Monday, March 9, 2009

A Week in the Life - Day 3 and 4

After sleeping well, but not very long in another nice bed and room, I awoke pondering what to do during this third day of my trip, which would idle me in our system. Originally I was scheduled to fly MKE-CLT-RIC-LGA-DH (deadhead) to DCA, but the Crew Scheduling gal I talked to the previous night was unable to schedule me to deadhead back into my trip while giving me the required amount of rest. Hard to believe it, but all I had to do this day was show up at HPN at 1:30 PM for a deadhead back to DC. I had a one day trip starting the next day, so unfortunately I couldn't go home just yet.

The winter storm had thrown CS (Crew Scheduling) a curve ball, and I was already on base. The reassignment they gave me turned out to be an RBI: with my DH back to DC I was home free (at my home away from home). I don't know where the logic is in all this, but you won't find anyone saying that Crew Scheduling ever acts logically, either. CS had told me previously that they had cancelled 348 flights out of 500 on the second day of my trip, so the storm was very disruptive, and they had a big job of rearranging flight crews to where they needed to be.

I had a nice quiet time with the Lord, did some studying for my upcoming checkride, and got a good workout in before heading downstairs for a late van for a late airplane. Hanging out with the crew who were to take me back to Washington, the time clicked by and I was soon back at my crash pad after a refreshing 20 minute walk from DCA. It's very convenient having a crash pad that close to the airport, that I can walk to and have other transportation options (metro, taxi, hotel shuttle) available. The area, Crystal City, is full of business high rises, apartment buildings, and restaurants and shopping. I can only think of a couple airport bases which have the same amenities that close by.

The only negative of my crash pad is that I have launder my own sheets and towels, and boy did they need it. Catching up on my sleep was easy on fresh linens. The next morning 'high pressure was dominating the eastern US' as a TV Meteorologist would put it. It was indeed a great day to fly DC round trips to the Music city and the Motor city. Blue skies smiled at us all day long.

We departed DC on time at 12:15 for Bananaville (BNA) and soon I had a great view of a suprisingly large ski resort in the Blue Ridge mountains. I wondered how far a drive it was from DC, how the snow was, and how empty the hills would be on a Wednesday afternoon, late in the season. Westward, our route of flight tracked over greening horse and hay meadows set between dark wooded hills, with the Cumberland River forming out of the hills and 'hollers'.

By experience and instinct, I tuned our ADF, an AM radio frequency based non-directional beacon navigation device which is at least half a century old, but which we still rarely use, to Nashville's AM650 WSN 'The Legend', my favorite country music station anywhere. WSN has a very powerful signal, and I tapped my toes and hummed along as our jet did the same toward Music City.

The river snaked and sneaked back and forth, reminding me of the unfair stereotype of the real people and families that proudly settled and inhabit these parts. Gradually the Cumberland river grew and became the still beautiful Old Hickory Lake, now a suburban Nashville Lake, much of it surrounded by suburban neighborhoods. We saw that the Lake had flooded the uninhabited parts of it's coastline, and it was time for my FO to make a smooth approach and landing at Nashville International.

'Ron' is another FO I have a very easy time working with. A former Naval Aviator, he's a real pro and has plenty of experience. He flew helicopters and fixed wing turboprops, no jets, but that's OK. After the NAVY he flew for an eventually failed local regional and national airline out of DC, and now he's been putting in good time with our airline. He drives 45 minutes to work from near Washington Dulles airport. I'm envious. A little bit.

A Neeley's Bar-B-Que sandwich (Concourse B, near gate 4) is a darn good way to spend your break. Ah, the smell of the sauce on my sticky fingers! 'Savor it, don't use the wet wipe until the flight controls get too sticky', I think to myself.

Like clockwork, our chariot climbed us out towards the east at 1,000 ft/min to 29,000ft above sea level. Our indicated speed was 290 miles/hour, the speed the airplane felt, but because of less dense air at altitude our true airspeed was 400 miles/hour.

From our perch up high more interesting sights followed. We were high above widely scattered clouds which were sun-beaming their shadows down to the gray, lumpy, pie crust and un-leaved terra-firma far below. Stray strip mining operations, which left telltale roads, flattened and whitened mountain tops, and jobs for Americans who need them, were observed here and there.

Closer to DC the Blue Ridge mountains came back into view. The yellow farm fields in the long valleys displayed an engaging contrast to the spined ridges next to them. Quickly we were back on the ground in DC, then climbing out over the Potomac River toward the northwest, next stop Detroit, Michigan.

A few clouds got in our way, but we had a fairly nice flight to DTW. Just past Cleveland (CLE), with the sun trying to hide behind a gap in the high overcast cloud deck that stretched to the horizon, I got an erie icy feeling. Although it had much to do with the frozen great Lake Erie below us that had to do with it. The sun wasn't done for the day though. A golden and energized sum beam aimed horizontally across the frozen surface directly toward us, illuminating the breaks and cracks in the ice, and promising a melt in a future but unknown date.

DTW ATC put us on their classic left downwind leg for landing toward the south, as high as can be. I don't know why they bring us in so high but next time I just might ask. Downtown Detroit was bathed in a deceptively beautiful dusk light, not a harbinger at all of the American auto industry's current troubles. We turned final in the clear but with a clearance for an ILS approach. Detroit Metro Wayne County Airport was hiding in the contrasts of the suburban Michigan landscape. Soon enough we saw the runway, and ATC made up for leaving us high by having us 'sidestep' to another runway which was closer to the airport.

The sidestep saved us at least five minutes of taxi time, which I put to good use by trying out 'The Earl of Sandwich - Artisan breads', in the north terminal. After I ordered and paid the lady told me they were out of horseradish for my roast beef, can I just take it with mayo? I was a little beefed (ha) because of this and because she was treating me impatiently because of Earl's problem. I changed to a Tuna Melt, and got over my frustration after the first hefty bite. I don't know where other 'Earl's' sandwich places are but it's worth finding out. It was the best tuna melt I've ever had, and the bread is one that beats the pants off Subway and Quizno's. (Dad and Lyn, this place could give Diamond Jack's a run for their money!)

It was Ron's turn to fly us back to DC again on a calm evening. We circled to land on runway 33, the short and sporty one. Ron and I parted ways and I walked again to my crashpad to catch a few winks and get up early for a 6:30 departure to MSP. I'd be home almost by lunchtime to reunite with my beautiful two little girls and my one beautiful big girl. It was time to trade the pilot hat for the husband/father hat for two and half days.

To perform four flights on a beautiful blue day as advertised with no hiccups is quite a difference from the first three days, where I flew only 2 out of my 7 scheduled flights. When airline flying is uneventful, it's becomes all about the food, see? And the beauty and friendship of flight as well.


Shannon said...

I am so glad you finally washed your sheets - I can only imagine...PU. Did you wave to the Beauchene's in BNA?

Mom said...

Gracious, how can you talk like a normal person after you day job?

Is it like speaking a foreign language?