Thursday, September 20, 2007

An Appropriate Sendoff

Well, my time as a pilot for Horizon Air has come to a close. I've flown my last flight and have made the last entry to my logbook with an aircraft type of "DHC-8-402." The Q400 sent me out in very typical style, though.

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.

16 comments:

Joel P said...

Thanks Sam, those videos were fun to watch. Good luck at NewCo!

Fred said...

I do so love watching cockpit videos, thanks, Sam. Hope you'll get the chance to film and show us some of your JungleBus t/o and landings as well.

sequ said...

I´ve enjoyed this chapter of your life immensely....

Looking forward to the next!

Un abrazo,

SEQU

the other sam said...

Great videos. Good luck with the big change.

The Asian Badger said...

Sam...best of luck with the NewCo. BTW..you'll love Wayzeta...it's kind of a long drive to the airport but Dawn is worth it. Look at condos in Bloomington.

All the best and if you get down to KMKE, send me an email and I'll buy you a something and take you for a drive past my old "4 pilots to a room" place.

Cheers and all the best.

steve at the pub said...

Billings to Portland is one of the longer legs?

Er.. but how long is that?

Plenty of Q-400 flying here, mostly in legs of roughly 2 hours duration. Almost always taking off with maximin allowable payload.

Aviatrix said...

Gahh! You're not kidding about the landing attitude. I was thinking "so FLARE already!" and bracing for impact just watching.

Capt. Wilko said...

Nice post, and a belatedly congratulations on the new job. I hope it's everything you hoped for. Enjoy groundschool!:)

Anonymous said...

This has probably come up before already, but...

Will it still be "Blogging at FL250"? Seeing's how your new steed will fly at a higher altitude...

Norman

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I will get chastised for saying this in this forum but main thought reading this post and some other blogs...

Is it just me or does it seem like there is a tad bit of a narcissistic aura that bleeds through in blogs such as this. This post being a good example? Okay.. let the bashing of me begin....

Sam said...

Anonymous, I don't think you can be a blogger without at least a little narcissistic streak. You have to believe you're an interesting enough person with an interesting enough job that people will want to read about it, and then think you're a good enough writer that they'll keep reading. Then when big events in your life happen (like my last flight at Horizon) you give them major attention in your blog as though it should be important to everyone else. The funny thing is the internet is big enough that you get a number of readers that are interested, which I suppose only reinforces the original inclination.

Mind you, I try to make it not all about me. A lot of my posts have been about the aviation industry as a whole. But you're welcome to not read if you think it's all self-involved tripe.

Joaquin said...

From WikiAnswers:

"Narcissism is a pattern of traits and behaviours which signify infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one's gratification, dominance and ambition."

The belief that one has a life interesting enough to be shared with others, and the desire to do so, is actually an admirable trait. I would describe it as behaviour resulting from positive self-image coupled with a well-adjusted social identity. It is not reflective of any inherent character flaw, unless coupled with other, more nefarious behaviours as described in the above definition.

At least that's what I think!

Anonymous said...

What are you flying in your next job Sam?
The A319/320, is that the JungleBus?

Flyboy Chris said...

Sam,

Thanks for letting us "join you" in your last take-off and landing at QXE. Sadly, I will probably not get an opportunity to meet you, though I would like to. I work in N. Portland and discovered your blog (thanks to Aviatrix, I think) and have not stopped following it since!

Good luck in your new adventure!

Chris
(PS, if you would like to email me, I *think* you can probably see my email address/google account based on my post?)

Ryan S said...

Hope you had an awesome last flight. After all you said about Horizon I will be flying with them on a "Barbie Jet" in Late October.

Flying Dutchman said...

dude I like ur blog a lot! I just started bloggin...

Im kinna new with this stuff but how do I add a link to your page on my page?

http://flyingdutchman1983.blogspot.com/

KC