An Appropriate Sendoff
The last leg was from Billings to Portland, the only leg of the day. We were late to the airport because one of our flight attendants left her ID badge in her room and then couldn't find it (was between the nightstand and the bed!) but we were still able to block out on time. No time for sentimentalities during preflight; just as well. We started up, pushed back, and began taxiing for runway 28R. "Well, go ahead and run your very last taxi checklist," the Captain commanded rather grandly. "Flaps 15, Set....awww, crap," I said and pointed to the bottom of our engine display where the message "POWERPLANT" had just appeared.
What an appropriate way to end my career in the Q400. Like most of the fault messages we get, this one is usually caused by some computer glitch. Unlike the caution lights that can be extinguished by pulling and resetting the appropriate circuit breakers, this one requires maintenance to crack into the onboard computers and find the fault codes. When it's a spurious message it generally takes an hour or less; when the plane is really broken it's usually really broken and requires parts to be flown in.
Fortunately, this time the plane wasn't really broken, the computer had just spit out some garbage. How typical. Contract maintenance from Big Sky was pretty quick to come on board, pull the codes, and do a few engine runs to make sure the message didn't come back. They signed off the logbook and we reboarded and pushed back again. This time, the captain didn't jinx us by calling for the "very last" taxi checklist.
As I took the controls for takeoff, I was aware that it's the last time I'd do so in the airplane but mostly from the standpoint of "Wouldn't it just be peachy if I had an engine failure on my very last takeoff!" Fortunately the PW150A's ran just fine and we were soon climbing out to the west.
I filmed the takeoff and landing. Before you jump all over me for violating sterile cockpit, I just set the camera on the glareshield and let it run; I didn't monkey with it anytime that sterile cockpit is required. Below is a segment from just before takeoff until around 2500' AGL. Sorry for the poor quality, it's a still camera with a nominally useful movie function.
Billings to Portland is one of the longer legs we do in the Q400 and it seemed to drag on even longer than normal, mostly because we were in the clouds most of the time so there wasn't much scenery to look at, and it was bumpy. Of all the things I'll miss, bumping through the clouds at FL250 all winter long is not going to be one of them.
I got a nice view of Mt Hood on descent into Portland, bumped through another cloud layer, broke out around 5000', and show the Commuter Visual to 28L. I've been on a string of nice landings lately, which in the Q400 is a warning sign that you'll make a really horrific thumper soon, but my luck held out for one last nice landing. Below is the approach and landing; note how little the pitch increases in the flare, and how little I have to lower the nose after touchdown to put it on the nosewheel. This airplane screws with your ability to land all other airplanes.
After we taxiied to the gate and the passengers deplaned, the crew and I had a ramper take a photo of us next to the plane (I'll upload it later, don't have my camera cord with me). Then the flight attendants gave me hugs and I shook hands with the captain (one of our check airmen but a good guy to fly with). Then I walked away. I didn't even look back like I often do. That chapter of my life has closed, and I'm eager to fly the JungleBus.