Saturday, February 26, 2011

Only a few more to fly...

I may have mentioned this a time or two... but isn't this just about the most beautiful design flying today? I only have a few trips remaining to fly the 757 and 767 and intend to enjoy them to the greatest extent possible. It's been nine years of pleasure, exploring North America, Asia and Europe in a fabulous airplane with wonderful crews.

I leave for Frankfurt tomorrow and hope to have Part II of my previous Paris trip up and running before I leave home.

Until then I hope that you enjoy this little video of a 757 parking in SFO. This is a 757-351, N595NW, ship 5815 built in September 2003 that we'll turn and venture off to Honolulu in  shortly. I look forward to my new aircraft assignment, but this ol bird will be hard to beat.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh Boy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then, au revoir.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

London Heathrow via FLL and ATL.

The picture above was taken just west of Anchorage, Alaska en route from San Francisco to Nagoya, Japan.

I'll have a new post up tomorrow... see you then!


I recently came home from a London Heathrow trip, that as you know with DAL now includes domestic flying either before or after a crossing. At least in DTW anyway, I'm not sure about other domiciles. I'm less than enthralled with this arrangement as I find I'm considerably more fatigued now at the end of one of these excursions. Also, my brain bag must weigh more than 50 or 60 pounds with both domestic and international Jepps "squeezed" into limited space. There is good news on this front though. By mid February the 757 and 767 Jeppesens will be maintained on board by the company, so the need to lug around a flightbag will be going the way of the dinosaur. 

I've received my 747 class date and start school on 27 March. This aircraft has already transitioned to the new Jeppesen program so my flightbag will see no duty there either. I think that it will take a little while though to acclimate to this concept. Maybe I'll list it for sale on Ebay!

Anyway, I'm starting a four day London trip here, but need to visit FLL, Fort Lauderdale for an hour or so before departing for ATL and laying over. With all the snow we've experienced in the northeast, this will be my first visit to the de-ice pad this season. Let's see, where is my de-ice info and hold over time guide? It's crowded into my bag here somewhere. Actually I pulled it out, dusted it off and reviewed it a few hours ago in anticipation of needing its guidance. 

We've just pushed off of gate A18 in a B-757 and have been cleared by ramp control to taxi  north on Uniform 9 towards Spot 3 North where we'll switch to ground control. We have limited snow on our wings, but our leading edges are pretty well iced over and need attention. 

After Spot 3 North, we taxied via Uniform, Kilo and Juliet taxiways to find spot 6 in the 4R deice pad where "iceman" was prepared and waiting for us. Prior to our push from A-18, we called "iceman" on a dedicated frequency to advise that we'd need their services. They know our departure runway and coordinate with ground control to sequence us for the appropriate de-ice facility.  There are several on the field, but "holdover" time after being "anti-iced" is limited so the closer to the departure runway the better. 

We've pulled into Spot 6, set the brakes and have configured the aircraft for spraying. You may wonder what that means. The flaps and slats are extended to the takeoff position, the air conditioning packs are shutoff to avoid ingesting fumes into the cabin and the engines are running at idle. Now the de-ice coordinator plugs his headset into the phone jack in the nose wheel well and advises me of the sequence of events. Today, we'll need to be de-iced and then anti-iced before continuing our journey to runway 21L.

A 737 next to us in spot 5

What does that mean?

This is a two step procedure. First, they'll spray the aircraft with a mixture of heated glycol and water to "de-ice" or remove contaminant from our wings and fuselage. If it were not snowing, that would be the end of it, we'd be on our way to FLL. However, it's snowing moderately now so we need to "anti-ice" too. The anti-ice procedure lays on another coating of heated glycol and water that acts as a repellant to the snow. The time of effectiveness depends on the weather and mixture which they vary to meet the conditions. If we expect a ten minute taxi from here, there's no need to anti-ice for 30 minutes as these procedures are very costly. 

It is possible, with delays, to out live the planned time of effectiveness, but a captain can go back and personally check the wings through the window to determine if a departure is safe or a return trip to the pad is necessary.  

We've just finished our two step procedure and the coordinator advises the types of fluids used as well as the start and end times. Consulting my chart, which I enter from the current outside air temperature, move to the precipitation column and finish at the fluids column, I've determined that we have 25 minutes of effectiveness. Perfect... our taxi from here to the departure end of runway 21L should be fewer than 10 minutes.

We've left the pad and are currently on Kilo taxiway to hold short of Uniform behind a Regional Jet as this B-777 makes his way out to the runway. Something that I've noticed that's new this season is that they often de-ice the large airplanes at the gate, as they've done here.

This regional jet is holding short of Uniform for the triple-7, but will continue shortly for a de-ice pad dedicated to this type of aircraft. When they move, we'll make a left turn on Uniform and a right turn on Yankee and follow the triple-7 to 21L. We'll also cross runway 9L which now requires a specific clearance to cross. Until a year or so ago, a clearance to taxi to a runway implied that you were cleared to cross all intermediate runways too.  No more. 

We've adopted ICAO procedures for uniformity much like the "Line up and wait" phraseology versus cleared into "position and hold." The phraseology that I've not heard in the US yet and don't like is "cleared into position to hold behind the departing/arriving aircraft." I see room for errors here!

I think that this triple-7 is leaving for Hong Kong as it goes into position on 22L and dramatically reduces visibility behind it in blowing snow.

In position on 22L at DTW

OK, now it's our turn to 'line up and wait." Not that it's a problem today because we have sufficient ceiling and visibility, but those center line lights play a significant role in determining departure minimums.

We're airborne off DTW and headed towards FLL. Is this a Delta or Northwest 757?

We've broken out on top of a very interesting winter sky. Wispy clouds at altitude with a mackerel sky below.

We're DAL 1153 cruising at FL 370. We crossed Volunteer (VXV) at 2214Z, the OAT was -50C, estimating Jacksonville (CRG) at 2300, cruising at Mach .80 with a wind out of 254 degrees at 110 knots. Our fuel at VXV was 19,900 pounds and we're estimating FLL at 2358Z. Just about everything you need to know on the Progress Page 2 and Position Report page.

We're not the only ones out here!

Now at ATL on Ramp five, we're awaiting access to our gate. As soon as this B-777 moves we'll be able to pull in, secure the aircraft and complete another on time flight. Off to Heathrow tomorrow.