Tag Archives: broken

Back in the saddle again…

(What’s this? An update? No way!!! Really… I’ll try to be better about it for the next few months anyway)

It’s my first day back in the plane in almost a month, and things aren’t going well. After two weeks of Union work and two weeks of vacation, I’m working my first early morning in several months and as if that isn’t enough, I’m dealing with a broken airplane and nasty line of weather. Somewhere below us the rugged ridgelines of the Smokey Mountains are lurking in the cloud bases. Both the FO and I have our radars turned on trying to avoid the worst of the weather, which means we’ve lost our real time visual depiction of where the peaks are. ATC is keeping us clear of them, but I hate relying on them to do that and would much rather be able to verify their vectors.

About 20 miles away Knoxville is reporting low overcast skies, rain and gusty winds. Between our present position and the runway is a mass of orange and yellow radar returns and, if the current conditions continue, a whole lot of turbulence. On top of that it is below freezing up here and we are picking up light ice on the airframe. It’s nothing that the anti ice system can’t keep up with, but it is rapidly turning what was a quick 35 minute flight in a much more involved ordeal.

Our real issues, and the ones we left the gate in Charlotte with, are that the charger for one of our two onboard batteries is acting up and the valve that directs air from the auxiliary power unit to the aircraft’s pneumatic system is jammed closed. Maintenance “fixed” the charger problem while we were on the gate, although apparently the part they replaced is either broken as well, or not the culprit to begin with. Every large bump we hit knocks it off line for a few seconds, flashing a caution message onto our displays.

Although this is annoying, and probably has long term ramifications, I am less concerned about this issue than the lack of APU bleed air. Because the engines can’t supply all of the pneumatic systems’ needs (engine thrust, cabin pressure and wing and cowl anti ice) something has to get dropped during high demand periods like takeoff and landing. Obviously we can’t do without engine thrust, and because of the icing conditions, we can’t turn the anti ice system off. That means the only thing we can turn off is our pressurization which leads to some mild ear discomfort. We don’t have to turn off the system until we are about to put the flaps out, so as we bump along through the clouds I carefully visualize our descent path and associated speeds so I can have some sense as to when we will have to slow and put out flaps, necessitating turning of the air conditioning packs, and causing the cabin altitude (currently at a comfortable 1000 feet) to start to raise to our actual altitude.

ATC turns us towards the finals, now 10 miles away and on the other side of a nasty looking radar return. I have the FO request 10 degrees to the right from Knoxville Approach so we can slip around the weather, which they quickly grant us. The ride is still pretty rough and heavy rain lashes the three layers of glass making up the windshield. It’s warm enough now that the ice has stopped forming and is melting off in the deluge we are flying through, but the anti ice system still has to be on because the temperature and moisture outside could produce airframe ice. Realizing we are going to have to slow down sooner rather than later I give the go ahead for the FO to shut off the pressurization system.

As the engine bleed air valves close I can feel the cabin pressure rising in my ears and in my nose. I try to yawn to equalize the pressure but only one ear clears. By now the cabin has climbed from 1000 feet to about 2000 feet. Clear of the patch of weather, although still flying through heavy rain, we turn back towards the finals and are cleared down to 2700 feet. We get there about the same time the cabin pressure does. From here on in the cabin pressure will change at about the same rate our altitude does, which means I need to be very gradual in any climbs or descents.

ATC turns us toward the field and clears us for the approach. I remind myself I haven’t actually landed the plane in about a month and with the gusty winds and low visibility on the surface, I need to just settle for getting it down and worry about nice landings another time. We join up on the ILS and start down into the murk below. The rain lightens in intensity, just about the time my other ear clears. They are reporting 500 foot ceilings and as advertised, the ground comes into view just at the plane calls off 500 feet.

The plane buffets in the wind and I flip the windshield wipers on to clear the rain streaking up the glass. The runway is clearly in sight now, stretching out over the grey, rain filled landscape ahead of us. I take one more glance across the overhead panel, noting the multiple push button switches normal dark, now illuminated because of the odd configuration we’ve put the plane in due to the maintenance issues. The left wing drops slightly and the autopilot violently corrects in the other direction. I tighten my left hand on the yoke and my right hand on the thrust levers and then disconnect the autopilot. I may not be as precise as the autopilot, but I can be much smoother in this sort of weather. The plane slews slightly until I adjust the pressure on the yoke so that it flies straight towards the rapidly approaching runway.

I take a quick breath; remind myself how to land, and then grin. This one might be kind of sporting…

Ferrying Home

By the time we get to the plane there are two maintenance trucks parked by the nose. I glance at the paperwork in my hand and don’t see anything listed as being broken so I am momentarily hopeful that their being there doesn’t have anything to do with us moving an empty airplane back to a maintenance base. My hopes are quickly dashed as I drag my bag up the aircraft stairs and find 3 mechanics sitting in the first two rows of the plane, their laptop computers open to schematic diagrams on their laps and open manuals sitting next to them.

A mechanic I know from previous broken airplane experiences looks up from the paperwork he is studying and seeing my look of terror laughs and tells me it’s not that bad. The flaps are just stuck at 8 degrees and we’ll be ferrying it back up to Dayton like that. Not that bad… sure.

A quick technical tangent: The CRJ’s flaps have stops at 8, 20, 30 and 45 degrees. Takeoffs are normally made at either 8 or 20 degrees, depending on the length of the runway and weight of the plane. Landings are always made with 45 degrees of flaps. There are two electric motors that sit in the belly of the plane that spin flexible plastic shafts that spin gearing on the flap panels that slides them up and down off the back of the wing. The system is overly complex, under designed and exceedingly prone to breaking.

Apparently, that’s exactly what had happened to this airplane. A crew earlier in the day had departed with the flaps set at 8 degrees and after takeoff when they went to retract the flaps, nothing happened. In an emergency, the plane can land with no flaps (or any amount up to the normal 45 degrees) but both the approach speed and runway required are both drastically increased. In this case the crew told Air Traffic Control that they needed to return to the field and that they were declaring an emergency. They apparently made a normal landing although during the rollout they overheated one of the brakes in an attempt to get the plane stopped. After deeming it safe, they taxied to the gate and handed the plane over to the mechanics, and by proxy, me and my FO.

Interestingly enough, this was the fourth time this issue had arisen on this specific airplane in the last week and as of yet, maintenance had been unable to figure out why it was happening. The mechanics working on the plane had their theories but a decision had been made to get the plane up to the Dayton Hangar where they could take the back of the wing apart to figure out what was going on. As I had just brought an airplane down to Charlotte and was only going to the hotel to start another trip in the morning, I drew the short straw and got the assignment.

There is a fair amount of specialized paperwork that is required for a flight like this, both explaining procedures and limitations as well as explaining why and how those procedures and limitations are authorized. Some of it makes sense but a lot of it, in my opinion anyway, is pure hogwash, but such is life at the airlines sometimes. With the mechanics still clustered in the galley I make eye contact with the FO and nod out the doorway. He walks down the steps and I follow him outside where we have a quick discussion about the legality and our comfort level with the upcoming flight.

The flight is deemed legal by both the FAA and the manufacturer due to the service letter and ferry permit the mechanics are currently poring over just up the steps from where we stand. In theory the takeoff should be completely normal and cruise will be fine minus the fact that the flaps will still be at 8 degrees, limiting us to 220 knots and less than 15,000 feet of altitude. There are several other notes about avoiding turbulence and icing conditions which are all pretty much common sense things anyway. The landing phase though is where stuff starts to get murky.

Normally, with a light airplane and the flaps at 45 degrees our landing speed is around 135 miles per hour and the nose sits right about at the horizon line during the approach. With only 8 degrees of flaps our landing speed goes up considerably, approaching our maximum tire speed at higher weights and the plane is pitched upwards of 5 to 9 degrees above the horizon during the approach. With a nice long runway and good weather conditions (both of which we should have tonight when we get to Dayton) this is a non event and one we train for. However, despite this, it is something we would probably declare an emergency for, as the crew who had the initial problem did earlier in the evening.

I explain all this to the FO who is relatively new and ask him what he thinks. He mentions that he is comfortable going along but would rather I actually do the landing. I tell him that is what I planned anyway and after a few more what ifs, we head back up the stairs and start setting up for the flight while behind us the mechanics finish up their paperwork and pack up their stuff. Ten minutes later we are closing the door, pushing back on the darkened ramp and starting our adventure.

Fourth time is the charm

It’s 11:30 at night and our passengers are probably about ready to kill us. Outside the plane, the tail end of the last departure bank is roaring off into the night sky as flashes of lightning illuminate the low laying clouds to the west. I’m trying to work two radio frequencies at once while still monitoring what the FO is saying to the ground controller. It’s turning into a big mess in my head and I take a deep breath while double checking the parking brake is set so we don’t roll anywhere.

My evening started 5 hours ago with a planned deadhead down to Charlotte. Several hours prior to that the captain who was scheduled to fly that flight called and asked if I would mind flying it as he wad supposed to deadhead up just to fly it back. That was fine with me so at 6pm, instead of taking my seat in the back I strapped in up front and we launched for Charlotte. An hour later we were taxiing in to the gate and the start of my planned 3 hour sit before going to Savannah for the night.

Walking through the terminal to the crewroom and eventually dinner I ran into the FO who I was supposed to be going to Savannah with in several hours. He, the Flight Attendant and the captain I would be covering for later had to do a turn to Tri Cities, TN (a quick 25 minute flight) before going to Savannah. The FO told me they had loaded up the plane to go and pushed back at 6:30 as scheduled but had to return to the gate and unload the passengers after they had problems starting one of the engines. They were now on their way to another plane. I immediately started wondering just how late I’d be leaving for Savannah. 

An hour later I was walking back from dinner and ran into the FO again. I commented that they had made a very quick trip to Tri Cities if they were already back but he just laughed and told me they still hadn’t left yet. Apparently plane number 2 also had engine problems which required them to return to the gate and unload the passengers for a second time. Maintenance was working the issue but didn’t have an update time for them. The captain had a sim ride in the morning (which is why I had gotten the trip in the first place) and was anxious to get the hotel. I offered to take the Tri Cities turn as I’d be sitting around waiting for them to get back anyway. And just like that it all became my problem.

Dispatch called and told me the plane would be good to go at 10pm. By 10:30 we had our passengers back on board and after a 20 minute wait for the fuel truck we were taxiing out into a giant traffic jam. After 11pm Charlotte closes their three north-south runways and utilize their single east-west runway to prevent aircraft from flying over noise sensitive areas. It cuts down on the complaints from nearby neighborhoods but it puts a large crimp in the operation. 

Sitting at number 10 in line to go, now 5 hours later than scheduled I had a thought, which is never a good thing for me. Tri Cities is a small airport and we get our fuel from the local Fixed Base Operator and since we were so late it was entirely possible that the guy driving the fuel truck there may had already gone home for the night. I assumed that this is something that dispatch would have checked up on but I decided to make sure. Charlotte has a radio frequency we can use to call dispatch and a minute later a dispatcher was assuring me that there would be fuel when we got there. Satisfied with the answer I went back to the monotony of releasing the parking brake, creeping forward one plane’s length and then setting the brake again.

30 seconds later we got a text message saying that there was in fact no fuel truck driver and that the flight was cancelled and to go back to the gate. I told the FO that we owe it to these passengers to get them to Tri Cities, that I was going to call dispatch on the second radio and to tell the ground controller that we would need a few minutes to work on an issue.

Somewhere behind us I hear a plane spool up, the sound a harsh whine that fades into the night. 5 minutes of negotiations with dispatch have gotten us approval to go back to the gate and load an additional 1000 pounds of gas on board so we can go and come back without refueling. I flip over to the local ops frequency and tell them we need a gate and a fuel truck and make it fast. They give us a gate (the one we left from 25 minutes ago) and promise a fuel truck. I let the Flight Attendant know what is going on and apparently some of the frustration I am feeling creeps into my voice because she reminds me to be nice when I tell the passengers. That taken care of we taxi back to the ramp where there is in fact a fuel truck waiting for us.

Ten minutes later we are pushing back again (my second time, the passenger’s fourth) and heading towards the runway. It’s midnight now and there are no other planes in sight. The ramp controller jokingly asks if we are really going to go this time. The FO looks at me a shrugs. That’s about how I feel. We make it to the runway without any issues and then after waiting a minute for a truck to finish an inspection downfield, blast off into the night. Lightning is still flickering in the clouds to the west as we turn north towards our destination. We will get our passengers there 5 hours later than scheduled and a full hour later than the last flight of the night got in, but we will get them there. And then we will turn back to Charlotte and then Savannah beyond. It’s going to be a long night. 

Squeaking By

Taxiing out with 70 people (plus two lap babies) and our aft FA calls up to say there is some strange squeaking noise coming from around the emergency exit row. The forward FA goes back to check and he says he hears it too. It sounds like metal grinding against metal. He also says a lot of the passengers are looking worried.

Stop the plane, call MX and they pretty much laugh at me over the radio and say they have no idea and to come back to the gate. The forward FA calls up again and says the noise is only there when the airplane is moving.

Get back to the gate and two mechanics come on board. Thankfully they are in a pretty good mood about it and are exciting to play “find that sound”. We leave the people on while they go back and look around the area the noise is reported from but they see nothing obvious. Unload 70 people (plus two lap babies) and then close up and push back with the two FAs and two mechanics in the back.

Taxi over to the west hardstand (CLT people know what I am talking about) and play NASCAR driver while we do loops around the ramp for 30 minutes while the mechanics pull of the overhead paneling in the back trying to find the noise (which thankfully didn’t go away as soon as they got on the plane… there was no way I was going to accept an “ops check good” on this).

After 30 minutes the ramp controller (who has been exceedingly helpful and keeps asking if we found the noise yet and asked for pictures of the back end of the airplane all torn apart) lets us know that the next outbound bank is going to start in about 15 minutes and we will have to stop driving in circles soon. Thankfully at that time the mechanics think they have found the noise and are ok for us to taxi back to the gate.

So we head back and park. They re torque a clevis bolt that holds one of the overhead bins in place and lube it up.

We load 70 people (plus two lap babies) back on the plane and taxi out (again).

The noise does not return.

Mechanics: 1
Strange airplane noises: 0

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Unhinged

I cringed slightly as my FO made a call to Ground Control for a push back clearance. There is a brief moment at LaGuardia, just after you call ground control, where you get a sense of how the next little bit of your life is going to go. Either they are going to completely ignore you and keep spouting out a constant stream of instructions for the multiple of airplanes they are trying to move around too little real estate or they will immediately clear you to push back. It’s rare there is any in between. This evening we were in luck and after a little confusion about who was calling for push we were cleared for spot 23.

The clearance received, I released the parking brake and let our push tug driver that we were cleared to push. He said something back, but in typical fashion his headset didn’t seem to be working (or he didn’t know how to transmit on it) and I heard nothing. It was also possible they never actually plugged the headset cord into the access panel on the nose of the plane. This is a pretty common occurrence and I didn’t really worry about it which ended up being the right course of action as several seconds later we were rolling back off of the gate and towards Spot 23. Doubting the driver could hear me anyways I held up two fingers on my right hand and spun one finger on my left hand asking if we could start the right engine. The driver took minute to actually look over to the right side of the plane and then nodded his head. I nodded to the FO who proceeded to engage the starter.

Several seconds later the engine numbers started to come up and as the core speed passed 25% he introduced fuel flow. After a seconds hesitation the engine lit off and the fan speed and Internal Turbine Temperature both started to rise. On the 200 an engine will spin up in a matter of seconds, while the 700 and most other bigger planes can take a bit longer. With one engine spinning and the towbar disconnected I waved to the departing rampers and called for an after start checklist. With the potential for major sitting and waiting on the taxiway I was content just running one motor until we know how long we’d be sitting for.
Ground cleared us for taxi and told us to hold short of a crossing runway. By the time we got that runway there were only 4 airplanes on the other side waiting to go. Counting this as a pretty good New York experience, I gave my FO the ok to spin the other engine and within minutes we had both engines going, the flaps out and a clearance to cross the runway and monitor the Tower Controller. By the time we had finished running the taxi and before takeoff checklists Tower had cleared us into position on the runway and after a brief wait while traffic landed on the other runway we were blasting off into the darkening dusk.

It was the FO’s leg and he did a nice job of navigating the departure procedure (a turn to the right, at 3 miles a turn back to the left and then start accelerating). As we turned westward and towards home he lowered the nose to pick up airspeed. As the speed increased so did a steady whistling noise I’d started to hear just as we’d rotated but quickly blocked out of my mind due to both the level of attention a complex departure procedure requires and the fact that I really didn’t want to think about what it might mean. Now, as I finished running the after takeoff checklist and confirmed with New York Approach that we were cleared up to 10,000 feet, I took a moment to listen to the whistling which was now loud enough to make conversation difficult in the cockpit.

Prior experience told me that we had an access panel open on the nose somewhere. There are three up there, the oxygen service panel, the ground power panel and the communications panel which the ground crew plugs a headset into. This comm. door is the most commonly opened one and hence the one most often left open or improperly closed so it pops open in flight. All three doors are hinged at the bottom and have two latches on the top. The likelihood of damage to something inside the panel, even if it opens in flight is low. However it’s very possible that the door could be ripped off in the airstream and either do damage to the skin of the airframe or even worse get sucked into the engine.

Because of these potential issues it is company policy to return to the airport so they can close the door and a mechanic can make sure there is no skin damage. Even though I was pretty certain we were going to be landing somewhere shortly, that wasn’t a decision I wanted to make on my own and after briefing the FO on what was going on I asked him to work with New York ATC to keep us at a lower attitude and heading west to where I knew there were several good diversion airports. We could have gone back to LaGuardia, but after our painless escape the first time I didn’t want to temp the fates a second time.
With the FO talking to New York on COM 1 I flipped over to COM 2 where I attempting to get in touch with the company. Normally this would have involved a simple ACARS text message but our ACARS was broken so instead I had to rely on the somewhat archaic method of calling ARINC (basically a company that provides radio service coverage in order to establish phone patches as needed) and have them connect me to a dispatcher at my company. This took several attempts but eventually I had a very scratchy patch through to Dispatch and Maintenance. They both agreed with my assessment and endorsed the idea of heading west to land. By this point we were about 40 miles east of Harrisburg, PA and I told them I’d be heading there and I’d call them on the ground.

Before I could get any acknowledgment of my message the patch died and I lost them. Guessing they’d figure out what I was doing I switched back to COM 1 and let ATC know of our intent to land at Harrisburg and that while we did have a maintenance issue it was not going to facilitate us declaring an emergency. By this time my FO had gotten the weather (a nice evening thankfully) and I set us up for a visual approach to Runway 13. I then handed the radio back to the FO and let the Flight Attendant know what was going on. All he could do was laugh as the last time we’d flown together we’d had to divert because of weather and instead of getting home at 9pm (like we were scheduled this evening) we did’t get back until after midnight. I also made a quick PA to keep the passengers in the loop.

By the time I was done doing that we were descending through 8000 feet with the airport in sight. My FO briefed the approach and then after we flew through a small rain shower had me let ATC know we had the airport. An approach clearance in hand he dumped the autopilot and turned a tight final inside a military KC135 tanker who was also diverting to Harrisburg because of a medical issue. By 1000 feet the gear was out the final flaps were down. The approach comes low across the Susquehanna River. The gusty wind, although right down the runway was forming small whitecaps on the water. Despite that we made a nice landing and at 60 knots I took the plane back and taxied clear. As I turned back towards the ramp the lights of the KC135 were bumping towards the runway through the wind and dark.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

I ended up doing 3 more OCFs today on the same plane as yesterday. Same problem as before. Same outcome. This time we took two mechanics with us on each trip and despite what ever fixes they tried on the ground, nothing seemed to solve the problem. At one point there were 5 line mechanics, a lead mechanic and a Maintenance Controller all on board trying to solve the problem. We I left at 10pm due to running out of duty time they had the airplane pretty well torn apart in the hopes that replacing a specific pressure line would solve the problem. I’m not holding my breath.

Journey To The Middle Of Nothing

Last night I got called out for a reserve trip to fly an airplane down to Greenville, Mississippi and then ferry another airplane back up to Dayton. We are in the process of repainting all of our aircraft to the new US Airways paint scheme (white instead of dark blue) and the painting is being done down there. I’d picked up a trip similar to this one a few weeks ago but it ended up canceling so this would be my first time heading down there.

The show time was 8:35pm with a scheduled 9:20 departure. The plane we were taking down was scheduled to come into Dayton from New York around 9pm and then we would take it down to the paint shop. Of course, as I found out when I got to the hangar, it was running late so we didn’t even get in the plane until 9:45. After running a few checklists I shut the door (it was just me and the FO so we had to do FA door duties ourselves) and started the engines. There is almost no traffic in Dayton at that hour so it only took 5 minutes from the time we taxied out of the hangar ramp until my FO rotated us into the sky.

We headed due west to get around Cincinnati’s and then turned south to Bowling Green, Kentucky. Prior to leveling off at our final altitude of 28,000 feet Memphis Center cleared us direct to Nashville. From there our route headed south west to Memphis and then descended to the Sidon VOR which is about 100 miles south of Memphis and then 50 miles east to GLH. The ride was pretty rough at 28,000 but because we didn’t have any passengers it wasn’t too much of a concern.

Over Nashville they cleared us direct to Sidon and 30 minutes later started descending us towards the dark earth. Greenville is uncontrolled after 10pm so about 100 miles out I picked up the ASOS and found it to be a nice night with winds out of the south. That worked well for us as they have two north south runways with the terminal complex to the west of the runways. I use the word “complex” loosely as GLH has a few Mesaba SAAB flights a day to Memphis.

I origionally suggested to my FO that we land on 18R as it would be a shorter taxi to the paint shop ramp (or at least where I thought the ramp was) but upon further reading saw that a) there was an ILS to 18L but not right, b) 18R isn’t lit at night and c) there was a note that said “Runway 18R has multiple heaves and cracks in it”. 18L it was then. We found the airport descending through 8000 feet and Memphis cut us loose for the visual approach. I called off normal position reports but didn’t hear any replies. I guess this made sense as it was almost 1am on a Sunday night in the middle of nowhere in Mississippi. Through 4000 feet I turned the runway lights up using the radio frequency (they were on, but very dim) and my FO lined up for the landing. He managed to mostly plunk it down nicely and I took the plane from him at 60 knots and taxied clear.

As I already said, I’d never been there before and really wasn’t sure what to expect. As we crossed over the darkened (and apparently bumpy) Runway 18R and turned towards the ramp we passed two small business jets and a Cessna parked in front of a deserted FBO. We then taxied past the terminal, where a SAAB in Northwest Airlink colors was parked. Other then that there was nothing. 4 airplanes. That’s it. The taxiway snaked to the left around the terminal and there, behind a dark hangar was a bright white CRJ (although as there was no moon and very little ramp lighting it was hard to see what color it was) with the US Airways flag on the tail. I turned that way across the ramp but there was so much grass growing in cracks in the concrete I had to turn on my landing lights to make sure we weren’t going to go off the ramp and into the grass.

Fortunately at that point I saw two wands light up and start waving at us just to the right of our other plane. I headed towards them and eventually found a taxi line to follow. The marshaller stopped us and I shut the plane down. Before I could even get out of my seat he had the cabin door open and was grabbing the gear and ADG pins (basically long pins that lock the gears and ADG in place so they can’t accidentally retract/deploy) from their storage bin by the cockpit door. I packed up my stuff and headed over to the other plane while my FO did a walk around on the plane we had just brought down.

I’m not really sure what I had expected, but I certainly didn’t expect an huge empty ramp with a few darkened hangars (and one brightly lit open one with painting scaffolding but no airplanes). There were only two people there to meet us. The marshaller who worked for the paint company, and one of our mechanics who stays down in Greenville while we have planes cycling through paint. I guess I had expected a 24 hour bustling operation, much like Clarksburg, WV, a Bombardier MX facility that runs 3 shifts and constantly has multiple airplanes in their hangar.

I loaded my bag on board the newly painted plane (which was incredibly stuffy and humid) and then turned on the power. There was a moment of panic when the APU wouldn’t start (the door wouldn’t open). I powered it down and tried again, and this time the complete silence was broken by the familiar scream of a turbine engine spooling up. Pure Happiness. The rest of the systems (most importantly the air conditioning) came online normally and within minutes the cabin temperature was coming down from 32 degrees of stickiness to a more manageable 28 degrees.

In the mean time my FO had loaded his bag on board and busted out a 6 D cell Maglite to do his walk around with. The problem is (and I’ve written about this before) that when a plane goes into heavy MX or gets painted, lots of stuff gets taken off or covered up. You hope that everything gets put back together correctly but that doesn’t always happen and it is important to do a very detailed check of the plane before taking back into the air. An issue that specifically related to paint work is that they tape over all the air data sensors so paint doesn’t get into them. If they forget to take the tape off it can lead to big problems when we go to take off and our instrumentation is all messed up. It’s taken planes down before.

I started loading the flight plan and setting up the rest of the cockpit and just as I finished up my FO came back on board and reported everything looked good on the outside. He then made the mistake of going back to use the lav which had been sitting for at least 5 days in the Mississippi heat. He came back up several seconds later swatting at bugs that had flown out when he opened the door. With him came the smell of lav juice that has been sitting WAY too long. I had planned on using it myself before we left but decided that wasn’t going to happen.

While he got himself set up in the right seat I headed back outside and did my own walk around. Finding nothing out of place I made one final look around the deserted ramp (the two guys who met us were in their truck parked off the wingtip) and seeing nothing in the way climbed aboard and shut the door. We ran through the originating checklist, a quick briefing and then the before start checklist. In the CRJ you can’t see the engines because they sit way back on the tail but we both did our best to visual clear the area before we started them up. After they both stabilized and we ran the after start checklist I turned on the taxi light and pushed up the power. This time I knew where the taxi line was and within a few seconds we were back on the line taxiing out to the runway.

5 minutes later, with a clearance from Memphis Center I pushed the power up to the take off bugs and we were rolling down the runway. 5 minutes after that we were climbing through 10,000 feet on our way to 31,000 and had been given direct Dayton. We leveled off at FL310 and the ride smoothed out. I was enjoying watching the stars when there was a single ding followed by a flashing mater caution light. Just what I wanted to deal with at 2 in the morning. The message that appeared indicated that our stall protection system had failed. The system relies on all kinds of air data instrumentation and it’s probably that some paint got on or in something and was causing it to fail. Over all it’s not a big deal as in theory we shouldn’t even be operating that close to the stall speed, but it is a layer of safety redundancy that is nice to have. The QRH called for disabling the system and had a note that we had to increase our approach speed by 5 knots over what we normally fly. With a 10,000 foot runway waiting for us in Dayton that wasn’t a problem.

Descending back through 10,000 north of Cincinnati we were able to get approval to land against the flow of traffic in Dayton (all the traffic that is there at 2 in the morning) I lined us up for 6L. I managed a nice landing despite a tailwind (within limits though) and the extra 5 knots of speed due to the broken stall protection system and taxied back to the hangar we had left about 3 hours earlier.

By the time I had the plane shut down mechanics had already put in the gear pins and hooked a tug up to the nose to drag it into the hangar to work on it. My FO and I headed inside where I said goodbye to him and headed into the Operations Control Center to hand in the times for the flight as the ACARS never recorded them for some reason. After that I headed out to my car and 30 minutes later (after passing a record 5 police speed traps) was home and heading to bed.