July 15, 2010
Just a Typical Trip: Part I
I got up this morning for my first day of six on reserve. My RAP (Reserve Availability Period) starts at 10 am and ends at midnight. This means that I can’t be called until 10 and any assignment I receive must end by midnight...once called I have two hours to get to the airport. Sitting at the computer, I see that crew schedule has been busy overnight assigning a number of trips. Mine is a 3 day trip, sign in at 11:50 am, three legs today, 8 hours of flying, 12 hours on duty and an overnight in Colorado Springs. Tomorrow I’ll get up in the Springs and fly back home then to Orlando for the night…two legs…we’ll be in Orlando around 8pm. Day three is one leg home. I should be home for lunch. Not so bad on paper.
I suppose there are some benefits to sitting reserve, the best of which is that I could potentially sit on reserve the entire month, never touch an airplane and still take home a full paycheck. Pretty good gig if that ever happened. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, it never does. It’s summer in Texas, thunderstorms rumble through daily and pilots are in short supply, so I max out around 80 to 85 hours every month. The down side to reserve would take pages to explain and I really don‘t have to energy to step up onto that soap box today, so lets just say that reserve kinda sucks and leave it at that.
I leave the house at 10:50, kiss my wife and kids good-by and head out. It’s about a 20 minute drive to the parking lot, but the trip from the parking lot to the terminal can take 10 minutes or 30...no telling which it will be today, so I need to be in the parking lot by 11:20. Traffic is light and I arrive at the lot by 11:15, there’s a bus waiting and by 11:25 I’m walking through security on my way to ops. I stop by operations to check my box and sign in for my trip. Sign in…check. Check trip for revisions…check. Print layover instructions…check. Review flight plan and weather…check. Jepps and manual revisions…check.
The plane is due in at 11:45 and I prefer to meet the inbound crew to get a brief on the condition of the jet, so I hurry off to the gate. When I arrive at the gate, the passengers are deplaning and I check in with the gate agent who checks my ID against the crew list and briefs me on any “specials”…wheel chairs, unaccompanied minors, armed passengers, etc.
After the passengers deplane, I head down the jet-bridge. It’s already 94 degrees in Dallas and the bridge is hot. Thankfully, the inbound crew left the APU running, so the jet is cool and comfortable. I put my bags away and build my nest, that is, I unpack my kit bag and get everything set up the way I like it. Everything out and ready. Everything in place and ready to use.
I do an initial preflight of the cockpit and head out for my walk-around. The ramp is hot and loud and looks a little like an ant mound with people and equipment moving around in what looks like completely random and pointless movements. There are a couple rampers attaching the tow bar to the nose gear and reading the tug for push back. Fuel is being pumped into the right wing. All three cargo doors are open and bags are being unloaded from the last flight. A cleaning crew is walking up the aft stairs to do their magic on the cabin, the lav truck is backing up to the rear access point and catering has already started on the first class galley.
The walk-around yields no issues. This airplane is old and has been used hard. An MD-82 that entered service in 1987. “Ridden hard and hung up wet” as my Dad would say. Tons of little dents and scratches, but they’re all cosmetic and every one is accounted for in the damage log. This aircraft is well cared for and has plenty of life left in it.
Back in the cockpit, I meet the Captain for the first time and we exchange pleasantries and he hands me a printed copy of the flight plan and TPS. The flight plan contains all the information for the flight from take-off to landing. Route, altitude, speeds, weather, destination alternates, etc. Everything we need for the actual fight. The TPS is a departure plan. It contains information about runways, flap settings, power settings, takeoff speeds, engine out acceleration altitudes and planned passenger loads. It also contains information about cargo weights, fuel distribution and expected temperatures at departure time. Everything we need to know to safely takeoff. We enter all this information into the cockpit computers and FMS. Set our speed and altitude bugs and complete all our final cockpit checks as the passenger board the aircraft.
Stay tuned for Part II and the remainder of the trip.
Posted by APC at 12:12 PM