Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Off to Paris... via ATL and CVG of course!

Apparently I spoke too soon when I mentioned that my last trip included my first visit to the de-ice pad. We leave DTW today on a five day Paris (CDG) trip... with stops in Atlanta and Cincinnati of course, but re-aquaint ourselves with the de-ice pad once again. Our de-ice coordinator, you can see him just outside my window, will connect his headset in just a moment as this former North Central Airlines (NCA) DC-9-50 leaves the pad. 

And here's the dash 50 again as they rotate off runway 22L in light snow. In just a moment the non flying pilot, referred to as the PM (pilot monitoring) will call positive rate as soon as he or she sees the altimeter climb AND the vertical speed indicate a positive rate of climb. All of the -30's have been retired leaving only five -40's and 34 -50's flying with Delta as of 1/1/11. 

Here's how 'ol 761 looked just a few years ago.

This particular DC-9 was delivered new to NCA on 4 March 1976 as N761NC, MSN 47709. She has 16 first class and 109 coach seats and is powered by two JT8D-17 Pratt and Whitney engines. Do you know what JT8D means in Pratt and Whitney speak? Answer, according to my very first 727 ground school many, many years ago when such topics were raised is; Jet, Turbofan, Model 8, Smokeless. Yes smokeless!

When the DC-9's finally retire we'll still have JT8D's on the property in the form of the -219 powering our MD-88's.

OK, we're off to ATL from runway 22L in DTW. The temperature has risen to 8 SAT with drizzle and fog so the engine anti-ice has been selected on since taxi and remains on for the takeoff. Our procedure is to operate engine anti ice any time it's below +10 SAT in moisture. That includes on the ground with a visibility less than 1 mile or with snow or ice on the ramps.

After ATL, Dean and I deadheaded to Cincinnati, laid over downtown and met Erik, our relief pilot the next day for our flight to CDG. The last time I was in CVG was in a DC-9 many years ago and taxiing out after not having taxied in was an exercise. Usually the taxi in gives you a pretty good idea of the airport layout, but we didn't have that luxury today. Erik is in the right seat and Dean is in the jumpseat acting as relief pilot on this leg. 

You might think that Erik is studying!! Well in a manner of speaking yes, but today is the first day of our change over to Shipsets, which means that our personal Jeppesen's, that we've hauled around for years is coming to an end.  Keep in mind that we're flying both the 757 and 767 which literally fly everywhere in our system, domestic and international. Revision day which I think is twice a month, is looked upon as a bad toothache day. It's horrendous! In fact, you can't carry all of these manuals in your bag so after determining where your rotation visits you select the manuals and leave the others behind in a box marked with your name. 

But for this rotation, even though the new shipsets are here we have to carry our bags one last time. With three men, three suitcases, three flightbags AND the shipsets, the cockpit is VERY crowded. 

We're in a Boeing 767-300ER today and as agents board the flight, Erik, Dean and I complete walk around, preflight, pushback and performance checklists. We've also discussed how we'll handle emergency procedures, the SID or the ROCKT5 departure procedure which is an RNAV operation requiring both LNAV and VNAV. And most importantly our taxi route to runway 18R. 

"Let's see I'm facing north, 18R is to my left going the opposite direction...."

This sign appears on the terminal building before us advising that flight 44 to CDG is due off the gate in 14 minutes to meet an on time departure at 1545... and we did! I understand that there have been complaints recently with regard to DAL's on time performance... I don't know who's flying those flights, they couldn't be friends of mine. Seriously though, Delta used to delay the pushback until the final numbers were delivered via ACARS to the cockpit, thus jeopardizing an on time departure. They've since adopted the Northwest procedure of pushing on time, regardless of the disposition of these numbers. Now we'll set these critical numbers (V1, V2, Vr, stab-trim and flaps) after the push, during de-icing or waiting in line to depart which should significantly improve our ratings. In order though to insure that flaps are extended, we'll set them to a default setting during the initial taxi stage when the captain calls for a "taxi clearance."  We did this for years at NWA and it consistently landed us in the top tier of on time airlines. 

Today's flight will cover 3,767 nautical miles in 7 hours 38 minutes; we have tremendous tailwinds and will arrive in Paris some 45 minutes early. Our dispatcher knows this and has flight planned us on a more southerly route to take advantage of the jet stream and a slower than normal airspeed (not oceanic though, that will remain at 80 mach) thus saving fuel and still arriving early. Our block fuel equals 90,800 pounds including two alternates of Orly (LFPO) where Lindbergh landed the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927 and Brussels. (EBBR)  These identifiers are the FMS identifiers, the ICAO airport identifiers are ORY and BRU respectively. 

CORRECTION: Dan thanks, I can't believe I made that error. Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget in 1927 not Orly.

Why a second alternate you may be wondering? A second destination alternate is required whenever a primary alternate is considered "marginal." It's all about planning!

But before we leave... yup, another visit to the de-ice pad as we pass by this A-320.

This is my first time flying from CVG to CDG and according to our procedures, we're to send for our oceanic clearance 90 minutes prior to our Oceanic Entry Point of DOVEY. This is located at 42N67W east of Boston. In my mind I'd planned, as usual to contact Gander via ACARS for this information. But I was mistaken, we're still in New York airspace and they don't have ACARS capability so we'll do it the old fashioned way via voice. After acclimating to ACARS clearances this is a somewhat cumbersome and time consuming exercise. To make matters worse, we are not CPDLC equipped either and will make all of our position reports via HF frequencies. 

Oh Boy!

Our flight plan has us on NATX or Nat Track X-Ray according to the latest (TMI) track message. The track message changes a couple of times a day and defines the latitudes and longitudes that define the airways across the North Atlantic. The TMI is part of our flight plan paperwork that we use to load the computer and construct the map above.  One pilot loads the computer and the other checks it insure that we'll fly our defined course. Once airborne specific procedures are followed approaching, crossing and departing each fix to insure that we're on course and that our fuel is as it should be. 

After DOVEY we'll fly via 42N060W, 44N50W, 46N40W, 48N30W, 50N20W and exit at SOMAX, 280 miles southwest of Shannon, Ireland. In fact, our first landfall will skip the UK entirely and find us over southern France near Normandy and the Contentin Penissula. I've never arrived this far south before and only wished for clear skies to have been able to have seen Gold, Sword, Juno, Omaha and Utah Beaches where on 6 June 1944, under the command of General Eisenhower, the Allies waded ashore through Hitler's Atlantic Wall. The weather did not cooperate.

Further inspection of our North Atlantic Orientation Chart indicates that our 180 minute ETOPS alternates tonight are CYYT, St John's in Newfoundland and EGPK in Prestwick, Scotland. This is where we'll go if we suffer an engine failure or some other catastrophic failure. Again... planning, planning.

Position Page 2 indicates that we've arrived at SOMAX, our Oceanic Exit point and are in VHF contact with Shanwick. It's time for breakfast before starting down and flying the CVG arrival procedures. These can be a bit complex and require a thorough pilot briefing to ensure compliance. Today we'll descend on the CDG DVL 4W (plate 20-2N) for the MERUE Transition for runway 27R. This is a LONG taxi to the gate! 

There are many little "gotcha's" on these arrivals with regard to speed and altitudes. You build this arrival by selecting the DVL 4W first, then the runway and finally the MERUE transition to construct the proper picture on the map. As much as I'm looking forward to not have to carry my own Jepps, I'm concerned about loosing my personal notes that I've scribbled on them over the years to help clarify and remind me of how to do it right. I'll just have to save my notes elsewhere. I can see it now... "where did I put that little book??"  

Also, like many professional pilots, I look over departure procedures that are unique to many of these European airports before I leave my hotel room for the return flight in order not to be surprised by some little detail. Ah yes... there's that planning again!

As usual, thanks for following along on another North Atlantic crossing. In a few days I'll follow up with how we spent our Paris layover time and introduce you to a couple of interesting crew members. 

Until then, au revoir.



  1. The learning never ends! Thanks for the post Rand!

  2. Wow - a very interesting read and extensive detail!! Love it - thanks Rand!!!

  3. And it's that planning that makes us very grateful you're our pilot, Rand. However I hope that "...that will remain at 80 mach..." is a typo, otherwise you'll have outpaced Concorde by quite a factor!

  4. wow, DL still flies internationally from CVG? I was there last January, and the place seemed like a ghost town in the DL terminals. I thought they were in the advanced stages of removing the life support from Covington, KY.

  5. Rand,

    That dash 50 you profiled in your piece I may have done production test work while working for MCD in Long Beach back in 1976. In fact there's a pretty good chance I may have been part the crew that first flighted her. That was always a special event being aboard an aircraft that "slips the surly bonds of earth" for the very first time.


  6. Welcome to Paris Rand!!
    But as you may know, in 1927 Orly was a field surrounded by other fields. Lindbergh landed in Le Bourget (ICAO LFPB/IATA LBG), welcomed by the Parisian crowd.

  7. It's so interesting to read your stories. I especially enjoy all the little details, thanks so much!

  8. Thanks everyone for your comments I always look forward to them, but particularly to Dan for setting me straight as to where Slim landed. I can't believe I made that error but have corrected it in the post.

    Thanks again,


  9. Anytime :o)
    Always looking forward to your new stories!

  10. Might be nice if the EFB's allowed for insertion of a smart memory card. Your notes could be stored on these and then be merged with the applicable chart.

    The kindle book reader has a nice feature I discovered which allows for something similar, although it's not personalized per reader.

    Perhaps publishing your notes and sharing with others would be a useful thing?

    Surprised that all the HF work seems tedious. I imagine it might offer some fun in the midst of the time between waypoints. As a kid I'd listen to the oceanic flights and this fascination has not escaped my late adult life. Will be disappointing when it all goes away with full CPDLC.

  11. K1MGY

    Tedious may have been the wrong choice. On nights when atmospheric conditions make communications difficult and everyone and his brother is trying to get a word in edge wise, it's not a lot of fun and CPDLC looks better and better. It's very crowded out over the North Atlantic and Pacific too for that matter and the party line approach (for those who remember party lines) can be very trying. For both sides of the conversation! On many nights I've just given up, dropped a dime and called Shanwick or Gander on SATCOM. This costs money and the airline would prefer that we avoid doing that, but it is an option when customary procedures are lacking.