Wednesday, December 29, 2010

oy. what a week.


One of the reasons I love being an airline pilot is that work is never the same. Even if you're flying the same route for a whole month, the weather is always changing, you have mechanical issues or the occasional medical emergency.

I don't think I've ever worked such a long week with so little flying!! I was "late-called" at 3m Xmas Eve (without even a "hey, sorry about this," from scheduling, blah). They needed to send me to Detroit that night for a 3 day trip. Unfortunately during the winter we don't have direct flights to DTW from Atlantic City, so I had to deadhead through West Palm Beach.

Thank goodness my parents gave me a Kindle as an early Xmas present. <-- I've been thinking this repeatedly over this week.

Xmas eve in DTW is bad enough but I was extra-cranky because I did not have time to pack food before running out the door. I think I had pop tarts for dinner (so healthy!).

Xmas we were scheduled to fly from DTW to Ft. Myers and up to Chicago. The day went easily and the crew was all pretty cheerful. Nothing makes you feel better about working on a holiday like realizing how many people are in the same boat!! The whole crew tried their best to be un-cranky. Our captain was pretty hilarious and kept us laughing most of the trip.

Sunday we were supposed to fly to Ft. Lauderdale and on to LaGuardia. Remember what was happening on Sunday in the Northeast? As we flew to FLL I picked up the LGA weather via ACARS. I believe it was along the lines of 35 to 45 knot winds out of the northwest with visibility anywhere from 1/2 mile to 4 miles and blowing snow. We knew we weren't going!

Unfortunately it took a few hours for dispatch to agree with us, untilthey finally cancelled the flight and sent us to the hotel. The best part of that day was calling scheduling after we saw "cancelled" on the flight board for our flight. Their answer? "It's not OFFICIALLY cancelled yet." But you're telling the passengers it is. "Right, but we're not ready to release you yet." Read: we're trying to figure out where else we can send you. We're finally told that the next morning they're going to deadhead us on a 5:10am flight to LGA, after which we'd fly to DTW. We were scheduled to also fly a RSW turn after this, but due to the long duty day, they dropped the turn and assigned it to another DTW crew.

Granted, the forecast for LGA at 7am the next morning is the same as it is now. And the news is forecasting over a foot of snow. Everyone else has already cancelled their flights for the next day. But not us, nonono. Neither rain nor sleet nor blizzard of the year will prevent us from going to LGA.

We dragged ourselves to the airport at 4am Monday morning. LGA is closed. JFK and Newark are also closed. It seems nothing north of Norfolk is open. But we haven't cancelled the flight yet. Commence the eye-rolling. Eventually the flight in cancelled, of course. But we're rescheduled to deadhead on the next flight. Which is scheduled to leave at 7am...but has been delayed until 9:30am.

By checking the FAA website, we're able to see that LGA isn't going to open until at least 4pm. JFK and Newark later than that. Here's the thing -- LGA is the redheaded stepchild of the unholy trifecta that is JFK-EWR-LGA. Hell will freeze over before LGA opens before the other two, much larger airports.

Of course, the 2nd flight is cancelled. Dispatch has also cancelled the LGA-DTW flight because even if we were to get into LGA, there wouldn't be an airplane for us to fly. They tell the captain they're deadheading him back to DTW on the next flight and sending me back to ACY. Woo! I get to go home a day early!

Except that ACY is closed. Until at least 12pm.

The 7am ACY flight is, like the just-cancelled LGA flight, delayed until 9:30. I get on the airplane anyways to get out of the terminal and hang out with the crews (there was another pilot and 2 flight attendants trying to get home as well). Our terminal, as one of the FAs so "delicately" put it, was starting to resemble a UN refugee camp. The empty A320 is much more hospitable.

They don't cancel the flight until 11:30am, which is becomes apparently that ACY won't open until that night, if at all. And since I reported for duty at 0425, my 16 hour duty day would be up at 2025. If we weren't scheduled to land before 8:25pm, I couldn't even go on the flight. The next available flight would end up leaving about that time. After 12 hours in the airport I got the phone call to head back to the crew hotel. I'd fly the flight back to ACY at 7am Tuesday.

At 6:45am Tuesday, as I'm checking over our flight plan, I get a phone call from scheduling. "We need you to fly the airplane back from ACY. We'll send you home tomorrow night." Well, crap. I'm a reserve pilot so I didn't have much choice in the matter. The ACY turn was uneventful, the weather was beautiful except for the crazy surface winds at ACY and the conditions of the airport.

KUDOS to the ground crew at ACY. That place looked like Canada they got so much snow! We could barely see the runway surface when we arrived. I doubt it will look much better tonight when I get there (although the winds have died down significantly).

This is day 6, so thankfully I know I'll be home tonight as long as the flight goes alright. I've never had such a long trip with so little flying! After tonight's flight I'll have another 17 hours for my logbook. Oy.

I'm just happy I wasn't a passenger during this blizzard. I feel so bad for the people stuck in airports. At least I knew I had a free hotel room waiting for me every night. This IS my job so I didn't have to worry about missing work (or vacation for that matter). I hope everyone gets to where they're going very soon!