Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Down For Repairs

Just a short post today.

No work trips for me this week. It's been nice having all these days off.

The time for vacation has finally arrived! Next week I expect to be on a cruise ship in the Southern Caribbean enjoying the sunny skies from sea level.

Maybe I'll have some vacation stories to blog about.

After that I'll be down for some much needed knee surgery in early February. I hope to be airborne again in a couple of months.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

The Water Emergency

Today I had the rare long layover. I typically try to get short layovers and spend as little time in hotels as possible. It gets old in a hurry.

But today our pickup time wasn't until 4:30 PM so I had some goofing off time. I spent that time with a short walk over to a nice shopping center in Palm Beach and grabbed a sandwich at a deli.

Then back to the hotel for a few hours of pool time before pick-up.

This was to be an easy day...only one leg home to DFW.

We boarded an almost full plane and headed out to runway 9L behind an AirTran Boeing 737. Inbound traffic was fairly heavy so we had to wait about ten minutes for our turn to launch.

Takeoff was to the east out over the coast. The sun was just setting as we made a wide left turn back towards the west and started the climb up to 34,000 ft.

Then passing 10,000 ft the cockpit chime rang.

"We don't have any water in the aft lavatories or the coffee makers!!!" one of the girls practically screamed.

Then the chime rang again.

"There's no water in the forward galley and lavatory!!" our #1 flight attendant shouted.

I was flying so I had the FO deal with the girls. They desperately wanted to know if there was anything we could do to get the water flowing again. To them it was an emergency. (In their defense, having to deal with a planeload of irritated rich Palm Beach passengers might have seemed like a genuine emergency!)

Apparently the ground crew had serviced the water back at Palm Beach but when they finished, they forgot to turn a valve back on that would pressurize the system. So the result was that we had no water pressure and there was nothing that we could do from the cockpit to fix it. (This wasn't the first time that this had ever happened.)

Hearing this the girls collectively asked, "Can we go back and get it fixed?"

After we both stopped laughing, the FO told them that we couldn't go back and to just put some water bottles and wet naps in the lavs. I then made a PA about the water problem and apologized for the inconvenience and on we went to DFW.

Other than the water emergency, the flight went just fine...smooth skies, a decent landing, an open gate, and another flight was in the logbook.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Florida Shuttle

It was the morning after the Dallas Cowboys loss to the New York Giants in the NFL playoffs. Our baggage handlers can at times be a little harsh with their notes and comments that they leave on the baggage carts. Today was no exception as you can see from their work on a couple of different carts. Keep in mind that these carts are at DFW....home of the Cowboys.

Todays flying would be concentrated between Texas and Florida. DFW to Orlando, back to DFW and then West Palm Beach. Orlando is the home of Disney World and we always carry a bunch of families with excited kids in tow. The ground handlers probably see more strollers than any other station in the system.

The FAA names all the airways, arrivals, departures, intersections, and everything else related to the airway system in this country.The arrival we flew today was the Piglt arrival. Most of the arrival intersections are named for Disney characters. You can see the references to the Lion King and Aladdin characters on the route page. Even the stuffy FAA has a sense of humor sometimes.
The weather was great in Florida today and we had a nice view of downtown Orlando.

We also had a good look at Orlando Executive airport on our departure back to DFW. A quick pass through DFW with a change of planes and off to Palm Beach for the night.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

"Do you guys know what you're doing?"

Just a turnaround today. DFW to Boston and back. 8 hours worth.

When we sign in for a trip, the two pilots respective flying time on the MD-80 is displayed on the computer screen. It gives us an idea of what kind of experience we have in the cockpit for that given trip. Today the FO was very senior. So when I signed in, his hours showed up as 11,600. That means he has 11,600 hours in the right seat of the MD-80. I'm pretty close at just under 11,000 hours in the left seat. I also have about 3500 in the right seat as well. So it goes without saying that todays crew was highly experienced. But most of our crews these days are well experienced since we haven't hired any new pilots in years and there hasn't been much movement in the seniority list.

Having said all that, while we were boarding at DFW, this guy stuck his head in the cockpit and said in a very loud voice so everyone around him could hear....

"You guys know what you're doing up there? Can you find Boston today?"

Of course I couldn't say "Just go find your seat and shut up you moron", so I politely said "Welcome aboard sir" and left it at that.

But he got a chuckle out of the others around him so I guess he got what he was after. Our flight attendants reported that he was pretty obnoxious for most of the flight.
The flying weather was great until we reached Albany, New York. Then the ride starting getting bad as we approached a large area of developing thunderstorms that were headed right for the Boston area. Then right on cue, ATC gave us a reroute all the way up to Lebanon, New Hampshire, Portland, Maine, and then down to Boston. And then came the holding instructions. Expect to hold for one hour!

Fortunately the storms were fast moving and the hold didn't last too long. We still had to do some minor deviating on the approach but it all ended up well and the flight was only about 30 minutes late after all. The moron would be glad to know that we indeed had found Boston!

The ground crew did a nice job of getting us turned around and headed west again. Flight time to DFW was just over 4 hours. Today the jet stream was positioned right along our usual route to Texas so we had an unusual routing so as to avoid the jet stream headwinds. From BOS the routing took us to Syracuse, Toronto, Flint, St Louis, Ft Smith and then DFW. It felt like a great circle route.
Smooth skies back to Texas and the Red River with Lake Lavon and Ray Hubbard in the distance is always a welcome sight. It means that we're almost there!

Eight hours in the MD-80 is enough for one day.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Where's The Donald?

It was a beautiful January morning in New York City today. The contrails were already in view just after sunrise. Apparently someone was already airborne before us!

It was unusually warm so I volunteered to do the preflight walk-around duties on our plane today. I mentioned the LGA control tower in an earlier post....I've always thought it was an eye catching design. They light it up with bright white lights at night and for St Patrick's day they use green lights.

One of our gate agents was telling me the supposed history of the tower. She said that it was built to look like a champagne glass and that the windows were made to look like the bubbles. Now I don't know if that's a true story or not but it sure sounded credible.

Check out the old photo with the AA 727 AstroJets and the Douglas DC-6's. Must have been in the early 60's.

Our flight times out of LGA are calculated with plenty of taxi time built in. Our flight plan today called for a 25 minute taxi time. We called for taxi and were told to wait for our
sequence. Ten minutes later they called back and we were given our taxi instructions with an expected number of 12 for takeoff. Pretty typical day.

Every time I go to LGA, I look for Donald
Trump's plane. It's usually parked on the general aviation ramp. Sure enough, there it was. It's a very nice looking Boeing 727-100. I'll bet it's nice inside.

We launched right after a Dash-8 on runway 13. With the engines run up to max power and the air conditioning off, liftoff was at 145 knots with only about 1500 feet of concrete remaining.....Whew!.....An abort would have put us in the bay for sure. Three and a half hours later we were on final to a north landing at DFW. Brakes parked at the gate and we're ten minutes early.

Only one leg today....not too bad.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Big Apple

Just a two day trip today but day one was a long one. 5 legs. We rarely have to fly this many legs in one day but this trip was all that I could fit into my schedule for this week. The trip sequence was to be from DFW to Houston, back to DFW, then to Oklahoma City, back to DFW, and then to New York. Almost 8 hours of flying.

The first turn down to Houston (IAH) went just fine. But no trip to Houston Intercontinental is complete without having to wait in line for takeoff behind a bunch of Continental Airlines flights. Houston is their home base just like DFW is home to American Airlines.

The turn up to OKC also went well.
These short legs of under 45 minutes flying time are very busy in the cockpit. By the time we've leveled off at cruising altitude, it's time to start downhill again. The pilot that's not flying is busy getting weather information, landing runways, approach and landing speeds etc, and working the radios as well. Not much time for sightseeing.

On the other hand, these guys on AA flight #123 headed for Honolulu had about 8 hours in-flight. Plenty of time for sightseeing and reading their "flight manuals".

Coming back from OKC to DFW we had a short wait for this Air Force T-37 trainer to land. The T-37 is a Cessna two seat jet that the Air Force has been using as a trainer since the 1950's. I believe this one was based out of Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma.

OKC is home of the FAA. So every time we go in and out of there, chances are good that we'll have an FAA inspector on board with us giving us a line check. Luckily today we had an empty jump seat.

We had a nice view of the Air Force ramp with a bunch of Boeing KC-135 tankers parked and looking ready for duty.

Back through DFW, a quick change of planes and then off to New York. The 90 knot tailwinds helped us get back on schedule and clear skies all the way to New York were most welcome after a long day in the cockpit.

The arrival routing into the New York terminal area tonight was one of my favorites. New York ATC had us fly visually over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and then fly up the Hudson River just past Central Park. This took us directly over the Statue of Liberty with a great night view of Newark on the left and Manhattan on the right. Then a right turn in for a visual approach to runway 22 at LGA. A good landing, an open gate, a short ride to the hotel and then the LSU-OSU game on TV and the day was done.

The photo is of a "Big Apple". >>>>>>>>>

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Pressure Is On

Three legs today....Ft Lauderdale to DFW, up to Kansas City, and then back to DFW. Hopefully, we'd be done by 1 PM.

The 6 AM takeoff meant having to get up at 4:15 east coast time. Our cabin crew was based in Miami and was originating at FLL this morning so it would be just the two of us leaving from the hotel.

The plane was full including all the jump-seats. The cockpit jump-seat on the MD-80 is pretty uncomfortable for anything longer than about five minutes. Our jump-seater today was an American Eagle pilot going to work at DFW.

The FO flew the first leg. It was still dark as we rolled on runway 27R. Liftoff came at 150 knots, 320 knots in the climb above 10,000 and then level at 34,000 in about 15 minutes. Again today we were equipped with an over-water plane so we could take the shortcut over the Gulf of Mexico. (Over-water equipped means that you have life rafts on board and a few other survival items as standard equipment....not all the MD-80's are so equipped.)

The arrival routing to DFW from the southeast provided a nice sunrise view of the city of Dallas.

For the last couple of days there has been a huge high pressure area located over the midwest US. I've noticed that the barometric pressures have been extra high. But today was the absolute highest I had ever seen. I even kept a copy of the DFW ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information Service). It was being reported at 30.96 inches. I later saw on the local news that it topped out at 30.97. The MD-80 altimeters only go up to 31.00....We wondered what they'd do if the pressure had gone up even higher? Ground the fleet?.....with pay??? Not likely.

This DHL Boeing 767 landed behind us.

It kind of made us hungry for McDonalds!!!

Put a couple of golden arches on top of the fuselage and you'd have a restaurant.

A change of cabin crews and off to Kansas City we went. It was clear and very cold there....5 degrees above zero when we landed. The taxi-ways and ramp areas were pretty iced over but the runways were in good shape for my second best landing of the year.

A quick turn around and then back to DFW. I got this shot of MCI airport as we headed south after takeoff.

Now for a few days off....No more pressure.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Coast To Coast

My plan of getting a good night's sleep last night was just wishful thinking.

My room faced San Diego harbor and right on cue at midnight, I was awakened by a pretty impressive fireworks display out over the water. Man was it ever loud. My FO told me later that he heard it too and initially thought that we were having an earthquake since the walls were shaking.

It lasted exactly seven minutes and then came all the screaming and yelling from the party-goers in the hotel. I think the entire city of San Diego was celebrating in the hall's of our hotel. For well over an hour you could hear the whooping and hollering of the celebration. It would have been nice to join in the fun but our sign in was only a few hours away. I finally fell asleep for what seemed like only ten minutes (in reality it was a couple of hours) when my alarm went off at 4 AM.

Down in the lobby the only things moving were three airline crews. We all were looking pretty bleary eyed from lack of sleep I'm sure. Not a word was spoken on the shuttle to the airport. (Too tired!) Surprisingly, the airport was packed at 5 AM on New Years day. I guess maybe only half the city was at our hotel last night.

Our departure was timed for us to be on the takeoff roll at 6:30 AM, exactly the time when the Lindbergh Airport curfew cuts off. But several other airlines have the same idea...we ended up number seven for takeoff at 6:30. But we were soon airborne and on the way up to flight level 330 and watching the sunrise in the eastern sky.

Once again, the White Sands missile range in New Mexico was open and we asked for and received a nice shortcut straight to the arrival fix just southwest of Ft Worth. DFW was landing to the north today and the approach to runway 36L took us over Rangers Ballpark in Arlington...home of the Texas Rangers baseball club.

The next leg would be from DFW to Ft Lauderdale, Florida. Once again we were packed...this time we were carrying a bunch of University of Kansas football fans. They were headed to the Orange Bowl game in Miami.

Takeoff was behind this arriving AA Boeing 737. The routing took us over New Orleans and out across the northern Gulf of Mexico. Landfall was made over Sarasota and then a gradual straight in descent to an ILS approach in the rain to runway 9L at FLL. I made my best landing of the year! My FO had to ruin it and remind me that it was my "ONLY" landing of the year too!

I had hoped to get in some beach time before sunset but the rain just wouldn't let up so I ended up just grabbing a sandwich and watching the Rose Bowl game in my room. Tomorrow would be an even earlier sign-in.....Time to sleep.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Last Trip of the Year....Finally!!

It was the afternoon of New Years Eve so I didn't think that the traffic heading to the airport would be very heavy, but no such luck. My normal 45 minute drive time took nearly twice that long. The freeways in North Dallas were pretty jammed up for whatever reason. I had to call crew scheduling and tell them I'd be late for sign-in. They said OK and asked if I'd make it by departure time....All they really care about is if the flight leaves on time. I said that "yes, I'll make it ".

Today would only be one leg. DFW to San Diego. Takeoff was right at sunset and we enjoyed clear skies and the fading sun all the way to the TX-New Mexico border. The typical route of flight to the west coast takes us over El Paso or Albuquerque. Going directly over central New Mexico is out of the question due to the White Sands missile range and all the associated restricted airspace always being active nearly 24 hours a day. But since it was New Years Eve, the restricted areas were open and we were cleared directly from just west of Ft Worth to Gila Bend, Arizona. That took us directly over Alamogordo, New Mexico and the missile range.

Skies were clear and the 100 knot headwinds didn't seem to matter since the ride was smooth and the visibility was practically unlimited. El Paso went by on the left, Albuquerque on the right, then came Tucson followed by Phoenix and then Yuma. Just after passing the Colorado River, Los Angeles Center (ATC) issued us our descent clearance and before long we were on final approach to runway 27 at San Diego. I made a nice landing and even received a few compliments from some passengers.

It was a short walk to the hotel shuttle area but even that was a little too much for this kiddo! ....I don't think she liked me taking her picture.

The terminal in San Diego has a nice replica of Charles Lindbergh's airplane hanging from the ceiling. "The Spirit of St Louis". It was a Ryan NYP. The original was built in San Diego.

The layover would only be about 10 hours long and I hoped that the local party-goers would be at the opposite end of the hotel. I reached my room, watched a little football on TV, then hit the sack.

Pretty exciting New Years Eve...Huh?

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