I haven't actually had a paid vacation since December of 2011. Granted I've had time off that seemed like vacation time, but it's been that long since anything was official.

Again, like everything in aviation vacations are bid on seniority. Weeks are bid in blocks of 7 days all the way up to the maximum number of days that can be held off. It's kind of a mess and like the monthly schedule bids complicated and long winded. No sense in trying to explain it except that I could have all my vacation awarded or I might possibly have to bid up to 2 more times if none of my choices are available.

My bid requests are pretty straightforward. I want some to try for some time around the holidays and if that doesn't work I want something in the summer. My next week I'd like to try and get my kids spring break off in 2016. After that it's pretty much a crapshoot. I'll have to see if I have any time unawarded after this run of the bid and if I do It'll be back to the drawing board for one of the less desirable weeks that remain.

So the first round of the awards were posted today and while I didn't get any weeks in the summer (again...sigh....bummer) I did get 2 weeks awarded. I'll get my kids fall break (4 day weekend coinciding with teacher education) and then spring break again in 2016. At least it's something to plan for and isn't just a meaningless couple weeks in January or February. The other upside of getting both weeks awarded in the first go around is that I don't need to worry about bidding any more, or trying to decide what to bid for out of what's left over. I can tell you, as far as I'm concerned, there's nothing left at this point that would be worth anything.

With it being the 6th of the month it's also time to consider my bid for March. The bidding window is open for and I need to look at what time I need off. More importantly, how I can improve my bid overall to so I can avoid the mess that happened in February? I'll break it down a little more soon with how many hours I need for a line and where I'm actually bidding at in March.
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Old 02-07-2015, 10:30 AM   #59
timmae
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Chicago
Time bidding is almost like an online game of sorts. With real life consequences... ughh.
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Old 02-13-2015, 12:20 AM   #60
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
I gave my wife a sign for Christmas that says "You are my favorite hello and my hardest goodbye." It seemed fitting considering the in and out nature of my life. Most couples would have a melt down after this much time together, but not us. Thirty-five days. Yep, you read that right. Thirty-five days. That's how long I've been out of an airplane and away from work. Now granted, some of it was by design and some of it was due to things outside of my control, but I can't deny that it's been both nice and hard to be away that long. There is something about the my job that scratches an itch that you just can't quite reach otherwise. I know that sounds a little hokey, but it's true for a lot of guys in aviation. When I was learning to fly back in the day you'd see guys come in and try it because they wanted the money or the lifestyle. They weren't prepared for what the job actually entailed and they found out quick that this kind of thing was not just something that you'd pick up on the way.

So like true to form I got my March bid in at nearly the last possible opportunity. I had been procrastinating doing it because I just didn't know what I wanted to do. Ultimately I had to go much more generic with my options. I had to really emphasize that flying in and out of LGA is just too much a pain for me personally and that if possible I'd avoid it at all costs. I had to decide what (if any) were important dates in March. My middle son has a band concert and it's in a position in the month that is going to be difficult to get off based on the days off I have at the end of February. My goal was to avoid the 4 on-2 off-4 on-2 off-4 on that February turned into that had all of my flying crushed in the middle of the month. I'm currently bidding about 76% among lineholders, meaning that only 24% of the group of lineholders bids after me. There isn't a lot to count on, especially when you consider how challenging the last 2 months were to schedule. Ultimately I decided on a very generic bid where I am trying to get a continuous cycle of 4 days on and at least 3 days off in between. No preference for weekends off or even any other specific days. It's a schedule I think my family and I could handle for a long while. It's something that we've handled well in the past and it just makes the month go better with things more spread apart. It makes commuting easier as well. I just don't feel like bidding for specific days is really going to work again until maybe summertime when the schedules get much heavier.

I do have one thing going for my in March/April and that is my vacation. It hardly seems like I should be excited about vacation after just having 35 days at home, but I am. We are taking a trip to Hilton Head for the first time ever and I'll get to take my wife to Savannah, a place I've always wanted to take her. It'll be the first family vacation in 2 years and the first long driving vacation we've had in 5. These last 35 days were NOT a vacation. It was work. Just the kind that my wife usually does. My vacation should help with my schedule as it counts as a certain number of flight hour credits and will mean that I don't need that many trips to have a schedule built. Who knows though? I'm already nervous that I've fucked something up again.

The crash pad is quiet tonight. I'm the only one here which is nice. I've only been here 2 times in the last 2 months. It's not exactly paying for itself right now, but it's still worth it. It really pays when it's quiet and you have the room to yourself. I only have a little bit of trepidation about the time away, like suddenly I've forgotten everything I'm supposed to do. I had this feeling once last year after a particularly quiet time and I found out that I have nothing to worry about. It all comes back and it comes back so easy. Even landing planes. I think I can still nail a good landing even after 35 days away. I guess I'll find out tomorrow or Saturday, depending on when my turn to fly comes up.

I'll leave you with the last line from one of my favorite movies. Fast Eddie Felson steps up, smiles big and says "Hey, I'm back!" So I am.
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Old 02-15-2015, 10:46 PM   #61
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
I had wanted to give some updates before now, but now is better than never so let me take you back to Friday morning.

I started my trip with a deadhead (me in the back getting paid to be a passenger) from Newark to Montego Bay. We were delayed getting out of Newark due to a sold out plane being downsized and now there were about 10 seats that had to be bought off. With it being an international flight the ramp had to make sure that the people who didn't get on didn't have their bags shipped off to Jamaica. We were eventually somewhere close to 45 minutes late. I was only supposed to have about an hour between flights in Jamaica anyway.

Once we got to Montego Bay I had to go from gate 7 to gate 4, but wait, it's not that easy. No, I have to go clear customs like all the other passengers, leave the building (side-note; I'm wearing my suit, hat and trench coat. It's 80 degrees. Jamaican's have no problem asking you why you are wearing a coat or calling out from the road, or bar, or pretty much anywhere), walk outside to the departure building then go back through security and then I can finally get to the gate. What a pain. So this flight was going to be late too. When I got to the plane it had already been boarded and the passengers were just waiting on us pilots to take them to Chicago. It took us a normal amount of time to get the plane ready, but for the passengers I'm sure that it was an eternity. Finally we left for Chicago. I flew this leg and got my first landing since my time off. It wasn't an easy one either as winds were 25-30 mph. I've logged over 1500 landings in my career but that voice in the back of your head can get to you when you've been off so long. I put it right where I wanted it and we were back on the ground again. We cleared customs again and then walked to the hotel for the short layover.

Next morning up at 445a and it's cold as fuck. I'm not looking forward to the preflight. Today is a breeze compared to yesterday though. While yesterday was over 8 hours in a plane (flying) and nearly 12 hours on duty, today is just one leg to Ft Myers. I haven't laid over in Ft Myers in years, and even more, the hotel we are going to is the hotel we used to be at when I worked for Comair. I'm a sentimental kind of guy. I always see these loops in life where things get to come full circle. So this was one of those days. It started snowing while I was doing the walk-around and even though it wasn't supposed to we felt like we needed to get deiced before takeoff. Chicago can sometimes be really busy and have plenty of delays, but today it was easy. We got out quick and made it to Ft Myers early. The only drawback was that it was only about 60 there. Still beats where we had just come from.

Today was another early start as we were off to the airport before 6a. Today was also the longest and the day that had the biggest potential for bad things to happen. Weather in the northeast today had caused the cancellation of about 50% of the flying in and out of Newark. The issue was wind. Winds were from 330 (NNW) at 33 and gusting to 39 kts. That translates to 39 to 45 mph. Unfortunately the main runways in Newark are orientated on 040/220. In other words for the main runways the wind was a direct crosswind and gusts exceeded the limitations of the plane. That leaves 1 useable runway in Newark, runway 29, which is only 6200ft long and due to NY's airspace restrictions makes this runway more complicated to use due to Manhattan and airspace owned by LaGuardia. With only 1 runway for takeoffs and landings the potential for delays, holding and fuel diversions was high. However, all the cancellations tempered a lot of this and we weren't really slowed down at all. We had some very rough turbulence from 5000ft all the way down to the surface. It's not like you are making this easy decent right to the runway, for arrivals into EWR you are flying around at this low altitude for about 15-20 minutes due to airspace constraints above for planes going to JFK and LGA and space reserved for departures so you fly lower, longer. I won't lie. This approach was one of the hardest landings I've ever had to do. I'm pretty confident with my flying but even this one had me working hard. It wasn't pretty, but despite everything I still put the plane where I wanted. It was just a harder landing than usual which you will find is normal in strong gusty winds.

That lead into the next flight. The Captain and I weren't entirely sure that we'd be able to use 29 because we needed a lot of fuel and the 737-900ER is known to be a bit of a runway hog. Much to our surprise though and against the grain of a day where I'm sure plenty of people didn't get where they needed to go we were happy to take a plane, full of passengers from that cold hell-hole known as Newark four hours away to the warm vacation destination known as Aruba. This is my first trip to Aruba, and I've got a little time tomorrow morning before we head back to Newark to finish off this trip to relax and get some sun.

We get back too late tomorrow for me to catch a flight to Cincinnati so my plan was to take a flight out first thing Tuesday morning. Of course, Cincinnati is due to get between 6-10 inches of snow Monday and Tuesday. That could really mess things up. I only have 1 full day off in between these 2 4-day trips and I really need to get home so I can take my youngest boys to a car show that we gave them as a Christmas present. I know there's nothing I can do about it right now and I'm only borrowing trouble but I can't help but worry about it.
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Old 02-16-2015, 11:00 PM   #62
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
Slept in as late as I could today. After back to back days of getting up before 5 I have a hard time sleeping late. Shortly after I woke up I found out that my room was directly above the loading dock for the hotel. So I listened to the sound of truck after truck back up and unload. It didn't impact me really and who am I to complain. I'm in Aruba.

The hotel I'm staying at has it's own private beach and a free boat to take you over there. I headed over, got a workout in and then ate some lunch on the beach. I'm not one to really go all out with my meals but times like this call for taking some time for yourself and enjoying the day.



A couple hours later I was back in the plane and on my way back to Newark. Nice flight today, no major issues. After I landed I got some good news and some bad news.

The bad news was that the flight I was planning on taking home the next morning cancelled and that throws a wrench into things. I had the option of trying to hop a ride on a cargo company that has 1 direct flight from Newark to Cincy on weekdays, but after talking with the Mrs. and finding out just how much snow we got and how bad the roads were today the prospect of cleaning my car off at 130a and then trying to get home just didn't sound that great of an idea.

So now I'm going to try for the next flight which is 3 hours later and very full. If I get on that plane there's a good chance I'll be on a jumpseat. That's the plan for now anyway.

The good news was a message from the company that said that my trip was bought off for IOE. So what the hell does that mean? Well IOE is Initial Operating Experience. It's when a new pilot or a new captain is going to get to fly their first few legs with a pilot whose purpose is to give them their first on-line experience with the plane (or seat for the captain.) A pilot has to do about 25 hours in order to get signed off and there is certain training that must also be accomplished. So what does this mean for me? Well you may have figured. The term bought off means that the company is giving my the trip off with pay since I was awarded it and it's my trip and now they need it and are taking it.

This is maybe the second time in 13 years that this has happened to me and it couldn't have come at a better time. With only 2 days off between trips and this bad weather making my commute home more difficult I don't need to worry about that anymore. Even better? It was my last trip for the month. I'm going home and I'll be off until March. Super lucky.
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Old 02-17-2015, 11:01 AM   #63
timmae
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Chicago
Party time in cincy!
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Old 02-17-2015, 03:22 PM   #64
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
No doubt. I ended up in the jumpseat for my flight home. Sometime I'm going to have to take a picture just try and show how little room there is in the jumpseat on the E-145 (the plane that I end up commuting on.) For a guy my size uncomfortable is just not quite the right term for it. On top of that it was 150mph head winds all the way back making the trip even longer.

So what was the cost of commuting today? Well let's see, I got done with my trip around 800p last night and got home today around 1130a. That's a loss of 15.5 hours on the back end and on the front I lost another 13 or so. So just over a day lost on this 4-day trip. I am so happy I don't need to head back on Thursday morning.
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Old 02-18-2015, 10:59 AM   #65
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
I'm very excited for March. My schedule came out and it would seem that the changes that I made were successful, however I'm thinking that because I had vacation that that was a big reason for what I ended up getting. I don't know for sure but I have a feeling that when you have vacation the program that builds the schedules gives you a preference for your choices. I don't know well enough to be sure but it would make sense and other bidding systems previously have worked this way. A little bonus for when you have a vacation.

I ended up getting exactly what I bid for. I have the first few days of March off so I can go to my son's band concert and then I work 3 4-day trips with at least 3 days off in between before I go on vacation. I don't have any weekends off but I'm not flying in or out of LGA and all of the trips are commutable on the back end and one of them on the front end.

All in all it's a very manageable schedule and one that will get me home enough in between trips. If my schedules were like this every month I think that it would be a solid balance between work and home.

Today, it's 16 degrees at home. A full 25 degrees below normal. We got another 2 inches of snow on top of the 7 or so that we got a couple days ago. School is cancelled again and the boys and I have already been out to shovel. I just want you to know that this is not Aruba.

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Old 02-18-2015, 11:09 AM   #66
Radii
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Definitely not Aruba. Just wanted to let you know that I'm thoroughly enjoying reading this Pilotman!
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Old 02-18-2015, 01:22 PM   #67
timmae
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Chicago
Go Midwest! (ducks as snowballs start flying towards me)
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Old 02-18-2015, 03:32 PM   #68
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
I may be the only person in this town with a little sunburn on his face though!
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Old 02-18-2015, 09:36 PM   #69
PilotMan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Radii View Post
Definitely not Aruba. Just wanted to let you know that I'm thoroughly enjoying reading this Pilotman!

Thanks Radii, I'm happy you are finding it interesting!
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Old 02-21-2015, 02:46 PM   #70
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
The biggest of the 7 snowmen that were built today. I am officially tired. I was caught by surprise today. I got up and there were people across the street at our neighbors house. Our neighbors are quite old and can't get out to shovel so we always make sure their house is taken care of. So when I saw someone else doing it I was a little upset. That is until I came outside to do our driveway and the guy comes over to me and tells me they've already paid for our driveway. So the boys and I got off free this morning. It's snowing hard again though and we'll have to go back out later. In the meantime this is the biggest snowman that I've ever made. That bottom piece was heavy!

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Old 02-21-2015, 06:17 PM   #71
timmae
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Awesome stuff! Count me in the group that loves dealing with snow!
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Old 02-28-2015, 10:56 AM   #72
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
So things have been pretty quiet around here again. We've been prepping for a big day today, the 13th birthday of my middle son. For those who don't know he is my middle son, but my first biological son, and while that has never mattered to me, my life did change the day he was born. I've been lucky to see him grow into the young man that he is.

One of the very best things about my life is being able to not think about it and leave it behind completely when I'm not working. The only thing that I need to worry about is when I have to be back in the plane for my next trip. That being said, I do need to get started on some computer training that is due by the end of April. I've had plenty of time to get started on it (since the beginning of January) no reason rush, but no reason to procrastinate on it anymore either.

We still have about 6 inches of snow on the ground at home. Our 7 snowmen from last week are still standing although they don't look nearly as great as they did. The forecast for us has rain, snow, sleet, freezing rain, more rain and possibly a thunderstorm all in the next few days. We are supposed to dodge both weather systems with one going south and one going north. But it's likely that we'll get a good taste of the weather from both as we bounce back and forth across the freezing point with precip falling regularly. They've already talked about flooding in the area as the snow on the ground rapidly melts and more falls.

My next trip isn't until next weekend, so I'm just going to stay home and take care of the family. My intention is to go into some detail on what I do before the start of a trip and before a flight next week. Thanks.
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Old 03-01-2015, 12:04 PM   #73
MIJB#19
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Thanks for sharing your personal experiences, I'll try to tune in from time to time.
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Old 03-05-2015, 12:22 PM   #74
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
I'm feeling frustrated today. Not because it's my last full day home and I'm heading back to work tomorrow but because school is cancelled today. I knew it would be with all the snow that we were going to get but that doesn't change how I feel about it.

Remember that I had tried very hard to bid so that I could get my son's band concert off and then was excited because I did get it off and everything was good? Yeah, that whole plan is blow to bits because of school being cancelled. Because of no school today, that means no concert tonight either. Instead the concert is now scheduled for Monday night. And guess what? I'm not going to be home Monday night. Great.

I know it's just the way that things go and it was totally out of my control, but that doesn't really make me feel any better about it.

We got about 6 inches of snow yesterday and last night. I got the kids out with me and we got our driveway and the neighbors driveway done as well. I'm ready to be done with winter. Lol, I shouldn't be complaining. Our winter was pretty plain until the middle end of January. And we don't have near the cold that I grew up with. Still I can't help but think about that warm weather destination that I'm heading to this weekend.
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Old 03-05-2015, 02:36 PM   #75
Izulde
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Delta flight skids off LaGuardia runway - CNN.com

So this popped up on my Facebook sidebar, and I immediately thought of this thread. Is an automatic process to shut down an airport after a plane skids off the runway? And how long are flights usually suspended as a result?
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Old 03-05-2015, 03:04 PM   #76
PilotMan
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Yeah, it's a safety issue. I mean I can't say for sure every single time, but safe to say that if one plane had an issue then that pretty much tells you that every other plane that lands would be at risk. Not only that, but ATC is immediately busy. Ground it busy directing CFR (Crash-Fire-Rescue) to the site while Tower is helping get planes rerouted to other airports.

Primary importance would be to secure the plane and make sure that it is safe to approach, you know, not leaking fuel or on fire or anything. Talking to the crew to verify how passengers and crew are and then working out a plan to get everyone off and transported to a safe area. Then they have to figure out how to move the plane off the berm and fence and get it to a safer area.

I'm guessing that the airport will be shut down for a few hours. That airport is very challenging in snowy conditions. It's surrounded by water and very tight airport boundaries. The runways are pretty short. I love flying in there but it's also the site of some of my hardest landings. I can tell you that on the other side of that fence and berm is water. So this could have been a much different outcome. It looks like everyone was pretty much able to walk off alright, which is the goal every time.
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Old 03-05-2015, 03:10 PM   #77
timmae
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Tell us more about these "hardest landings"!! I need reference for what I sometimes think... man this pilot can't judge depth!
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Old 03-05-2015, 03:43 PM   #78
PilotMan
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By hardest I mean most challenging. Not necessarily roughest. We make jokes that the most challenging days are when it's clear and beautiful and there's no wind. There are no excuses on those days. Like my landings a few weeks ago, strong cross winds, wind shear and bad weather are the culprits of challenging approaches. In bad weather the goal is to put the plane on the ground, so a firm landing is a good thing. Slow speeds close to the ground make the plane more susceptible to gusts or sudden wind shifts. Less forward momentum through the air means less usable rudder (the pedals I control with my feet) to control the direction the nose points.

Speed dictates the overall effectiveness of the controls. For every approach and landing the approach speed, landing speed, and landing distance is calculated prior to the approach. These are the targets we are shooting for while trying to point the plane in the right direction. Wind correction while flying is like crabbing into a strong current with a boat. It takes planning and coordination, but it goes a step further. Landing with a crab in puts undo stress on the landing gear and is considered a poor technique. Sometimes it's unavoidable, but in all cases we try and avoid it. To correct for the crab, the last 10 feet to the ground the pilot takes out the crab by dropping the wing a little (using the ailerons, controlled by the yoke) and "kicking the rudder" to compensate for the crosswind. This is the effect of the plane pointing in the same direction as the runway, with the upwind wing being slightly lower and into the wind. All this time using pitch and power adjustments to maintain the correct rate of decent and proper airspeed. Gusty and unpredictable winds make all those things happen often and simultaneously. I hope that clears up what I'm talking about.
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Old 03-07-2015, 06:27 PM   #79
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
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I left home yesterday at around 515p and headed to the airport for work. This will be my second trip since the early part of January. Between scheduling, bereavement leave, trips bought for training, and a little luck I've been very fortunate.

I've finally come into the 21st century. I bought 6 smartphones for the family. With my traveling a smartphone is almost a necessity. I've typically purchased my internet through Boingo and written that off as a need item. Getting stuck in an airport for hours on end is bad enough. Trying to plan travel and find the best option home it's life and death. So with this upgrade I'm looking forward to having some better quality pics to display here.

Quiet trip to the crashpad, I got there around 9 pm and only had to share the room with 1 other guy. I was back at the airport by 715a this morning. I didn't need to be there until closer to 8, but I had some things that I had to get done, like check my mailbox and download and revue the paperwork before the flight. My flight today took me to the place that I was daydreaming about while I shoveling snow this week. I was heading back to the 85 degree temps of Aruba for the longest layover of the trip.

We got all loaded up on time and were pushed out early. Once we started to taxi out to the runway ground control told us that we were going to be held for restrictions over our departure gate. They didn't tell us why, but I suspect that it was simply flow for congestion heading south from the New York area. Our flight plan had a 20 minute taxi time added into it and even with that we were supposed to get in 8 minutes early. However, our delay was somewhere closer to 40 minutes. Once we got off and out and up to altitude we took a look at how much fuel we had, how much time we could make up and then figured how fast we should be able to fly. The plane and planning paperwork gives us good information to be able to make a good decision. I was flying and the company is really pushing to get to the destination on time. I pushed it up as far as we felt comfortable going. There weren't any slowdowns or delays. Our route took us down the east coast to the Norfolk area then out over the Atlantic. From there straight south and over the Dominican Republic and then to Aruba. Just to show how tight and how every minute matters I was able to make up the time that we needed, and the Captain parked the plane at the gate right on the minute of the planned arrival time. So let me pause for a minute to pat myself on the back.

My room today is stunning. I think our normal hotel is full so they put us up across the street at the Ocean Suites here. My room is a suite with a balcony that looks out over the pool and ocean. It could be the Carribean, but I'm just going to call it ocean today.



The Captain and I took the ferry over to the island and enjoyed some food and beverage. They were getting ready to have a wedding over there. I really wish that I'd been able to do something like that. The Mrs. and I got married on the beach in Florida. It was very small, we did everything ourselves and rented a house for the wedding party and family to stay in for the week. I just with looking back that we could have really done something cool like this.

I'm here until just after noon tomorrow when I'll head back to reality with a flight and layover in Chicago. It will be a short layover there, so I won't even leave the airport, with an early get up the following day. Today was really the only day to sit back and enjoy life. Everything else is set up to get ready for the last leg, a red-eye from Los Angeles back to Newark, that will be coming off of a 12 hr, dayover rest period. I'll have to figure out how to get my sleep in the daytime for that leg.
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Old 03-08-2015, 10:07 PM   #80
PilotMan
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I had the morning off in Aruba and did absolutely nothing with it. I didn't sleep all that well and just couldn't find any motivation to do anything. Left for the airport just after noon and went through the maze that is local customs, security and then US pre-clearance. The plane was just deplaning when we got to the gate, but we had to wait for everyone to get off, then wait for customs to clear the aircraft before being allowed to go down.

One thing about the islands is that things generally don't happen very fast. The delay in getting down to the plane and the slow boarding process had us closed up late. Then ramp ATC had some difficulty managing space and caused us to be delayed further. Once we got going all was well again. The route today took us north toward Hispaniola and over Haiti. Haiti is like a 3rd world black hole of ATC in the Caribbean. Santo Domingo to the East has radar and good positive control. Haiti has no radar and just relies on position reports as you travel across the country. I was looking down at Port Au Prince as we passed today thinking that I was seriously lucky to be from the USA. That country has nothing but mountains and rock and dry land. The Dominican at least has some farmland and flat areas, Haiti is just one, dry, rock.

From there we just tracked north of Cuba and south of Bimini until we crossed into the US at Fort Lauderdale. Then north to Jacksonville, Knoxville, passed within 20 miles of my house, west of Fort Wayne then joined the arrival into Chicago. We were on track to only be about 5 minutes late when the ramp told us that there was no room in the inn. We ended up waiting an extra 15 minutes for a gate to open up before we could get in. Stuff like this is really frustrating for us. We try really hard to get where we are supposed to go on time, especially short layover nights and this stuff cuts into that time and just irritates passengers. Nothing I can do about it at all.

Staying at our short hotel at the airport. I'll be off to LAX in the morning. In case you haven't heard LAX has just started a 3 year runway rehab construction project and there are already delays. I'm hoping that we get out early enough in the morning that it won't affect us. Any delays will cut into my afternoon rest before the red eye back to Newark.
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Old 03-09-2015, 03:04 PM   #81
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
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Today has almost been perfect. Almost. Got up around 530a this morning in Chicago to get ready for my 730a flight to LA. Everything went just the way it was supposed to. On my end anyway. I grabbed a Dt. Mt Dew before I went to the plane. It's for the red-eye tonight going back to Newark. I can't find Dt Dew anywhere near our gates in LAX. After 3 days of Diet Coke ( I don't drink coffee) I'm ready for the change. It's also become just one more thing in my routine for red-eyes.

The boarding process went smooth, except that we had a passenger who needed to be wheeled on with an aisle chair and somebody neglected to get them boarded first. Getting them on after the plane is boarded is a bit more challenging. That cost us missing our out time by 5 minutes, but we were planned into LAX twenty minutes early so it's not a big deal.

The flight was very nice today. Flying west in the morning is always a plus. No staring into the sun for half the day. The weather was good and the front range was very scenic today. I snapped this picture of Zion National Park; east of Las Vegas, on our way into LA.



We landed a good 13 minutes early and our gate was open. That is until someone decided to take it away at the last minute and give it to another plane. The only reason that I'm guessing was some sort of VIP on board to get them into the gate faster. So we got kicked to the curb. Our gate was occupied by a 767 that had been loaded with a dog and dry ice in the same cargo bin. Obviously that can't work, but they must not have been getting good information on how to fix it because it was taking forever!

Pretty soon our early arrival turned to a late arrival. Ground control kept taxiing us all over the airport because it seemed that no matter where we were we were in the way. So to keep all this straight I've got to talk to ATC Ground control on one frequency, our Company tower operation on the other frequency, talk to the flight attendants as needed and make the PA's to the passengers in between. The Captain just drives and we both double check each other to be sure we are where we are supposed to be.

They finally give us another gate and we get parked almost 40 minutes after we had landed. Like I say to the passengers, this sort of thing is out of my control. If I could change it I would, but I'm doing my best to make sure that our Tower ops knows that I'm irritated with the whole mess. Especially when we were early/on-time.

I short my sleep somewhat the night before a red-eye, in addition to getting some good food and good exercise. That lets my body let down enough to where I can usually sleep for 4-5 hours during the day; before the all night flight back to Newark. We have to be on time tonight. My flight home depends on it!
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Old 03-09-2015, 03:46 PM   #82
britrock88
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Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: WI via ND via NC
Hoping to have the chance to visit Zion NP this summer. Thanks for the preview!
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Old 03-13-2015, 03:21 PM   #83
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
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I can't believe that I haven't posted anything since my last flight. I guess you may or may not be wondering if I made it back. So I guess this should be proof enough that I've made it back just fine. Lol. I slept about 4.5 hours before my red-eye, getting up around 1230a East Coast time. I've become more adjusted to the all night thing, but it's still never easy for me. This night wasn't bad, except for about 45 minutes before sunrise. It's just a body thing for me. Once the sun starts to come up my evolutionary instincts kick in and I snap right awake. Prior to that can be some yawning and looking at the clock like you are sitting in 5th period English class or watching the odometer click along on your 500 mi road trip.

We were right on time to the gate and I had a couple hours to kill before my flight back home. Good thing for me it was on time and I got home just after noon. I was even able to get a 45 minute nap on the flight home. That brought the cost of my commute on this trip to about 18.5 hours lost and unpaid and not home. One days when I get home off of a red-eye I try and stay awake the rest of the day. It generally ends up with me being awake for close to 24 hours, followed by getting up at 630a to get the kids to school on time.

I nearly forgot while I was on this last trip that the April bid window was open. I've got my vacation spilling into April which should help my schedule too. I made some adjustments to my March schedule to import to my April bid. My vacation means that I've got my oldest's 20th birthday off as well as Easter Sunday so no need to worry about those dates.

So I'm ok as long as I can get my trips spread out far enough to allow for enough time at home in between and no fucking LGA trips. If my schedule looks anything like that I'll be happy and fine with how it comes out.

Came down with a cold yesterday. Not loving it. I usually don't call in sick for colds as I sinuses are manageable, but I'm not feeling great and am planning on plowing ahead.

I've had a 3 day break on this time home. I'm sitting here though coming to grips with the decision that I need to make regarding tomorrow and my trip to work. My trip doesn't need me in Newark tomorrow until 345p. I had planned on taking the 1 direct flight from here to there tomorrow leaving later in the morning, but not giving me a fall-back plan if I ran into problems getting to work. I went to check in for the flight and find that the flight is sold out and I'm #3 on the standby list for 1 or possibly 2 jumpseats. The short of that is that while there is a good chance that 2 people won't show up and I could possibly get the jumpseat that it's about an equal chance that I don't get on the flight at all. Sigh. That's not really a chance that I can afford to take which means that instead of leaving home tomorrow at 10a I'm going need to leave at 540a to catch a flight to Charlotte and then another flight to Newark from there. This is probably the second time in the last 2 years where I haven't been able to make a single leg commute work. Plus by the time I get to Newark I'll have about 4 hours to wait until I need to actually do work. Like I've said in the past though, I'm a master of killing time. Maybe I can even get a nap in operations before my flight.
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Old 03-13-2015, 10:15 PM   #84
PilotMan
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...and I feel like shit and I've called in sick for the trip. I think my ears were popping just going down the stairs. Today was miserable. Upside is now I don't need to go to Charlotte to get to work! Silver linings I guess. I think that my 12 year old did this. He seemed to get over it after a few days, so I'll be optimistic.
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Old 03-15-2015, 08:27 PM   #85
PilotMan
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A couple quick thoughts on how sick time works. It's sort of like any other job and sort of not. Except that you are encouraged to give the company as much heads up as possible, and in fact, one way to get a meeting scheduled is to give less than 4 hours notice. It's sometimes crazy that this is probably the only job where that much heads up is welcome or necessary. In this case I gave the company roughly 17 hours notice to cover my trip. I have a sick bank of time that is used to cover trips. It gets filled at a rate of 5 hours per month (almost twice what it filled any my other companies) and my trip was worth about 20 hours. So it'll take me 4 months of work to get back that time in my bank.

Also, whether I miss 1 day or all 4 days doesn't matter to the company. It counts as 1 sick event. The issue becomes if I have too many sick events in a rolling 12 months. That'll get a meeting scheduled too. So in this case while I feel better it's in my best interest to stay home and get over this yuck before trying to get back in the cockpit again, which would be next Sunday.
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Old 03-16-2015, 05:33 PM   #86
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
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This came across my feed today, it's funny and has a lot of truths within.

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Old 03-16-2015, 09:57 PM   #87
timmae
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Chicago
So what is your Mount Rushmore of f'd up airports? LGA and ??, ??, ??
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Old 03-17-2015, 12:20 AM   #88
PilotMan
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I'm just going to lump all the NY airports together in 1. LGA, JFK and EWR all have their own major issues. It wouldn't be fair give one a leg up on the other.

After that I'd have to say PHL. It's small and crowded and frequently is the first to experience slowdowns of the NY area/vicinity airports.

Chicago O Hare has the multiple issues of being one of the busiest airports, coupled with bad weather and having been in a state of remodeling for the last few years. It's getting closer to being better, but the weather will always suck.

After all of those is probably LAX, although IAD or BWI could be in there. LAX is just exceptionally busy. The airport is laid out well, approaches aren't terribly difficult, weather isn't generally an issue, but it's busy. There are lots of international flights.

Take these for what they are. I haven't been around the world I haven't been in many places where ATC isn't very helpful. In fact, this list only includes US airports.

If I'd given thought outside I surely would have started with Mexico City. In fact, Mexico City has to be #1. Mountains, challenging ATC, mountains, altitude of the field, condition of the runaway, challenging approaches, language barrier, it's busy on top of that.

There is no US comparison to Mexico City.
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Old 03-17-2015, 09:35 PM   #89
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
The April schedules came out today and again, I am pleasantly surprised. I do believe that vacation months get preference for bidding because again, I got my first choice.

Now I work over 3 weekends and I know that makes a big difference in getting a better schedule too (due to more senior guys wanting to get weekends off), but all my flying is generously spaced out and commutable on the back end (home leg). I also got a couple of days tied on to my vacation to make it a little longer.

I'm still not feeling well. It seems like it comes and goes. I'm glad I called in. Flying even with a nasty sinus infection and cold can be very painful, annoying for the other guy you are with, and can have potential long term injury depending on what happens. Also with as much coughing as I've been doing finding enough sleep can have a compounding impact over the course of the trip.
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Old 03-22-2015, 09:11 PM   #90
PilotMan
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So I said I was going to write this and I've been procrastinating it. I just need to sit down and punch it out. What goes into the beginning of the flight?

About an hour before the flight I make sure that I have all the paperwork downloaded to my Ipad. This paperwork is called the release. It has all the information about the flight that pertains to us. From the flight plan that was filed, which plane we are flying, the expected flight time and our entire planned fuel load and weight plan. The release also has data for every fix that we are crossing with lat longs, flight time between fixes, fuel burn and so on. The release shows us if there is any broken and deferred equipment (stuff that can be broken and is signed off ok from maintenance per the minimum equipment list.) It also has our entire weather packet that has planned weather along our route and wind speeds aloft. Additionally it can also show areas where there is turbulence, thunderstorms, icing. The release is reviewed and the Captain can make changes or talk to the dispatcher if he has any questions. These changes might be routing, altitude or fuel load changes.

Once I get the release I glance over it make sure that I like what it has to say, the same at the Captain. I can question anything and make suggestions as well. I then download the weather from our weather program. It's pretty detailed and gives me the opportunity to pull up weather charts once we are airborne and I don't have internet access. The third thing that I do is update the planning program in the Ipad. We use that to replace all of our paper charts, maps and so on. It's allowed me to get rid of 35 pounds of paper and an entire bag. It took a little getting used to but I consider it a great step up for the operation. So once I've got my airport and route loaded to that I'm off to the plane.

About 45 minutes before push I show up. Sometimes, like today the passengers are already getting on board. People often wonder why when stuff is broken we don't know about it and stop boarding and the simple answer is that we don't know about it yet. I'm referring to things that just don't work when you are going through the setup process for the flight. You want everything to work, but sometimes it seems like it's all going against you.

I park my bags get part of my stuff that I need out and start the first part of the preflight of the plane. There are things I need to check in the cockpit and a specific setup that is required before I can go outside. Once that is done I head outside for the walk around.

So when the pilot is just walking around what is he really looking for?

Starting at the nose I'm checking everything. Looking at the probes, windows, wheels, hydraulic lines. I'm looking for damage. I'm looking for things that might be forgotten by maintenance. I'm looking for pools of fluid on the ground. I'm looking for specific things that I need to see, like enough wear left on the brakes or making sure that the wings are dry and free from ice, snow or frost. A good walk around takes at least 5-7 minutes on my plane. It's not hard and after a few thousand it's easy to get complacent but you never know when you'll need to find that thing that will make all the difference in the world. It's critical to stay focused every time.

I head back into the plane and sit back down. I may have chatted for a bit with a passenger or probably a flight attendant. The Captain and I have to introduce ourselves and we need to get on the same page for the preflight. We both have different responsibilities but we also have to back one another up too.

Once I get situated I need to start my long preflight flow on the panels and do the required checks of the systems at the same time I'm helping set up the Flight Management System with the routing and aircraft performance. I get the weather and clearance from ATC then whoever is flying the plane begins their briefing on where we are, what we are going to do, and what to expect for the taxi out and takeoff. We accomplish our first checklist after all that is done.

Now that I've got that done I get my headset set up, my IPad mounted to the plane and take care of my necessities prior to door closure. Ask the flight attendants if they have everything they need and then wait for the final weights to be delivered via the computer in the plane. Once we have the weights we input those into the computer and send it off for our takeoff speeds. Those come back and if everything is alright we run another checklist, the doors get shut and we are ready for the pushback.

Like I've said before this is just my part of the dance of the preflight. The gate, flight attendants, ground, dispatch, and load planner all have their own parts to play prior to every single flight. If it all goes the way it's supposed to we get out on time and are off to great destinations.
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Old 03-22-2015, 09:50 PM   #91
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
Morning flight out of Newark today. Sunday morning. That meant that I had to fly here on Saturday. Saturday's just aren't great for commuting. There are fewer flights and as a bonus, Newark had lots of cancellations from the previous day due to weather. I left home just before 230p. The plane was full, but thankfully, once again, I was able to get the jumpseat in the cockpit so I could get to work.

My backup plan wasn't pretty. It involved another flight to Charlotte and the hope that I would get into Newark before 11p. I'm really glad I didnt' need to do that.

This morning came too early. The alarm went off at 530 anyway. When I got to work one of the first things that we were told was the the company was probably going to hold us on the ground before we could taxi out. The flight plan was very fast due to the lack of headwinds and our destination had a restriction that anything earlier than 15 minutes would cause the company to get fined.

From a passenger point of view this seems like a hard thing to swallow. Like why would you delay a flight when you could get there early? But in this case you can see why. We had a little issue with the plane not wanting to load our takeoff performance weights and data and that caused me to make a phonecall to our dispatcher to get them know what we were dealing with and why we were going to be late coming off the gate. The company is really pushing hard to get our push times right on the minute but in this case we were at the mercy of technology.

Once we got that sorted out we went to hold on the ramp for about 5 minutes before getting handed off to ground for our taxi out. They then told us that our departure gate was running delays and to expect them. Now, I'm sitting here wondering why our operations couldn't have expected this because now it seems like our early arrival is evaporating.

It wasn't too bad though and we did eventually get kicked into the air without too much of a delay.

We did our thing and despite our best efforts ATC kept speeding us up and getting us shortcuts. Then they told us we were first in a line of about 8 planes and that we couldn't slow down. Ultimately, we touched down 15 minutes early. I don't know how any earlier would have been our fault when it's ATC that is calling the shots up there, but it didn't matter in the end we got to our destination just fine.



I never complain about coming to Cancun. We don't stay near the party area of the beach, it's still on the strip but a lot more subdued. I honestly thought it would be busier than this. This isn't the best view from my balcony I've ever had but it is the first time that I've been able to see both the Gulf and the waterway back to the mainland.

I snapped this while I was eating dinner. It's busy but not crazy busy. This is as good as it gets on this trip. Tomorrow surely won't be a chance for sunburns, bikinis or cerveza.

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Old 03-22-2015, 09:59 PM   #92
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Seven miles up
So I came across a movie today on Netflix that I'd never heard of. I guess it's based off of play that ran sometime ago. It's called Charlie, Victor, Romeo. What they've done is turned the final transcripts of the cockpit voice recorder into a live action play. The set is very simple, but the actors do a pretty good job of conveying the emotion and complexities of the cockpit. They dramatize 5 or 6 of the final moments of these crashes. It's not enjoyable, it's tense. I don't really know how it plays for someone who isn't familiar with the typical cockpit. I'm sure that I see it a little bit differently than the typical person, but if you are interested in it you can catch it on Netflix right now:

Watch Charlie Victor Romeo Online | Netflix

I'm sure that parts of it seem like a foreign language is being spoken or the perception is there that these people don't know what they are doing, but that's not really the case. You get to hear what it's like when 4 people are talking in your ear at once, the helplessness of imminent death, struggle to understand what you are seeing, the failure to spot danger signs and the incredible success of teamwork and effort.
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Old 03-23-2015, 09:41 PM   #93
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
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Sadly, Cancun had to end and always sooner than later. We had a very smooth departure out this morning. Even though it was early there weren't any issues getting out on time.

Our destination this morning was Houston. It's funny, for years a flight that was 2.5 hours long was a looong flight. Now it's a short flight. It's all relative to what you know. For the guys that go to Asia, 8 hours is short, but for us very long. So today was a short flight.

Once we got to Houston I had about 2 hours to kill before my next flight. I decided to get a shoe shine, the winter has been rough. After that I walked around just to get the blood moving then headed to our Operations area and crew lounge. I had to put some power back in the IPad for the next flight.

After my break it was off to the plane. I knew that I'd be getting lunch on the plane so I didn't need to worry about finding food. Again we had no issues getting the plane loaded up and ready to go. Next up on the grand tour? Calgary! A new destination for me. I've never been here before.

I saw some pretty mountains. It's cold and overcast and was snowing before we got here. Quite the change from Cancun where I started this morning. Tomorrow will come to early, but at least it's Mountain time.

Which brings me to another challenge of this job. The constant time zone changes. My body is on East coast time and I got an hour given in Cancun, and now in Calgary I get another hour. My body should be telling me it's 930p, but it's still daylight. Somethings not entirely right with this. Lol. My wakeup call comes in about 8 hours to start my day tomorrow. C'mon tired, get busy! Today was almost 11 hours of duty time. I should be tired.

Tomorrow I'm off to Denver followed by a fairly short turn to Miami where I'll have another short layover and an ridiculously early wakeup call. Making it worse is that it WILL be east coast time, before 4a. It's going to be challenging. My wakeup tomorrow is also before 4a, but those extra couple of timezone hours really make a difference. It'll really hit hard in Miami.

Snapped this pic in Houston today before we pushed for Calgary.

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Old 03-24-2015, 05:44 PM   #94
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
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Fairly uneventful morning flight into Denver. The plane must have picked up a bunch of ice when it flew in last night because it was covered this morning. I know it was cold and there was frost too, but there was quite a bit of ice too. We got deiced after pushback and taxied out for our departure. There still wasn't anything to look as as it was still dark and overcast.

There were many reports of rough air going into Denver. If you've ever been in and out of there that's pretty standard. Denver always has very rough rides from the wind coming over the front range there. After we parked I had about 30 minutes to walk around in the concourse just to help get the blood moving again.

Next up was the flight to Miami. We saw numerous pilot reports of bad turbulence to the southwest of the airport, which just happened to be the direction that we were heading. The dispatcher purposely planned the first part of the flight down at 29000 feet to try and get a good ride before jumping up to 37,000 once we were clear.

We actually ended up dropping down to 25,000ft though as the rides at 29,000 were still pretty bad. This lasted for about an hour, until we were past Tulsa when things started to improve. We eventually got up to 35,000 where we had a nice remainder of the flight.

All of this takes a fair bit of coordination. I was talking on the radio for this leg so I was constantly listening to the other planes, trying to hear their complaints and guess where they were. Then query the controller about his rides as well. When you are down that low you end up talking to a lot of different controllers as the sectors are smaller than they are up higher. Meanwhile the Captain spend his time messaging back and forth with dispatch through the messaging system on the plane. The dispatcher can get other reports from company aircraft out in front as was the case today.

Getting bumped around is no fun for anyone. It's a sure sign that summer is on the way. The flight attendants had to be seated, as well as the passengers. So they didn't even get to start their service until over an hour after the flight took off. The constant jostling can really wear you down over the day and makes a day that isn't so tiring be very tiring by the time you get where you are going.

Good thing summer hasn't totally hit Miami yet. A typical afternoon arrival would have big storm cells and lots more turbulence but today there were only a few lower clouds and no rain. Not too bad. A short night tonight, but tomorrow is go home day. My flight looks good so far and as long as we are on time out of here I should be alright. Even though it's go home day I still am having a hard time dealing with my 325a alarm. Less than 10 hours now. Yeehaw. And I still have to go grab some dinner.
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Old 03-24-2015, 06:03 PM   #95
MacroGuru
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: Utah
Quote:
Originally Posted by PilotMan View Post

Which brings me to another challenge of this job. The constant time zone changes. My body is on East coast time and I got an hour given in Cancun, and now in Calgary I get another hour. My body should be telling me it's 930p, but it's still daylight. Somethings not entirely right with this. Lol. My wakeup call comes in about 8 hours to start my day tomorrow. C'mon tired, get busy! Today was almost 11 hours of duty time. I should be tired.

I feel ya man! Although yours is a little worse than mine but I do feel you. In order for me to survive the dr has me on Ambien if I want to take it. Are you allowed to take that type of medicine to catch the zzz's?

I stopped taking them when I started buying things online after I was "asleep"
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Old 03-24-2015, 07:30 PM   #96
CraigSca
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Not Delaware - hurray!
Speaking of spring, how much of "landing in thunderstorms" is up to the pilot? I've had a few experiences where the turbulence has been "okay" but I've been told over the PA that flights just ahead of us are experiencing extreme turbulence so we're going to do a go around and wait it out a little bit. I've also had landings where it seemed like we perhaps should have had a few go arounds and tried a little bit later but did not (ugh).

How much of the process of landing in tstorms is up to the individual crew? Heck, how much of flying through them is up to you guys? Is it up to the crew, or ground control?
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Old 03-24-2015, 07:43 PM   #97
PilotMan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MacroGuru View Post
I feel ya man! Although yours is a little worse than mine but I do feel you. In order for me to survive the dr has me on Ambien if I want to take it. Are you allowed to take that type of medicine to catch the zzz's?

I stopped taking them when I started buying things online after I was "asleep"

There are medications that we are restricted from taking, but as far as Ambien is concerned I don't know. I do know it's been talked about between crew. I'd have to say that there are a lot of people who take some type of sleep aid. I don't. Lucky me has learned how to relax, use breathing and muscle relaxation techniques and fall asleep pretty quick.

I hear about some who use Melatonin, but the majority use straight up Tylenol PM. I think that sleep aid use is probably more prevalent among flight crews than the general public.
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Old 03-24-2015, 08:35 PM   #98
PilotMan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CraigSca View Post
Speaking of spring, how much of "landing in thunderstorms" is up to the pilot? I've had a few experiences where the turbulence has been "okay" but I've been told over the PA that flights just ahead of us are experiencing extreme turbulence so we're going to do a go around and wait it out a little bit. I've also had landings where it seemed like we perhaps should have had a few go arounds and tried a little bit later but did not (ugh).

How much of the process of landing in tstorms is up to the individual crew? Heck, how much of flying through them is up to you guys? Is it up to the crew, or ground control?

Thunderstorms are a very big deal for pilots. We get extensive training about them and know just how dangerous they are. If you look at the Air Asia flight you can see plainly that they are not to be messed with. A heavy rain shower isn't a thunderstorm.

As a pilot the sole responsibility of where the plane is at in time and space is mine. I have the authority to take emergency action regardless of what ATC says. I have used it as well. In one situation ATC was denying us a turn because of a slower turbo prop near us, but we would have flown right through a big cell. I'm pretty sure that ATC lost minimum separation but we told them we'd maintain visual separation. They weren't thrilled but there wasn't anything we (or they) could do. Another time was departing from Atlanta in the summer and ATC thought they could sneak us through a hole that they had been using. What they didn't realize is that the hole had closed and we just told them what we were doing and let them figure out what to do next. It get's really busy when planes start moving on their own. ATC has to scramble for a backup plan very quickly. Its' not like we are just standing still up there. Flying is very dynamic in 3 dimensions and it moves very fast.

Many times pilots will rely on other pilots to help decide whether or not they should do it. If the last 15 planes were just fine you might be too, but as soon as 1 plane starts to bail out you might see others as well (you'll see this especially on takeoff) it's much easier to wait on the ground than in the air.

Thunderstorms can produce massive downdrafts that can take planes on approach right out of the air. We know much more now than we did back then. We have better training on how to recognize these situations and airports have systems that can sense them as well. Like pretty much everything else there are company policies for how to deal with thunderstorms.

Enroute it's a good idea to stay 20 miles away from them. I've seen some guys not come within 100 miles. You take what you can get though, and sometimes you're just flying through holes that you can see on the radar. Generally though with today's technology there is really no good reason to fly through the middle of a thunderstorm. We can typically mitigate having to make these calls just in the planning stages, and if we can't ATC can be very helpful, because they have a different view of the storm on their radar, or they might see something (a hole, or an ever extending line of weather) that our radar doesn't pick up yet.

Every crew makes their own decisions on when to shoot an approach in weather or not. Generally, as long as it's safe, I'm game to go take a look, as in start the approach and give it my best effort to get in, but the caveat is that you have to have a plan and be prepared for what you are going to do if it doesn't work out right. Many times the decision on whether or not to wait has to do with how much fuel is left on the plane. Many times you don't have the fuel to wait. If that's the case then a diversion is in the cards.

We try to have as much information as possible to make the best decisions that we can. Taking into account what company policy dictates in the situation. We use other pilots, ATC, dispatch, plus our own observations and radar to determine the best course of action. In the end though, unless the airport is closed, the decision rests solely with the crew.
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Old 03-25-2015, 12:12 AM   #99
Radii
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Huh, the stuff on storms is fascinating to read about, thanks.
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Old 03-25-2015, 09:54 PM   #100
PilotMan
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Join Date: Oct 2002
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At the risk of sounding like a know it all, and I don't want to turn this whole thread into speculation on this incident, but this whole French Alps plane crash seems to be turning out just as I'd feared. I could still be wrong and maybe I will be, but at this point, as I did initially, I feel pretty confident about it.

Similar to Malaysian 370 this seems like a pilot instigated event. Here's why. The plane climbed uneventfully to 38000 ft. Then 2 minutes later, it's starts a steady, somewhat, but not crazy fast decent. It makes no changes, turns, adjustments and steadily descends until it crashes going pretty fast.

Climbs and descents are treated as high workload environments and pilots generally try and keep movement to a minimum during this time. If one pilot had to go to the lav he more than likely waited until he hit cruise to do so. Now here in the US, we have a 2 person rule that keeps 1 pilot from being alone in the cockpit. It's not (entirely) because they don't trust us, it's so that if something does happen there is someone else there to get the door open or just be of assistance. It's a post 9/11 adjustment.

So here on this flight, they reach cruise, 1 guy steps out, the other locks the door behind him. He decides to simply crash the plane. Who knows why? I don't know. But the nature of the timing and the type of decent, and that there were no radio messages to ATC and that we know that 1 pilot was locked out point to a pretty strong indication of crashed on purpose.

If there had been some kind of emergency that needed a decent, the pilot would have tried to level off at 10,000 feet. He didn't even pause. Just went down between 3,000 and 3,500 feet per minute (not a super fast rate). Yes it's fast, but not like if you just pointed the plane straight down. Not like Egypt Air. But with no pause and the steady rate causes me to speculate that it was input on purpose and just left untouched until the end.
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