Monday, December 12, 2011

747 Reserve... oh, and the ill-behaved pax on American

I've received many emails lately, the latest from Rob in Oklahoma, asking where I've been. Why aren't you writing? Where are your pictures? Are you still alive? Firstly, thanks very much for your notes and concern for my welfare, it's much appreciated.

Captain Gene Peterson and myself preparing to leave JFK for Narita during my OE training. 

Let me explain my absence. I completed ground-school and simulator training by mid May and then OE with Gene sometime in June and excitedly looked forward to getting out and flying the B-747-400. I could hardly wait! But as most of you know I was awarded this position in the "Reserve" category. As it turns out 747 reserves do very little flying. And I mean VERY LITTLE FLYING, two trips in eight months in my case.

We have only 16 of these aircraft, the airlines smallest fleet and see only two departures a day from DTW, our only 747 domicile. There are of course daily departures from JFK, Narita, Nagoya, Tel Aviv etc, but they're staffed and unlikely to change once the trip has begun. 

I seem to spend most of my time commuting to MSP and visiting the simulator to maintain currency which means three takeoffs and landings every 90 days. These sim sessions of course expose us to much more than just the minimum criteria, such as engine failures, max crosswind landings, instrument takeoffs, aborts and a variety of precision and non precision approaches. But it's still just a simulator. 

Some relish this lack of activity or what some consider "time off" but I'm not part of that group. I miss flying and its associated camaraderie. I miss wandering through Paris, Mainz, or London and enjoying dinner in restaurants that I've frequented for years. So, as soon as my training freeze expires next September I plan to bid the 767-400 in JFK and get back to that which I enjoy.... flying, exploring, eating and writing about it.

Now, before I complain too much, I've re-roofed my garage, painted my house, built an addition, constructed a garden with my wife, waxed my vehicles, built a few pieces of furniture, visited Switzerland and have read to my hearts content. It's been wonderful, but I would like to get out and fly occasionally. I miss the airplanes, the people and the activity.

I've had many offers though from several DC-9 and A-320 captains who would like to change positions! Hmmm....... I think not. As they say, "been there and done that," but thanks for your kind offer.

Hopefully crew sched will assign me a trip sometime soon so I can fire up my camera, activate my word processor and get back at it. Thanks again for your concerns and Merry Christmas. 

But before I go indulge me; I can't help myself but I'll keep it short.

I know many smart people. But how do I know they're smart? It's simple, I determine this from conversation, how they handle themselves, how they relate to others, express their positions and live their lives. Are they loud, flamboyant, and like to be heard? Or do they listen as well as they speak and speak calmly with purpose and authority? I touched upon this in an earlier blog post when I stated, "the minute a captain has to raise his voice and remind someone that he is the captain... he's lost his authority."  

When someone has to tell me that he or she is smart, because they're worried I may not notice it on my own... a red flag goes up. Alec Baldwin thought it was important to tell you and me he's smart because he plays games designed for "smart people." Oh!!

When that same person rants and raves, slams doors, thinks that the rules don't apply to him and resorts to name calling, "retired catholic school gym teachers" I'm unlikely to categorize him as smart as much as I'd label him "needy" of attention. 

He's a celebrity, a movie star and lives in a different world than the rest of us. But it is "us" who give him his importance. Without "us" he'd not enjoy his elevated status. What's difficult for me to grasp though, is why we do.


Friday, October 21, 2011

If you're former Air New England.....

What are you doing on 29 October 2011?

Hopefully you'll be joining us at the Hyannis Radisson Hotel at 5:00 pm until whenever, to celebrate our 30th anniversary of going out of business. Presently more than 50 ANE people will be there and we hope to see you.

Here's the current guest list and it's growing fast.

Rooms are available at a special ANE rate at the Radisson too: 508-771-1700

Monday, July 25, 2011

A new story about Northeast Airlines is out.

Here's an interesting story, let's see if authorities finally take a crew assault seriously!

Just a quick note please before we get into NEA...

I met Jack Hartery yesterday who worked for Air New England from 1974 until 1979 while he was visiting his sister in NH. After ANE he enjoyed a 25 year career with United Airlines as a dispatcher. He donated much to my ANE collection and my ANE friends can learn more by visiting our Picasa album. Great to see you again Jack and thanks for contacting me.

Northeast Airlines 1931 - 1972

My Dad in a B-727 during his retirement flight in 1980

As many of you know, I have a penchant for Northeast Airlines. An unabashed admiration for those who formed it, flew for it, maintained it, invested in it and otherwise served to keep the colorful airline aloft. Organized in 1931 under contract with Juan Trippe at Pan American Airways, it survived on its own until merging with Delta in 1972. It also had a long railroad affiliation until changing its name from Boston-Maine Airways to Northeast Airlines in 1940 with the introduction of its first, brand new, Douglas DC-3. It's fleet over the years grew from its core of Stinsons, to Lockheed 10A's, DC-3's, Convair 240's, DC-4's, DC-6B's, Viscounts, FH-227's, Convair 880's, 727's and DC-9's. In fact they flew a Curtis-Wright Commando for a short period of time. 

My father as a Convair 240 and DC-3 captain and a B-727 captain

Dad hired on at NEA in 1946 after serving during WWII with the US Army Air Force, flying C-47's, B25's and B26's. He hung around the NEA East Boston hangar complex for days, pestering Chief Pilot Pappy Wheeler until he hired him as a DC-3 copilot. Other names that I grew up with as a kid were captain Andy Anderson, the airlines first pilot who flew their Stinson Tri-motors acquired from The Ludington Line. He retired in the mid sixties flying a Convair 880. Not bad for a little "shoe string" airline. Captain Anderson had also served the airline and its pilots as VP of Flight Ops and later as it's ALPA MEC Chairman. 

There's not much written about Northeast, a trunk carrier that flew pretty much as a regional airline until breaking out in 1957 when the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board, now defunct) awarded it Florida rights, much to the consternation of Rickenbacker at Eastern and Baker at National. However, captain Bob Mudge undertook the challenge and wrote the airlines biography, Adventures of a Yellowbird, that chronicled the airline from 1931 until its entry into the jet age. Bob is another hero of mine, along with retired captain Norman Houle, the official, unofficial company historian. I've spent hours sitting with these men listening to stories that only whet my appetite more to become an airline pilot.

Do an Amazon or Ebay search for captain Mudge's book and you might, just might find one for under a hundred dollars. That's how rare it is. I have three signed copies, but don't ask to borrow one; it's the only book in my collection that I will NOT lend out. Several years ago at an NEA reunion, TWA captain Bob Buck, another legend, asked if I knew of Bob's book concerning meteorology. According to captain Buck, it is "the most scholarly book written in its field." I have one of these too and of course, Bob Mudge mocked me when I asked him to autograph it. "That old thing Rand, why in the world would you want me to sign it?"

Because it's a masterpiece, a piece of history that has contributed to the level of safety that we enjoy today.

My father and "Red's Boy" as his contemporaries refer to me.
I'm very proud of that moniker!

Above, my Dad and me in the cockpit of a B-727 on his retirement flight in January 1980. My four stripes were earned at the time flying as a Twin Otter captain at BOS based Air New England. I loved my time at ANE and flew there right up until they closed the doors in October of 1981. It was as close as I'd get to flying for NEA, over the same routes out of BOS and LGA. As a boy in the late 1950's, I remember flying to Florida with my father in the jumpseat of a DC-6B. 


We departed BOS at midnight in a roaring Noreaster, dumping massive amounts of snow throughout New England. Seven or so hours later, after listening to four Pratt & Whitney R2800's beat flawlessly and navigating a dark and foreboding Eastern Seaboard, the shining city of Miami appeared through the windscreen. White beaches, aqua water, sailboats and glimmering buildings in the sun, erased any thoughts of inclement weather left behind in Boston and further drove me to seek this life aloft. The food was pretty good too, but it would be years later until I acquired a taste for "airline coffee." 

1954 NEA timetable, before the Florida route award.

As a side-note, I interviewed with Delta in 1978 in ATL. After looking through my application and resume, my inquisitor, apparently happy with what he saw said, "Rand, you're going to love it here at Delta, it's a family operation." Needless to say I was excited as visions of DC-9's and 727's danced in my head. Flying those Beech 18's and Twin Otters finally paid off. But hold on a second...

A few moments later he noticed a section on the application that asked, Do you have any family members in the employ of Delta Airlines? Of course I answered affirmatively with "yes, CK Peck, BOS captain." With that my major airline career hopes were dashed and the Twin Otters replaced the Nines and 727's yet again. Delta had a nepotism clause in those days excluding family members from working at THE FAMILY. I've never understood this but that was their policy, so back to flying my New England routes until deregulation came about and changed everything.

A fleet of Northeast Airlines DC-3's at the Barre-Montipelier Airport in Vermont. 

Frankly, I've written about all of this before and most of it can be found on my website under the tab, RAND'S HISTORY, but as you may have guessed there's a reason that I've brought it up again. Author David Stringer has written a three part history of NEA for AIRWAYS MAGAZINE, the last part to appear in the October issue. The first two installments are in the August and September issue of 2011. 

As I'd mentioned to Editor Wegg in an email, "I started reading David's story with a jaded eye, after all, how could an outsider possibly get this right." I'm happy to report that my concerns were unfounded as Stringer has done a superb job of portraying the nations smallest trunk airline. He successfully captured it's flavor, it's essence and it's place in history. Captains, Mudge, Houle and Peck I'm sure would be pleased with his work.

I'm also an unabashed supporter of AIRWAYS MAGAZINE, not just because they publish some of my work, (not all of it, they're very selective) but because it's the bible from my perspective, for the tens of thousands of commercial aviation enthusiasts around the globe. I see them everywhere with their cameras on tripods when landing at airfields throughout the U.S., Asia and Europe. It's the premier commercial aviation publication, written by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. 

Anyway, if you enjoy airline history, particularly when that history includes round engines, cowl flaps and METO power, you won't want to miss Stringer's three part NEA history.

As usual, thanks for reading.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Part 3: The Simulator Phase

Randy, Steve, Doug and I have completed groundschool and the Procedures phase of our 747 training and have moved on to the simulator phase, which, although far more intense, is a lot of fun. That is of course if everything is going well! We've been split off from Steve and Doug enjoying the "A" period that runs from 0500 to 1030 while Randy and I are assigned the "D" period that flies from 1800 until 2330. Surprisingly this period worked well for us. Although we finished late at night I got a good nights sleep and had the entire following day to exercise and study.

As I'd mentioned earlier, Randy and I are both captains which means that half of the four hour simulator period we'll be in the copilots seat assisting the other. Not optimum, but that's the way that it goes.

Our "D" period consists of an hour and a half brief from 1800 until 1930 and then in the simulator from 1930 until 2230. Sounds like a long time doesn't it? But you're so busy that the time literally flies by. Our schedule and syllabus are well laid out for us in our student manual so we know exactly what to expect and when, including the flight paperwork that we'd experience on line.

Randy is entering one of the two 747-400 simulators that the airline operates. This is sim session number 1 of 9 to prepare us for the LOE (Line Oriented Evaluation) nine days from today. But before we get to sim 9 and the LOE we'll have three days to prepare for our MV or Maneuvers Evaluation.

This is how our Singer-Link simulator appears as you step inside. To the uninitiated it looks exactly like a 747-400 cockpit and everything works as it is supposed to. Technically it's a "Six Degrees of Freedom Device" that refers to it's ability to move about in three perpendicular axis's. A little further along I'll show you the hydraulics that support this. It's also referred to as a Level D, full motion, visual flight simulator. It even smells like the airplane!

Let's step back in time and take a look at the old 747-200 flight simulator located just across the hall in a separate bay. Northwest operated its last 747-200 passenger flight on 12 September 2007 from Tokyo to Minneapolis with a stop in Seattle. The -200 entered service with NWA in 1975 and grew to a fleet of 22 aircraft. As an aficionado of the "three man cockpit" I'd loved to have flown this airplane. Click on this Trip Report to see pictures of NWA 76 on 21 July 2007, starring N623US from NRT to SPN.

747-200 Flight Engineer's Panel

Steve in the right seat is a 747 FO and instructor who flew with Randy on his Type Ride or LOE. Let's talk about the MV or Maneuvers Validation as we now approach Day 4 of our sim training. Each MV takes nearly two hours and includes a variety of maneuvers that include engine failures after V1, rejected takeoffs, windshear recovery and stalls, missed approaches with engines out, visual approaches with engines out, CAT I, II, and III approaches some with failed engines and missed approaches, non precision (VNAV) approaches, holding and more. 

The best advice that I was given was DON'T PLAN ON LANDING, plan on a missed approach and if you land it's a bonus. Again, if you've paid attention during the previous sim sessions, done a little "chair flying" in your room and are familiar with the procedures and manuals, you'll likely experience a positive conclusion. Another piece of valuable advise included not dwelling on mistakes. We all make them, the check pilot expects to see some, but also wants to see how you handle the adversity. If you allow the mistake to fester and infect the remainder of your ride he or she won't be happy. On the other hand if you recognize the mistake, correct it and move on things will be fine. All you've done is give your instructor something to debrief. I gave them many!

I administered many simulator checkrides in the DC-9 and 727. I anticipated mistakes and a certain level of nervousness and simply looked for a good solid ride, with good crew communications and systems knowledge. Apparently little has changed with this aspect from my days of instructing. The final criteria was and I suspect still is "Would I put my family on board with these guys?"

After successful MV's, Randy and I have been separated as we near our LOE. As Justin, sitting at the instructors panel positions the simulator at Narita, Randy preflights the airplane. Justin never planted any "Easter eggs" for us to find, he simply figured the previous crew as they exited in haste would leave enough as it is... and he was right. While he has one eye on his panel, the other watched us closely as we preflighted the cockpit, interrupting occasionally with questions or guidance.  

Another excellent instructor, Justin interspersed practical knowledge and real life scenarios that he'd encountered and passed along his experience. Thought out, scripted scenarios go a long way to effectively introduce problems and solutions, but "let me show you what happened to me one night out of Manila" from a guy thats been there is very effective.  

As I back my way out of the simulator Justin, Randy and Steve prepare to depart Narita for Manila for Randy's last sim session before his type ride tomorrow night. This nine days have passed very quickly though as the course nears completion. 

From ground level you get a better feel for the size of this machine. When the instructor selects the motion button, the ramp, in the raised position here to the right, raises and frees the simulator from its dock. The hydraulic legs provide all of the motion and direction required, in conjunction with the flight instruments and visual, to create pitch and roll, acceleration and deceleration and create a real time flight. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

Which incidentally reminds me. Much of the input to new simulators is "touch screen", but keyboards still exist. Years ago, the student could easily hear the instructor "tap tap tapping" away back there and anticipate pending doom through an engine failure or some other catastrophic failure. He may simply be entering the weather at your destination, but you'd be keyed up for a major event. I never heard any keyboard clatter this time around which only added to the realism of the experience.

We're standing in front of the simulator looking back towards the dock and stairs that provide egress to the briefing rooms. There are several emergency motion shutoff switches located throughout the cockpit to take the simulator off motion. Why?? You may wonder. Many years ago when using the US Air 727 sim in PIT, Jerry Helmey and I were tossed about somewhat violently when the motion went "NUTS!" I was standing in the back of the sim with Jerry as the Flight Engineer instructor. The pilots, strapped in and secured, activated their shutoff switches located near their seat control levers and saved the day. 

Jerry retired off the 747-200 several years ago, but to see him today drop down to the Air West reunion post and you'll see him in the back row. Jerry, you look great and have hardly changed! Another excellent instructor from whom I learned much.

V1, rotate, as Randy departs off the "A" runway at Narita. The hydraulic legs rapidly thrust the machine forward and gently reach their limit inducing acceleration as he rotates towards 15 degrees of pitch attitude. Believe me... it's realistic, as you hear and feel your nosewheel tires thumping over the runway centerline lights. In reality though, we all move the airplane over just a bit to avoid these lights, but doing so in the simulator is fruitless because  these sensations are programmed in.

An A-330 simulator in the adjacent bay.

Twenty-four hours later, this is my view of the corridor that leads to the simulators and briefing rooms as I reach my moment of truth. Within moments I'll meet my simulator partner and check airman who will determine if I've prepared properly. Much goes through your mind as you proceed down the "corridor of truth;" are those my footsteps that I hear or my rapid heartbeat? I've taken this walk many times over the last 26 years at NWA and now DAL experiencing annual checkrides and type rating rides. Although I've acquired much experience over those years and know how the event is administered, this walk is no less apprehensive than my first. Doubt creeps in. You pray that you don't screw up and that you brought your "A" game with you tonight. It's a long, lonely walk as simulator scenarios, procedures and memory items pass through your brain.  

I'm here. This is room D248 where in 30 minutes or so we'll brief for my LOE.

I've arrived early to go over a few items in the QRH, Volume 1 and take one last look at the MEL manual. I've also pulled out my license, medical and radio operators license to be prepared when asked for them. It's Saturday night at 1900 hours, I've not seen another human since I entered the building and it's lonely inside my little cubicle as I hear a stall warning horn echo from a distant simulator bay. I'm not here alone after all, another pilot is demonstrating his or her skills tonight too. 

Saturday night! Most everyone else I know is out enjoying life on a Saturday night as I await my fate in this little cubicle.  What were you doing on Saturday night, 30 April at 1900 hours central time? 

Moments later, Gary walks into the room, extends his hand and says hello. After a little small talk we jumped into the computer to pull up and print my paperwork for tonights flight from Narita to Manila. There are eight different LOE flight scenarios; Gary simply enters my employee number and the computer chooses one of them and prints out everything we need. During the ensuing discussion of the flight, the flightplan and our MEL item, Gary has done a wonderful job of setting a comfortable environment. Any anxiety that I may have harbored has dissipated as we move forward. 

I didn't have time to take pictures though. I also thought it inappropriate to ask Gary if he'd mind if I periodically interrupted him to take pictures, so stashed my camera until the outcome was determined.

Steve (another Steve, not the fellow who flew with Randy) and I discussed our flightplan and MEL item before entering the simulator to accomplish our preflight inspections. I then briefed Steve and our lead flight attendant (Gary) concerning such items as our taxi route, departure procedure, flaps setting, weather, rides, and time en route. 

After taxi out and completing all of the appropriate checklists, we departed off runway 34L, flew a close in community departure and followed a standard LNAV/VNAV departure procedure. As is normally the case departing Narita, ATC stopped our climb at 7,000 feet and started issuing headings. I knew what was coming next!

Using "heading select" I followed the clearances, including a clearance to continue the climb to 10,000 feet when ATC called and cleared us to fly a particular heading to intercept a published airway to a point further along our flightplan. A sincere "thank-you," to Nicole, Justin, Brian and Rusty for squaring me away on these procedures.

While climbing through 25,000 feet at 320 knots, on course, on the airway our comfortable little environment was suddenly jolted to reality as red lights glared and shrill bells shattered the silence. Well, this is a checkride after all and a quick scan of our displays revealed that we were experiencing a forward cargo fire. There are few emergencies that demand your immediate attention, but a fire within the fuselage area is one of them. I handed the airplane over to Steve, asked him to declare an emergency and get a clearance directly back to Narita with an immediate descent while I reached for the QRH and selected the proper procedure. 

Steve's job is to FLY THE AIRPLANE AND COMMUNICATE and mine is to attend to the emergency and, as the captain, keep an eye on the airplane and maintain situational awareness. I need to be mindful of where we are, where we're going and catalog in my mind what's been completed and what remains to be accomplished. It's busy, very busy, but performing in an unrushed, methodical manner is crucial.

The index indicates that the Forward Cargo Fire procedure is in section 8.16 which I flip to quickly , read the title out loud and ask Steve if he agrees with the checklist that I've chosen. There's nothing worse on a checkride than working a procedure for many minutes, only to discover that as the procedure unfolds, it's apparent that you've chosen the wrong one. In this case we're in agreement and I move forward. Another important item. When you move a switch, first identify the switch and then confirm that what should have happened ... did! If you're opening or closing a valve, look to insure that the valve moved and that it didn't fail which would change how you proceed. Don't rush... identify your items first.

Upon completing the Forward Cargo Fire checklist, I checked in with Steve to let him know that I'd completed the procedure and to get an update. "Narita is closed" I've learned, it's gone below limits, so I ask the controller for the Haneda weather which is at CAT I limits. 

"Steve you still have the airplane and the radio, lets' go to Haneda" as I update the FMS and enter the anticipated runway, it's ILS and pull up an ATIS. At this point I'll leave Steve for a moment, call our lead flight attendant and brief him. "We have a possible forward cargo fire, will land in 10 minutes at Haneda and MAY have to evacuate... any questions?" Then I'll make a quick passenger PA and announce that we have a problem and will be landing in 10 minutes and to please follow the directions of our flight attendants.

The QRH procedure automatically leads me into the Descent and Approach checklists, so everything that I need is handy. I've determined that I don't have time to call my dispatcher, there's not much he can do for me now anyway, so I ask ATC to call them for me. Don't forget, I'm an emergency airplane and can do as I please.... that is as long as I'm right!!

As I'm reviewing what we've accomplished, Steve starts calling for flaps as the localizer comes alive. We've determined to do a flap 30 landing with auto brakes 3 and once more confirm that emergency equipment is standing by. The Emergency checklists, descent and  approach checks are complete, the weather is sufficient to land, the radios have been tuned and identified, flight attendants, ATC, company and passengers have been briefed. We're final approach fix inbound, configured and cleared to land. What could possibly go wrong??

As it turned out, nothing. Steve was still flying so I let him continue, freeing me to address anything should it occur. The landing was without incident; we turned off the runway and my ride was over. Gary slapped me on the back, congratulated me and welcomed me to the club.

OK, time to get the camera out!

I was tired, but it was a good feeling. It's still Saturday night though and I have time to celebrate.

Thanks very much to everyone in the training department who sincerely had my best interests in mind as I navigated the 747-400 training course.

Next up, OE with Gene.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A New England Fourth of July

I've nearly finished Part 3 of my 747-400 check out; hopefully it will be up on Monday. But in the meanwhile, particularly if you're from away, I wanted to share a glimpse of our local Fourth of July celebrations. This July 4th marks America's 235th year of independence. The Declaration of Independence was read aloud to Amherst, NH citizens in the second week of July 1776 by Sheriff Moses Kelley, just to my right here on the Amherst Green. The Green as well served as a training field for Captain Josiah Crosby and the Amherst Militia Company.

The parade at Amherst, NH is quite large for a town of only 12,000 people, but attracts New Englanders from throughout the region. Here, former Amherst Fire Chief Rick Crocker drives his fully restored, 1931 antique fire truck in the parade. This truck actually served our town back in the 1950's and how Rick found it is a great story for another time

The local Revolutionary War contingent marching in the parade. Many Amherst men, led by Captain Josiah Crosby of the Amherst Militia Company served in the War of Independence at Bunker Hill, just north of Boston on 17 June 1775. The New Hampshire contingent was hailed for it's defense of the Hills flanks, avoiding being surrounded by British troops and allowing an orderly retreat by local militias as they exhausted powder and shot. The British eventually triumphed but at the cost of 1,200 casualties including the loss of 70% of its officer corps. As General Gage succinctly stated sometime later. "Too many more victories like this and we'll lose the war."

Amherst resident, Lieutenant Thompson Maxwell, not only participated in the Battle of Bunker Hill with Captain Crosby, but took part in the Boston Tea Party on 16 December 1773 and the Battle of Lexington and Concord on 19 April 1775. The day before on 18 April Paul Revere journeyed north to Lexington and Concord, made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. "Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, on the eighteenth of April in seventy-five hardly a man is now alive who remembers that day and year..."

The local Civil War contingent marching through town. Twenty-seven Amherst men died in the Civil War including Amherst native Sergeant Charles Phelps of the Fifth Regiment of New Hampshire Volunteers. He'd survived such savage battles as Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville only to die on 4 July 1863 at Gettysburg. Both his gravesite and ancestral home are but a short walk from where we're standing.

The Soldiers Monument, erected in 1871 to honor Sergeant Phelps and his fallen comrades, is but two hundred yards to our right from where we're standing to observe today's parade.

Old time high-wheel bicyclists

Many presidential candidates have marched in the Amherst Fourth of July Celebration due to our "first in the nation primary" status. In fact NH native and 14th president of the United States, Franklin Pierce, was married a short walk off to my right at the Colonel Robert Means Mansion in 1834. Two presidential hopefuls are marching in today's parade; Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney. Can you find Romney in this shot?

Above and below: As the parades participants disbanded I asked part of the Revolutionary and Civil War groups to pose in front of our home.  Our home was built in either 1780 or 1790 depending upon whom you consult and would have witnessed local Civil War veterans returning home. If you choose the earlier date it was here as well when the U.S. Constitution was ratified in June of 1788 before General Washington became President Washington. Interestingly, New Hampshire was the ninth state to vote for the Constitution thus ratifying it for the 13 American Colonies.

While all this is going on in Amherst, NH, just 45 south in Boston, the USS Constitution, or Old Iron Sides as she's more popularly known, was enjoying its' annual cruise and firing her cannon. Constitution, constructed in 1797 in Charlestown, Massachusetts is an active military vessel, still listed in the US Navy's inventory, making it the worlds oldest commissioned warship.

To see what goes on in Boston, click here and take a trip to the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade next to the Charles River that divides Boston from Cambridge. It was from Cambridge that General Washington took command of the Continental Army in 1775. Drop down just below the red band and click on the video. Every Fourth of July Boston Pop's plays Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture as 105 mm howitzers fire and fireworks explode overhead. The rockets red glare as the pungent odor of cordite fills the air. Participating this year is the 101st Field Artillery Regiment, just back from Afghanistan, the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers Chorus and the 104th Fighter Wing from the Mass Air National Guard do a fly over with F-15C's. The Mass Air National Guards history stretches back to 1621 when the first Massachusetts militia were formed. 

My family and I gathered at my mother's home in Amherst for a day of celebration that included her pool, hot dogs and hamburgers, sparklers with the kids and much political discourse, inspired by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and his life long friend, John Adams. "Jefferson lives..."  Adams last words.

I know that those who read my blog posts do so for my aviation experiences, but until I get Part Three up and running I wanted to share some of our local history and tradition. Thanks once again for following along and Happy Fourth of July.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Part Two of my 747-400 Checkout.

A quick thank-you to everyone at who have discovered my blog and sent along many kind remarks. 

And another thank-you to APO Armed Forces, Europe, Middle east and Canada, I appreciate your stopping by and hope that you're safe.

Thanks again, Rand (former 05B20)

OK, time to resume my 747 adventure. Sorry for the delay, but after finishing a ten day Asian trip and a ten day Tel Aviv trip I needed a little recovery time to square myself away. Four Pacific crossings with inter port flying in between, followed by two North Atlantic crossings beyond Europe is fatiguing. Also, Delta is moving much A-330 and A-320 flying from some bases to others, mostly to ATL, thus opening up a new system bid and a reshuffling of the deck. After just a month on the airplane I narrowly avoided getting bumped from the 747 in this large shift of assets. 

As much as this would have displeased me after a long training program... that's the way that it goes! You have to be flexible, it's all about seniority.

This is Part 2 of my 747 training that includes ground school and Procedural Training.

On 28 March I showed up at the Delta MSP training center, formally NATCO, to start my 747 training program. I'm still acclimating to the new signage. My classmates and I would be here for approximately one month for ground school, SIT training and simulator training. The training department shipped my manuals a month earlier to my home in New Hampshire allowing me the opportunity to familiarize myself with the airplane. The more you know before arriving the better so I utilized layovers in Narita to learn aircraft systems, limitations and checklists. It was time well spent.

Our accommodations at the downtown St. Paul Holiday Inn along the Mississippi River are excellent. My room is spacious, clean and quiet and the hotel personnel are very accommodating. In fact when I checked out I complimented the manager on his staff. 

The hotel makes every effort to sequester flight crews, separating us from the general population thus avoiding crying babies and tourists next door. There are many good restaurants nearby, a small grocery store and ample walking routes for exercise. I learned years ago to get out and walk everyday after school to clear my mind and move my body. Good rest and reasonable exercise are key for me to complete a program.

Before leaving home for training I called the Holiday Inn and requested a corner room with a river view as instructed by my friend and 747 FO Dave Larsen. They graciously accommodated me and here's my view. But the problem was I'd constantly push my books aside to look out the window at river traffic that I found interesting. To make matters worse... downtown St Paul Airport is in the background! Airplanes and boats, how can I be expected to study?

Now out of my room and past the sign, here's the training center. I've spent much time here over the last 26 years checking out in or taking check rides in the DC-9, 727, DC-10, A-320, 757 and now the 747. I had the opportunity to visit the ATL training center when NWA pilots checked out in the 767 a year or so ago. By the sounds of things and a few local newspaper articles though, it appears that all training will be moving to ATL shortly and NATCO will be a thing of the past. I also worked here as a DC-9 and 727 sim instructor and check airman. The difference when you walk through the front door as an instructor rather than a student is entirely different. It's jeopardy versus non jeopardy. This is when you know if you've prepared well enough or wish that you'd done more if your anxiety level rises as you approach the door. 

On the other hand, training departments seem to have become much more friendly over the last ten years, so much of this anxiety can be self imposed. With one exception, many years ago, every training event and checkride that I've experienced has been with instructors who have been nothing but helpful, if not encouraging. But that one guy always sticks in your mind.


We're inside the main reception area and many of you will recognize the blue/yellow Link Trainer from previous posts. This migrated here from Wisconsin Central Airlines, the predecessor to North Central Airlines. I had two of these trainers, stored in my barn for years and donated them to the National Museum of Commercial Aviation in Atlanta. Started by former NWA captain, now DAL A-330 captain Chuck Maire, he's accomplished great things with this new museum. I've also reincarnated my old flight bag and given it new work as I used it to transport my new manuals to MSP.

We're in classroom C211 outfitted with the basic podium, computers and aircraft panel layouts. We'll be in this classroom weekdays between 0800 to noon listening to lectures and watching videos with time available for questions and clarification from instructors. Most courses work on the 50 minute hour concept with a ten minute bathroom break or stroll to the cafeteria. I like this approach as it gives your brain a moment to rest, take a break and absorb information. I also appreciate the opportunity to get up and move a bit.

My seat perspective in room C211 as we discuss rudder control. These slides or schematics are generally very good and reveal much with just a glance. The upper and lower rudders are pretty straight forward. The upper rudder is powered from hydraulic systems two and three while the lower rudder is powered from systems two and four. All of the flight controls for that matter receive hydraulic pressure from more than one system insuring redundancy. The electrical system even lends a hand as a backup source of power for some flight controls.

The only component that you may be unfamiliar with is the "Rudder Ratio" system that controls rudder movement by airspeed. In other words the slower you're flying, the more rudder "throw" or authority you have. As airspeed increases your rudder authority diminishes to protect the vertical stabilizer from large movements at high speeds that could do damage. The ailerons operate in the same fashion. The inboard ailerons function at all times, but the outboard ailerons, to avoid unwanted rapid roll rates, diminish with airspeed and lockout entirely above a pre-determined airspeed. Years ago we'd be required to know that speed and likely have it surface during a type rating oral, but today it's enough just to know that they lockout.

During my DC-9 and 727 type rating orals many years ago, I'm convinced that if I'd brought my roll around tool chest with me I could have disassembled and reassembled both airplanes during the oral phase. Fortunately, check airmen rarely delve into such minutia these days. At this age I only have three brain cells left. I use one to remember my first name, another to remember my last name and the third to store everything else!

Generally when the electrical system of most any airplane surfaces you can hear an audible groan from the class. These systems are complex, but for some reason it's one of the systems that gives me the least heartburn. On the other hand I cringe when asked questions about pneumatics. I only hope the next guy to administer my annual training doesn't read this!

Here's the AC electrical system schematic concerning aircraft 6301 through 6314. Apparently aircraft 15 and 16 have subtle differences that require a separate schematic. It's pretty straight forward; we have four engines that drive four generators or IDG's as they're designated (integrated drive generators) that power a variety of AC busses, emergency busses and eventually DC busses through TR's or transformer rectifiers. A TR changes, or rectifies AC to DC and inverters change DC to AC. 

The electrical system can as well be powered through its split bus system from ground power or from the APU. What's new for me, is that this is the first jet that I've flown that you're prevented from starting the APU in flight, nor can you use that APU's electrical capability in flight. You can take off with it running and pneumatically power a single air conditioning pack up to 15,000 feet but design engineers determined that with four generators supplying ample electrical power, the APU generator in flight was simply overkill. Three IDG's and even two with some auto load shedding can furnish all electrical capability needed.

On two engine jets, like the 757, 767 or the DC-9, the APU generator is considered a standby source of electrical power in flight should an engine fail or if one or both I suppose, generators should fail. An engine failure checklist or a generator failure checklist would direct you to start the APU and bring its generator on line. Engineers, they think of everything don't they?

Finally, here are my classmates: Randy seated, Steve standing to the left of the cockpit panel and Doug to the right. Robin to the left of the projector screen is our classroom instructor today. He's a former Naval Aviator, A6's and is the voice on most of our video and slide presentations. He's extremely knowledgeable and willing to share that knowledge; attributes of an excellent instructor.

This is the first time in my career that I've been to upgrade training with such a small class as I've generally experienced groups as large as 30 with a variety of captains and copilots. We're all captains here which presents a problem once we get to the simulator phase. We'll be switching seats depending upon whose turn it is to fly which is less than optimum. But once again... that's the way that it goes. Nearing the end of the simulator phase and for our type ride we'll be separated and have a fully qualified FO.

Randy and I were hired together in the same class on 22 April 1985 at Republic and hadn't seen one another in many years. Steve and Doug, whom we'd never met before were senior to us by several months and had been hired at NWA. With the exception of Doug who was coming off the A-330, Randy, Steve and I had years of experience on 757's and 767's certainly giving us a leg up. Probably the most formidable segment of training is learning the FMS or aircraft computer system which Doug, who spoke Airbus needed to learn from scratch.

Steve, Randy and Doug. Robin at the computer.

Earlier I referred to SIT training. It's also known as PT or procedural training. Although I have no idea what the acronym stands for here's what it is. In the afternoons, after classroom lectures, videos and computer work, we take that knowledge into this room and apply what we've learned with some hands on training. Robin, sitting at the control monitor, introduces problems that we discover in the normal course of flying. Using Volume 1 and our QRH we set about solving these problems while we fly, thus performing approved procedures, familiarizing ourselves with manuals and checklists and learning exactly where system controls are located in the cockpit. Solving just one problem covers a large area of learning. 

Randy with Brian, another instructor whom we enjoyed. Brian (former Air Force) gave us our PV. Unfortunately I have no pictures of Deb who guided us through the emergency equipment and administered our SV.

This device is interactive and is touchscreen activated. As we solve fuel, hydraulic or electrical problems we can follow along on the systems pages to see our progress or watch exactly what occurs with that system as we move switches. 

"Oh, so that's the valve that closes when I move this switch." A picture is worth a thousand words as they say.

Here's a better view of the screens set up like a cockpit. Everything works as it does in the airplane. It really is a great learning and procedural tool. Randy has Volume 1 open on his lap as we'd just finished solving a pneumatic problem.

As nice as our SIT trainer is, this is what the Airbus crews have to work with across the corridor... joystick and all. I remember using these devices when I checked out as an A-320 captain. Rather than using a touch screen, all the switches and computer inputs work exactly as they do in the airplane.

OK, we've had enough for a while so we'll shuffle down the corridor to the social center of NATCO and visit the cafeteria for lunch. It's rather empty now, but shortly will be a bee hive of activity as classes and sims break for lunch. The food here is rather good and the caterer provides a remarkably good variety including Starbucks coffee. I try to stick to the soup and salad bars for lunch to avoid over indulgence and that sleepy feeling that follows in the afternoon. 

It's fun to run into old friends here that you've not seen in years attending for annual check rides or checking out in new equipment. 

Lunch break times vary from 30 to 60 minutes depending on your afternoon activity and when the class wants to finish for the afternoon. I've even brought lunch back to a classroom and eaten during a lecture to expedite our release time. 

A variety of on board life rafts

Today, after our lunch break we'll visit the emergency equipment room and learn about life rafts, doors, fire extinguishers and medical kits. My last visit here a year ago, we needed to travel to another building for this, but now Delta has moved all flight crew training (pilot and flight attendant) under one roof. 

One of many door training assemblies

Fire extinguishers and medical kits

Deb is our instructor for our first PT briefing as we go over procedures and learn how to use the QRH, Quick Reference Handbook. We used this computer to practice navigational skills too. For the last eight years in the 757, practically, we pretty much were given "direct to" clearances in flight even though the computer is capable of so much more. But we spent a fair amount of time brushing up on how to fly radials to or from a point, intercept airways and fly non precision approaches. A quick thanks to Nicole for getting me up to speed in this area. It's interesting the information you forget when little used.

I'd mentioned earlier the manuals that DAL issues before the start of training. One of those is "The Student Guide" that lays out specifically what you'll be doing each day of training. It lists exactly what systems you'll cover during each day of ground school with a synopsis of those systems and source references for additional reading. It spells out in detail how your day in the PT trainer will go including flight paperwork that you'd normally receive on a flight. It's a fantastic organizational tool that eliminates guesswork. You won't be sitting in your room wondering "how should I prepare for tomorrows events?". 

I found this partially reconstructed 747 cockpit trainer deep in the bowels of the building. It's not yet ready for use, in fact it's a long way from that, but I found it helpful to spend a few minutes each day, sitting in my seat finding switches, locating systems and learning flows and checklists. It helped with PT training and certainly gave me an advantage in the simulator phase.

Speaking of phases, let's discuss the different phases or events that occur during training. Times have changed; when I was typed in the DC-9 and 727 very little checking occurred until the last week or so of training when you'd experience an extensive oral and a type rating ride. This caused high anxiety because you'd still be burning the midnight oil preparing for your oral while in the simulator phase only days away from the type ride. Now, checking events are broken down, almost on a weekly basis rather than piling on at the end. It allows you to "check that box" and move on, far more efficient and far less stressful.

There are four hoops to jump through; the SV, PV, MV and type ride. That's it! Get through these and you graduate from the schoolhouse and move on to OE, or Operating Experience in the airplane.

The SV is the Systems Evaluation or a timed, 100 question systems written exam taken on the computer. An overall 80% is required to pass... but you also must score 80% on each section of which there are ten. In other words, you may score an 80% overall but less than that on say hydraulics or electrics or the dreaded pneumatics system. Fail a section and remedial training is administered by an instructor and a retake of that section follows. 

Sounds ominous doesn't it? But you'll be very well prepared when you reach day seven if you've followed the course as designed. Put in a little extra effort ahead of time by studying before showing up and you'll ace the SV. The trick here is to RTFQ, "read the freaken question" entirely and carefully before selecting an answer. There are no tricks, but some answers are "close" particularly questions with diagrams that ask about valve positions. 

The reward at the end of successful training... you get to fly this magnificent airplane.
Pushing back at Honolulu, bound for Narita

I probably need to give equal time to the Delta livery, so here's one awaiting departure off the "A" runway at Narita. The problem is that I just don't have that many "new paint" shots in my collection.

A few days later and you'll experience the PV or procedures evaluation. Again, you've been well prepared for this and if you've experienced a problem intercepting radials or airways or finding info in the computer... "what page is that on?" they'll happily give you individual, one on one time with an instructor until you're comfortable. This is administered on the computer as well and is simply an instructor giving you navigational problems and watching you solve them.  The other evaluations, the MV and type rating I'll explain later as they're in the simulator phase of training.

And finally here's my "paper trainer" taped to the wall in my room. What's that you ask?
On day one we were issued these slick, colorful aircraft panels that we use to study and make notes on. Many of us tape them to our wall, pull up a chair and practice preflight cockpit setups, flows, checklists, normal, emergency and supplemental procedures. It's learning by rote. After practicing the preflight a dozen times I had it down and could competently perform in the simulator. Delta does things differently here. They have a pilot flying (PF) and a pilot not flying (PNF) cockpit preflight setup. At NWA we simply had a captains and first officers preflight.

Pulling out the QRH and solving problems planned for the next days PT or simulator sessions increase your comfort and confidence levels markedly. If you try to look upon the training experience as fun, or a challenge it will pass quickly and more easily. But if you find reasons to complain, you've done nothing but burden yourself. 

With the help of a dedicated training department, many good friends, my family and staff at the hotel and NATCO who supported my every need, I successfully completed my SV and PV and we all moved on to the the simulator stage. 

Standby for PART 3, The Simulator!

But before I go, I noticed that this propeller, that's been displayed at NATCO for years, is still here but in a new position. Few at NWA knew its significance so I suspect no one from DAL knows its historical background. Do you have any idea what kind of prop it is? What it came off of? or most importantly where did it come from and why? I only hope that it's not lost in the shuffle as NATCO is shutdown and everything is moved to Atlanta. Maybe they could donate it to Chuck Maire at the Commercial Aviation Museum or relocate it to the Delta Museum in Atlanta. I'm looking forward to your thoughts on "The Prop" or anything here for that matter.