Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Day In The Life

Of a friend of mine who just started working as an airline pilot. When you're stuck with delays at the airport, remember, the pilots are in the same boat you are!


Hello all,

I got back kind of late last night after making my first flight flying a commercial aircraft into SJC. I’d been flying since 6:30am and had just been released to go home here in LA at 3:15 when crew scheduling called and asked if I could do them a huge favor and take a flight to SJC. The route from LAX-SJC is normally flown by the 50 pax regional jets but one of them broke down so they put a Saab on the job. When I got to the plane about 30 minutes before departure I receiving another call from scheduling saying that the captain had to be called from home and would probably arrive just on time for departure and that I should get the plane as ready as possible to make this a quick departure. I ran inside the terminal to print out my release just to find a group of 50 or so passengers being told that only 28 of them would be traveling on this flight. Just as the noise level began reaching points requiring my earplugs, I retreated to my more pressing duties. I did my preflight and all of the paperwork (including most of the captains), got my clearance through the onboard computer (ACARS), then approx 5 minutes prior to departure told the gate staff to start boarding the passengers. I personally greeted each one as they entered the aircraft and apologized for any inconvenience but promised them smooth sailing from there on….not more than 1 minute after the last passenger boarded, I could hear a voice calling for eagle flight 125 coming over the speaker in the cockpit. I hopped into my seat and responded just to hear from LA op’s “ your captain is stuck……” I then slammed down the volume on my speaker so that no one would hear the bad news and put on my headset to say,“LA op’s could you please repeat for eagle 125”. I could then safely hear that the captain was stuck in traffic on the 405 freeway about 5 miles from the airport. I hate the traffic here in LA! I was told that due to an earlier problem the captain who was sitting ready reserve had already been called out on a flight and that we had no one else to pick up the slack. Please realize that I’ve only been out of training for about a month and a half so all of this is still pretty new to me. As exciting as all this was at the time I realized that sooner of later (probably sooner) I would have to inform the passengers of our delay. Since I’d greeted the passengers I decided not to make the announcement over the PA system but rather do it aurally. By the time I walked to the back of the plane I found three of the passengers giving my flight attendant an earful regarding their opinions about the airline that I work for. Deciding to take the heat off of him, I told the passengers to please take their seats because I was going to do a meal service myself and that I had an announcement to make to everyone regarding our status. I walked up to the flight attendants station grabbed a big bag of pretzels ad walked down the cabin offering them to the passengers. 99.9% of them got a kick out of it and it really helped lighten the already tense mood in the cabin. Of course there has to be one person who wasn’t so amused and that one guy would need to make sure that everyone on the plane new it. After passing out all the pretzels and making a little light conversation with a few of the passengers, I took a deep breath and announced that the captain was in fact delayed and that he should be arriving in approximately 10-15 minutes. OOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH how it got quiet. Then that one guy who wasn’t so happy in the first place got really unhappy. After about 2 or 3 minutes chatting with him and a few other passengers and after passing him a cold beer he finally calmed down and decided that he would “sit back relax and enjoy whatever’s going to happen”. The funniest thing about all this was that there were three very senior captains in uniform that were dead heading to SJC and I could tell they were happy that I had come back there to take the heat off of them. When I sat back down in the cockpit to look like I was busy one of them came up to meet me and told me that he’d never seen a pilot do a snack service before, especially when the passengers where that rowdy, but that he’d have to give it a shot since it seemed to work pretty well.

At this point we are about 20 minutes beyond our proposed departure time which was already about 1 hour later than the passenger’s original departure time. The passengers have been sitting on the ground in this little aircraft for just over 25 minutes and I’m starting to get worried because I started working 10 hours ago and I’m only legal to be on-duty for 14 hours per day. If we were delayed much longer I’d be illegal to fly the plane home and then we’d all have problems. I called crew scheduling and they told me that they’d look into it and check on the captains progress. As soon as I hung up the phone, the captain shows up sits down spent a minute reviewing my figures then we were off.

To make a long story short…er we flew into SJC with about 50 KT headwinds just to make the ride a little longer for the passengers. Other than the whole first 30 minuted before departure, it was great flying back home. I flew the ILS 30R and brought her in for a reasonably smooth landing. As the passenger were exiting a few of them thanked me for the smooth safe flight and the pretzels.

Now for round 2….The return home. I’ll make this short and sweet. We had 60 knot tail winds so we were going to make it home pretty quickly. This whole story would have ended nicely when we arrived 30 minutes early in LAX, except for one thing. As I was doing the calculations for Weight and Balance on the ground in SJC I was surprised at how little cargo (read bags) we had given that we had a full flight. When I called SJC OP’s I was informed that not one, not two, not three, but ALL of the passengers checked luggage were accidentally loaded on a jet going to Orange county that ALREADY left. Now I’ll let you guess right now if I decided to tell my jovial passengers then or if I waited until we landed in LAX and let the ground agents pass on the great news.

The End.

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