Monday, September 15, 2008

Back to work

Yea! I'm on the road again...

Yesterday I spent about five hours in the Cleveland Airport waiting for my commercial airline flight to take me to Michigan to start my tour. There was a mechanical problem with the airplane and the crew had to wait for the mechanic to come to the airplane and sign off the problem so the flight could go. "Sign off" means that the problem isn't going to affect the safety of the flight but it needs to be logged and fixed at a later date. I've talked about MEL's (or Minimum Equipment List) before, but real quick, the MEL is an FAA approved document that airlines must comply with when determining which items can be inoperative on a particular aircraft type during flight. In other words, the company can't decide that having one wing instead of two is ok just for a leg or two. It's often just for convenience or comfort items, but may be for items that are back up systems or needed for particular flight conditions, like flight into icing or nighttime.

On this flight, it was the air conditioning. The only passengers not moved to other flights to make connections were myself and another airline pilot riding along. When we got on the turboprop airplane it was HOT and muggy and we had to wait til the airplane was fueled before the crew could turn on the air - which turned out to be working in the cabin but not the cockpit. I didn't realize this during the flight.

We flew from Cleveland to Detroit at 6,000 feet through some very bumpy weather. I think the crew was more concerned about getting us straight to Detroit to make up some time and less concerned about the smoothness of the ride. I mention this because when people tell me they had a really bad flight with lots of turbulence, I tell them that although I don't know for sure what they felt, but I imagine it was probably in the category of "light" turbulence. When I tell them the categories are light, moderate, severe and extreme, I do so to give them an idea of how bad turbulence really CAN be and how much the airplane is designed to take.

So, as bad as it was for us in the cabin, when we landed in Detroit and the cockpit door was opened, a huge blast of warm air escaped. The poor flight crew had no fresh air for this hot, muggy, bumpy flight. Though it was a short flight, I can't believe they didn't lose their lunch! I have done such flights before without a good source of fresh air and trust me, they are not comfortable. Just another "glamorous" aspect of flying for a living...

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