The delivery isn't until the early afternoon, so we take advantage of our regular customer status at the hotel chain and get a late checkout time so we can lounge around in our palatial upgraded rooms, do a workout, and get some lunch. Life is hard, eh?
As we're leaving, a couple of Skywest pilots are having a cigarette outside the hotel before checking in, and we stop to chat. They're glad to be working, of course, but not thrilled with their working conditions. I confess that I'd like to fly for a regional, but don't seem to have what they are looking for. They both know other pilots who do what we do and don't think it's a bad option. "Yeah," I say, "But I'd really like to ..." and the captain finishes the sentence before I do with "flight privileges?"
They're really not all they are cracked up to be. And I already know this. Sure you fly for nothing or for a fraction of the regular fare, but it's space available. You can plan to get on the first flight out after your shift ends, but you might wait a day to get where you are going. Or even get stranded part way. You have to leave a day or more buffer to be sure you get back. Might as well make more money and buy cheap tickets that you know you will get to use. I know Skywest pilots don't make much money. But the FO had an awesome haircut. Maybe her brother or sister is a high-end hairdresser and she gets free cuts.
So we pile our luggage into our vehicle and drive out to the airport. It's accessed by a dirt road that turns off a poorly paved road that turns off the main highway. There's no airport fence or even a clear delineation of where the airport ends and farmland stops. We park in front of the hangar and bring in the part. While they are installing it, we load our luggage into the airplane and secure it. The hangar has no password on the wireless internet -- who's going to poach your bandwidth in the middle of a field? -- so I download and install a new version of my navigation program and update the weather. It's supposed to be a little low for the first 200 miles, with a bit of rain, and then open up for clear weather to destination. Winds are, of course, headwinds. There's a good breeze here, too, which is good because it's straight down the runway and will help us get out of the short strip full of fuel and gear.
The engineer comes in from the run-up shaking his head. "Doesn't it work?" we ask. The gauge works fine. There's something wrong with the squat switch. The gear horn blares continuously. The airplane is convinced that the landing gear is not locked down and is desperately trying to warn us to either extend it or pull up. The engineer goes into his office and returns. He's ordered another part, a new squat switch.
"I knew I shouldn't have loaded the bags!" says my coworker.
We unload the bags and put them back in our vehicle, then drive back to the hotel we just checked out of. Once again we will stay the night in preparation for doing the Fed Ex pick up dance again tomorrow.