A Delay in YXE

Recently, I was on day 4 of a 5 day pairing. I was supposed to operate a flight from Saskatoon that had picked up some of its passengers in Regina and would continue to Puerto Vallarta, and then back to Saskatoon. On day 5, I would just deadhead home. Easy right? Nope! Because we got to the aircraft, we did our checks, all our passengers got on board. In the cabin, we were ready to go and it was only a few minutes until our scheduled departure time when the captain called me into the flight deck.

From experience I know this isn’t a good sign. My stomach is already sinking.
The master caution light has burnt out. And Saskatoon is not a maintenance base. If a compatible part could be located at YXE airport, we could have this solved probably within 30 minutes and be on our way. If not, we had to have a spare part flown in on whatever airline had the soonest flight arriving from Calgary. They were still trying to work out the details.

I made an announcement to the passengers, something along the lines of, “Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has just informed me that an indicator light in the flight deck had burnt out. It so happens that this is a major indicator light which tells them is something is seriously wrong with the plane. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, it is required that be working before we take off.” (Not my exact words, but something like that. A little humour usually helps in these situations.) “Right now, we’re trying to see if this part is available here in Saskatoon. So unfortunately I don’t have a time estimate right now. I’ll let you know when I have more details.”

I called the back galley and I asked them to prepare a juice service by tray (We’re not allowed to do trolley service on the ground, as it would take too long to pack up if we were suddenly able to depart)

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Figuring out Crew Scheduling

My schedule changes often. That’s what you sign up for when you join this industry. In fact as I’m writing this post I’m on day 2 of 4 of reserve duty. I could be called to go anywhere at any moment.

I recently had a pairing in the prairies that went a little sideways. It was day 4 of a 5 day pairing when we experienced a delay out of Saskatoon. I have an upcoming post where I talk in greater detail about what happened.

But the short version is that we had loaded all our passengers, then had an issue in the flight deck that caused a nearly 5 hour delay. We needed to wait for a part to get flown in on the next flight from Calgary. We had offloaded the passengers in the terminal and were waiting to hear back from crew scheduling what to do.

My crew and I had recalculated our duty. Our maximum planned duty can only be 14 hours working, or 17 hours if there is a deadhead involved. However, the crew can choose to extend their working duty to 16 hours as long as they are fit to fly.

We were scheduled to fly YXE-PVR-YXE, and with the delay our duty would have exceeded 14 hours. We already knew the company wouldn’t be keeping our pairing the way it had been planned. And because we had been planned to come back to Saskatoon that night, we knew our hotel rooms were still waiting for us.

I called crew scheduling, I had been prepared to tell them the crew could extend their duty, but we would need to go back to the hotel to rest until the plane was ready. When I called though, they told me their were still figuring things out and would call me back.

An hour later I called again, and again they told me they would call me back when they figured things out.
That’s what they tell you when they’re busy. Crew scheduling is always figuring things out.

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Insecticide set off Smoke Detector

callington-20top-20of-20descent-250x250The regulations for some countries we fly to require we spray the cabin with an insecticide before we can land there. I was operating a flight to Cuba the other day, which is one of these countries.

I’ve done this procedure countless times. I spray around the forward ground level exits, the forward lav, and the galley areas. I then head down the aisle, spraying near the floor level in bursts between passenger rows (to minimize any discomfort to the pax). In the back of the plane again I spray the around the ground level exits, the galley and the lavs.

This usually uses up most of the two full cans of spray, which is the requirement for the 737-800. I’ll usually have a little bit of pressure in the cans, which I’ll just discharge into a garbage.

But the other day I still had quite a bit left when I got to the back of the plane. One of the lavs was occupied, so I sprayed extra into the other lav while I was waiting.

I’m still waiting on the back galley when suddenly I hear a loud chiming noise “Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!…” I look around and see the lavatory notification light is blinking. The smoke detector is going off. Immediately I know what’s happened. I open the lavatory door and see the space is still fogged with the insecticide, and it’s gotten into the smoke detector which sensed the tiny particles. The alarm is still going off, “Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!”. All the passengers are looking back at me trying to figure out what’s happening. I’m fanning the lav with it’s own door and repeatedly trying to flush the toilet, trying to use the suction from it to get rid of all the fog.

After what was probably only a few seconds, I realize I need to call the forward galley, and have that flight attendant inform the flight deck what’s happening. I press the call button on the interphone, but I can’t hear it “ring”. The ringing on the interphone is a “ding dong” chime in the cabin, but with the consistent “Ding! Ding! Ding!” from the smoke detector I couldn’t hear it.

However both the flight attendant and the pilots were already on the line. They’d been calling me and I couldn’t hear it. As soon as I said, “Hi, it’s Jet” the pilot said, “We have a fire indication in the flight deck! What’s going on?!”

I proceeded to explain the spray and the lav, which raised a whole bunch of other questions. “Why are you spraying the cabin? Why the lavs? Shouldn’t that be done before the flight?”

“Are you sure there’s no fire!? Jet, ARE YOU SURE?”

“Yes, I’m looking into the lav right now! There’s no smoke, only fog. And it’s dissipating.”

During all this the spray fog has begun to dissipate the the alarm was stopping. It went through a short period of stopping and restarting, but after a minute it finally shut off when it stopped sensing any particles in the air.

I continued to explain and reexplain the the procedure. We must spray the entire aircraft, including galleys and lavs, after the doors are closed and before we land into Cuba. Apparently the pilots have never been made aware of this.

After it was all over and I hung up the interphone, and looked into the cabin. Everyone was looking back at me.

Silently I picked up my bug sprays and used up the remainder of the cans doing short bursts up the aisle, into the forward galley, where I closed the curtain behind me. The pax went back to watching their movie.

All the while I’m thinking, “how am I going to explain all this in my flight report?”.

I ended up submitting a single line;
“Insecticide set off smoke detector.”



8 Converstations with Pax and Crew

Here are some weird, occasionally funny conversations I’ve had on the plane. A couple of these have taken place several times, but most of them are one-offs.

  1. What Language is that?
    Why is there French on the plane?
    This is a Canadian airline. We have to use both official languages.
    But we’re flying from [any city not in Quebec]! Who the hell speaks French? 
    Half the Crew and several other passengers: I do.

  2. Why do I have to rent a blanket? What airline rents blankets? This is ridiculous.
    I’m not sure where you got that impression. You have to purchase the blanket kit, but it’s yours to keep.
    Yeah well, since when do airline’s charge for blankets?
    Wanted to say: Since SARS.
    Actually said: Most airlines charge for blanket kits, they have for a long time.

  3. *I’m collecting garbage in the cabin when a passenger hands me an empty pop can*
    *I twist the can and press it down into a puck before putting it in the gash cart*
    Wow, you’re really strong.
    Oh that? People are impressed by it, but I think it’s just Soda-Pressing.

  4. (On a flight from Cuba) Can I ask you a hypothetical question?
    If I brought cigars with me, can I take them into the country?
    Yes, of course. Cuban Cigars are completely legal in Canada.
    Well, I have a connecting flight back to the USA.
    Oh. Cuban cigars are illegal in the States.
    So I shouldn’t tell them I have them?
    Are you asking me if I think you should break the law?
    Hypothetically, you should not break the law.

  5. Can I use my cell phone?
    Yeah, as long as it’s in airplane mode.
    But I want to make a call.
    You can’t.
    Why not?
    Mostly because we’re at 35,000 feet. There’s no cell phone service this high up. But also because it’s a safety requirement. You’re not allowed to use devices that are sending or receiving a signal.
    But why not? I want to make a call.
    I’m… I’m not sure how to better explain this.

  6. *Over the PA* “…please remain seated until the aircraft comes to a full and complete stop at the gate, and most importantly the seat-belt sign must be switched off.”
    *Plane stops short of the gate. Seat-belt sign is still on* Everyone stands up.
    “What did I just say?”

  7. *Pilot steps out of the flight deck, looks into the cabin, and turns off the lights*
    What are you doing?
    The lights don’t need to be on.
    We need the lights to do our service.
    But the lights should be off.
    They actually shouldn’t be. Not according to the service guide.
    Well they’re better off.
    Okay, well if you’d like to make that call you can apply to be a cabin manager and then play with the lights all you like. Until then I’ll decide what’s best for the cabin crew.

  8. Can I have a vodka, please?