I should have guessed what kind of day it would be after seeing six cars in the ditch because of an overnight freezing rain/snow attack. I get to flight planning and see my F/O already mired in the MELs (Minimum Equipment List) due to an inoperative bleed air. Translation...we are restricted to 31,000 feet. Immediately I check the weather to see if thunderbumpers would be an issue. I see the Eastern seaboard will be littered with them topping at 35,000 to 38,000 feet. It's early Sunday morning with no coffee and I'm grumpy. I call dispatch and insinuate they fix the airplane or get me a new one. The dispatcher knew where I was coming from. She easily handled Captain Grumpy. They found us a new airplane, but it's coming from Halifax. No biggie, we get a new flight plan and make our way to the gate. They posted a 30 minute delay.
My F/O doing a sweep without gloves.
(No, I didn't volunteer him) :)
Change of plans. We are going to get a third airplane. Time for yet another flight plan. This time there is a glitch. We are told the airplane is "in" the hangar. Another glitch, the taxiways are icy and one of the tow vehicles with chains broke down. There are 15 aircraft waiting for a "tow job."
Two hours after scheduled departure, we volunteered to taxi the airplane to the gate. More phone calls to several departments. A manager will meet us at the gate. We get to one of the huge hangars (it's the first time I got to drive around the airport without being in an airplane) and realized the airplane was not "in" the hangar but "at" the hangar. It's covered in snow and ice. Plus the "towbarless" tug (it lifts the nose) is having a hard time.
Finally, we get a push back and start up. It was an irregular operation and now I know what the JETZ pilots go through. You have to improvise. I turned on the navigation system, but did not initialize things. The airplane started squawking at us. We called maintenance to see if things are okay. We get the green light.
Over to the gate we go in slippery conditions and load up. But wait... our third airplane has supposedly a potable water issue. Call maintenance. It's an indication problem.
I make a welcome aboard announcement and try to explain our over three hour delay.
We push back. We get a "vent" system fault. Apparently ice and snow are affecting our outflow (pressurization) valves. After several C/B resets, it's an RTG (Return To Gate).
But wait, there's no crew to marshal us in. Now we are looking at duty time.
Finally, we get to the gate and maintenance determines it's snow melting from the bridge flowing directly into the valves. After paperwork, yet another announcement, a 15 minute wait for another push back crew, it's off to the CDF we go. After a heavy deicing we blast off runway 06 Left...4 1/2 hours late.
I won't tell you what flight directors do when not selected for take off or whether the F/O got a little high on approach or where my brand new Blackberry Torch cell phone ended up under the rudder pedals after landing.
The water issue raised it's ugly head again, but we decided we are heading back to Toronto. A few of the F/As were thinking a Nassau layover, but Captain Doug had new hires to teach the next day.
On the return flight we dodged thunderstorms topped at 36,000 confirming Captain Doug's decision on getting another airplane. One plane encountered severe turbulence at FL 290 where we just got ripples at 39, 000.
|Can you say undulation? My "senses" were tingling when we were climbing through this cloud formation out of Nassau at around 30,000 feet. Just got a few bumps.|
|After 11 hours into our day a sense of calm sets in. We are heading north and the western sky sees night close in.|
wow, sounds like a rough day. If you ever fly over KBTV (Burlington, VT), wave, I may be flying my little 172 down low. :P
Hi Scote1992. We use KBTV as an alternate so you never know.... :)
Haha, the flight attendants think smart. Although, you probably would have been more grumpy the next morning if you stayed. Then again, some Caribbean sun may make it better. :D
Ah but with a long day comes a long post :D. More to read :D
Exactly the type of posts that I like to read! It certainly sounds like you got bit by a bit of 'old man winter' along with a little bit of help from Murphy's law! I guess all of the departments in YYZ were having a pretty bad day!
How's the Blackberry after a trip under the rudder petals?
Sounds like my day today!! hehe! On my way to YYZ from YQM with a connection through YUL. Freezing rain delay in YQM, snow delay in YUL, and no luggage here in TO. Currently sitting in a hotel without any belongings...thank goodness for hotel toothbrushes...
As you would say, all in the life of a Canadian Winter Flyer...:)
Sounds like quite a day Cpt, I bet you are looking forward to the vac now.
Daniel. Believe me, the thought process was weighing out the pros and cons. :)
Thanks Jack. And that was half of it. :)
YYC Dispatcher. When you let ole man winter play in CYYZ... Murphy's law is always nearby. "Off the rails" comes to mind.
The blackberry is intact but it drove home the fact I need a case.
Today it was ringing during my weather class. I didn't register what the sound was and then I couldn't figure out how to answer it.
But you should see my kids with theirs! I joked to the class, I'm captain on the Airbus, but I can't answer the phone. :)
Thanks for checking in.
Doug now in vacation mode.
Duane. I guess you don't take a carry on? Yes, thank goodness for hotel amenities. Captain Doug
Zee. That's what the family is deciding now...north, south, west or east. I think South is going to win. :)
Third photo looks like a still from the film BLADERUNNER.
During long delays, passengers should be directed to your blog. Before they know it, they'll be underway.
I'm amazed [and reassured] by how much care is taken before a take off is even permitted.
Your hectic days [an ordeal for sure] seem to result in especially good narrative...like what you might hear in an old Bogart movie.
Take off all the time you need...we'll be here when you get back.
Dan (Daniel A)
One day soon passengers may have that option of surfing the net (my blog) Presently two of our A319s are being trial run for wireless.
Thanks for the comments.
Captain Bogart :)
Hi Doug: A great post and to-the-point as usual. I amd other self-loading freight are encouraged by your 'insinuation' to fix or replace. That it took 4.5 hours to fly is beside the point: The flight was completed and with an airplane that could fly as necessary. While pilots are well trained to cope with in-flight systems failures, an airplane with (flight-related) systems issues and on the ground, ought to remain there until resolution. Especially at a major base. After reading a much older post, I studied some MEL lists and learned a lot. Short of a ferry flight,ground the SOB! Why take the risk? Just my feeling. Since you went through three aircraft, I guess you (quietly)agree .
-Just back from a quick turn to San Francisco. I prefer the majors, but this quick trip worked much better on a regional. It was not fun. I often wondered if the drivers understood their weather radar's reports. Both links were rough rides and the SFO landing (difficult)was preceeded by an approach that covered most of the region. Yes, there was some weather, but the pilots could have made other choices. The return was bumpy, but a box-on approach and landing, even in some nasty stuff. Was the difference related to weather or pilot skill? One can never be sure, but the North leg was flown with a lot more grace. I have to believe that the North-bound pilot has a whole lot more time-in-type. Experience counts.
**Our best wishes for a great family vacation.** Let's hope that no one gets stranded... -Yes, I have read that story. Great posts, sir. Great! -Craig
I met the deplaning passengers and I thought I would get cussing, jeers and dirty looks. But all I got was sincere "thank yous" and appreciation for getting them there safely. Just confirms one of the many adages in aviation...."it's better to be late in this world than early in the next." LOL
Sounds like your "not so nice" experience to SFO was weather induced. But like anyone, pilots have their good days and not so good days. That's why there are two of us. :)
The family is in the negotiation mode now. The good thing is only four of us will be traveling which makes getting a hotel much easier.
Also, we have the competition's passes.
The kids are thinking Cancun for the umpteenth time, but Captain Doug is thinking Bermuda.
Again, thanks for your continual support in the comment department! :)
A real challenge! Have a nice vacation! :)
Hi Bas. I hope your new blog is working out. Don't get addicted to it like I got.
We are still working on our vacation.
The life of an airline family. :)
Doug: You got everything right, as is the norm. Yes!! Fly safe planes and when it is vacation time, DO IT. Let's hope that getting home is easier than the older experience. I've got some pixies working for you and the 4-5 seats. Go for it!
Great post Doug- I agree with some of the other comments- the more eventful your day, the better the read for us:) Glad it all worked out well in the end, and you didn't spill the drinks in J hitting those storms (or at least didn't spill them too much! By the sound of conditions at FL290 it seems drinks would have been on the ceiling and everywhere else in between!).
I hope your vacation is great and you and the family get the rest and relaxation you need. Have you ever considered going to SXM?
Hi Cedarglen (Craig)
Yes, our track record is we get to our destination with few hiccups but the flight back is always a work out.
It's true an eventful day makes for a great read but I must be VERY careful in what I say and how I say it.
I realize there are many lurkers out there......
SXM? St Maarten. That's a great idea. I can lay on that infamous beach and watch aircraft get close to the beach.
I must check the loads there.
Thanks for the visit.
It was over 80 degrees here in TPA - beach weather!!!! Any update on a Florida real estate purchase??
Have a great vacation
HI JB in KTPA. I apologize for not responding to your last comment.
I try to answer everyone. Although I am falling behind.
It looks like the boss has decided to give things a miss.
We will probably end up buying a rental in Canada.
I did mention Florida, perhaps the Florida Keys and Key West but I prefer not to drive on this vacation. :)
Thanks for your perseverance. :)
Giulia. Not sure what you mean.
I guess I should, but I'm at a loss.
Now Capt Doug remember this if it was not for the bad days then we would not know what the good days be like.
Chris. Excellent words of wisdom. Yes, there are days the only time the seat belt sign goes on is when we are landing.
Other days, one might as well keep it on and ride it out.
How is Torbay doing? Or should I ask? :)
Yes, St. Maarten- if you get to spend time on Maho Beach, please take some pictures and include them in a post sometime! Visiting SXM is on my to-do list. I've already told my wife what we're doing when we turn 40, if we don't get there before that is:)
Don't think there is a better combination of sun, beach and airplanes to be had anywhere else in the world! Spending time at this location is a little more convincing for the wife of an aviation nut than, say, the end of runway 06L in YYZ....
Christer. Good points. Although I remember I almost started WWW III when I tried to pop into an aviation museum in Arizona with the boss :)))))
Anon. I have my co-workers, management, enRoute and people in cyberspace watching me very carefully.
Sometimes I ask myself, whether this is worth it. Lay down my "key pad" and pursue other things.
But when I have days like Sunday, I want to write about it...it's like my electronic diary.
By having a blog, it puts oneself up on a pedestal and because of human nature, there are people who
want to knock you off.
So yes, they are "lurkers" waiting to pounce.
Captain Doug on his little pedestal. :)
"But all I got was sincere "thank yous" and appreciation for getting them there safely."
fwiw i always try and thank the pilots when exiting the aircraft. there are times that they are either too busy or not in the mood to come back to the door, but whenever they do i look them in the eye and say "thanks".
your post got me wondering, out of curiosity, how often to you suppose planes operating for major carriers have something "wrong" them, but can still be flown safely? (on a SEA - FAI flight we were delayed from pushing back from the gate because of some "indicator" light. the mechanins were called, spent some time, including firing-up the #1 engine and watching/listening to it and checking inside, i assume, an access panel on the outboard of the engine, before we were given the green light.)
just found your blog a few days ago. enjoy it very much.
HI Mark. It is a nice gesture to say "thanks." But I am surprised how many can't say thank you, or it doesn't enter the equation for them to say "thank you."
As far as your "snag" question...more often than you think. But let me qualify that....
I remember years ago reading one airline pilot's take. He said almost every flight there is something that must be dealt with.
And it's true. From the aft lavatory not working, to the mid cabin temperature control on the fritz to the number two radio push to talk button
on the F/O's side sticking...That's why computers won't be taking over the pilot seats in the near future. At least not by the time I retire (10 years).
Having said that, we consult an MEL (Minimum Equipment List) book. For the A320 I fly, the MEL is a huge orange book weighing about 25 pounds and 8 inches thick. Say if I show up and the ignition B system to the #2 engine is U/S. The MEL will tell me all the particulars...when the snag must be fixed and whether it is safe to go. One has to appreciate the redundancy built into an airliner. I am always amazed how the engineers thought of everything. Every "what ifs."
This book takes the guess work out of things. It states in black and white how a "snag" must be dealt with.
Snags are recorded, monitored and dealt with on a regimented schedule and I have total confidence in the maintenance department.
GREAT POST! This is what got me reading your blog....love it.
I understand the mention of being careful...the lurkers should be happy there is someone being honest! lol
No bloody wonder you need a vacation after a day like that....great call on the new airplane....kind of hard to summit thunderbumpers with a 310 limit....what would you do in this case....pull a u-ey or turn and hope you can get around it???
Again...enjoy the vacation!
and again...keep up the great posts:)
CAT III Approach
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