Thursday, November 08, 2012

18 Months

18 months is a long time between posts. Blogging has taken a back seat to living life on lifes terms the last year and a half. There have been gigantic changes going on in my life and career in that time span. There has been a good deal of thought going on as to if I want to blog about the major changes going on. For now, it will just stay professional. I have left the 121 regional world and have gone back to my roots of 135 flying. Things were looking pretty gloomy at my airline. Bankruptcy was going to gut our contract, my schedule was beginning to ebb, re-upgrade was never going to happen and we were staring down the barrel at a 35% pay cut. So an opportunity arose that allowed me to use my god given talent to fly planes for a much more important mission. To save lives. It certainly helped that the pay was good, schedule is ok and I'll be back on track for the mystical 1000 turbine PIC. The positives of making the switch far outweighed the negatives, so after much thought and consideration I bailed back to the world of turbo props. Its been a relativly new switch, only 2 months, but so far so good. I should get back in the swing of blogging about flying again in the near future. Sorry its been so long, but life happens. When it does, some things just have to sit on the back burner for a while.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

St. Elmo's Fire

Only a short clip of the awesome light show on our way around a few winter thunderstorms in Illinois. The video does not do it much justice. About 2 seconds into the video, you see a bright flash. That was not caused by lightning, but a burst of static electricity, called St. Elmo's fire. Most of the tiny flashes you can see are originating from the windshield wipers spreading across the windshield.
video

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Few more flying pics

Niagara Falls From FL300
Obviously its go-home leg. Warp Speed ahead.
Can you find KGVQ?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Smoke Toilet

There are only a few reasons to rush something when flying. An indication of a fire is one of them. Fire is not something to be taken lightly. It must be treated with the utmost urgency. Nothing raises the hair on the back of my neck like talking about a fire on board an aircraft. Nothing gets my attention in the cockpit faster than an indication that there may be a fire on board. The other day was the first time I've ever had to deal with a potential fire on board my aircraft in flight.

It started out as a normal routine day. We had a late show time of 1130am coming off a long overnight, so for once I was well rested and ready for the day. The plane still had some left over snow on it from the night before, so after boarding up we headed on over to the de-ice bay to get hosed off. The Captain and I remarked to each other that the de-icer was really spraying it on thick. It looked to us like he was trying to empty the truck of fluid on our plane. He was really giving it a bath. (I think we both took notice of this and tucked it away in our short term memory banks for later use.) After spraying we completed our after de-icing checklist and made our way to the runway. After a 10 minute atc delay we took the runway for departure. It was a nice clear day with light winds out of the east, I was looking forward to a nice easy flight. Little did I know that flight would only last 8 minutes in the air.

As we turned on the runway, rechecked our headings an initial altitude, I took control of the aircraft. I brought the thrust levers up, released the brakes and had the Captain set thrust. Everything was normal. We accelerated down the runway, he called "V1, Rotate........V2" and we lifted off. He called "positive rate" I called for the gear to be raised and thats when we started to "smell that smell, oohhhh that smell" to quote some Skynard. It was that acrid, smoldering stink of type 1 de-icing fluid going through our environmental system. Only this time, it was stronger and more concentrated than I have ever smelled it. About a second after it hit our olfactory nerves, thats when the master caution single chime went off. I quickly glanced over at the eicas and saw the Smoke Toilet caution message staring back at me. The very next thought out of my tiny pilot brain was, "shit, thats not good" followed very quickly by my saying"I have the controls and radios, perform the QRH for smoke toilet. From previous experience running this checklist in the sim, I knew at the end of it we were to land at the nearest suitable airport. So while the Captain was busy performing the QRH, I informed the tower we were declaring an emergency and returning to the airport.

It was a busy time in the cockpit with the Captain running the checklist, calling the flight attendant to have her check the lav and pulling circuit breakers while I was flying the plane, talking to atc and setting up the aircraft for an approach back into the airport. Thankfully the weather was nice and made flying the plane an easy task. Since we were in such close proximity to the airport, all I did was make a left turn to put us on a left downwind for the runway we had just departed. Since the Captain was busy with the QRH, I had to plug in the ILS to the FMS, plug in the ILS frequency into the RTU, set the proper V-speeds for our current overweight landing, put the flaps out, the gear down and run the before landing checklist. By the time the Captain caught up with everything, I was already turning a 3 mile final. He double checked everything I had already done and re-completed the before landing checklist. The approach and landing was about as normal as could be in that situation. The landing was a greaser and we taxied off the runway to have the local Crash Fire Rescue (CFR) come take a look at the lav for us.

Now I know what you may be thinking, why are they not stopping on the runway and evacuating the passengers? Theres a fire on the plane!! The flight attendant went back and checked the lav while we were in the air. She reported there was no indication of a fire. So with her verification and the fact that we've heard stories of de-icing fluid causing a smoke toilet message, we decided not to do an evacuation. We did however pull into the de-icing bay and have CFR come on board and inspect the lav for us. They did not find any indication of a fire. So we started up an engine and headed over to the gate. The passengers de-planed and we got on the phone with the company to find out the next step. Little did we know that the next step wouldn't happen for another 5 hours and ended up with the flight being cancelled due to weather in DTW, but thats another story in itself.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A year in photos

I know its been a long long time since I've posted, but you know the old saying "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all" well, I've been subscribing to that theory. Some of my previous posts were leaning towards the negative and my attitude towards aviation in general was pretty dismal, so I decided to take a break. Here is whats happened in the last 12 months as told thru my cell phone camera. Chronologically, these pics start with the most recent and go back for the last 12 months since I last posted. Every one has its own special meaning and reason for being posted.





















Saturday, November 28, 2009

Minimums, Minimums



In the midwest where I normally fly, its pretty rare to have an airport socked in by fog. It happens on occasion, but usually burns off by mid morning. A few weeks ago was the exception to the rule. DTW fogged in around 6am and stayed that way most of the day. In one flight we logged 2 CAT II approaches, one to bare minimums, a missed approach, holding, a near diversion and a low visibility taxi. I have not flown in such foggy weather like this since my freight hauling days.






It all started out with a 4:45am wake up call. This was to be day 2 of a 4 day trip with 2 easy legs. We were going from AVP-DTW-OMA for a 20 hour layover. Everything was very routine and normal until I started my walk around and took a look at the fuel panel. As part of my walk around, I normally open up the fuel control access panel and turn the panel on. This way I can see how much fuel has been loaded on the plane. It struck me as very odd that we were loaded up with nearly 9,000lbs of fuel for a 1:15 minute flight. Typically we wouldnt take much more than 6,000lbs. So I immeadiatly figured we had an alternate. I finished up the walk around after a few minute delay in the -200 F.O slice of heaven and headed up to the cockpit. As I was taking my jacket off and stowing it, the Captain turned around and said "This is going to be an interesting morning" and handed me the flight release. I took a look at the weather in DTW and saw exactly why we had 9,000lbs of fuel, DTW was forcasting light winds, 1/2mi visibilities with fog and a 100ft ceiling. Temporarily from about an hour before we arrived to 2 hours after our arrival time the forecast dropped to 1/4mi visibility and fog. Since the visibility forecasted was less than the published minimums of 1/2mi vis, we needed to add 2 alternate airports and enough fuel to fly to the farthest alternate plus 45min of reserve fuel. Hence the 9,000lbs of fuel on board.



The self loading freight boarded up and we shut the door and pushed back. We were expecting a flow control delay into DTW on the taxi out, but it never came. We lifted off a few minutes later into a black, starless early morning sky. Since it was my leg, during the preflight briefing, I infomed the Captain that I would be flying at long range cruise to conserve fuel. As the airplane leveled off at our cruising altitude of 28,000 ft, I pulled the thrust levers back and set LRC power to bring our fuel flows from around 1250lbs per hour to around 1000lbs. This 500lb reduction in fuel flow would come in handy in about 45 min.



As fast as airplanes are, they are not fast enough to outrun the sunrise. Enroute to DTW, the sun was making its way over the horizon. Thankfully the sun was behind us, because its much easier on the eyes at O'Dark thirty. But with the sunrise comes the fog. We were monitoring the ATIS through our automatic acars updates and in the span of about 20 min, we went from atis L to R. That means the weather at the airport changed 6 times in a very short period of time. The visibilities were fluctuating between 2200 rvr and 800 rvr depending on runway. Pretty soon we get the call from ATC telling everyone that DTW is only accepting Cat II and III aircraft. Thankfully both the aircraft and the crew (us) were Cat II certified. This means that we use a little different technique and procedures to land when the visibilities are less than the standard 1/2 mile vis or 2400 rvr. We are allowed to land with an rvr of 12ooft. For those of you wondering what RVR is, that stands for runway visual range. Since we were able to do a Cat II approach, we continued to DTW while those who were not able to shoot the approach were given holding instructions.



The closer we got to DTW, we could see what the problem was. We could see the buildings of downtown Detroit sticking through the thick layer of fog. Closer to downtown, it was a thin low laying layer of fog and clouds. The closer to the airport you looked, the thicker and more dense the clouds/fog got. As we were on downwind for 3R, we heard an aircraft or two get cleared for the approach. Then as we were about to turn base, the approach controller stated the rvr had dropped to 800ft. This is lower than what we are authorized for therefore we could not commence with the approach. Neither could the other 3 or 4 aircraft in the pattern at that time. Since we were so close to the airport and off any published airways, the approach controller put us into a radar vectored holding pattern near the outer marker. At this point its all asses and elbows in the cockpit because we are very busy flying the aircraft, checking our fuel state, checking weather at our alternates, talking to dispatch and trying to make PA announcements to the passengers to try and keep them in the loop. Granted we had been doing most of these things enroute and had come up with a gameplan in case we couldnt make it in to DTW, but now we needed to start planning on putting it into action in case we infringed on our bingo fuel. We came up with a bingo fuel number a little earlier in the flight. Bingo fuel for us that morning was enough fuel to get from DTW to our alternate, shoot an approach and still land with 2100lbs of gas in the wings. In midstream of getting all this done, approach announced the rvr on 3R had gone back up to 1200ft. So we momentarily stashed the plans and preperations to divert and re-prepared for the approach. We were vectored on to 12 mile final behind company traffic and cleared for the approach. The aircraft in front of us was switched to tower frequncy and shortly thereafter we were as well. It was about this time when the weather decided to throw another wrench into the morning. The aircraft in front of us contacted tower and informed them that they were inside the final approach fix on the ILS approach to 3R. Tower then cleared them to land and informed them the rvr was back down to 800ft. For them, its not too big of a deal because they are still legal to continue the approach and continue to the Decision Height and can "take a look", for us, it creates more of a problem because we cannot legally continue the approach. We were outside the final approach fix, therefore could not continue the approach. By the time we got a word in with tower, we had already proceded past the final approach fix and were heading down the ILS. Tower cleared us to land, but we couldnt, so we informed him that we would have to go around. A few seconds later tower issued missed approach instructions and I poured on the coals and performed a go around manuver. While we were in the process of the go around, we were handed back off to approach. The controller informed us that the rvr to 4R was still at 12oo and asked if we could accept that. We quickly agreed that we could and would like vectors for that approach. Again its all asses and elbows in the cockpit because we just got done performing a missed approach and now we have to set up the plane for an approach to a different runway. While getting vectors for the new runway, we re-loaded the FMS, tuned in the ILS, briefed the approach, re-checked our fuel situation and sent for new landing numbers for the new runway. We accomplished all of the required tasks and started making our way down an ILS for the second time. Approach handed us off to tower and shortly thereafter we were again cleared to land, the current rvr was 1200ft. We had just cleared the final approach fix when we heard tower clear an aircraft for takeoff. Tower then stated the rvr on 4R was 800ft. The Captain and I exchanged looks and both agreed to continue the approach to the decision height. Once you are inside the final approach fix, you are still legal to continue the approach even if the visibility gets reported less than the minimums for the approach. The autopilot was doing a good job of tracking the localizer and glideslope and I was keeping the speed pegged right at our ref speed. At 200 feet to minimums the Captain announced he was going heads up. I slid my thumb over the autopilot disconnect button and started to prepare for go around number 2. We were about 40ft from DH and I was just getting ready to go around when the Captain announced "Runway in sight, my controls" I quickly glanced out and could see the approach lights whizzing by in the fog below. A split second later the runway appeared and just as "Chuck Roberts" called "50" the Captain retarded the thrust levers and started to flare for landing. I could see a few stripes of the runway centerline in front of us, but that was about it. We were cleared to taxi off the runway at taxiway V and contact ground. We crawled down the runway and finally saw the taxiway. We made the turn and told tower we were clear of the runway. We flipped over to ground and told them where we were and what gate we were going to. He cleared us to taxi to the gate. I left the landing lights and strobes on because it was like soup ou there. We couldnt really see a whole lot in front of us. We slowly made our way to the gate, pulled in and shut down. I think both of us were a wee bit sweaty because that was one eventful flight.



Monday, November 09, 2009

Death of an Airline

While there will be planes in the sky with the Midwest paint job, they will not be operated by any Midwest pilots or flight attendants. As former employee number 46262, I will miss Midwest airlines. Its a shame what has happened to such a great little airline. Here's to you Midwest Pilots, my hats off to you for holding the line and staying strong even though you were going to lose the battle.