Beyond the Fishbowl
Day 1: MSP-GRR-MSP-OMA-MSP-IAD
Day 2: IAD-MSP-MSO
Day 3: MSO-MSP-IAH
Day 4: IAH-MSP-JAX-MSP
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 2: MCI-LAX-MCI
Day 3: MCI-LAX-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!