Friday, March 6, 2009

A Week in the Life - Day two

The 'Maid knock' came at 08:30 AM. "No thank you, later please"; no 'Do Not Disturb' sign was to be found in the previous depth of night. DC had received eight inches of snow, and it was a sunny but cold Monday morning. If I had been disciplined it would have been a great time for a workout, but I hit the snooze button while the 11 AM van time was fast approaching.

At the DCA zoo, or airport rather, the system was stubbornly trying to reset itself. Our 12:10 deadhead to CLT on US Airways 'mainline' actually left at 12:45, after an unknown to a known gate change. It was strange to see CLT covered in snow, the southern sun had quickly warmed things up to melt all the roadways. We arrived at our gate just in time to take our CRJ to MDT (Harrisburg, PA) a half hour late. The flight to MDT was pretty straightforward, with widely scattered clouds below 10,000 ft, post late winter storm in the sunshine.

It was my leg to fly, and would be an interesting and picturesque visual approach. We were flying east toward the airport at low altitude. MDT ATC expected us to call the airport in sight for the visual, but the ridge on the west bank of the Susquehanna river was in our way, and I hadn't been to MDT since my United Express days. We would wait to call it until we had the airport in sight, framed with the infamous Three mile Island Nuclear power plant to the right of it.

I flew a left base to final towards Runway 31, using Three mile Island as a widely (very widely) spaced pylon. It got bumpy, as the low level gusty north winds down the river were stirring up a lot of friction and mechanical turbulence. Once below 200 feet above ground the sun went away and the ridge across the river was silhouetted in it's late winter bareness.

With a friendly Piedmont Airlines jumpseater in the jumpseat, we had a pleasant flight back to CLT, appreciating the light butterscotch haze the lowered light in the sky painted like an ice cream topping on the white and rolling PA farm land, settled and sown by the Pennsylvania Dutch, 'too yet'.

At CLT OPS told us that our MKE (Brew City) aircraft for the overnight was delayed till 9:30 PM. That meant a 1:45 late departure, and we dealt with it by enjoying 'green' (Verde) pollo enchiladas x tres (yes FO and FA too) at Tequileria Mexican in the CLT terminal. Pretty good, but they need to heat lamp their chips and give more salsa. (Mas salsa por favor!)

Our posted departure delay stretched to 10:20 PM. 'zzzZZZ Ring' - Crew scheduling calling - I woke up from my nap hearing the nice gal tell me that Milwaukee was cancelled, and I was being reassigned, because of a lack of Captains in CLT, to fly to White Plains for my overnight (HPN). If you haven't heard of it, HPN is just north of NYC, and a pretty crowded and busy one runway airport. The passengers have money too, and act like it. The nice nickname we have to HPN is 'white pains'.

But a new FO, one I'd flown with quite a bit and enjoyed working with, and a friendly FA made the sudden change bearable. The sky was mostly clear, and the night visibility was great. An orange halogen light lit landscape slid by from NC to VA, DC to BWI (Baltimore) to Wilmington, Delaware, to PHL, NJ, and on to NY and Long Island.

In clear but gusty conditions, we landed at midnight plus 30, after the tower had closed. My FO had to dredge up her knowledge on how to make the radio calls and other odd things when operating to an 'uncontrolled' airport. We expected it, but still groaned when HPN OPS told us we had to reposition taxi our jet to a parking ramp for the night. Fortunately we get paid 10 minutes for it.

For all the $ the HPN area has, they have the tiniest (but nice red brick) terminal, and heavy demand for airline flights. JetBlue and AirTran have been adding flights and getting piggish with the gates, so it's always fast paced and hectic at the terminal. HPN has lots of corporate and general aviation traffic also, it's an airport to keep your ears on and your eyes peeled at.

The airport had been receiving snow all day on relatively warm ground. After the airport plowing and because of the gusty cold wind, a very glass like frozen surface was left. I took it very slowly parking out jet on the off camber (downslope, not level) ramp the nice agent was 'wanding' (guiding) us to. Anti-skid in our plane doesn't work below 10 miles an hour, a fact I'm reminded of each time I move the jet over slippery ground.

After a relatively long van ride, we checked to our nice rooms and beds at about 1:45 AM. My FO and FA had a different deadhead than I did, and an early van at 10:50 AM. We said our goodbyes and I rested quickly, trying to make a productive plan for the new day coming soon. My schedule for Tuesday had changed as well, and I'll let you know more about that on my next day of 'A Week in the Life'.

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