Saturday, June 27, 2009

My First Time at JFK

Do you believe it? Twenty-five years with Northwest now, and this is the first time that I've flown in/out of JFK. My previous European flights originated at BOS, DTW or BDL. It's time to get the 10-7 page and Jepp taxi chart out, blow off the dust and learn the particulars about this airfield. Interestingly, we'd deadheaded in on a DC-9 to start this trip, so my first exposure to the field is the taxi out. Normally, one's first view of a new field is on the taxi in. "OK where are we and how do we get to a particular runway?"

We've pushed back from gate 21 at terminal four, speak with ramp control and follow the yellow line out to fall in behind Caribbean Airlines just ahead. Don't pay any attention to those orange barrels out there, according to ramp control, "just taxi around them," as I called for the "taxi checklist."

Do you see the white lane markers? That's the truck lane that ground or ramp vehicles use to maneuver around the airport. Ground vehicles are supposed to give way to all aircraft... and they usually comply.

I'd noticed when reviewing our dispatch release that we'd been issued fifty minutes of taxi fuel. At 4 pm on a Friday afternoon it wasn't enough as we changed runways once and navigated around the airport for an hour. Welcome to JFK!

While holding short of alpha taxiway, we'll give way to this Swiss Airbus and Kuwait Airways B-777, both of which dwarf my "little" 757.

This is a street side shot that I took while hustling over to jetBlue to catch a jumpseat to BOS when I finished this trip.

Sequestered, nearly hidden now among JFK's massive new terminals, is this little gem of a building. Space age by design, you'd expect to see the Jetson's; George, Jane, Elroy and Judy emerge. Sorry Astro would be in a dog carrier destined for the rear cargo hold of a B-707. Or was it the front.. I can't remember which was heated.

It was simply known as the TWA Terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen in 1956 when this historic airfield was known as Idlewild and populated with magnificent, reciprocating giants with grand silver propellers. Mr. Saarinen also designed the St. Louis Gateway Arch and the main terminal at Dulles Airport among other notable accomplishments. Opened to the public in 1962 with its floating central staircase, tube-like gate connection corridors, wing like concrete roof and modern arrival/departure sign, it truly signified the beginning to the jet-age, as shiny new Boeing 707's and Douglas DC-8's crowded out their propeller driven ancestors. I view it as a "Howard Roark-like" design that celebrated the ingenuity and imagination of man and rebuffed mediocrity.

With close examination, you'll see that the historic TWA logo, designed by noted industrial designer Raymond Loewy, still stands vigil over the main terminal entrance. Mr. Loewy you may remember, was the imagination behind the Northeast Airlines Yellowbird campaign kicked off in the late '60's. Last used in 2001 this little icon of a building, like LGA's Marine Air Terminal just a few miles away, reminds us of our rich aviation heritage. In the background, looms JFK's 321 foot, white concrete control tower built in 1994.

Here it is from rampside as we taxied out to depart for Amsterdam.

A little further into our taxi and we encountered this Emirates A-380. This is only the second 380 that I've seen, the first was at LAX a few months ago. Its tail alone dwarfs everything around it!

OK, let's take a look at our dispatch release and our Atlantic crossing chart. We're flying ship number 5654, a two-hundred series 757, manufactured in October 2001 with Pratt & Whitney 2037 engines, winglets (added in '08) and a seating capacity of 184. The cockpit crew consists of one captain, a first officer and a cruise captain. We'll all be in the cockpit for the takeoff and landing and then rotate out for one third of the flight time. Our proposed takeoff weight is 230,000 pounds with 61,700 pounds of fuel distributed throughout our three tanks. Our actual fuel burn has been determined to be 49,000 pounds to fly this 3,234 nautical mile leg in six hours 13 minutes. This leaves us 11,700 pounds for reserve, contingency and alternate purposes. This segment is normally planned as an eight hour flight, but with more than 120 knots on the tail tonight, it's remarkably shorter.

The 757 has a center tank and two wing tanks equipped with a total of six electrically operated fuel pumps and two engine driven pumps. We burn from the center tank first and then automatically switch to the wing tanks. Should the wing tanks become unbalanced, it's simply a matter of opening crossfeed valves and extinguishing the electrically driven pumps in the "light" tank. We're unable to shift fuel between tanks in flight, but can feed either engine from any tank with several crossfeed valve and fuel pump configurations. The overhead fuel panel is laid out in a schematic fashion and very easy to configure.

The two electric center tank fuel pumps are also called "override" pumps. For takeoff, if there is center tank fuel on board, all six pumps are selected on, so you may wonder, why then is fuel pumped from the center tank and not the wing tanks. The old "How do it know conundrum?" The answer is that the center pumps have a higher PSI output than the wing pumps, thus over riding them and using center tank fuel. When center tank fuel is exhausted, the wing pumps, already turned on, simply supply fuel with no interference from the override pumps. We do reach up and shut the centers off though when their job is complete.

We've pre configured our oceanic crossing chart as anticipated in our dispatch release, contact Gander Radio via ACARS an hour and a half before our anticipated entry into the North Atlantic Track system and wait to receive our final clearance. ACARS has made this easy; years ago, flying the DC-10 this was accomplished by voice with everyone calling at the same time for a clearance. Confusion reigned as we stepped all over one another. Other than altitude, routing rarely differs from what our dispatcher has prepared. Designated as NAT Track "Victor" Our entry point today is near 45W, our exit point is near 20W and our "equal time point" (ETP) is near 35W. Should something go awry before or after our ETP, our alternates are CYYR, Goose Bay, Labrador and EGPH, Edinburgh, Scotland.

The captain loads the route into the computer and the FO checks to insure that the lat/longs agree with a Jepp chart. He'll then check the heading and distances between each waypoint to insure these numbers agree with those on the actual flight plan. It's tedious, but this is where you're likely to catch mistakes. and save future embarrassment.

After nearly an hour of taxi time we're finally airborne off runway 13R and are cleared to make a climbing left turn easterly along Long Island, approaching the East Rockaway Inlet. We'll fly the length of Long Island, then over Block Island, Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod and then off shore until we reach Halifax Nova Scotia. At 118 miles, Long Island is the longest and largest island in the contiguous US.

Meet Corinne, whom you've met previously on a trip that we flew together to Hawaii a few months ago. But that was on my old blog which has become dysfunctional. This must have been my leg as she's holding the flight plan, preparing to make an HF position report. Our second FO is John, back in seat 4B on break. John, whom you'll meet later, and I will be together for 10 days as we fly three JFK-AMS round trips.

This is an unusual trip in that it leaves early in the day from JFK, resulting in a very short "night" segment. After flying a southerly Atlantic track and passing over Ireland, we encounter sunrise near Manchester, England. Top of Descent is within 30 minutes now as we review the LAMSO Arrival procedure into AMS.

Night flight across the Atlantic is, well, how do I say this? A little boring... which is good I suppose, but landfall with emerging sunlight, sandwiched between a blackened earth below and sky above is a thing of beauty. Incandescent light re-appears, movement below is detected, human contact is re-established and the end to our journey looms near. It's time to get out of my seat, stretch a bit, clean up the cockpit and prepare to land.

The sun is on the horizon at 52 degrees North and the air stirs just enough to form a layer of early morning ground fog as we approach short final for runway 24 at Schipol. Just a few moments ago, a couple of hundred feet higher on the glideslope, ground contact was obscured until we dropped down into the fog. Home to our code share partner KLM, this is Europe's third largest airfield, opened in 1916.

Off to Hawaii today and yet another new experience. When we return to LAX on 30 June at 0555, we'll be the first NWA flight to arrive at the DAL gates on the other side of the field. NWA has been on the runway 24 complex while DAL is located on the 25 complex. The company has prepared us well for this event with charts, diagrams and bulletins to ease the way. But where do we catch the hotel van??

Thanks for reading,

And as a sidenote: Have you wondered what became of our old pal Doug Steenland?


  1. Love to read about oceanic operations (especially now that I've been assigned to one of the two oceanic areas at New York Center). And who knew you'd teach me something about my own Island - I had no idea it was officially the longest Island in the contiguous US!

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  3. I am shocked to read that was your first experience at JFK!?

  4. I was on a WestJet flight where we took a long taxi ride to our runway and the Captain comes on the PA and says "folks, we have decided to drive to Edmonton"

    What did you say to the PAX Rand?

    Great Post Rand!

  5. Glad to have you still at it this summer Rand! Writing the blog must be as addictive as reading it. Thanks!

    Tim G in MN

  6. Love the photo approaching my home city of Manchester UK at the break of dawn!
    Thanks for all your great postings and pictures-so much appreciated

  7. Great post Rand. Having spent quite a lot of time at JFK, I have seen the taxi times and departure lines - but - an hour, with a runway change, you got the short straw for sure! I also love the Manchester shot - early morning - what a lovely shot. I'm interested in one thing - what is the gross landing weight for a B752 after the cross Atlantic trip like that? How close to the operating range of a B752 or is it closer to the operating range on the west bound trip?

  8. Great to have you back Rand

  9. Great post! I always love to see the dispatch release (obviously). :)

  10. My goodness I can't believe this is your first time at JFK! On a different note have you started flying the DL painted 752s yet?

  11. Hey Rand! Did you see this about an unusual delay at JFK the other day?

    Have you ever had a runway incursion of this type?

    Tim G in MN