March 16, 2007

Stuck At the Airport Again, Thanks to US Airways

You know, I think I'd learn from the Christmas Eve "experience" that the merger of US Airways and America West has created the world's most inefficient airline. Yet, when Expedia suggested we take the airline to Phoenix for Spring Training, we didn't balk. Now, we're again stuck at the San Jose Airport for another ridiculous delay, and are again questioning our sanity when it comes to this ridiculous airline.

A mid-day flight in perfect weather conditions isn't exactly the prime target for something to go awry. My wife and I breezed through security, and were all set for an alleged 12:25 flight from San Jose to Phoenix. Yet, minutes away from the time we would anticipate boarding, all the numbers came off the board, and the flight's new departure time is 1:20. Guess why?

Allegedly, workers fueling the plane in Phoenix had opted to "take a break" during its fueling, and overdid it. Now, the plane, in transit to San Jose, will have to dump the excess fuel between here and there, making us wait. Now, if the workers wanted to go smoke away from the fuel, I totally get that, as a late plane is better than a charred jet carcass, but it doesn't exactly fill me with comfort as to the airline's professionalism and safety.

I don't think we will have to "call ahead" to the A's and ask them to delay tonight's game, planned for 7 p.m. in Phoenix, so we can be there at the start, but we're still annoyed. I've had it with this ridiculous excuse for an airline.

1 comment:

  1. Louis,

    I read your comments and want to add some of my own. First, I am a US Airways (AWA originally) Airbus Captain. And while I simpathize with those who were stuck in the Philly Xmas Phiasco (as my own brother was), that was caused by the inattention to the infrastructure of the PHL airport operations by the former US Airways management team. They're all gone now. The city of Philadelphia also should shoulder some of the blame according to US Airways pilots based in PHL.

    I believe you may have not understood what really happened to your flight and why it was delayed.

    First, let me tell you the planes we have, the Boeing 737-300 & 400s, the 757s and 767s and the Airbus A319/320/321/330s do not have fuel dumping systems. Only 3 and 4 engine jets have fuel dumping systems. This has to do with FAA certification and losing one engine right after take-off. If a twin loses an engine, it is landing right away. If a 3 or 4 engine plane loses an engine, it may not have to land right away, unless it loses another engine (highly unlikly as it is). The remaining 1 or 2 engines may not be able to keep it in the air if it has a 5 to 10 hour fuel load. So those planes ARE equiped with fuel dump systems. Planes like the 727, 747, DC10/MD11 etc. I flew a 727 for DHL and experienced this scenario in the simulator. I also had to dump fuel once on a SFO-CVG 4+ hour flight due to an unrelated maintenence issue so we could get down to legal landing weight for our unscheduled stop in SLC. It took only a few minutes to dump a significant amount of fuel. So again, I don't think you understood the reason for your delayed flight.

    Next, I went to the public website to see where your plane originated. It was flight 280 out of BOS. Did you see the awful weather they are having there today? Your plane left about 28 minutes late, probalby due to de-icing and ATC delays typical in the NE on crappy days like today. But it did make up 4 minutes upon arrival in PHX.

    I did see a large amount of time on the ground in PHX (about 1:14)and there is where I suspect the fuel problem occurred. We contract with the city's fuel vendor to pump the fuel we purchase. Most large airports only have one or two vendors or contractors. And the people hired by these vendors aren't always on top of things. I have had cases where we have been overfueled. Sometimes you are just able to to uplift the extra and fly. With most of our flights from PHX to California, we tanker extra fuel, as it is cheaper than buying fuel their and paying the higher price and taxes. If this plane was a planned tanker AND it got over fueled, it might have been projected over the maximum certified landing weight of the aircraft. And therefore, fuel would need to be removed in PHX PRIOR to departure. And here's where the delay occurrs.

    PHX uses an underground hydrant system. A truck or cart at the gate hooks up to the hydrant and plane. The truck or cart meters in the fuel and notifies the Captain how much was added to crosscheck with the aircraft guages.

    If fuel needs to be removed from a plane due to over fueling, a tanker truck must be called. The vendor in PHX has only a handful of these tankers available. AWA tried to get the city to let us get our own tanker for just such an instance, but we were denied permission. So we are at the mercy of the vendor. I suspect it may have taken a while for the tanker to get to this plane. Maybe the employee of the vendor had over fueled another aircraft? Who knows.

    In any case, I can assure you, this plane did not leave PHX with too much fuel and it did NOT dump fuel enroute.

    And BTW, it looks like you arrived at 3:44PM, plenty of time to get to your hotel and to the game at 7PM tonight. I hope you enjoy yourself, as Spring Training in AZ is one of my favorite things about living here. It should be a nice night. My home weather station says it is 93 degrees at 4:30PM (about 20 degrees above normal)with only 16% reletive humidity under clear skies. Perfect night baseball weather!