Saturday, March 17, 2012

I finally flew a trip!

I'll have a new post up tomorrow, concerning my 747 OE

I apologize for my lengthy absence, but I seem to fly so infrequently as a B-747 captain that I have little to write about. But, crew scheduling must have been desperate a few weeks ago and called me to fly a DTW to Nagoya trip. Really, I have a few photos to prove it! Now, they didn't want to over tax me so they had me fly the west bound leg (well, at least half of it) and deadhead back in a business class seat in the upper deck. 

Now let me give credit where credit is due and explain the reserve system. We have both short call and long call reserve, both designed to complete the mission. Short call reserve actually has standby pilots out at the airport, ready to leave on a moments notice if a pilot issue arises that jeopardizes an on time international departure. Long call on the other hand gives the pilot a 12 hour notice to be in position to depart his or her domicile or any airport for that matter that they could deadhead you to. Both give the crew scheduler a variety of options or tools to make things work.

The reason for this is to avoid a cancellation or delay of an international flight that will inconvenience our clientele. If a flight with 400 passengers cancels today and tomorrows 400 passenger flight is already full... what do you do? Avoid it in the first place, which is the reason for the reserve pilot. He or she is an insurance policy that crew sched hopes they never have to use. But they do on occasion and it may save the day.

There is a similar option in place for domestic flights, but with many departures a day to these destinations and smaller aircraft assigned to those flights, it's a bit easier to get everyone where they need to be. Maintenance and weather problems occurring half way around the globe are other issues that factor in, but it's all about logistics. The bottom line though, is that safety is never compromised. If it can't be done safely... well, then it will just have to wait.

Everyone gets involved in these decisions, the crew, crew scheduling, maintenance, meteorology and crew planning to make every effort to complete the mission and get you on your way. After all, that's why were here.

Here we are in DTW as I went outside to assist my copilot with the walk around duties.

And just to prove that I was there, he took a picture of me by the nosewheel.

I'm part of Crew B here and watch Crew A depart DTW

As you know, we crew these flights with two complete cockpit crews as they're scheduled for nearly 14 hours of flight time. The captain and FO in the seats here made the DTW takeoff and the second FO and I would return from break seven hours later and guide us through the remainder of Russian airspace, descend and land at Nagoya.

Nearly 14 hours later we've arrived at Nagoya, bound from the airplane full of energy and head downtown. 

A system bid closed just a couple of days ago (15 March) and one of the categories suggested that the airline was overstaffed with DTW744A's. That would be me, DTW 747-400 captains and that six positions would be eliminated. I only have three pilots beneath me so I'd need three pilots senior to me to bid off the airplane to another category in order to remain. That's not likely to happen so my fall back position will be NYC765A which translates to JFK 767-400 captain. Although I'd miss the 747, I look forward to this should it occur and return to regularly scheduled line flying. This has been my first reserve experience in 37 years of airline flying and I've had enough, but we'll see what happens with the bid.

All seems to be going well at DAL; we're expanding, particularly out of New York with many new flights from both JFK and LGA. For the second year in a row we've received substantial profit sharing checks, so everyone must be doing their job well. The most positive statement that I can make is that we have leadership, determined to make money by flying people in airplanes. Coming from NWA this is a breath of fresh air.

I'd like to thank my friends over at AIRWAYS Magazine for publishing one of my recent submissions in the May 2012 issue. It concerns an eager, young, nine year old boy, anxious to follow in his fathers footsteps, watch him guide a majestic, Douglas DC-6B from Boston to Miami, through Idlewild in 1958. 

There's much to enjoy in this issue, it's packed with great writing and photography.

And, speaking of Northeast Airlines DC-6B's, here's a photo taken in BOS a few years ago by Jon Proctor. I'm sure that many of you recognize his name as the former editor of AIRLINERS MAGAZINE and author of several civil aviation books. I've recently started emailing with Jon, as he now writes for AIRWAYS Magazine. We apparently share not only a love of airline flying but a familial attachment to it as well. Jon's father, Captain Willis Proctor retired from American Airlines in 1950 and he, his brothers and many other relatives enjoyed airline careers as well.

To learn more about Jon and his connections to civil aviation, I'll let him tell the story. Just click here to see his new website and follow his adventures. I thought that I had a huge collection of airline photography. After you've enjoyed his photography page click over to see Jon's airline collection posted on JetPhotos. Between John Wegg and Jon Proctor, they have without a doubt, the finest collection of airline photography available for our enjoyment. Most photographers take the standard 90 degree side shot of an airplane, but these guys mix it up with interesting angles and vantage points that hold the viewers interest. And here's one last site to enjoy. The TWA DCS ALUMNI ASSOC that Jon maintains as the secretary and webmaster. More interesting stuff for airline enthusiasts to enjoy.

I start another stretch on reserve tomorrow... we'll see if I'm able to get out and fly a little. Once again, thanks for reading and I hope to see you soon.



  1. Welcome back Rand! Nice to see you have been active - if only for a flight - good luck with the move to the B764! Of course, DL in it's wisdom is pulling the LHR-MIA flight - so - I guess that cup of coffee will have to be put for another location!

  2. It's nice to see fresh words on your blog. These droughts are a genuine bummer. I sure hope things pick up for you (flying wise) regardless of what ship you're on!

    Missed you on here Rand, but knew you were sitting, sitting, and hmmm sitting...That would wear on me. Will be nice to try and find you around the airports again.

    Have you done the 764 transition? More like the 744 than the 763/75 mix. I did see the 787 at is just OK (or I am bored with the whole thing by now). Well gotta go fly those folks DAL management is stuffing on the planes. DTW misses you

  4. Captain Peck, its great to read an update from you! It is my understanding that DAL flights numbered 9xxx are repositioning flights and flights numbered 8xxx are charter flights. Can you confirm this? Have you ever had the opportunity to fly any of these in your career? Who determines the crew for charter flights, is there a special bid process? Thanks, Ron in KPHX

  5. Hello Mark,
    Great to hear from you, but am sad to learn that we've discontinue LHR-MIA service. However I just learned that I survived the latest system bid and have kept my seat on the 747. I'm happy from the angle that I like the airplane but was looking forward to flying a bit more. But I'll make it south eventually.

    thanks for writing and letting me know that you read my stuff. It's always important for a writer to know that he's read.

    I survived the bid and am still on the 747 so I'll be sitting, sitting and sitting some more. Look for me at DTW on short call.

    I'm not sure, I've never noticed but will pay attention in the future. I've flown many charters over the years, mostly sports charters in the 727 that were specially configured for these purposes. They were fun to fly and stocked liberally with fantastic food choices. My favorite was a New York Yankee charter from LGA to SEA in a 757 that had been built into the schedule. I didn't even know a charter was on my line until I arrived in NY. We had filet mignon for dinner and hot fudge sundaes for dessert. If the charter is known for a long period of time it will be built into a normal monthly rotation bid, but if it pops up it goes to the open time board for anyone to bid. If no one bids it then it will be assigned to a reserve pilot.

    Thanks everyone and I'll have my OE story up on line early next week.


  6. Well, considering that Sports charters aren't getting the usual food from DAL but delivered in shopping bags from catered resturants at the team's there is a story for you Rand, trashing about in the a319s at oh-dawn early or sitting on the ramp waiting and waiting for the team busses to arive.

    I'll swing by and see where you are napping at next time through DTW


  7. Glad to see you got to fly a trip, Rand. Most pilots I know complain they work too much on reserve! I hope you get back to the B765 so you can get out there more frequently. By the way, the Airways article was great.

  8. Tim,
    Look for me tomorrow, I have short call and will be in DTW @ 1100.

    Great to hear from you and hope all is well. I survived the system bid and remain on 747 reserve. Mixed emotions but the time off has been awfully good. Thanks too about the Airways article.


    1. Rand,
      You'll have plenty of time off when you retire! Do you have the ability to swap a reserve line with a lineholder? I would imagine there has to be at least one other -400 CA that would enjoy the time off on reserve as opposed to you. Glad to see you are plying your trade again.

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  10. This, Rand, is Gold!
    I have part read one of your detailed posts. Flying a 747 has been a dream of mine, one probably (almost certainly) out of my reach. But I am looking forward to reading more and living vicariously through your writing.
    Best regards

  11. Rand,

    The captain you flew with who was the ex-F14 guy in Topgun was Lloyd Abel. I flew with him as a RIO in VF-51 in the 1983 timeframe. Check out the "making of" extras on the "Topgun" DVD and you can see him there.