New York, Wednesday 8-16-95 1935 local (Z-4)
There aren't enough hours in the day. To make matters worse, we have to spend many of them sleeping. A cliche and a trite observation, but true nonetheless. I've been trying to find time to sit down and organize my mind for days now. Now I've got a little time, but I don't like that because in this instance it means I'm just sitting, spending my own money for lodging. Such is life.
The cause of my discontent is that I've once again been pulled off my line due to crew scheduling incompetence. Sunday night I operated from JFK to Paris Orly (Orly is one of two Paris airports used for airline operations). I slept all day, had supper with a bunch of crew members that evening (at any given time there are at least 4 crews sitting in Paris), and then wandered around Paris most of the night. It's a really festive city during the summer at night. I got back to the hotel around 0600 Monday morning, planning to sleep until about 1500 so as to remain in sync for my next leg on Wednesday. When I entered the hotel room, I saw the message light flashing; crew scheduling was trying to get a hold of me.
It seems they had assigned an f.o. to the JFK - Tel Aviv trip not realizing that he would not legally be able to operate the return flight. Anyway, instead of sleeping, I had to spend the entire day commercialling to Tel Aviv, even had to buy my own ticket due to Tower's policy of not giving any but the captains a credit card (even Evergreen gave all crew members an air travel card). They will, of course, reimburse me, but that takes weeks. Got to Tel Aviv only to find that, in spite of having been assured that everything had been set up, there was no hotel reservation at a hotel close to the airport. So, I had to go all the way in to downtown Tel Aviv to the Hilton (lucked out to find an empty room there - that's our regular hotel). More confusion followed, when I tried to set up a wakeup call, I found out the wakeup call for the other crewmembers already there didn't agree with what I had been told. Another hour was lost before that got straightened out. It turned out the captain had gotten confused and set the wakeup call an hour later than he should have. Finally got in bed for 2 hours, so that meant that I had to start a 12 hour leg with only 2 hours in bed in the last 30.
The absurdity of the situation was that I was operating in an extremely fatigued state while the guy I was replacing was sitting in back, having spent a full 24 hours rest in Tel Aviv (his problem was that he was about to exceed 120 hours in 30 days and wouldn't drop any time for 3 days). The FAA's international rules count only actual flying time.
The worst part was that the extra flight hours caused me to come too close to 30 hours in the last 7 days, a domestic limitation that prevented them from allowing me to resume my regular line since the next trip on that was a domestic leg JFK to LAX. So, now after they will have let me set for 48 hours, they're having me deadhead to Los Angeles tomorrow and then turn right around and operate back. In the meantime, whoever was assigned my line trip will be spending a full day relaxing in Honolulu, then will get a high-pay, extended duty trip to Osan, Korea (near Seoul) before winding up in Los Angeles (from whence I would have been able to directly return home for my guaranteed days off). I am truly pissed. Crew scheduling's attitude is one of "Tough shit. You're on probation. We can do what we want." I have joined the rest of the pilots in considering crew scheduling my enemy.
At Tower Air all duty time over 16 hours was considered “extended duty&rdquo, and we were paid time and one half for that. It was one of the ways you could make good money at Tower. Our duty time started when we were pushed-back at the departure gate and ended when we came to a stop at our arrival gate and would receive at least 8 hours of rest. If we didn't get at least 8 rest hours, the duty clock kept running, and there were no FAA duty time limitations for international flying, only a flight hour limitation of no more than 12 scheduled hours in 24. My first full operating month at Tower as a first officer was a $10,000 month thanks to extended duty. Pretty good considering that at my previous employer I only had a straight salary of $4000 a month as a captain, and it wasn't really possible to make more.
There was one good thing, the captain had operated into Tel Aviv and had been planning to let the f.o. fly the leg. Usually when there's a change like this, the captain would have then taken the leg. This one didn't; he gave the leg to me. He perhaps regretted doing so, because as we neared New York, unforecast fog moved in. This produced a critical situation for the captain. He had elected to go non-stop, bypassing a fuel stop in Paris, on the basis the JFK weather being forecast for excellent through the period. When the fog moved in, Tower dispatch fouled up by not contacting us immediately. We belatedly found out about it by overhearing other aircraft receiving messages from their dispatch. We phone patched to ours and got a "Oh, gee, yeah, things have gotten a little bad here."
I fully expected the captain to take the approach. I certainly would have considered doing to so had I been the captain. However, he was aware that I had been a captain at Evergreen, and he didn't elect to fly the approach himself. Things worked out well. We didn't see the runway until just before minimums, but I had the approach pinned in spite of my fatigue - even got a great landing, though I used a lot of runway to do it. Final fuel was 20,000 pounds, the least I have ever had in the tanks at the end of any 747 trip. My previous low-fuel mark was 22,000 with Evergreen. Had we missed the approach, our plan was to proceed directly to Newark across the river in the clear and, if there was any vectoring delay, declare a low-fuel emergency.
C.J. is today boarding the cruise ship Noordam in Vancouver, B.C. for a cruise up the inside passage to Alaska. The cruise includes classes/seminars in the art quilt field. If all goes well, I'll get home on the 22nd, she'll get home on the 24th. I hope the weather stays good for her jaunt. I think she'll enjoy the trip even if it doesn't, whereas for me, the trip would be ruined by bad weather. I figure I've already spent too much time in Alaska, suffered too much (from my stand point) from it being just too far north. I'm super glad to see her making the trip. Alaska is one of the places that I had visited but she hadn't. This trip will help balance the travel ledger.
The legs before this last one have all been interesting in some respect. However, that's old news and I need to rest my back. Unfortunately I pulled it out earlier today for the 2nd time in as many weeks. If it's not significantly better by tomorrow morning, I'm going to be truly miserable. It's been quite a while since I went through a period of back problems, so I can't really complain. Hopefully I'll be over it and back to normal shortly.
Enjoy this last part of summer...Terry