I sat at home in front of my computer, enjoyed what I thought would be an off day to get back on track, unpack up and do laundry after my recent trip to Dubai and the Philippines.
At 2 o’clock the phone rang I was still in PJ, oops), the number you never want to see on a standby day ‘operations’ and I was called from my standby, after they call us we have an hour to get to the airport and report for duty, this is normal and a lot of airlines have this procedure.
At 14:45, I met the Captain, he also had been called from standby, no cabin crew, only us. We would fly an empty airplane from Palermo to Comiso in Sicily.
We would fly the airplane empty, without passengers to Comiso and leave it with another crew who had their aircrafts AOG (Aircraft on Ground/Grounded) on our way there the Captain and I guessed what reason the AOG might be for, and guess who won 🙌
Although, the Captain didn´t really enjoy this ´guessing kind of game´ as much as I did, so I had to put his bet for him. I guessed a ´Lightning Strike´ and I gave him ´Hard Landing´ Lightning strike it was as a storm had just passed over Sicily. This is nothing to be scared of, as you can see in the picture below, this is nothing, just a tiny black dot, but the airplane must still be inspected by an engineer and the company had sent one of our three LearJets to Cosimo with an engineer onboard.
It can be frustrating to be called on standby, although this particular day I had an exciting feeling reporting for duty, all the way to the airport my brain kept telling me that I rather wanted to be at home, but my mind was filled with excitement and I was looking forward to flying the Boeing 737 empty. I know it was only a 40 minutes something flight to Comiso and it would probably take us hours to get back to Palermo (since we wouldn’t have an airplane to fly back in).
Less then 48 tons (usually we department with around 70 tons) we climbed like a rocket! Our rotation speed, which usually is around 140-150 knots, was now less than 120. The airplane behaves slightly differently at such light weight and every little cloud tossed us around like a leaf (well, still a nearly 50-ton heavy leaf).
I have never flown an empty 737 before and it was special for once to fly without the heavy metal door that always keeps us locked away from our passengers open, super nice Captain that I´ve never flown with before and a new destination pin for my log book.
We landed and vacated in less than 1000 meters, which for a 737, or any commercial jet is not long, normally a 2000 meter runway is considered short, but lower landing speeds, less inertia and less stress on the brakes made it possible.
The Captain and I had a coffee at Cosimo Airport before we took the 400 Euros something taxi back to Palermo, longest and most expensive taxi I’ve ever had to take, so glad we didn´t have to pay for it, 😜 In the end, an exciting day that I enjoyed very much!
side note #avgeek….check out the ICAO code for Comiso, liCB, CB, shortening for Cumulonimbus which is the cloud that gives us thunderstorms and lightning, grounded, lightning strike….okay that’s it, bad aviation humor.
Answering some of your questions below:
@jadehollowaycox asked: I know for safety reason you have to fly with the cockpit door closed when passengers are onboard but does the door have to be locked or just closed, also are there any exceptions when the door can be flown with it open apart from ferry flight?
My answer: The door is both closed and locked, I can´t think of any exceptions to keep the door open on top of my head, maybe if the flight was privately leased?
@tim.lunkewitz asked: So you flew from PMO (Palermo) to CIY (Comiso) how many minutes did that take?
My answer: Out block time was 31 minutes, we could have done it faster but due to no radar coverage in Comiso, we had to fly the full arrival which added at least an extra five minutes.
@sejoke asked: So landing speed was in comparison how low? How much of the strip did you use?
My answer: Our normal landing speed is around 140 knots and today it was 120 knots and lower speed, less weight (less inertia) and less stress on the brakes we were able to land and vacate within 1000 meters, about half of what we normally use.
@massi.auri asked: Did you reach 50.000 feet?
My answer: haha no not really….half way, Flight Level 270. (our service ceiling is at FL410)
@laurens.h88 asked: While flying empty, do you make funny announcements in the cabin, just for fun?
My answer: haha no actually we didn’t, but it is funny how well checklists get habit and you automatically take the PA microphone after certain points in the checklist to say something like ´cabin crew take your seat for departure´
@naeloche asked: Are you at the airport while called for standby or at home?
My answer: Luckily the company I fly for don´t have ´airport standbys ´for flight crew so I can always spend my standby days at home, do general things I rarely have time for like clean my apartment and laundry.