Friday, December 7, 2007

Boston Again

Another turnaround was in store for today. DFW to Boston and back. All morning I was wondering if my flight would be canceled due to the weather in Boston. It had been snowing all night and the wind was pretty strong. But no phone call came so I headed for the airport.

Today we were flying one of TWA's former airplanes. It was a later model MD-83. The MD-83 is an MD-80 that has extra fuel capacity. Some of the TWA planes have different avionics packages such as FMS (Flight Management Systems). Most of the MD-80s we fly have GPS (Global Positioning Systems). GPS navigation is extremely accurate. We hardly ever get lost any more! Today we had dual FMS and loads of fuel.

We were planned to fly at very low altitudes today because of forecast turbulence over most of the eastern half of the country. I ran into a fellow pilot friend of mine in operations and he verified that the rides were pretty bad. He had just arrived from Richmond and said that the entire flight back to DFW was choppy.

The loads domestically have fallen off lately right after Thanksgiving but will soon pick up again with Christmas approaching. But our flight to BOS was pretty full. We took off right after an American Airlines Boeing 737 on runway 17R. Initial cruising altitude was only 27,000 ft due to chop above. It was not too bad until passing Little Rock and then we had to descend to 25,000 to get a better ride. The fuel flows were pretty high down at that altitude. Jet engines are much more efficient at higher altitudes. But we were carrying plenty of fuel....enough to reach Boston, divert to Pittsburgh and then divert to Washington if necessary.

Passing Indianapolis, Air Traffic Control advised that the higher altitudes were now fairly smooth so up we went to 33,000 ft. And yes, the ride was good as we pressed on over Cleveland, Jamestown, Albany and Springfield. The descent was through some lower cloud decks that contained some ice so we had to turn on all the anti-icing systems for the approach and landing. One of the wing systems was acting up and giving us some warning lights. The system works by circulating hot air through the leading edges of the wings. The hot air keeps the ice from forming. It was warning us that there was an imbalance in the wing air pressure. One wing sensor was detecting more air pressure than the other. We passed quickly through the icing conditions and turned off the system and set up for the landing. The snow had stopped falling but the winds were gusting over 30 but I managed a pretty good night crosswind landing on the very short runway 27. Several passengers had nice comments about my landing.

My FO tried to persuade me to do the walk around inspection by using the excuse that he had forgotten his jacket. It was well below freezing out and very windy but I wouldn't bite, however I did let him borrow mine. I told him "nice try!"

I had to write up the malfunctioning anti-icing system and the Boston maintenance crew advised us that they couldn't get it repaired any time soon. Fortunately there was another MD-80 available that we could take back to DFW. Departure for DFW was delayed by one hour because of the aircraft switch. But we were only carrying 29 passengers so there weren't that many unhappy people. Four hours enroute to DFW and then I was headed back to the parking lot on the employee bus.

Home by 2 AM.


Teller said...

Out of curiosity, why are you squawking 1200 in that cockpit photo? Is it SOP to change the squawk on landing (a lot of our "older" guys tend to do that, but we never were trained to)? I've always wondered about that.

Len (Barfbag) said...


I like your blog....lots of great content and neat photos.

About squawking 1200...Our checklist calls for putting the XPDR in standby after each leg. That's it. Some FO's put in 1200, some put in all zero's, some just leave the old code in. There's no rhyme or reason.

Fly safe and don't party too hard this New Year's eve.