Three Flights Down to One Long Extended Flight

Something things go right sometimes they don't.  Yesterday wasn't something out of the ordinary but I guess some of you never experience the frequency of weather or maintenance that we encounter working at an airline.  Looking at the weather prior to our departure from Dallas-Ft. Worth, we knew that we could expect some thunderstorms during our approach into Charleston, West Virginia. Blocked to just a little over two hours, and looking at the terminal aerodrome forecast (TAF), we took off with confidence that we could "beat" the storm.  Whether or not to jet east and then up and around the front or penetrate earlier in the flight and fly behind it, we chose the former.  Usually you chose the latter, but once we were in the air, the weather didn't look that bad.

Almost an hour after our scheduled arrival, we made a safe approach and landing safely getting all our passengers to the terminal.  It wasn't without bumps and initially the weather at CRW wasn't calling for landing conditions, but after 45 minutes, the initial thunderstorm cleared and calm winds presided.

Acey 2502 DFW-CRW

Arriving at the gate, the plan was to leave as soon as we could board up, refuel and clean the aircraft but things changed. The plane gave us a flashing light notifying us of a maintenance item which after two hours of coordinating with dispatch, maintenance control and crew scheduling, ultimately led to the cancellation of the flight. Repositioning the aircraft to another portion of the airport, coordinating a shuttle and hotel stay our day came to an end with nine hours of sleep.  We also had the opportunity of riding the hotel shuttle back to with some passengers who were taking the cancellation well.

So back to present time, scheduling had us report at 5:15am this morning and to no surprise without a phone call or notification from anyone back at company, we came down for the scheduled shuttle back to the airport only to find out that the aircraft wasn't ready. I'm now back in the hotel room killing another two hours before our next scheduled van ride. At least I can now grab some coffee.

update: I just got a call a couple of minutes ago notifying us again for a change to 6:45am which as I spoke to her was actually six minutes in the past.

How and why...

"How did you become a pilot? Did you become an airline pilot via the military?" These are two of the most asked questions that I get when among friends or at the airport in uniform. Since @TimChoi89 asked them a while back via a comment on "4 on, two off, 4 on – part 2 / my printed schedule after the fact" and my response wasn't posted (error maybe or private, bugs, lost on the internet...) I decided that I'd answer them with a brand new post.  It's Friday, the 13th and raining so why not.

The second question is easy; no, I did not have a military background.  I did originally look at the Navy after graduating UCSD but flight slots were too few and in demand making my chances slim to none.  I also wear some thick eye glasses so that was another obstacle in and of itself.  I can't say that I looked into the other military branches as I grew up in San Diego.  My father and uncles too were all in the U.S. Navy so yes, I was blinded and partial in my decision.  It's Top Gun U.S.A.!  That leads me to the first question which is a lot more complicated.

I started flying as a hobby after I graduated college in '03.  It was also a time in my life where I was started to feel compelled to "do something else."  I started taking lessons and thought that I was going to make it a side project, maybe instruct or fly people around for fun.  I started receiving AOPA Flight Training Magazine and in it had ads scattered throughout boasting various flight schools and programs that could lead one to a commercial airline job.  I thought to myself, "Why not?"  I read about a few schools at the same time  deciding if I really wanted to do a post-bac and go to med school.  I ended up choosing an advanced ab-initio program which gave me a jet type rating along with whoever else I needed to get hired.  The program was launched and closely associated with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and called CAPT (Commercial Airline Pilot Training).  Unfortunately, while the program and its vision remained idealistic, fuel costs and enrollment coupled with a downward spiraling economy led the university to sell it off to the private corporation, FTSI, which has since then closed its doors.  (Phases outFTSI New Release)   I was in the middle of the program when they accounted its transition but they promised to make good on their word and see us to the end.

I graduated in May of 2006 after 16 months of training and was offered a job with Focus Airlines.  They operated as an ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance, insurance) 747 cargo carrier and their contract with CAPT was extensive; totaling a five year commitment, the first year one would serve as a "cadet" placed in the office helping with various tasks from scheduling, hotel reservations, tech publications, IT, etc. basically an intern type year learning the ins and out.  The second year would entail upgrading to the second officer / flight engineer position on a classic 747 followed by three years as a first officer.  Unfortunately, this program ended when the first couple of CAPT cadets were not allowed to upgrade to first officers alongside the face that Focus Airlines never had a program in place.  Coincidentally, Atlantic Southeast Airlines (now officially called ExpressJet) was in the beginning stages of a hiring spree and our amazing director helped us get an interview. I scored my first flying job and the rest is history.  Knowing and keeping ties along with timing is key in this industry and it panned out.

It's funny how people end up visiting my site.  Mr. Tim ended up here,"...by searching "the verge vs. gdgt" then I stumbled upon your twitpic and saw that you're a pilot + tech enthusiast..."  Thanks for stopping by Tim and keep the questions coming.

Post Marathon Runs

Getting on a redeye the following day after a marathon that you didn't train for isn't necessarily the best way to "recover." During the day, I even did a light jog trying to exchange my season tickets for some awesome seats at the the night's Padre game. Dreading the flight, I wasn't necessarily hurting that much and the flight was relatively easy as I was upgraded to first class. I wore my Injinji Compression socks which helped a lot and found myself walking again with a normal gait. The quads and hamstrings weren't bothering me too much when I got off of the flight which was a good feeling. Tight yes, but limping, no. Well, this last four day trip allowed for two days of running. Tuesday was a straight recovery and it was in Jackson, MS (not MI) so it wasn't like there was an outdoor path or the best of indoor exercise facilities. Wednesday was a fun day. Over 20 hours in Washington D.C. always proves to have some good times and it all started with an awesome lunch. Mentioning "best" and "chinese" to the captain there was no convincing. We headed over to Sichuan Pavilion on K Street and gorged on some awesome Chinese food. We even got 10% off our bill because we had finished and left before 12:30pm! That's what I call a lunch special. I'm always happy when the company I bring enjoy their food. We agreed to head back and hang out at the hotel before the afternoon happy hour so I lounged around a bit up until my planned 15 minute treadmill run; a breaking in of not only my shoes, but my fresh off a marathon legs. Did I mention that I ran the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon?

I put on my brand spanking new Newton Running Shoes and made my way downstairs to the basement. I stretched a little bit and got onto the treadmill at an easy 6.0 then decided that I should run a little faster. I finished with a feel good pace finishing @ 18 minutes w/ 1.94 miles completed. Since I programmed the machine for 15 minutes, it gave me a 3 minute cool down and I increased my speed to 10.0 to try to make it to the 2 mile mark but it forcefully stopped. I got off of the treadmill, stretched, did a few other quick workout but felt great!

I took a quick shower, dressed and headed back downstairs. It was a balmy 98F in DC with an index of 100 or so and after the shower, I was still perspiring like a dog. Mixed in with the heat, I was just soaking. The walk to Georgetown didn't prove any cooler.

The next day, after a long MSP-IAH flight blocking in at just over two hours, I found out that we were next to Memorial Park in Downtown, Houston. After reading reviews, I was convinced that I had to check this course out which clocks in at just under 3 miles. I'm all about running outside and since this was an awesome running trail, why not? I was able to once again easily convince the captain that it was a good idea to sweat it out on the track, in the heat and that I would stay pace with him.

Good stuff all around! As the reviews on yelp pointed out, there are a lot of great athletes of all experience levels and a bunch of shirtless doods. Lots of spandex to be had, you'd think that there was a 5K going on! I decided that I wanted to actually reach the 5K mark and taking it easy on the trail with my Newtons, I was just in for a the loosening up.

After a good 11 min mile, we waited for the van driver to pick us back up and then I proceeded to do 20 mins on the bicycle finishing just over 7 miles. Good stuff! I think I'm on my way to some good workout routines & habits! I'm addicted by the way to working out again! Feeling good and staying fit. Now, only if I can keep a steady diet and do without some of the overeating and indulging that goes on a couple nights a week! =)

Good times flying...

The last four day trip entailed an overnight in Downtown Oklahoma City followed by two overnights in Hartford, Connecticut. I was also fortunate to be flying with an "adventurous" captain so I got the chance to catch my first Oklahoma City Thunder game and watch Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook in action. The Thunder came out strong winning the game and I came away with a new Home Jersey and a great picture with some of the Thunder girls.

I also got some good pictures of "breaking dawn" in Hartford, CT and the early morning in Grand Rapids, MI with the ship and air traffic control tower in the background. Check these out!

Various Shots from Work + 1 New Guy Named Jakob

The beginning of this year brought on an onslaught of weather to the eastern seaboard and of course, I got to fly into it, around it and enjoy the flurries.  I really can't admit that I it was all joyous work, but it's all in the job description.  It's what we are trained to do and must do to bring you safely from Atlanta to who knows where.  Here are some shots; one with snow, one at night w/ the moonlight + Venus, and two others one of Atlanta Downtown followed by the Atlanta airport at night viewed from 11,000 feet. All these shot below were taken in the month of January.

Since I was fortunate to have two awesome flight attendants with me during a 40 hour stay in Allentown, Pennsylvania, we rented a car early morning and ventured out to three different vineyards, a chocolate factory as well as the local mountain to check out the slopes.  The vineyards were quite awesome, friendly and the various ambiances' were definitely different from the traditional ones here in Southern California.  For one, we don't have Ice Wine nor a freezing lake next to a cottage.  Peep these.

Sometimes, when I'm sitting in the back of a plane, non-revving, I'm able to snap some awesome up close pics.  Here is the airTran Atlanta Falcons themed Boeing 717 and one of Delta's newly modified 767 with winglets!  What do you think of these?

Something even more cooler...two of my very good friends, Kurt, who happens to be one of my groomsman and also shares the same birthday, July 28th, had his first child, Jakob with his lovely wife Krysti. Check out the happy father and son!

4 on, two off, 4 on – part 2 / my printed schedule after the fact

When I say after the fact, the schedules below depict the times that the aircraft recorded once meeting certain parameters e.g. brakes released or set & passenger door open or close.  These were not the original scheduled departure and arrival times but in fact, the true record of my legs or "flight time."  I guess you can say that the times in bold represent the time that I actually "fly."  The difference between the "Block" and "Credit" is that we get paid for credit while "Block" is the time I'm recorded to be in the aircraft.  It doesn't represent the time I spend in the cockpit in between flights or before flights (which is actually represented in the another bold header "Turn"), or the time I'm at the airport on a layover.  I'll further explain these "pairings" below in this blog post but for now, here is a picture of a 4-day typical schedule.  It's not like there is much to figure out.  It's pretty much cut and dry.  Following along the on the first line: The first line on my pairing "OSA A7470C" is Flight number 5548/ Originating from ATL (Atlanta-Hartsfield) / Destined to DAY (Dayton, Ohio) / Departed at 14:58 local airport time / Arrived at 16:16 local airport time / Tail N761ND <-- which is the registration number of the specific aircraft / A/C type being a CR7 (Canadair Regional Jet 700 Series) / Block 1:18 (1 hour & 18 minutes flight time) / Credited 1:33 (in other words paid for 1 hour & 33 minutes) / Pax(passengers) on board 70 / Miles from ATL-DAY 432 / BurnAv 4423 (average fuel burned enroute measured in pounds / Turn 0:44 (time on ground to have the passengers get off, clean the aircraft, cross seatbelts, stock the galley, clean the bathrooms, refuel, input preflight measures, walk around the aircraft for a visual inspection, remove bags, add bags and passengers and close the door) 42 minutes.  That's line 1 in my pairing.  Pretty much going down through the day, I end up at Little Rock, Arkansas for a layover of 14:26 (14 hours & 26 minutes) where it includes the van ride from the airport to the hotel, the ride back to the airport in the morning, and any sleep that I get in between.

If you take a look on Friday the 18th, I was lucky to actually have a 28 hour overnight in Portland, Maine where I enjoyed some of the world's best known Clam Chowder from Gilbert's Chowder House. (yelp review here)

Everyday, I have a Report time which, and depending on how long the ride is to the airport from the hotel, we leave usually around 15 minutes prior to duty in to ensure ample time to get to the aircraft.  Of course, the means I also usually wake up about 1 hour prior to the Report time giving me enough minutes to accomplish the morning routine, throw the uniform together, pack up, eat breakfast and board the airport shuttle or taxi.

There isn't much more to explain really except for the Totals: line telling me that my initial Report time that I have to duty in at the company computers in Atlanta is at 14:00 on the 17th / and I'm Released at 16:46 on the 20th.  For those three days, I will be able to log 18 hours & 47 minutes of flight time, get paid for 20 hours and 48 minutes plus my per diem which is calculated by the TAFB(Time Away From Base) 74:46 74 hours & 46 minutes multiplied by our current rate of $1.65 / hr.

At my current rate of 3rd year pay $39.55 /hr * 20.8 --> I pull in around $822.64 + my per diem ($123.36) giving me a total of $946 for this entire pairing.  Granted I was away from my family the entire time, it didn't include the time I fly back and forth from San Diego to Atlanta and whatever else you want to add in.  I'm not whining really, but this is a sample of just a week in the life of a pilot.  Now, the missing link in this bigger picture is the amount of duty time that I put in between flights that I didn't get paid for.  In other words, I was actually working or at work whatever, for about 32 hours and 2 minutes total during these three days; in my uniform, and not resting.  Keyword being resting.  That's clearly a deficiency of 12 hours just hanging around the various airports.  <-- Not fun.  (Add up the Duty on the bottom ride side of each day to get the total figure)  Now, why is that pilots are only paid for block / credit time, it started long long ago during the birth of the industry and hasn't changed since.  It's a mixture of corporate greed (if that's what you want to call it) and FAA regulations governing flight time in a given period for pilots.

I usually have 4 of these trips a month, sometimes only 3.  Hope you enjoyed the explanation.  Any questions?  Please leave a comment below.

(if you are interested any further, many if not all US airlines' payscales are available to the public listed under each airline profile at http://www.airlinepilotcentral.com/airlines/)

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Whirlwind of Work

This post is brought to you by:LogTenProBanner2008It's been a crazy tour of duty / flying the last couple weeks. From jumpseating almost every week back and forth to San Diego, taking care of the honey who caught the flu bug, food tasting for the wedding and the latest drama with my car's battle against a pole traveling at 5MPH and don't forget doing some work for my podcast, peak interest, I'm a little over-worked. I'm loving every minute of it without a doubt but my personal time has been limited as of late. I'm just glad that I'm able to use some inflight WiFi brought to you for FREE by eBay, Delta and gogoinflight! Thanks guys!

Here are some pictures from work over the last few days. (make sure to click on the pics for a larger / full photo) flying in the early morning...or late afternoon?! flying over who knows where...it's flat! a bright early, crisp morning same shot in the early morning the sun still barely creeping the ATL Control Tower in the background & my aircraft

I finally had some time and configured an affiliate link to introduce you to Coradine's LogTen Pro for Mac and iPhone! If you plan on buying it, it'd help me out if you used the link below. Check it out! It's the best in the ENTIRE industry. I'd even recommend that you buy an Apple / Mac computer just to use this awesome piece of software and an iPhone to pair it with for immediate logging of flight time!

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Anyone Home @ Google Calendar?

Instead, after two weeks of failure on what I can determine is / was on Google's Part, I successfully was able to import my CSV file only when it contained 4 lines under the header. With the suspicion that Google abandoned the Calendar application and (Coach McGurk) even diagnosed the service issue.

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Flying part 2: 4th Week in July

Of all the randomness in flying for the Delta Connection Carrier, Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) based solely out of Atlanta, my four day schedule had an assignment that was to operate a Cincinnati to Miami roundtrip.  New to me and apparently pretty new to the system I might add.  Last summer, I got to fly the Miami system through Tallahassee, Florida and that was a blast, so I was really looking forward to this trip.  I would have loved an overnight in MIA but I guess we won't be doing any of those in the near future. Flying towards Miami, we noticed that the normal summer cloud build-ups were in every quadrant.  It was going to be all about the quick turn.  Looking at our schedule, we also noticed that we had more than ample time to grab some Cuban Coffee and a sandwich.  Coffee was a success but the sandwich place closed I guess.  Massive fail as I was left to eat a Meat Stromboli from Sbarros.  Definitely not the Cuban Sandwich I was hoping for.

I did my walk around and of course it stated to sprinkle a bit.  Just enough to get me a little damp but not dripping.  Flying out of Miami was a lot of fun though.  Departing 8R we made a turn to the north and was vectored toward the northwest in order to get around and through some cloud build-up.  Fun stuff!  Check out the radar and the cloud picture of the cavern we flew through!

IMG_0991

straight ahead through that canyon...smooth sailing indeed

An of course after we landed in Cincinnati Airport which many of you might not know is 1) a ghost town since Delta has slowly changed all of its routing and deleted many flights from the CVG system 2) is actually located in Northern Kentucky. Check it out on this map:


View Larger Map

We made our way to one of the nicer hotels we stay at, Hilton Airport, and then we headed out to celebrate my birthday. Happy hour at Applebees has become the common theme with overnights lately just because the deals are too good to pass up and there's nothing else nearby! We had a couple of drinks, great appetizers but I chose the liquid diet last night. Fun times! On the walk back to the hotel, we hit up Rafferty's for some of there fine honey butter croissants the called it a night. Good times guys and thanks for the great night! Terrylyn, Captain My Captain, Lynn (dang dootie), myself and our hostess

Flying part 1: 4th Week in July

Flying the CRJ700 has been definitely more exciting than the CRJ200 and this week was just another example.  I guess it might be the mere fact that 1 more flight attendant / stewardess adds to the mix during dinner or that I'm just getting lucky being paired up with great crews.  With that, this was a rather enjoyable week. The first night was an overnight in Quad Cities, Illinois which I have already blogged about... great food!  Check it out here. (http://www.elijahnicolas.com/wp/2009/07/26/overnight-in-quad-cities/)

The next night exposed me to the true horrors that Newark, New Jersey is.  Rudeness was in the air but friends were around to pick me up and create a lightened atmosphere.  We headed to the Shorthills Mall which was pretty high society status.  Too bad it was an indoor mall but shopping around is always fun when the weather outside is humid, muggy with a chance of thunderstorms.  We ate at a great place called All American Joe's Bar (something like that) and concluded the night with a drive through a ritzy neighborhood w/ average home sales of $2-4M, stroll through it's local town full of boutique shops that had tennis outfits in the windows.  I can't remember the name of the town but there was an theater playing Public Enemies and that was what we were watching.  For a two and half hour movie, it kept me going.  I enjoyed it thoroughly but I have to admit that 500 Days of Summer (trailer) was more entertaining.  Johnny Depp had a great roll, Christian Bale looks a little skinny and didn't convince me so much, but overall it was a great biography on John Dillinger.    Albeit more appealing I guess in it's very unique story telling.  Go watch it already if you have not!  It's playing in select theaters so make you scope out the local area for show times.

I'll write up part two tomorrow starting off with some good MIA weather story and capping it off with a fun night in Cincinnati...er Kentucky...that one place that we stayed at last night.  Here's a picture of the morning sun rising over Manhattan skyline as seen from the Newark Airport.  You can see the Empire State Building too if you take a close look!  Check it out!

Rising Sun over Manhattan

Running Around YUL (Montreal)

The past week brought me to Baton Rouge, Montreal - Canada, followed by a quick night in St. Louis then back to San Diego for a ~35 mile bike ride. In all of that, I left my iPhone charger in Baton Rouge, got the chance to finally run in my new Asics GT-2140, try out a pair of Monster Beats by Dre headphones, ride the jumpseat home, sleep for 4 hours then ride early morning as far and fast within a time constraint. Good times all in all. Here are a few pics of the weeks' adventure.

[gallery link="file" columns="2"]

here's a map of my ride in San Diego:

Plane or No Plane or Just Different Plane

Everyday, every plane that I fly is a different story.  With various maintenance issues that are posted from time to time, line pilots have to learn how to deal with each occurrence.  Each plane is unique in there own way but of there are similarities between the various anomalies.  The Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) has morning sickness (has to warm up a little bit in the cool months in order for the electronics to "come alive"), has an awfully hard time getting cool during the feverish months of summer and little bugs here and there that “pop” up from time to time.  Today was just one of those instances. (actually a week or two ago) Getting pushed back from the gate is when we usually begin to start our engines in order to move about and head towards our respective departure runway.  Because of this, we don’t’ usually become aware of the problems that we might have with our electrical systems or our powerplant systems.  After our electrical system switched over from the APU (auxiliary power unit) to the right-side engine driven generator, we noticed that our main battery was being activated and the backup TIES were switching back and forth showing us that there was an abnormality within our system.  It was posted to be a short roundtrip flight but it was leg one of four so any delays were going to prolong our duty day.

After talking to maintenance we were advised to go back to a gate for further inspection.  We had to wait around for about 20 minutes for a new gate and then once parked, we were told my maintenance that it would take about 30 minutes for a battery swap.  Mind you, we had a plane full of passengers from moms with strollers and multiple bags to businessmen and other various clientle of Delta.  Since it was only going to take “30 minutes” we were advised that the passengers remain on the plane so that we could get out of there as fast as possible once we were ready to go.  Well, after the first battery swap, 30 minutes later, we ended up finding out that we would need to deplane as maintenance would have to diagnose the issue for about 2-3 hours.

We deplaned, ended up getting assigned a different aircraft, which was still enroute from another destination and waited as the clocked raced on.  From being on-time, to being 1 hour delayed, we ended up being 3 hours delayed by the time we took off.  With so many variables in the airline industry, these types of delays end up creating negative publicity and passenger dissatisfaction.

Needless to say, we got our passengers to their desired destination safely and ended up having our day cut short.  This was made so with a standby crew that ended up operating our 3rd and 4th leg so that the passengers on those flights would remain on time.   I got on the next available flight to San Diego and am home relaxing until the next adventure begins.

N754EV

Traveling on the "System"

As some of you know or don't know, I work for a commercial airline that serves as a connection carrier that is solely based out of Atlanta flying for the big "D".  I started out thinking that the associated flight benefits were going to be something out of the extraordinary; Coupled with the excitement to travel everywhere and anywhere in the system, I set out to just to do that. Being tired after flying for four days kind of knocks out the excitement of getting on another plane but the biggest let down is the game that you end up playing while traveling on "non-revenue" status.  Being classified as a non-rev, you are left dwindling at the bottom of the barrel scavenging for open seats on aircraft that fly from your desired point A to point B.  This status is below those that are of course, revenue customers, as well as mismanaged customers, those who missed their connections due to late arrivals, weather or maintenance, employees of the mother airline that have a higher seniority date as well as some others that might have been just plain and simple: a higher priority in the system.

The current industry as a whole has been reporting passenger loads exceeding those pre-9/11 which doesn't necessarily also account for the multitude of flights that have opened up in our system.  All in all, with more people flying that ever before, the planes are fuller than ever.  With current airline practices accounting for roughly 10% of passengers to miss their flights, airlines are forced under the rules of carriage to "oversell" a given flight based upon a pattern that is developed for that particular city pair and time of day/month/year.

It is not completely ridiculous to conclude that with these loads, getting on a given flight with a  buddy pass is near impossible.  It is a sad privilege really because you want flights to be sold out which means money and profits, but the it doesn't give you room to appreciate the perks of yesteryear.  Smaller planes, less frequency in the upcoming months and overall reduction in flying (10% cut in Delta's domestic flights this fall) will prevail in creating an unwanted roller coaster ride of commuting back and forth.  Here's to the jumpseat on the 757 and the 4 hours of one way, unadulterated, unpaid travel!

Oh yeah, my buddy passes are expensive too but that's doesn't allow me to tout them as a reciprocal gift during an exchange of affairs, so if you want one, just ask.  =)