Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hot and Heavy

Next up was a trip to Paris, France.

The last time I went to Paris was in 1990 and we were using the smaller Orly Airport. Since then, AA has moved over to the much larger Charles De Gaulle Airport. It is the second busiest airport in Europe after London Heathrow.

Runway 17R at DFW was the departure runway. Takeoff weight was 405,000 pounds. Almost at maximum gross weight today due to a full passenger load and extra fuel for expected lousy weather that was forecast for our arrival time in Paris.

Takeoff was behind this British Airways Boeing 777 headed for London. Two minutes for wake turbulence separation and then we received our clearance.

Having flown the MD-80 for so many years, I was accustomed to takeoff speeds from around 120-130 knots with an occasional liftoff speed around 140-145.
But this day the outside temperature was high and we were using a reduced flap setting so our liftoff speed was a speedy 170 knots. That's 195 MPH! A blown tire or any other condition requiring an abort would be ugly. An aborted takeoff at that speed would still have us stopped with runway remaining but our brakes would be extremely hot and our tires would be about to burst I'm sure.

The takeoff roll seemed endless.....then came the "V1" and "rotate" calls from the FO and we lifted off smoothly and the Boeing climbed up nicely as we brought up the gear, then flaps, and turned to the northeast.

The speed limit in the US for aircraft flying under 10,000 feet is 250 knots. But since we were so heavy this day, our minimum climb speed was 260 knots so we requested and received relief from that speed limit from Air Traffic Control. So away we went at 260 knots until the transition to a 330 knot climb speed above 10,000 feet. Only 9.5 hours to go.
The crossing was mostly smooth and uneventful. Dinner arrived from the galley just as the sun was setting over the northeast coast of the US.

In a few more hours it was time to prepare for the arrival into Paris. The weather was not nearly as bad as forecast and we were able to fly a visual approach to a west landing. Look at all the rubber on that runway.....it needs a cleaning!

Paris is a beautiful city. There's always something to see. I spent several hours walking all over the place. I ended up near the Latin Quarter and the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!!

The next morning it was time to go home to DFW. My wakeup call came at 7 AM local time which was midnight for me since I was still on Texas time. It's not so easy to get up at that hour and go to work. Luckily we get a rest break during the flight for some much needed sleep.

As I mentioned earlier, CDG is a very busy airport. We waited in the lineup for nearly 20 minutes before our turn on the runway came.

We launched right after this Air France A-321 landed.
The North Atlantic was looking pretty calm on the surface but I was still happy to be crossing it overhead at 550 MPH as opposed to mushing along on a ship in open waters. The leg to DFW would last 10 hours this day. Once again it was uneventful and mostly smooth......just like we like it.

For a look at some more of my photos, please aviate over to Plane & Simple.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Dreaded All-Nighter

By the time we made the drive from HNL airport into town, it was getting to be towards early evening. Our hotel is right on Waikiki Beach. But even with the five hour time difference from Texas, I made the effort to get out and about and see a few sights.Tourism is alive and well in Hawaii. The streets and beaches are packed as are the stores, hotels, bars and restaurants. A couple of us pilots met for a beer at a nearby watering hole but we made an early night of it.

The next morning brought the usual warm weather and tropical humidity. It looked like a good day for a hike. Our flight home wasn't until late evening so off I went towards Diamond Head crater. I was told it was only a 90 minute hike.

In reality it was more like two hours with all the rest breaks I had to make. I was drenched in sweat by the time I finally reached the end of the trail. But the views were great and the return hike was all downhill.

That's a lot of hotels!!

Here's the inside of Diamond Head.>>>>

So then it was back to town and then some beach time before packing up and heading for the airport to work the all-nighter back to DFW.As usual, we were full. The faces on the passengers were decidedly different than those of the ones we brought out there. Maybe the reality of knowing they had to go back to their everyday lives and jobs was the reason for the less than enthusiastic moods I perceived. Or maybe they weren't looking forward to a seven and a half hour all-nighter! I know I wasn't.

We launched off into the night and soon leveled off at FL330. I hadn't flown a true all-nighter in years. I have always hated them. Some pilots enjoy the night flying...the fewer radio calls, less air traffic, more direct routings, etc. But most of us hate them.

I've been asked what we do to stay awake all those hours. I'll save that for another post, but most people would be surprised to know how busy some oceanic crossings are in the cockpit.

But anyhow, this night was a great night for flying. It was smooth as glass the entire night. Not once did the seat belt sign have to come on. I made a trip through the cabin during my break and found most of the passengers snoozing.
We ended up at FL350 and cruised along past LA, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Lubbock and then downhill for DFW. Twenty minutes out I woke everyone up with a prepare for landing PA and before long the First Officer greased it on just as the sun was rising over Dallas.

So the night was over and my first "unaccompanied" trip was in the books. Not a bad one at all in spite of the return leg. Unfortunately there will be many all-nighters to come.

Maybe they'll get easier.....

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I Could Get Used To This!!

For my first international trip on my own without a babysitter I would be flying one of the two daily non-stops from DFW to Honolulu. The flight leaves about mid-day and arrives HNL around 3:00 PM. A 27 hour layover in HNL awaited. I had the swimming suit and the sunscreen packed and ready.

Even though Hawaii is part of the United States, it is considered an international destination for us pilots as we have to prepare for it in the same way as we would any other international destination. Any flight that requires a large portion of overwater flying is deemed an international leg for flight crews. Translation = International flying pays more than domestic flying!!

We launched on time with a full load of tourists. Rumor has is that AA doesn't even make any money on their Hawaiian flights since a majority of the passengers are traveling on AAdvantage award miles. I don't know if that's really true or not but it certainly seems reasonable.

The westbound leg had us cruising at 34,000 ft. We passed the west coast just north of San Diego over the city of Oceanside. You can barely make out San Diego harbor and Point Loma in the above photo. You can see the city of Los Angeles in the photo on the left.

Just off the west coast of Southern California lie some small islands. The most prominent and famous one is Santa Catalina.
San Clemente island was also visible this day. Just on the tip of the island you can see a small runway that is used by the Navy.Only five hours to go!

But it passed quickly. When I returned from my rest break the other two guys still had us pointed west and all was well in the cockpit.

Before long we could see the peak of Mauna Kea on the big island of Hawaii. In the photo on the right, the island of Maui was coming up under the nose.

Then a break in the clouds gave me a great shot of Haleakala crater on Maui.
Then came the island of Lanai as we started downhill for HNL.

Time to handoff the camera to the relief pilot. He was now on photo duty.

We descended quickly and made a right base turn over Barbers Point NAS and lined up for a long final to runway 8L. The small waterway under the nose is the inlet to Pearl Harbor.
A nice landing followed by a very short taxi and that was it.....time to conduct a layover!

I'll save my layover activities and the return leg home story for the next post.

For a look at some more of my photos, please aviate over to Plane & Simple.