Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mentors from my past

I tried to make a comment at the bottom of my last posting, THE UBIQUITOUS DC-9, but when I did, I continuously received an ERROR 303 message. I don't know what that means and being a bit of a ludite, I gave up and decided to create a new posting to express my thoughts. 

Do you remember dc9man from the previous post comments who explained the term "SIX" for me? Well, here's Tom in 1995 at altitude in a DC-9. I had the good fortune of spending many hours aloft with him; he's one of those whom I'd mentioned who had a hand in helping me along my career path and teaching me to fly a jet. As you can tell from this picture, he's a laid back, easy going fellow who created an atmosphere where learning is easy. So easy in fact that you don't realize you're learning, until that cold, dark, windy night with heavy snow falling on short, slippery runways as your fuel diminishes, options fade and decisions need to be made arrives. Then the lessons that you've learned from men like this suddenly surface.

Everyone marvels at your cool headed decision making under pressure, your consummate flying skills and completing the mission under adverse conditions. Even you are as you pack up your flight bag, walk off your airplane and head to the hotel with a sense of accomplishment, suddenly noticing that your cap feels too small as your head has swelled. In the dark of my hotel room though, with the adoring crowd now dispersed, it suddenly occurs to me that I had mentors, Tom and others like him who took the time to prepare me for the conditions that I experienced tonight. 

I've been asked many times, "flying is one thing, but how do you learn to be a captain?"  For me it was easy; I paid attention to Tom and his contemporaries who ran a good cockpit, allowed their FO's to participate in decision making and never really got too excited about anything. I've seen the other side of the coin too and flown with captains who where verbose, raised their voices often, needed to throw their weight around and acted as though everything was monumental. Through keen observation however, I learned that the minute these fellows raised their voice and said "I'm the captain," they lost their command authority. Sound decision making, quiet leadership and sticking to your guns always wins the day. You should never have to remind someone that you're the captain.

Here are a few more guys, retired now,  who played a role in how I conduct myself.





When I was bumped off the 727 at the REP/NWA merger, Ted was my DC-9 FO simulator instructor. Nine years later when I checked out as a DC-9 captain Ted flew as my OE instructor. Another great guy with whom I spent many enjoyable hours and learned much from.  

These fellows all happen to be former Southern Airways pilots, pilots with whom I flew the most when a DC-9 copilot. When I flew as a 727 flight engineer and copilot I spent a great deal of time with the former Hughes Airwest and North Central pilots. Republic was a very diverse group, built around these former airlines and was a fabulous training ground. By the time I checked out, the name on the side of the airplane said NORTHWEST and the complexion of the airline was entirely different. 


In 1995 NWA started to move away from the old red/white/blue Northwest Orient paint scheme and experiment with a few others after the Beach Boys purchased us. (Al Checci and Gary Wilson) Here's a DC-9 paint scheme that you've probably never seen. If I remember correctly, this is the same airplane with different paint designs on each side. Anyway... where was I?

Tom and I were descending into Washington Dulles one afternoon and I casually asked him "why does our pattern list the days as one, two, three, five?" Unbeknownst to us, what we thought was a four day trip was a five day trip with a 26 hour IAD layover. After an early breakfast the next morning, we rented a car and drove to Gettysburg, PA to learn about one of the decisive battles of our Civil War. As we approached the battle field, Union and Confederate soldiers formed lines to re-create Pickets Charge. Cannon's roared, bugles blew, muskets fired and sabres rattled as the pungent aroma of cordite filled the air and a thick layer of smoke obscured the battlefield. Thousands of soldiers yelled and stormed the "stone wall" defended by union troops as men from both sides fell like cordwood.  

The date was 3 July 1994, exactly 131 years from the date of this famous battle and we'd driven right into the middle of a huge re-enactment. It was fantastic. Later, we walked across the battlefield with a park ranger and learned much of this bloody battle. 

Tom is also a former minor league pitcher and we'd carry our gloves with us when we knew we'd be flying together. He throws a heck of a curve ball and kindly took something off his fastball to spare my left hand. We'd spend hours in a city park or next to a motel throwing until sunset. While waiting for a (very late) hotel van at Memphis once, we pulled out our gloves and threw in the hotel pickup area to pass the time. He's also a former Air Force pilot who flew DC-3's in Vietnam and wrote a wonderful account of his experiences for a DC-3 newsletter that I edited at the time.

When I listen to guys complain about this job and hear the tired, old "it isn't like it used to be,"  I know immediately that they've never flown with captains like Tom, Vern, Ben, Danny or Ted and many others from my past who didn't have time to complain because they were too busy getting out and doing things. These guys didn't let grass grow underneath their feet and I've tried to emulate that. In previous posts I've written that "it's all about the people." Well, Tom is one of those people.


My last DC-9 trip as an FO in 1994. I left the Nine to fly the Ten (DC-10) as a BOS based FO. Look how red my moustache was! My hair too. As chance would have it, if you flip back to my previous post and pull up the DC-9 in Delta colors on the taxiway, you'll discover that this is that airplane 16 years ago. 

Now that I've thoroughly embarrassed Tom, he's a very modest man, let me move on to other points of interest.

JB, Don, Jonathan, Sarah, Ryan, Michael, Joe, Capt Schmoe, Mark and Anonymous... thanks very much for your comments; believe me, they make writing all this stuff worthwhile.

JB, I haven't flown into BOS for quite a while as a pilot, but commute through BOS regularly. The last time I flew through was when NWA had the BOS-AMS route.

Don, not that I'm looking forward to accelerating my age any, but I'd have loved to have flown for the airlines when you were there as I'm sure it was very exciting. Delta was at the TOP of its game then, everyone wanted to fly there and the family ethic was in full swing. I hope that Mr. Anderson is the quiet yet strong leader who will return DAL to that level of service.

Jonathan, I couldn't agree more with your thoughts concerning skill level and exposure to older techniques. Someday a screen may fail and the experience garnered from DC-9's and 727's will come in very handy. (Also, thanks for the plug.)

Sarah, thanks as usual for your thoughts and uncanny ability to recognize locations. I unfairly put you on the spot with this question as you'd have to have DC-9 experience to answer this nutty question. 

Ryan, 31,000 feet minus 10,000 feet equals 21,000 feet divided by... ah 3,000 feet per minute, traveling at, let's see six miles per minute and we have.... ah. Hmmmm, 31,000 feet minus....  Believe me, it took years to be able to do this quickly, while descending, answering radio calls, getting an ATIS etc. I'm not sure that I could do it anymore. (Also thanks for the plug.)

Michael, keep thinking about smoothness and efficiency; it's the only way to fly.

Joe, good thought about 255.

Anonymous (Tim) I agree strongly as I miss those days, but have benefited greatly from the lessons learned.

Capt Schmoe, many of those old Champion birds were former NWA airplanes that I'd spent many enjoyable hours in. I'd LOVE to fly a 727 again!

Mark, coming north for a day of DC-9 spotting would be a lot of fun and yield much historical data... don't wait too long. A South Africa vacation with Zurich shooting thrown in sounds fantastic!


Tyoung, Glad that we could help with your travel plans. I flew that route many times and always enjoyed PHL layovers.

Perry, Thanks for the update on your DC-9 project. For DC-9 enthusiasts, visit Perry's site concerning his efforts to save the history of a particular DC-9 and re-create its instrument panel.

J: I hope all is well in the -400.
Do you see the names above shown in BLUE? Click them on and you'll be directed to that persons blog. You'll very much enjoy their experiences, comments and pictures... but don't forget to return!

As usual, happy flying and thanks for taking the time to read and comment.


Monday, August 23, 2010

The Ubiquitous DC-9

We'd landed at 1400 on flight 143 from FRA in a B-767-300ER, right on time by the way and taxied to gate 34 at DTW. It was just a matter of processing through Customs and Immigration, stowing my flight bag downstairs, dropping off the flight papers from our crossing, exchanging my uniform shirt for a golf shirt and heading to gate 17 to commute home.

As seems to be the norm these days, the flight was full so I'd enjoy my commute home in the jumpseat of this DC-9-51. I feel right at home here! As much as I've grown accustomed to flying "glass," there's much about this cockpit that I love. Look at all this stuff. There's stuff everywhere! But it's going away fast so enjoy it while you can.   

I'm sitting in the jumpseat of a DC-9-51. This placard is just to my left at shoulder height and identifies the ship as serial number 47730 constructed in February 1977. It was built for North Central Airlines, but survived to fly for Republic Airlines, Northwest Airlines and now Delta Air Lines. It's lineage is impressive too, dating to 1921 with Donald Douglas's most famous design flying in 1935 in the form of the Douglas DC-3. Merging with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967 forming McDonnell-Douglas, the Douglas name faded into history entirely when purchased by Boeing in 1997.

Even this placard is a highly collectible piece of airline memorabilia as I reach for my pen knife. Oh yeah... I can't carry a pen knife any longer as I'm considered suspect by authorities, but I'd love to include this with my DC-9 collection.

I was hired at Republic in 1985 where they operated the largest fleet of DC-9's at the time. Acquired from a variety of mergers with North Central, Southern Airways and Hughes Airwest the fleet numbered 130. Some even date back to West Coast and Bonanza Airlines who, with Pacific Airlines merged to form Air West in 1968. After merging with NWA in 1986, the fleet grew even larger with additions from Eastern Airlines and Swissair bringing the total to 175. We flew them everywhere (thus my use of the term ubiquitous) and its reliability factor was outstanding. It was a bullet proof airplane. 

780NC built November 1979 for North Central Airlines

The DC-9 first flew in 1965 just six years after its big brother, the DC-8 made its debut in 1959 signaling the beginning of airline jet service. Both aircraft entered passenger service with launch customer Delta Air Lines, but if you want DC-9 pictures don't wait too long to get out and get them. This is how our DC-9's look today, but the fleet now numbers only 53 from as high as 136 when we merged a year ago. I'm hearing a variety of rumors as to when she'll finally be retired, but suspect that her tenure is short. She's a gas guzzler according to all reports, but a reliable, dependable and historically significant gas guzzler none the less.

Here's a view of a DC-9-30 from the jumpseat as we taxi out to 21R at DTW. This is 8926E, built in June of 1967 and I think acquired from Eastern Airlines. There aren't many NWA paint schemes left, but seeing as though the -40's and -50's will be the last to leave the property, the remaining unpainted -30's will probably be just that... unpainted. This was probably the third NWA livery this aircraft has sported; the first was the old Northwest Orient red/white/blue, the second was the "bowling shoe" and this is the third.

Just in case you've forgotten, here's the bowling shoe livery. Interestingly, this was 13E's last day on the property (1/14/04) as she taxied in MSP to be stored at Marina, Tucson. I learned this from their conversation with ground control, scrambled, got my camera and took this parting shot as this 1966, -10 series DC-9 left the stage. Our -10's came from Atlanta based Southern Airways and some of those had been former Delta birds. The -10's had no leading edge devices or slats in Douglas speak, was a little hot rod and a ball to fly. 

Jay is our captain, we'd flown together a few years ago when he was a 757 FO. He has only a few DC-9 trips remaining as he starts MD 88/90 school in September. We're number seven in line for take off with six other aircraft on the west side of the runway out of view.

We're in position awaiting our takeoff clearance to fly the MOON2 departure.

We're underway for BOS

New glass "flightdecks" focus a pilots information to a specific screen. Take a look here, there's information everywhere! We called it developing a scan. You needed to discriminate between primary and secondary information and then move on. An engine failure at rotation here requires absorbing information from several instruments as your eyes continually scan them, updating your situation.  

I very much enjoyed flying both the DC-9 and the 727. Look closely, the only glass that you'll see here are the faces on the instruments... and there are many of them. I learned about "situational awareness" here. There is no moving map, no top of descent indicator, no wind indicator, no auto throttles or LNAV or VNAV. Everything needs to be planned out ahead of time, checked and re-thought again. And then again!  

A picture is worth a thousand words. Just about everything that you need to know to fly the Airbus in the same situation described above is right here, right in front of you. Information required from five instruments clustered above, is displayed here in just one. Technology is a marvelous thing.

Decision time ahead

When ATC called and directed, "Cross 15 miles west of GARDNER at ten and 250," you'd build a point, but not in the computer and see it pop up on your screen with a Top of Descent Point like in the 757 or A-320, but in your head. In order to comply with the clearance these are the mental gymnastics that ran through your brain.

Let's see, I'm at 31,000 feet and need to lose 21,000 feet. With my tailwind I'm covering six miles per minute, so at a descent rate of 3,000 feet per minute it will take me seven minutes to loose 21,000 feet. At six miles per minute I'll need 42 miles to do this. I'll also need five miles to slow from 300 to 250 and need to reach this point 15 miles west of Gardner. So, I'll start down at 3,000 feet per minute and pull the thrust levers to idle when I hit 300 knots 57 miles west of the GARDNER VOR. I'll also add a five mile fudge factor to the equation and start down at 62 miles west of GARDNER. Don't forget, I can reach 10,000 feet before GARDNER.... but not AFTER!  

Every 2,000 feet or so I'll repeat this exercise to see how I'm doing. Are the winds aloft unchanged, have I lost or gained ground speed? Do I need to increase or decrease my rate of descent to cross as planned? On the 757 you build the point, put 10,000' in your altitude selector and when you reach top of descent, automatically the aircraft noses over, the power goes to idle and a green arc let's you know if you're on profile. Can I get another cup of coffee here?

When we reach our destination  and the weather is 200 and a half, I need to know where I am in the pattern while being vectored. On a left downwind the runway is off to my right. When turned on a base, it's still off my right and one more 90 degree turn will line me up or a 60 degree turn will set me up for localizer intercept. If I have a located outer marker, I can use my ADF needle to watch myself being incrementally turned from any point along the approach. We still do the same things, but in the Nine and Seven Two... we did it in our heads. And it was fun! There was more a sense of accomplishment from flying a smooth, well planned arrival and approach, without "jockeying" power, than in today's glass airplanes. At least from my point of view.


Let me tell you about Lenny Wing, just one of many guys over the years who have had a hand in teaching me how to fly airplanes. One of many who have influenced my thinking, my habit patterns, my thought process. I was a relatively new Twin Otter copilot at Air New England and after watching me descend and land at such places as Burlington, Montpelier, Lebanon, Hyannis, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, captain Wing explained that future descents and approaches should be planned in such a manner that only power reductions were acceptable. In other words, plan for a continuous descent where a lack of planning was evident by adding power. It was a game and we'd play against one another. At first I thought he was nuts, but as I observed his methodical, planned out flying skills I became intrigued. Lenny was a hell of a professional pilot and he was determined to make me the same. 

"Every power change Rand is an EGT change that imparts stress on the burner section. The less throttle movement the less EGT change and the happier your engines will be."  Thirty-six years later I can still hear Lenny's words from the left seat of those Twin Otters. I'm sure he learned this from our Chief Pilot Jim Pashley who preached, "take care of your engines boys and they'll take care of you." Jim demanded smooth throttle movement on our 14 cylinder, Pratt and Whitney powered DC-3's to obtain slow, even cylinder head temperature changes. Good advice from two of the most professional pilots that I've encountered.

To this day, when I see a pilot slam the throttles back on a jet engine I cringe.

Well, this is how it looked a few years ago in DTW, but the DC-9 fleet is rapidly changing.

But as the sun sets on this fabulously reliable old airplane I easily remember all that it taught me as a copilot, captain and check airman. I remember eating box lunches from the outer marker inbound, no jetways at Mobile, Alabama and Jackson, Mississippi, back course approaches at Green Bay, Wisconsin, NDB approaches at BOS... yes BOS, NDB holding, DME ARC approaches at Midway and late night approaches to short, snow covered midwest runways with devilish crosswinds. I'll forever value my Republic and Northwest heritage but won't confuse the nostalgia with my new allegiance to Delta Air Lines. My previous airlines are part of my past, a colorful history that I treasure, but look forward to the future with Delta and new experiences that will usher in retirement.

I loved flying the historic, noisy, windshield leaking DC-9 that prepared me to command a 767-300ER spanning oceans and continents with hundreds of passengers aboard. The box lunches are gone too as I now enjoy hot first class meals topped off with a hot fudge sundae... sometimes two! But I could probably still wolf one down inside the outer marker.

Thanks for reading along but before I leave a question for Sarah. After introducing myself to the crew and settling into the DC-9 cockpit jumpseat, I said "six."  Why?? If after a couple of days Sarah doesn't reply, it's open to all.

Happy Flying...


Friday, August 13, 2010

Folk Hero?

New Post coming on Monday 23 August:

I'm afraid that I don't comprehend the "folk hero" status that a specific jetBlue flight attendant has recently acquired. Yes, the job is tough; any job dealing with the public in the service industry is difficult. Yes, the pay and benefits are less than desired and as companies tighten their belts and layoff, the job becomes even more difficult. 

Add to this flight cancellations, long delays, waiting for gates, lost luggage, missed connections, entertainment systems that don't work, failed catering, medical emergencies, unaccompanied minors, diverse personalities and individual passenger problems and it's easy to see that flight attendants, sharing space in a small tube with angry, sometimes abusive passengers have a very difficult job.

But using the PA to hurl expletives at a plane load of those passengers, opening a cabin door, activating an emergency exit slide endangering ramp personnel below and deserting your crew with a "couple of beers" across the tarmac is not worthy of praise. For an airliner to operate safely, discipline and order are mandatory. As flight attendants often say, "we're here for safety purposes." And they are, but this one abandoned his responsibilities and his shipmates.

Flight attendants get a "bum rap" from my viewpoint as a captain. In today's high security environment I sit isolated, locked in the forward most compartment in a long tube, far removed from circumstances behind me with as many as 225 fellow human beings. This is an unnatural and often anxiety filled, pressurized environment, passing through the stratosphere at 80% of the speed of sound, seven miles above the earth. I'm completely reliant upon level headed, objective, well trained flight attendants maintaining order and keeping me in the loop as to our general condition. The decisions that I make, the course of action that I follow are often predicated upon information that I acquire from my flight attendants. They are my eyes and ears in the passenger cabin and play a significant role in the course of events throughout the entire flight.

A crew member who abandons his crew, leaves the aircraft and its human content more vulnerable should a crisis arise and deprives his captain of his input and skill in an emergency is not someone with whom I'd choose to fly. My admiration goes to those flight attendants who do the job day in and day out with little to no fanfare. Those whom my crew, our passengers and I can rely upon at all times. This covers just about every flight attendant that I've flown with over the last 35 years.

Thanks for a job well done and making this captains decision making process a little easier.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

FRA to DTW via NAT A

I just arrived home from a short, three day Frankfort trip and made it to my mothers house in time for our triple birthday celebration; my mother's, my wife Linda's and my niece Perrin's. But here are a few shots of my German experience.

Until recently we stayed in Weisbaden, but have returned to Mainz. The crews have mixed thoughts on this, but I prefer Mainz because of it's old city section. The cafes, outdoor restaurants and strolling opportunities are limitless. Located on the west bank of the Rhine River, this 12th century, fortified Roman city marked the Empires northern boundary.

The square above is known as Kirschgarten or, the Cherry Orchard and is fascinating to me because of its beautiful architecture and its cobble-stoned street. 

Oh yes... and this too, the Zum Beymberg Bakery. There's little wonder why I enjoy Germany so. Russ, one of my FO's and I enjoyed walking the old city and dining at "The Tree House" on wienerschnitzel and rosti. The restaurant is owned by a retired Delta pilot and his wife who were off in Spain somewhere in their Mercedes 380SL. Sounds like a very nice retirement to me!

OK, back to business as we sit out in hardstand 111 loading the computer and pre-flighting as this A-320 pulls into the opposite position to offload its passengers. We normally park at terminal two, but with limited space we often find ourselves in remote parking.

Looking from east to west, this gives you a better understanding of the terminal two remote parking area and its activity. Originating from 1936, Rhein-Main Flughafen (EDDF) is Europe's third busiest airfield, ninth in world and was home to the airship Graf Zeppelin in the 1930's. Rhein-Main also served as the U.S. base of operations during Operation Vittles, better known as the Berlin Airlift in 1948 and '49. Surely you know of the Candy Bomber.

Looking west out of our windscreen down the "hardstand" line. 

We're flying a B767-300ER today, or in Delta parlance a 7ER. This catagory takes into account both the 757 and 767 ER series. As most of you know, the 757 and the 767 are a dual type rating and qualifies a pilot to fly either piece of equipment. Although one is a narrow body and the other a wide body, they are remarkably similar in cockpit appearance.

An exterior view of our position from under the right wing.

And Terminal Two behind us.

A Lufthansa 737-300 one stand over.

It's time to get underway. We've been cleared into position to hold on runway 25R behind this landing Lufthansa A-340. This will be a heavy weight, 394,200 pound, flap 5, "Close In Community" takeoff. 

- Here's the Drill - 

Apply takeoff thrust, activate the auto throttles, call out "80 knots throttle hold thrust normal," at rotation speed (166 knots) slowly rotate to 15 degrees into the V-Nav pitch bar, positive rate, gear up, at 1,500 feet reduce power to climb thrust, continue the climb to 3,000 feet, accelerate to flap 1 speed (209 knots) and retract the flaps and slats on schedule, (flaps up speed is 249 knots) activate the autopilot, follow the departure profile and check that L-Nav, V-Nav, auto throttle and one autopilot are all engaged in the climb mode, note the transition altitude of 5,000 feet and change altimeter to 29.92 QNH or 1013 QNE. Nine hours and five minutes later, after consuming two crew meals, many cups of coffee and a nap in the crew bunk, put the gear down and land in DTW. Simple enough!

Steve, my trip assigned copilot is on break, while Steve our relief pilot calls Gander at 30 degrees west longitude with a position report. This particular 767 has CPDLC/ADS which relieves us from making these position reports. So why are we doing it? 

This is my first experience with CPDLC (Control Pilot Data Link Communications) and it's interesting. Our 757's at NWA didn't have this feature, so every 10 degrees of longitude across the Atlantic, we'd call the controlling facility on HF and give a position report. We'd do this as well spanning the Pacific from the west coast to Hawaii. With CPDLC though, these reports are automatically sent with no pilot input. If ATC needs us they simply send us a computer message or SELCAL us to respond. If we need to communicate information to them or ask for an altitude change we can send them a computer message and wait for a response. HF frequencies are very heavily congested over the North Atlantic during peak hours and are affected by the sun, making communications rather cumbersome. But not any more!

So why is Steve giving a position report? For the Photo Op? No. Basically, North Atlantic traffic communicates with Gander (Canada) west of 30 degrees west longitude and Shanwick (Ireland) east of 30 degrees west longitude, but when you cross this point out in the middle of no where and change facilities you make an initial voice report to establish communications and get their primary and secondary HF frequencies as a back up. Also, while there we'll test our SELCAL equipment to insure that that facility can reach us via that system as well. Shanwick by the way is derived from the words Shannon and Prestwick where this sectors operators and controllers are based. Rather wordy on my part but I think that it gets the point across.

Here's our flight plan (that Steve's holding above) generated by our dispatchers in ATL and is our primary document to monitor our progress across the Atlantic today. Even with CPDLC, we record our time and fuel at each waypoint and check to see if the wind has had en affect upon these entries. We call it a "How Goes It" report that will quickly let us know if conditions are changing that will effect our arrival time and fuel burn.

- Let's take a closer look -

When our dispatcher (who does excellent work by the way) constructed the flight plan and release, he or she included a "track message" listing the available oceanic routes and the lat/long waypoints that define them. We've been assigned  NAT (North Atlantic Track) "A" this afternoon. Unlike the Pacific tracks, these are not fixed and change daily with wind conditions. The track message confirms our coordinates and allows either the pilots or the computer to "build" the route. The tracks fit into an envelope that range between 28,500 feet and 42,000 feet. Interestingly, the Concorde, when it was flying the North Atlantic, flew above the track system between 45,000 to 60,000 feet on fixed tracks. They were in a rarefied world of their own so to speak.

A close examination of this document reveals that our oceanic entry point is SUNOT, west of Scotland with a constant speed of mach .80 at Flight Level 330. Further examination reveals that we're running two minutes late at each waypoint but generally 1,000 pounds under our fuel burn. Why are we two minutes late? Normally you'd explain it away with wind, but after departure from FRA, while flying over the English Channel, we received delayed vectors for spacing at our oceanic entry point. These vectors, after we'd projected our "point times" explain the two minutes seeing as though the winds aloft forecast varied little from reality. 

My notes in the right margin indicate the primary and secondary HF frequencies for Shanwick and Gander and that at 1206Z we successfully accomplished a SELCAL check. PRAWN, east of Newfoundland is our oceanic exit point and Gander Radio will send us a computer message advising us to call Gander Center at a particular time on an assigned frequency when back within VHF radio range. 

Here's the Upper Air Weather Depiction Chart that dispatch included in our flight package. I've highlighted FRA, DTW and the Alpha track to orient you. You can see that although we'll have a moderate headwind, we'll be flying north of one area of known turbulence and below another. An excellent job by our dispatcher as we never encountered as much as a ripple throughout the entire flight. All 215 passengers, eight flight attendants and three pilots enjoyed a comfortably smooth ride. 

Here's a common sight as we cross the North Atlantic westbound during the day. It's actually quite crowded out here with airliners from throughout the world. We keep one of our radios tuned to a "chat" frequency so that we can communicate among ourselves as we journey along. I took this shot a while ago of NWA flight 50 as they passed us in an A-330 enroute from Paris to DTW. Here's an interesting video showing world airline traffic. Note how traffic flows from the North America to Europe when it starts, but as the sun moves from east to west, the traffic flow changes from Europe towards the North America. As I'd said, it's crowded out here!

So much for the nuts and bolts stuff, let's look out the window for a while. I've been fortunate to have flown much of the world, but without a doubt, these views of Greenland rank as my favorite. Sadly, my photography doesn't even come close to representing its beauty, and desolation as we cruise along this Great Circle Route. 

At 60 degrees north latitude, we're flying in the Temperate Zone just 6 degrees south of the Arctic Circle. The Arctic Circle denotes the southern point of the Polar Day and Polar Night region Huh... what's this? Once a year, during the winter and summer solstice (June/December) the sun is either above or below the horizon for a full 24 hour period, better known as the Land of the Midnight Sun. Interestingly, the Arctic Circle is not a fixed figure but is dependent upon the earths tilt on its axis. You need to know this stuff as an airline pilot! 

A similar picture taken a few years ago through my copilots windscreen, inspired me to write a story for the March 2009 issue of AIRWAYS MAGAZINE titled DOOLEY'S DOWN. AIRWAYS editor John Wegg generously allowed me to reproduce it on my website, so I'm sure he wont mind if I post it here too. This view reminds me of early pioneers that I've been privileged to have known who flew the North Atlantic in DC-3's for the Air Transport Command. From Presque Isle Maine to the Outer Hebrides Islands in Scotland, this little band of Northeast Airlines pilots flew DC-3's as low as 1,000 feet with no electronic navigation to speak of. Dead reckoning for hours at a time, shooting the stars if they were lucky enough to have a clear view, while I sit comfortably at FL 330 drinking coffee. These are the pioneers who hoisted me on their shoulders to be here today.

One more look at Greenland before I leave the cockpit for my break.

Here's a clear view of our position on our North Atlantic Plotting chart. Do you see where the vertical line intersects our track near 45 degrees west longitude? That's our present position at the southern end of Greenland. That vertical line represents a 180 minute ETOPS (Extended range Twin engine Operations) position built from Reykjavik, Iceland and Goose Bay Labrador. You can just see Reykjavik in the upper right hand corner of this photo.

As usual, thanks very much for joining in as we cross the beautiful North Atlantic enroute from Frankfurt to Detroit, but it's time for Steve to return to duty and for me to slip into  the crew bunk for 2 hr 35 min and rest up for the landing. 

Aufwiedersehen, bis spater,