5:30 am show in DC for a 6:15am flight to Kansas City and then Milwaukee for a 3.5 hour sit in the airport before our trip back to DC. And then, back to Milwaukee for the night. During the 3 and a half hour sit, I rested under a CNN airport news network TV reporting on overworked and underpaid regional pilots. I sat listening to experts compare the experience level of Sully on the Hudson and “commuter pilots.” (I’ve been a commuter pilot for 10 years and have stayed here while watching friends go off to the major airlines with the “experienced pilots” only to get furloughed as those major airlines give more flying to us… the regionals. When hired in 1999, my “Region” was PA. Now it’s the U.S.)
So, after my time wandering around the airport we boarded up for our flight to DC. A line of significant storms was moving its way towards the east coast so we loaded up with fuel and planned on flying south to sneak in from the west. Washington shut down the arrival corridor as we passed over the coal mines of West Virginia and air traffic controllers turned us around to hold. The line of storms was getting ever closer to our destination as we left the hold to fly over central Virginia and sneak in from the south. (The line of storms depicted above was actually over DCA when we made the turn north and began our descent to the airport.)
As we made the turn north towards DCA and had a view of the storms over the field we did a 180 turn back to Richmond to wait out the weather. Before we made the decision to divert, the approach controller told us we would be the last arrival and she “thought” we could make it in. The airport shut down soon afterwards and all the planes on the arrival behind us followed our lead to Richmond. This meant we were first in line for fuel and the first out when Washington reopened an hour later.
Now the storms were between us and DCA so our planned 20 minute flight took an hour as we flew west to Roanoke before turning back north and east up and around the line.
Since we can only be on duty for 14 hours and it was now 8 pm, we would never make it to Milwaukee in time to land legally. Our 76 passengers who had been delayed hours and were waiting for us to go to Wisconsin watched us turn the airplane off and head for the employee lot as the announcements were made the flight was cancelled. I tried to keep my eyes down and hide my enthusiasm that soon I would be in bed getting much needed rest.