John, Corinne and I had a wonderful day in Amsterdam. It was one of the first warm, sunny days after an extended period of rain, drizzle and fog and everyone was out walking and enjoying the pubs. We enjoyed a huge rack of ribs and Heineken at O'Reilly's Irish pub, dining at long tables shared with other patrons. And of course we ran into other airline crews from around the world including an NWA MSP A330 crew.
We've just pushed back here and have been cleared by ramp control to contact ground control. Do you see the three KLM tails? Have you noticed that one is different? Do you know why? Two tails display a crown and the third says KLM Asia without a crown. Here's the story from my sources. Japan, which has royalty, won't let another "crown" be displayed within their country; so if KLM wants to fly in Japan, they have to replace the crown with something else. If you have another version, let us know in the comments section.
Taxiway Bravo is just ahead as we fall in behind this NWA/DAL A-330 destined for Seattle. The ramps and taxiways at AMS are directionally specific, so attention to detail when examining the Jepp taxi diagram is in order.
This KLM 737 just pulled into this gate ahead of us and disgorges its passengers.
We've been cleared into position and hold on 36C while this British Airways Airbus is cleared to takeoff in front of us. Procedures vary worldwide and after repeated exposure you grow accustomed to them. This is one procedure though that I'm really not crazy about as the lead aircraft advances to takeoff power only yards ahead of us. It's another beautiful day here in AMS, but I'm anxious to return to JFK, estimated time of arrival is 1030 Eastern, where I plan to walk over to jetBlue, request a jumpseat to Boston and head home.
We've just departed AMS and climb out over the North Sea headed for Norwich in the UK. Suddenly we spy this wind farm consisting of neat rows of windmills. Comparatively, this is a small operation as I've seen many that are much larger.
After Norwich we'll fly over Wales, the Irish Sea, pass south of Dublin, head over Shannon and go feet wet over Dingle Bay in County Kerry. If I remember, Dingle Bay is very near where Charles Lindbergh made landfall in 1927 over the Valentia Peninsula.
"When Irish eyes are smiling, sure tis like a morn in spring. In the lilt of Irish laughter you can hear the angels sing. When Irish hearts are happy, all the world seems bright and gay. And when Irish eyes are smiling, Sure they'll steal your heart away." (pub. 1912, the same year that the Titanic sank and Fenway Park in Boston opened.)
At 51N 012W we'll pass GIPER, fly direct to DINIM, enter the North Atlantic Oceanic Track System and make our first HF position report to Shanwick. The chart above was prepared by John and Corinne back in KLM flight operations using our Flight Release, Flight Plan and Oceanic Track Message. Our Flight Plan is our primary tool as we cross the Atlantic, but this gives us a visual reference as we head westward towards landfall in Labrador; some four and a half hours away.
We're on the Charlie Track as this B-767 flies past us. We give our position reports on HF frequencies, thus freeing up our VHF radios. Procedurally, we tune one VHF to the guard frequency and the other on a "chat" frequency so we can share weather and ride information among ourselves. Or in this case, just shoot the breeze with this crew as they're bound for JFK too.
I've just returned from my break as Corinne heads back to Business Class. Meet John, as we arrive over land and approach the coast of Newfoundland. Back in VHF communications now, we'll fly directly over Goose Bay, Labrador at the western end of Lake Melville at about 53 degrees north latitude. It's desolate up here with a stark beauty that's difficult to describe.
Strategically located, Goose Bay played a significant role during WWII and later as well during the Cold War. A separate entity, Newfoundland became Canada's 10th province in March 1949. NASA has designated its 11,000 foot runway as a space shuttle alternate landing site.
Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon (1969, in fact forty years ago today, 20 July) described his impression of the moon as "magnificent desolation." I never really understood what he meant by that; the terms seemed incongruous to me. But now, after a few years of flying over Greenland and Labrador, I'm beginning to understand the Colonel's thoughts.
Perhaps this photo that I took at 61 degrees north latitude over Greenland, will better define how I interpret Colonel Aldrin's comment.
We're well into our descent into JFK as we're south of Boston and pass over my cousin Jan's home on Narragansett Bay. You should see their place; she and her husband Alan painstakingly resurrected an old "painted lady" into a show piece with an ocean view. That sandy spot before us is Quonset Point, home to the old Quonset Naval Air Station, while Providence's T.F. Green Airport is just off our right. I've spent many enjoyable hours as a DC-9 captain and FO dining at the Blue Grotto and Casserino's Restaurant on Federal Hill. Founded in 1636 by Roger Williams, this is New England's third largest city.
Possibly you're familiar with Newport, RI or Block Island just off shore, north of Montauk Point on Long Island. Not so far from Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Buzzards Bay, Cuttyhunk and the Elizabeth Island chain, all created by the retreat of the last great ice age, (10,000 years ago) this is one of the most beautiful spots in America. The exploration opportunities via sailboat, heeling, or running downwind in a stiff downeast breeze are endless and breathtaking.
In fact, while I'm writing, the Tall Ships are in Boston. As much as I love airplanes, the sight of a large vessel under sail, her sheets taut at the best possible angle, coordinated by a captain barking orders to a trained crew is a sight to behold. Mach .80 at 39,000 feet is marvelous, but a mere 10 or 12 knots through choppy seas is an exhilarating experience that will put a smile on your face. The geometry of it all captures my imagination as our old wooden hull creaks and groans, twists and torques through water first navigated in the late 1500's. But then I'm a New Englander who loves his home so take my meandering with a grain of salt; that same salt that the Great North Atlantic has coated your lips with and shaped my soul.
"Kennedy Approach, good morning, Northwest 53 with you out of 10 for eight thousand."
Our descent and approach checklists have been completed as we slow to 250 knots approaching 10,000 feet over Long Island. New York City lies straight ahead as we view the Fire Island National Seashore and Great South Bay over Patchogue. We're early this morning, it's only 0945, the winds over the North Atlantic were light and I'll have no difficulty catching a flight home today. Getting back to reality though, ATIS advises that we'll be making a VOR-DME approach to 22L. A VOR approach! What the.... I can't remember the last time I flew a non-precision approach, but what the heck... it's John's leg anyway! After a quick review of non -precision approaches, we're all in the loop and proceeding towards 22L.
In fact here it is, I knew that we could do it!
As we approach terminal four, here's a DAL 767 with winglets. I didn't know that such a configuration existed.
And finally, parked at gate 21, I pack up my flightbag and head for customs.
Thanks again to my new friends at jetBlue who quickly processed my jumpseat request and put me on an even earlier flight to BOS than I'd planned.
The gear handle has been placed to the up position, hydraulic pressure (3000 psi) from the "green" system, powered from the left engine, directs the sequence valves to operate and the landing gear will be stowed away, safely, for an hour or so until we approach BOS. The handle will be moved down then, the sequence valves will choreograph the fine timing between the doors and wheels and I'll arrive home yet again, thanks to my friends at jetBlue.
Yes... I love the internet! I just found, strictly by chance, a 1953 BMW R25/2 motorcycle for sale in Mexico. It's owned and offered by FLYBOY80, a Falcon 50 pilot who also writes a blog. If you're interested in motorcycles, particularly classics, you may want to click here. Cuanto questa por favor?
And as a final note: The era is ending!