Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Blogging at FL350


Wow, it feels great to be flying again! I hadn't touched an airplane since mid-September. There's nothing like a three month break to make me realize that even with the hassles of the job and the way this career has soured the last six years, I wouldn't be able to stay away for long if I tried. Flying, it seems, is a bug not easily uncaught.

I was actually more nervous going into this IOE than I was in 2004 when I first flew the Q400, which is strange because the JungleBus has a lot more in common with the Q400 than the Q400 has with a Navajo. Once I got started, though, I became comfortable pretty quickly. I passed my line check last night on the fifth day of IOE with 26 hours in the airplane.

I think back in October I remarked on the blog that I'd be doing IOE in the left seat. The people in the training department who told me that were wrong, it was FO IOE only and I won't do CA IOE until it's time to actually upgrade. I'm quickly learning to take everything I hear at NewCo with a grain of salt!

The JungleBus is a really sweet-handling airplane, moreso than anything I've flown with the possible exception of the Beech Baron. The airplane and the simulator are astonishingly close in feel; although that is the general idea of a simulator, they seldom replicate it so well. I guess the fact that the control feel is completely artificial and computer-generated makes it easier to replicate!

Compared to the Q400, the JungleBus is much lighter on roll and the overall control feel is smoother. Like most jets, it's tougher to slow down and you have to choose between slowing and descending because it doesn't do both at the same time very well. You can't do 250 knots to the marker like you could in the Q400. I expected that, though, and gave myself extra room and configured early whenever I got stuck high, and it always worked out pretty well. The biggest difference was landing: the JungleBus approaches at close to 5 degrees pitch up and the flare is more pronounced, which along with a higher stance gives it a very different sight picture in the flare. It feels like you're still at 20 or 30 feet when the mains touch down. None of my landings were all that great, but the check airman was happy just to see them on centerline and in the touchdown zone. The landing gear on the JungleBus is quite a bit more forgiving than the Q400; my hardest touchdown felt about like the average Q400 landing.

Other than landings, the IOE was spent learning how to use this version of the FMS software (the sim has an older version), working with ACARS, figuring out how they do things in MSP, and generally just getting in the groove of things. I found that there are quite a few FO duties on the line that aren't being taught in the sim (after all, they were primarily training us as captains), so I experimented in how to most efficiently incorporate those duties into the existing flow patterns.

After flying the JungleBus, I'm even more convinced that it should really be at mainline. It's a "regional jet" in name only. It has 2200 mile range, good fuel economy, and altitude/speed performance of much larger airliners. NewCo is already flying routes like MSP-YVR, MSP-IAH, and MSP-BOS. More concerning, from a passenger standpoint the JungleBus is much more comfortable than the CRJ200 and even the newer CRJ700/900 series. I hope that mainline pilots realize what a threat this poses to their flying and hold firm on scope. Ultimately if we at the regionals do our job and get our labor costs up to a reasonable level, it will make economic sense to put the E-jets back where they belong at mainline. I'm guessing some of you will think that counterproductive - intentionally pricing ourselves out of a job! - but pilots are coming to realize that a job at the regionals is pretty worthless so long as your mainline partner can put "your" flying back up for bid.

I tried hard not to think about that too much on IOE, though. Mostly I sat back and simply enjoyed being back at home in the air.

15 comments:

Joel P said...

Congrats Sam!

Try not to get too bored flying around the midwest, it doesn't look quite as scenic as the pacific northwest...

Here's hoping you have a great (and short?) career at NewCo!

the other sam said...

What are the chances you ever start flying to Des Moines? None?

Tom said...

Hey Sam,
the junglejet has such a cool cockpit!! Would you mind taking more pictures of it sometime, along with the plane itself? It's fantastic looking from the outside.

Now that IOE is over, are you on reserve or do you hold a regular line/route? I know your company doesn't have many routes yet so are there specific lines you will hold more regularly than others even on reserve? You're probably the first junglejet pilot blogger on the internet so I'm sure I'm not the only one dying to read more about your experiences on this new airplane...

tp lowe said...

Did I miss somewhere along the way what aircraft the "Junglebus" is?!

Anonymous said...

Sam, I posted this question a few posts ago and am still interested in your reply, if you feel like it and if you have time:

Sam, I love your blog. Here's a question for you. I've taken a few lessons in a Cessna and saw how one starts the engine just by turning a key, like a car. But I read in "Flying" magazine and other aviation blogs like yours that you can't just start a complex airplane by turning a key. There are a whole bunch of steps you must follow in order, and a computer usually handles the starts. And there is something called a hot start, which if done wrong can fry your engine, right? My question is: why are airplanes so complicated to start? Why must things be followed in a particular sequence? Basicaly, how do you start an airplane engine, like on an airliner? Dumb question: do you need a key?

Anonymous said...

Sam, the line check that you just passed -- was that done with paying passengers in the back? If so, there was a captain, an FO (you) and the line checkman in the front? Or, was the line check was done in an "empty" airplane (no passengers)?

Sam said...

Anonymous 6:51- sorry, I saw your comment and have been meaning to get to it, just been a little busy with IOE & all. I'll answer in the original comments section.

Anonymous 7:06- The entire IOE is done with paying passengers on board. Its really just a normal trip (actually two trips in my case, a daytrip on fri and then a 4-day sat-tues) with a check airman as captain. The line check is a non-event...it's normally done on the last leg of IOE and the only difference is that the Captain will just observe rather than teach (which they're doing by that stage of IOE anyways) and then debrief you on anything you did wrong afterwards. If you screw up badly, it's not typically counted as a busted line check, the CA will just recommend more IOE for you. At NewCo they schedule 25 hours of IOE for FOs with up to 25 more available before they send you to a review board. At other airlines I've heard of them giving newhires up to 90 hours of IOE before giving them the boot. At Horizon I had about 35; for the JungleBus 25 was more than adequate.

TpLowe- No, I've never said. It's not that hard to figure out. It's a new design from a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer that has various versions seating from 70 to 110 people. I fly a version with 76 seats (12 1st class + 64 coach).

tp lowe said...

Got it - thanks, Sam.

Sam said...

Othersam - the chances are pretty good as we get bigger. We're getting 3 new airplanes every month and every month the list of cities grows by another 5 or 6.

Tom- they're building me a reserve line for the rest of December. I start bidding for January (just put my bid in, actually). Right now there are like 76 captains and only 26 FOs (I'm #25!). They built 32 regular lines for January but 10 of the FO lines will be reserved for newhires to fly with the 10 check airmen. That leaves 22 regular lines plus 4 reserve lines, so unless three people senior to me intentionally bid reserve (or forget to bid!) I'll end up with a reserve line. In February, however, I should hold a regular line...possibly even a senior line since a number of FOs ahead of me should be upgrading by that time. NewCo is still telling me I'll upgrade in Feb but I don't see it happening before Mar-Apr.

Tim said...

great entry!! so happy for you, sounds amazing - hope to be in that same position in the coming years
good luck!

Tracy said...

Sam,
Given there are 76 captains, are they bidding for FO lines, or do they get shorter bids, or just alot of reserve capts.?

Sam said...

There are a ton of reserve lines for the CAs, more than regular lines actually. Until this month they were also covering all the FO open time, now we have enough FOs + FO IOE to cover all the FO flying.

Capt. Wilko said...

Congrats Sam. So, how do you like the ram horns? Took me a little while to get used to it but I like the feeling of riding a motorcycle in the sky!:)
Have fun.

Fred said...

Hey Sam - congrats on joining the ranks on the e175's. I'm on the 170/175 at RP. Its a great plane and I am sure that you will have a blast flying it. Hope things are going well at Compass!

arf said...

Hi Sam,

I have seen the Compass 'Junglebus' at YQR a couple of times this week subbing in for heavier Christmas loads on the MSP run. I noticed the high nose position right before landing, which is very interesting; yesterday, a 737-600 came in a couple of minutes later, so it was interesting to note the much lower nose on the Boeing.

Have a good holiday period and enjoy the new flying.