Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beyond the Fishbowl

The vast majority of the trips I fly involve multiple landings at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). It's where I'm based so at the bare minimum the trip will begin and end there, and in between we usually connect through MSP at least once a day. This recent trip is fairly representative:


Minneapolis is a great airport to fly out of. It's not ridiculously busy, has a pretty efficient layout, has very good ATC, and delays are few except in the worst winter weather. All the same, constantly landing at the same airport can get a little old. Moreover, being the home of my company's headquarters and its largest crew base, MSP is "the fishbowl." You're always running into chief pilots and check airmen and company bigwigs, most of whom are very nice people eager to shake my hand and call me by my first name and say nice things about me. I hate that. It's been a longstanding goal of mine for my employer to forget I exist. Jeppesen updates necessitate an occasional stealthy foray into the crew room, but otherwise my "productivity breaks" are spent in the opposite corner of the airport.

Last year we were doing a bunch of flying out of New York's LaGuardia Airport, Washington's National Airport, and Atlanta. Some of our trips avoided Minneapolis altogether, and you were virtually based in one of those three airports during the trip. The change of scenery was nice, but I hate east coast flying. It's just too much work - and not fun, interesting work like, say, a VOR-A approach to minimums in the mountains. It's constant frequency changes, inflexible routing, impatient controllers, and ever-present delays. You're not really out of the fishbowl either, it's just filled with different and much bigger fish. Given the choice, I'd fly nothing but Minneapolis-Missoula, thankyouverymuch!

Last week, though, I flew the trip of my dreams. We didn't pass through Minneapolis once and never ventured east of the Mississippi River. I didn't fly more than two legs a day. The weather was beautiful except for five minutes of marine layer IMC each day. We got fed crew meals. It was productive, with 25 hours of pay for four short days of work. The layovers were long and the happy hour specials lucrative. I don't know why I didn't bid this trip all month long. It looked like this:

Day 1: MSP-MCI
Day 4: MCI-LAX-MCI (Deadhead MSP)

This was my first time back to LAX since flying for Horizon. It's even more ridiculously easy coming from the east; they sequence you 200 miles out and clear you for the approach while you're at 18,000 feet over Big Bear Lake. The majority of my 2400 non-airline hours were spent flying out of Southern California, while my FO had never been there, so on the long flights out west I regaled him with tales of near-misses and lost students and 3-mile VFR days and lunch at Flo's and the time I just about took out the powerlines at the end of Big Bear's runway (the west end, fortunately). Fortunately for my FO, we had clear weather and spectacular scenery to occasionally shut me up. Here are some good samples:

I would've bid this trip for all of November except I, um, forgot to bid! My "standing bid," which exists for such a birdbrained eventuality, is very basic, requesting only maximum days off. Accordingly, I got a very good 19 days off, despite having three very inefficient training days at the end of the month. More surprisingly, I got Thanksgiving and a random Thursday I needed off despite my standing bid neglecting to mention either requirement. Perhaps I should forget to bid more often!


Anonymous said...


Thanks for the props. Our training days this quarter is getting ready for icing in clouds, and deicing briefings lets hope it isn't as bad as last year.


amulbunny's random thoughts said...

I love flying into LAX on a clear day when the smog is gone and the haze has dissipated. Nothing like naming the freeways, seeing your old neighborhood and waving at the Hawthorne Water Tower when you come in on 25L.

(But CWA & AUW always hold my heart)

Tom B. (China) said...

Beautiful! Makes me miss flying out in California.

Capt. Schmoe said...

Lunch at Flo's, only surpassed by breakfast!

Taxiing to west county parking is like going through a living aviation museum. There is nothing like looking down the wing of your Cessna and seeing a B-25, Mustang or Corsair tied down, parked next to another one.

Good food too!

Thanks for the post.

Ron said...

The clear days are few and far between here in Socal, but we do have 'em and they're great when they occur! Um, unless it's a Santa Ana, in which case it looks a lot nicer than it feels. :)

I'm not a huge fan of east coast flying either. A week or so ago, flew from Teterboro to Monmouth -- a whopping 39 nm -- and even in a G-IV it required a block time of one hour. If only that were atypical...

Carl said...

Wow, you quite literally flew right over my head 6 times last week. Hoped you enjoyed Kansas City!

Anonymous said...

Great post keep up the photos, many pilots living their dreams thru your blog, me included!

Steve said...

I really enjoyed your post and loved the photo's. It most definitely is the office with the best view in the world.

pilot license said...

Wow truly amazing photos.
Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

ah ha. dont know why i just put it together but now i know who you work for.

thanks for the photos and bruges is absolutely beautiful.

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