Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's good to be the Captain

Being a First Officer, I am second in command. We act as a crew, and for 99.9% of the situations that come up, we discuss and decide as a crew. Sometimes my opinion gets thrown out the window. Such as what happened yesterday.

Spring time in Texas means storms. We have had quite a few. Yesterday I flew from Amarillo to DFW at 6AM. I looked at the radar before I left the hotel and saw a line of Thunderstorms from Amarillo to new DFW. There was a way around the storms by going west and then south to go around the back of the storm.

After take off ATC (Air Traffic Control) advised us to head south and to avoid the worst of the weather. The Captain and I both had our weather RADAR on. We could also see outside. The radar was full of nice pretty colors (meaning bad weather). The view outside was the same. The Captain chose to decline the advice from ATC and fly throught the storm. I advised that it might be a good idea to head south. The Captain stated he didn't want ATC flying "his" plane and that we had a good idea of what the ride would be like.

There was nearly non-stop lightening all around the plane. The turbulence was non-stop. The ride was bad enough that the flight attendants had to remain seated. I am used to turbulence and am rarely bothered by it. The bumps were enough for me to cinch down my seatbelt and shoulder harnesses.

Due to the cold temperatures, high humidity and rain, I had to turn on every safety system we have. I turned on the anti-ice systems to keep the wings and engines free of ice. I then armed the continuous ignition systems to keep the engines from flaming out. The turbulence mode was turned on for the autopilot to allow the plane to deviate from the desired course more than normal (to keep the autopilot from contstantly correcting the course due to turbulence).

For 35 minutes non-stop we were kicked around.

After getting home I looked at the flight path with the weather overlayed as it existed during the flight. If we had gone south we would have avoided most of the weather.

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If we had just gone south and west we could have avoided most of the weather and had a smooth flight. Pilots are confident and remain cool and collected most of the time. During this flight I did have a moment or three that we just might not make it.

The next flight was to Des Moines, IA. This was MY leg. I looked at the RADAR before we left and had a plan of attack in mind.

We had enough fuel on board to literally fly to Boston...but we were only going Des Moines. The line of storms was still there. I decided to fly north east and climb until I could find a "hole" in the weather. Just east of Texarkana I found my hole. The ride was much better and we didn't need any of the extra safety systems turned on.

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I learn things from each Captain I fly with. Some good....some bad. One day I will be Captain. It's good to be the Captain.

On a totally unrelated note a friend of mine (also a pilot for my airline) had a baby boy today....named him Bergen. Interesting name. Photos can be seen here http://lintonlanding.blogspot.com/

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