Flying is down for this time of year so it was time to top up my flight hours by going on "make up." Crew sked called and offered me a charter to Samana. She didn't know where it was and I certainly didn't, but I accepted the challenge. Before hanging up she mentioned both he captain and first officer booked off within ten minutes of each other. Hmmm? Did they know something I didn't? I quickly checked the weather and there were no hurricanes in the back door so this was good.
I guess it all started when I showed up for work and dispatch was sending me to a place I've never been to, nor the F/O, with a broken airplane. One PACK (Air conditioning unit which also pressurizes the cabin) was U/S restricting us to 31,000 feet. Heading south means thunderbumpers and they were showing on our track off Cape Hatteras. The F/O voiced his opinion on the scenario, and I agreed, we called crew sked to ask for another airplane. They told us there might be one, but it will translate into an hour delay. (Guilt factor) Did I want to take the delay? When picking around Cbs one wants to be high to visually see whats going on because you can't entirely rely on the weather radar. More on that later.
We were given an airplane (funny how it popped up so fast) and we waited 20 minutes for a new flight plan setting the ball in motion for things to go off the rails.
We walk by the waiting passengers and they didn't have that "vacation fun filled" look. It was more like..."typical Air Canada, we are delayed again" look. I've used this statement before and I'll use it again, "It's better to be late in this world than early in the next."
I offer the first leg to the F/O and he accepts. I find it's easier to run the show when I'm PNF (pilot non flying). The in-charge states the CIDS ( Cabin Intercommunication Data System) is U/S which required a four Circuit breaker reset. Things are happening. Water must be serviced but the access panel is "speed taped" shut requiring maintenance to tape it back up.
The F/O is a great guy but his disposition in life is a little jagged because it's probably his last day on the A320. He will be demoted back to the Embraer with a $25,000 pay cut.
He just came off "flat salary" for two months and was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel financially, but the light went dim again.
The fuel is boarded, aircraft catered, cargo loaded in record time but we are still inputting the flight plan onto the computers. We push back only 25 minutes late from the original sked time.
Over Cleveland Ohio we easily top the thunderstorms based at 30,000 feet but we would be bouncing on the tops with the broken airplane. We are patting ourselves on the back for that decision. I did call dispatch back to thank him for finding another airplane and he agreed it didn't make sense to head south with a PACK u/s. Hmmmm
My very junior f/o is worn out as he is crew sked's slave. He arrived the afternoon before from Vancouver and was somewhat tired. He asked if he could take a "controlled nap." "Sure," I said but he was overshooting on the length, meanwhile I see thunderstorms ahead but painting very little on the radar. They are near the oceanic entry point whereby we lose VHF communication and transmit position reports via HF. I get the okay to deviate all the while the f/o is snoring.
An aircraft ahead is deviating as well. I call to the back and mention there might be bumps ahead. BAAAAMMMM... a few minutes later the plane is rocking, a few screams are heard in the back and the F/O gets a wake up call. It only lasted 2 to 3 minutes, but it was moderate plus.
Now there's a new objective way at labelling the intensity of turbulence, whether or not passengers scream. Everyone was seated including the flight attendants so no one was hurt.
One flight attendant stated she hasn't heard screams from passengers for quite some time.
It was smooth sailing from there on. Well, there was one power surge during the visual manoeuvre to the runway (on the Airbus when the speed gets a little low and you select a higher speed it tends to try and get there in a hurry). It knocked over a coffee mug from the galley.
The landing is a great one although Santo Domingo approach wanted us to do a full procedure VOR approach. It was CAVOK and I asked for the left visual. Okay he says. Hmmmm...why didn't he offer that before?
Tower seemed to be getting confused with 8 and 18 for wind speed. He was saying 18 knots, but the windsock was fairly limp...barely 8 knots. The F/O puts it on nicely.
This is what a temperature of 33c and a dewpoint of 29C
gives. (Relative humidity near 90 percent. Our maps were soggy)
Glad we had two functioning PACKS because we needed them
to keep things cool. Passengers are always amazed to see this
although many think it's smoke and we have to make announcements to
During fueling I see a fully dressed fireman walk
to the airplane. I've never seen this before.
How would you like this job in that heat?
Yours truly posing in front of the SAMANA (AZS or MDCY) terminal.
Another airport added to the list.
On a visual approach to runway 07 heading into
a standard warm northeast trade wind.
We are trying to make up time. Passengers are boarded and I ask the Swissport rep how do we get our take off numbers? A look of perplexity comes over his face. I send the F/O(actually he volunteered) to go in and call dispatch. Our data-link did not work there but it
worked at other Dominican airports. If I had read the briefing notes, it stated we should have obtained the take off data while on approach when the data link still works. Oops.
We get airborne and we had to contend with those TSTMs again. We were in Oceanic airspace and had to get permission to deviate from New York ARINC. We were given the okay, but we wanted to veer 30 degrees to the right but they only allowed a 30 nautical mile deviation. This was on top of the fact I had to show the F/O how to work the HF radios. Sometimes I wonder if "make up" is worth it. We deviate around the well developed thunderstorms. I overheard the in-charge's announcement which was to the point, but it would have scared me.
Only a few bumps occurred and the rest of the trip was uneventful. Well one flight attendant suggested if we get to the gate at 18:31 then we would be paid supper, about $30. We touch down at 18:23 and I try to taxi slow but remember I have connections on my mind. The F/O tells me I'm taxiing too fast. I'm lining up with the yellow line at 18:29 and tell him the "time in" sent by data-link is predicated on the park brake set and one door has to open. I can't believe it, the rampie opens the cargo door in record time (I've never seen them do it that fast) and the in time of 18:30 is sent. No supper per diem. I am now labelled a schnook.
The life of a captain. Living the dream.