Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Leaving JFK

I'll depart JFK for Narita in a couple of hours, completing a ten day Asian trip with stops in Narita, Nagoya, Manila and JFK on flight 173. This will be my line check, completing my 747 training. Then it's a matter of dead heading to DTW, clearing customs, running for my commuter flight to Boston and driving to New Hampshire. I should be in fine shape by the time I arrive home! More later with pictures.


Monday, May 9, 2011

My Last B-767-300ER Trip

Apparently eBlogger has experienced problems the last few days. They're back up but I've lost my latest info, such as the pictures donated by Carl Cantrell and son and many readers comments. 

I have good news, I've been able to retrieve Carl's photos below. Carl and his son visited SFO to witness Lufthansa's A380 arrival and sent me these pictures.

Yesterday, 10 May, the city of San Francisco celebrated LUFTHANSA, GERMAN AIRLINES DAY, to commemorate the airlines new A-380 service to the city. Lufthansa has been serving the Bay Area for 50 years and plans to have eight A-380's in service by the end of this year. I took the shot above several months ago in Frankfurt.

Congratulations to JB
Yes, between the sun and the heated windscreen I'm trying to melt my serving of ice cream that presently is as hard as a hockey puck!

Although I look forward with great anticipation to flying the 747-400, I leave behind two of the nicest jets that I've flown; the B-757 and B-767. They've been a pleasure to fly, reliably seeing me over continents and oceans and have taught me much about my craft. With that in mind let me tell you about my last 767 trip... or more accurately, my last two trips.

We're at gate 8 at Frankfurt Main. I flew the inbound leg and my FO's will fly us back to DTW, so as the pilot not flying, or more accurately the Pilot Monitoring, I'll do the exterior walk around inspection this morning. I know it's a beautiful day here in Deutschland, but yes, I do walk arounds in the rain too. I have noticed though, surprised looks from ramp agents when they see a captain doing the walk-around. I love getting out on the ramp with my camera and capturing as many aviation images as possible. 

This was to have been my last 767 trip, so I coerced my crew into posing for a celebratory group shot in the first class cabin. As you can tell they're a gregarious lot and were a lot of fun to fly with. 

But then a few days later, a FRA trip appeared on the open board and I grabbed it. I love Frankfurt layovers and enjoyed yet another fantastic crew. For this flight though we're out on a hardstand and gather in the shadow of our faithful 767.

Meet Ernie, a retired Naval aviator, an excellent pilot and good friend. In fact just two annual checkrides ago we shared the simulator and wowed our check-airman with our vast depth of knowledge and finesse. Or at least that's what he said! You may remember my post concerning this event with captain Don Schoblum as our examiner.

Say hello to Deb, our second First Officer who happens to live within a few miles of my home in New Hampshire. Her husband also flew for NWA, but after suffering through a few furloughs sought greener pastures elsewhere. Although he landed on his feet and has a fantastic corporate job at Bedford - Hanscom Field in Bedford, MA, I hate hearing of stories like this. It does emphasizes however, my theory concerning a fall back plan, a second career or a business should you persist in following your airline dream. Like Ernie, Deb was wonderful to share a cockpit with and made our nearly nine hour flight to DTW pass quickly. 

When I told our FRA mechanic, whom I've come to know over the years, that this was my last 767 trip, he grabbed his step ladder, reached for my camera and told me to climb up into the engine intake. He even laid out a little rubber mat for me to stand on to avoid contact with the cowl. This Pratt and Whitney 4060 develops more than 61,000 pounds of thrust. That is of course later, after I've climbed down from here.

In fact, here's our friendly German mechanic/photographer right here. Deb's looking just a bit too comfortable in my seat don't you think!! It will be yours soon enough. 

Deb from the FO window as I start my walk around. Though not as beautiful as the 757 with its distinctive dropped down nose and windscreen, the 767 is far more roll sensitive due to it's (dual) inboard and outboard ailerons. The 757 only has one set of ailerons.

We've pushed back from the gate and start our taxi to runway 25R. We have much to accomplish in the way of checklists and briefs and a very short taxi distance with which to complete them, so I'll drag my feet just a bit in order to get everything done. 

We're holding short of 25 Right now as a Singapore -400 lands and Lufthansa is next in line to depart.

All checklist items and briefs are complete as we hold in position for an LNAV/VNAV departure. If I remember, this is a close in community departure as well that has us climbing to 3,000 feet before we start flap retraction. 

We've flown past the UK and have joined a random track west of the Outer Hebrides Islands off Scotland as we fly past this DAL A-330 en route from Paris to DTW.

Deb's holding our oceanic chart here as Ernie has gone back into the cabin on First Break. We've actually duplicated this chart and I've taken many pictures of Deb today as she'll speak to her daughters fourth grade class next week concerning weather and oceanic flying procedures following this trip. I vividly remember my father coming in to speak with my fifth grade class many years ago when he was a Northeast Airlines DC-6B captain; it was a very proud moment for me. What made his appearance even more interesting was that my fifth grade teacher had been my Dad's second grade teacher! Miss Carney, you probably don't know her.

A little closer look at our oceanic chart indicating Shannon (EINN) and Goose Bay Labrador (CYYR) as our 180 minute ETOPS alternates. Unfortunately we're passing three degrees south of Greenland today and will miss one of the most beautiful, rugged, vistas on our planet.

Yup, a personal portrait of 'ol Rand as he enjoys his last 767 oceanic crossing. It's with mixed emotions that I leave the 7ER category for the 744A and my final, great airline adventure. I've flown the 757 for nearly eight years now and it fits like a comfortable old pair of shoes, the kind that you just can't bear to discard. 

Some may wonder what I'm referring to when I use the term 7ER and 744A. Let me explain. As you know the 757 and 767 are a dual type rating and you can find yourself in either piece of equipment depending upon the route. For company purposes, the bid category for this combined position is designated as 7ER. 744 means 747-400 and the A means captain. A first officer would be a B. So, I'm leaving my bid position as a DTW 7ERA for DTW 744A as the sun slowly sets on my airline career. Yes... I'll miss it.

This is the flight plan from my previous trip. We passed 58N 30W two minutes late at 1309Z with 77,900 ponds of fuel. We're within our parameters, but just one more minute late and we'd have to contact Gander and notify them of our tardiness. This is a CPDLC flight which means all of our communications with Shanwick and Gander are automatically transmitted. There is an exception to this though. When you cross a FIR boundary or change controlling agencies, voice communications are required, in this case, accomplished on HF frequencies. If you look up the flight plan you'll see our primary and secondary HF frequencies listed for both facilities.

You'll also find other important information noted here as well, like when we expect to shut off the center tank fuel pumps and when the second break starts. You'll also see that we're flying at FL 320 at mach .81 too. Normally we're at mach .80, but due to headwinds we're trying to stay on schedule by flying a little faster. This will increase our fuel burn, but the dispatcher has taken that into account as an on time arrival is vitally important. 

This raises another point that I'd like to clarify. Often, while commuting I'll hear a passenger remark, "we're late" as we're taxiing after "departure" time. The published departure time is the time that the boarding door must be closed by, not the time that the airplane becomes airborne. If you think about it, how could anyone really know what time we'll become airborne. With ground traffic at major airports like JFK, LGA, CDG and others, how could anyone correctly anticipate the taxi out time? Flight times are adjusted by historical data but keep in mind that if the boarding door is closed by the published departure time and our rotating beacon is illuminated (it used to be brakes released at NWA) you're on time. Gate agents and managers are scrutinized closely here for compliance to "on time" and scurry to make it happen. Ramp personnel have a countdown clock by the gate identifier visible to me through my windscreen that they take very seriously. After takeoff, if even just a minute late, I'll receive and ACARS message requesting information from the flight crew as to why we pushed late. 

The last block indicates a "cost index" of 88. What does that mean? As you know, the cost of operation has to be weighed with on time performance. The dispatcher, with winds aloft and cruise altitude knowledge, has calculated that with this figure inserted into the FMS (computer) the airplane will be programmed to fly at a speed that will see us arrive on time with the least possible fuel burn. It works pretty well! We'll fly at a fixed mach .81 across the Atlantic today guaranteeing safe separation with other aircraft, but once feet dry we'll use a cost index of 88 to determine our thrust settings, thus airspeed.

The last note in the right margin indicates "55W 132.65." We'd received an ACARS message from Gander to contact Gander Center at 55 degrees west longitude on VHF, 132.65. We created a point on our Fix page at 58N 55W to visibly remind us to do this. To insure that we'd see this on our map, we added a 10 mile ring around this point to even make it more obvious. It worked!

Ninety minutes prior to your oceanic departure point, you send an ACARS message to, in this case Shanwick, requesting your oceanic clearance. Within moments they reply indicating that they've received your request and to contact them no later than a particular time by voice if we hear nothing further. That's never happened to me as I've always received my clearance within 10 or 15 minutes of my original request. We print the message, check the coordinates against our flight plan and the FMS and then acknowledge its receipt. 

This is how it looks. DAL 143 cleared to DTW via PIKIL AND NAT (NAT TRACK) B via the listed coordinates at flight level 320 at mach .81. You can see here too that our ETOPS airports for this flight were, Glasgow, Scotland (Prestwick) and Goose Bay, Labrador. 

Here's how the clearance appears on our ACARS screen after we've passed 59N40W en route to 59N50W. This page has been called up because we're sending a company position report to dispatch.

We're back in VHF contact with Gander Center now as we fly over eastern Labrador. Does anyone know what this is and why I'm doing it? I'll wait a few days and answer the question if no one arrives at the correct solution.

Once again, I'm going to miss this fabulous airplane.


.... onward and upward to new challenges.

As usual, thanks very much for reading along.

But before I leave, I'd like you to meet three very good friends who offered moral support as I navigated through 747-400 school. You've seen their pictures many times in previous posts in airplanes and during layovers.

Dave recently moved from the 7ER to the 747-400

Tom as well just checked out in the 747-400

And Wes is flying the 767-400 out of JFK.

Flying jet airplanes is great, doing it with great friends is even better.
Thanks fella's.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Five weeks later....

Just arrived home a few hours ago after completing training, and with the help of many good friends and a dedicated training department I have a new type rating! 

More later, I'm going to bed now and plan to sleep for a week!