Friday, August 29, 2008

It's Finally Over

After a wait of nearly two weeks I would finally be finishing up with my international line checkout.

The plan was for me to deadhead to Miami and then work a revenue trip over to Madrid.

I had been to Madrid many times as a First Officer and I was looking forward to going over again.

Our plane had just arrived from Santiago, Chile and was getting all it's necessary maintenance items tended to when we arrived at the gate. We were planning to carry a full load of passengers tonight (223).

Takeoff weight was 390,000 lbs at liftoff but the 767 climbed out remarkably well in the hot and humid conditions in Miami. By 20,000 ft the relief pilot had already gone back to the cabin for his rest break. The crew rest seat is a first class seat. Our 777's have crew bunks but not the 767's. The relief pilot almost always has to take the first break. He or she doesn't get much rest since the cabin crew is doing their meal service and it's pretty noisy...but that's the unfortunate result of being the junior crew member in the cockpit. The two flying pilots get to choose between the other two rest breaks.

We climbed out to the northeast and leveled off at 34,00 ft for the Atlantic crossing. I had no problem staying awake as the check airman had plenty to talk about all night long. He was one of the most competent check airman I have ever flown with and I enjoyed learning from his vast experience on the 767.
The crossing would take us only up to about 49 degrees north latitude. That's pretty common for a Europe bound flight from a departure city as far south as Miami. I ended up taking the last rest break. It was about 2.5 hours worth. When I went back to the cockpit the sun was rising and Portugal was just starting to come into view. Soon after that we started our descent with Madrid Control. Barajas Airport was reporting clear skies and calm winds...perfect conditions for the check airman to make a smooth landing. (I wondered why he took the first leg, but the next morning when I flew the return leg it all became clear.)I didn't really do too much on the layover. Madrid has become unbelievably expensive for Americans (as has most of the rest of the world). None of the other crew members wanted to go out and sightsee so I ended up just going out on my own for a few hours and took in a few sights.

For dinner the three of us pilots ended up having Chinese food!! It was relatively inexpensive and tasted good with our cervezas.

The next day it was back to work again. My turn to fly. The departure procedure from Madrid is one of the most convoluted and demanding procedures I have seen. It is a very noise sensitive area and flying it requires some very precise maneuvering. Attention to headings, altitudes and required turn points are mandatory. If you mess it up you can expect to get a violation notice from the local authorities.

This is why the check airman wanted me to fly the return leg. He wanted me to experience the "joy" of flying the departure procedure. Well apparently I didn't mess it up because I haven't received a violation notice yet.

The westbound leg took us much further south than the eastbound leg. We flew right over the city of Lisbon, Portugal then continued west towards the Azores. Further along we passed well south of Bermuda and then right over Nassau before starting downhill for Miami. The water in the Bahamas sure is clear. I made a really nice landing right before a line of thunderstorms rolled in and messed up AA's schedule for the rest of the day. But my line check was complete and I was officially done with training.

So now it's back to flying the line with new adventures to come.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Training Goes On

Another short post again to report on 767 training.

The Tylenol was not needed and the final week of simulator training went smoothly.

We even spent a session in the latest 757 simulator that has a new flat panel EFIS display. After a lifetime of looking at steam gauges, it took a while to get used to finding the right place to look but once we got the hang of it, the rest of the session moved along nicely. The flat panel is very cool. They tell us that the entire fleet of 767's and 757's will be retrofitted eventually with these units.

Now comes the fun part....back to the line!

I have been away from the 767 for many years so I am required to re-qualify domestically first followed by an international trip.

My domestic qualifying consisted of seven legs and 20 hours of flying over five days. Our qualifying flights are conducted on regular revenue flights. I was accompanied by a check airman in the right seat and about two hundred observers(critics) in the main cabin!
The very first leg included a passing squall line at DFW that brought heavy rain and some pesky windshear. Fortunately we were still boarding when the worst of it rolled through.

These summertime storms usually pass through quickly and such was the case this time.

It was back to business as usual after a delay of about 60 minutes.

The rest of the trip went very well. Five legs were in 757's and two were in 767's.
The final segment was a 767 leg from Los Angeles to Chicago. It took us directly over Las Vegas and then Lake Powell over southern Utah.My landing in Chicago left no doubt in anyone's mind that we had arrived! The check airman noted that I tried to land it like an MD-80. (Close the throttles in the flare and just fly it on to the pavement)

And that's exactly what I was doing when the 767's 290,000 lb landing weight interfered and we impacted runway 14R with a crunch! The 767 requires more of a power-on landing. Old habits can be hard to break.

Oh well, there will be other opportunities to redeem myself.

Next up comes an international trip.....probably somewhere in Europe I'm told.

Once again, stay tuned.