The same piece of sky

With GPS navigation, airplanes can fly an exact route with very little margin of error. This results in plane flying through the same piece of sky….and the same air.

More than a few times I’ve had my plane rocked by flying in trail or a heavy jet. Even with FAA required entrail spacing, wake turbulence can occur.

On a trip back into base recently I snapped a photo of contrails produced by aircraft ahead of us that shows how we all fly through the same air. Kinda neat.

The Flight Attendant Call Button

I’m still very new to this game. I’ve been flying for almost 4 years and at my airline for a little over 2 years. Questions pop up in my head every now and then that I don’t have the answer too. One question concerned the Flight Attendant call button.

Being so junior I deadhead often. I also non-rev quite a bit as non-reving is the best benefit I have. If I couldn’t non-rev……if my wife couldn’t non-rev….I don’t think I would put up with all the crap.

In all over my 32 years on this earth I have never used the Flight Attendant call button. I’ve always been kind of afraid too. Silly I know. But it’s true. I’ve seen the looks some flight attendants give passengers who hit that button. No thank you.

I was curious though about ways to get a coke or water in between services. There is an awesome (seriously check it out) podcast called The Crew Lounge. The podcast is run by Flight Attendants from several airlines. They cover topics concerning not only flight attendants, but pilots and passengers as well. One of the Flight Attendants on the show is Sara from The Flying Pinto.  Via Twitter (I long thought of Twitter as a fad, but when used properly is an informative and entertaining tool) I asked The Crew Lounge  the following question to them, ” Is it kosher to just walk up to the galley and ask for something or just use the call button?”

In The Crew Lounge episode 5 they answered my question…boy did they ever! There were several opinions on the use of the call button. The short answer is, if the service is over, the flight has some time left, you aren’t sitting in the window seat next too two people who are sleeping, and the flight attendants aren’t eating their lunch, then sure attempt to approach and ask for something. I know the Flight Attendants on my mainline partner this tactic is hit or miss.

As with most legacy airlines, the Flight Attendants at my mainline partner are all senior. They are a varied group and are extremely varied when it comes to attitude.

When I travel in uniform (be it Deadhead or personal), most of the Flight Attendants make a point to give me whatever I want. If I ask for water, I get a whole bottle. Snacks are handed over no charge. It’s nice as we are all one big disgruntled (and slightly dysfunctional) family.

While traveling incognito (only partially as Flight Attendants get a manifest and can see who is a non-rev and who is a paying passenger…plus a lot more info) some Flight Attendants just seem downright un happy. I know we all have our bad days, but I’ve seen the same Flight Attendants on more than one flight treat passengers, and their fellow Flight Attendants, horribly. On the other side I’ve seen some flight attendants who seem to have a permanent smile and great attitude.

In case you haven’t noticed, Flight Attendants don’t have much in the way of personal space on airplanes. The galley and their jump seats are all they have. When I have stopped by the galley (the handful of times) I make it a point to stand back a bit and politely ask for something. Most of the Flight Attendants are happy to assist, a few gave me the “get the hell out of my space glare” and a few (when I am in Uniform or they know me) tell me to help myself.

On the most recent episode of The Crew Lounge, they covered how reserve and commuting works. They gave a good overview of why people choose to commute and how the reserve system works. Flight Attendant reserve isn’t much different than pilot reserve. I subscribed to their podcast and look forward to every episode. Anyone with an Zune, computer or even an I-Pod should check it out.

Bose QC2 vs QC15 and UFlyMike

So I am lucky enough to be married to a woman who has purchased not one….but two Bose noise reducing headphone sets for me. The first was a Bose QC2 more than 4 years ago. They worked fine. Right before we went to Tokyo she bought me a pair of the new Bose QC15’s. Then for Christmas she bought me a UFlyMike adapter. Yeah I know I am lucky.

Initially I tried the QC15s and UFlyMike. I had a hard time with the microphone as it sounded muffled and tinny. I tried playing with the microphone bias. No joy.

On Sunday I got a chance to use my QC2s and the UFlyMike. Wow…what a world of difference. The microphone sounded much clearer.

It’s no secret Bose is not happy with UFlyMike (Bose tried to sue UFlyMike on trademark infringement) as Bose wants pilots to shell out much more for a Bose Aviation X Headset. The sound clarity was much nicer with the QC2s than the QC15s. The only difference I know of between the QC15’s and QC2’s is that the QC15’s have an additional microphone on the outside of the headset for extra ANR.

For the foreseeable future I will only be using the QC2s in the cockpit instead of the QC15s. I still carry my Telex 500 ANR headset as a backup. I am sure I will start leaving it behind soon.

 

Update 12/15/2011- I’ve given up on the QC15/Uflymike and switched to the Bose A20. A bit more than the QC15 but no more ear buds. If I commuted I might have stuck with the QC15/UflyMike as the QC15 would be useful during the commute.

In case of any doubt….vacation is over

My vacation was awesome. Loved it. There was no chance of direct flights to and from Miami so my wife and I had to make a stop. No big deal, all worked out fine.

I had just one reserve day (today) before being off for three more days. I thought there wasn’t much they could do to me with just one reserve day. Yeah about that.

I was assigned reserve at home with a call out. At 7:25AM my phone rang. I was assigned airport standby starting at 9:25AM. Welcome back.

My wife dropped me off and I used to time to update my charts. Two updates had come out since I had been at work including one beefy one. Once done two pilots who I went to ATP with joined me at my table as they had down time as well.

Around 11:20AM I was thinking I would not be used. Then at 11:30AM I was called for a 12:20PM flight. The assignment wasn’t bad. One leg out and a deadhead back. I could do this. Then I saw who the Captain was……hmmm I might be able to do this.

The Captain I was assigned to fly with and I don’t get along. It happens.

As I exited the crew elevator he was walking in. I headed to a cold plane and fired up the APU. He arrived and we both simply did our jobs. I had been out of the cockpit for almost 2 weeks. I was slower than normal and much more deliberate in my actions.

The flight was quiet. Just the required verbage was spoken. As we neared the out station a printout emerged showing our next assignments. I was still deadheading back on the next flight (same plane I was on). For some reason the Captain was deadheading on a later flight.

Once we shut everything down I went up to the gate to get a boarding pass. The Captain stayed back in the cockpit.

The gate agent was busy. I headed off the chat with the out bound First Officer.  The Captain I was with got his boarding pass first. I noticed I was no longer on the list. Something happened.

I checked my schedule. Now I was assigned to sit in this out station for 3 hours before flying one leg back. To make matters worse the plane I was waiting on was running very late. I started doing math.

My duty day started at 4AM (the time I had to turn my phone on). Under current regulations I can be on duty for 14 hours. Weather or mechanical delays can stretch that to 16 hours, but it can’t be scheduled. As scheduled I would arrive back in base at 5:40PM and end my duty day at 5:55PM or 13 hours and 55 minutes after I started. Five minutes shy of being illegal.

I tried calling scheduling and tipped them off to the near 14 hour duty day and that the plane was running very late. They didn’t seem to care. I then called a union rep. I’ve had his number in my phone for more than 2 years…..just in case. I discussed my situation with him and that I might end up calling in fatigued. He explained the process. Now it’s up to me.

If I call in fatigued I will initially lose money. I have only flown an hour today. I am paid for almost 4 hours each reserve day. If I call in fatigued and  I don’t fly at least 4 hours I lose money.  Thus I will lose about 3 hours of pay. Next up is getting home tomorrow. I have to arrange it all on my own.

There is a chance I can get my pay back by going through a union review board. Eh. I have two hours to think about it. I am certain I will go over 14 hours of duty today. Best case scenario I will hit 14 1/2 hours duty.

Here I sit. Vacation is over indeed.

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.