It was supposed to be a pretty easy 2 day trip worth 9 hours 20 minutes.
Day one was 5 legs worth a total of 7 hours 55 minutes. Quite a bit of flying.
The Captain was a guy I had flown with before. He’s nice, funny…but has two odd quirks. He doesn’t like flying anywhere near weather other than blue clear skies. He also likes to hot dog it and fly fast towards the runway and slow down at the last second.
The last time I flew with him his apprehensiveness about the weather affected my mood and flying. He would become very concerned about the slightest RADAR return. It was worse if he couldn’t see the weather due to IMC or night time.
I reported for duty at 6:10AM. Blocked out 9 minutes early at 6:46AM. I let him take the first leg. Weather.
Rerouted around the north side. He was overly cautious in our diversions. I am a safe guy, but there’s safe and then there is paranoid. I’m just safe.
Leg was was blocked for 1 hour 15 minutes. We blocked in 10 minutes late. Total flight time 1 hour 34 minutes, 19 minutes over block.
Weather re-route. Thunderstorms 10 miles south of the field. My leg.
I briefed the departure and that I’d make a shallow climb and work my way around the weather.
Blocked out at 9:04AM….19 minutes late.
A few bumps. The headings I chose looked safe to me…even the center controller watching over us….but not good enough for my Captain. Fine.
Left and right…nothing too bad.
I don’t like to hot dog it. I don’t own the plane, I just fly it.
Our manuals state that for a VFR approach I have to be “on speed” and “stabilized” by 500 feet above field level. For IMC…1000 feet. This means small speed corrections for wind/bumps and normal maneuvers to land. By being stabilized it’s very easy to “grease” it on in the touchdown zone without any crazy flying.
I strive to be stabilized and on speed by 500 feet…it’s not hard.
Normal approach and landing. Blocked in at 10:46. That’s 46 minutes late….and 27 minutes over block.
Plane swap. Inbound aircraft was late. Blocked out at 11:27AM…..Once again 27 minutes late. Still my leg.
Worked around weather. Lots of turns. Captain Paranoid sitting to my left. Landed at an airport that’s also a military base.
The runways have arresting cables used for carrier practice. We can land on them, but it’s not very comfortable…a big thud. Instead we land past the cables. No big deal…once again a VFR approach.
The cables are about 2000 feet down the runway. The runway was 13000 feet long. I simply briefed and flew an approach to land beyond them. Runway was so long I didn’t use much braking and coasted a good 6000 feet before even thinking about slowing down. Done.
Blocked in at 1:23PM. Twenty eight minutes late…and 1 minute over block.
Rerouted. Original reroute would have taken 2 hours 45 minutes…..or 35 minutes over block. My Captain had a different idea. He called the dispatcher. Refiled.
Blocked out at 1:51PM…..26 minutes late. Clearance didn’t have our new flight plan. Waited a minute then simply asked them to put it in for us. Done.
Worked our way around the weather again.
VFR approach. He hot dogged it and floated….a lot. Bleh.
Blocked in at 4:14PM……39 minutes late and 13 minutes over block. Weather really moving in.
Plane AND terminal swap. Also a cabin crew swap.
Thankfully it wasn’t far.
The passengers were already boarded up as the cabin was crewed by reserves already at the airport. Pre flight duties done. Blocked out at 4:37PM. Just 7 minutes late.
Long line for departure.
We had two destination alternates.
Min takeoff fuel was 7100 pounds. We left the gate with just 7400 pounds.
The 7100 min take off was broken down as follows:
4200 was for getting to the destination plus the 45 minute reserve
1800 was to get to the first alternate
850 was to get to the second alternate
250 pounds was for holding
Tower said all departures north, south and west were on an indefinite hold.
I asked, “Okay is it okay if we shut them down?”, “Affirmative shut them down.” was the response.
“Them” in referring to the engines. APU already on, the engines went silent.
Our APU burns about 120 pounds per hour when supplying air and power. At the time we shut the engines down there was about 7250 pounds in the tanks.
Heavy rain and wind. Only a handful of arriving flights landing in front of us.
I used the FMS to message our dispatcher and ask if we still needed both alternates as we didn’t have much wait fuel.
Thankfully the weather at our destination changed to VFR, no alternates needed. Now we had 2000+ pounds of fuel to wait it out. And wait we did.
There were about 11 other aircraft waiting with us. Lightening in the area closed the entire ramp. No bags, no fuel, no boarding. Over the next 2 hours 6 flights returned to the gate for fuel, fatigue of the crew or due to the passengers bill of rights.
Around 6:50PM the weather was lifting. Tower called and asked how long we needed to get ready, “Five minutes” was my response. “Start them up and let us know when you’re ready,” was the response from the tower.
“To all flights waiting to go we have permission for just 4 westbound departures.” tower stated.
My flight was number 4.
One, two, three flights left. Our turn.
I ran my final flow and we lined up on the runway.
Then it happened.
“Sorry center just closed the west gate, taxi across the runway and do a one eighty and hold short.”
My Captain was getting tired. He has two day back to backs. He let me know if we had to wait much longer he’d have to fatigue out.
At 7:10PM tower stated we were next. At 7:18PM I called our “VR” and my Captain rotated the nose into the air.
Moderate rain and chop.
An hour and nine minutes later we were back on the ground.
We blocked in 2 hours and 42 minutes late and flew 2 hours and 35 minutes over block.
Total block time for the day? Eleven hours and thirty minutes on the nose.
A rule in 121 flying is “legal to start, legal to finish”. This means if I was legal to start the trip I am legal to finish the trip, even if I fly over 8 hours. I can’t be scheduled to fly more than 8 hours and I have to fly my original trip and flight numbers. The only barrier is a 16 hour duty day.
We had to be off the ground by 8:30PM local time in base to remain within 16 hours. Fourteen hours is a normal duty which can be extended to 16 hours for weather or schedule irregularities. We took off at 7:18PM so we had just over an hour to spare.
Total duty day was 14 hours 37 minutes. The Captain and I were exhausted.
Normal rest would have been 11 hours. We could be reduced to 9 but then had to have 12 the next night. We had 10 hours 40 minutes of rest.
I slept decently.
One leg into base. Mine. VFR. Captain was relaxed. Calm winds. Stabilized approach. Smooth landing. We blocked out 9 minutes early and blocked in 18 minutes early.
Total block for the 2 day trip? Twelve hours Fifty One minutes.
Due to all the extra flying my next trip was affected.
I was due to start at 4 day trip on Tuesday worth 19 hours. I can only fly 30 hours in 7 days. As is I was estimated to fly 32 hours in 7 days. The fix? Scheduling removed the last 2 flights off my next trip. Problem. My next trip goes through another base. The fix ? I deadhead home.
There is a bit of good news….due to training and vacation for September I’m off September 11th thru the 27th. Not too shabby. I only fly one 4 day trip.