Tag Archives: sleep

Bench warmer

It’s approaching 11am and I’ve already been at the airport for 6 hours. Every 30 minutes a recorded voice announces the current time and by my calculations, assuming I don’t get called to cover a trip, I’ve got to sit through eight more versions of “the local time is….”

I’m sitting ready reserve (for the fourth time this month) and like the previous three times, I have no expectation of getting used. Ready reserve is one of the weakest areas of our contract in that it allows a crew member to be scheduled to sit at the airport, 15 minutes from a gate at all times for 10 hours. And get paid for none of it. The good news is we get $1.50 an hour in per diem, which after taxes doesn’t even cover lunch and the fuel to drive to the airport and back. It’s a fun time. The other frustrating fact is that it’s very rare to get used while sitting ready reserve. The crews that do it in Charlotte get called out pretty regularly, but because Dayton is such a small base now with very few flights (7 on this rainy Saturday morning) there isn’t really a need for the coverage. But here I sit.

I have a pretty standard routine down for sitting airport reserve. Now that the weather is nice I can sleep in my car for a while so after rolling into the employee parking lot at 5am I try to find a dark corner, push my seat all the way back and lean the seatback as far down as it will go. If it’s not too cold I’ll crack open a window for some fresh air and then do my best to fall back asleep. I’ve lucked out in the fact that that three of the four mornings I’ve had hot reserve this month it’s been raining so it doesn’t get light as quickly and the sound of rain helps me go back to sleep.

Normally I can make it until 7:30am or so before I just can’t sleep any more. At that point I’ll get out of my car, stretch my legs, straighten my uniform, try to remove any lint that may have accumulated from my blanket and then start dragging my flight case and rolling bag towards the terminal and breakfast. We do have a “quiet” room just off of the maintenance hangar, but it’s anything but quiet as you can hear everything from the mechanics break room (TV, microwave, snack machines, mechanics playing cards etc) and the woman’s restroom on the other side of the wall.

Once through security I normally stop by the coffee shop and pick up a cranberry muffin to eat. Every time the women behind the counter (in the 4 years I’ve been doing this I’ve never seen a man working there) seem puzzled that I don’t want anything to drink. From there I head over to the crew room where I check my vfile to see what’s accumulated since I was there last. After that I log in to the computer and check my schedule to see if they’ve got me assigned to do something. I really shouldn’t even bother as there is nothing ever there. The computers now actually reach the rest of the internet (before they only accessed Company websites) so I’ll check my email, CNN, a few forums and blogs and sometimes Facebook. With that accomplished I’ll normally go sit outside the crewroom and read a book for a while.

That’s how far I’ve gotten now. My book (a collection of travel essays by Paul Theroux), while interesting, is getting a bit repetitive. Visit a foreign place. Talk to the locals. Make a witty remark and compare and contrast with some well known figure in literature. Rinse and repeat.

Another 4 hours and I can go home….

Alarm Clocks

Over the last 4 years I’ve gotten very good at setting alarm clocks. It seems like there are a few standard models most hotels have and my now I can set them just about as well as I can set my own clock at home. However, every once in a while I run into new sort that I’ve never seen before. Last night in Gainesville, FL I spent about 5 minutes trying to figure out how to turn off the B alarm and set the A alarm to music instead of a buzzer. The fact of the matter is I rarely actually hear the hotel alarm clock go off. My cell phone alarm is set for whatever time I want to get up (this morning that was a dismal 5:10am) and then the hotel alarm clock is set for 15 minutes after that, “just in case”. I used to us a 3 layer of backup by having the hotel do a wakeup call 5 minutes after the hotel alarm was set but I found that half the time those never happen or occur at entirely the wrong time so I gave up on them.

This morning I actually woke up about 5 minutes before my cell phone alarm went off and got up just so I wouldn’t have to hear it. I hate actually having the alarms go off if I’m not still asleep. An hour later I was in the van heading to the airport with the crew. They had flown in earlier the day before and then I had deadheaded in that evening the join the trip. The Captain who’s trip it was had headed home to get married.
The early Florida morning was dawning clear and warm as we walked across the ramp to our aircraft. After a quick discussion about a broken coffee pot not being listed on the release I got the APU going and started the normal first flight of the day routine. All of the checks and tests complied with I took a look at the weather in Charlotte (1/4 mile and fog but the runway was showing 3000 feet of visibility, more than our required 1800 feet). I wasn’t exactly happy with the weather but it was good enough for us to go, which we did 30 minutes later after a slight mixup with our fuel truck.

The FO took the leg and by 7:30 we were crossing the Florida-Georgia border climbing through 20,000 feet. Once up at cruise I started checking the weather in Charlotte and saw it was still ¼ of a mile with no RVR (which stands for “runway visual range” and is a number in feet that a special machine can see down the runway). We can’t shoot an approach to ¼ so hopefully once we got closer somebody (an Air Traffic Controller) would have an RVR number for us and hopefully that number would be larger than 1800. Otherwise we’d be making a detour to August, GA, our planned alternate.

Descending back down to 21,000 feet Atlanta Center asked if we were Cat III capable. Basically there are three categories (I, II and III) of how low visibility an approach you can shoot with CAT I being the most restrictive (normally 200 foot cloud ceilings and ½ mile or 1800 RVR visibility) and CAT IIIc being the least restrictive (no minimums, or in other words a “zero-zero” approach). We of course, being the cheap regional we are, are only authorized for CAT I approach. There is a rumor we are getting to get CAT II certified but that’s been floating around almost as long as I’ve been here.

Anyhow, despite the RVR actually being 1800 feet, and legal for us to shoot the approach we were temporarily put in a hold. Before I could even figure out how much fuel we had and how long we could hold for they took us back out of the hold and cleared us on our way. 20 minutes later we were 200 feet off the ground and looking at nothing but the swirling fog and mist in front of the airplane. Just as the computer called off “minimums” the thin line of lead in lights appeared in from of the nose followed shortly after by the edge of the runway. The FO dumped the autopilot and held the nose over towards the ground. Seconds later we were bumping down onto the wet pavement and slowing to a more manageable speed before I took the plane from him for the slow taxi to the gate.

Sleep. Or Not.

Somewhere along the line I must have ticked off the reserve gods because despite my request for “late, last out”, meaning I get wanted a late reserve time slot and to be the last person they called for a trip in that time slot, I ended up with 5am hot reserve this morning. I found out about it yesterday at about 3pm when I checked my schedule, although it wasn’t official until I called scheduling at 8pm. All afternoon I had a somewhat optimistic hope that maybe, just maybe by the time I called something would have changed and I wouldn’t have to be getting up at 4am.

Of course that didn’t happen so I spent a quick 30 minutes ironing a shirt and packing a bag for a potential 4 days on the road. After that I finished up some stuff on the computer and by 10:15 I was in bed. Over the past month I have been working late reserve blocks so my sleep schedule has been moved back to about going to bed at 1am and waking up at 9:30am. So shutting my eyes at 10:15 was pretty much useless. I fought it for about an hour and I eventually fell asleep, although I do remember the clock reading 11:30 at one point before I dozed off. And, as is my habit when I have an early alarm set I woke up well before it. About an hour and twenty minutes before it. Somehow I managed to sort of pretend to sleep until about 3:30 when I surrendered and got up and into the shower.

An hour later I was driving down mostly deserted streets until I got on the highway were the early Monday morning traffic picked up. Even with that, it was still dark when I parked at the airport and headed inside to begin what very well could be a 10 hour sit of complete boredom.

And that’s how it played out. The FO who was sitting hot reserve got called out before he even showed up so it was just the FA and I for the day. By 6:30am I had managed to do all by manual updates as well as repair a bunch of approach plates that had ripped holes. I turned on my computer at 7am and started in on the daily blog and forum reading and then got some work done on the monthly union newsletter. There was a brief rush of people at 8:30 as a couple of flights went out at about the same time. Another hour or so of boredom and then another crew showed up but was stuck for about an hour while MX worked on the landing gear of their plane. They eventually fixed the problem and they headed off to Philly.

After that it was quiet again until noon when the FA announced we were 70% done, and I headed down to get some pizza for lunch. The pizza was nasty but at least it was edible. Shortly there after a crew came in from Charlotte to wait out their two hour sit before heading to DC to sit for three hours before heading back to Dayton and finishing their 4 day trip. What a waste. By the time they headed out the door it was 2:45 and packed up my stuff and started walking out to my car. Up until now, minus a 10 minute stretch around 6am, I’d been pretty awake. However, the drive home was awful as I could barely keep my eyes open. By the time I got home I was almost stumbling up the stairs. After getting out of the monkey suit I laid down on my bed for a few minutes but realized if I went to sleep it would be for a bunch of hours and I’d never get back to sleep tonight.

So instead I forced myself up and paid some bills. After that a piece of apple pie (mmmm) gave me a bit more energy. And here it is 8:15, and I’m not really that tired. Hopefully I will be by about 10:30 as I’ve got 5am reserve tomorrow again. At least it’s regular reserve so if they don’t use me I can sleep in. Here’s hoping.

Running Ragged

Yes, I know, I’ve been posting a lot of fluff recently. Lists, pictures, reminders and comments seem to have been making up the majority of my recent musings. The reasons for that are twofold (ok, maybe threefold, but that doesn’t sound nearly as cool as “twofold”). Firstly, I haven’t been doing much interesting stuff recently. I can really only type so much “took off, landed, rinse and repeat” before I get bored, and I’m sure my readers (if I actually have any) do as well. Secondly, I was in the process of updating the technology on the site and copy over posts from the old database. I didn’t really want to add to the backlog so I just didn’t post anything new. And that leads directly to the third (ie, threefold) reason. I’m lazy.

Today was day 2 of a three day trip with early shows the first 2 days and a normal show on day three (and, because of that, a rather late finish). As you’ve gathered from the previous few posts the early mornings haven’t been too kind to me. I’ve averaged about 5 hours of sleep over the last two nights, and even though I was up before my alarm this morning it was very hard to push myself out of bed.

I somehow managed and went through my normal morning routine and was downstairs waiting for the van at 4:55am. I walked off the elevator and saw a flight attendant wearing a US Airways uniform (but he wasn’t part of my crew so there was at least one other crew) and an ExpressJet FO sitting in the lobby already. So that was 3 separate crews of three trying to go to the airport at 5am. Good thing we had a 15 passenger van. But wait… the elevator door opened just as I sat down to wait and a captain with an ASA badge got out. Uh oh… 4 crews now. 12 people. 15 passenger van. BUT… the last row of seats was out of it to fit all the bags that we lug around. Hmm. 12 People plus 1 driver equals too many people or not enough seats depending on your point of view.

In the end we managed because the PDT captain ended up sleeping in and took a later van. It was tight, but fortunately it’s a short ride up the hill to the airport. Once we each headed out to our respective airplanes (except for the two PDT guys who were waiting for their captain, and were deadheading back to CLT on us anyways) and got stuff going. We boarded up 40 something people and taxied off the gate 3 minutes early at 5:57am, and were the first of the RJs to head out. 5 minutes later we were blasting off into a clear sky and heading south to Charlotte.

Because we arrived in Charlotte before 7am we couldn’t land on the normal North-South runways so we had to loop around for 23. By the time we were on the ground and at the gate our next flight was due out in only 35 minutes (and oh yeah, it was a different airplane, parked ALL THE WAY at the other end of the express gates). A quick jog through the terminal and several minutes later and we were boarding up for Fayetteville.

I managed to eat a quick breakfast of a granola bar that a mainline flight attendant have given me the day before when she non reved on us up to Charleston as they loaded up are 13 passengers to FAY. After some confusion over which airplane we were waiting for we pushed back and started up our engines. We almost spent more time on the ground starting up, trying to get off the ramp and taxiing out (21 minutes) then we did in the air (23 minutes). I managed a mostly nice landing in Fayetteville, and taxied it to the gate.

Due to some strange scheduling quirk we had over an hour on the ground in FAY so I elected not to start the APU and left one engine running while they plugged in a ground power connection. Even though it was pretty hot out (almost 90 already) the plane was relatively cool when we landed and if we turned off all the lights inside I figured I could start the APU a few minutes before the passengers boarded up to go back to Charlotte and the temp would be ok. Of course, my trying to save fuel ended up causing more work for me as when we switched over to ground power from the single engine that was running my Primary Flight Display (the screen that displays heading, airspeed and altitude information on my side) died. A quick call to maintenance and several circuit breaker pulls later the problem was fixed and I headed to the back of the airplane to read a book for a while.

My book reading was cut short when a large (several inch) butterfly somehow managed to fly through the cabin door and started bouncing around the cabin. It finally settled on one of the windows and I was able to trap it in a plastic up with some paper and transport it back outside. By then the cabin temp had climbed to just about 90 degrees and I figured it would probably be a good time to get the airflow going again. As I finished that our people started coming down the jetway. We crammed in 50 people and pushed off the gate a few minutes early back to Charlotte.

The FO made a nice landing in Charlotte where we taxied in to a 35 minute turn, and what I hoped would be my lunch break. That ended up not happening as we had another error message (system proximity fault) that needed to be cleared. This time it took 9 different circuit breaker pulls (and just about every aural alert the aircraft has) to clear the issue. That of course took away any chance I might have had at getting something to eat, so we launched for Knoxville with me just getting some pretzels to eat.

I made a nice landing in Knoxville on an empty stomach and felt the first edges of tiredness as we taxied into the ramp there. It felt like it was almost 5 in the afternoon, despite being just 11:30 in the morning. Fortunately we had a quick turn in Knoxville and were shortly loading up 50 passengers plus a jumpseater and taxiing back out. After sitting out a 15 minute ground delay we took off and headed east again back to Charlotte. With a nice tailwind we made pretty good time and 38 minutes later the FO was setting it down on 18R and slowing us so I could exit the runway just as a large dust devil (ok, it wasn’t that big compared to some of the ones I saw when I was living in Phoenix) crossed downfield from us. Once at the gate I said goodbye to my FO who was done for the trip and the FA and I hustled across the airport to the mainline gates to catch a deadhead up to Philly.

We got to the gate to find the plane was hugely oversold a it had been downsized from a 321 to a 320 with a lost of almost 25 seats. The FA got a seat and I ended up in the second jumpseat (as there was already another mainline guy trying to get to work) when we finally pushed 45 minutes later. The flight up the coast dragged on as they slowed us to our minimum forward speed pretty much as soon as the wheels were in the wells. We did eventually get there and head to the hotel. I manged to grab dinner in the hotel bar (my other option was walking about 1/2 a mile to a Denny’s.

So here it is 10:20pm, and I’ve been up since just after 4am. The thing is, I’m not even scheduled to get done tomorrow until around 9:30pm, and that’s after going through New York twice, so I don’t want to go to sleep to early tonight and be tired by the end of the day tomorrow. The problem is, right now it is a losing battle. If I can just make it another 40 minutes…

Not Happening

My plan for sleep fell apart last night. I was in bed by 10pm, and almost asleep when my phone rang at 10:30. Doh. After that I just couldn’t force myself to shut my eyes. I think I finally dozed off around midnight, but woke up several times before getting out of bed 5 minutes before my alarm.

Today wasn’t too bad of a day, but seeing as I didn’t get much sleep last night, I am pretty tired now. Of course, actually getting any sleep may be difficult due to any of the following:

-The kids running up and down the hall of the hotel, which is the official hotel of the West Virginia Special Olympics.

-My room faces the front which means I hear

-Cars/Trucks/Motercycles on the road out front

-Riverboat horns on the river across the street

-Train horns from the train tracks across the river

-The band playing in the park between the road in the river

Yep, it’s going to be one of those nights…

Give Me…. Sleep!

I have a wonderful “early” show tomorrow. I put early in quotes because at 6:40am it’s really not that early. It could be much worse. Like the next morning, at 5am. Either way, the trick is getting to sleep early the night before and at least pretending to get a somewhat normal amount of sleep before getting up early. The problem with that is that it can be difficult to move a sleep schedule in just one day. Normally I try to slide my schedule forward or backwards as I approach a set of early or late shows. I’ve been planning all week to go to bed earlier and earlier each night as I got closer to this evening, and force my self to get up earlier and earlier.

Unfortunately it didn’t exactly work out that way. The *plan* was to go to bed around 10pm last night and get up at 7am, giving myself my normal 9 hours of sleep. And then tonight I would go to sleep at 9pm and get up at 5am, which would still give me 8 hours. So here it is 9:35pm and I’m typing this and not 34 minutes into my first sleep cycle. So what happened?

Well, I actually did get into bed only 45 minutes later then I wanted to last night. The problem is, the heat kept me up. I tossed and turned from 10:45 until almost midnight. At that point I gave up and turned on the air conditioning. It took about 20 minutes for my apartment to cool down and I eventually fell asleep. Because of that I ended up sleeping in until almost 9am. That means of course I’m not really tired right now.

Wonderful how it all works out huh? I’m playing it smart tonight and the AC came on 15 minutes ago. Hopefully it will be cool enough when I do go to sleep in a few minutes here that I’ll actually be able to fall asleep for real. Even if I do, 5am is going to seem REALLY early tomorrow morning.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. A late night arrival into Chattanooga, TN late last month.