Monday, February 27, 2006

One More Thing

Tonight, February 24th, was one of those times when things kept going wrong.  As soon as I got to the jet for a JFK-San Fran flight I saw a mechanic in the flight deck reading our thick dispatch manual.  He told me that the aft lavatories had a leak and he could not trouble shoot the problem in time for our departure.  The flight was only half full so we decided to go with only two lavatories.  Seems like a simple decision but these things once approved by me start a paper trail that goes all the way back to the central operations center.  That place looks like a military control center out of a Tom Clancy novel.  After being approved by the Grand Dynamo of Lavatory Control, we were cleared to go.  During pushback our tug driver got so confused as to where we needed him to take us that I had to tell him things like, “Put your drive in reverse, follow that yellow line behind you, go left, go more left, that’s good, don’t be afraid, you’re doing fine.” All at the lightning speed of about 5 mph.  We finally got started and taxied out under ships power, glad to be free of tug man.  It was not a busy night; we ended up being about number 10 for takeoff.  As you approach the number one position you need to be ready to go.  Sitting on the ground doesn’t do any of us good.  You want to get where you’re going, it burns precious fuel, and it’s not as fun as being in the sky.  Just as we were cleared onto the runway, a warning light came on telling us one of our pressure doors was not locked.  I called the flight attendant station at that door and told her what we had.  She went to cycle the door lever.  At that moment in time the tower cleared us for takeoff.  The copilot informed the tower what our situation was.  At that moment the light went out and I told the flight attendant it worked.   The copilot told the tower we were ready to go.  There was no response from tower. He tried again and no response.  I tried and no response.  Just then the door light came on again.  I called the same flight attendant and she went to cycle the door again.  There we were sitting in the takeoff position and the control tower was not responding to any of our radio calls.  At this point we had been on the runway for about 45 seconds, an eternity with no communication.  When you are on tower frequency no one else talks except the tower and the aircraft taxiing on to or on the runway.  It was either towers problem or ours. The radio problem was ours.  Just then the door light went out again, pressure door problem resolved.  A minor mechanical problem had occurred in the copilot’s microphone switch keeping his microphone button engaged, thereby rendering all communication impossible.  That took us another 15 seconds.  When the copilot disconnected from the primary communication system, the voice of a very agitated tower controller was saying our call sign.  All he had heard from the copilot before his microphone got stuck was, “Tower *****234 has a problem.”  Then the tower heard nothing for over a minute.  I told the tower our problem was resolved, we had a stuck microphone, and were ready for takeoff. We immediately received our takeoff clearance and took to the sky none too soon.  The flight to San Fran was uneventful.  The sky was exceptionally clear with a magnificent star field and a few shooting stars.  We could see the lights of the San Fran bay area in western Nevada.  Be Safe, FlyGuy.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sunset over Clouds

This photo was taken at 32000 on a climbout from Atlanta to LAX. The colors are true, the cloud deck below us looked spectacular. This moment is what makes the job great.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

I received and anonymous email today from someone who wanted to know if I am still posting. To you, whoever you are, thank you and yes indeed I am. Fly Guy was out of commission with an eye injury. I just flew my first trip in about a month.

To get into the operations area at my pilot base I take an elevator down to a lower level. There is a key code that one must enter to get the elevator moving. At this lower level where the elevator door opens you will find a contract security person sitting in a chair waiting for people like me. Their job is to check the validity of my security badge. Do you remember the movie “Men in Black”? There was a character in that movie who sat by the elevator that Will Smith would get into. Next to the man was a huge fan and nothing else at all. The man was always there waiting, waiting. At my elevator there is a character named Mary, 50ish, polite, and desperately needing to tell you her latest conspiracy theory. The elevator doors opened and there she was with her newspaper as her proof and me her victim. Mary doesn’t say hello, she just launches into her spiel like the dart from a blow gun. According to Mary our vice president Dick Cheney did not like his hunting partner at all. Mary tells me that our government is using the vice president as the perfect assassin, getting rid of the “trouble makers”. Intrigued, I stupidly asked Mary to tell me more. On and on she went explaining that there were 65 to 200 bullets in this poor old lawyer but that was not the reason for the heart attack. You see, he was not supposed to live after receiving all those bullets, therefore when the vice president went to go see him; he slipped the poor devil some poison and kapow, heart attack. Another thing I learned about this crime was the poor man was snuck up on by the V.P. The V.P. told the lawyer to go hunt in one direction while the V.P. allegedly went in another direction. In reality he circled back for the kill and emptied his 65 to 200 bullets into the victim. I kept trying to remember if I had seen something like this on CSI Capitol Hill once. I finally had to just walk away as I often have from Mary and knowing of course, that within 15 minutes I would be back in that same spot, catching the elevator back up to the concourse level. I was halfway down the hall and I could still hear her talking. On the way up the elevator doors had closed and she was still talking. I must admit there is a dark side of me that secretly hopes that when the elevator door opens, Mary will be there. I left LAX on a redeye for JFK last night. We were dispatched with half of our pressurization system working (safe and legal) which kept us to a maximum altitude of 35000 feet. We were heavy and our rotation speed at takeoff was 156 knots using 5 degrees of flaps. Flight time was only 4 hours 5 minutes due to great tailwinds of about 140 mph giving us a ground speed close to 600mph. Flight visibility was excellent being about 150 miles forward visibility. The lights of Chicago were memorable contrasted against the Great Lakes pitch black. About 250 miles out the air turned turbulent and we descended to 25000 feet into smooth air. Got bounced around on final but the landing was damn good, yeah it was mine. There was a blizzard in NYC less than a week ago, over two feet worth. I don’t know what they did with it but all the snow was gone. It is time for some sleep. This evening we fly to San Francisco for a long layover. So Fly Guy is still here and there are lots of stories in the works, all of which are true. Be Safe, Fly Guy