January is over for me

January was a very slow month for me. I flew all of 18 hours. January is historically very slow for airlines. Most of my flying was done with zero passengers on board. My airline uses the slow month to do major matenence on planes. Several planes took turns being flown to the paint shop. I flew at least 4 back and forth for various checks. I think I only flew 5 hours of revenue flights.
A few days ago I was sitting in the crew room talking to a friend of mine I met while at ATP. He is at my airline but based elsewhere. Over the last year he flew more than double the hours I flew. This is mostly due to his base having much more flying than mine and the fact that he puts himself on a “turn back list” since he commutes. My airline allows pilots who commute to request to be sent out for more flying out of seniority order. This allows the commuting pilot to possibly avoid having to pay for a hotel in base. This is how it works.
I live in base. Let’s assume you commute to my base. I am junior too you. In normal operations scheduling assigns open flying from the bottom of the list to the top. This allows senior pilots to enjoy time at home while getting full pay.
Since you commute, if you don’t get assigned an overnight flight you have to find somewhere to sleep. To avoid having to pay for a hotel you put yourself on a list to get assigned additional flying BEFORE it goes to someone junior. Thus when a flight opens up that both of us are legal for, it will go to you before they call me. This is fine with me as I get paid the same if I fly zero hours or 5 hours. This is fine with you as you can save $35 on a hotel. Win/Win.
For January I got a reserve line. This was only due to senior pilots failing too bid. The reason? Bids closed for January on December 19th. Most months of the year bids close on the 20th. Maybe pilots associate the 20th with bids being due. Well in December at least one was caught off guard. He was assigned whatever line he could hold after all bids were counted. The only line left? My normal airport reserve line.
For February the same thing happened but to a greater extent. The bids closed on January 19th. Several pilots forgot to bid. One friend of mine who has been here for almost 5 years forgot to bid. The airport reserve lines went quite senior due to pilots failing to bid. Once again I got reserve.
The reserve line I was awarded works perfectly as I plan on accompanying my wife to a doctors appointment in February. For those who don’t follow me on Twitter (I send out tweets (I hate that word) several times a day!) I am going to be a father sometime in August. This is our third try at being parents. The first two times ended very early in miscarriages. We are now further along than we have ever been.
It will be a challenge raising a child while being so junior at my airline. Eventually things will get better. Thankfully my wife has a very flexible work hours.
My last day of “work” in January was on the 21st. On January 22nd I am went to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. One perk of working for an airline means I can go to a lot of auto shows. Over the last year I have attended the North American Auto Show, New York Auto Show, Los Angeles Auto Show and the Tokyo Motor Show. In the past I have also visited the Chicago Auto Show…..but it wasn’t very good. Won’t go again.
Today I am in Miami for a 5 day cruise with my in laws. I booked the cruise using InterlineRates.com. There are several websites offering discount travel for people working in the travel industry. One well known site is Perx.com. They have a great website and nice discounts, but they charge booking fees….as high as $25 a person. On the cruise I am headed out on the booking fees for the 7 of us going would have been $175. Ouch. No thanks.
I am pretty sure February will be just as slow as January. I will try and blog a little more. Only so many blogs can be written about fairly routine flights.

PSA CRJ High Speed Abort at CRW……the safety of EMAS

I’ve only performed high speed aborts in the sim. They can be very intense. The most difficult abort was done on a snow covered runway with a stiff crosswind. The plane ended up off the runway. Cudos to this crew and to the party responsible for getting the money to install an EMAS.
Follow this link for a photo of the CRJ-200 in this story after being stopped by the EMAS. I respect the work of photographers which is why I didn’t copy and paste the photo on my blog.
Original Story
January 19, 2010
Plane skids off runway at Yeager; airport reopens
Safety zone system stops US Airways jet 100 feet from edge of hilltop airport
Lawrence Pierce
Emergency crews respond to the aborted takeoff of a Charlotte-bound US Airways Express jet that came to rest in a safety zone at the end of Yeager Airport’s main runway on Tuesday.
By Rick Steelhammer
Staff writer
By Kathryn Gregory
Staff writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A US Airways Express regional jet carrying 30 passengers and three crew members aborted its takeoff at Charleston’s Yeager Airport on Tuesday, rolled onto an overrun area at the end of the main runway, and came to a stop in a specially designed safety zone about 100 feet from the edge of the hilltop airport.

No one was injured in the incident, which took place shortly before 4:30 p.m. The airport remained closed until the 50-passenger Bombardier CRJ200 regional jet, which was bound for Charlotte, N.C., could be removed from the safety zone.

The safety zone contains a runway-wide Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS), comprised of concrete blocks designed to collapse under the weight of an airplane and bring it to a safe stop. It was installed in 2008 for $5 million as part of Yeager’s new runway extension project.

The jet’s wheels were buried in the EMAS material, with its fuselage coming to rest only a few feet above the specially engineered pavement.

A crane was brought in and used to remove the aircraft from the safety zone. The airport reopened shortly before 10 p.m.

“The EMAS system did exactly what it was supposed to do,” said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper. “My understanding is that the US Airways plane rolled through about three-fourths of the EMAS at the Charleston end of the runway.

“If it hadn’t been for the EMAS, I’m convinced a catastrophic accident would have occurred.”

Passengers were taken off the plane and back into the terminal.

“It was a little scary, but everyone remained calm,” said Julia Shaffer of Valrico, Fla.

“We were going pretty fast down the runway and then all of a sudden we started to slow down and it started to get bumpy. Then we completely stopped,” said her 14-year-old son, Jonah. “I thought the tire had shredded or something.

“But when we stopped it seemed like the wing was a little lower to the ground than it should be,” he said. That was due to the plane sinking into the EMAS.

“We sat in the plane for a little while until the firemen came, and then we just went down the ladder and walked out,” he said.

After the aircraft came to rest, “The pilot said he decided to stop because he was getting some kind of a warning signal,” said Julia Shaffer. “He said he thought it was better to stop on the ground than in the air.

“He had to make a split-second decision, and I’m glad he decided to stop. Everyone’s safe — that’s all that matters. It all happened pretty fast. No one was panicky.”

“It was kind of alarming — kind of a jerky ride before we stopped really close to the end of the runway,” said Lindsay Robinson of Charleston, who was among the Charlotte-bound passengers. “But everyone seemed really calm.”

Julia and Jonah Shaffer, along with Julia’s husband Steve and Jonah’s sister Hannah, had spent the past several days skiing with relatives at Winterplace.

“I think Jonah’s hoping this means we can stay here and keep skiing,” said Julia Shaffer.

Authorities did not immediately know what warning signal prompted the pilot to abort the flight.

“The cost to repair the EMAS area will be enormous,” said Carper. “But when you have everyone walk away uninjured from something like this, the cost is insignificant.”

Staff writer Kathryn Gregory contributed to this report.

Colgan and American Eagle are hiring in 2010

Got word Colgan and American Eagle are hiring. Last time Colgan hired mins were 1000/100.  American Eagle stated they want 1000/200 with 1500/500 being more common by those who have been interviewed. This is all hearsay though. Either way both use AirlineApps.com. Anyone who wants a job at a regional anytime soon should go ahead and start an Airlineapps.com application. Cost nothing until you submit an application.

Colgan is hiring 150 First Officers and American Eagle is hiring 70 or so. Good luck to all those looking for a job.

This career can destroy a relationship

Saw this in an online forum I read. I changed the cities and taken out the airline, but the rest remains.

I may not have been around for that long, but when I started with XXXX last year (and no I was not a 250 hour wonder, I was 2300, CFI<CFII<MEI) I was happily based in LAS for a few months and engaged to a great girl. I signed a lease for a 12 month apartment. After a few months LAS closed so I was forced to commute to IND. The commute was getting to tough so I had to cancel my lease (paid a 3 month penatly) and got a place right next to IND . A month later I was displaced to CMH, which now cause me a 1 hour commute through CMH when I was living walking distance to IND. A month later I was displaced to SFO. Half way through training then I was displaced to ORD and sent home. When I came back for training about a week in I was displaced to MCO. When I told my fiance this she ended up leaving me because she couldn’t deal with the airline life anymore and was not willing to move to Florida. Then about 3 days later after my fiance had left me I was told I was being furloughed. I was furloughed one week before I would have finished training and didn’t even get the XXX type. I was moved half way around the country for an entire year and had my fiance leave me over XXXX. I’d say some of us have sacrificed more then you realize just to fly an airplane for a living. I don’t think you really realize how many times the bottom 20 or so of us were displaced in just one years times.

I’m very lucky that I haven’t been displaced/furlough and have an amazingly understanding wife.

A pilot’s life: exhausting hours for meagre wages

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/11/pilot-exhausting-hours-wages

The old hands say there was never much glamour in piloting several tonnes of metal thousands of feet in the air.

But there’s no denying that to the earthbound back in the jet-set era half a century ago – when Pan Am’s “Clippers” ruled the air lanes and service was modelled on transatlantic ocean liners – pilots were regarded with an awe just short of that accorded to astronauts.

The exotic blend of international travel, the authority of commanding the ever larger and faster airliners, and those dashing uniforms turned heads, drew autograph hunters and attracted groupies. Pilots also made a lot of money.

Today it is different. Captain Dave Ryter earned so little when he was a co-pilot for a major airline that he lived in a gang area of Los Angeles, commuted for hours to work and made less money than a bus driver.

“I was standing at a gate waiting to commute a few years ago. I was in uniform and a passenger walks over to me and strikes up a conversation as people often do. He said: where’s your second home? I looked at him, thinking he was making a joke. He was serious. I said: actually, it’s my parents’,” said Ryter. “I was living in a very small town home in a gang area and my wife also worked for the two of us to support our family.”

Anyone waiting for their underpants to be checked knows that the glamour went out of flying years ago. But nowhere has the cachet fallen so far as in the US, where pilots on commuter airlines responsible for more than half the country’s flights now earn pitifully low salaries for long, unsocial hours.

Cachet

Many are forced to fly half way around the country before they even begin work. Others sleep in trailers at the back of Los Angeles airport, in airline lounges across the country or even on the floors of their own planes. Some co-pilots, who typically take home about $20,000 (£12,500) a year, hold down second jobs to make ends meet.

Unless they have come through the military, many pilots also start their first jobs deeply in debt. “Many of them come to these jobs with $150,000 of debt for a $15,000-$20,000 starting job,” said Ryter. “It’s hard to make the economics of that work out. But there’s a theory that one day they’ll make a lot more money than that. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But the problem is they are in, for a number of years, quite a hard haul and there’s certainly no glamour. That’s long since gone.”

The result is not only the diminishing of a once coveted profession but increasing concerns about safety as many pilots are worked to the very limits of regulations, leaving them exhausted as well as relatively poor.

The largest union for pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association (Alpa), traces the change back about 20 years, when the smaller domestic airlines stopped selling their own tickets and began competing for contracts to act as local extensions of the major carriers. To win contracts they slashed costs, which included forcing down pay and demanding more of pilots.

Then came the 9/11 attacks, which pushed some airlines into bankruptcy and others to cut costs even further. Many pilots lost their jobs. Even those on some of the biggest airlines saw their pay slashed by as much as half.

But it is the regional pilots who have the toughest time. Ryter’s salary rose to $72,000 (£45,000) a year when he was promoted to captain three years ago, but many co-pilots have little prospect of promotion for years.

More than half of all regional pilots commute to work – which often means several hours in the jump seat of another aircraft before they begin their own job – largely because they are not paid enough to be able to afford to live in the major cities, such as New York or Miami, where their employers are based.

Ryter said that smaller airlines also regularly shifted where their aircraft and pilots are based according to the needs of the big carriers, but pilots were reluctant to uproot their families, pull children out of school and sell houses only to be moved again in a year.

“In the post-9/11 world, when companies have done everything they can to reduce costs, there have been changes that have really made the piloting job very challenging, very fatiguing, very demanding.

“With our schedules now it’s very common to leave one of the pilot domiciles and not see it for three or four days while you’re flying around the nation in multiple time zones. Without doubt the effect is that you are physically and mentally tired.

“The airlines have stayed right on the hairy edge of federal aviation regulations.”

The conditions in which commuter pilots now work were laid bare by an investigation into a crash near Buffalo, New York, that killed 50 people last year. It was revealed that neither the pilot, Marvin Renslow, nor co-pilot, Rebecca Shaw, had a proper night’s sleep before the flight.

Shaw, 24, was paid so little – just $16,200 (£10,000) a year – that she held a second job in a coffee shop and lived with her husband at her parents’ house across the country in Seattle. The night before the doomed flight, Shaw flew for several hours in the jump seat of two FedEx courier flights to reach her job at Newark airport and slept a few hours in the pilots’ lounge. Renslow also slept in the lounge after flying up to work from Florida, even though it was barred by the airline, Colgan Air, because of the regular disturbance from other pilots coming and going.

The investigation revealed that Shaw’s text messages just before the flight said she felt exhausted. Both pilots can be heard yawning on the voice recorder. During the flight, Shaw told Renslow that her husband, a soldier, was paid “more in one weekend of drill than I make [in a fortnight]”.

The co-pilot also reflected her relative inexperience by commenting that she had never seen so much ice on a plane, as it made its way through freezing weather. That was to prove an ominous observation. As the plane came in to land in bad weather at Buffalo the pilots did not notice their speed slow too much until an alarm sounded.

Renslow did the opposite to what he should have done and caused the plane to stall. Experts told the investigation that Renslow’s and Shaw’s evident lack of comprehension as to why the alarm was sounding suggested insufficient training.

One of the inquiry officials, Kitty Higgins, said she believed that the two pilots’ working conditions had contributed to the accident. “When you put together the commuting patterns, the pay levels, the fact that the crew rooms aren’t supposed to be used [for sleeping] but are being used, I think it’s a recipe for an accident,” she said.

The head of the National Transportation Safety Board, Mark Rosenker, said that paying very low wages, knowing that it would result in pilots commuting long distances to get to work, was “winking and nodding” at safety.

Accident

Alpa’s vice-president, Captain Paul Rice, a 35-year airline veteran now flying transatlantic routes, says that the industry still remains extremely safe compared with other forms of travel. But he is concerned that it has driven out more experienced pilots while giving the legal minimum of training to new recruits to cut costs.

“If you constantly remove elements of training, and training that once took three weeks is down to one week, it’s easy to see how there’s less time to pass knowledge along, practise certain manoeuvres, things like that,” he said.

“The public needs to ask the question: is it worth it to always look at prices as the driving factor? Our managements and the investors in the airlines need to think about what is the cost of safety.”

Many of the more experienced pilots who lost jobs on major airlines got out of the industry because they faced working for entry-level wages if they shifted to smaller carriers.

“If you can go down the street and get a job at Home Depot or in real estate where wages are substantially higher than at a regional carrier, that’s probably where you’re gonna go,” said Ryter. “Our new entry pilots are right down at the food stamp wages. They can’t afford to start over at a regional carrier.”

Yet while the glamour may have gone, there remains a certain pull for pilots such as Ryter.

“It’s all I ever wanted to do. I know we’re talking about the negatives, of which there are many, but I still love what I do – being able to get into an aircraft that you could never afford to rent on your own, and be able to pilot it around the nation. I still love the business,” he said.

To those about to commute….I salute you

Here I sit in seat 24A at 34,000 feet headed home from a long two day trip. “Zzyzx Rd” is being played on my Zune HD. The song’s lyrics almost fit the life of a low seniority pilot.

I get to go home in one week.
But I’m leaving home in three weeks.
They throw me a bone just to pick me dry.

I’m following suit and directions.
I crawl up inside for protection.
I’m told what to do and I don’t know why.

Today was pretty boring work wise. I headed up to the airport at 2PM. Grabbed lunch and off to my flight. Due to all the craziness yesterday there were several crews out of place. I was deadheading along with my Captain and two flight attendants.
As is I was scheduled to deadhead to the outstation and somehow do a crew swap and block out in 30 minutes. I saw somehow as a normal turn can take 30 minutes. Throw in a crew swap and it gets interesting.
Somehow it was done. Even tough we left 35 minutes late, we blocked in only 15 minutes late. And left 15 minutes late.
I have deiced more on this two day trip that I have all winter. I’ve had to deice every leg.
The ATIS was reporting light snow. We got Type I and Type IV. For a reason not known to us, another CRJ only got Type I. The Captain and discussed how little sense it makes to save 1 minute by not getting Type IV and the ramifications that could arise if something happens. After a short wait due to flow control we were up, up and away.
I had never flown with this Captain before. Makes sense as I was flying out of another base. Nice flight. I discussed a few of my geeky money saving ideas such as Ooma.
My original deadhead flight was supposed to leave at 7:10PM. We were lined up for a 20 mile final at 6:35PM. Not looking good.
After touching down at 6:42PM things got busy. The ground controller was rattling off taxi instructions faster than an auctioneer at an auto auction (I worked at an auto auction two summers back in high school…fun job!). He was speaking so fast that there were no room for a reply. I heard my flight number….and then “double back on M, M10, left A, A4 to Delta, D9 to Lima, L9 divided by the square root of Pi”. Well okay maybe not that exactly. It rushed by. Thankfully the Captain got it. The instructions were common for where we were to where we needed to go.
On the way we passed by the gate for my deadhead. I wasn’t going to make it. From the gate we parked at to the deadhead was at least a 12 minute walk. We blocked in at 6:55PM and I still had to do my post flight. Oh well.
After running all the checklist I headed inside and called scheduling so they could book me on the next and last flight to base. I wasn’t too thrilled to see I would be arriving in base at 10:20PM. I asked if I could stay overnight and do more flying out of this base. Denied. It got worse when I saw I was assigned airport reserve tomorrow. It just keeps getting better.
When my airline deadheads me I have the option of riding in First Class if it exist and if there is space. I checked the box for First Class and hoped for the best. If I got First Class I could save a few bucks by not having to buy dinner. As luck would have it I missed First Class by one seat. Oh well.
Great view of the de-icing boom from my seat on my deadhead
I don’t know how commuters do it. The last two days have been “legal” duty days meaning all of my deadheads and flights fit into a normal duty day. The FAA states I can work a 14 hour duty day that can be extended to 16 hours for weather or mechanical delays.
Commuters have the same rules, but they can have much longer days. It’s not uncommon for a commuter to be awake and on the move for 20+ hours. All legal.
Tomorrow is my day 5. If things pan out the way I think they will I will have reserve at home on Sunday.
Looking forward in the month I can’t wait until the 20th comes along as I will be headed to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. I went last year and plan to go again this year. After that I head out for a 5 day cruise with my wife.