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.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Hughes Airwest Reunion


I'd like to thank Stefan Sjogren from Sweden for sending along these pictures of a Hughes Airwest 727 and DC-9 that he took many years ago in SEA. They're scans of slides. After reading my post concerning Hughes Airwest he thought to share these shots with us. I spent many enjoyable hours flying this 727 from all three seats. I'm not sure if this DC-9 made it to Republic though, I'll need to do a bit of research.

Stefan just passed along this recent photo of an ex-NWA 757 landing on 19L in Stockholm. Note that he caught the strobe on the left winglet as it flashed... perfect planning Stefan! I miss this airplane. And speaking of great shots, click over to Mark Lawrence's site to learn about Lufthansa's A-380 arrival in MIA. 

I just returned home from my first 747-400 trip after OE that included two, JFK - Tel Aviv round trips. This was a 10 day trip that introduced me to Middle Eastern airspace, was extraordinarily interesting to fly and exposed me to many new experiences. But before I get into that trip and my "promised" posts concerning my 747 checkout, I received this photo today from retired NWA captain Jack Kastien.

2011 Hughes Airwest Pilot Reunion

Kneeling-Rick Ames, Tom McGrain, Barry Eckenroth
2nd Row-Lou Smith, Bo Corby, Dan Buskirk, Larry Bingham, Gary Gabbard, Jim Jackson, Tom Flickinger, Don Burnham
Middle Row Kneeling-Tim Hemp, Rich Moynihan, Ernie Prosch, Gary Keilman, Hal Miller

Back Row-Glen Carlson, Bob Brunson, Ken Focht, Bill Crane, Greg Averill, Bob Boyd, John Cosgrave, Dave Trousdale, John Duston, Whitey Sorenson, Jim Bergman, Owen Gladfelder, Gene McClure, Jerry Helmey, Phil Mickelson

This is a photograph of "retired" Hughes Airwest pilots taken on 30 March 2011 in Las Vegas Nevada at a recent reunion. I have to qualify the term retired as I think a couple may still be active pilots today at Delta. Retired NWA and former Hughes Airwest captain Jack Kastien sent it along and I'm appreciative that he did. I flew with many of these fellows when I was hired at Republic Airlines in 1985 as a new 727 flight engineer. 

Tom McGrain (first row) had a hand in that training and I later worked with him in the simulator when I joined the training department. Jerry Helmey (back row) was my OE instructor when I checked out as a 727 copilot. I as well spent many enjoyable hours in the simulator with Jerry. I also flew as a DC-9 copilot with Glenn Carlson (back row) who you may recognize as the author of Captain Carlson's Plane Talk and Angie the Aviator. Once again, these are just a few of the outstanding aviators I've met along my career path who have contributed to my success.

Here's Dan Buskirk (second row) on the left a few years ago when he participated in Dick Mott's retirement flight from Paris to DTW.  Both were A-330 captains and started their careers at Hughes Airwest. Dan's father flew for Hughes Airwest as well and somewhere in my files I have an ALPA picture of Dan and his father in a HAW cockpit. You may remember a story I wrote a couple of years ago concerning meeting Dick in PHX during a layover when he kindly gave me a ton of Airwest memorabilia. I spent many enjoyable hours aloft with Dick in DC-9's. Kathryn, (who had nothing to do with HAW... she's too young) in the center between these two "old guys", was Dick's copilot on that flight and has recently checked out as a 757 captain at Delta. 

If you're new to the airlines or are trying diligently to acquire a cockpit seat there, you may recognize Lou Smith (second row) a co founder of AIRLINE PILOT CENTRAL, the foremost authority on how to get hired at an airline. I took this photo of Lou shortly after his retirement when we had lunch while I enjoyed a Honolulu layover.

Here I am in a 727 cockpit shortly after being hired at Republic in 1985. The captain is Jack Kastien who sent me the photo above of the HAW reunion. Jack also served as a VP of flight operations at HAW before they merged with Republic in 1980. Kent Zimmerman, another HAW pilot is the copilot and retired himself just a couple of years ago. We'd just landed in DTW here completing a five day trip, terminating with a SFO-DTW red eye.

This is how the exterior of the 727 above appeared at that time. Note it's N number, N729RW making it an original Hughes Airwest airplane. For those familiar with 727's, the HAW machines all had -17 engines (JT8D-17) and were screaming machines. Our 727's at NWA on the other hand were -7 powered and lacked the muscle of these airplanes.

Some may be wondering, who was Hughes Airwest? Let me give a quick synopsis. In 1968, three regional airlines, SFO based Pacific Air Lines, PHX based Bonanza Air Lines and SEA based West Coast Airlines merged to form Air West. Just a couple of years later in 1970, Howard Hughes jumped in and purchased the company changing the name to Hughes Airwest. In 1980 Hughes Airwest, flying a fleet of 727's and DC-9's, merged with Republic Airlines formed just a year earlier by the marriage of MSP based North Central Airlines and ATL based Southern Airways. With deregulation and airline consolidation in full swing now, MSP based Republic Airlines was acquired by MSP based Northwest Airlines in 1986. Operations stabilised for more than 20 years until Delta Airlines merged with NWA in 2009. Do you have any idea how many airline uniforms some of these guys have hanging in their closets? An airline wing collector would salivate at their wing collection, still attached to a blouse with four stripes. 

Hughes Airwest memorabilia, donated by captain Dick Mott

Anyway, thanks very much to captain Jack Kastien for sending along this wonderful photo and giving me the opportunity to stroll down memory lane.  To learn more about Hughes Airwest, move over to my Vintage Airline Sites column and click them on. A little further down the column you'll also find an HAW advertisement. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Last Hurrah! Part 1 of my 747 Checkout

The Bruins Prevail!!

Welcome to my multi-part blogging attempt to bring you along on my 747-400 checkout. I'll try to condense what took nearly two months to complete into three or four blog posts. After 37 years of airline flying and enjoying some of the finest commercial jet airliners available, my number finally rose to the level of the Boeing 747.

As many of you know I'd received an advanced entitlement bid to fly the 747-400 out of DTW and anxiously awaited my class date of 27 March. But just before attending school in MSP, I flew a three day 757 trip with a long, downtown SEA layover. My goal was to visit the MUSEUM OF FLIGHT at Boeing Field and experience the number one B-747.

Here she is, Ship #1 and with the help of John Wegg at AIRWAYS MAGAZINE, I'd secured permission to have a cockpit tour of this historically significant machine. You've probably read about this in an earlier post, but I'm here with Evan Elliott, aircraft collections technician who rolled up the stairs and welcomed me aboard. How better to understand the historical significance of Boeings largest and most unique airliner, than to visit the actual aircraft that defined her lineage? 

I was privileged to have been given this honor as we sit in the cockpit of Ship #1, The City of Everett, that first flew on 2/9/69 marking the beginning of a long and glorious history of the B-747 line. I'm sitting in captain Jack Waddell's seat here and thought that this would be a great way to kick off my 747 adventure... and I was right. After a couple hours of exploration throughout this ship I returned to my hotel to rest up to fly my last 757 trip back to DTW. I'd flown my last 767 trip to Frankfurt just a week earlier.

747 #1  Serial # 001

The development of the 747, lead by project engineer Joe Sutter, had more than the usual problems to solve for a new aircraft type. Before the worlds largest passenger airliner could take flight, 780 acres of land needed to be purchased, cleared and paved; a railroad spur built and a hangar constructed to house this gargantuan project. A hangar so large in fact, it would become the worlds largest building by volume encompassing 472 million cubic feet or 98 square acres. 747's, as well as 767's and the new 777's and 787's are built in the Everett plant, which is open for tours daily. Here's a Discovery Channel video that should peak your interest in the Everett Plant.

With my last 757 crew on 21 March 2011 leaving SEA for DTW to end my eight year run on the 757 and 767. I've loved flying these airplanes and never dreamed of holding the 747 before retirement, but as I've learned over my long career, you just never know what will happen in a system bid. I'll be junior on the seven-four, giving up excellent seniority on the 757/767, but how could I pass up this opportunity?

Departing SEA for DTW on the red-eye.

My last 767 trip from Frankfurt just a week earlier

And just a week later I've arrived at the old NWA flight training facility, formally known as NATCO, to start a five week training program that includes ground-school and simulator training. I've entered this building many times over the years when I checked out as a captain in the DC-9, 727, A-320 and B-757, but I have a somewhat nostalgic feeling as I know that this will be my final airline checkout. My last great airline adventure so to speak.

Come on in as we stand by the door to classroom C211 where the adventure will continue. The date is wrong for my class and I have some jitters wondering if I'll have the stamina to complete this course... I'm not 35 anymore and these courses are fast and furious. But with the help of several good friends and a dedicated training staff, my concerns are unfounded. I just didn't know it yet.

To be continued.....

Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins, 1970

But until I'm able to continue my story... GO BRUINS!