…SUCKED! Ok, maybe sucked is too strong a word. So, allow me to elaborate!
Goodbye NYC, Hello Chi-Town
Quick Note: For those of you who didn't catch my comments on Twitter over the weekend, I recently made a base transfer at work from New York City to Chicago. There are various elements that play into this decision, mostly fewer day-to-day weather related delays, a better flight schedule, more days off (including weekends!), just to name a few.
The Morning Commute
Well, today started at home when the alarm clock knocked me out of my sleepy coma at 6 AM. This morning was no different than any other; wake up, shower, don the pilot costume, and head out to the airport for my morning commute. After the usual routine of losing my car in the employee lot, riding the shuttle to the terminal, dealing with the TSA, I arrive at the gate destined for Chicago O'Hare. How exotic right?
Getting to Know Chicago
It was a beautiful day to fly, clear skies, unrestricted visibility, and the flight to O'Hare offered many wonderful views of the Great Lakes and the Chicago skyline on arrival. But that's about where the easy part of my day ended. You see, I haven't been to O'Hare in years and I've never been based there previously so I had to learn everything in a Chicago instant. Things like location of the crew room, how to access the Secure ID Area, the cypher code for the crew room door, where the bathroom is (seriously, I had to walk outside on the ramp to access it!), kept me occupied for a few hours before it was time to make the donuts, as they say.
I decided to take a few extra minutes to make my way to the airplane since I didn't know how far the walk was. Good thing, too. It's one of those across-the-airport type of jaunts to get from crew room to airplane. As I approach the gate I see what appears to by my Captain waiting there. We greet and introduce ourselves and I mention that today is my very first day operating as a Chicago based pilot. You know what he says to me? “Me, too!” I just laugh and think to myself this will be like the blind leading the blind.
First Day Craziness
Our aircraft arrives to the gate late carrying with her a few maintenance squawks. The biggest one being our auxiliary power unit, also known as the APU, a small turbine generator that produces aircraft electricity and pneumatic air for things like air conditioning and engine starts, is out to lunch, caputo, broke. Great! That means we have to request an external air start cart (a huffer cart) to start the engine at the gate before disconnecting the external ground power, aka GPU, so the lights don't go out on the flight deck. Queue the romantic music… JOKING. It also means no air conditioning. Luckily it wasn't a Texas-hot kind of day.
So the first order of business during my pre-flight aircraft inspection is notify the ground personnel that we'll need the huffer cart and external air conditioning for starters. The rampers response? “You'll have to talk to that guy, he's the lead.” I tell ‘that guy' the same story. His response? “You'll have to tell the next crew
what's going on.” “I AM the next crew!” I exclaim. He says to me, “No, the next ramp crew, because that's not my job.” Ahhh, yes there it is; the Chicago unionized rhetoric I heard so much about. No wonder half the nations airlines are swirling around the toilet. Ay dios mio!
Thank You Maintenance
Fortunately for us Mr. Maintenance came out to the aircraft to perform some routine tasks. He decides to check our APU to see if he can clear the squawk. After a few repairs and tests we have our beloved APU back. No, not Apu the slushy-serving Pakistani mini-mart owner from The Simpsons, but our auxiliary power unit. Maintenance gives us the ‘Omni, Omni, VOR' blessing and leaves us to finish getting ready for departure.
Our takeoff clearance is to perform the O'Hare 5 SID, a standard instrument departure. With that departure comes some particular aircraft performance requirements in order for us to accept this procedure. Thumbing through the climb rate and engine performance tables I determine we can't accept the O'Hare 5. Could that be right? The jet can't climb fast enough to make the climbing restrictions? Nah, I read the table wrong! After recalculating and confirming the data with the Captain we both agree the departure procedure is well within our aircraft capabilities ONLY if…
…TO BE CONTINUED…
Read Part 2 of New Kid On The Ramp: My First Day Flying In Chicago